City Residents Place Schools, Crime at Tops of Their Priority Lists

Lynda Brown of Windsor Street, addresses Haverhill city councilors Tuesday night. (WHAV News photograph.)

If residents speaking to city councilors Tuesday represent a cross section of the population, Haverhill citizens rank education and crime at the top of their spending priorities.

The council’s Citizen Outreach Committee, headed by Council Vice President Melinda E. Barrett, heard from nearly 20 residents who gave their opinions on how the city should allocate its budget come July 1. Councilors solicited the feedback for the first time in recent memory to help them decide budget priorities. Windsor Street resident Lynda Brown suggested the city spend more on beefing up the police force.

“What we’d like to see is an increase and proactive police presence. There have been many drug deals and home invasions and a lot other unlawful activities.”

Her suggestion was echoed in part by James Mamonas, who urged stronger enforcement of speeding and safety ordinances, among other downtown improvements. He also suggested the city replace surface parking lots on Wingate and Essex Streets and Washington Square to increase the number of spaces.

Keith Boucher of the Mount Washington neighborhood group Urban Kindness asked for programs to increase volunteer efforts at schools, such as Tilton. “I stand for all underperforming schools” across the city, he added.

Thomas Granneman, 51 Leroy Ave., continued the education theme, saying Haverhill is spending less per student than comparable districts. He recommended the city strive to meet forthcoming state benchmarks and plan budgets several years in advance. Keeping up with inflation, he explained, means the city would have to increase education spending at least 4.5 percent this year.

Several councilors pointed to plans to ask the state to help pay for repair or replacement of Consentino, Tilton and John Greenleaf Whittier schools. However, Katrina Hobbs Everett, 41 South Central St., said longer school days, improvements in how student disciplinary action is taken, child care and early child education would top her list.

Discussion Brings Tax Debate

Joseph LeBlanc, husband of School Committee President Gail M. Sullivan, said the city could better pay for education by taxing closer to the Proposition 2 ½-mandated ceiling. “We’re not like a resort town on Cape Cod,” he said. Council President John A. Michitson acknowledged the city taxed $2.3 million below the maximum last year. However, he called the tax savings “temporary.” He explained the city has the authority to add that amount to future tax bills, which may become necessary to pay for three new schools.

With rising water and sewer rates, taxes are only part of the costs charged to taxpayers, said Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua. Voters have to decide how the city spends.

“You have to either say we’re going to increase police protection, but we’re going cut education or we’re going to increase education, but we’re going to cut fire protection, or we’re going to cut parks or cultural or whatever the case may be. Or, you have to raise taxes.”

Devan Ferriera, 12 Grant St., questioned Bevilacqua’s choices. “Why do we have to settle?” she asked. She said she moved here from Newburyport and believes the city should increase taxes and services.

The discussion moved Councilor William J. Macek to remind everyone of the city’s dire finances only a few years ago.

“We were in such financial crisis that we were told by two out of our three, at the time, state representatives that there was nothing for us to do. We couldn’t possibly turn it around and we were going to, in a sense, be bankrupt.” Macek credited Mayor James J. Fiorentini for making the cuts necessary for the city to not only survive, but have the best bond rating in its history.

5 thoughts on “City Residents Place Schools, Crime at Tops of Their Priority Lists

  1. I havent heard a single person, on either side, suggest that, violent criminals or gang-bangers shouldn’t be deported. I concur they should be, to hell with them. I also think ” criminal invaders” is a thinly cloaked racist term.

    But, according to a Trump surrogate, today on CNN, ” OBAMA was the Deporter in Chief” and “aggressively deported felons.” Soooo, now that, Trump wants to deport…Obama is the example of deportation excellence ? Hypocrisy.

    108 Americans have been murdered by undocumented scumbags according to the Trump surrogate. So…we’re going to hire 10,000 ICE agents, 5,000 Border Agents, build detention centers, and deport 11 million mostly-working, America-loving people?

    As a conservative Republican, I can’t support such a knee-jerk, lopsided, fiscally irresponsible , obscene expansion of government. To say nothing of constitutionality , economic ramifications, and American values.

  2. The best bond rating in the city’s history…I didn’t know that;that’s a powerful fiscal measurement and certainly impresses this conservative.

    • Who’s the payee of said bond ratings?

      Short memories too, there’s some AAA rated junk I’d love to sell you, but these AAA’s are backed by taxpayers, so I promise they are worth it. While the material inside the actual writings of said ratings are mundane and informative, the ratings themselves are not.

      Has any reader actually looked at the debt, debt issuance, and debt servicing of not just Haverhill, but this state (federal? LOL?)? Get back to us when you calculate how much debt has had to be issued to get any production.

      The Era of cheap money has consequences, the hardest hit of course have been the poor and lower/middle classes,, but who cares about them anyway?

  3. Sure Mr Leblanc let’s raise taxes, spoken like a true democrat who happens to work in the public sector.
    How about this, hold people accountable, stop the giveaways and ask people to actively get invlvoved with the city if they want something for free.
    Come on over the bridge and see where your tax dollars are being given. Drive thru the neighborhoods and see what the residents do for their neighborhood. Fire hydrants don’t get shoveled, trash strewn about and very few people care.
    I don’t get my nails done, I shop outside the city and my children do not attend public schools. I do drive on the “paved” roads but that’s only to get out of the city and I get to put out my trash, I hope to god I don’t need the fire dept and it’s a good thing my neighbor is a police officer.
    Don’t give me the answer that I should move out, if I could I would but in reality who is going to give me what my house is worth.

  4. Ms. Lynda Brown….your comments are commendable and completely accurate. What you leave out, however, is why there is so much crime in the City of Haverhill in the first place.

    Just a week ago Haverhill city councilor Andy Vargas publicly stated he is going to do whatever he possibly can to protect criminal trespassers in this country and city illegally. And who are these people? They are the two criminal trespassers who dragged a teenage girl into the woods at Riverside Park and raped her. They are the hoards of drug dealers who flock to the city. They are the numerous gangs in the city shooting guns at Little League games. And they are multitude of other criminals breaking into homes, businesses and cars literally on a daily basis all throughout the city. Andy has NEVER once commented publicly about the vicious rape at a city park or any other crime for that matter. The bottom line is Andy is an elected official who is actively aiding and abetting criminals in the commission of a crime. That shouldn’t be tolerated by citizens in the city.

    Ms. Brown, the root cause of the problems in the City of Haverhill has to do with the many elected liberal politicians in Haverhill who are more concerned with protecting criminals than citizens. When the mayor and city councilors say nothing about the crime occurring daily in the city it’s obvious what the cause of the problem is….them. How can the crime problem be reduced or eliminated when elected public officials just ignore it?

    How out of control is the liberal agenda in Haverhill when it comes to law enforcement? Haverhill has a female State Representative who is the Co-Chairman of the state legislature’s committee on Public Safety. It is her job to actively work to protect citizens all throughout the state. Yet, she has never commented on the young girl being raped in a city park. She did, however, recently submit a bill to protect dogs and cats when they end up at MSPCA’s throughout the state. This is so insane it almost doesn’t seem like it’s true….but it is.

    Ms. Brown, you can throw all the money you want at increasing police response to the crimes being committed in the city, but until something is done to effectively manage why it’s happening in the first place, nothing is going to change. The change that is needed is in the elected public officials who have a fiduciary duty to protect citizens, not their liberal agenda. The best thing you can do is to inform everyone you know to mobilize against these ineffective officials and vote them out of office come election time. Otherwise, it is only going to get worse.