SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

January 31, 2014

Benton: Grading the congressman

Nelson Benton
The Salem News

---- — Interesting analysis by nonprofit government transparency advocate GovTrack.us on U.S. Rep. John Tierney’s job performance last year. The North Shore Democrat got high marks for working with the Senate and House colleagues on both sides of the aisle, but low marks on GovTrack-endorsed bills to increase government transparency and his ability to turn legislation into law.

While he’s built up an impressive campaign war chest since 2012, the veteran Salem congressman faces a tough test this year with two challengers for the Democratic nomination (Seth Moulton of Marblehead and Marisa DeFranco of Middleton) and then a rematch with former state senator and GOP lieutenant governor candidate Richard Tisei of Wakefield in the final election.

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Massachusetts Democrats have stepped up their attacks on GOP gubernatorial candidate Charlie “Big Dig” Baker. But one has to wonder if Republicans had so much to do with getting the project built, why is the only politician whose name graces one of its labyrinth of roads, bridges and tunnels Democratic icon Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill?

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One of the more interesting elections on the North Shore this spring should be the contest for the Swampscott Board of Selectman. Jill Sullivan and Barry Greenfield, chairman and vice chairman respectively, have both announced they will not seek another term.

Already announcing her intention to seek one of those seats is a candidate with an impressive political pedigree. Laura Coppola Spathanas, who has three children in the school system and a husband who grew up in town, is the daughter of Donna Coppola, a 16-year veteran of the Lynn School Committee, and Harry Coppola, a former deputy Essex County sheriff who once served on the Lynn City Council.

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Political columnist Matt K. Lewis’ analysis of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s fall from grace brought to mind the fate of another native son of Peabody, the late Tanner City mayor and North Shore congressman Nick Mavroules.

In a column on McDonnell’s recent indictment, Lewis observed: “Imagine being McDonnell … suddenly surrounded by all the trappings of wealth and power. Is it so hard to imagine how he might be tempted? That doesn’t mean it would be right … Living beyond your means and trying to be something you’re not is fraught with danger. In this regard, the McDonnells are extreme examples of modern American culture.”

Though he maintained a modest lifestyle in Peabody’s East End, Mavroules had expensive tastes that, along with a talkative son-in-law, eventually brought down what had been a very successful political career.

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The CoolClimate Network based at the University of California at Berkeley has produced an interesting map showing the average annual household carbon footprint for communities throughout the country by zip code. Interestingly, the average Marblehead household (55.2 metric tons CO2 equivalent per year) has a much larger footprint than that in Salem (42.5).

So while Salem has the power plant (which it wants to keep and some in Marblehead would prefer disappear), it’s the town across the harbor that consumes more energy per capita.