Category Archives: Blogging

The Newburyport LHD Wars

From what I can make out, and George and the other “political consultants” to the Newburyport Blog can make out, there are two groups of folks who are against Newburyport’s proposed Local Historic District (LHD).

The “Say NO to LHD” folks, who appear to be Tea Party folks, who are misrepresenting and distorting the facts (see previous posts here and here).

And it also appears that the opposition, also often very hostile opposition, which might be the “masses” that Newburyport City Councilor Dick Sullivan was referring to in his quote in the article on the Local Historic District by Brenda Buote in the Boston Globe that can be read here.

The film "A Measure of Change"

The film "A Measure of Change"

There is an amazing film made about Newburyport in 1975 called “A Measure of Change” that can be seen here.  I think two of the comments below the video sum up what some of the more “silent” opposition to the LHD are feeling.

“…our heritage replaced by tourist traps, overpriced specialty shops, higher taxes, impossibly high rents for working-class citizens…  I loved the old town, but it wasn’t rebuilt, it was essentially destroyed, and replaced with some architectural designs that our ancesters would never have tolerated. Why do you think so many former Newburyporters ARE former Newburyporters??  They can no longer afford to live there. The city has been taken over by special interests from out of state… This pathetic attempt to put lipstick on this pig won’t make it acceptable to me, for one.”

And another commentator in reply:

“You said it in a nut shell!  I was born and raised there, but by the time i was 30ish my parents had to put their house on the market because they could no longer afford to live there. And they both grew up there as well, and hated to leave. They spend the rest of their day in NH.”

And from one of the opposition LHD petitions.

“…tell the do gooders to get a life and get out of ours.”

“Work in town. This is a really bad idea. Old time nbpter, not a blow in.”

“Another layer of socialist bureaucracy, by a board of permit komaczars who answer to no one with unlimited autocratic authority…And to think this whole nonsense began because some newby didn’t like the way his neighbor kept his property. Disgusting!”

Lots of anger there.

But at this point, and it could most certainly change, the pro-LHD petition now has 300 signatures, mostly from “blow ins,” who “blew in” 30 to 40 some years ago, to more recently. And the two anti-LHD petitions, one has 24 signatures, and the other has 4 signatures (I don’t think “Oecpexgrmu” counts).

So the “masses” that Dick Sullivan has referred to, might be the folks who are not “blow ins” or “newbies” or “do gooders,” but “old time Newburyporters” (“nbpter”).

I’ve been told that local historic districts don’t create friction in the community, but they do bring to the surface the frictions that already exist.

Petitions R Us

George is happy (although he doesn’t’ look very happy, but who knows if George could ever look happy), I‘m happy.  The online petition in support of Newburyport’s Local Historic District (LHD) is doing well, and seems, at least at this point, to be adding signatures, 150 for the LHD and 13 against.  This works for me.

George looking happy

George looking "happy"

I wasn’t going to put up a petition, but then I got an email from someone telling me about the petition against Newburyport’s LHD, and I thought, “What the heck, let’s put one up.  We had such great success with the petition in favor of saving High Street back in 1999, maybe this one will be fun too.”

And I’ve gotten so many emails, and even phone calls thanking me, which is so nice. Thank you out there in web-land.  Usually for the Newburyport Blog it’s the other way around.

People seem so fed up with those who are commenting in the comment section of the Newburyport Daily News, trashing, and sometimes very personally trashing those who write in favor of Newburyport’s LHD, as well as giving out an astounding amount of mis-information about Newburyport’s proposed Local Historic District, that what has been expressed to me is relief, a way to say, “Here we are, we think Newburyport’s Local Historic District is a great idea!!”

If you want to join in signing the petition in support of Newburyport’s Local Historic District you can sign the online petition here.

George’s Take on Happy in Newburyport

George pondering the relationship between The Newburyport Blog and the website Happy in Newburyport

George pondering the relationship between The Newburyport Blog and the website Happy in Newburyport

George Cushing, the political consultant to the Newburyport Blog has pointed something out to me.  He has pointed out that I am not showing up for the stuff that I am blogging about on Google, the way I used to, even a week ago, and the fact that traffic to the Newburyport Blog is down. Instead, George points out to me, that the “headlines,” “titles” that I’ve been writing recently are showing up for something called “Happy in Newburyport,” and he and I and The Newburyport Blog are somewhere way down the list in Google world.

