10 Residential Units at the Brown School Would Make the Neighborhood Feel a Whole Lot Better

The Brown School
The Brown School

The Brown School, Newburyport

I’ve been scratching my head as to where in the world the push for 27-29 affordable senior housing units came from for the Brown School, which is a complete about face from the direction that the City had been going for as re-use for that property.

It has come from good folks in Newburyport.

And from someone who lives in the Brown School neighborhood 27-29 units of any size is nuts.  This is one of the most densely populated areas of the city with narrow 18th century streets. On street parking is already a nightmare, we already have what I call “neighborhood road rage” when it comes to parking and traffic.

The temperature in the neighborhood would go down a whole lot if the proposal was for 10 residential units. That’s realistically 20 cars. And if the neighborhood got to have the Newburyport Youth Services (NYS) stay, that would be a big extra bonus.

There are a variety of different affordable categories which are referred to as Affordable Medium Income (AMI). Here is table from a 2015 household study from Boston, Newburyport is considered part of the Boston Hud Federal  Management Regulation (FMR) area.

2015 Affordable Medium Income (AMI)
2015 Affordable Medium Income (AMI)

2015 Affordable Medium Income (AMI)

As you can see there are different percentages of the AMI, 30%, 50%, 60%, 80%, 100% and 120%.

According to HUD the Medium Income for Newburyport in 2017 is $103,000. This table show 50%, “Extremely Low” and 80%.

Newburyport 2017 AMI
Newburyport 2017 AMI

Newburyport 2017 AMI

If the City put out a Request For Proposal (RFP) for 10 units, they could be half market rate and half affordable, or all affordable at let’s say 5 different levels of AMI (that’s the % of income) if funding could be found for different AMI levels in the same building. I think under scenarios along these lines that most of the neighborhood would be breath a sigh of relief.

Newburyport Youth Services (NYS)
Newburyport Youth Services (NYS)

Newburyport Youth Services (NYS)

And my understanding is that there is no place for NYS to go even if there was funding. My impression was that NYS did not want to be in the building or the neighborhood, but that’s not the case at all — they love where they are. I thought NYS had somewhere they could go, but apparently that is not the case.

Councilor Jared Eigerman’s Ordinance now in front of the City Council is a wonderful starting place.  I hope we can get to a place where NYS, affordable housing folks and the neighborhood are not pitted against each other, but where we can all come together and find a solution that has something for everyone and not everyone gets everything they want – that’s what I call good negotiating.

Editor’s Note:

This is from the 2014 Brown School Feasibility Study. There are 37 available parking spaces. If there were 10 units, that would realistically be 20 cars and 17 left over parking spaces. The basketball court at the Brown School Park and possibly parts of the Brown School Park itself could be used for snow emergency parking for the neighborhood along with those extra 17 spaces.

Brown School Parking from the 2014 Feasibility Study
Brown School Parking from the 2014 Feasibility Study

Meetings on What Will Happen to The Brown School

The Brown School
The Brown School

The City is now actively concentrating on what to do with the Brown School. Although the template for what to do with the Brown School has been the 2014 Brown School Feasibility Study, the City of Newburyport is now taking a different approach. The school is in terrible shape, and would cost around $14 million to rehab/fix/develop it. The school and the land itself has been appraised at $5.5 million. Understandably the City would like a developer to develop that property.

I was very upset at the last Brown School meeting that affordable housing advocates from all over the city were “rounded up” on Facebook and by word of mouth. The push was for all affordable housing. The neighbors felt intimidated about speaking up about their concerns about parking, traffic and density, worried that they would be labeled as being discriminating against poor people and the elderly, and the fact that this was a completely different direction than the one they had been lead to believe that the City was going in for the last 3-4 years, i.e. The Brown School Feasibility Study.

City Councilor Jared Eigerman  introduced an Ordinance for Monday’s City Council Meeting. I am very grateful to Councilor Eigerman that he has done this. I hope that it is the beginning of a thoughtful dialogue on the new directions that the city is taking for this project.

“This is my (Councilor Eigerman’s) attempt to reconcile all of the interest that I’ve heard over the past five years and balance it out,” Eigerman said, noting that the ordinance will likely be sent to one of the City Council’s committees and ultimately require a positive vote from eight of the 11 councilors.

