Category Archives: Activism

Protecting High Street the Roadway

Congratulations to the Newburyport LHD Study Committee for being so receptive to Newburyport citizens.

Today’s Newburyport Daily News has a story by Dyke Hendrickson about how the Study Committee has put wording into the draft of the Local Historic District (LHD) ordinance for Newburyport to protect High Street, the actual roadway, from ever experiencing the destruction that almost happened by MassHighway in 1999.

Good for LHD Study Committee!

You can read the whole story in the Newburyport Daily News here.

The story also talks about the online petitions.  So far the LHD petition, which can be signed here, has a whole lot more signatures than the anti-LHD petition, at the moment there are 82 signatures for the LHD and 10 against.

And, I just cannot help myself, one of the folks who signed the anti-LHD petition is Dr. Sadru Hermani, who is the same Dr. Hermani who wanted to develop the Lower Green in Newbury.  And it was a group of very concerned Newbury based citizens called Save the Lower Green, along with the help of The Essex County Greenbelt Association, that worked tirelessly to raise the amazing amount of $500,000 so that the historic Lower Green in Newbury along 1A would not be destroyed.

The parcel, owned by Sadru Hemani of Newburyport, was in danger of being subdivided and developed. Preservation advocates say that would have drastically altered the 375-year-old green, which represents the area’s first settlement.”  The Boston Globe, September 25, 2011.  (That article can he read here. The fight to save the Lower Green was also widely covered in the media.)

Dr. Hermani also says in the anti-LHD petition, “The state tried to widen High Street but citizens prevailed without a LHD in place.”

First of all it took an heroic effort by almost the entire city to stop MassHighway from destroying the roadway. Do we really want to go through that every time a grant to repave the roadway might trigger major alterations to High Street?

And no offense to Dr. Hermani, but I know the folks who fought to protect High Street in 1999.  There were a few gems, wonderful, wonderful people who lived on High Street that fought that fight, Dr. Hermani was not one of them.  Most of the people who did come out and fight that heroic effort were “regular” people, who did not live on Hight Street,  who realized the how vital High Street is to the soul and economic well-being of the city.  I can’t tell you how many times people who live on High Street have said to me, “Oh, you’re the one who helped save my house, thank you. I just didn’t want to get involved.”  Unfortunately, I’m not kidding.

The online petition in favor of Newburyport’s Local Historic District (LHD) can be signed here.

Demolition of 1 Little’s Lane, Newbury

A fantastic story by the Newburyport Daily News on the plans to tear down the Tappan house at 1 Little’s Lane in Newbury, with a photo of the heavy equipment that had already demolished the 19th century carriage barn. 1 Little’s Lane is a restored circa 1800 home, 6,500 sqft, with 6 bedrooms and 4 1/2 bathrooms that abuts the Spencer-Pierce-Little Farm. The story and the photos can be read here.  Photos of the restored house inside and out can been seen here as well as here.

Globe Article about Newburyport Election, Tuesday November 8, 2011

There is an article in Sunday’s Boston Globe by Brenda J. Buote, about Newburyport’s election this Tuesday, November 8, 2011. It includes information at how important it is to the future of Newburyport’s Local Historic District.

An informal poll of residents by local blogger Mary Baker Eaton revealed that many voters were unaware of the importance of the upcoming election, even though the winners of Tuesday’s ballot contest will help shape the future of downtown Newburyport.

When the new City Council convenes in January, local leaders will weigh a proposal that would create a Local Historic District, which would protect the downtown area and High Street, the principal gateway to Newburyport and the cornerstone of Newburyport’s Historic District. Named an endangered resource by Preservation Massachusetts, High Street dates to the 17th century. From its humble beginnings as a country road, the city’s signature street has evolved into a socially prominent roadway of national renown. It is home to Newburyport’s only National Historic Landmark, the Caleb Cushing House.

If embraced by city leaders, creation of a Local Historic District would protect the exterior appearance of properties along the 2.48-mile High Street and the commercial downtown between Federal and Winter streets to ensure that any planned changes would not detract from the district’s historic character. The intent is to protect historical architecture and encourage new construction compatible with the surrounding buildings.

