hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

January 2, 2014

New Year's cheers and jeers for local headliners

The Haverhill Gazette

---- — Some cheers and jeers for some local newsmakers as 2013 ends and 2014 begins:

CHEERS, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, first of all, to the many individuals and groups that gave to the 2013 Gazette Santa Fund and to the many volunteers who aided the drive, staring with the folks at Garrison Golf Center who gave the effort a kick start by hosting our annual hole-in-one contest. We’re always touched by the generosity of those who dig deep to help poor Haverhill families at Christmas, often in the name of departed family members who passed on to them the spirit of giving. And we’re encouraged that schools like Bradford Elementary and Consentino are setting similar examples -- together the two schools raised almost $1,800 with a penny drive and raffle respectively. Heck of a lot of pennies and raffle tickets. Thanks to all.

CHEERS to the Haverhill office holders who will be sworn in to new terms on Monday. They include Mayor James Fiorentini, who will begin his sixth two-year term, a modern day record in city politics. An apparently contented Haverhill electorate also returned eight City Council incumbents and two School Committee veterans. The only newcomers are Melinda on the council Maura Ryan-Ciardiello on the School Committee. We always advocate for contested races because they keep incumbents on their toes. But Haverhill voters seem happy, by and large, with the status quo, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

JEERS to Spectrum Health Systems for its in-your-face approach to opening a methadone clinic in Haverhill on the Plaistow line. The nonprofit organization claims it does not need city approval under a state law that allows certain religious and educational organizations to override local zoning rules. Spectrum’s lawyer, Paul Holtzman said in a letter to the city that it would be futile to resist and warned of a lawsuit similar to the one that he said cost the city of Pittsfield $100,000.

CHEERS to Mayor Fiorentini and other city officials for refusing to accept Spectrum’s claims as gospel. The mayor said he has hired outside counsel in preparation for a legal fight. Yes, more drug treatment is needed to stem the tide of opiate abuse that has destroyed the lives of far too many addicts and their families. But methadone maintenance -- substituting one dangerous drug for another -- is not necessarily the best option. And the commercial zone location Spectrum wants is definitely not the right place.