Posted by Justin Rice October 25, 2011 09:47 AM
Justin A. Rice for Boston.com
Compared to the shots being fired in the Peabody mayoral debates, Beverly’s mayoral candidates seemed mild as they sat behind a table on the stage of the Centerville Improvement Society last night. But behind the civil nature of last night’s first debate between incumbent William F. Scanlon, Jr. and challenger Michael Cahill was a critical undertone that neither candidate seemed willing to fully unleash.
Case-in-point: When given the opportunity to ask one another questions, Scanlon asked Cahill how big the budget is that he oversees as executive director of the Alliance of Massachusetts YMCAs.
"The budget that I build and oversee for the Y is several hundred thousand dollars," the city council president replied.
"Several hundred thousand dollars? Thank you," the longest serving mayor in the city’s history said, biting his tongue but indirectly questioning Cahill’s ability to balance Beverly’s $100 million budget.
Cahill, in turn, questioned why the mayor has not done a better job developing the waterfront, where a long proposed restaurant on a city parcel has yet to get off the ground. Scanlon said the project is opposed by it immediate neighbor who is “very litigious.”
"That particular neighbor has asked for the city to grant him no parking space requirement at all, something we obviously can’t do,” Scanlon said. “It's unusual to find somebody with whom I can't get along but that party has fought us and fought us.”
Later in the debate they were given a second opportunity to ask each other a question.
"Why have you not seen fit to come and talk with me more often in the last two years?" Scanlon asked.
"We've had as much communication as we've needed and I think it's been effective," said the former state representative, noting that they worked well together to create the Cummings Center.
Cahill, however, declined to ask Scanlon another question, after turning it over in his mind for a few moments.
Beyond those points of friction, the remainder of the forum was cordial.
Scanlon said he was running again so he could finish a few “key” projects that will impact Beverly for the next 50 years, including an overpass from Brimbal Avenue over Route 128 that would pave the way for new developments he said would generate the taxes needed to build a new middle school at the Memorial Building property, a new police station and a new public works building.
"Sure I'm old enough to get out and I've been at it for a long time and I don't want to be around forever,” he said, “but I want to get out at the right time."
And while Scanlon also touted his seat on the governor's economic development commission, Cahill reiterated the biggest theme of his campaign to date: that he will build a coalition government to invite every resident to contribute.
He also said that he has “great connections” of his own.
"We will not miss a beat with me as your mayor, the management of our day to day nor on our ability to navigate state and federal government. I’ve been doing this for years very, very successfully and in all of my professional work.
“So as we look ahead to the things we can accomplish together, I believe I am the right person at the right time. I believe we together can do this. I will work as a leader to empower our collective voice. It’s our collective voice, our collective talents that can do more.”
The candidates will have a second shot at each other at 7 p.m. tomorrow night during the Cove Improvement Association’s candidate forum at 19 E. Corning St.
Justin A. Rice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.