Two of the at-large council candidates – Sullivan and Giunta – are opposed to the Local Historic District. The others have voiced support for the concept.”   (The other candidates in favor of the Local Historic District (LHD) are Ed Cameron, Barry Connell, Mike Early, Ari Herzog, Steve Hutcheson, Katy O’Connor Ives.)

You can read the whole article here.

Where to Vote in Newburyport, November 8, 2011

If you don’t know where to vote on Tuesday, November 8, 2011 there is a very good link, “My Election Information,” where you can put in your address and zip code, and the website tells you which Newburyport ward you are in and where to go to vote.

On Tuesday, November 8th you will be voting on Newburyport’s Charter. The Newburyport Charter is the legal document that outlines how the City of Newburyport functions and is organized. There is now an easy to understand website on Newburyport’s Charter, www.charteryes.com. Basically a “Yes” vote means that the mayor of Newburyport, MA will be elected for 4 years instead of 2 years. (It’s a good idea, vote “Yes.”)

Also the next Newburyport City Council will be voting on a Local Historic District for Newburyport.

The candidates running for Newburyport City Council who are on record for supporting the process of a Local Historic District, i.e. the economic future of Newburyport are (you will be choosing 5):

Ed Cameron

Barry Connell

Mike Early

Ari Herzog

Steve Hutcheson

Katy O’Connor Ives

Vote on Tuesday, November 8, 2011.

Newburyport Election 2011 – Confusion

What I hear when I talk to people (and these are people who vote, and pay attention) is a whole lot of confusion about the upcoming Newburyport election on Tuesday, November 8, 2011.

Q:  When is the mayor running for re-election?

A:  The mayor is running for re-election in this election, but she is running unopposed. (I happen to think that Mayor Donna Holaday is running unopposed because she is doing such a fantastic job.)

Q:  What is a “Charter,” does it have something to do with Newburyport’s Charter School?

A:  No, the “Charter,” has nothing to do with Newburyport’s Charter School.  The Newburyport Charter is the legal document that outlines how the City of Newburyport functions and is organized.

Q: What is that big gray pamphlet that came in the mail?

A:  That is the new Newburyport Charter that the citizens of Newburyport will vote on Tuesday, November 8, 2011.  There is now an easy to understand website on Newburyport’s Charter, www.charteryes.com.

Q: What are those signs?

A: The signs around town are for people running for the Newburyport Council At-Large race.

Q: What is the Newburyport Council At-Large?

A:  There are 6 areas in Newburyport, they are called “Wards.” Newburyport has 6 Wards.  Each Ward has its own City Councilor.  In this election all 6 Newburyport Ward City Councilors are running unopposed.   There are 5 other Newburyport City Councilors who cover the entire city of Newburyport (all 6 Wards), they are called Newburyport City Councilors At-Large.  There are 8 candidates running for 5 seats for the Newburyport City Councilor At-Large race.

Q: My child’s doesn’t have school, I think, on November 8th, is that when the election is?

A: Yes, the election is Tuesday, November 8, 2011. (Go out and vote.)

Q: Where do I vote again?

A: To find out where you vote go to this website “Election Information,” put in your street address and it will tell you where to vote.

Save Newburyport – Support a Local Historic District

The “Save Newburyport – Support a Local Historic District” website is up.

Although Gus Harrington and I are listed as the folks heading the endeavor, there are lots of people helping the effort.

Bumper stickers are due to arrive on Wednesday.

On the “Action” page, it gives information and links on how to write to a Letter to the Editor at the Newburyport Daily News and the Newburyport Current.

It appears that there is some confusion out there about how to access information about Newburyport’s Local Historic District (LHD). On the Action page there are links to the proposed map of the LHD, the overview of Newburyport’s proposed LHD, a link to the clarification of some of the confusion about the proposed LHD, etc.

On the Action page there is also a suggestion to call your Newburyport City Councilor, with information on who the Newburyport City Councilors are, and how to get in touch with them.

