Newburyport is not Pleasantville

If anyone thinks that Newburyport, MA has gradually turned into a bland and happy version of Pleasantville, they are most decidedly wrong.

One of the things that I detect in the upcoming Newburyport 2009 election is still a strong and virulent backlash against the “Yes for Newburyport” campaign in the spring of 2007.

Dan Sweeney, aka “Pedro” of the Around the North Shore who has taken out papers for mayor of Newburyport, MA is probably the most “to the point,” vocal candidate so far, that would give voice to this point of view. “Pedro” has had a great deal to say on the matter, all of which is public record on Around the North Shore, and all of which I imagine he still stands by, otherwise Mr. Sweeney would not be running for mayor of Newburyport, Massachusetts.

But in taking a gander at some of the various folks who have taken out papers to run for Newburyport City Council, there is a strong undercurrent of sentiment aligned with Dan Sweeney’s, although I imagine when it comes down to it, the tone could be more nuanced. In checking out the story on Clete Kijek (see earlier entry), who is running against Ed Cameron in the Ward 4 race, the date on the story about his giant truck urging people to vote on the override is May 16, 2007. It is stated that Mr. Kijek is a member of the anti-override group Know Newburyport.

So one of the spoken or unspoken issues of the local Newburyport 2009 race would be whether or not our local taxes would be raised, especially for the young children in our Newburyport school system. And my guess would also be that another undercurrent would be that old feisty Newburyport spirit–“Newcomers,” however that may be defined, aren’t going to take over our town, no way, no how.

The candidates that embody this point of view might not win, but it would be my guess that they would like to make sure that folks in Newburyport, MA know that they are still very much part of the picture.

Dehumanizing Social Media

This will make me hugely popular. We finally have a president who speaks thoughtfully and in complete sentences–even paragraphs. I find this refreshing.

And I look at Twitter and for the most part, it verbally looks like a Google Earth close up of a mangled beaver swamp. (Yes, I know our new president Twitters, but he Twitters with a purpose and in complete sentences.)

And yes, I ripped off the Google Earth thing from a blog post on the Huffington Post called “What Sentence Diagrams Reveal About President Obama”, by Jason Linkins. The quote was, “By contrast, the diagrams of typical George W. Bush sentences are indistinguishable from Google Earth close ups of small rodents, drowned in mud puddles.” I like that quote. Obviously, I like it a lot.

Yesterday, much to my surprise, people emailed me, and not only don’t seem to be fond of “comments” on blogs, etc, but appear to find a lot of the social media stuff, the virtual-contact, meaningless, dehumanizing, especially if it takes the place of face to face, person to person, real human contact.

Works for me.

I actually phone folks who leave comments on blogs, etc., who have problems with the Newburyport Blog, because I have this quaint belief in human contact, or at least voice generated contact, as a way of communicating. I’ve yet to have one of those phone calls returned. Voicemail is such a wonder when it comes to avoiding “stuff.”

I am being very cynical today, but it appears to me that social media, Twitter, Facebook, is often used as a great Search Engine tool (SEO) to get blogs and websites to rank high on search engines. A bastardization if you would of its probable original intent.

And for an educated society, to have one of their major communicating tools take the form of 140 characters or less, is to me is a huge, waving, red flag. Are we going from a nation of sound-bites, to a nation of “tweets?” A nation where thoughtful sentences and paragraphs are a thing of the past–a passé, elite Liberal agenda. I hope not. I’m a big fan of the well written, and spoken, at times lengthy, written word.

Newburyport, Losing Funding for Education

As many of the readers of the Newburyport Blog know, I am a big fan of Bill Moyers.

On September 5, 2008 Bill Moyers had this to say at the beginning of the segment on the Bill Moyers Journal:

“Fifty million American children went back to school this week. But as reporter Sam Dillon writes in the “New York Times”, more of them than ever are homeless and poor enough to need free meals. Mortgage foreclosures are throwing hundreds of families out of their homes each month. With fuel and food costs rising, with tax revenues falling, school budgets are in retreat. Detroit, for example, has laid off 700 teachers. We’re not talking about just a few isolated places. This is nationwide…

The Bush Administration was announcing an increase in American aid to Georgia by more than 1500 percent… From 64 million dollars this year to one billion dollars next year. A billion dollars. You can only wonder how many American kids a billion dollars could put back on the buses, back in class, and back in the cafeteria line.”

You can read the whole transcript here.

And this is one of the things that concerns me. We as a country have the Bush administration (I trust Bill Moyers) allocating one billion dollars next year to Georgia (the country not the state). One billion dollars that could have gone to the education of the children in the United States of America. Money that we in Newburyport, MA would not see go towards funding for our much under-funded public schools.

