SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

January 18, 2013

An era of stability

Nelson Benton
The Salem News

---- — Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt’s announcement that he will seek a second term came as no surprise, and the guessing here is that he will face only token opposition, if any.

An attorney and former councilor, Bettencourt has brought stability to a city long known for its rough-and-tumble politics. Even meetings of the School Committee, which the mayor chairs, once known as the best show in town, have been surpassed in entertainment value by the frolics of the City Council next door in Salem.

Typical of Bettencourt’s pragmatic style are plans now under way to improve the marketability of Centennial Park, the city’s premier business destination. Excellent highway access alone is no longer sufficient to lure hoteliers and high-tech entrepreneurs. They also want the kind of creative energy that comes from having lots of smart people eating, playing and thinking within close proximity of each other.

Indeed, while Bettencourt ponders the future of Centennial Park, he might also cast his eyes toward the North River canal corridor running through downtown Peabody. There’s plenty of opportunity there for both residential and business growth as long as members of his City Council can tolerate change and are willing to entertain new ideas.

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Citizens for Limited Taxation and its allies are bracing themselves for a new fight over state taxing and spending policies.

“In just one day, we’ve seen calls for increases in ‘revenue’ of two or three billion dollars in this year and years to come out of the pockets of just those of us who struggle to work for their survival and their family’s — those of us who pay the government’s entire freight,” Marblehead’s Chip Ford wrote to CLT members this week. “We’re going flat-out here trying to keep up with just the Takers’ offenses on so many fronts. It’s overwhelming to say the least: mind-blowing audacity.”

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Friends of Middleton attorney Marisa DeFranco, who stood tall in refusing to concede the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination to Elizabeth Warren last year, have launched a petition drive urging Gov. Deval Patrick to appoint her to John Kerry’s seat on an interim basis after Kerry becomes secretary of state.

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One can’t blame Patrick for wanting to reform the way state-funded local housing authorities operate, given recent revelations about excessive spending on the part of some communities. But there’s no guarantee a regional authority would be less subject to manipulation by a clever and strong-willed manager than are the local boards.

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The recent passing of Lynn’s Tommy McGee brought to mind the era several decades ago when the North Shore ruled the Statehouse with McGee holding the House speakership and Salem’s Kevin Harrington presiding over the Senate. Nor did it hurt having Lynn’s Walter Boverini and Peabody’s Jack Murphy in top leadership positions in the Senate and House, respectively.

Legend has it that such was this region’s influence, that a hockey arena meant for the UMass Amherst campus ended up going to the state college in Salem instead. It may be many more decades before the communities north of Boston wield that kind of clout again.

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This columnist stands corrected: Salem City Councilor Kevin Carr has made no “announcement” regarding whether he will or won’t stand for re-election this fall. Indeed, in a telephone interview, Carr said he has since received many calls urging him to seek another term and, despite family and career obligations, he is “leaning in that direction.”

An affirmative decision would be to Salem’s benefit.

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Nelson Benton spent 40 years covering politics on the North Shore before retiring from The Salem News. Contact him at nelson.benton3@gmail.com.