There is a reminder to vote on Tuesday, November 8, 2011, where to vote, and which Newburyport City Councilors are on record as being in favor of the proposed Newburyport LHD.

There is a recommendation to go to public meetings, to keep an open mind, whether you support Newburyport’s LHD, are against the LHD or simply aren’t sure how you feel yet.

Save Newburyport supports the process of creating a Local Historic District.  That process includes public meetings where the citizens of Newburyport take part in deciding what the guidelines would be for the anticipated LHD.

New Newburyport Charter Website

Newburyport CharterThere is a new Newburyport vote “Yes” Charter website.

On the front page it points out:

“We have had 6 different mayors in the last 13 years!   There is a better way to run a 21st century city with a $54 million budget.”

And on the “Recall” issue the charter website  “Why No Recall?” page:

“Here are some of the reasons that a recall provision is not included in the new Charter.

-  Under state law, a recall can occur for any reason.  For example, if someone is unhappy with a zoning decision, he can institute a recall petition.  This is exactly what happened recently in Chelmsford, where a rich resident, unhappy with a zoning decision that affected his property, spent $90,000 to unseat local leaders.  That effort failed, but it caused an immense amount of bad feeling in the community.

-  Recalls are expensive.  These “special elections” cost the taxpayers money.

-  Recalls are often bitter and divisive.  They can hobble the serious activities that must be provided by city government.

-  There have been examples of communities around the country where a defeated mayoral candidate immediately begins working to recall the person who has just been elected.  This causes enormous disruption in the community, and makes it difficult for the elected officials to begin developing their programs.”

To check the entire “Charter Yes” website out press here.

The election is Tuesday, November 8, 2011, one of the things that you will be voting for is whether or not you would like to change Newburyport’s Charter.

Newburyport, Why High Street is Important

High Street

High Street at the corner of State and High

This morning I got a call from one of the Massachusetts’ newspapers about the upcoming election. And one of the questions regarding the importance of the Newburyport’s Local Historic District (LHD), was, “Why is High Street important?”

I guess I have always assumed that people know the answer to that question, but I guess not.

In 1999 High Street was named an Endangered Resource by Preservation Massachusetts. It was the first roadway ever to be nominated.

These are some excerpts from the Endangered Resource Nomination, which was written by Bill Steelman and Jane Carolan of the Newburyport Historical Commission. The full text us up on the High Street website.

“In an important and meaningful way, High Street not only links, but virtually embodies, all periods of Newburyport’s considerable history.

Beyond its historical significance is its cultural and economic value to the community. High Street is Newburyport’s premier street and one of its major character-defining elements. As the principal gateway to Newburyport, it helps establish the city as an historic, attractive and welcoming place whose citizens appreciate and care for their community’s appearance.

High Street is historically significant. The entire street, its curvilinear course, landscape features and connection to structures, side streets and neighborhoods, contributes greatly to the Newburyport Historic District. Acknowledging its high level of significance and intact nature, the city’s 1991 preservation plan recommends High Street as a local historic district.

It is these images of Newburyport, old and new, which draw several hundred thousand visitors to the city each year, contributing significantly to the city’s burgeoning tourism economy.”

Written in 1999 by William Steelman and Jane Carolan of the Newburyport Historical Commission for the Endangered Resource Nomination.

*The above photograph is of the corner of State and High Streets, circa 1900. It is on the High Street website. It was obtained courtesy of the Historical Society of Old Newbury, at the Cushing House Museum, 98 High Street, Newburyport, MA.


There is No Protection for Downtown Newburyport

The Dodge Building

The Dodge Building, Pleasant Street, Newburyport

There is no longer any protection for downtown Newburyport except for 4 buildings, the E.P. Dodge Building (21 Pleasant Street), the Eaton Drug Building (58 State Street, across from Richdales on the corner of State Street and Pleasant Street), Fowle’s News on State Street and Newburyport City Hall, which are protected through preservation restrictions.

It used to be that the buildings downtown that received federal money from the Urban Renewal Plan, when downtown Newburyport was restored to its present wonderfulness, were protected from any inappropriate changes or demolition.

