Category Archives: Politics

Video about Newburyport’s Urban Renewal, “A Measure of Change”

Many thanks to Jerry Mullins over at Brick and Tree for putting this incredible video about what Newburyport used to look like up again, this time on YouTube.

Newburyport used to look like a slum.  Hard to believe, but the history on this video is amazing.

And there are a lot of friends on the video.  Sue Little, the owner of Jabberwocky Books, opens the video.  Tom Kolterjahn, the president of The Newburyport Preservation Trust is on there, along with Bryon Matthews, John (Hacky) Pramberg, Bill Harris, Jack Bradshaw.

Enjoy!

A Measure of Change, the video about Newburyport's Urban Renewal

A Measure of Change, the video about Newburyport’s Urban Renewal

The link to the video “A Measure of Change” can be found here.”

New Rules, Bricks on Curbs to be Replaced by Cement in Newburyport

Example of new white curb cut next to a brick sidewalk.

Example of new white curb cut next to a brick sidewalk.

This is what I now know (please see legal disclaimer–I am an amateur blogger, not a legal expert, or highway engineer, or any of the other things one might want to be, to fully comprehend this, and yes, there are still a lot more questions).

In March of 2012 MassDOT mandated the following changes for ADA curb cuts (those are the cuts on sidewalk corners):

1) To have a “Detectable or tactile warning strip, consisting of truncated domes.” (i.e. bumpy things)

2) And the change is also in material, the requirement is that it be “slip resistant” which according to the description, eliminates brick:

“7. Walk surfaces shall be designed and constructed as firm, stable and slip resistant surfaces. They shall lie generally in a continuous plane with a minimum of surface warping.”

The document can be read here:

What this means in real simple terms, is that legally cement is now in, and brick is out.

I have confirmed this with a very, very nice person at MassDOT, as well as folks who know this stuff in Newburyport City Hall.

And this applies to historic cities and towns all over Massachusetts, including Boston. And from what I can make out (every place that I have checked), with the exception of Beacon Hill, has eventually given in and gone with cement over brick (with much wailing and gnashing of teeth) (again, I am an amateur blogger, not a professional journalist–disclaimer one more time).

On Monday night, at the Newburyport City Council Meeting, the list of streets and sidewalks to be repaved is on the agenda to be Ok’d by the City Council. My hope is that at least one member of the City Council will get up and say, “Wait a minute, could we Ok all the money for roadwork and sidewalks, but could we take a little bit of time to find out some answers to the curb cut–no more brick thing, before we give the big go ahead on that one.”

My hope is that if brick is out and cement is in, that maybe we could mitigate the visual impact in some way.  And I’m just throwing ideas out there, there is such a thing as stamped cement, that looks like brick.  I have no idea if that would work, but something along those sort of lines would be better than glaring white strips of cement that would eventually replace the brick corners that now exist.

Here is a list of corners that are slated to be redone this year, where brick would be an issue:

Along High Street:
State Street
Market Street
Federal Street
Lime Street
Parsons Street
Coffins Court
Allen Street
Bromfield Street
Barton Street

And:
State Street and Garden Street (Where the Dalton Club is.)

Brick-curbing

An an example of a good looking curb cut with brick that now exists. (The arrows pointing to the good example are photoshopped by me.)

EDITOR’S NOTE: A REPRIEVE!!  Newburyport City Councilor Bob  Cronin has just gotten up at the Newburyport City Council meeting and asked that the curb cuts that had been designated to be turned from brick to cement along High Street be sent to committee for further discussion. As I understand it, the matter was sent to “Public Safety.” (P.S. I wasn’t sure whether or not the now brick curb cut by the Dalton Club, at the corner of State and Garden was also included in that list.) Thank you so much Newburyport City Council!!

Another Idea on how to have a Win-Win on Recycling Plastic Bags

An idea. I’m brainstorming here.

RecyleCleanThe plastic bag industry definitely has gotten the memo loud and clear about recycling plastic bags. However, the plastic bag recycling industry wants clean dry thin filmed plastic bags for recycling, not soiled ones. That means they want plastic bags to be returned to participating stores. Neither the plastic industry or the City of Newburyport wants them in the recycling bins (plastic bags reek havoc for our recycling machines). The thin film plastic bags and other clean, dry thin film products are then bailed and shipped to places in the United States or to Canada or China for recycling. Recycling thin clean, dry thin film plastic is a billion dollar business, for real (see earlier entry).

