While Mayor Kim Driscoll is in the middle of her four-year term, and despite the lack of a citywide primary, Salem features very active city council and school committee races which deserve the attention of every voter. Certainly there’s no excuse not to get out and vote next Tuesday, Nov. 3.
After too many years of obstructionism, a majority of incumbents have demonstrated a desire to eschew the petty pandering that characterized previous councils and instead work with the administration on issues ranging from the redevelopment of the power plant site to the negotiation of a new trash pickup contract. That’s a real benefit for a city that’s recognized as among the most progressive in the commonwealth.
In the at-large race, we’d recommend a vote for incumbents Thomas Furey, Elaine Milo and William Legault. And in place of the fourth, Arthur Sargent, a holdover from the old, anti-Driscoll cabal, a vote for newcomer Tyler Carlton, a downtown businessman and LGBT activist.
In her first term, Heather Famico has proven to be a thoughtful, hard-working, extremely capable representative for Ward 2. Residents there — and those across the city — are fortunate to have her on the council. The city needs her voice.
Likewise, Beth Gerard has done conscientious work for Ward 6 and deserves re-election.
In the contests for the two open ward seats on the council, we like the ideas brought to the table by newcomers Lise Hansen-Damato in Ward 3 and Steve Dibble, one of two write-in candidates in Ward 7.
His frequent absences and occasional verbal miscue make Jim Fleming an easy target. And we think many would agree it’s time for change on a Salem School Committee that has been plagued by leadership changes and poor student test scores over the past few years.
Fleming is the only incumbent running for three seats on the school board. We think a clean sweep is in order and would recommend the combination of fresh thinking and educational experience represented by Andrea French, Kris Wilson and former Collins Middle School principal Mary Manning.
Peabody’s municipal election campaign has been rather tame this year. Incumbent Ted Bettencourt is running unopposed, there is only one outsider among the six candidates for five at-large seats on the City Council, and the only ward races are for seats being vacated by long-time incumbents.
To date the leadership at City Hall has done a good job balancing voters’ desire to keep property taxes in check and the demands of the public employee unions for increased pay and benefits. That needs to continue.
Their record makes it easy to recommend the re-election of incumbents Mike Garabedian, Tom Gould, Tom Walsh, Anne Manning-Martin and Dave Gravel to the at-large positions on the council.
They will miss the wise counsel provided by veteran members Bob Driscoll (Ward 4) and Barry Osborne (Ward 1) both of whom opted not to seek re-election.
Osborne’s South Peabody ward would be best represented, in our view, by Brian Barrett. His late father, Paul, served as interim mayor between the Mavroules and Torigian administrations, and he has vast experience in municipal affairs having served as assistant city solicitor under former mayor Michael Bonfanti and as a member of the Board of Assessors and Zoning Board of Appeals.
Recent revelations regarding Ward 4 candidate Jarrod Hochman’s problems with the Board of Bar Overseers make this race a tough one to call. He was among the more fiscally responsible members of a school board that included opponent Ed Charest. How heavy the allegations regarding Hochman’s actions as a lawyer should weigh, is for each voter to decide.
Regarding the School Committee, there are six candidates for three open seats. This is a body much in need of fresh thinking and a willingness to stand up to the teachers’ union.
While we strongly opposed her campaign to bar voting in school buildings, as the lone incumbent and a strong advocate for parents, veteran member Brandi Carpenter deserves re-election. And to join her we’d recommend the election of school administrator Brian Addesa and accountant John Olimpio.