But the Urban Renewal Plan has expired, so downtown is vulnerable once more. (It was partially and almost totally destroyed in 1968.) I think almost everyone would agree that downtown Newburyport is vital to our economic wellbeing. It is one of the major reasons that people want to live, work, visit and play in Newburyport. And a Local Historic District (LHD) is the only thing that will protect downtown Newburyport.

Eventually, after a great deal of public process, where there will be give and take about the actual guidelines of the proposed Local Historic District, it will come in front of the Newburyport City Council (where there will be lots more discussion on the LHD) for a vote.

So who you vote for on Tuesday, November 8, 2011 matters if you care about whether or not Newburyport is protected for those of us who live here now, and those who come after us.

So again, the At Large candidates running for Newburyport City Council who are on record for supporting the process of a Local Historic District, i.e. the economic future of Newburyport are:

Ed Cameron

Barry Connell

Mike Early

Ari Herzog

Steve Hutcheson

Katy O’Connor Ives

(There are 6 candidates listed here who are on record as being in support of the LHD process, but you will be voting for 5.)

Vote on Tuesday, November 8, 2011.

Newburyport, the Memory of What Almost Happened to High Street in 1999 is Fading

When I wrote the post on High Street almost being destroyed in 1999 it really upset me all over again.

And since writing it I’ve discovered something. The memory of what almost happened to High Street in 1999 is fading.

A lot of people, a whole lot of people, don’t even know what almost happened to our historic roadway, High Street, in 1999. Partly because the city of Newburyport has changed that much, and that a lot of the folks who live here now and are interested and are involved in what happens in our city, were not here in 1999.

I’ve also been in touch with The Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHD) the state historical commission, and the folks that I talked to there don’t know what almost happened to High Street in 1999.

And, I’ve been talking to people at MassHighway, and they don’t know what almost happened in 1999. (It used to be that if the word “Newburyport” was uttered around anyone at MassHighway, they would get the vapors, that’s how much of a stink we made in 1999 to save historic High Street.)

So for me, it’s an, “Oy Veh.” (Yes, I’m originally from New York City.)

So it becomes even more important to make sure High Street becomes a Local Historic District (LHD) to give us the political tool incase a federal or state agency ever wants to make destructive changes to our beloved historic street, one of the major economic engines for the city of Newburyport.

So again, the At Large candidates running for Newburyport City Council who are on record for supporting the process of a Local Historic District, i.e. the economic future of Newburyport are:

Ed Cameron

Barry Connell

Mike Early

Ari Herzog

Steve Hutcheson

Katy O’Connor Ives

Vote on Tuesday, November 8, 2011.

Newburyport’s Urban Renewal Plan has Expired

Newburyport’s Urban Renewal Plan for downtown Newburyport has expired.

Eaton's Drug Building

Eaton's Drug Building on State Street

I went to Newburyport’s Planning Office today and asked what that meant, or if it meant what I thought it meant.  And, yup, unfortunately I got it right.

What it means is that there is now NO protection for downtown Newburyport.  Anybody can do anything to the buildings downtown except for the E.P. Dodge Building (21 Pleasant Street), the Eaton Drug Building  (58 State Street, across from Richdales on the corner of State Street and Pleasant Street),  Fowle’s News on State Street and Newburyport City Hall. These buildings are protected through preservation restrictions.  But that’s it folks.

The Urban Renewal Plan protected the properties downtown that had received Federal money.  But now that the Urban Renewal Plan has come to an end, no more protection.

Almost everyone, I think, would agree that downtown Newburyport is vital to Newburyport’s economic health.  And downtown Newburyport is vulnerable once again (being partially destroyed and almost completely destroyed in 1968.)

The only thing that will protect downtown Newburyport is a Local Historic District (LHD).

In the upcoming Newburyport Election on Tuesday, November 8, 2011, the At Large candidates running for Newburyport City Council who are on record for supporting the process of a Local Historic District, i.e. the economic future of Newburyport are:

Ed Cameron

Barry Connell

Mike Early

Ari Herzog

Steve Hutcheson

Katy O’Connor Ives

Make sure you vote on Tuesday, November 8, 2011.