Come January, I want a president who would be wise and prudent in spending our tax dollars, who would make sure that, yes, the war on terror is vital, but so is the education of our children. I want a president who understands that. I do not want another four years of a Bush-Cheney administration.

Newburyport, Education and the Election

I’ve been consumed by the national election for president. Nothing on the local level (at least as of today) seems to be as intriguing as what is happening on the presidential campaign front.

And, for me, there is so much that would effect us locally in Newburyport, MA, depending on the outcome of the presidential election.

At the moment, mayor John Moak is asking the citizens of Newburyport, MA to consider voting on a tax increase to help with, among other things, education in Newburyport, MA.

This is at a time when people are loosing their jobs, not getting pay increases, dealing with the high cost of gasoline, increased cost of groceries and other staples, getting ready for more expensive heating and electric bills for the winter. This would be a tough sell for our mayor at any time, and it is a particularly tough sell at this point in tough economic times.

And we need a lot more money to help educate our children.

And one of the things that we as a community in Newburyport, MA, have discovered during the ordeal of the Override for funding for our schools last year, is that there is little help from the State of Massachusetts, one of the reasons being, the Federal government is not helping the states, or at least our state, with money to adequately fund education.

So I want someone in the White House next January who is going to pay attention and help local education, as well as help the financial plight of small cities and towns all across America. And during the last eight years we certainly have not seen the local support that we in Newburyport, MA need so badly, from the current administration. And I doubt we would see an improvement in support for our small cities and towns from 4 more years of a Republican administration.

It is one of the many reasons that I would like to see a Democrat in the White House.

And to compare the candidates’ voting records and educational priorities, I found a helpful site here and here.

Inspirational Change

My father (see previous post) was a realist. He knew change could be inspirational, and although daily, informal encounters could change people’s lives (and his did), he also believed that inspirational change could cost money. Often lots and lots of money.

My dad was a Roosevelt Democrat, and felt quite strongly that for people who had money, paying taxes was a patriotic act. And if people didn’t want to pay taxes, that provisions should be made to either compliment what the government could do, or create an entity that undertook a project that the government should, but refused to do.

And as a tax lawyer (way before being a “lawyer” became not such a good attribute, when lawyers, in general, believed in service, not how much money can I make) he persuaded his clients to do things like fund research for mental illness, at a time when no one talked about mental illness, or look for a cure for cancer, and fund stem cell research, when, for example, the present administration had “reservations” about such things.

And face it, one of the reasons Newburyport’s downtown is so inspirational, is that it was funded by lots and lots of federal dollars.

My father also understood the stresses of poverty. He fought for a compassionate solution to homelessness in New York City, and believed that the criminal justice system in New York City had the potential to be humane. And he raised the money (a talent my father had, and a gene his daughter did not receive) to attempt to make these goals attainable.

To make the educational system for our children “inspirational,” it would not only take the guardian angles that inhabit it, but also lots and lots of money to restore all the cuts that have been made over so many years. My father would have understood this. But he also would have believed that it would not be right to raise money on the backs of the struggling poor and middle class.

The same would go for such things as creating a senior center, and for funding the Council on Aging to an “inspirational” level.

And what to do at budget time with dealing and coping with the myriad of valuable projects and issues, all of which need to be funded, but where funds are lacking, I have no idea.

I do know, that to make many of them “inspirational,” lots and lots of money, would go a long, long way. I also believe that to raise taxes in Newburyport, MA that would put the less fortunate and middle class in crisis, would be a huge mistake.

Mary Eaton

Insight, Wisdom and Inspiration

I miss my Dad.

One of the things that my Dad and I would always do, is talk about politics, national and local. And I want to ask him so many things.

One of my Dad’s great gifts, and I’ve heard this over and over from so many people who knew him, was his ability to listen to an issue or problem, business or personal, and in one or two sentences get to the kernel of the what would be at stake, but always with an optimistic twist.

I remember when I talked to my Dad about the override for our schools, and his wonderful remark, that folks were afraid that if an override passed, that they would “lose their town.” Bingo. It was always a “bingo.” It might not be a “bingo” I might want to hear, but it was a “bingo,” nevertheless.

I want to ask him about Mr. Karp’s visit. He would have some wise insight that eludes me. I want to ask him about Newburyport’s critical need for funding, which is at odds with people’s often desperate personal financial struggles. He would have ideas. Lots and lots of ideas. And very wise ideas at that.

He always taught me that change was an organic part of life. And one of his many gifts, was not only to make change acceptable, but almost always to make change inspiring.

