EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 8, 2013

Your view: Letters to the editor

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Town needs real action on development

To the editor:

Members of the Berry Street Neighborhood Association (BSNA) met this week in advance of what is likely to be the last Zoning Board hearing (Dec. 10, 7:30 p.m., at the Town Hall) on the 40B project proposed for the old Andover Riding Academy, and two issues were raised repeatedly as we reflected on its size and design: precedents and accountability.

The BSNA would like all elected, appointed and hired town officials to ask themselves what kind of precedent are you willing to set in this instance? Yes, the law intentionally constrains towns from preventing this type of construction, but it does not prevent towns from placing real and appropriate constraints on those who develop and manage these oversize developments. Town officials in Stoneham seem to have no problem allocating a quarter of a million of their residents’ tax dollars to better control the permitting of 40Bs; officials in Haverhill seem to have no problem fighting them for decades; and it is time for all who play a role in the management and planning of the town of North Andover to stop behaving as if each 40B approval application is a complete surprise. There is no surprise here. You all know that we are not at the 10-percent affordable housing required by the law. Do something about it. Do it well. And do it while showing respect for current voting, tax-paying citizens of this town, and to the benefit of the future residents of these developments.

This is where accountability comes into play. Months ago the BSNA received a letter from a group of residents currently living in one of the town’s 40Bs. The letter described the poor construction and poor management of their particular development, and the town has expressed an awareness of these problems. Then do something about it. Require significant bonds to be posted by 40B developers to hold them accountable against potential damages to current and future residents and employ the same oversight you would if this were happening in your own back yards. The law does not constrain you from engaging in intelligent and comprehensive oversight.

We are a quiet neighborhood. One that for all the tax dollars we have paid has no sidewalks, roads that had, until this project came up for approval, largely been ignored by the DPW to the point of serious disrepair, and half of us have been left with no sewer access thanks again to big developers. The battles that individual residents have had with Conservation over comparatively minor changes to their homes would be laughable had they not been so disrespectful.

Today the BSNA asks for the same respect we have shown this town while airing our grievances about a project that will permanently change our area. Do the right thing for this neighborhood, do it for the future residents of 16 Berry St. and don’t stop there. Create, aggressively pursue, and finally execute a 40B plan that will truly set a precedent.

Lori Harrison

North Andover

No going back on health care

To the editor:

To hear Republicans tell the tale, the U.S. was in the golden age of health care insurance before the abominable Affordable Care Act (ACA). Their misty-eyed sighs of longing for the good old days seem to have by-passed a few memory cells.

In fact the U.S. health care system is one morass of inefficiency, waste and head-scratching complication. That’s why there have been major efforts to reform it, both Republican and Democratic, for 60 plus years!

Just a few basics should suffice. First, well over half of all bankruptcies in the U.S. are caused by medically related emergencies. Many of these families had medical insurance, but under the laws of the good old days insurance companies were allowed to cancel medical insurance when people got sick. Many policies had fine print that limited payouts to so little as to be meaningless. People only found out their medical insurance was worthless after they got sick. Almost all of this is eliminated by the ACA.

Second, the 2000 report of the World Health Organization (the only worldwide one ever done) rated the U.S. No. 1 in cost but 37th in delivery. So, yes, we are No. 1.

Third, in an Aug. 2013 report, a Bloomberg study ranked the U.S. 46th of 48 nations in medical efficiency but No. 1 in per capita GDP costs.

Fourth, last month the non-partisan Commonwealth Fund published the results of a survey of 11 industrialized countries. Their findings show just how bad the status quo of our health care system is. The United States has the most complicated, most expensive and most frustrating health care system in the industrialized world. And none of it due to the ACA, most of which took effect after the survey.

Before the ACA, we had medical insurance cost inflation two- and three-times higher than the inflation rate, millions of people were thrown off their insurance policies at the whim of insurance companies. More than 30 percent of all medical dollars went to administrative costs, not medical care, the ACA ends that.

The Republican solution? Endless complaints about the ACA and tireless efforts to sabotage it. What have the Republicans offered in place of the ACA? The good old days -- an incorrect diagnosis and a worse treatment plan.

Michael Frandzel