SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

December 19, 2013

Benton: Missing the North Shore at Christmas

Firstly, best wishes to all in this last column before Christmas. And special thanks to Ward 2 Councilor-elect Heather Famico for the fantastic and nostalgia-invoking photo of a wintry scene in Salem’s East India Square. Nothing like the holiday season on the North Shore, although it was also a treat to play golf in 78-degree weather here in the Grand Canyon State while the snow piled up back east on Tuesday.

Next week, a pre-New Year’s Eve look at the highs and lows of 2013. For today, some more random thoughts on recent events:

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Yet another local politician, in this case Danvers Selectman Bill Clark, has proposed changing the time-honored and worthy tradition of granting churches, schools and other nonprofit institutions an exemption from the property tax.

Clark suggests that as the largest property owner in town, St. John’s Prep should be obligated to pay something in lieu of taxes, as Partners and Northeast Hospital Corp., which maintain large medical facilities on Endicott Street and in the Hathorne neighborhood respectively, do. But while some politicians — and not just in Danvers — have dollar signs dancing in their heads at the thought of what some seemingly well-off institutions might contribute to their bottom lines, the fact is that a community derives considerable, if intangible, value by having these enterprises in their midst.

The city of Salem, for instance, sacrifices considerable revenue by playing host to the regional court system, Peabody Essex Museum, North Shore Medical Center and Salem State University. But it would be a much less interesting and prosperous place without them.

These politicians should look elsewhere for new sources of revenue or, perhaps, be a little less profligate in negotiating contracts with their managers and unions.

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Read recently how Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt was trying to grow a beard. Perhaps, he was hoping to bring the hard-luck Tanners football program the same kind of good fortune the Red Sox experienced this past season.

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