Change is and has and will happen to Newburyport, MA. And how do we as citizens and residents of this small New England city, make that change, not just acceptable, but how do we make change an inspiration?

Mary Eaton

To Chain Store or Not

To chain store or not to chain store (a conversation that has been taking place on Tom Salemi’s Blog, Newburyport Posts) would really not be the question for me. The question for me, in actuality, would be about the underlying concern in the community about Mr. Karp and New England Development.

After reading Stephen Tait’s series of articles about Mr. Karp, New England Development, Nantucket and Newburyport (a must read) in the Newburyport Daily News, December 2007, I ended up thinking, “What’s the use?” “What does it matter?”

Newburyport, MA might be lucky if we got a “tweak” in the plans. But my guess, based on that excellent piece of reporting on Mr. Tait’s part, that New England Development and Mr. Karp would do what ever they want, and there is very little, as long as the zoning requirements are within reason, that the residents or political folks could do.


How depressing.

So the “Chain Store Ordinance” could in someway, be a statement of rebellion. It could be a statement of a desire to be able to control some of the destiny, on some small level of Newburyport, MA. Not to leave it completely up to a large corporation, where Newburyport, it appears, could be just another jewel in New England Development’s crown.

It is could not only be about what would be best economically for Newburyport, MA, but it could also be a statement that Newburyport, MA belongs to us.

And I ask myself, what do we as residence of Newburyport have control over, if not the fate of our own downtown.

And 2 of the things that come to mind are the fate of Newburyport’s senior population (if we are lucky, we too might eventually become part of a senior population) and a vibrant and welcoming Senior Center, and the fate of our children’s education.

Mary Eaton

Gym Class, Newburyport, 104 Students

Back on November 7, 2007 there was an article by Gillian Swart in the Newburyport Current about the Newburyport Rupert A. Nock Middle School which said,

“One grade 7 phys. ed. class has 104 students… “There is no way to fit 104 students comfortably or safely in the gym,” Hopping (Rupert A. Nock Middle School, Principal Barry Hopping) noted, adding that so far, the weather has cooperated and the classes have been held outdoors.”

Well, honey, the weather is no longer cooperating, and it’s cold outside. Real cold out side.

I don’t know what the situation would be now, December 2007, I have not called the Nock Middle School, but I sure am curious.

I mean, that’s crazy, 104 kids in the Middle School gym.

I’d like to see a photograph of what in the world that would look like.

In fact, I’d like to see some footage of that unimaginable gym class with 104 students on YouTube.

If anybody put footage of that gym class on YouTube, I would, at the very least, like to link to it. And with proper permission, I would put the video on the Newburyport Blog.

Mary Eaton

Bruce Menin, Newburyport School Committee

In my quest to learn more about the Newburyport School Committee election which I now know a little bit more about than “zip,” I contacted folks about who they would consider voting for Newburyport School Committee.

Bruce Menin’s name was also one of the names at the top of the list. Again, from some of the not the usual suspects.

“Menin–Tip O’Neil said always lash to the old oaks when the storm wind blows. Bruce is a proven commodity.” Was one reply I received.

If re-elected this would be Mr. Menin’s 3rd term (one 4 year term and half of a 4 year term, 2 years). (Please see “Editor’s Note” below for clarification.)

That anyone could have a sustained and tenacious passion for trying to solve the ongoing conundrum of our school system is remarkable. (I would give up after the first week. It seems as if the position chews folks up and spits them out. This is not an easy volunteer undertaking.)

I met Bruce Menin one day on the street about 3 months after he had begun his first School Committee term and he looked gaunt. I must have had a questioning look on my face like, “How’s it going?” because Mr. Menin looked up and said, “It’s real different when you’re in the inside.”

Yes, and “Amen” to that. How true.

It strikes me that change in any political process is like moving a barge or trying to wade in a swimming pool full of taffy.

If the barge gets moved even the slightest bit, that’s quite an accomplishment. In my experience the barge rarely turns a quick 180 degrees.

And politics, most politics, appears to me, to often be slow and sticky.

One of the things I have observed about Mr. Menin is that he is never afraid to ask the question which no one wants to hear and no one wants to talk about. It appears to me that in the last 6 years Mr. Menin has more than once challenged the “status quo.”

As uncomfortable as that might be, challenging the “status quo” is something I happen to think would be a good idea. And Mr. Menin does so often with a New York sense of humor and approach, that I very much appreciate.

Mr. Menin has a certain “ironic irreverence” that may not be understood by one and all, but there is more than just this blogger who thinks that that character trait is “not all bad.”

