SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

October 5, 2012

Benton: Guanci shows leadership

There’s a reason Beverly City Council President Paul Guanci is a rising star within GOP circles and considered a viable candidate for mayor should he choose to run when veteran incumbent Bill Scanlon chooses to step down.

Take Guanci’s recent advocacy of tax incentives to encourage development along Rantoul Street. Not everyone is in favor of tax breaks for businesses these days, but in a recent letter to colleagues, Guanci rightly notes that in this case such incentives are “an effective and appropriate tool” for initiating “positive investment in this area of the downtown.”

That’s called leadership and it’s a too-rare quality among city councilors. The easier route is to say nothing; and when opposition surfaces jump aboard the bandwagon and join in the naysaying. That’s what happened in Salem a few years back when a small contingent of citizens objected to the Driscoll administration’s plans to combine with the archdiocesan planning office on a project to revitalize the Point neighborhood by putting new housing and a senior center on the St. Joseph’s Church site.

Rantoul is Beverly’s second “main street,” but has historically been treated as something of a back alley, as churches, banks and other major institutions chose to build along Cabot Street. But there’s plenty of potential along Rantoul Street, which is the best route from Salem to the train station and the Cummings Center (another example of the kind of large-scale investment a creative tax strategy can encourage).

By championing the plan to make some 24 acres along Rantoul Street eligible for tax incentives — a plan supported by Mayor Bill Scanlon and Beverly Main Streets — Guanci will no doubt upset some, but prove to all that he is willing to take a bold stand in the interest of moving his city forward. Salem City Councilor Joan Lovely, the Democratic candidate for the 2nd Essex state Senate seat being vacated by Fred Berry, should be grateful Guanci opted not to seek the Republican nomination, as he would have been a formidable challenger.

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