“Now, with my colleagues, we’re going to hammer it out,” From the Daily News, February 9, 2018.

The Ordinance proposes 40%-60% affordable housing, which I think is a good mix.

The Ordinance proposes 1-1.5 cars per unit. I think that is really unrealistic parking for the neighborhood. I think at least 2 cars per unit is realistic.

The Ordinance calls for 24 units, which I think is way too many units for this property. (Councilor Eigerman has assured me that all of this in his mind would be open for discussion. I trust him a lot.)

The Ordinance would enable the Newburyport Youth Services (NYS) department to serve City residents, “consistent with its mission,” and to Identify public monies for the “NYS to continue to serve Newburyport residents after it relocates from the Brown School Site.”

The Ordinance would protect the 2013 Brown School Park, roughly 11,000 square feet.

The Ordinance calls for, “Mitigating negative impacts upon the neighborhood from changes in use of the Brown School Site, with particular concern for quality of design, traffic, and parking.”

The Ordinance calls for, “Providing for a diverse, balanced, and inclusive community, with housing for people of all income levels as a matter of basic fairness and social responsibility, and to promote economic stability within the community.”

The Ordinance calls for “Protecting the historic exterior features of the schoolhouse building.”

The Ordinance can be found here in the City Council packet https://www.cityofnewburyport.com/sites/newburyportma/files/agendas/city_council_packet_02_12_18_reduced.pdf

I think that it is really important for people to contact all 11 of our Newburyport City Councilors, not just Councilor Eigerman (Ward 2) and Councilor Sharif Zeid (Ward 1). The City Councilor’s contact information can be found here: https://www.cityofnewburyport.com/city-council .  I would also Cc Mayor Holaday and our City Planner Andy Port.

The Ordinance was sent to the City Council Planning and Development Committee at Monday night’s City Council meeting. I was very relieved by this. They will be holding sub-committee meeting on the Brown School. If you care about this project please attend those meetings, this is where a discussion of the fate of the Brown School will take place. The first meeting will be scheduled the week of February 26th.

The Brown School
The Brown School

Meetings that Push Agendas Rather than have Thoughtful Critiques — Recently the Reuse of the Brown School

Push an agenda

Last year I worked on a national level to save the Affordable Care Act (ACA) from Republican repeal efforts. It was fascinating and not unlike local politics. And my experience in local politics helped me emotionally navigate this new political terrain.

I joined up online with a bunch of folks at Vox.com, the group is called “A Community for Obamacare Enrollees by Vox.com.”  And one of the things we did was organize people to go to Capital Hill for committee meetings on health care. I watched a ton of meetings on Capital Hill, and my frustration was immense. The meetings by the Republicans in February 2017 were completely choreographed to produce a result that promoted their agenda, it wasn’t about an honest discussion at all. Later in the year, there was actually a great series of health care committee meetings, and they were completely different. Everyone on both sides of the aisle listened to a variety of witnesses with very different viewpoints. They were rational, constructive and very informative and a really good example of governing. I was really impressed.

In Newburyport we are not immune from meetings that are what I call “push agenda meetings,” that have a specific end goal in mind and are not an open discussion of different possibilities and options. The first one I went to was a sub-committee on plastic bags, it was a nightmare, the process was so bad that I blogged about it.

I remember writing that the meeting seemed to me to be more about a homily to a plastic bag ban, than a how could we problem solve this together as a community. It was stacked with anti-plastic bag folks from Newburyport as well as folks from as far away as Boston.  There was a woman at that meeting, not from Newburyport, who had the gall to say that plastic bag lobbyists lived among our wards and were giving bribes to our city councilors – which was absolutely nuts. Did the folks who were running the meeting, who were City Councilors, bat an eye. No they did not. And any suggestion of having a nuanced approach was shouted down by people in the meeting. The meeting was completely out of control. I vowed I would never, ever go to a Newburyport civic meeting again. But I did.

