Sunday, December 25, 2011

Peabody Fire Fighter James Rice Dies in House Fire. Fund for Rice family and displaced residents established.

Veteran Peabody fire fighter James Rice died tragically when he was overcome by toxic fumes fighting a house fire on Hancock Street Friday.  I join my fellow Peabody residents in mourning for the loss of a great public servant.

Salem News Coverage:
Lynn Item Coverage:
Three funds have been established to assist both the Rice family and the residents displaced by the blaze.
  • Firefighter James Rice Memorial Fund, North Shore Bank.
  • Local 925 James Rice Fund:   [James Rice Fund, PO Box 4313, Peabody MA 01960]

  • City of Peabody Fire Victims Relief Fund, North Shore Bank.

    North Shore Bank Donations are being accepted at any North Shore Bank branch office, or can be mailed to the North Shore Bank, 32 Main Street Peabody, MA 01960.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Peabody Election Results 2011

                   Total      % vote     Incumbent? 
 Bettencourt        8703       63.6%   
 Fitzgerald         4980       36.4%           

 At-large CC                                       
 Gould              9012       18.7%     
 Garabedian         7601       15.8%         I 
 Gravel             7526       15.6%         I 
 Liacos             7123       14.8%         I 
 Manning-Martin     7084       14.7%         I 
 Croce              5604       11.6%   
 Donovan            4227        8.8%           

 Ward 1                                             
 Osborne            1547       56.8%         I 
 Forti              1177       43.2%           

 Ward 2                                             
 Athas              1089                     I

 Ward 3                                             
 Mello              1160       59.9%         I 
 Serino              777       40.1%           

 Ward 4                                             
 Driscoll           2182                     I         

 Ward 5                                             
 Gamache            1521                     I         

 Ward 6                                             
 Sinewitz           1955                     I         

 PMLP (6 yr)                                        
 D'Amato            7136       33.8%         I 
 Aylward            4935       23.4%      
 Birmingham         4825       22.9%   
 Feld               4186       19.9%           

 PMLP (2 yr)                                        
 Bonfanti        not reported                I         

 School Committee                                   
 McGeney            8296       27.7%         I 
 Carpenter          8144       27.2%         I 
 Charest            7108       23.7%         I 
 Russell            6434       21.5%      

Red color indicated winner(s) in race.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ted Bettencourt is the next Mayor of Peabody

Congratulations to Ted Bettencourt. Time to fill those big shoes.

Peabody Mayor: Who will win, who should win.

Well the election is finished and only the votes need to be tallied.
I decided to mostly stay out of the business of this election here at the Roundtable and occasionally jumped into the mix at the Peabody Politics blog.

So who will win and who should win... a mighty bold statement and entirely based on my personal opinion, but here it goes and we will see the results soon enough.


Will Win: Bettencourt
Should Win: Fitzgerald

It is plain to me... Sean has experience at running government on a day-to-day level and a broad background at multiple levels of government... and a true record of accomplishing things in his duties. Ted has been on the council, and even president, for 8 years and accomplished... well not very much indeed. Oh well... maybe he will grow into the shoes he will need to fill.

As for the other races, I think the City Council will be mostly, if not all, returning to their posts. The exception might be Liacos who I think may be given the heave-ho from Gould. Donovan and Croce have the 'old and cranky' attribute that appeals to some folks, but usually doesn't get you elected.

In the wards, I'd love to see Forte win, but I think it will be all incumbents yet again. Sadly Bob Driscoll was able to manuver Jeff Grayson OUT of his ward after last elections 1 vote victory... not the classiest move I have ever witnessed. And while I would love to see Mello ousted, he is very popular.

School committee will be all the same faces... and its too bad because the only one who seems like he should REALLY BE on the committee is Russell - a real educator who might have made a real difference to our schools. I will keep hoping that McGeney or Carpenter will falter a bit and he will be elected, but this is Peabody and the incumbents rarely lose.

As for the Light Commission... I don't really care except that I would like it if Aylward DID NOT get elected as I strongly oppose his position on the Massachusetts Go Green initiative.