And Mr. Menin is not afraid to let people know who he is or what he thinks. His blog is a testimony to that. If you would like to know who Bruce Menin is, I would check out his blog at:

Mary Eaton

(Editor’s Note: Please see the very moving post by Bruce Menin about Vickie Pearson that clarifies the length of the School Committee terms (4 years) and how Bruce Menin has come to serve 6 years on the Newburyport School Committee. Please press here to read that post).

Stephanie Weaver, Newburyport School Committee Election

Well, I learned something.

For me, anyone with a name associated with the “Yes for Newburyport” folks would be “polarizing.”

But, I think that the election for Newburyport School Committee is really, really important, and I got to tell you I know almost zip about the candidates. (Now I know a little bit more than completely zip.)

So since Stephanie Weaver (who is running for Newburyport School Committee) lives near by, I decided to stop by on one of my walks and introduce myself.

Well, I gotta tell you folks, I had an incredibly pleasant surprise.

Stephanie Weaver, in my book, turned out to be not a “this is how we are going to do it” sort of person, but instead someone who is a “listener” and appears to have a talent that is very much needed– a communicator and a “bridge-builder.”

It takes a whole lot to impress me, and I was way impressed.

I’m sure many of you have noticed signs around town. Most of the time they are clumped together in ideological groups.

But take a look at this twosome:

Stephanie Weaver, School Committee
Gary Roberts, Councilor at Large

In most people’s books, this would be a political and ideological “odd couple.”

But there they are. Two folks very much trying to be Newburyport “bridge-builders.” And I got to say that this works for me.

And the feedback that I’ve gotten from other folks, and I gotta say unlikely candidates, is that Stephanie Weaver is one of the folks at the top of their list.

Ms Weaver has been working real hard at going door to door. So if she happens to knock on your door, take a moment, have a chat and take the time to introduce yourself to this young lady. Be a bridge-builder too.

Mary Eaton

Messy Municipal Process

I’ve read (I think) a number of times in the Newburyport Daily News and at least once on Bruce Menin’s Blog that the electorate is impatient with the Newburyport School Committee and would like them to hurry up and make decisions.

As I recall, I have read these words or similar words, from “Yes for Newburyport” members (pro-override group for the Newburyport Schools).

And a number of “Yes for Newburyport” folks are running for Newburyport School Committee.

Unfortunately, running a municipality is a slow and messy business.

John Moak hoped to come in as Mayor of Newburyport, MA and clear up the Central Waterfront and parking issues ASAP, and what he found was, nope, not so easy to do.

In fact Mr. Moak’s opponent in the November 6th election, Jim Stiles, is a pro-waterfront, less-parking on the waterfront candidate. So much for easy, no hassle solutions.

And if one, some or all of the “Yes” folks get elected to the Newburyport School Committee, I imagine they would find that, yes indeed, this is not a CEO, let’s make a decision now sort of thing.

Having the honor of serving as an elected official is about public process and public input, which is almost always muddled and chaotic.

And if that public input could be short-changed, look out. Whatever decision was made, almost always backfires.

In fact, I hate to say it, but it’s almost always best to have too much public input than not enough, especially on hot-button issues.

And the since the special spring election for the override for the Newburyport schools, unfortunately, (in part, in my opinion, due to a hurried decision–an example of a quick decision backfiring big time) the Newburyport Schools have become a very polarizing issue in this small New England city.

So whoever wins the election for Newburyport School Committee would, I imagine, need to ask for the “Wisdom of Solomon,” because that, and public process, is what it is going to take to start to resolve the conundrum that is facing our Newburyport city schools.

Mary Eaton

(Editor’s note: The folks running for Newburyport School Committee for the election on November 6, 2007 are: Nicholas Dekanter, Scott Frisch, Tracey Hurst, Barbara McDonough, Bruce Menin, Stephanie Weaver.)

Listening and Hearing on a Municipal Level

So far there are 2 candidates running for political office for the November 2007 election who have blogs (that I know of).

What can I say, I am becoming more partial to political candidate blogs, than I am to political candidate websites, because the blog format seems to give a more down to earth and realistic idea of who the candidate might be, without political spin.

This is true of Bruce Menin’s blog:

One discovers Mr. Menin is both informed and at times, long-winded.

Bruce tells me that very complicated issues cannot be addressed in short posts.

I am sure that those who care passionately about the issues of our schools are grateful for the more detailed entries. However, if I’m zoning out on long posts, and I really pay attention, what is your average reader going to do?

And the blog could demonstrate the difficulty that the Newburyport School Committee has in communicating with the public. The electorate in general can absorb short, one sentence sound bites. Very little else. Sad but true.

Meticulous explanations might not be as effective as one might hope in connecting with the public.

