NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

January 9, 2014

Our view: Mayor Gray strikes right note in inaugural speech

It’s never easy trying to bridge the divide between polarized political camps. But newly inaugurated Mayor Ken Gray has done a good job of setting a course, by defining the priorities he was elected on and reaching out to the various interest groups in Amesbury.

A week or so into his new job, Gray gave his formal inaugural address Tuesday night before about 200 onlookers. In it, Gray stressed three points that he will focus on — getting Amesbury’s runaway tax rate and property tax situation under control, putting a priority on education and mending the political wounds in town. He hit the right notes on all of these measures. Though the details were few — as they usually are in inaugural addresses — the message was clear.

It’s a plan that all can agree is in Amesbury’s best interest, in concept at the very least. The execution of the plan will of course be the most important part. Already Gray has demonstrated that he is focusing on the town’s tax and spending situation by putting a hold on all discretionary spending. It may be fruitful having a new set of eyes examining the city’s spending habits.

One of the harder missions to accomplish is permanently breaking down the walls that separate the city’s two political camps. Gray won the election by the razor-thin margin of three votes. He has wisely recognized that the political scene in Amesbury is about as fractured as it can get. On the City Council in particular, candidates who represent the two polarized political camps won an equal number of seats, while the rest fell to candidates who have tried to maintain some independence. This is a coalition government of sorts. To that end, Gray is willing to take a number of steps to be accessible, among them holding “office hours” at various locations outside of City Hall to hear what the public has to say.

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