SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

May 2, 2014

Benton: A pension is what light commissioners want

Nelson Benton
The Salem News

---- — So members of the Peabody Electric Light Commission want a raise? That’s in addition to the $4,000 they already receive annually for serving on the board along with the generous health benefits that go with the part-time position.

Make no mistake: This is all about receiving a guaranteed pension for life, just like the School Committee got when its members’ compensation exceeded the $5,000 threshold recently.

Years ago, in arguing for special legislation that would have made library trustees eligible for taxpayer-funded pensions, the late Joyce Spiliotis suggested the move wouldn’t cost anyone anything. Not true. It’s either your taxes or, in this case, your electric rates, that will subsidize this largess.

City councilors were right to cast a skeptical eye on the commissioners’ request. Serving on the utility board is supposed to be an act of public service, not self-service.

Isn’t this mayor’s job?

Mayor Ted Bettencourt has garnered a fair amount of praise, including kudos from this newspaper’s editorial board, for his decision to solicit public input on the selection of a new police chief in Peabody. A forum will be held next Tuesday (6 p.m., City Hall), to solicit comments which the mayor says “will carry a great deal of weight” in his choice of a permanent replacement for retired chief Robert Champagne.

Sorry, but this observer always thought choosing a new chief and other department heads was the mayor’s responsibility. Otherwise, why not have the candidates parade before the local cable channel’s cameras and urge residents to make their preference known in an “American Idol”-style competition?

An ideal pairing?

A new ABC News-Washington Post poll shows President Barack Obama dragging down Democratic congressional candidates nationwide. Wonder whether U.S. Rep. John Tierney, D-Salem, has asked him to come to the North Shore to campaign on his behalf.

Tax freedom?

If you’re feeling like you have a little more money in your wallet today, it may be because Tuesday, April 29, was Tax Freedom Day in Massachusetts.

That’s the day, according to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, that the average Bay Stater had earned enough to meet all of his or her tax obligations to federal, state and local authorities. Almost four months seems a long time to pay off what the tax collector says you owe, and it is. Tax Freedom Day for the nation as a whole was April 21. On the other hand, residents of Connecticut and New Jersey won’t see their tax obligations paid off until May 9.

A public say on taxes

Citizens for Limited Taxation has endorsed a proposal by state Rep. Leah Cole, R-Peabody, that would require five public hearings before the Legislature votes on any tax increase.

Having it both ways

Register of Deeds John L. O’Brien wants you to know that while everyone else must pay an excise tax when they sell their homes, the federally backed mortgage giants known as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac claim they are exempt.

According to O’Brien, both agencies have “a long history of claiming that they are a private company when they want to grant huge raises to their top executives, but when it came to paying this tax they conveniently take the position that they are a government agency, so therefore exempt!”

Campaign events

Datebook: Republican congressional candidate Richard Tisei will hold a grand opening of his campaign headquarters Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m. at 182 Newbury St. (Rt. 1 North next to Latitude Sports Club) in Peabody … Paul Tucker will kick off his campaign for state representative from Salem with an event Sunday from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the Hawthorne Hotel.