Who knew that George was such a tech-savvy frog?

So George and I have a chat.  This is the thing, the owner of Happy in Newburyport contacted me because he wanted to promote the Newburyport Blog on his new website, Happy in Newburyport.  “Fine, fine, fine,” says moi.  And I explain to George that this was a very nice compliment, I just didn’t expect that Google would now find me semi-irrelevant.

I also explain to George, now George is looking at me very puzzled, that the owner John Wells is a realtor in Newburyport that not only sells, but actually appreciates historic homes.

Well, George likes this.

And I tell George, that John Wells is a realtor that is now standing up for Newburyport’s Local Historic District (LHD), which is a very nice thing, since I’ve been getting a lot of (mean spirited) flack lately (vast understatement)… if you consider being called a “Nazi controlling zealot,” flack.  And that it is very refreshing to have a realtor in Newburyport stand up in a no-nonsense sort of way and speak out very strongly about the LHD.

George ponders with some pensiveness this piece of information, so I show George the comment that John Wells wrote on the Petition in Support of Newburyport’s Local Historic District, which you can sign here… :

As a Real Estate Broker, I feel that protecting the appearance of Newburyport historic homes is important to maintaining everyone’s real estate values in town. I am also comfortable with the layers of controls in the proposal that will ensure that the commission members do not have unreasonable power over homeowners and will be replaced on a regular basis while being selected from a pool of citizens of varying interests. We cannot leave future development to chance!”

And then later Mr. Wells is even more emphaphatic:

I urge everyone who believes in the future of Newburyport to step forward and support this action. The opposition to it is completely based on ignorance of how this is set up to work – there are checks and balances and property owner interests are not thrown out the window as they would have you believe. If you are concerned, the details are online at http://cityofnewburyport.com/Planning/lhd.html.”

George really ponders this one.  And we decide that it is very nice to have someone in the Newburyport real estate world that so fiercely defends Newburyport’s proposed Local Historic District (LHD), and that we will monitor and ponder the fate of how Google thinks about The Newburyport Blog in light of this new semi, sort of partnership with Happy in Newburyport.

The Comment Section of the Newburyport Daily News

The comment section of the Newburyport Daily News on the pro-LHD Letters to the Editor–Oy Vey!!

I’ve been told that when real names are required, that people are a lot more civil.  In fact I was told this my my fellow blogger Tom Salemi over at Newburyport Posts, who is a master at the whole comment thing.

I would love it if the Newburyport Daily News would require real names and and check them the way they do with Letters to the Editor.  I think the “conversation” taking place would be a lot more constructive.

Would people be so nasty and sometimes just downright vicious if they had to put their real (verified) name and maybe a real photo, so people would know what they look like?

Would the folks who make those less than civil remarks, make them to the people’s face, in front of other folks, let’s say on the street, in front of witnesses?

I’d like the commenters that comment on the pro-LHD Letters to the Editor (as of today there have been 20, you can count them here), to “man-up” and not hide behind anonymity.

Video on Newburyport’s Urban Renewal-a “Must See”

I hope that this video by Lawrence Rosenblum on what the city looked like before Urban Renewal and after, made in 1975, goes viral. Tom Salemi over at Newburyport Posts put it up on his blog and it’s beginning to show up on places on Facebook.

One of the cool things is that because it is on video, you can jump around the film and go back and look at the parts that interest you.

It makes what happened to us “visceral.”

Here’s a quote from the Newburyport Daily News, November 26, 2007, “A city’s ‘character’ changed for good.

“In late 1975, Newburyporters gathered to see themselves on the big screen. Filmmaker Larry Rosenblum had finished his three-year-long project, “A Measure of Change,” a half-hour documentary that explored the city’s battle to stop the federal bulldozer.

“The film may be a catalyst as well as a piece of Yankee advice, ‘look before you leap,’” The Daily News stated in a film critique.

