, Salem, MA

May 7, 2014

Cheers, jeers for recent newsmakers

The Salem News

---- — CHEERS to the thousands of runners — both hard-core and recreational — who came out for the first Step Up for Colleen 5K road race.

The race, held Sunday in Andover, honored the memory of Colleen Ritzer, the 24-year-old Danvers High School math teacher who was killed at the school last October. One of her students, 15-year-old Philip Chism, is charged in her death.

Fittingly, the event was about celebrating the life of the Andover native. Proceeds from the race will go to a college fund in memory of the Assumption College graduate.

“Colleen was a wonderful daughter and sister who loved life, family, friends and teaching,” her father, Thomas Ritzer, told the crowd of about 4,000 runners (many wearing pink, Colleen Ritzer’s favorite color) gathered for the event. “We are very proud of Colleen and continue to be amazed at the number of lives she touched.”

The event drew runners of all ages. High school students from Danvers, Central Catholic, Andover, North Andover and Methuen participated in the event, and the Danvers High School a cappella group sang the national anthem at the race’s start.

Cheers, as well, to the folks at Danvers High who planted a pink dogwood tree in Ritzer’s honor on the high school grounds last week on Arbor Day.

The Danvers Garden Club donated the tree. The pink represents “love, undiminished by adversity,” said Garden Club President Sue Robinson, a retired Danvers High teacher. She said the tree also called to mind Ritzer’s outlook on life: “Find something good in every day.”

JEERS to the members of the Peabody Light Commission, who continue to push for a raise of more than 27 percent.

The proposed raise — from $4,000 a year to $5,100 a year — may seem like small potatoes, since there are only five commissioners. But the cost to taxpayers would run well past an extra $5,500 a year, because the bump would make the light commissioners eligible for lifetime public pensions. That’s right — taxpayers would be paying commissioners years to come, despite the relatively modest time they put into the position (10 scheduled meetings a year, plus subcommittee work) when compared to front-line city workers.

Commissioners are already more than fairly compensated already — they are eligible for the same health insurance as full-time employees, and they all take it, at a cost to taxpayers of $13,500 to $22,000 per commissioner.

Peabody city councilors last week held off voting on the matter until City Clerk Tim Spanos can research what municipal light commissioners are paid and what benefits they receive. Such research is unnecessary. Sitting on the light commission is supposed to be a civic service, not a pathway to a lifetime payout from taxpayers.

CHEERS to Wicked Strong, the North Shore’s Kentucky Derby entrant, who gave us all someone to root for on the first Saturday in May.

Wicked Strong, owned by a partnership based at Beverly’s Centennial Farms, started the race from the far outside post and couldn’t quite make up enough ground to catch eventual winner California Chrome, the favorite.

Wicked Strong was easy to root for. Little, of course, named the horse in honor of the victims of last year’s Boston Marathon bombings, and a percentage of all winnings are donated to the One Fund Boston.

There’s a chance those donations will continue: The local entrant finished well enough — fourth place, just out of the money — to have Centennial Farms owner Don Little Jr. thinking of another Triple Crown race — June 7th’s Belmont Stakes in New York.