The blog may give you a “truthiness” insight into what you would get if you re-elect Mr. Menin (who at times can be funny and audacious) to the Newburyport School Committee.

And Ed Cameron now has a blog.

So far this delights me.

Here is a quote from Mr. Cameron’s blog:

“Over Labor Day weekend, I met two households on Howard Street whose situations illustrate the pressures. For a retired couple with a fixed income, property taxes are the main issue in this campaign. For a younger couple at the other end of the street, schools are the most important issue and at the same time they too are feeling the pinch (or perhaps vise-grip is a better analogy) of local property taxes.

To me, lowering reliance on the property tax and providing for an excellent public education experience are not mutually exclusive…” (, September 4, 2007)

I am still unclear how any of our elected officials or concerned citizens are going to find the massive amount of funds that we as a city need (and have needed like forever). However, for the purpose of this post, that for the moment, is beside the point.

What that entry suggests is that Ed Cameron has the makings of a first rate Newburyport City Councilor. He appears not only to have the ability to listen to his possible future constituents, but to also to “hear” what they have to say.

Oh, my, what a gift.

Seriously, what I often run into with political folks (not to repeat myself endlessly, but to repeat myself endlessly) is that they nod at you as you are speaking to them and then proceed to tell you why you are wrong or worse yet, don’t even address the question or concern at all.

Listening and hearing and even changing one’s perception of what might be needed for the folks in Newburyport, MA is a rare gift. Mr. Cameron appears to be moving more to the political “center” just by going “door to door” and hearing what folks in Ward 4 are saying, feeling and what they are afraid of.

Mary Eaton

(Editor’s Note: The Primary to vote for Mayor of Newburyport, MA is Tuesday, September 18, 2007.)

Task Force for Newburyport Schools, Revenue Sources

Bruce Menin has a pretty interesting blog. I’m a pretty tough blog critic, and Mr. Menin seems to have the blogging thing down so far. Factual, easy to read, half info, half campaign… a very interesting approach… so far… and with a couple of pretty funny pictures (which I like a lot).

On the blog Bruce Menin reports that Mayor John Moak has appointed a “task force” to analyze the city of Newburyport’s revenue sources (i.e. money for schools).

“The Mayor has invited William Heenahan, Dr. Ralph Orlando, Brenda Reffett, Jay Iannini and Ellen Supple from the Community; Deidre Farrell will represent the School Administration, Ari Herzog will represent the mayor, Mark Wright and I (Menin) will represent the School Committee, and a member of the City Council will have the opportunity to volunteer next Monday.”, August 21, 2007.

I’d say I’m pretty impressed by that list of folks. Ellen Supple has been a very helpful reader of the Newburyport Blog, and I am relieved to see Brenda Reffett on there and my very bright young neighbor, Jay Iannini on there as well.

These are all passionate folks and passionate from different points of view, and not afraid to speak up or speak their minds.

This is working for me.

Mr. Menin has all kinds of information about the task force on his blog. So if this is a passion of yours, go check it out.

(And as a btw, the list at the side of the Newburyport Blog listing candidates for the Newburyport 2007 election, Newburyport City Council, Newburyport Mayor and Newburyport School Committee is growing, so be sure to check the side of the Newburyport Blog as the list gets added onto.)

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, Blogger Relief, No School Override on November Ballot


Immense relief.

The Newburyport School Committee has decided NOT to put an override on the November 2007 ballot.


Who says people can’t learn from their mistakes.

And Mayor John Moak is creating a task force “that will research and analyze revenue sources for the schools. The task force will include two School Committee members, one city councilor and four community members, among others. It will be charged with identifying and examining every source of revenue for the school system, from Chapter 70 state aid and local taxes to athletic fees, private grants and school-choice fees…” (Newburyport Daily News, “Schools abandon bid for fall override vote,” by Nick Pinto, July 25, 2007)


Yes, it’s time to politically navigate school funding waters, and it looks like someone is paying attention to smart political minds, because if an override were on the November ballot, it would most probably fail and there would be even more rancor over the issue of the Newburyport Schools than there is already.

And now we (or at least some of us) can concentrate on all the other myriad of issues and concerns that face our small New England seaport city (at least for the time being).

So good go’n Mayor John Moak and the Newburyport School Committee (and Vice-Chair Steven Cole).

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, Mayoral Mind Mush

I’m getting mayoral mind mush.

We have so many people running for mayor of Newburyport, MA, that I’m having a hard time keeping everybody straight. I we have until July 27th to see if yet someone else pulls papers for mayor too. With this mayoral election, who knows, who might pull papers at the last minute. Anything is possible.