Within a few months, the film was getting international attention. It won several awards and was selected as the U.S. entry at urban planning conferences in Stockholm and Leningrad (now St. Petersburg).

Suddenly, the little old seaport was exporting to the world again. This time it wasn’t goods, it was a concept: historic preservation and revitalization.”

Yes, people come here because of Newburyport’s “historic preservation and revitalization.”

Urban Renewal

Newburyport: A Measure for Change link is here.

Watch the video and pass the link on: http://blip.tv/newburyport/nbpt-ameasureofchange-5786032

Archival Center at the Newburyport Public Library

Demolition on Inn Street

Demolition on Inn Street courtesy of the Newburyport Public Library

Today, with a tip from Jerry Mullins, I visited the Archival Center at the Newburyport Public Library where I found the archives from 1967-1974, HUD, the NRA and Newburyport’s Urban Renewal. (All the photos are courtesy of the Archival Center at the Newburyport Public Library.)

I took a ton of photos and I often included the captions and some of the text.

You can find the entire album of photos on (the new) Newburyport Blog’s Facebook page.  You can see the entire album here.

Now one can comment on posts on The Newburyport Blog.  I am not good with comments, hence no comments on The Newburyport Blog, but I am looking for help from my fellow bloggers Tom Salemi over at the Newburyport Posts and Newburyport City Councilor Ari Herzog who are masters of the whole comment thing.

(If you download the image would you please give The Archival Center at The Newburyport Public Library and The Newburyport Blog credit.  Thank you.)

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CVS and the Newburyport Blogosphere

I was massively confused about the zoning stuff and “proposed” CVS  at Low Street and Storey Avenue in Newburyport.  But my fellow bloggers and the Newburyport blogosphere to the rescue.

Newburyport City Councilor Ed Cameron with some clarification.  More clarification by Newburyport City Councilor Bob Cronin.  Further clarification by Newburyport City Councilor Ari Herzog.  Some very helpful maps by P.Preservationist.  And of course, Tom Salemi over at Newburyport Posts has been bloggging his heart out on this one all along.

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.

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.


Thank You to my Fellow Newburyport Bloggers

A very big “thank you” to my fellow Newburyport bloggers for such a warm “welcome back” as I return from a blogging sabbatical. Especially to the P. Preservationist and my fellow blogger Tom Salemi, who writes the Newburyport Posts.

And also for the nice “thank you” on Facebook from fellow bloggers Ed Cameron and Ari Herzog, who are both running for Newburyport election, Tuesday, November 8, 2011, as City Councilor At Large.

George Cushing

George Cushing Political Consultant to The Newburyport Blog

One of the great things, among so many great things in Newburyport, is that if you don’t want to read an “editorial” blog, such as this blog, with a frog as a political consultant (ie George Cushing, political consultant to the Newburyport Blog), or P. Preservationist or the Newburyport Posts, we have Newburyport City Councilors who blog, so you can go right to the source.

Along with Ed Cameron, and Ari Herzog, Bob Cronin, Newburyport City Councilor running unopposed in Ward 3 updates his blog on a regular basis and in a very thoughtful manner. And we also have Allison Heartquist, Newburyport City Councilor for Ward 1.

And all these blogger want you to go out and vote on Tuesday, November 8, 2011.

Celiac, etc., Too Much Information

Actually readers of the Newburyport Blog haven’t heard from its editor, namely me, for a while, not just because of a post (no pun intended), very long, local Newburyport election letdown (see earlier entry). Something else is “amiss,” but it seems just like “too much information-tmi” for any “discussion” on the Newburyport Blog. So to process this new “amiss” thing, I found starting a new blog, “The Year of Eating Weirdly” to be highly therapeutic.

The newest blog actually takes “comments” (although there are no comments at the moment), figuring that comments on weird eating things would be far less hostile than comments about Newburyport, aka “Cannibal City.” Although this may prove not to be true.

I did not put the blog on my domain name, because I have this notion that it might be enjoyable to be “anonymous,” (although chit chatting about the new blog on the Newburyport Blog sort of destroys that notion.) It has its own domain name, “CeliacSurprise.com.”.