Newburyport, High Street, Almost Destroyed in 1999

Readers of The Newburyport Blog have asked me what happened to High Street in 1999 that caused such alarm.

High Stree
What was once High Street between Summer Street and Winter Street
, 
Courtesy of the Newburyport Archival Center
 at the Newburyport Public Library

The City of Newburyport got a grant to fix up High Street. And in 1998 the Massachusetts Highway Department (MassHighway) came back with plans for High Street that met the “robotic” federal regulations for the roadway. It took a year to get people’s attention to the threat to the historic roadway. Finally in January 1999 people started to pay attention. “Citizens to Save High Street” was created (by yours truly), and on February 4, 1999 there was a huge meeting in Newburyport City Hall, standing room only, and the citizens of Newburyport demanded that the plan not take place.

These are the “Highlights” of the proposed plan in 1998 by MassHighway.

The Massachusetts Highway Department considered trees to be a “safety hazard” because they were too close to the road, consequently, the future of many of High Street’s trees were in question. (i.e. they were going to remove almost all of the trees.)

Close off of Ferry Road.

Completely reconfigure the “Three Road” area up at Atkinson Commons and put in a traffic light there.

Put a traffic light at Toppans Lane, by the Newburyport High School.

Remove 10 feet of land along the side of the Bartlett Mall facing High Street, that belonged to the City of Newburyport, to widen the roadway.

Remove land from private property owners, from the area between Fruit and State Streets along the “Ridge” side of the roadway, and put in retaining walls to make the street wider.

Make High Street as straight, narrow and uniform as possible from one end of the street to the other.

Remove plantings and all historical elements.

Remove the statue of George Washington by Pond Street and the Bartlett Mall. There was no plan to relocate the statue of George Washington. Pond Street was completely reconfigured to be one way.

A Local Historic District (LHD) would protect against destructive changes that could take place to our historic roadway.  We would never want to go through this experience again.

Newburyport Charter, November Election 2011

I got a large gray “Report” in the mail yesterday (from the Newburyport Charter Commission). I almost threw it away. I imagine that about 85% of Newburyport households receiving this piece of mail, either put it in a pile to be “looked at later,” i.e. “looked at never,” or just tossed it outright.

Newburyport CharterProbably the next 10% put it aside, intending one day to actually read it, but they probably will not. The next 3%, like moi, looked at first page “Ballot Summary” so I would know how to vote. And maybe the last 2% actually perused the 51 page document at hand.

So much for 2 years or grueling hard work and utter transparency by the Newburyport Charter Review Committee.

So I’m going to make it easy.

On Tuesday, November 8, 2011, this is a really important vote. Basically a “Yes” vote means that the mayor of Newburyport, MA will be elected for 4 years instead of 2 years. (It’s a good idea, vote “Yes.”)

Newburyport, High Street and the November Election

George Cushing Political Consultant for the Newburyport Blog

George Cushing Political Consultant for the Newburyport Blog

George, the political consultant of for the Newburyport Blog is very glad that the editor of the Newburyport Blog, moi, has decided to write again. He likes to see himself on the World Wide Web.

George, web-savvy frog that he is, feels that it would be necessary to include an historic photo in the blog posts about the upcoming elections and the whole conundrum of Newburyport’s proposed Local Historic District (LHD), because people keep landing on the Newburyport Blog looking for historic photographs.

So, Ok George, here’s an early 20th century postcard of High Street that’s in the public domain. Happy??

Actually, it suits me, I love historic photographs of Newburyport.

I love the historic character of Newburyport, period. It’s why I moved here.

In 1981 (no I’m not a native, Newburyport City Councilor, Tom O’Brien, called me an “almost native”) I drove down historic High Street and by the time I had parked in front of the real estate agent on Green Street, I wanted to live here. And I am hardly alone. High Street is that beautiful and that compelling.

Newburyport, High Street, Early 20th Century Postcard

Newburyport, High Street, Early 20th Century Postcard

And having seen High Street almost destroyed by MassHighway in 1999, I don’t take the street for granted anymore. And in 1999, fighting to save High Street, I discovered that a Local Historic District (LHD) would enhance political protection against destructive changes to our historic roadway. I’ve wanted political protection for that particular part of our wonderful city for a long time.

