Thursday, September 15, 2011

Meet the Candidate: Joan Lovely

As Mrs. Lovely is a sitting councilor, and we should know her at least a little bit, this one is a little different. I was able to ask questions based on specific past council events and decisions, which I'm sure were harder to answer. I also indulged in asking her about several things I personally wanted to know. I'm sure you'll agree that councilor Lovely put plenty of effort and thought into providing answers. It's also obvious that this isn't her first time at the rodeo. I'm glad she chose to participate, especially with her busy schedule. I've been to two Derby St. Neighborhood Association meetings, including one this week, and she's been at both of them. Her dedication is clear.


As a Ward 3 resident, and former Ward 3 councilor, what do you think should happen with the transfer station site? Do you support the Northside Carting proposal? How do you balance the needs of the city as a whole with the wants and fears of a neighborhood? In the Salem Patch transfer station question, you mentioned that Northside has agreed to pay $500,000 towards the capping. I asked them about this, as several neighbors have talked about this, and Eric Lipsky at Northside states that they've spent the contractually obligated money already, at the direction of the DPW director. (I'll fwd the email if you'd like to see it.) Do you disagree? Who bears the responsibility for the current condition of the property, the landlord, or the tenant?

Ultimately the city as the owner is responsible for the clean-up of the property.  However, the current condition of the station is in large part the responsibility of the current operator.  In 1994, Northside Carting and the city entered into a lease for the property to be operated as a transfer station.  At that time, the former incinerator had already been closed and the land prepared for capping.  For reasons unknown to me, the cap was never completed.  When Northside took possession, it carved large deep troughs into the land to accommodate huge dumpsters.  As a result, the land was disturbed and redistributed on the site.  Several years later, the MA DEP stepped in and stopped this practice.  (You will recognize this part of the site because large sumac trees now grow there.)  Because of this practice, the city and Northside are both now at risk for significant fines by the DEP due to the city’s failure to cap the site and the disturbance and redistribution of the contaminated soil by Northside.  The city and Northside entered into an agreement wherein in exchange for reduced lease payments, Northside would spend $500,000 towards capping of the site.  Recent estimates set the capping cost at $1.3 million dollars which would be for capping the site only.  The question remains whether Northside has spent the $500,000 it is required to pay, and if it did, what that $500,000 paid for.  The $500,000 commitment would be for capping the site only and not for engineering costs to build a new transfer station.  Therefore the city’s contribution towards capping the site stands at about $800,000.

Now, the transfer station pre-dates the condominium complexes that were built nearby, therefore it would not be out of the ordinary for it to continue to operate as a transfer station however not in the condition it is allowed to continue to operate under and not at an increase of tonnage to 400 tons/day.   Currently, it is a dirty, dusty, noisy site, with a building that has been greatly damaged and contaminated land greatly disturbed by the current operator.  An increase in tonnage from 100 tons/day of construction and demolition (C&D) debris only, to 400 tons/day of both C&D and municipal solid waste (curbside trash pick-up) will greatly impact the area.  Northside has publicly stated that trash trucks already travel throughout Salem therefore there would be little impact to the site.  However, all those trash trucks do not go to that site now.  To redirect all of Salem’s trash trucks, and surrounding communities that will contract with Northside for curbside pickup, to that site, will further overwhelm the area.  It is for these reasons that I cannot support an increase to 400/ton per day. 

P.S. I visited Northside’s facility in North Andover and I was very impressed with the facility and how well it is run.  The owner and proprietor, Bill Thompson, runs a large clean site with little odor and dust.  The site however is located in an industrial area across the street from a large incinerator and next to a municipal airport with very few residences nearby, very different compared to the current conditions in Salem.    

I've owned a home in Salem for 5 years. (Lived here for six) In that time, my property taxes have gone up by hundreds and hundreds of dollars, while the economy and value of my home has tanked. Salem currently has one of the very highest property tax rates around.
 How should the city get it under control? Why hasn't it?