I went to the public meeting on the 40R, it was a joint meeting with the City Council and the Planning Board. I had a lot of questions about the 40R and so did a lot of folks. My impression was that the meeting was stacked in favor of the 40R (and later a City Councilor quite proudly told me that yes indeed, the meeting was stacked in favor of the 40R, they made sure that it was). Lots of folks spoke in favor of the 40R and were warmly received. Anyone with questions, were dismissed. I walked out. Friends of mine who went, who had lots of very smart reservations about the 40R, asked me what was going on, they could not believe it. Unfortunately I said they were right. Any sort of practical or thoughtful critique of the 40R proposal was not part of the “agenda.”

The recent “neighborhood” meeting on the reuse of the Brown School was a stacked meeting for affordable housing. Anyone who knows me at all, knows that the fact that Newburyport has become so unaffordable really upsets me, and I am all for affordable housing with a big and small “A.” The meeting was not for the neighborhood to constructively discuss what to do with the Brown School and discuss what to do about affordable housing in Newburyport and at the Brown School. The meeting was to push an agenda for the Brown School by the current administration. I’ve been told that there were folks from outside the neighborhood (all well meaning) who showed up to speak in favor of all affordable housing for the Brown School, which is very different from what the city proposed in 2014And I’ve also been told that the neighbors who had reservations about the idea felt intimidated about speaking up. This surprises me not at all.

So, for the neighbors of the Brown School who would like a say in what happens (and it’s very complicated, I’m not saying it’s not), please email the mayor and all the Newburyport City Councilors with your thoughts, ideas and concerns. They will not be able to make an informed decision if they do not hear from you. The City Councilor’s contact information is here.

Push

Healthcare, Pre-Existing Conditions, the Republican Repeal and Replace Plan, their Terrible Idea of High Risk Pools and Repeal Effects Everyone

For a while now, I’ve kept The Newburyport Blog very local, but after watching the Republican Senate vote against all matters of healthcare including the ban on pre-existing conditions and the ability to keep one’s child on your health insurance until they are 26, proposals that the American people overwhelmingly support, that’s definitely changed, at least with this post.

27% of Americans have pre-exisisting conditions.

(If you want your heart completely broken click on the Twitter hashtag #the27percent)

What the Republicans are proposing instead of a ban on pre-existing conditions  that exists now in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is something called “high risk pools.” This is an abominable idea.

Obamacare: The dirty little Secret of “repeal and replace, by Walecia Konrad, CBS News, January 12, 2017

“For sick patients who cannot continue coverage, (Paul) Ryan’s plan calls for a return to state-run high-risk pools. These pools allow sick people to buy insurance separately, while states, insurers and the federal government help subsidize the cost. The president-elect’s website says he supports risk pools.

“Risk pools have a long and controversial past. Before the ACA was passed, 35 states ran risk pools for people with preexisting conditions ranging from cancer and diabetes to more minor afflictions such as arthritis or eczema. Premiums for risk pool coverage were as much as 250 percent more than a healthy person would pay for individual insurance, and some states, overwhelmed with sick patients, had wait lists for coverage or imposed other restrictions, said Fish-Parcham (Cheryl Fish-Parcham).

“Going back to risk pools is going back to the bad old days,” she said.

Expense wasn’t the only problem. Even when the few patients who could afford it paid ultrahigh premiums, coverage was often lacking. It wasn’t unusual for people with a preexisting condition to wait six months to a year before coverage for that condition would kick in, Fish-Parcham  explained.

Or there might be a lifetime maximum on the benefit related to a preexisting condition, she added. So, if you had a stroke and needed a year of rehab, your insurance might not have covered the entire bill.

Ryan’s plan would ban wait lists and put a cap on risk pool premiums. In addition, he’s calling for $25 billion in federal funding to help states pay for risk pools. But many health care experts wonder if that’s enough to cover the number of estimated people with preexisting conditions.

“High-risk pools served only 1 percent of the population back in 2008,” said Fish-Parcham. That wasn’t anywhere near the number of people who needed coverage but couldn’t afford it, she noted, adding: “Risk pools simply didn’t work.”

The link to the article can be found here.

The other thing is the Repeal of the ACA effects everyone.

Andy Slavitt who has been the Acting Administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid put out this astounding bullet-point “document” on his Twitter feed the other day. It’s called the “Am I impacted by ACA repeal?” Checklist, the link can be found here.

