Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Red Sox Spring Training, Health and Pension Reforms, Loan to Lawrence, Salisbury Visitor Center, Danvers Kiwanis Presentation


Visit to a Red Sox vs. Orioles Spring Baseball Game

I know that many of you are waiting patiently for the Red Sox season to begin to get a fix on the 2010 team. On Sunday, my friend Bob Sullivan and I went to Sarasota to Ed Smith Field to see the Red Sox play the Baltimore Orioles in a Spring Training game. Similar to all Red Sox games away from home parks, the Spring home ballpark of the Orioles in Sarasota was packed with Red Sox fans like us looking for a touch of Spring. Several Red Sox regulars including Bucholtz, Ellsbury, Drew, Ortiz, Martinez and Lowrie all played three or four innings and then wholesale substitutions were made. The Red Sox rallied in the late innings to beat the Orioles and the newest Rex Sox prize rookie Casey Kelly pitched two scoreless, hitless innings to get the win. To date Kelly has had a couple of impressive early Spring outings, but I would suspect that when they start playing the games for real he will start the year in Portland or Pawtucket, but his future based on what I saw looks bright. Sunday was only an early exhibition game, but it was nice to see baseball being played. The grass was green, the game was on and the weather a bit warmer than it has been. All in all, t was a very pleasant afternoon in the Florida sunshine.

Reforms Needed to Insure Continued Financial Viability of our Local Communities

In the last several weeks, I have read several op-ed pieces and general news stories in local Massachusetts’s media outlets that have called for changes in State laws concerning municipal workers health insurance and pension reform. Virtually all of the reports that I have seen support a change generated by the Massachusetts Legislature that would allow local communities to make changes in health care and retirement benefits without a positive vote by employee unions. That proposal seems to me to be a most necessary in today’s economic climate. I certainly understand how diligently local municipal unions have worked over the years to obtain the medical and retirement benefits they now have, but unless there is some give on both sides of this issue some municipalities will certainly face most difficult financial times in the very near future. I serve on the Town of Danvers Finance Committee and with the continuing reductions in State aid offered year after year have put many if these municipal governments in a most tenuous situation. There are even moves pending next year that could see revenues reduced to even lower levels with a Sales Tax reduction vote and a rollback of alcoholic beverages sales tax due as a ballot issue this coming November. It is most clear that the communities must take action to reduce expenditures and not to spend what they do not have in hand.

I want to make it very clear, that I am not speaking relative to this matter on behalf of the Essex National Heritage Commission, but rather am speaking for me personally. It is imperative that our elected officials who represent this region on Beacon Hill in Boston consider changes soon that would provide local Mayors and Town Managers health care plan design and pension reform controls without the prior approval of the municipal unions. It is imperative that the local communities in this region and the committed municipal workers who keep these communities strong and provide such wonderful public safety and educational services to all of us come together to “meet in some middle ground” to insure the continuing financial viability of the Cities and towns in the area. Without these meaningful adjustments in the near future the municipal services we have all come to expect will have to be cut back to even lower levels.

House Approves 35 Million Loan to the City of Lawrence

It appears that the proposed loan from the Commonwealth to the City of Lawrence is slowly working its way through the two houses of the Legislature. The loan proposal passed the house recently and will now be presented to the Senate for a vote. I certainly hope that as the loan proposal progresses all of the safeguards that were discussed early in the process stay in place. It will be critical that all of those criteria stay in the bill to insure oversight when the funds are advanced to the City. It is certainly most important that the City of Lawrence and all of its residents are provided with an opportunity to put that important Essex County community back on an even keel so we certainly support the loan with proper safeguards.

North of Boston Convention and Visitor Bureau and the Salisbury Visitor Center

All of us at Essex Heritage were very disappointed to learn that the work that the management team of “North of Boston” was doing behind the scenes to get the Salisbury Visitor Center reopened seems to have been for naught. We were aware of some strong support from the Essex County Legislative delegation that had been mounted in support of the reopening, and I am certain that work will go on as long as possible to see if a solution can be reached. But the short-term news seems bad, as it appears that even as the 2010 Tourist Season approaches, NBCVB has announced that the outlook seems difficult at best. The notice from NBCVB sent recently to their members and friends indicated that in addition to not having a solution to the end the closure, that they has to lay off, at least temporarily. Bill Pickles the manager of the facility. Bill is a most important member of the Essex Heritage Board of Trustees and we certainly hope that like the temporary closure of the Welcome Center, Bill’s layoff will also be temporary. Essex Heritage continues to offer its total support to the North of Boston group and stands ready to advocate for any issue of importance to them and this region.

Elizabeth Rankin to Speak to Danvers Kiwanis Club

Today at the Danversport Yacht Club, Elizabeth Rankin the Essex Herutage Director of Communication and the Director of the very successful Explorers Program will be the guest speaker at the Danvers Kiwanis Club. The invitation to Elizabeth came from club President Irene Kucinski, who I serve with on the Danvers Historical Society Board. Irene is a very committed Danvers activist, and her invitation to Elizabeth will certainly result in a most interesting and informative presentation to her members. Elizabeth is the acknowledged force behind the ENHC Explorers Program. Elizabeth manages that program that brings the 300 members of the Program to a series of quarterly events at places not usually open to the general public. It is certain that the attending members of the Danvers Kiwanis Club will leave the luncheon meeting today with much more information than when they arrived for lunch, and hopefully Elizabeth will leave with a few more members for the ENHC Explorers program.

As always we value your comments, questions and observations about the work of Essex Heritage. Please contact me with your thoughts at www.essexheritage.org. Thanks. Tom Leonard

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