I talk to people about the mayoral election, and enviably they start listing all the candidates, and they go, “I’m missing some one. There’s someone else, right? Ok, who is it?” And we go through the whole list again, trying to figure out who was left out of the long list.

And Steve Cole, the present Vice-Chair of the Newburyport School Committee, the most recent candidate to pull papers for mayor of Newburyport, MA, is an incredibly nice, kind, decent human being.

But, actions speak louder than words. And as Vice-Chair of the Newburyport School Committee, everyone who has paid a tiny bit of attention to “that” issue has seen Mr. Cole in action.

It was just in December of 2006 that the Newburyport School Committee was seriously contemplating asking the residents of Newburyport, MA to commit to what in my mind was one wild and unbelievably expensive elementary school building project. I believe I kept referring to it as a “diamond necklace” approach or the “Taj Mahal” of elementary schools.

This is around December 2006 and even as late as February 8, 2007 on the Newburyport Blog.

And then the residence of Newburyport, MA are told, ooops, the Newburyport school finances are in such bad shape, that guess what, we’re going to close a school, restructure the entire elementary school system and ask for the tax payers to pony up for a $1.58 Million override, so we don’t have to slash more stuff for the schools.

Hello. Didn’t the Newburyport School Committee just think about asking us for how much for new buildings just a few weeks ago??

And in my mind, true leadership would have been never to have contemplated a wild Taj Mahal elementary building scheme in the first place.

And it would have shown much stronger leadership not to request a special spring election that cost the tax payer $17,000, to ask residents of Newburyport, MA for an override of $1.58 Million — that many felt was an almost guaranteed disaster. But instead to “act” instead of to “react” (in my opinion) and to give a great deal of thought about how to politically navigate school funding waters.

And the leadership of the Newburyport School Committee during all of this was under Vice-Chair Steve Cole (and yes, the Chair, Mayor John Moak).

I guess you can tell I’m still pissed about the whole thing.

Yes, and those are 2 of the folks on that long mayoral candidate list. Oh, good grief.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, One Issue Elections Make About as Much Sense as “Easy on the Eyes”

This is from

I can take no credit. No, the editor of the Newburyport Blog, moi, does not peruse Forbes Magazine. I was given the heads-up by the ever faithful

The article, By Christina Settimi,, July 5, 2007, “Best And Worst School Districts For The Buck,” can be found, on you guessed it,

“More spending doesn’t necessarily buy you better schools. With property taxes rising across the country, we took a look at per-pupil spending in public schools and weighed it against student performance–college entrance exam scores (SAT or ACT, depending on which is more common in the state), exam participation rates and graduation rates.

Winners in this rating system are counties whose schools deliver high performance at low cost. The losers spend a lot of money and have little to show for it.

Marin County, Calif., provides the best bang for the buck. In 2004 Marin spent an average of $9,356 ($6,579 adjusted for the cost of living relative to other metro areas in the U.S.)” (, July 5, 2007)

You get the idea, we weren’t in the top 10. We also weren’t in the bottom 10, which is a good thing.

But it made me think, that yes, it might actually be possible to get more bang for our school buck in Newburyport, MA. If Forbes Magazine says it’s possible, it’s got to be possible. I mean, for goodness sakes, it’s Forbes.

And it’s the old override thing for the Newburyport schools that the Newburyport School Committee is contemplating putting on the November ballot (I don’t know if they’ve made up their minds yet).

On the one hand, I talk to and look into the eyes of mucho worried young parents. We do have a reality here, there have now been 5 years of cuts for the Newburyport, Schools.

On the other hand, the concerns of some members of the Newburyport City Council that this could be a “one issue” election are quite right. I mean people are already deciding on who they would vote for only in relationship to how a candidate would have or has stood on the spring override for our schools.

I mean, good grief, people are actually considering voting for Al Lavender, because he would vote against an override.

A friend of mine had this to say about Al Lavender (who is running for Newburyport City Councilor At Large), “Al made Mary Carrier look absolutely brilliant.” (Just as a btw, I’ve always thought, Mary Carrier was a much better mayor than many folks give her credit for.)

But, no offense, and I really try my darnedest on the Newburyport Blog not to give offense, my own opinion is that Al Lavender was one of Newburyport’s least effective mayors.

I think that judging a candidate on only one issue is a BIG mistake. Why not have the voting criteria be “easy on the eyes?” Makes about as much sense to moi.

And buried deep in the Sunday’s, Globe North, July 22, 2007, Kay Lazar has uncovered the fact that we actually have 3, count ’em, 3, (thank goodness) people running for Newburyport School Committee. (I was beginning to despair that no one was going to run for School Committee, since everyone in the world seems to be running for mayor of Newburyport, MA.)