Here is the “Am I impacted by the ACA repeal?” Checklist that went up on Twitter

The Impact of Repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA)
The Impact of Repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA)

Here is the checklist with links, that went up on Twitter.  A document with the links can be found here.

The Impact of Repealing the ACA with links
The Impact of Repealing the ACA with links

And here is the transcription of the checklist. And yes, everyone will be impacted by the Republican Replace and Repeal of the ACA.

“Am I impacted by the ACA repeal?” Checklist

Repealing ACA means:

* Small businesses, farms, self-employed (20% of exchange coverage, several million)

* 127 million Americans with pre-existing conditions

* Seniors — medicare beneficiaries have saved $2000/year on RX drugs from ACA

* 55-64 year olds who will see rates increase dramatically, even if healthy by up to 10x

* Estimated 30 million with individual policies/Medicaid will lose them

* 2.8 million Americans with drug disorders will lose coverage

* 1.25 million with mental health disorders will lose coverage

* Vets: the 42% reduction in uninsured rate will be reversed

* Employer based coverage– 1/2 had lifetime caps before ACA (do NOT have a premature baby!)

* Bad debt will go up by $1.1 trillion. Health care bills will again lead in cause of personal bankruptcy

* Medicare Trust Fund, which was extended a decade, will have several years reduced from its expected life

* Taxpayers will lose $350 billion added to deficit, 9 trillion added to debt (but incomes > $1 million will see a TAX BREAK of $57K)

* 2.6 million lost jobs (health care service and construction jobs in small communities)

* Families who will have a baby

* Anyone who likes free preventive services like mammograms better than cancer treatment

* Young adults (31 million on parents’ plan). 18-26 YO in most states will be kicked off

* Anyone who loses their job and think COBRA is too expensive with limited options

* Women who want to buy health insurance will pay more than men in premiums

* 105 million had lifetime limits on what insurance companies pay

There are a few clear winners…

* Insurance companies will no longer have to devote at least 80% of premiums to
medical claims

* Debt collectors will have more business

* BIG tax break to high earners

Source: Andy Slavitt on Twitter

And here is a list of Pre-Existing Conditions before the ACA for which you were denied coverage (this is only a partial list).

Pre-Existing Condition Rejection List before the ACA
Pre-Existing Condition Rejection List before the ACA

Where to Vote Tuesday, November 5th 2013

Where to vote
Where to vote

There is  a very cool tool to find out where to vote in Newburyport, this Tuesday, November 5, 2013.

You just enter your street number, the street’s name, and your city or town, or your zip code, and voila, it tells you exactly where to go (it even tells you which ward you are in, and how to get in touch with the City Clerk). It can be found here.

The people of Newburyport will be voting for a Mayor (a 4 year term, not a 2 year term), for 5 Newburyport City Council At-Large candidates, Newburyport City Council candidates in Wards 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5, and 3 Newburyport School Committee members.

Voting hours are 7am to 8pm.

Be sure to vote.

I will most likely go down to City Hall at 8pm, and will post the election results on the Newburyport Blog and the Newburyport Blog’s Facebook page.

Here is a sample ballot for the Newburyport At-Large Candidates.

Newburyport At-Large Ballot
Newburyport At-Large Ballot

Newburyport Election 2013, Mayoral and Council Debates

On Tuesday November 5th, the residents of Newburyport will go to the polls to elect a Mayor (for a 4 year term, not a 2 year term), 5 Newburyport City Councilors At-Large, 5 Ward Councilors and 3 members of the School Committee.

Here are links to the Mayoral Debate between Mayor Donna Holaday and City Councilor Dick Sullivan on October 22, 2013 and the Newburyport City Council At-Large Debate on October 16, 2013.

The Mayoral Debate
The Mayoral Debate

The Mayoral Debate between Mayor Donna Holaday and City Councilor Dick Sullivan on October 22, 2013 can be watched here.

The Newburyport City Council At-Large Debate
The Newburyport City Council At-Large Debate

The Newburyport City Council At-Large Debate on October 16, 2013 can be seen here.

Not Qualified to be Mayor

As I recall, in the 2001 election, people voted for Al Lavender, as a reaction against Mayor Lisa Mead (not a “for” Al Lavender vote). I thought Lisa Mead was an incredibly competent mayor. And I feel that we are still recovering from the consequences of two years of Al Lavender’s tenure in the corner office (we are still cleaning up the landfill, which has caused untold misery–something that came out of Al Lavender’s two year term).

