SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

December 19, 2013

Benton: Missing the North Shore at Christmas

Nelson Benton
The Salem News

---- — 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:

---

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.

---

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.

---

The upcoming announcement by Shrewsbury’s Mark Fisher that he will run as a tea party candidate for the Republican nomination for governor next year could be a godsend for Swampscott’s Charlie Baker. The latter will be at pains to separate himself from the more extreme elements of the Grand Old Party as he wages what seems at this point a very winnable campaign for the corner office at the Statehouse.

---

Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll continues to tout the value of public art. It should be noted, however, that she was not a fan of the Bewitched statue, or at least its location in Lappin Park, when it was placed there several years ago.

But the monument to one of TV’s best-remembered sitcoms has proven popular with tourists and should be even more so next year which marks the 50th anniversary of its debut on ABC.

---

Congratulations to Salem Ward 1 Councilor Bob McCarthy, who, according to reports, has secured the votes needed to become council president next year. His was the critical vote against the effort to sow further discord between the executive and legislative branches early in 2013, and he was rewarded with re-election in November.

---

Real-estate blogger Natalie Grigson recently ranked the Bay State’s largest communities in terms of their livability (cost of living, crime rate, high school graduation rate, median income, amenities, etc.). Here on the North Shore only Gloucester (3) and Salem (9) made the top 10. Beverly ranked 12th, ahead of Danvers (18) and Peabody (46). First place went to Marshfield, while finishing last among the 75 communities listed was the city of Holyoke.