Mayor Kim Driscoll termed it an early Christmas present for the city. She was referring to Monday’s vote by the City Council approving the PILOT and CBA agreements with Footprint Power.
Those agreements and the demolition of the old Salem Harbor Station now underway mark a new era for a city that has transformed itself numerous times over the past centuries.
The tax incentives for Footprint should allow the company to secure the financing it needs to convert the half-century-old, oil-and-coal-burning power plant with a new facility that will generate electricity using natural gas. And the deal hammered out by the mayor and former state Rep. John Keenan ensures that the city will receive a steady stream of tax revenue and other benefits from the new owner.
The vote in favor was 11-0. “We get long-term financial stability as well as a shared ownership interest in the port/pier, which is huge for us,” the mayor emailed.
Regarding the latter, City Councilor David Eppley observed, “This will make ‘coal ships to cruise ships’ a long-term reality … and truly revolutionize the development of this essentially fallow industrial site.”
Additional kudos to city councilors across the bridge in Beverly who this week approved a zoning change allowing Cummings Properties to build 65 apartments at the corner of Elliott and McKay streets.
The project will expand housing options in the Garden City and add to its tax base. The site is near where the “Old Planters” first established the community back in the early part of the 17th century.
There’s some impressive video footage out there of the demolition of the stacks and other large structures at Salem Harbor Station. But perhaps there are still a few lumps of coal to be found there for those city councilors who earlier this year allowed themselves to be bullied by the public-safety unions into rejecting Mayor Kim Driscoll’s common-sense plan for expanding the field of candidates for police chief.
Bowing to pressure from the police ranks, the council earlier this year refused to take the position out of civil service as has been done in Peabody and Beverly.
The thought on the part of the dissenting councilors was to guarantee that Chief Paul Tucker’s successor would come from within police headquarters on Margin Street. Now not only does that seem unlikely, but following Civil Service procedures may well limit the mayor’s ability to pick the most qualified applicant for the job.
Police officers perform a dangerous task under increasingly difficult circumstances, for which they deserve our respect and commitment of resources. But we’ve witnessed recently in other places what can happen when civilian leadership cedes authority to those in uniform.
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush’s announcement Tuesday that he is forming an exploratory committee marks another early milestone on the road to the 2016 presidential election.
Some might prefer that talk of the next election wait until after the holidays, but the fact is, given the amounts of money to be raised and miles to be covered, prospective candidates can’t delay. Indeed, Hillary Clinton has spent much of the past two years pretending not to be running.
It will be interesting to see whether Bush, who would be the third member of the family to occupy the White House after his father and brother, can resist the demands to take a hard turn right during the primaries. Mitt Romney’s decision to abandon his more moderate views in an effort to appeal to the tea-party elements in the GOP proved his undoing in the 2012 election.