And I went for “easy.” I didn’t use WordPress blog software, I instead opted for “Blogger,” and the people at Google definitely have this blog thing figured out. Good grief Blogger is a breeze to use compared to good old, now going on four years of using WordPress.

So those readers of the Newburyport Blog who apparently are “appalled” at my on going policy of “not commenting for all sorts of reasons” on the Newburyport Blog, would be happy to know that I have joined the legion of bloggers allowing comments and blissful “anonymity.”

Art, Paintings, Newburyport Show

marsh2

“Many locals know her only as the author of the Newburyport Political Blog. But the political junkie that is Mary Baker Eaton is also an accomplished artist whose work has appeared at prestigious New York City galleries and can be found in private and corporate collections across the country.

And, now, her readers ‑ and everyone else ‑ finally will be able to see her artwork up close, as Kerim Kaya, owner of Kaya Jewelers downtown, presents her paintings through Dec. 31.

The exhibit marks her first major local showing in 10 years, and the quirky Eaton, surrounded Monday morning by her exquisitely detailed paintings of Newburyport scenes, took every opportunity to promote her good friend, Kaya.

“This is a great way for two business people to get together,” she said, leaning against one of the jewelry display cases. “I help Kaya. Kaya helps me. Every time I tell someone about the show, I tell them, ‘You should come in and buy your significant other or yourself a nice piece of custom-made jewelry for Christmas…””

“…The paintings on display showcase Eaton’s love for the natural beauty of the community where she has lived for the past 30 years. A contemporary realist painter, she captures, with lifelike precision, the stillness of the Plum Island marshes, the petals of a bright yellow iris in the South End, apple blossoms clinging to a brick wall at the old gardens at Maudslay State Park and the Common Pasture, its vista unchanged by centuries.”

“Putting things in perspective,” by Ulrika G. Gerth, © The Newburyport Current, November 6, 2009

Blue Morning Glory, Oil on Panel, © Mary Baker

Blue Morning Glory, Oil on Panel, © Mary Baker

Kerim Kaya, a long time friend and owner of Kaya Jewelers, approached me about a month or so ago and asked if I would like to show my paintings in his gorgeous jewelry store, Kaya Jewelers, 41 State Street, on the corner of Essex Street. My response, especially in this economy that has hurt the arts so much was, “What a great idea!”

The show is up for all of November and December, and the reception is this Saturday, November 7, 2009 from 6 PM-9PM. Please stop by and say “Hello.” And do be sure to buy yourself or your significant-other a beautiful piece of jewelry for the holidays.

You can read the rest of the story in the Newburyport Current here.

Building on Newburyport’s Waterfront

I looked back at posts on “the waterfront” on the Newburyport Blog. And when the blog was started back in January 2006, for about 6 months the subject of the resistance to Mayor John Moak’s proposal of paving over the Newburyport’s Central Waterfront, comes up over and over again, and I had forgotten just how viscerally passionate people were. There were still entries on the subject in 2007.

I don’t know if in three years that passion about this particular piece of land has disappeared, but it would be hard for me to imagine that it would have. And if folks were upset about Mayor John Moak’s proposal, how would they feel or react to mayoral candidate James Shanley’s much more ambitious proposal of building “something historically based, something like what was there before” (The Newburyport Liberator, October 9, 2009) on Newburyport’s Central Waterfront.

I’m sure that James Shanley, who is a very bright and thoughtful man, if he were to be elected mayor, would appoint a commission of very bright people to look at this “new” approach, to make this piece of land, which the candidate has called an “underperforming asset,” generate money for the city.

And then I can see all hell breaking lose, a little like all hell broke lose when Mayor John Moak started the process of trying to put mostly parking on that piece of land.

On July 2006, Al Decie wrote on the Newburyport Blog about Newburyport’s Central Waterfront, “The public’s wishes have been expressed loud and clearly by majority votes and voices in referendums, surveys, and in the courts.”

It is true, as James Shanley has said, that people like Al Decie (unfortunately) no longer live here, and that there may be a lot of new people, who “don’t understand how we got here” (Newburyport Liberator again) do. But, Mr. Decie is right, this piece of land produces such passion, that it has been involved in a very long, expensive and drawn out process IN COURT. And the issue was about building on that very same spot.

