SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

September 20, 2013

Benton: Reading the results of the preliminaries

Nelson Benton
The Salem News

---- — It’s risky to draw too many conclusions from this week’s preliminary elections in Salem and Peabody’s Ward 3, which each drew only 13 percent of the voters.

But based on incumbent Brendan Walsh’s strong showing and Saltonstall parent Katie Casiglia’s loss in the closely watched school board race, it seems safe to say more parents than not support the committee’s decision to scale back the extended-year program at the K-8 school, which recently returned to its former digs on Lafayette Street. Still, voters seem poised to inject some new blood into the process of reforming the city’s schools, which continue to struggle with mediocre test scores.

Mayor Kim Driscoll, who easily prevailed over a field of no-name challengers in Tuesday’s elections, told members of the North Shore Chamber of Commerce last week that improving the quality of Salem’s schools remains her No. 1 challenge and top priority.

Voters in Salem’s Ward 6 also hinted they may be looking for change, as incumbent Paul Prevey, a leader of the anti-administration cabal on the City Council, finished just 31 votes ahead of newcomer Beth Gerard.

Meanwhile, just over the line in Peabody’s East End neighborhood, voters soundly rejected the old-school style of ward politics represented by former councilor Bill Toomey, who finished last among the three candidates vying to succeed incumbent Rico Mello. Tom Serino, who bid unsuccessfully for the Ward 3 seat two years ago, is the best choice in this race come November.

Regardless, residents of both cities should be glad they’re not living in Lawrence, where the corruption-riddled administration of incumbent Willie Lantigua incredibly won the endorsement of almost half the Merrimack Valley city’s voters Tuesday.

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Never have so many politicians run so fast from something as Massachusetts politicians have from the technology tax enacted by the Legislature just months ago. Talk being about dead before arrival.

Time for voters to express similar outrage over the automatic gas-tax increases enacted at the same time as the tech tax.

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A deranged shooter kills a dozen people at an allegedly secure military facility just blocks from the White House and U.S. Capitol. Think Congress will finally be ready to enact new gun-control measures?

Don’t count on it. Indeed, with the issue of a military strike against Syria now on the back burner, one would think our representatives in Washington would have plenty of time to deal with issues like gun violence and immigration reform. But it appears most of the attention in the coming weeks will focus on the effort of a couple of dozen GOPers to scuttle Obamacare by delaying work on the budget and debt ceiling.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman put it well Sunday when he wrote how the U.S. House “has become a small-minded, parochial place where collaboration is considered treason, where science is considered a matter of opinion, ... and where every day we see proof of the theory that America is a country that was ‘designed by geniuses so that it could be run by idiots.’”

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Datebook: The Salem Education Foundation will host a debate among the finalists in the school board race on Monday, Oct. 28, at 7 p.m. at the Boys & Girls Club.