So this might be a way to have small stores to be able to recycle plastic bags, if that is what they would like to do. Maybe the stores downtown, on Storey Avenue and in the Tannery might be able to participate (if they wanted to, along with providing reusable bags and bags made out of paper, I’ve seen some really nice ones from stores downtown). And maybe either Market Basket or Shaw’s might be able to be the “anchor store” (see below).

If the “industry” is involved, (the “bad guys”) in helping the city with a plastic bag recycling program, then the plastic bag industry has a real incentive to not only help us start something effective, but make sure that each year it becomes more and more successful.

So this is a quote from PlasticFilmRecycling.org on a “Business-to-Business” (B2B) pilot program.  And the website may look like a non-profit, but the American Chemistry Council is behind it (see the fine print at the bottom).  So yes, I am proposing that environmentalist work with “the bad guys” to come up with a solution instead of an outright ban on plastic bags. Nelson Mandela knew about working with your enemy–he becomes your partner.

b2b

This is from “Business-to-Business” (B2B), the entire link can be read here. 

“The B2B recycling program staff facilitated partnerships with large retail “anchor” stores and their smaller neighbor merchants that are located in shopping centers and malls. The anchor stores serve as collection points for clean, used plastic bags and film from their customers and from the neighboring stores. The anchor store is then able to use its existing infrastructure to transfer or “backhaul” the plastic bags and film back centers in delivery trucks that would otherwise return empty to their distribution centers.

The smaller retailers benefit because they are able to take advantage of a recycling opportunity that in most cases would be too expensive or unavailable to them. The anchor store benefits by being able to sell more recyclable material and to promote its environmental efforts by using existing resources and committing to a relatively small increase in labor. The Orange County SWMD benefits in many ways including conservation of landfill space due avoided disposal of tons of plastic bags and film, increased recycling rates, and avoided costs for a commercial recycling program as a result of the successes of the B2B recycling program.”

NOAA_debris

And to learn about Marine Debris, visit NOAA’s (U.S Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Marine Debris website here, including information on what is sometimes referred to the great garbage patch, or how debris accumulates in the ocean here.

From NOAA: “Our oceans are filled with items that do not belong there. Huge amounts of consumer plastics, metals, rubber, paper, textiles, derelict fishing gear, vessels, and other lost or discarded items enter the marine environment every day, making marine debris one of the most widespread pollution problems facing the world’s oceans and waterways…”  “The term “Pacific Garbage Patch” is a popular nickname for an area of marine debris concentration in the North Pacific Ocean, located in between Hawaii and California…” “While higher concentrations of litter items can be found in this area, along with other debris such as derelict fishing nets, much of the debris is small pieces of floating plastic that are not immediately evident to the naked eye…”

And from NOAA’s Marine Debris Blog, which can be read here.

“With all of this information flying around, much of it conflicting, what is actually known about these topics? And what do we believe?

First, the name “garbage patch” is a misnomer. There is no island of trash forming in the middle of the ocean, and it cannot be seen with satellite or aerial photographs. While it’s true that these areas have a higher concentration of plastic than other parts of the ocean, much of the debris found in these areas are small bits of plastic (microplastics) that are suspended throughout the water column.  A comparison I like to use is that the debris is more like flecks of pepper floating throughout a bowl of soup, rather than a skim of fat that accumulates (or sits) on the surface…”

“The bottom line really is that all of this human-made trash simply does not belong in our oceans or waterways…”

All of this is not good.  

Why I Personally Like my Plastic Bags, and NO, I’m Not in the Pocket of the Plastic Bag Industry

Gluten Free

Gluten Free

I just vowed I wouldn’t go there, put people ask me, “Why in the world do you want to have plastic bags so much?” And for anyone thinking or saying that I must be in the pocket of the plastic bag industry (because that seems to be the immediate reaction if you happen to like plastic bags), the answer is “No,” and believe me, I have opinions on stuff, people have accused me of a lot worse (see 7+ years of earlier posts).