So either we as a city have “moved on” and are willing to think about a completely “new” approach to a much fought over piece of priceless downtown, Newburyport property. Or, if we even consider that route, those wild passions could come forth again (you can almost bet on it) and could derail much good that needs to be accomplished.

Personally, I like Donna Holaday’s approach “reduce the parking, install grass, plantings, landscape design…it would be perfect.” (Newburyport Liberator, same issue again) And we could concentrate on what Stephen Karp would be building on either side of the Central Waterfront, and “get on with it.” Do I really think that this “miracle” would ever happen in my life time. I haven’t before (see earlier entries here and here), and actually, I am still skeptical that it could.

Writing about Newburyport Elections

As a blogger, I really, really don’t like election time. Even if I might disagree with a candidate or wonder about their qualifications, I am always impressed when someone takes the time to run for office–it indicates that they care a tremendous amount about Newburyport, MA. And I really get more upset with an electorate that isn’t paying attention and does not vote, than with differences in the candidates.

Tom Salemi over at the Newburyport Posts says, in his always tactful approach, something along the same lines. Tom Salemi’s post on the subject, “Take Time to Care” can be read here.

blond_blogI thought I would go back and read what I had written for the Newburyport election in 2007. And I came across something that I had “drawn,” which I think is still to the point and pretty funny– not as tactful as Tom Salemi. You can see it to your left. Paris Hilton could probably be substituted with a more 2009′ish “it” person, but the general idea would be the same.

Voting is a tremendous privilege, and I’m with Tom Salemi, whoever you might be, take the time to get to know about the candidates, there are many available venues, as Tom points out. And get to know about this year’s very important issue on the ballot, The Charter Review, which Tom has all kinds of information about on the side of his blog.

Newburyport–Go Along to Get Along

The “go along to a get along” thing, I’ve never been good at it. In fact, I suck at it, so much so that it seems sometimes to me to be deep within my genes. It is both oddly one of my major character defects and one of my major strengths.

To succeed in corporate America, “go along to get along” helps a great deal. As an artist, or an activist, not so much.

My father always tried to encourage the “go along” approach in life, economically, socially, on all sorts of levels, it helps immensely. But if I try the “go along to get along” thing for any length of time, it makes me itch.

And it’s one of the reasons I miss Tom Ryan and the Undertoad in Newburyport, MA. If ever there was someone who refused to do the “go along to get along” approach, it was Mr. Ryan.

Now in Newburyport, MA there are a blanket of blogs out there with a “go along to get along” approach. They are probably very smart. It makes me itch.

I was once asked by a local politician to be the blog voice that supported Newburyport/New England Development, to be a part of something really big. To “go along to get along” with the largest owners of downtown Newburyport and the folks that work so closely with them.

I declined, knowing that I probably would break out in a rash, it would be going so much against the grain of my innate nature.

It seemed to me that as a blogger it would be good for me to have a skeptical nature about our largest downtown landowner and the folks that work so closely with him. I doubted that whatever my input might be, the powers with millions of dollars probably had a pretty good idea already of what they felt would be the most expedient use of their resources to develop the property in question–I would most likely not change or mold anyone’s mind.

So in the political landscape that is shaping up for the 2009 local Newburyport election, I may wonder closely about any candidate that contemplates whether they might have the power of persuasion over the multi-million dollar project that will one day take place on the most expensive land in Newburyport, MA, along the mouth of the Merrimac River. Or think that they might be the person that is able to really “go along to get along” and bring all the powers that be, with all the inevitable conflicts of interest, to the table and shape the Newburyport to come. The fascinating and fractious history and spirit of our small New England city is witness to the difficulty of ever achieving this most ambitious point of view.

Newburyport and Why?

I always used to drive my mother nuts by asking “Why?” “Why was ‘Aunt Hilda’ taking a ‘vacation’ by herself for X amount of weeks or months?”

It wasn’t enough to know that the event was happening, I wanted to know the reason behind it, because “Aunt Hilda” never did stuff like that. Was it because of marital problems, illness, midlife crisis? Why? I was never told why in these situations, but I would not have felt judgmental, it just would have explained a puzzling reality, and the world would seem to make more sense (if that ever would be a possibility).

