, Salem, MA

April 12, 2013

Benton: Prevey's singing a different tune now

Nelson Benton
The Salem News

---- — Ward 6 Councilor Paul Prevey wants the mayor to speed up the appointment process for Salem boards and committees. Yet several years ago, he had no problem himself delaying the appointment of a purchasing agent for the city for the better part of a year.

In a May 17, 2010, letter to the editor, Prevey defended his actions, noting, “As an elected councilor, I take seriously the responsibilities that go with my office since I represent the interests of the taxpayers of Salem. As councilors, we often hear complaints from the general public that all too often public officials fail to dig beyond the surface-level information they are spoon-fed.”

That was in response to criticism by this columnist and others over Prevey’s effort to block the appointment of Tom Watkins as purchasing agent. It took from April until September — longer than it required the U.S. Senate to confirm a pending Supreme Court justice’s appointment — for the council to finally approve the mayor’s choice for the position.

Yet now the good councilor is demanding that Mayor Kim Driscoll fill vacancies on various boards and committees within 90 days. Could there be a member or two of Prevey’s fan club, the Mack Park Neighborhood Association, chafing for a position in city government?


The late Sam Zoll had no such problems with appointments when he occupied the corner office at Salem City Hall.

He would always have someone in mind for the most high-profile positions, even before a vacancy occurred. That way, if someone else approached him about the post, he could let them down gently by saying, “If I’d only known you were interested!”


Ward 5 Councilor Josh Turiel’s effort to bring the Salem City Council into the 21st century, by equipping members with iPads, apparently has members of the Luddite faction on that body abuzz.

Turiel, like the mayor, makes great use of social media to keep constituents informed and solicit comment. But in this case, he’s seeking to boost transparency, increase efficiency, and save both trees and money by having the council move from paper to electronic media. That would demand business be conducted via a common application suitable for an iPad and, if feasible, other brands of tablet computers.

Some of the naysayers would seek to scuttle this effort at innovation by claiming this is an underhanded way to get the city to buy Turiel and his colleagues a new toy.

But the fact is that computers and mobile devices are as essential to the effective conduct of city business today as was the telephone in a previous era. (As far as this reporter knows, Councilor-at-large Tom Furey is the lone councilor who still writes everything out by hand and has no email address.)

Turiel says that the half-dozen councilors, including himself, who already own iPads could simply download the necessary apps (many of them free) to get on board. As for those still without, he suggests their purchase would be a good use of the expense money councilors receive from the city.


Datebook: Anti-tax activist Grover Norquist will be the keynote speaker at the Greater Boston Tea Party rally tomorrow from 1 to 3 p.m. on the Boston Common. ... Heather Famico will kick off her campaign for the Ward 2 seat on the Salem City Council on Sunday, April 21, at 5 p.m. at Red’s Sandwich Shop. … Mayor Driscoll will kick off her re-election campaign on Sunday, April 28, with an event from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus Hall.


Nelson Benton spent 40 years covering politics on the North Shore before retiring from The Salem News. Contact him at