SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

October 18, 2013

Benton: Give voters say on next push for shutdown

Nelson Benton
The Salem News

---- — As of this writing it appeared Republicans and Democrats in Washington had reached a deal on increasing the debt ceiling and funding government operations, at least until early next year.

But rather than giving Americans another holiday season fraught with worry over possible default, another government shutdown, and the collapse of the domestic and world economy, why not extend the deadlines until a couple of months before the 2014 election?

This way voters could decide exactly in which direction they wish to see Congress proceed. Some like Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, the Tea Party’s latest crush, clearly believe a majority of Americans want to see a significantly scaled-down federal government. But polls and the calls House and Senate members are receiving from constituents tell a different story.

The fact is Cruz has as little chance of garnering the votes needed to become president, as would a Sarah Palin or Donald Trump. Which is why in the most recent elections the Republicans ended up nominating Mitt Romney and John McCain, who are reviled by the party’s most conservative members as much as, if not more so, than is President Barack Obama.

---

At least the veiled message of Beverly mayoral candidate Wes Slate’s campaign slogan — “Wes will do the work” — is now out in the open.

From the start many saw it more as a dig at opponent Mike Cahill than a declaration of Slate’s intentions should he be chosen to succeed incumbent Bill Scanlon this November. But in a recent mailer the Ward 2 councilor made his meaning crystal clear, criticizing Cahill’s attendance record when he served in the state House of Representatives and questioning his work ethic when he presided over the City Council in 2010 and 2011.

Cahill took umbrage and voiced his displeasure during his closing remarks at last week’s Cove Community Center debate. To which Slate responded this week: Cool it.

Or at least that seemed to be the essence of the statement in which Slate advised that “as mayor one must know how to ‘Keep Calm and Carry On.’”

It will be interesting to see which of the candidates is best able to keep his cool between now and Nov. 5.

---

Peabody councilor-at-large candidate Scott Frasca’s suggestion that the city seek to create a “museum district” downtown has about as much chance of success as did former councilor (and now mayor) Ted Bettencourt’s proposal that the area be promoted as a medical mecca.

The latter ship appears to have sailed with the decision by Partners HealthCare to construct a major expansion of its campus nearby on Highland Avenue in Salem. Efforts by Michael Bonfanti’s administration to have Salem State University locate some of its facilities downtown failed to gain traction; and the fact is that after flirting with a Boston waterfront location for its expansion, the Peabody Essex Museum in now firmly anchored in Salem as well.

This isn’t to say that downtown Peabody doesn’t have a bright future. But achieving it will require vision and some difficult decisions by a council that to date has been paralyzed by just a hint of negative reaction by even a small number of naysayers.

As has been noted here before, controversial measures like the taking of a couple of downtown streets would never have flown in Peabody. But in Salem they resulted in the construction of a PEM addition and the J. Michael Ruane Judicial Center. Frasca and others who seek seats on Peabody’s governing body should bear that in mind if they’re serious about revitalizing their city’s historic downtown.