Along with Bruce Menin, there is now a father daughter duo, William Deans and Barbara McDonough. I know nada about these last 2 names. However, I’m sure in due course, we will all learn more.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, Son, Shakespeare and Theatre Stuff

One of the “perks” of being the editor of the Newburyport Blog is that I get to brag brazenly about my son.

The justification of course is “education,” that a young man who went through the Newburyport Public School system could this day be doing Ok.

MY son, in NYC 10 months and in his fourth play. Yes, very proud Mom.

And the theatre company, Hipgnosis, has picked, for such a young, “hip” theater company, in today’s world, a very politically incorrect play, “The Taming of the Shrew” (by William Shakespeare).

Could Mr. Shakespeare consider moi, a female blogger with an occasional strong, uncooperative opinion, a “shrew?” Goodness, who knows? Maybe.

Hipgnosis Theatre
William Shakespeare
Taming of the Shrew

How did the Hipgnosis Theatre Company go about reconciling what could easily have been done in 1950, no problem, in the year of political correctness, 2007– the solution, a combination of Shakespeare and vaudeville. What can I say, I loved it.

A wonderful romp and what I considered a tongue in cheek approach to the “taming” part (which would be considered “spousal abuse” today) by the hubby and the “compliance” part by Kate, the “tamed shrew.” Plus, by the end of the play, there was no doubt about it, it was real obvious, that they were real, real “hot” for each other. Sizzle.

For goodness sakes, Shakespeare, if he were around today, would be right. It’s not until real, real recently, that women have gotten the privilege of speaking up about stuff (for which this female blogger and painter is most grateful, good grief) without being labeled a “shrew” or whatever nifty label equivalent. (Not that that doesn’t still happen on occasion today.)

We’ve had millenniums, not just centuries of women not being able to have a “say.” And it is this blogger’s humble opinion, that it’s not just in previous millenniums, centuries, decades that men like to have their women good looking, and to shut up and be quiet, and for goodness sakes do and say what you are told to say and do.

But in today’s world, my goodness, there are equivalents. Take the “trophy wife” with a lousy pre-nup:

Darling the sky is purple.

Yes, dearest, the sky is purple. And now can I have my Mercedes-Benz?

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, Politics and Power Plays

I’ve been thinking a lot about the “Yes For Newburyport” committee and their campaign for the override for the Newburyport Schools, which did not pass.

It seems to me that the “Yes” folks were predominantly young parents. Usually, if one has a 6 year old and you explain something that you think is important, the 6 year old would usually agree with you and most likely comply.

It is my observation that the “Yes” folks assumed that the electorate of Newburyport, MA would respond like a 6 year old. The group explained their position. And if folks didn’t agree, they explained again, just like one would with a younger child.

However, it is my take that the electorate might be much more like a 14 year old. A 14 year old hears you the first time. However, if the point is made repeatedly, or they feel belittled and/or scolded, the 14 year old may well dig in their heals, do the opposite and see suggestions, instructions as a “power play.” And then they will let you know exactly who has the “power.” And then lo and behold, whoops, things are not going as one would have expected.

And I think that’s part of what happened with the special election for an override for the Newburyport schools. The whole thing ended up in a series of “power plays,” ending up with the ultimate “power play” of election day.

And what I think maybe happening to our mayoral race here in Newburyport, MA, is that in reaction to the platform initiated by Jim Roy, we may end up seeing that this election may not, in part, end up being about issues, but about a series of “power plays.”

Would Tom Ryan have taken out papers to run for mayor of Newburyport, MA if Mr. Roy and company had not put forth their platform? We will never know, but it does appear that whatever multi-determined reasoning Mr. Ryan may have, Mr. Roy’s platform was one of the “tipping points” for Mr. Ryan’s entry into the race.

And in another turn of events, it looks like Jim Stiles, although he has not yet pulled papers, is having a get-together this Sunday for an informal enlisting of support as a candidate for mayor of Newburyport, MA. An informal “enlistment” usually means a person is running for mayor of Newburyport, MA.

I had heard a rumor that Mr. Stiles might run for mayor, and it looks like that rumor could be true. It is no secret, however, that Mr. Ryan and Mr. Stiles are not the best of friends. Mr. Stiles would be making a “pre-announcement” just after Mr. Ryan has pulled papers. One wonders about the conscious or unconscious “coincidence.”

It appears that the race for mayor may indeed, for the electorate of Newburyport, MA, end up being more about personalities than principals or issues. But this is not necessarily a bad thing. It could get the electorate’s small attention span (after all it is Paris Hilton that appears to be making headlines, not the war in Iraq), and some of the issues might actually subconsciously become part of the election process.