I have something called celiac disease.  It has been ruled as a disability under the Americans for Disabilities Act (ADA).  Who knew? not me that it was ruled a disability, until all this research on plastic bags last week. See the link on ADA and celiac here.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has come out with a ruling saying something cannot be labeled gluten free, unless it is really and truly is gluten free, which they have said is 20 parts per million (20 ppm), in other words–a microscopic amount. You can read all about it here, if you feel like it. (That one I knew about, the FDA ruling thing. The White House actually sent me an email telling me about the new gluten food labeling by the FDA, it made my day, week, month, year.)

When I was diagnosed (and all of that info is on the blog if you want to go look for it) back in 2009, no one knew hardly nada about what celiac was. Now, gluten free, here we come, which as it plays out, is fantastic for people with celiac. I was told is that microscopic amounts would make me sick (as in eventually kills you), so scrub out your kitchen, throw out and replace all sorts of stuff.  I thought they were being hysterical nut cases. It turns out “they” were right. When I got rid of anything that might have microscopic amounts of gluten, I started to get better.

The weird thing about celiac is that if effects everyone differently, it has all kinds of different symptoms, and basically they still know mostly nada.  But I am one of those pesky folks where only digesting microscopic amounts takes me 6 weeks to recover. And am I paranoid about getting “glutened?” you bet I am.

Which brings me to plastic bags at the grocery store. When they open one of those plastic bags, I know that no gluten has ever, never ever, been in there.  I am safe, safe, safe. No need to wonder, did I bring home gluten stuff in this bag?  Do I throw this bag away? Do I throw them all away to be safe?  No, every plastic bag is a safe bag for moi.  And it brings peace of mind and serenity to the ever not wonderful challenge of going to the grocery store as a celiac (where gluten is everywhere and not in everything anymore, but still in tons of stuff). And I take those plastic bags that make me feel safe and never glutened, and recycle them back at the grocery store.

Whether people understand my fondness for plastic bags having celiac disease, is up to them. But for me, it is huge.

Trying for a Win-Win Solution instead of an Outright Ban on Plastic Bags, and the Plastic Bag Industry has Gotten the Message

RecyleCleanI went to Tuesday night’s meeting held by the Newburyport City Council on the Plastic Bag ban, and it was without doubt the most frustrating and depressing meeting that I’ve ever been to (and I’ve been to a lot of meetings), and my read was that I wasn’t exactly alone in feeling that way.

The meeting seemed to me to be more about a homily to a plastic bag ban, than a how can we problem solve this together as a community.  When I raised my hand, I said it felt a lot like being at a Waterfront meeting and being for some sort of buildings down there (you gotta live in Newburyport, to understand that one). (And this proposed ban is in 2 City Council committees, there will never be public hearings.)

There was a young lady at that meeting, and from what I could make out, she was not from Newburyport, who said that plastic bag lobbyists lived among our wards and were giving bribes to city councilors (city councilors, who were there, I may not have gotten that completely right, but that is basically what she said). I resent someone calling our local city government corrupt.

I chased down the plastic bag people who appear to recycle our plastic bags at Market Basket, Hilex Poly, to ask them to help us with a recycling program, I asked if it would be possible to have receptacles at the grocery stores that are fun and easy to notice.  I ended up talking to the lobbyist, who does live in Newburyport, many people know him, he was the campaign manager to John Kerry in the senate race against Governor Weld in the 1996 senate race and was then Senator Kerry’s chief of staff (John Kerry is now the Untied States Secretary of State). One of the city councilors at the meeting remarked that he was in fact helpful (I don’t remember the exact words).  Mr. Greenly agreed, and said he would get back to me this week.  We’ll see.

canada-map

Canada

The plastic bag industry has definitely got the memo that they better get going into putting a lot of effort into recycling plastic thin film bags.  And I now know more than I ever imagined about recycling plastic bags.

This is appears to be the bottom line. There is a billion dollar recycling plastic thin filmed industry.  There is a huge market for clean, dry thin filmed plastic, including clean, dry plastic bags. There isn’t a strong market for soiled plastic, but clean, dry plastic–it’s unbelievable the market for this stuff.  If you go to the back of our grocery stores, there will be bails of clean thin filmed plastic (including the recycled plastic bags) along with bails of clean cardboard.  Some of it is used here in the US (Hilex Poly has just built a $25 million dollar plastic bag recycling plant in Indiana). But the big bulk of it appears to be exported to China and Canada for big bucks, to be reused for all sorts of things, including decking by Trex.

