, Salem, MA


November 21, 2012

Letter: Salem council showed little leadership on health board change

To the editor:

In response to the article “Salem council wants to keep health board as is” (Nov. 16, 2012):

The Board of Health needs to streamline our processes to make it easier for businesses to navigate the system and citizens to receive the advocacy they deserve. A “don’t fix what isn’t broken” attitude is plaguing our city government. If you think it is all working well and that nothing needs to change, then you are not paying attention. This attitude was perpetuated by the City Council when it voted down the request from the Board of Health to reduce in size from seven members to five. To characterize our request as one of convenience to “make a quorum” is shortsighted and irresponsible.

We are a rare board of health that has seven members as a result of a historic merger between the city and a hospital that no longer exists. We need the reduction to five members (most cities have three) to improve efficiency, be more proactive and be more decisive to keep our city healthy. We are a volunteer board that goes unrecognized because what we produce cannot be seen. Every time you eat a restaurant and do NOT get sick, you have our department to thank.

For the last year, we have had excellent leadership under Chairman Dr. Barbara Poremba. With five on the board, we have also been more efficient and effective. We voluntarily lend our expertise to our city department to keep it running smoothly: no politics, no power. I thought we had more authority than, evidently, we do. The City Council expects us to be autonomous, yet we have no control over the number of members or title of our director. If we are just cosmetic, then we should be dissolved and the department can be run within the city like any other. You can’t have it both ways.

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