Weirder than fiction.

Mary Eaton

Override, How Did Newburyport Organize so Quickly

The post override question I often hear is “how did ‘you,’ ‘they’ organize so quickly” against the override for the Newburyport schools?

I think one of the answers to that question is that “we,” “they” were never “unorganized.”

If you were born here in Newburyport, MA there is a deep interwoven fabric, that simply exists, “it” doesn’t need “organization.”

If you’ve been here in Newburyport, MA for a while, raised a family, become interwoven in the community through various activities, you too have become interconnected as part of the community fabric. You just know. You just are. “It” simply exists.

I also still maintain that the override on some level was never about education. It was about something else.

Newburyport is a “Yankee” town, as in “thrifty,” “cautious,” “prudent,” “economical.” The very notion of an override goes against the grain, so to speak (yes, I know I’m mixing metaphors here), of the fabric of the community.

And it seems “we” resent anyone who might try to disrupt that inherent, very intricate part and personality of this small New England city.

If the override had succeeded I would have wondered, I think, if Newburyport, the soul, good, bad or indifferent, of Newburyport had radically changed. The fact that the override failed by a 60% margin, didn’t say to me that “we” were against education, but that our fundamental “Yankee” temperament was still primary. And on some collective unconscious level, it was an act of civic rebellion against anyone or anything that might attempt to in any way unravel it.

I think it is one of the reasons there is such an unspoken “distain” (harsh word) of the “money” that has come into town within the last 5 years or so, since the price of real estate has made it almost mandatory to make some fairly big bucks.

“Yankees” don’t drive around in fancy cars talking on cell phones. “Yankees” probably glare at their cell phones as an unwanted necessity, and their cars may well be less than brand new.

“Yankees” don’t demand a “fancy” education. Meat and potatoes would do. The “frills” could go. An intrinsic “Yankee” thrift would prevail.

I don’t think any amount of “educating” people on the issue would change that fundamental and underscoring temperament. That might happen in a place like Wellesley or Arlington, but there is a chance it might not happen here.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, Everything I Learned, I Learned from Jon Stewart

At times I am overwhelmed, especially since 9/11, by the evening news. And often I tune into world events with a little amount of sugar and a big dose of humor. I get my dose of whatever is happening in the world from the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. I might even stay tuned for the Colbert Report.

And by pure chance, I happened to catch on PBS, Bill Moyers’ interview with Jon Stewart on April 27, 2007. It was a fascinating interview. (Plus, I also love Bill Moyers.)

What a great combination, wisdom, humor, intelligence and insight.


And Jon Stewart said a fascinating thing about issues. (I found the transcript on PBS website,, I wanted to get things right here, so whew.)

He said “people are busy” and basically it is very hard to “mobilize a busy and relatively affluent country, unless it’s over really crucial– you know, foundational issues. That come sort of sort of a tipping point.”

And he pointed out (the issue was war in Iraq) that the only way people are really going to pay attention is if a draft were instigated. “And the minute you do that, suddenly the country’s not so damn busy anymore. And then they really fight back…”

And I think it’s not so different on a local level.

People’s lives are very busy, and it’s very hard to get them to pay attention to local “issues” much less to get them involved.

One of the things that I found so fascinating was that for, especially, it seems, young parents in Newburyport, MA, the education of their children became a “tipping point.”

And basically, they proposed what many found to be another “tipping point,” raising taxes. And people fought back.

And suddenly, Newburyport, MA became politically awake, in the middle of May, no less, to the tune that almost 50% of the population actually came out and voted one way or another regarding the special election for the override concerning the Newburyport’s public schools.

And the great thing that happened is that so many people paid attention, made room in their busy lives, and became involved in their hometown of Newburyport, MA.

I think both of those “tipping points,” education and an antipathy towards raising taxes are not going to go away.

And I’m still hoping for a win-win situation. And if Massachusetts Stand for Children ( is at all sound, it might be a way to unite those two tipping points. Could you imagine even 25% of Newburyport, MA fighting for educational reform on the state level. Good grief. Wow.

And this Thursday, May 31, 2007 at 6 PM there will be a meeting on Newburyport’s downtown waterfront, at Somerby’s landing. The meeting is organized by Dominique Dear. Ms Dear, who has organized town forums, hopes that the city of Newburyport, MA could work towards common goals and a meeting of the minds on the issue of a financial approach towards education in Newburyport, MA.

Mary Eaton

(Editor’s Note: Quotations are taken from the Transcript of “Bill Moyers talks with Jon Stewart,” April 27, 2007, © Public Affairs Television 2007, Please press here to read the entire transcript of that remarkable interview.)