I would like a smart, well educated (more than a high school education), competent person, who can deal with an array of complex issues, in the corner office for the next four years, someone with a lot of executive experience (this is one complicated city to run) (a retired firefighter and a Home Depot greeter does not do it for me).

I think firefighters are incredible people, unbelievably brave, but with a skill set that, in my mind, does not translate into dealing with the incredibly complex issues that the Mayor of Newburyport deals with.

I would surely like to see the electorate vote with their intelligence, instead of reacting emotionally, and to see this not just as a one issue election (i.e. the Waterfront).

And I also think, given his resume, that if Dick Sullivan didn’t have the last name “Sullivan,” no one would take his candidacy seriously for being the CEO of this complicated city.

Newburyport Primary 2013 Election Results

Newburyport Primary Election results:

Mayor–Holaday and Sullivan

Ward 2–Eigerman and Welch

Ward 4–Tontar and Jones

Newburyport Primary Election Results (press image to enlarge)
Newburyport Primary Election Results (press image to enlarge)

Holaday 36.02%
Sullivan 32.63%
Earls 31.35%

(Newburyport City Councilor Ed Cameron’s Math)

We Didn’t Have the Green Thing Back Then

I pissed off a lot of people with the “Please Leave My Plastic Bags Alone” post.  I was even asked not to write anything more about the subject (democracy, free speech anyone??), so, at least for now, technically I won’t.

This has been making the rounds on the internet for months and months and months (the source unfortunately is unknown – wish I knew!!), so if you haven’t seen it…

We Didn’t Have the Green Thing Back Then

“Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the older woman, that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.

The woman apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this green thing back in my earlier days.” The young clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”

She was right — our generation didn’t have the green thing in its day.

Milk Bottles, Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Milk Bottles, Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were truly recycled. But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags, that we reused for numerous things, most memorable besides household garbage bags, was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our schoolbooks. This was to ensure that public property, (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribblings. Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bags. But too bad we didn’t do the green thing back then.

We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks. But she was right. We didn’t have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the throwaway kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts — wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that young lady is right; we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana.

In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.

Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But she’s right; we didn’t have the green thing back then.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. But we didn’t have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger joint.

But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the green thing back then?”

Newburyport Carpetbaggers, the 95%

Carpetbagger
Carpetbagger

One Newburyport City Councilor (Dick Sullivan) got up in the Newburyport City Council chambers and lamented that all these “newcomers” were coming in and telling the folks who were born and raised here what to do.

Another Newburyport City Councilor (Tom Jones) got up (Thursday night) and said how Newburyport was a working class town, and seemed to intimate that it was still a working class town.  No it’s not. In the year 2012, Newburyport is an upper-middle class city, quickly approaching a upper class enclave – especially when Mr. Karp starts building.

Honey, it ain’t your father’s Newburyport anymore.

If you haven’t noticed the carpetbagger thing has really, really gotten out of hand lately.  You don’t just have the carpetbaggers who came in the first wave, in the mid to late 1970’s and very early 1980’s,  right after Urban Renewal renewed.  There was a wave in the late 1990’s after the MBTA came back to town. Remember that, a big housing spike when a lot of the old timers cashed in.  I remember folks saying  that it was a joke that anyone would want to live in Newburyport’s South End. There was a lot of bitterness about how high the taxes had gotten because of the housing boom, but that money bought more house not so far away, in a place where there weren’t so many doctors, lawyers and financial folks. Where the working class folks felt more comfortable.

And then the super duper influx around 2005, when Mr. Karp bought so much land and real-estate downtown.  Yup, and people have just kept coming, with more and more money, lots more money.  And the old-timers, the natives, they pay attention and they vote, but their numbers just ain’t what they used to be.  It’s not your father’s Newburyport by any stretch of the imagination, no how, no way, any more.

Paul Ryan’s Plan, The Middle Class and Nursing Homes

Medicaid pays for 60 percent of people in nursing homes (and that includes people in Newburyport).