And here we are. It’s now a possibility again. And I would hate to see that political protection slip away yet one more time. It’s not like this is the first time the city has fought over having a LHD for High Street. We’ve been fighting over this since at least the 1970’s. If a LHD had passed in the 1970’s, one could only imagine how incredible the roadway would be today.

Looking back on the Newburyport Blog I found a quote in 2007 that at that time Newburyport had lost a third of its historic housing stock. The number has gone up since then.

So, the upcoming Newburyport Election, on Tuesday, November 8, 2011:

The At Large candidates running for Newburyport City Council who are on record for supporting the process of a Local Historic District, i.e. the economic future of Newburyport are:

Ed Cameron

Barry Connell

Mike Early

Ari Herzog

Steve Hutcheson

Katy O’Connor Ives

And.. You will be voting on the Newburyport Charter. Basically a “Yes” vote means that the mayor of Newburyport, MA will be elected for 4 years instead of 2 years. (It’s a good idea, vote “Yes.”)

Newburyport, Local Historic District is a Process

Creating a Local Historic District (LHD) for Newburyport (the ultimate protection of our historic assets, the economic engine for our city) is a process.

The map of the proposed LHD has changed! It now consists of downtown Newburyport, extended on one side to Rt 1 and on the other side to Federal Street, and historic High Street. (It’s a whole lot smaller than it originally started out being—part of the process.)

If we get Newburyport City Councilors elected who are in favor of the process of creating a LHD there will be a long process.

What the LHD Study Committee (LHDSC) has proposed is a list of “guidelines.” “Guidelines,” not “set in stone this is what you have to have-lines.”

Then there is a huge public process, public hearings, where everyone gets to say their piece. (My hope, and part of it I think, could already be a hollow hope, is that we could actually have a constructive public dialogue, instead of two sides digging in their heals and screaming over each other. What I saw at the one public information hearing that I went to, was very vocal anti-LHD doing a whole lot of loud talking, and not a lot of constructive listening. It’s much easier to come up with negative suggestions, “NO,” than constructive solutions – and constructive solutions are a major component of any sort of activism.)

And then it goes to the Newburyport City Council, where it goes into “committee,” and everything gets hashed out by our public officials. (That’s why it is very necessary that on Tuesday, November 8, 2011 you go out and vote!).

Will the LHD as it is proposed now look the same? My pretty good guess is “no,” it will look different. And that’s because we have a democracy. A wonderful, messy, process-oriented democracy.

So those of you out there who are really scared by the whole idea of a LHD, this is only the beginning. And those of you who are determined that the proposed LHD as it stands is going to happen, relax, it’s going to change.

So again, I’m going to say this until election day, vote on Tuesday, November 8, 2011.

The At Large candidates running for Newburyport City Council who are on record for supporting the process of a Local Historic District, i.e. the economic future of Newburyport are:

Ed Cameron

Barry Connell

Mike Early

Ari Herzog

Steve Hutcheson

Katy O’Connor Ives

Newburyport, Save Our Town

In August 2006 Steve Rudolph, Sarah White and I created “Save Our Town.” It was at the height of the housing bubble, and development was out of control. The goal was to advocate for “responsible growth,” and what was being voted on at the time in the Newburyport City Council, what I call, the “Infill Ordinance,” and to advocate for the ultimate protection for Newburyport, a Local Historic District (LHD).

Steve and Sarah went on to become a huge part of the preservation community. An incredible Newburyport, “Aren’t we incredibly lucky” story.

Steve Rudolph, a very intelligent and articulate man (vast understatement), wrote some very astute things for Save Our Town. Here is an excerpt from one of his writings:

“Newburyport is unique. Newburyport offers a combination of historical appeal and local neighborhood character found nowhere else. Simply put, Newburyport is a place where the past lives with us in the present.