Wegmans

Wegmans recycling program

And what I said at the meeting, is that every time I bring up the subject of recycling plastic bags as part of a 2 pronged strategy (used at a Mid-Atlantic grocery store called Wegmans, with the help of the plastic bag industry) of both recycling and using reusable bags, I get shouted down by environmentalists that recycling plastic bags is out of the question.

The plastic bags create absolute havoc with the machinery when they are put in the recycling bins here in Newburyport.  They gotta go back to the grocery stores, Market Basket and Shaw’s (or places like Lowe’s, Walmart, Sam’s Club up in Seabrook). People don’t know to bring them back. The plastic bag industry was more than willing to work with Mid-Atlantic grocery store Wegmans.  I feel as if I am shouting against the wind to try and get Newburyport to work with the “bad guys,” the plastic industry, to help us come up with a win-win solution here in Newburyport, because people for all sorts of reasons like their plastic bags, they just haven’t gotten the memo, (well, some have), what to do with them–i.e. return to sender, bring them back.

The article about Wegmans effort concerning plastic bags can be read here, including the video which can also be seen here.

Editor’s Note: From Wegmans Food Market

ROCHESTER, NY - It’s not every day that one good turn earns double credit! But during April, customers who bring their clean, dry plastic bags to a Wegmans Food Market for recycling can feel good twice over: First, for recycling their bags, and second, for helping to increase the contribution Wegmans is making to an organization that’s a friend of the earth, The Nature Conservancy.

Last year in April, Wegmans customers recycled 177,000 pounds of plastic bags – the equivalent of about 11 million new bags. The company wanted to improve on last year’s record and came up with a plan to contribute at least $10,000 to The Nature Conservancy, the leading conservation organization working around the world to protect lands and water for nature and people. To inspire customers to scour closets, pantries and other storage areas for plastic bags to recycle, Wegmans pledged to contribute 50 cents to the Conservancy for every additional pound above last year’s total of 177,000 (with a minimum contribution of $10,000).

“Sustainability is a company-wide priority at Wegmans,” says Sustainability Coordinator Jason Wadsworth, “and the duty to protect air, land and water for people today and tomorrow belongs to all of us. We’re very proud of the steps we and our customers have already taken to reduce, reuse and recycle, but to keep moving in the right direction, we need to keep coming up with more and better ways to conserve these precious resources. It made sense to us to inspire customers to do their best too by working together on this recycling initiative.”

During April, signs near the recycling bins in the stores’ vestibules will remind customers to bring in their plastic bags for recycling, and Wegmans will track the total weight as the month goes by. In addition, on Saturday April 26 between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., the first 300 customers at every store who bring in a bunch of clean dry plastic bags will receive a coupon for a Wegmans reusable bag.

“The reusable bags come in lots of designs and colors, and they’re actually the best option from an environmental standpoint,” Wadsworth says.

Since some customers prefer plastic bags, however, Wegmans has also looked for ways to increase the amount of plastic that is recycled. In January, Wegmans introduced new plastic bags with the slogan “Return to Sender.” The bags are made with 40% recycled plastic. “It helps people to know we put their plastic shopping bags to good use after they bring them back to the store. Our supplier uses those recycled bags as raw material for brand new bags. Last year, together with our customers, Wegmans recycled a total of 3.6 million pounds of plastic bags and wrapping.”

Today, every Wegmans store now uses on average 4,000 fewer plastic carry-out bags per day compared with 2007, the year Wegmans introduced reusable bags and began reformulating its carry-out plastic bags. That’s 120 million fewer bags each year.

To read please see link here.

The Recycling Plastic Bag Slurping Machine

recycle-machine-happyChild

Fun recycling slurping plastic bag machine

I really like the idea of a single use plastic bag recycling slurping machine. (Please see earlier entry here.)

First of all, the plastic bag industry has a huge PR problem on their hands. The sustainable bag folks are right, plastic bags are wandering around not only our local environment, but all over the place.  And the approach at the moment is to ban them outright, which causes all kinds of friction in communities, all over North America.