“..his (Paul Ryan’s) budget would impose immediate cuts to Medicaid, the health-care program for the poor that funds nursing-home care and other benefits for 6 million U.S. seniors.”  – Bloomberg Businessweek,  Brian Faller, August 14, 2012

“Among the victims someone’s grandparents who, without Medicaid, won’t be able to afford nursing home care…  Many are poor children. Some are middle-class families who have children with autism or Downs syndrome. Some are kids with disabilities so severe that they require 24-hour care. These are the people who count on Medicaid.”   The Wall Street Journal, Aug 17, 2012

So if your spouse, parents or  grandparents are in a nursing home, and their care is paid for by Medicaid, and Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney get elected, they plan on cutting Medicaid ASAP.  And what happens to Middle Class families? It would look as if they would be faced with the draconian choice of letting their loved one not be cared for, or quitting a job to provide full-time care.  What does that do to the finances of the Middle Class, it would throw them into chaos, which is what one of the things that Medicaid (and as a btw… under President Reagan, Medicaid legislation was passed so that spouses would not go bankrupted – Reagan’s spousal safety net) is meant to prevent, here in Newburyport, locally, and all across America.

The Newburyport School Vote and Senior Center Passes

The Newburyport school vote and the Senior Center Passes!!

Good go’n Newburyport!!

Below are the election results thanks to the Port Pride Facebook page!!

School vote and Senior Center passes (photo thanks to the Port Pride Facebook page)
School vote and Senior Center passes (photo thanks to the Port Pride Facebook page)

Here is a breakdown of the voting totals, thanks to Newburyport City Councilor Ed Cameron.

Question 1, Building a new Bresnahan Model School building (Press to enlarge)

Question 1, press to enlarge
Question 1, (Press to enlarge)

Question 2, Renovating and upgrading the Nock/Molin Upper Elementary school (Press to enlarge)

Question 2 (Press to enlarge)
Question 2 (Press to enlarge)

Question 3, Building a new Senior & Community Center (Press to enlarge)

Question 3 (Press to enlarge)
Question 3 (Press to enlarge)

All three questions together (Press to enlarge)

Newburyport Election, June 5, 2012
Newburyport Election, June 5, 2012 (Press to enlarge)

Newburyport, Paid Parking

What I sense as I walk around town, on the subject of paid parking for downtown Newburyport, is still a deep, conscious and unconscious resistance.

Not to the degree that the resistance to downtown Newburyport parking existed when it was proposed about 10 years ago, but it still runs deep.

And my father, who was a very astute man, I think would have said, that the resistance is not just about paid parking, but possibly that people might feel that they are “losing their town.”

I think he would be right.

And I asked Mayor Donna Holaday about this. Her response was, as I understand it, that, yes, there could well be a feeling of a loss of control.

But to make sure people feel that they are in control of their town, the mayor, as I understand it, is proposing, for a fee, and a hugely discounted fee for seniors, a sticker for residents that not only would provide free parking for Newburyport’s downtown, but also for Newburyport’s compost heap, and for parking on Newburyport’s Plum Island Point. And there would be something worked out for businesses and people who work downtown (specifics not asked by me) as well.

So I am very impressed by our mayor. It does not appear that Mayor Donna Holaday would like to mess with the people of Newburyport as far as downtown parking goes and torture them. It appears that her goal would be to give the people of Newburyport a Newburyport parking Christmas present instead.

Newspapers in Trouble

Newspapers are in trouble, for all sorts of reasons, from cable news to the World Wide Web, other stuff, multi-determined, not exactly new news.

I was reminded of this yet again by my friend Frank Schaeffer’s piece on the Huffington Post on the very same subject.

Newspapers are caught in the middle between the old form of print and, trying to persuade their advertisers to pay the same price for advertising on the World Wide Web.

I happen to read almost all my news online now, because I figure I’m saving a whole lot of trees. My small contribution to going “green.” I got a Sunday paper and felt as if I had felled a forest. No forests felled by reading stuff on my computer.

As Frank Schaeffer points out, the World Wide Web is instant news.

For example I waited for the Newburyport Daily News to report today that, from what I understand, our mayor and the Newburyport City Council got “served” by the landfill owner. Huge story. Huge, huge story. Not in today’s Daily News, that I can find. So if you might not have heard about that possibility, you have now.

