, Salem, MA

January 28, 2014

Letter: Hopeful about Beverly’s future

The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

The city begins the year with a new mayor and several new city councilors. Watching the swearing-in of the new council, mayor and school committee brought back memories of the emotions that I felt during my four inaugurations. I remember each time I was excited, honored and humbled to have been elected to serve the people of Beverly. It is always a great day for those involved, eager to serve the city, which I’m sure will move forward.

As a former city councilor, I was especially interested to hear speeches from Mayor Cahill and Council President Guanci. Both speeches have inspired me to comment.

The council president made a point of praising the City Council under Mayor Scanlon’s administration for being “cordial,” in contrast to the councils of Peabody and Salem. Of course, elected officials should be cordial to each other, but I fear this use of the word could lead to an unintended message to our elected leaders.

I would always hope that the administration and councilors would treat each other with civility and respect, in fact it is in council rules. That does not mean that principled debate and disagreement should not occur. In fact, it should be encouraged, rather than discouraged. Beverly’s city government is structured to give our mayor a great deal of power, but the council has a role to play, as well. As I have pointed out before, the council is there to be a check-and-balance on the mayor’s power.

Mayor Cahill’s inaugural speech centered on openness and inclusion, which I was happy to hear. He especially talked about working with citizens and all interested parties concerning changes along Brimbal Avenue. I am in favor of the land swap for many of the reasons that have been stated by councilors: better traffic flow, badly needed revenue, and Phase II going forward. I also think rejecting millions in grant money would put us in a very bad position to obtain other grant funds in the future.

However, I applaud the activism of our citizens who have banded together and accomplished the hard task of putting together a referendum on this important issue. No matter how the vote turns out, this rezoning will have been fully debated and vetted, which is all to the good. I hope citizen involvement will continue, and I hope the “City Hall regulars” do not lose heart. In fact, I hope more citizens will regularly attend council meetings, speaking their minds, when appropriate.

Patricia B. Grimes