Well now I will wait for the results like the rest of you...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Election Update: With Donovan In... we all lose.

The Salem News and Peabody Patch report that Russ Donovan has filed papers to run for mayor in Peabody... again.

The Salem News has not published this article on-line for some reason.
The Peabody Patch article is here: Donovan Enters Peabody Mayor's Race

Now the Salem News article has a short interview and here are the main points of Mr. Donovan's reasons for running:
  • He doesn't think either Fitzgerald or Bettencourt will make the needed changes in Peabody
  • He is a non-politician
  • He is a fiscal conservative
  • He has no plans to raise money for a campaign
  • He wants to end bus fees for Peabody students
  • He wants to cut spending
  • He wants a 20% personal exemption for property taxes
  • He would slash the mayor's salary (to the avg. city worker pay)
  • He would not accept city health insurance (to set an example)
So in his effort to cut the cost of city government he is going to run a non campaign with no fund raising, he will (I assume) hit the pavement and be speaking to people (but not spending any money on literature, outreach, etc.) in order to explain how he will CUT SPENDING while INCREASING SERVICES!

Of course his non campaign is going to already COST THE CITY because he is forcing a CITY WIDE PRIMARY! I called the clerks office and they were unable to tell me today what the approximate cost of a city-wide primary election will be... but other I have spoken with estimated the cost to be between $15-20,000 TAX DOLLARS!

All so a non candidate can run a non campaign on the platform of saving the city money.

Russ Donovan is just as welcome as any other citizen to run for office. However... if you are going to run for office... THEN RUN FOR OFFICE! Don't make this some symbolic gesture that has no value to the city... except to cost us all $$$ for your personal ego building.

I mean... that $15,000 would actually pay for 50 Peabody students to ride the bus to school for the year. Wouldn't that be money better spent?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Fitzgerald joins Bettencourt in race for Mayor

Sean Fitzgerald, the current Town Manager of Plaistow, New Hampshire, has joined the race for Mayor of Peabody.

This can only be good news for all the citizens of Peabody. I think that the public can only be better served with a healthy debate of the issues and the platforms of these two men.

I only hope that the campaigns can be kept positive and informative... instead of diving into the muck and mire that has plagued our political system as of late.
I have actually not seen Mr. Fitzgerald for some time. But I have found him to be an honest and forthright person. Don't get me wrong, he's still a politician... but he seems to have high expectations for himself and I have rarely seen him lose his cool.

While I would say that Mr. Bettencourt has gotten off on the right footing... and is leading the charge at the moment, I look forward to seeing what Mr. Fitzgerald will bring to the table.

But no matter who you favor now in March... it is going to be a much more interesting election season after today!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Bonfanti to Step Away - Will Not Seek Re-election

Mayor Michael Bonfanti in the State of the City address tonight has announced he will NOT be seeking re-election in the Fall.

Salem News: Bonfanti: I will not run again

So who will be the one who will fill the corner office next?

The big two expected candidates are, of course, Ted Bettencourt and Dave Gravel. But there are a few other possibilities out there. Anne Manning-Martin is very popular as is Beverly Griffin Dunne. And don't forget old Sean Fitzgerald who has always wanted to be top dog in his hometown.

Old Salem News Story: Mayor's Race in Peabody up in the Air

It will be an interesting election cycle!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

How to get a FREE HOUSE in Peabody AND make $23,000 in the deal... All because of your position as a City Board Member??

Well I have sat on my hands for more than a week about this. I have now heard some very disturbing information from more than 5 different sources. While I usually do not broadcast rumors, this one has too many verifiable facts to be very far from the truth.

According to people who really should know, Peabody Zoning Board Vice Chairman Paul Ruocco has been asked to resign from the Peabody Zoning Board after a rather disturbing series of events.

He purchased a property, had it subdivided based on incorrect information and ended up getting a FREE HOUSE and $23,000 - all because he was granted favors as a standing Peabody Board member.

It has also been suggested to me that other board members might be involved as well but I have not been able to verify any of these accusations.