And Tom Salemi did an excellent job in writing up in almost real time, the fact that yes, whew, a miracle happened, the Newburyport City Council voted “Yes” to designated a site for the Senior Center at Cushing Park. If you haven’t read it, read it here. And Gillian Swart was on the case too. Good go’n.

And the fact that we are losing newspapers, and newspapers are cutting back like mad, is, at least in the short run, for me, real bad news. Because there is less and less really hard journalism going on. All of this is discussed earlier on the Newburyport Blog, in particular in regards to Bill Moyers’ amazing speech on the subject.

Frank Schaeffer is always fun to read, and I’m glad he’s switched over to the Huffington Post.

Vote on the Senior Center

In my mind the stupidest vote by a Newburyport City Council came during the Lavender Administration concerning the parking garage downtown.

At that time there was a piece of property, right off Route 1, on Merrimac Street, right behind the police station on Green Street, called “Lombardi Oil.” The owner of the Lombardi Oil property offered the land to the city for “a song” (especially in 20/20, a real loud song).

There was 5 million dollars good to go from the State of Massachusetts to start the ball rolling. And the Newburyport Planning Office had come up with an amazing (what we now call “Smart Growth”) flexible plan, that included a very attractive street view. This was no ugly parking garage plan, believe you me. It was a complete “win,” not even a “win/win” situation. And the Newburyport City Council at that time, turned it down, I believe, by one vote.

As I remember it, the rational for some of those pivotal votes, was that the money should be used for a spanking new elementary school. That’s what the emphasis should be. And in 20/20 in 2006 and 2007 we know what a lousy visionary approach that turned out to be.

In December 2006, the community at large ranted against what then Newburyport City Councilor Audrey McCarthy referred to as the “Taj Mahal” approach to our elementary school building needs, as opposed to funding much needed basic education.

What was lost, way back there in the last part of the 20th Century, was a crucial moment that could have helped empower the downtown Newburyport economy. Yes, yikes.

And I’m wondering, if a similar lapse in judgment and vision is about to happen on the Newburyport City Council floor in regards to a vote for the location for the Newburyport Senior Center.

It looks like a vote for a Senior Center site at Cushing Park may go down the tubes. (Anyone reading the Newburyport Blog in the year 2008, knows how strongly I feel about having a Senior Center.)

And I am wondering whether in 5 years, whether we could look back, the same way we look back at the vote on the downtown parking garage, and think, “What folly.”

Dithering Over a Place for Seniors

Maybe all this dithering for so many years about where to have a Senior Center, and predictably the resistance to the most recent site, among many, many “resistances” to a whole host of sites, could be our collective unconscious resistance to the notion of our own inevitable aging process and death, and the aging process and death of the people that we love.

Maybe it’s time to slightly change the focus. Not on where to have the ultimate location for a Senior Center (not that I don’t think that that is a good idea), but rather where to house all the senior services in one place, how to make sure that the Newburyport Council on Aging is always properly funded, and how to make sure that the Director of the Newburyport Council on Aging is appropriately compensated for working 24/7.

This “new” approach, actually didn’t come out of my “brilliant brain.” It came out of a conversation with Newburyport Councilor at Large, and pretty much close neighbor, Katie Ives.

Her thinking was that even (due to some miracle–my injection) if we do agree on a site for the Newburyport Senior Center, it’s going to take quite a while to fund it, and quite some time for it to become a reality.

In the mean time, something has to be done to house all the services and activities in one central location.

Hear, hear. Good for Katie Ives. An actual rational thought process.

My.

Not everybody has children, but everyone in Newburyport, MA does share the same fate, no matter what a “Paris Hilton” world might tell us. No matter how distracting the “flash and gash” of our culture might be.

Why wait until your last minute, or the last minute of someone you love, to realize that the services of the Council on Aging are applicable to everyone. Period.

And yes, we are all going to age, and if we are “lucky” grow old, and our loved ones are going to need information and support and just plain old help, even if we think that we might magically skip the aging process in the all together.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Wisdom, Council on Aging

I missed my Mother’s death 18 years ago.

Neon lights flashing, “Your mother is dying,” were completely lost on me. My determination that she would “beat it” and come home. Not so.

