New Methuen mayor has tall task

It was the most explosive Massachusetts mayoral election north of the Taunton River.

In Methuen, political newcomer Neil Perry trounced City Council Chairwoman Jennifer Kannan to take over a city still reeling from a decision made years ago under a previous mayor.

Consternation over a police contract that would have given astronomic raises to superior officers is on pace to outlast the tenure of Mayor James Jajuga. Jajuga was on the city council when the contract was negotiated by his predecessor, Stephen Zanni. Like pretty much everyone else in the Merrimack Valley city, Jajuga tried to wash his hands of it. Jajuga’s son is a police captain so he has had to steer clear of contract talks, and the matter, which has roiled the cash-strapped city, is scheduled to go to arbitration in the next couple months.

Kannan, whose son is a patrolman, was tainted by voting for the contract, though she has subsequently claimed that the Zanni administration fooled her by presenting a different version of the police contract than the one that had actually been negotiated. Zanni, for his part, blamed the city auditor, claiming he didn’t disclose how much the contracts would cost – a charge the auditor denies.

But all that was crowded out by more scandalous allegations that Kannan launched against Perry in the final weeks of the campaign. During a televised forum in October, Perry described the difficulty he experienced when his now-ex-wife filed a restraining order against him about two decades ago. Perry cast his experience as an example of overcoming hardship, and claimed that within less than two weeks, the restraining order had been overturned, and he obtained full custody of their three children.

But Kannan pounced on the odd opening that Perry had provided, digging up his divorce paperwork and disputing his version of events, claiming there was a second restraining order. Then Kannan aired rumors she heard from women who worked with Perry at Raytheon, called on him to release his personnel records, and compared him to the notorious alleged sexual predator Harvey Weinstein.

Perry countered by calling Kannan’s move a “desperate” political attack, and his children scolded Kannan for distorting the incident to portray Perry in a bad light.

The drama has been covered by the Eagle-Tribune, which reported that the dispute about Perry’s character “trumped conversations about city issues leading up to election day.”

If Methuen voters decided who to support based on that episode, Kannan’s plan backfired. Perry, a political newcomer who hadn’t previously voted in a city election since 2001, mopped up more than twice as many votes as Kannan.

“I hope he works with the council and does good things,” Kannan said Tuesday night.

Perry doesn’t have much of a political record outside of his successful campaign for mayor. Many people will be watching him now – not least of all the city workers whose jobs could be threatened if Methuen runs into worse financial trouble. They will want to see if he can turn the ship around. 

ANDY METZGER


BEACON HILL

Col. Kerry Gilpin, the superintendent of the State Police, announces in a letter to employees that she is retiring. (State House News)

The business group A Better City says the state needs a minimum of $50 billion over the next 20 years to meet its transportation needs, and outlines a revenue plan that combines a lot more tolling, tax hikes, and higher fees on rideshares to meet the goal. (CommonWealth) A new poll shows voters are very cool to the idea of a 15-cent hike in the gas tax. (Boston Globe)

Senate leaders will unveil legislation today targeting prescription drug costs. (Boston Globe

Hundreds of convenience store owners rallied in front of the State House against a proposal to ban flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes. (Boston Globe

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Thirty years later, Suffolk County DA Rachael Rollins is trying to have an open conversation about the Charles Stuart case and its impact on Boston. (CommonWealth)

Three youth football coaches in Framingham were fired for exchanging racist texts. (MetroWest Daily News)

Even though voters citywide didn’t like the idea, the proposal to rename Dudley Square to Nubian Square was popular in the immediate area and proponents are looking at the next steps to make the name change official. (WGBH)  

A developer’s proposal to increase the number of housing units on a site in Mattapan, reduce the amount of parking, and make them apartments instead of condos has rankled some neighbors. (WGBH

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Attorney General William Barr was urged by President Trump to hold a press conference declaring that the president broke no laws in his phone call with Ukraine’s president. He declined. (Washington Post

ELECTIONS

A citywide recount is on tap in Boston, where just 10 votes separate Julia Mejia and Alejandra St. Guillen in the race for the fourth and final at-large City Council seat. (Boston Globe)

Joe Battenfeld says Boston Mayor Marty Walsh should worry about a possible challenge from CIty Councilor Michelle Wu — or City Councilor Andrea Campbell or US Rep. Ayanna Pressley. (Boston Herald

Incoming Fall River Mayor Paul Coogan plans to form a public integrity team, boost the city’s morale, and assure city workers that he is not “coming in here with a machete to get rid of everybody.” (Herald-News

Pete Buttigieg is aiming to be the hope and change candidate in the Democratic presidential field, just as Barack Obama was in 2008. (Boston Globe

Ayanna Pressley endorsed fellow Bay State pol Elizabeth Warren for president, breaking with her three “squad” compatriots who have thrown in with Bernie Sanders. (Boston Globe

The battle over ranked-choice voting in Massachusetts is starting to heat up. (MassLive)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Baystate Health drops its plan to close three of its psych facilities and consolidate operations at a new facility in Holyoke in partnership with US Healthvest. US Healthvest became radioactive after press reports in Seattle raised concerns about the quality of the company’s care. Baystate says it is still exploring consolidation. (Daily Hampshire Gazette) Even without the problems with US Healthvest, the consolidation had been stirring anxiety. (CommonWealth)

Melania Trump gets greetings — and jeers — as she visits a program at Boston Medical Center for mothers and their babies who are born addicted to drugs. (Boston Globe) “Do open-minded, tolerant Boston progressives ever get tired of hating?” asks Herald columnist MIchael Graham

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Who’s in charge of offshore wind procurements in Massachusetts? Last week’s decision to select Mayflower Wind indicates the state’s utilities are calling the shots. (CommonWealth)

The Army Corps of Engineers is poised to move 224,000 cubic yards of sand to Town Neck Beach in Sandwich to combat erosion there. (Cape Cod Times)

CASINOS

It apparently costs $1.45 million a day to run Encore Boston Harbor and the Everett hotel/casino had a $41m operating loss in Q3. CEO Matt Maddox assures investment analysts that expenditure levels will decline. (CommonWealth)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A Globe editorial applauds US Attorney Andrew Lelling’s probe of the “Wild West” of host community agreements for marijuana businesses. 

Gov. Charlie Baker is nominating former state GOP chair Kirsten Hughes to be clerk magistrate of the Stoughton District Court, and he pushed back against the idea that it represents an inappropriate patronage hire. (Boston Globe

MEDIA

The Washington Post Newspaper Guild reviewed pay levels at the newspaper and found lots of interesting information, including that women are paid less than men and employees of color are paid less than white men.