This is what I have been able to find out:

Paul Ruocco is (was) the Vice Chairperson of the Peabody Zoning Board.

Paul and Eleftheria Ruocco purchased 98 Bartholomew St. from the estate of William Farwell on March 18, 2010 for $127,000

Now here I am relying on 2nd hand information as the records are not available online (as far as I can find out.) Mr. Ruocco went to the Peabody Planning Board to request a variance to build a "pork-chop" subdivision. It is important to note here that the Planning Board has been rather reluctant to approve these types of lot-splitting schemes as it adds congestion and traffic into already crowded areas and is against the rule for required frontage for a new residence.

A pork chop subdivision is where you divide up a single property into a front and back (in a pork chop looking manner) so you can get two properties out of one lot. Here is an image of one possible layout for these two new lots as I have no access to the actual plan and the current City of Peabody GIS does not show it split yet.

It has been reported that Mr. Ruocco made a rather impassioned and moving case for himself stating (again this is 2nd hand) that he was planning on building a second home for aged relatives and additional family members to care for these relatives. I was told that while the board was reluctant to approve such an obvious violation of the code, there was a certain sympathy for the plight of the elderly relatives as well as a feeling of obligation to approve a fellow Peabody Board Members request.

The subdivision was approved and the single lot officially became two lots.

Then on June 25, 2010 the new extra lot (now called 98 Bartholomew Lot 2a) was sold to Dimitra Mihalakakis, which is the former last name of Mrs. Ruocco (and perhaps the elderly relative referred to in the Planning Board meeting.) The price of this new lot was $90,000 to Mr. & Mrs. Ruocco.
HOWEVER... in the exact same transaction the property was then sold to Roger Barile, a trustee of the Roger and Avery Realty Trust. Mr. Barile appears to be a developer and he paid Ms. Mihalakakis $150,000 for this new property.
So Mr. Ruocco was able to purchase a property for $127,000 in March and then ask for special permission, based on questionable statements and his position as a City Board member, to subdivide his new property. Then 3 months later he DOES sell the property to his relative, only to then have it pass onto a developer who was never mentioned in his special requests for breaking the rules.

In all Mr Ruocco and family were able to buy low and sell high, getting a "free" house and property AND netting a $23,000 profit!

No wonder Mr. Ruocco is a Certified Financial Planner... he seems to have a special knack for making money. Even if it violates the spirit, if not the letter, of the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Sadly, I am told that this gets worse. That this may involve other people on the Zoning Board as well - however I have not yet corroborated that information and I have heard conflicting accounts.

It has been told to me that this is being HUSH-HUSHED all through City Hall. Mayor Bonfanti supposedly asked for Mr. Ruocco's resignation and received it. But this also has been shielded in secrecy. Government should act in the open and be held accountable for its errors. Hiding information is no way to run a City. This is really yet another failure on the part of this administration.

So, while Mr. Ruocco is still listed on the City of Peabody website as being a member of the Zoning Board, I have heard he has indeed resigned.

We need a higher level of integrity in our government. This City can not move forward if forces within are working this hard to pull us back down.

I can only hope that more formal news organisations will get wind of this and look into this matter thoroughly. The citizens of Peabody deserve a full airing of our dirty laundry yet again.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

School fees, vacation daze, Peabody 100k Club and an interesting blog...

Peabody was actually in the Boston Globe's Globe North section for something besides murder, transgender bashing or being the lowest whatever for a change.


First, the annual listing of salaries must have made its way to the 'slow week' section of the Globe news desk. Peabody: Pay list shows 40 top $100K We are yearly given a listing of the highest paid employees - not surprisingly which are managers, several light plant senior folks, high ranking school officials and police officers who do detail work.

This is usually followed by a litany of average folks being outraged at how much money is paid for so little work being done. This isn't really true, of course - it is just that EVERYONE thinks someone else's job is simple and overpaying.

I am of the opinion that almost everyone on this list is probably deserving of their pay. Where I take exception is to the public safety officers and the use of detail pay. I have discussed this issue MANY TIMES here and on the blogs and this isn't the intent of this post. We can, of course, discuss this in the comments if folks desire.