Some say that the issue about how to protect Newburyport is about property rights and progress vs. government intrusion and stagnation. Not true. The battle to preserve the historical American treasure that Newburyport represents is about economic and cultural responsibility. Economically, we have a model here that works. Historic preservation has and will continue to drive economic growth. Culturally, we owe it to all of the Newburyporters who came before us to continue to honor their unique vision of Newburyport.

We’re in trouble. Newburyport is under threat. Newburyport is growing – which is good – but not always in ways that preserve the characteristics that have made Newburyport a success story. The destruction is happening one piece at a time. It’s death by a thousand paper cuts. A house demolished here. An open parcel filled in there. A subdivision going up in the middle of an historic neighborhood.  And once our historical treasures are gone, they’re gone forever.

The vision that we Newburyporters have outlined for our future is slipping away right before our very eyes.”

If you want to save Newburyport, vote on Tuesday, November 8, 2011.

The Newburyport City Council At Large candidates running for Newburyport City Council who are on record for supporting a Local Historic District, i.e. the economic future of Newburyport are:

Ed Cameron

Barry Connell

Mike Early

Ari Herzog

Steve Hutcheson

Katy O’Connor Ives

Vote on Tuesday, November 8, 2011. Your vote matters.

Newburyport, Elections Matter

Elections matter. How you vote matters. You can make a difference.

Newburyport has a very important election on Tuesday, November 8, 2011.

You will be voting on The Newburyport Charter. Basically a “Yes” vote means that the mayor of Newburyport, MA will be elected for 4 years instead of 2 years. (It’s a good idea, vote “Yes.”)

The Newburyport City Council At Large race. VERY IMPORTANT. What is at stake here is the economic future of Newburyport.

In 1968 downtown Newburyport was partially and almost totally destroyed.

In 1999 MassHighway came very close to destroying High Street.

The historic character, beauty and charm of Newburyport’s downtown and Newburyport’s High Street are the economic engines for our city. Without Newburyport’s historic charm and character, I wouldn’t want to live here, and probably you would not want to live here either.

The only protection for downtown Newburyport is a Local Historic District (LHD).

If you want to save Newburyport, support a Local Historic District and vote on Tuesday, November 8, 2011.

The At Large candidates running for Newburyport City Council who are on record for supporting a Local Historic District, i.e. the economic future of Newburyport are:

Ed Cameron

Barry Connell

Mike Early

Ari Herzog

Steve Hutcheson

Katy O’Connor Ives

Make sure you vote!

Newburyport, Turning Off Street Lights–Constructive Alternatives

It appears to me that if the city does decide to turn off Newburyport Street lights, residents and citizens have choices.

One is a short term solution, and the second is a more longer term, creative and very exciting alternative.

The short term solution for residents and citizens would be, if they wanted to, to adopt or sponsor a street light. Initial information for adopting a street light can be read here.

A more long term solution would be to work with the Newburyport Planning Office, the Newburyport Historical Commission, architects, professional exterior urban lighting designers as well as environmental experts. The model for this solution would be Light Boston. The goal would to have a vibrantly and creatively lit night time downtown as well as creatively lit streetscapes that would also address environmental concerns.

Light Boston, the model for a long term solution, supports the passage of Dark Sky legislation, which among other things, addresses the issue of “light pollution.” Light Boston’s goal is to reduce energy consumption, eliminate high glare and spill light, promote energy conservation and enhance environmental quality of life. All of these things are also the goals of Newburyport’s Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC).

Light Boston has the enthusiastic backing of Mayor Thomas Menino. And their goals would address concerns of business, residents and citizens of Newburyport, making Newburyport an even better place to live work and play.

“Many architecturally and historically significant public and private buildings, numerous monuments and parks, and lively streetscapes help define the City of Boston. However, many downtown and neighborhood areas of the city lack urban legibility at night which diminishes residents’ and visitors’ enjoyment of the social and aesthetic quality of the city, creates safety concerns and inhibits economic vitality.