Several factors may explain why Salem’s taxes have escalated in the past five years which is not unique to Salem but is happening in most cities and towns across the Commonwealth.  You mention our dismal economy and property values that have declined as a result.   That and many other factors have played a large part in the pain that most of us are feeling in our wallets. 

As we all know, the city’s foundation budget is allowed to increase by up to 2.5% each year.  These increases are paid for by the (residential and commercial/industrial) tax payer.  Over the past decade, our tax base has shifted from about 70% residential and 30% commercial/industrial to more than 85% residential and 15% commercial/industrial, which means that the residential taxpayer is now paying the bulk of the real estate taxes raised to help fund the budget.   Add in the deregulation of electricity and the fact that our city faced a sharp decline in tax revenue from the power plant in a tax agreement which decreased the plants taxes (at $1 million dollars per year) from $8.7 million dollars to the current $4.7 million dollars in combined tax revenue and host fee.  Also add in that fewer people are buying new cars which means our excise tax revenue is down (although it is projected to increase slightly this fiscal year.)  Factor in that the construction industry is down as well so we have less new growth, and for several years we received less state aid (although that number increased this year.)  And add in that health insurance and pension costs have increased.  All these factors equate to fewer dollars to help fund the budget in which to deliver education, public safety, and city services.  So, we either increase taxes to pay for these services, or cut them.  The current administration in conjunction with the city council has worked very hard to streamline city government by combining departments and regionalizing city services and we will continue to do so.  Our greatest challenge is balancing our costs and needs and how much it will cost the taxpayer (including me) to pay for all of it.

With much fanfare, the City Council hired a budget analyst last year, at a cost of $20,000. I know you personally worked for that for years. From the sound of it, the analyst didn't really manage to find much in the way of budget savings. Was it worth the money? Do you favor renewing the contract for the second year? Was the budget analyst in favor of what would have been devastating cuts as proposed by the committee on administration and finance for the library? I wrote about the position here. Is there something I'm missing?

Back in 2001, both I and then Councilor Driscoll lobbied the Charter Commission for a budget analyst to assist the city council.  The Charter Commission accepted and made that recommendation to the electorate, however, the voters turned it down (together with returning to a two year mayor, filling vacancies on the School Committee, and that a charter commission be formed every year ending with “6”.)  I continued to lobby for the position and in 2008 was successful in getting the position passed as an ordinance and in funded at $4,000.  The city put the position out for RFP and received two proposals.  Before any decision was made to hire an analyst, Governor Patrick made midyear 9C cuts and the funding was cut.  I again lobbied for the position and asked for a more meaningful stipend of $20,000.  Beverly’s City Council has a budget analyst and that position is funded at $40,000.  Mayor Driscoll agreed and funded the position this fiscal year.  An RFP went out again and several proposals were received.  This past winter/spring, the council hired Financial Advisory Associates, Inc. and we particularly work with principle Michael Daley.  The ordinance specifically outlines the analyst role to wit: “The analyst shall assist the city council in the review of the city's annual operating budget, five-year financial forecast, capital improvement plan, annual tax rate recapitulation, and periodic water or sewer rate adjustments.”  On June 14th, Mr. Daley met with the council and presented a FY2012 Preliminary Review of the city’s financial condition with comparisons from 1990 to 2011.  The report is filled with detailed charts and graphs.  Of particular note with regard to the education budget, from 1993 to 1999, the city spent the minimum legally required net school spending.  However, from 2000 to 2011, the city exceeded that legal minimum and this year spent about $6-7 million more than required.  That makes us a pro education city but it comes at a cost to the taxpayers. 

I am in favor of keeping the budget analyst as we have not had a full year of utilizing his services.   We are still in a get to know you phase and what in particular we want from the analyst.  In closing, the analyst was not hired to recommend specific cuts as he is not privy to the local political wants and needs of the community.  However, he will advise as to what cuts will impact the budget and how.  The rest is local politics and wants and needs versus cost.   