I have a lot of local political questions. It’s not a judgmental thing, it’s a “this isn’t making sense to me” thing.

Why is James Shanley running for mayor of Newburyport, MA when Donna Holaday, a very capable candidate with almost an exact platform, with a lot of name recognition, is also running, and has always made it known that this is something that she would always do. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have James Shanley with his experience and institutional memory to be a major part of the Newburyport City Council next year and work constructively with Donna Holaday?

Why are there 4 people at the moment running for Newburyport City Councilor in Ward 3, James Shanley’s Ward? Not that I’m not for civic enthusiasm, I am, and not that I don’t think it will make it a more interesting race, it will, and I like interesting races.

Who is Clete Kijek (actually that one wasn’t so hard to find out, I remember him most vividly from this story in the Newburyport Daily News) and why is he running against Ed Cameron in Ward 4.. there has to be a story there.

Why did Mayor John Moak really step down, when he seemed pretty enthusiastic about running for mayor of Newburyport, MA for a 3rd term in January of 2009.

And what is happening to “institutional memory,” in Newburyport, MA, it seems to be vanishing. I rarely see it in our newspapers, one of the reasons being it’s hard to keep local reporters, and it’s getting hard to keep any newspaper afloat, and I don’t see it much in our local blogs.

And when is Stephen Karp going to start building on Newburyport’s waterfront?

And just how many folks will come out of the woodworks and end up running in some capacity in the Newburyport, 2009 election? My guess is that we may see a few more yet.

Newburyport’s True Self

One of the things that fascinates me is what really happens in life, and what happens to make things happen, what are the “politics” of the situation, not what is on the surface. Not gossip and innuendo, but the reality behind the veneer.

And in the reporting business, this is almost an impossible thing to accomplish. Advertisers want their veneer kept in place, so that they can sell their product, so that they can make a living. Who is going to buy anything if they know the “real” story behind a company, no matter if it’s probably the story behind almost every average company. Nobody’s perfect, no company, institution, municipality is perfect. There is always a story, and it’s usually a pretty interesting story because the reality is usually so universal.

And like it or hate it, it is what was at the heart of what Tom Ryan did in his political journal of 11 years, the Undertoad, and whether I agreed with Mr. Ryan or not, I was fascinated that here was someone who was interested in the underbelly of Newburyport, MA, not a fluffy outside. Policy and politics were part of it. But exploring what was really going on, from Mr. Ryan’s point of view, was at the heart of the journal.

And I miss it. I know so much stuff about what is happening and making stuff happen in Newburyport, because people talk and I listen, that keeping it to myself makes me itch. But floating it out there, what good would it do me, except make me feel less itchy.

One of the things that I really enjoy are the emails that I get from people wanting to know what the “true” story is. It’s usually from someone who is thinking of or planning to move here. They could be interested about the landfill, the wind turbine, the parking situation, just to name a few things, and they seem to trust a blogger from Newburyport over the realtor that is selling them the product.

And I always email back, and give them my opinion, just my opinion, and if applicable, who else to talk to get a fuller picture. So thank you all of you out there in Web Land, I am honored and touched that you would think of contacting me, and I have enjoyed our exchanges. I love my home town of Newburyport, MA, but I know that it is not perfect, and I know that knowing the reality about Newburyport helps people make wiser and more informed decisions. Just the way knowing the reality or getting a fuller picture about just about anything helps us make wiser decisions in this lifetime.

Fear and Politics

A friend of mine said that they were concerned that the Republicans did not fear President Obama. I get what they were saying, we were talking about the difficult job of governing, i.e. getting things done on a political level.

The Bush-Cheney years were certainly governed by fear, not that we as a nation weren’t terrified, after 9/11–we were. But it always felt as if we as a nation were being manipulated by fear into complying with the Bush–Cheney agenda–those terror alerts being raised from yellow to orange on a regular basis, certainly enough to scare yours truly.

And as a Newburyport blogger I stopped blogging about national politics after realizing that Homeland Security visited my small blog on a regular basis, and that certain key words brought more intense scrutiny. I would imagine since some of those key words are used in this blog post, I will get some extra visits (I hope they actually read it).