So I was determined that I would “receive” my father’s death, and respect the way in which he wanted to die. A decision that I was quite sure my very capable father, had made.

My Dad, checked himself out of the hospital against doctor’s orders, and went home, rebuffing professional help that he so desperately needed to survive.

And my father died a brilliant death, just the way he wanted it. 12 hours before his 90th birthday, he died standing up, in his doctor’s waiting room, having just, so characteristically in his gentlemanly way, taken off his hat, waiting to give his doctor “hell” for treating him like “a pathetic invalid.”

My father died “with his boots on” and did not “go gentle into that good night.”

It may have been a “brilliant” death for my father, but it took an enormous toll out of all the people who surrounded him and loved him so much.

And the Council on Aging is not only for the individual who is aging, but it is also a resource of comfort, expertise and information for families and friends who love them.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Growing Old in Newburyport, MA

I never would have imagined my father’s death, and the last weeks of his life would affect me the way it has.

Yesterday, for the first time in two and a half months, I sat down in front of my easel and painted. And it was a relief.

It won’t last, but like Spring, for me, it was a sign of hope.

Having watched the last five and a half years of “my” senior’s life, I have become passionate about having a place for seniors in Newburyport, MA, that house all the necessary services and activities, as well as making sure that the Director of the Newburyport Council on Aging, who works 24/7 is adequately financially compensated.

And as one of my favorite seniors in Newburyport (not my father) put it, “Mary, there’s nothing ‘golden’ about the ‘golden years.’ The ‘golden years’ suck.”

As a society, we seem to focus, guided by “Madison Avenue,” as they used to say, on “youth.”

Old age appears to be an anathema to the advertising agencies, and we as a society appear to have little tolerance, for the process of aging and the inevitability of death. And for goodness sakes, forget the wisdom and knowledge of our elders. Who has time for that, when in a “Paris Hilton world,” the “flash and gash” have so much more appeal.

I got news for everybody, the ones who are “lucky” enough, will get their “golden” years, and they are going to be just as “sucky” as they were for my Newburyport friend.

And for those people who think that they might not need the services of the Newburyport Council on Aging, collected in the same place, listen carefully, and respectfully to the “process of old age,” because that would be your old age as well.

And for those people who feel that they are wealthy enough, well educated enough to feel that they would not need the services of the Newburyport Council on Aging, congregated in the same place, I’ve got news for you. In life there are no guarantees. There are no sure bets. Period.

And for those out there who might not think that having the services of the Newburyport Council on Aging all in one place, might not be a good idea, I’ve got more news for you–it is not and it will not be “all about you.” The people who are around you, if you are lucky enough to grow older, will need support and education and just plain old help, in helping you with the “sucky” process of growing old.

Am I pissed about all the dithering about where and how to house the services provided by the Newburyport Council on Aging and the lack of respect and support by so many people in Newburyport, MA? Yup, you bet I am. As they say in New York, for goodness sakes, “get off the shtik.”

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

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
Newburyport

Newburyport Politics as a Contact Sport

Wow, the last comment on Newburyport City Councilor Ed Cameron’s blog would be quite something.

It is “Anonymous” and in my mind, a good example of why politics in Newburyport is referred to as a “contact sport,” and why this town has often been called “Cannibal City.”

A partial quote:

“I hope those who raise perhaps valid questions about the wisdom of building a senior center at Cushing Park will not be depicted as “anti-senior” or villified like some neighborhood school advocates were. And I hope councilors will not dismiss their concerns as simple resistance to change. Jim Roy raises some valid questions, which I hope are not dismissed in a cavalier fashion, especially by those elected by all citizens.”

It’s hard for me to imagine this Newburyport City Council as being the sort of folks who are going to be “dismissive,” “cavalier” or “vilify” their constituents.

And it takes a lot of courage for our local politicians to take a stand and advocate a position.

I could not possibly speak for Mr. Cameron, but reservations about a site for a Newburyport Senior Center, would hardly make any citizen “anti-senior.”

To say finding a consensus for a location for a Senior Center would be difficult, could be an understatement. And I applaud Mr. Cameron and Mayor John Moak for taking what definitely is for some, a very unpopular stand.

Mary Eaton,
Newburyport