, Salem, MA

October 29, 2013

Our view: In Beverly, Cahill for mayor

The Salem News

---- — After Bill Scanlon’s 18 years of strong, visionary leadership in the corner office, Beverly voters find themselves having to choose a replacement for him.

Both candidates — Michael Cahill and Wes Slate — have the experience, education and qualifications one would want in a municipal chief executive. And the latter, who currently represents Ward 2 on the City Council, has the incumbent’s backing.

But two years ago, voters indicated they were ready for change when Cahill came within 353 votes of upsetting Scanlon, and the 51-year-old city native deserves a chance to lead now.

Like Scanlon, Cahill favors a balanced approach to development and fiscal issues. But he promises a more inclusive approach that would provide stakeholders with more opportunities to be heard on issues affecting the city as a whole and their neighborhoods in particular.

Residents of the Brimbal Avenue area, for example, feel they were shut out of the process that will likely result in major traffic and development changes that will affect their neighborhood for decades to come. Make no mistake, the project is vital to the growth of the city’s tax base, which pays for projects such as new schools. Yes, residents were informed of the project. Informed and included, however, are two different things.

Cahill supports the project but has said “the public process ... should have started sooner and been more proactive in engaging the surrounding neighborhoods.” The effort, he said, could have resulted in a better project for everyone.

The former teacher has a strong record of service to the city, spending five terms as Beverly’s state representative from 1993 to 2002, giving up the office in a failed bid for state treasurer. Seven years later, he ran for City Council and was the top vote-getter, earning the role of council president. In his current job as executive director of the Alliance of Massachusetts YMCAs, he lobbies state legislators on health-and-wellness issues for the state’s 106 YMCA branches.

It is a long and varied background, and it belies criticisms of the Cahill’s work ethic by his detractors.

“Some people look at the surface of things and just go along with it,” said Carol Cleven, a former Republican state representative who served on two committees with Cahill. “He delved into things a lot more than some people do. He had a wonderful personality. He was able to bring people to compromises. He just plugged away and made sure they were done.”

That is precisely the approach needed to continue to make progress — with a new middle school, a bustling downtown and a transformed waterfront all within reach over the next few years, that is precisely the approach the city needs.

In other races:

Current City Council President Paul Guanci has displayed a firm but fair hand at the helm of that body and deserves re-election to one of the three at-large spots, as does first-term incumbent Jason Silva. Among the other three vying for the seat being vacated by Scott Dullea, we would recommend fellow attorney and former teacher Todd Murphy, whose support for the Brimbal Avenue project would help keep the city on a path toward reasonable and balanced growth.

Given the council’s performance over the past two years, we see no reason to replace incumbents Jim Latter (Ward 3), Scott Houseman (Ward 4) or Brett Schetzsle (Ward 6).

But voters in Ward 1 and 2 have a tough choice in choosing a replacement for Maureen Troubetaris and Slate, respectively.

The former has long been a champion for her beloved Ryal Side neighborhood; her calming presence will be missed on the council. We feel longtime resident David Lang, an acknowledged expert in environmental issues who has served the city well as a member of the Conservation Commission and Wenham Lake Advisory Committee, is the best choice to replace Troubetaris.

To replace Slate, who stepped down in order to run for mayor, we recommend the election of Bryant Ayles, currently deputy director of the Massachusetts Children’s Trust Fund, who has had much experience dealing with fiscal issues in a career that has included a stint with the state Department of Revenue.

Like any political entity, the Beverly School Committee could always use a fresh perspective, which is why we recommend the election of Duane Anderson, a stalwart of the Beverly Democratic Committee, as the representative from Ward 5. But we also have been impressed by the leadership of the committee’s president, Maria Decker, which is why we recommend her re-election to the Ward 6 seat.