Twice in the last year the mayor has been prohibited from speaking at City Council, due to the objection of a single councilor. By my reading, this is a clear violation of the city charter. I believe that when it came up again, you read the charter during the meeting and agreed. Do you believe that council should revise its rules to be in accordance with the charter? Should that even be necessary?

The mayor and city council work in tandem, therefore information needs to be exchanged to allow both offices to function properly.  Prohibiting that exchange of information prevents proper function therefore the mayor should be allowed without objection to address the city council at all times on all matters. It should not be necessary to revise the council rules as the charter allows the mayor to address the council.  However, to make it perfectly clear, the rules should probably be revised to clearly reflect the charter’s intention. 

Any thoughts on why there aren't more women running for office in Salem? This cycle I only count four, out of a total of 29 candidates. Any idea why more women don't run?

This is a question that I think about all the time.  When I was first elected in 1998 as the Ward 3 Councillor, I joined Ward 6 Councillor Sally Hayes and Ward 2 Councillor Regina Flynn.  In 2000, we were joined by Ward 5 Councillor Kim Driscoll and Councillor At-Large Laura Detoma.  There were then five women of the eleven member council, the highest number of women to serve at any one time. In 2002, Councillor Hayes left office and we were joined by Ward 1 Councillor Claudia Chuber.  Again, five women were serving.  In 2004, Councilors’ Flynn, Chuber, Driscoll and Detoma left office and Councillor Lucy Corchado came aboard in Ward 1.  Councillor Corchado and I served together until she left office in 2007 and since then I have been the only woman to serve on the council.  In 2009, Teasie Riley Goggin made a bid for an at-large seat but was unsuccessful.  She is back on the ballot this year and from one woman to another, I wish her much success.  I believe that women assume many roles as mothers, wives, partners, daughters, sisters, friends, employees, employers, students, and caregivers in many ways.  I am just not sure how much time, resources and support there are for women to run for and attain public office.  It is not a light undertaking for women and men alike.  I would not be able to attend the many meetings I attend and put the time into the office that I believe it requires if it were not for the support and sacrifice of my husband, three children and extended family.  Without their encouragement and support, I would not be in public office today.   

If re-elected, what are your legislative priorities for the next term?

I hope to continue my work on the city council to work with the administration to streamline city government to deliver quality education, public safety, and city services.  I also hope to continue to keep local government transparent and deliver information in a more timely manner. 

Your campaign reported no spending in the last election. With the larger field, will that change this time around?

I am not sure to which campaign report you are referring as my committee did raise and spend funds for my 2009 re-election effort.  According to the committee’s 2009 Year End Report, the committee raised $5,895.00 and spent $5,735.08.  The committee will be planning another fundraiser post primary and it is estimated to raise and spend about the same amount of funds in this year’s re-election effort. 

P.S. The committee did not timely file the pre-primary report due on 9/12/11.  I take personal responsibility for not filing this report on time.  It is currently on file in the Election’s Department in City Hall.

{Ed. note: This is my bad. I got this idea from a Salem News article from 2009, and we all know what happens when you trust the Snooze. As to the filing due earlier this week, the questions were already in Councilor Lovely's possession when the deadline passed.}


The snooze published a Q&A with all of the candidates today. You can read it here. Hopefully candidate Barcikowski will be happier with their handling of him here, than he was in their profile on him, which spurred this letter. Seems a little thin-skinned, but I wouldn't call him a long-shot candidate at this point. I haven't seen anyone else campaign harder, or in a more organized way.


  1. God help us all if we don't manage to keep Joan on the council.

  2. I linked to the wrong 2009 Salem News article above. The link has been corrected.

  3. This is nice! Would it be possible to do this with all of the candidates??

  4. If you click on Meet the candidate near the bottom of this post it will take you to a handful of these articles. I made the offer to all. Several didn't follow up.


Don't forget, keep it klassy!