Category Archives: Blogging

False Statements on the “Say No to LHD” Mass Mailing

Disclaimer here:  Dr. Heersink who wrote a Letter to the Editor on on February 27, 2011 is my favorite doctor in Newburyport. As a doctor he is amazing.  I just happen to disagree with his stance on the proposed Local Historic District (LHD).

In the letter, among other things, Dr. Heersink defends the “Say No to LHD” (which he is a member of) literature that was mass mailed (2,700 pieces of mail) about 10 days ago.  The frogs and I on the Newburyport Blog have put our heads together and where to begin to counter all the allegations made in this disingenuous mailing.

Now usually I don’t like the comment section of the Newburyport Daily News, but the Newburyport Daily News has clarified their comment policy recently, so it looks like I won’t be called a “Nazi controlling zealot” any more, because that would be “racist and abusive.”  So whew! (I hope.)

There was a reply to Dr. Heersink by “GloryBe456″ (another poster thought it was moi, not so).  It’s a little strident for the Newburyport Blog’s taste, but since it makes so many points that the frogs and I agree with, I thought I would quote it on the Newburyport Blog (and it may capture the anger and frustration that is out there with “Say No to LHD”).

GloryBe456  (Whoever you are, and the spelling was corrected by moi-I am the Editor of The Newburyport Blog after all.)

“If Dr. Heersink is a member of “Say No to LHD”, then he should know that, considering the people he’s working with, the errors are not inadvertent, but on purpose.

If the members of this group knew city law, they would know that all members of all boards and commissions have to be city residents.  But, “inadvertrently” they stated in their mailing that LHD commission members didn’t have to be.

Another “inadvertent”  error is that people are going to be fined left, right and sideways if they do something the LHD commission doesn’t like.  Well, isn’t that interesting – did you know that the ZBA, Planning Board and Conservation Commission and Tree Committee and Building Inspector can levy fines, too? Guess when the last time was that happened?  That’s right, never.

Yet another “inadvertent” error was that all work requiring a permit will force homeowners to go in front of the LHD Commission.  Oh, really? WRONG!!!! a small fraction of work currently requiring a permit would require review by an LHD Commission.

Shall I go on?

Funny, the “Say No” group states that LHDs will DECREASE the value of your home.  At the same time, in his letter, Dr. Heersink, a Say No member, states that it’s irrelevant if the LHD INCREASES your property values.  Really? Which is it, Dr.?  Show me your data, Say No, that LHDs decrease property values.  You can’t.

Let’s keep going – “Say No” claims that “no construction, alteration, moving, demolition, etc.” will not be permitted without a “certificate of approval”.  WRONG AGAIN!  It’s called a “check off” at the building department that what the applicant is looking to do doesn’t come under the LHD commission’s jurisdiction.  Same was planning and zoning stuff is taken care of now.

Another incorrect “fact”. That the study committee has agreed to a “phased approach” to implementing the LHD throughout the national register historic district. WRONG! there is no ‘agreement’ to “phase in” more of the district.  IF anyone wanted to try such a thing, the ENTIRE process that the study committee has gone through would have to be started ALL OVER AGAIN – and good luck with that!

Costs of owning your home will increase by being in an LHD. WRONG! they are not requiring expansive features, finishes, etc.  Like vinyl siding? You’ll SAVE money in the end by not installing it because you won’t trap moisture in the walls of the house (which would lead to mold and moss growth, sheathing that will never dry out and have to be replaced – the removal of these things later will end up costing you way more than you think you “saved” on painting and regular maintenance had you not put it on to begin with.

Finally, all of the things the “Say No” people have listed as “at your expense” and “at the homeowner’s expense” are NO DIFFERENT than how the ZBA and planning boards work now.  the building inspector himself has ordered people to hire structural engineers “at the homeowner’s expense” if he sees a problem with a project.  So, stop the fear-mongering. Better to spend your time learning how your government works first.”

