, Salem, MA

November 30, 2012

Our view: Unneeded drama in Beverly

The Salem News

---- — Who ever heard of a “friendly” veto?

No matter what you call it, Beverly Mayor Bill Scanlon’s planned veto of the tax break package for developers willing to invest in Rantoul Street was a slap in the face of the City Council. What’s more, with a little bit more communication, it would likely have been unnecessary.

The law, as passed by the City Council, authorizes a five-year, 70 percent tax break for companies willing to build residential developments on Rantoul Street near the train station, followed by a 30 percent tax break for the next five years. The hope is to spur investment in a tired part of the city’s downtown.

Earlier this week, however, Scanlon said he would veto the plan because he feels the mayor’s office should have the opportunity to offer a lower-percentage break, depending on the project. He told reporter Paul Leighton that he wants the council to add language that says a developer could get a break of “up to” or a “maximum” of 70 percent.

Scanlon, who called his veto “friendly,” said the council should have known what he wanted. “I indicated that’s what I wanted, and they had that before them,” he told Leighton. “Maybe they went just a little too fast.”

Too fast? The council’s unanimous vote on the so-called Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, plan put forth by Beverly Main Streets came after months of deliberation. There was plenty of opportunity for the mayor to make his wishes crystal-clear, including at last week’s council meeting, when the last details of the plan were debated.

“There’s a little bit of anger there,” Ward 1 Councilor Maureen Troubetaris said. “Councilors felt they went through this quite thoroughly. You can’t say this was some rush job. We went through this for weeks.”

You also can’t blame councilors for being a bit confused. In a letter to councilors earlier this year, Scanlon asked for an ordinance that would make all approved TIFs the same “so as to eliminate any prospect of favoritism in dealing with different developers.”

Here’s the frustrating thing: Scanlon, who will veto the ordinance Monday, is right in wanting to build more flexibility into the plan. Some projects need more help than others. The council would be wise to let it stand. The changes are necessary — the damage to the relationship between the mayor and the City Council was not.