I figured it was better to blog about local Newburyport politics and local Newburyport events, risking the wrath of local folks and politicians, rather than being confronted by a faceless Bush–Cheney delegation, which sadly turns out not to be the least bit paranoid on my part.

Governing by fear does not even appear to be part of President Obama’s disposition (I hope I’m not being naïve here). It often seems to me that President Obama approaches governing the way one would approach raising a child. First reach out and attempt a reasoned approach. If that doesn’t work on the wayward child, no spanking, but time out, and whatever needs to be done for the good of the family, gets done without drama, hysteria or threats.

This is a new dichotomy, the language of which seems untranslatable to his detractors. Reaching out is seen as weak. Helping the less fortunate is seen as Socialist or worse, Communist (the PBS documentary on Russia and Poland–”Behind Closed Doors–Unlikely Friends,” might be a good reminder of what cruel and mindless Communism was actually like–hardly President Obama’s agenda).

President Obama treats his detractors as unruly children. He is “disappointed” in them. And as a parent and a daughter I always found that a parent’s “disappointment” was far more powerful in the long run than an attitude of “spare the rod and spoil the child,” a phrase that I know many on the conservative religious Right adhere to.

Twitter, Listening and Activism

Ari Herzog has been hoping that I would enter the world of Twitter. So far I have not succumbed, despite Ari’s very persuasive reasoning. (I can see myself, should I surrender, becoming a complete Twitter addict.)

However, Twitter has become a valuable resource in trying to get a handle on folks who email me about the Newburyport Blog, who I do not know, and who I cannot find anyone I know who knows (following that one?).

Before, to try a figure out who folks were and where they might be coming from, I would have Salem Deeds on Line, Newburyport Vision Appraisal and Google. All gave me some idea, often limited.

Now I have Twitter, where mundane thoughts, everyday occurrences, personal interchanges, all of which before were previously kept private, now give me a more fleshed out glimpse into whoever I may wonder about (that is, providing they Twitter).

And all of this is very helpful. I feel a little bit as if I am intruding in their private lives, as if sitting in a public place and listening in on a private conversation over at the next table. Sometimes it even seems as if I am privy to gossip (something I am not particularly found of), if you will. But there it is, all out in public, for anyone to read and hear. A very large tool for this blogger to understand how a person may think and interact with the world.

Why would this be important? Because, as the editor of the Newburyport Blog, I am fascinated by how on a civic and political level, one gets things constructively accomplished. When in a more activist mode, I found that listening and getting people to talk, and taking what they had to say seriously, no matter how mundane it might seem to some, was one of the most effective ways to figure out positive civic and political outcomes.

It was often the more mundane, throw away “stuff” that was the most helpful. And here I have conversations to listen to on Twitter. Who knew I would find this social networking vehicle so helpful in this particular way.

Too Good to be True

One of the few “life lessons” that I’ve managed to get somewhat into my DNA, is “when it’s too good to be true, it’s too good to be true,” but yet, boy is it tempting. Good grief.

And that truism applies to all sorts of things that so many of us are experiencing in these lousy economic times. Maybe Newburyport frugal Yankees are more suspicious of the “too good to be true” thing, and maybe it’s part of the reason that Newburyport, MA is not experiencing some of the unbelievable pain that some folks are facing. Just moderate pain.

I get a small odd postcard in the mail offering to buy my house, no strings attached. I investigate the website of the mailers of the postcard. Four websites, that I can make out, all looking pretty high scale, compared to the postcard I receive. The return address on the postcard appears to be a house for sale.

Promises of fast closing, fast cash.

Implications of owning a house, with bad credit or no credit.

Red flags are flying in my brain. Isn’t stuff like this what got us into this mess in the first place?

I actually call someone in the government, the US government, and they say stuff like this is now popping up all over the United States, but here it is apparently popping up in Newburyport, MA.

I want to investigate this red flag so much. But, for this blogger, restraint. I call one of my Newburyport journalistic friends instead, and give them the information, hoping that our local Newburyport press could examine the waving red flag that has come, apparently, Newburyport’s way.