- Name: Arthur Athas
- Age: 60
- Occupation: Semi-retired teacher
- Political office: City Council, 8 years (Ward 2, 2005 - present)
Peabody Patch: What are the top three issues in Ward 2 and what do you propose to do about them?
Arthur Athas: First issue -- quality city services need to be provided. As Ward 2 Councilor, I will continue to strongly advocate for more roads be repaved, sidewalks be repaired, the maintenance of culverts, choke-points and the creation of more upstream storage to alleviate flooding in neighborhoods. I have made council motions for better signage at crosswalks, for more crosswalks, and clear signage for trucks to stay on designated routes and not cut through small neighborhoods.
The permanent radar speed displays on Main Street are the result of my persistent motions. Radar speed displays on other streets are now needed. I have worked at getting new playground structures at the Welch School and at Pierpont Park, and will continue to advocate playground upgrades and open space as a member of the Community Preservation Committee.
In the winter, snow plowing has been very good, but there are ongoing and isolated areas to be addressed. Snowplows should not deposit snow on corners because they block the crosswalk so pedestrians can’t safely access the next sidewalk. Residents are responsible enough to shovel their own sidewalks, but there are some businesses not so responsible.
Our schools and senior services need to be properly funded. These are all basic services that taxpayers look at and live every day.
Second issue -- there is increased traffic. It is obvious that the recent lane reductions on Main Street have resulted in heavier traffic flow on other streets in Ward 2. I have proposed some adjustments to more fully utilize both westbound lanes on Main Street as cars approach the square. The left lane after Nichol’s Lane is often vacant, cars should be using this lane and this can help traffic flow more efficiently. Also, the Peabody Square lights need to be in sync with the rest of Main Street. It is a work in progress. Just because something has been “done” doesn't mean it can’t be improved.
Third issue -- the downtown should continue to get attention. As part of our Phase Two Flood Mitigation, the widening of the North River, the creation of a greenway along the North River can open up public parking possibilities and create café like venues. This greenway could include an extension of the bike path. Wouldn't it be nice to attract Salem residents to Peabody’s downtown shopping area with a bike path? The Walnut Street Veterans Park is a model to build on.
And now that Main Street has become more pedestrian friendly and safer, we need to focus on Peabody Square and Central Street safety -- these are high traffic areas and hazardous to cross. The establishment of a new Downtown Association has created new excitement and creative ways to draw more residents downtown. Many residents live at Main Street, Crowninshield Street, Warren Street, the Fairweather Apartments, Walnut Place, and the Foster Street condos. These are your primary customers for downtown businesses. Easier and safer access for residents already living downtown, especially in the winter with proper snow removal and snow free sidewalks, shall be a priority of mine.
Patch: What do you see as the most pressing issue for the City Council to address (more on a citywide basis)?
Athas: Residents need to see that their tax dollars are spent and reinvested wisely, and that their property values will increase as a result. As an elected official, it is critical to increase property values -- all decisions should be based on this. Higher property values provide a flow of revenue to the city, but this revenue needs to be reinvested back into road repaving, the schools, sidewalks, public safety, open space, parks, the historical buildings the city has, and senior services -- things that benefit the resident.
Elected officials need to make Peabody a better place to live. The reinvestment of tax dollars into increasing the quality of life for Peabody residents produces higher property values, and when the time comes to sell one’s home, into higher sale prices, it’s circular.
Peabody was named as one of the Top 100 cities in the country by Money Magazine. We have a City Council and a permitting process that listens to residents. We have a strong bond rating, the lowest property taxes around, the highest cash in reserve. On the campaign trail I meet new and young Peabody residents who have moved here from Salem, Danvers and Beverly. We are doing something right.
Patch: Do you have a humorous or interesting anecdote to share from your campaign so far?
Athas: I started campaigning in the spring using a four-year-old photo of myself in my literature. A constituent asked, "Is that you in the picture?" I said, "Yes, that’s me." He replied, "You look awfully young in the picture now that I see you in person." So I upgraded my photo.