The Newburyport Redevelopment Authority (NRA) in 2012

Courtesy of the Newburyport Public Library Archives, Ancient buildings demolished during Urban Renewal, The Unitarian Church on Pleasant Street in the background, Press image to enlarge

Courtesy of the Newburyport Public Library Archives, Ancient buildings demolished during Urban Renewal, The Unitarian Church on Pleasant Street in the background, Press image to enlarge

My fellow blogger Tom Salemi over at Newburyport Posts has taken a major civic plunge.  No tip-toeing into the Newburyport civic world for Tom.  Nope, a full dive, right in.  Last week Tom Salemi’s appointment to the NRA (Newburyport Redevelopment Authority, not the National Riffle Association) passed the Newburyport City Council unanimously.

Everyone here at the Newburyport Blog, me and the frogs, are mighty proud.

It would be hard to pick a more controversial board or committee in our fair city of Newburyport than the NRA. (This is a vast understatement.)

The lots that the NRA are in charge of, have literally been fought over for the last 40+ years.  And if P.Preservationist is right, “It is known that the Committee for the Open Waterfront are cracking open their old file cabinets and rallying to restart their efforts.  This sounds like a huge brouhaha coming!”  And that would surprise me not in the least.

I‘ve always thought that the issue of the waterfront, the NRA’s two dirt lots down by the waterfront, would never be resolved in my life time (to see long ago post, press here).  Maybe this is the golden moment, who knows, we will see.  But I am not holding my breath.

I’ve always thought that those two dirt lots are cursed (the history is so complex, who could begin to explain). And in my wanderings to find stuff about the proposed Newburyport Local Historic District (LHD), which includes downtown Newburyport, I came across the picture in this post (I think it was taken in 1968, but I’m not 100% positive), in the Newburyport Public Library Archives.  The caption reads, “First Unitarian Church on Pleasant St. rises from area cleared of ancient buildings as Newburyport’s urban renewal program moves ahead.”  And the photograph looks as if it is taken way, way back from the Unitarian Church, on those two dirt lots. (If you press the image, it will enlarge.)

The photograph is haunting.  It is a reminder to me that when stuff is gone, it is gone for good. All those “ancient” houses gone for good.  And I always wondered if that area, not to sound silly, is haunted.  It has been so difficult to get anything accomplished over the last 40+ years, so many people have tried, that I really and truly wonder.

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

“Say No to LHD” Campaign

It is possible that only Tom Salemi could approach the whole Newburyport’s Local Historic District (LHD) thing with humor, marked with wisdom and humility. (Alas, the Newburyport Blog‘s experience is what my fellow blogger recommends in his Newburyport Today article, that we be “a community” and “stay classy,” might not actually be possible in what has been dubbed, and what I thought had disappeared, but has seemingly been resurrected, “Cannibal City.”)

A bagel

A bagel

Tom opens his article with his experience of being aggressively approached in front of Abraham’s Bagels by one of the “Say No to LHD” folks on their anti-LHD campaign, at 8:30 on a Saturday morning, as he was trying to get some breakfast (great bagels from Abraham’s Bagels, a thumbs up from this born and raised in New York, New Yawker, who knows from bagels, a “blow in,” a “newby,” moi, who has “only” lived here, in Newburyport, for 31 years) for his family.

In his piece in Newburyport Today, Tom Salemi (the author of the well loved blog, Newburyport Posts) writes, “But let’s all do this right.  Let’s handle this with the same grace that we’ve employed with the IBEW protests.  We don’t need to roll in the mud.”

And I agree with Tom, what is necessary is “an informed and engaged public,” Tom’s words.

And what Tom Salemi points out with grace and dignity, is at this point, the “Say No to LHD” folks are giving people information filled with inaccuracies and omission of the facts.

And, yes, this makes it difficult to have  an informed and thoughtful discussion.

I guess aggressively handing out information in front of Abraham’s Bagels was not enough. The “Say No to LHD”  folks have made a mass mailing-2,700 pieces of mail (which one of my neighbors, when they received the mailing, thought was going to be an anti-drug missive), including the flyer handed out in front of Abraham’s Bagels, full of misinformation, scare tactics and omission of the facts.

As one friend said to me, on one of my many walks around my beloved historic city, “It’s hard to get a positive message out there when the default reaction is ‘No,’ and you are dealing with lies” (their word, not mine).

You can read Tom Salemi’s article at Newburyport Today, February 16, 2012, “Take the Bagels, Leave the Petition,” here.

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

For quick facts about the LHD press here.

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.