Light Boston is the leading organization in the city working to address this issue through imaginative, effective, and environmentally responsible exterior lighting. Exterior lighting can be used as an effective urban planning tool to:

  • Enhance social activity and economic growth by extending city life for residents and tourists into the evening and night
  • Improve the aesthetics and urban legibility of the city
  • Contribute to public safety
  • Highlight and complement Boston’s unique urban environment

By advocating for illumination as a vital component of urban design, Light Boston seeks to encourage interest, understanding, and appreciation of the city’s unique historic and cultural heritage.”

From Light Boston’s website.

Newburyport Turning Off Street Lights and Adopt a Light

I called Kim Schneider at National Grid and asked her about their policy of private citizens “sponsoring” street lights, if the city of Newburyport actually does come to the conclusion to turn off street lights.

(“Phase 1″ of the plan to turn off street lights would be to turn off 510 street lights, but if there is a “phase 1,” I am assuming that their would be a “phase 2.”

The Energy Advisory Committee (EAC) has an audit of proposed street lights to be turned off in Newburyport. The list is extensive.

The complete Excel data sheet from the EAC of the proposed lights to be turned off can be downloaded here.

A shorter version (shortened by me) of the Excel data sheet, that is easier to read and has basic information, can be downloaded here.)*

What I was told was that Newburyport’s street lights are owned and maintained by National Grid. The city is the client. And that any citizen can “adopt” a street light.

“My” street light is 50 watts and would cost $12 a month to “sponsor” or “adopt.”

If the city does decide to go through with shutting off street lights, I may not only adopt “my” street light, but many of the neighborhood street lights. The one neighbor that I have talked seemed to be relieved and liked the idea of going in on the initiative, if it actually comes to that.

I was told that we are in the New England North division. The number there is 978-725-1015. I would get a recording, but to ask for the “Street Lighting Specialist,” about adopting a light, and that they would call me back.

*(The criteria for keeping street lights on are 1) marked crosswalks (not places where streets intersect and people cross the street), actual painted lines, 2) Busy areas, 3) Speed limit over 30 mph, 4) Dangerous conditions. At the end of the data sheet you will see those 4 criteria and then a “Y” (yes, shut off) or a “N” (not shut off). The list of streets and some addresses are at the beginning of the data sheet.)

Newburyport, Extreme Green and Light Boston

Gillian Stewart in her recent blog post coined a phrase that I had never heard before, “Extreme Green.”

And that sort of sums it up for me. I find that I am unable to have a conversation with many of Newburyport’s Green community (not all), because I feel as if, if I don’t agree with them, I’m a bad person, uninformed, unaware, oblivious, uncaring. This does not work for me.

Newburyport’s Energy Advisory Committee (EAC) has come up with an audit of street lights that are proposed to be turned off. The list is extensive.

For more information and to download the list, which is on an Excel data sheet, press here.

And in my walks and talks with people about the issue of turning off street lights in Newburyport, someone told me about “Light Boston,” which I did not know about.

These are a few quotes from Light Boston’s website. All of these quotes could be applicable to Newburyport, another walkable, historic city, one that I also think of as “A city set on a hill.”

“By increasing lighting in Boston, we can extend our welcome to tourists and enhance the quality of life for all those who enjoy our walkable city. I hope you will support this important Light Boston, Inc. initiative to light up the city.” Thomas M. Menino, Mayor, City of Boston

“Many architecturally and historically significant public and private buildings, numerous monuments and parks, and lively streetscapes help define the City of Boston. However, many downtown and neighborhood areas of the city lack urban legibility at night which diminishes residents’ and visitors’ enjoyment of the social and aesthetic quality of the city, creates safety concerns and inhibits economic vitality.
Light Boston is the leading organization in the city working to address this issue through imaginative, effective, and environmentally responsible exterior lighting. Exterior lighting can be used as an effective urban planning tool to:

  • Enhance social activity and economic growth by extending city life for residents and tourists into the evening and night
  • Improve the aesthetics and urban legibility of the city
  • Contribute to public safety
  • Highlight and complement Boston’s unique urban environment

By advocating for illumination as a vital component of urban design, Light Boston seeks to encourage interest, understanding, and appreciation of the city’s unique historic and cultural heritage.”

“Improving nighttime environments benefits all of our residents and helps address safety concerns while increasing civic pride in local landmarks.”