I was actually a little surprised to see this published in the Globe. It is usually a 'higher intellectual' newspaper and this is more of a Salem News article - as they have never met a government employee worth ANYTHING.

Of course, unlike the Salem News, the Globe goes into some detail giving some reasons for this high pay - most which made sense to me.


The next article didn't really concern itself with Peabody... which was good considering the focus. Pressure to Pay looked at North Shore communities and the fees to participate on high school sports teams. It seems that while a few decreased fees, a few more increased fees. But Peabody was not one of these. Our sports fee structure stayed the same at $150 per sport with a $300 cap.

The list of communities with fees shows Peabody to be on the lower end of fees charged with only Dracut having lower fees (Gloucester also has a lower starting range, but goes up to $380 per sport.) I am the first to admit that I don't like fees for school activities. But when the schools are in such dire financial straits, I can not see spending precious academic funds on extra-curricular sports or activities. So I was glad to see that while still trying to recoup expenses, Peabody is trying to maintain a minimal impact on parents and student athletes.

It is only fair to also point out that 19 communities (or regional schools) in the area DO NOT have any fees for sports.


Ah summer! The time when everyone deserves to spend a little quality time away from their jobs and spend it with family and friends! Unless you are school superintendent Milton Burnett. Seems that because of the budget cuts, staffing reductions and major turnovers of key people (think principals here) he has been playing catch-up all summer trying to get ready for the coming school year.

If you read the article in the Salem News, Superintendent's bid to carry over vacation is denied, and read the excepts from his letter to the school committee... it is hard to imagine them denying him a one-time exception to the rule concerning the number of days one can 'carry over' into the next year.

While I am not a fan or a foe of Mr. Burnett, I think he is totally correct on this one. It was the Mayor and the school committee who placed his department in the position where much more work than normal was required to be done (all without an assistant super) and this resulted in the necessity of missing one of the best perks of being employed - vacation time.

I wouldn't blame him if he simply didn't show up for the next 10 days and let the schools suffer... well actually I WOULD blame him and I wouldn't stand for it. BUT this is ultimately the "fault" of the Mayor and the school committee and they should have allowed this as being FAIR and not played the political game of denying it in the hopes of appearing to be on the side of fiscal responsibility after the Salem News has been trying to stir up trouble with the Annemarie DuBois pension "issue."


I found this link to a blog run by the MAPC (Metropolitan Area Planning Council.) The Salem-Peabody Corridor Project is a new initiative that, I think, is focusing on the Rt. 128 - Main St. - Boston St. corridor and seeks to find improvements to facilitate improvements in traffic and community along the route. This was recently in the news when a group of planners, business people, city officials and citizens walked along the route (twice?) to get an 'on the ground' understanding of the project.

The link to the blog is Salem-Peabody Blog and the homepage of the project is Salem-Peabody Corridor Project.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Main Street Rising

Call me a cockeyed optimist (no one who knows me IRL would do that, btw) but things might be looking up downtown.

That veterinary clinic next to the fire station is pretty professional-looking, and seems to be doing a good business. Next door, the old law office is being rehabbed in a substantial and attractive way. Tuscan red? - why the heck not?

Up the street, the new sushi place, Maki Sushi, is getting quite the media buzz (no, I don't mean the Salem Evening News, which is owned by a conglomerate in flyover land that thinks that sushi = bait). I would never have believed that ol' Peabody could handle sushi, but there it is. The restaurant is simple and beautiful, the staff is super-attentive (NC stopped in for a meal a couple of days ago), and the food is innovative and could attract a much wider crowd than locals, in this writer's opinion.

NC likes a beer with his nigiri though - and wishes that Maki had a beer/wine license. How sad that every dive/fight bar has got one, and hip, up-and-coming restaurants have access to none.

Nevertheless, I strongly recommend Maki. Fresh, delicious, and so good-for-you. I have no connections to the restaurant people or the industry - so this is as unbiased as it gets. Go. Eat fish.
Elegant template from BlogMundi
Photo credit: Elizabeth Thomsen, CCL