, Salem, MA

May 15, 2014

Our view: Cheers, jeers for recent newsmakers

The Salem News

---- — CHEERS to the citizens of Salem for once again reaching out to help neighbors struck by disaster.

In this case, disaster was a two-alarm fire in a Dow Street apartment building last Tuesday morning that left roughly 45 residents homeless. Fortunately, there were no serious injuries, but many tenants were left with nothing.

Organizations like the Red Cross and the Salem YMCA were quick to offer help. Members of the city’s Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department were on the scene the morning of the fire, bringing residents to the senior center to be cared for. Staffers helped many children get to school Wednesday morning.

Last weekend, more than 40 volunteers showed up at the Salem Y to help sort and organize more than 5,000 donated articles of clothing, linen, toys and household items for those affected by the fire. It was an impressive showing, one of which the Salem community should be proud.

JEERS to the continuing mess public officials are making of plans to bring casinos to Massachusetts. First, Stephen Crosby, chairman of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, chose last week to recuse himself from the debate over casino proposals in the Boston area. Crosby, who is essentially the face of gaming regulation in the state, made the ill-advised choice to attend the opening-day thoroughbred racing festivities at Suffolk Downs. The racecourse, as everyone knows, has teamed with Mohegan Sun to pursue a casino license.

Crosby noted that he paid his own way to the party, but one has to wonder if he has any understanding of the public’s perception of his choices. The commission touts an “enhanced code of ethics” and has promised a fair, above-board appraisal of the candidates for an Eastern Massachusetts casino. Showing up at a party thrown by one of the key applicants does little to build the public’s trust in the process.

CHEERS to patience and perseverance, in this case on the part of the Wenham War Veterans Memorial Committee. It took seven years before planners were able to break ground on the project on Monday.

“It’s so rewarding to see it actually take place now,” former Selectman John Clemenzi told reporter Ethan Forman. “It’s a great recognition for those who have given so much.”

The monument, to be built on Arbor Street across from Town Hall, will be a 17-foot granite obelisk topped by a globe with an eagle landing on the United States. Bronze plaques will circle the bottom, and the monument will be surrounded by benches and greenery.

The $240,000 cost of the project comes from a mix of town, state and private funding, including generous contributions from Wenham residents.

The monument will be inscribed with the names of town veterans who served during World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will be included once Congress determines the dates for those wars, said Bruce Blanchard, the memorial committee co-chair.

It is a fitting tribute. We agree with Blanchard, who said “These veterans gave ... some their lives, some just their livelihoods, but they should be honored.”

Finally, a combination jeers/cheers for the WGN America show “Salem.” The Sunday night drama, which imagines a witch-hysteria era where the witches actually exist — and have supernatural powers — has increased interest in the modern Salem. Kate Fox, the city’s tourism director, says the popularity of the show has meant increased traffic for the city’s visitor website,

“The first week the show aired, our Web traffic went up about 20 percent,” Fox told reporter Neil H. Dempsey. “We definitely see a little bit of a bump on Sunday nights.”

Fox hopes the increased interest will lead to a busier tourism season, so CHEERS to that.

A hearty JEERS, however, to the show itself, a dark, turgid mess that has little in common with our city or its history. Those hoping to look past inane scripts and wooden acting to see glimpses of real-life Salem will be disappointed — the show films in Louisiana.