SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

October 11, 2013

Benton: An 'insult' to voters

Nelson Benton
The Salem News

---- — Peabody School Committeewoman Brandi Carpenter has said she found “insulting” this newspaper’s suggestion that the board was interfering with the democratic process by threatening to throw polling places out of city schools.

But those who should be most insulted are the citizens of Peabody over the suggestion by Carpenter and some of her colleagues that they cannot be trusted around children and are not entitled to use the very facilities their taxes bought and maintain.

The Board of Registrars has suggested a compromise that would move certain polling places to local churches and temples. School Committee members, when they meet later this month, should embrace those suggested changes before they make themselves look even more foolish.

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Fellow columnist Barbara Anderson is right: A return to binding arbitration for police officers and firefighters — advocated by Boston mayoral candidate Martin Walsh — would be a disaster for taxpayers.

Speaking of which, this reporter went to last Sunday’s Cardinals game at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale and was able to exit the parking lot in less than five minutes with nary a police officer in sight directing traffic. Contrast that with the scene at Gillette where state and local cops — most working overtime details — are ubiquitous, and traffic still moves at a snail’s pace.

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One who was there reports that some noses were out of joint over the fact that one non-incumbent Salem School Committee candidate had a contingent of supporters wearing vote-for-me T-shirts join the city’s annual Haunted Happenings parade which is normally a spooky, but thoroughly nonpartisan, affair.

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Sources tell me campaign signs are sprouting throughout Peabody, some of them touting candidates for offices as far down the ballot as library trustee.

That’s a good sign given the general disgust with politics in general, and the lack of attention that normally attends municipal elections without a mayoral contest. In addition to having a free ride this year, Mayor Ted Bettencourt could well end up with an improved city council.

Former state representative and councilor Tom Walsh and Scott Frasca are among the leading challengers in the at-large race, and Peter McGinn is waging an energetic fight against incumbent Ward 2 Councilor Arthur Athas. Meanwhile, Rico Mello, one of the council’s most stubborn obstructionists, opted not to seek re-election in Ward 3.

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Got a kick out of former Salem mayor Tony Salvo’s recent letter to the editor waxing nostalgic for the “old” Salem. This reporter recalls it was the dormancy of the downtown during Salvo’s tenure that prompted local business and institutional leaders to form the Salem Partnership.

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Haven’t seen Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid or President Barack Obama helping out at the Grand Canyon National Park during the government shutdown here in Arizona, but both North Shore Congressman John Tierney and Mayor Kim Driscoll were spotted providing directions to tourists at the shuttered National Park Service regional visitors’ center in downtown Salem recently.

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There was at least one North Shore notable on the Boston Business Journal’s list of the top 10 highest-paid business lobbyists in the commonwealth.

Richard Lord of Peabody, president and CEO of Associated Industries of Massachusetts, came in ninth with total compensation of $441,000 in 2011.

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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.