And it’s time that the plastic bag folks worked with environmentalists instead of against them, because for the plastic bag industry it comes down to keeping your product which equals = $$ money.

For example, If you had a recycling machine that slurped plastic bags (without slurping in little hands that might feed them) for either a small amount of money, or maybe something like points that could be redeemed for money, you could be a hero to young mothers and fathers everywhere. What little child wouldn’t be mesmerized by machine that slurps plastic bags.

If a young mother or father who needs to go to the grocery store, and young Emma or Aiden is tired and cranky and doesn’t want to go to the grocery store, the young parent can say, “Honey, if we go to the slurping plastic bag machine first, will you help mommy or daddy go grocery shopping, and then we can use the rest of the plastic bags at the slurping machine when we’re done.” It might be a real incentive to a) recycle plastic bags and b) go cooperate with their parents at the grocery store. You, plastic bag company,  become a hero.

On one of those horrible rainy days when kids are stuck inside, a trip to your local supermarket or wherever, where young kids can feed in plastic bags to the plastic bag recycling slurping machine, could be a real godsend for something fun + practical to do.  Been in those parents shoes, know what it’s like.

And if little Emma or Aiden can make some money to boot, they are going to be begging their neighbors, their Nana for their plastic bags to take to this fun plastic bag slurping recycling machine.  Pretty soon, Emma and Aiden, whether they are environmentalists or not, learn about recycling because it’s fun, and they get lots of positive feedback from helping people as well.

Schools could have fundraisers using the plastic bag recycling slurping machine, make a little money, and learn how to help the environment while they are doing it. And you plastic bag industry look great.

The plastic bag recycling slurping machine wouldn’t be good just for Newburyport, it would be good for everyone all over the world.  The plastic bag folks could then help solve a world wide problem, and be heroes instead of the goat.

Recycle_BagThe other thing, is that the production of the plastic bag recycling slurping machine would help create a whole new industry and lots of new jobs (preferably here in Massachusetts).

This also assumes that people know loud and clear where to take those single use plastic bags.  Having great big huge “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” logos on plastic bags, and exactly where to return them, would be real easy to legislate (much easier than an outright ban). And plastic bag industry, why not beat the government to the punch, and do that yourselves. Again, you would be heroes, instead of the people known for causing a major environmental problem.

A Fun Way to Recycle Plastic Bags

Recycle_BagRecycle_BagLook, not only do I get that plastic bags are detrimental to our wetland and coastal areas, I agree with it.  However, instead of an outright ban, I’d like a reasonable and practical effort to minimize the use of single use plastic bags.  And I understand that Market Basket has been unresponsive to this issue (and the single use plastic bag industry must be as well, since their “recycle and reuse” logo is so tiny, you can hardly see it), and I hope that the proposed ban forces Market Basket to have a meaningful dialogue with the city council and residents about how to solve this issue.

And this is what I don’t understand.  First of all, it would be a giant PR move for both the single use plastic bag industry and the supermarket industry if they put big, huge colorful “reduce, recycle, reuse” logos on their plastic bags, with where to recycle them (i.e. at Market Basket or Shaws) in big bold letters, instead of in fine print at the bottom.  Both industries would be heroes instead of goats. Seems like a pretty good idea to me. If both those businesses/industries did that, we might not be having this local fight over plastic bags, that we are having now, and they would help the environment all over the place. This would be a good thing.

recycle-machine copy

Fun slurping recycling machine

The other thing is, that if I was an inventor, or if I was the plastic bag industry, I’d find me an inventor, to have a fun way to recycle the plastic bags once they got to the supermarket.  If I was an inventor, I’d invent a machine that slurped the plastic bags in one at a time and gave a penny for each plastic bag, or a penny for 5 plastic bags (whatever is economical and fair).  First of all, little kids (or even grown-ups) would be mesmerized by a machine that slurped plastic bags.

And when you could first get money for returning cans, people were scouring all over the place, cities, suburbs, to find cans to make some extra money.  If you had a fun machine that slurped plastic bags AND got a little dough in the process, I bet the same thing would happen, and I bet you would have a whole lot less single use plastic bags wandering around our environment, and I bet they’d be reduced in a major, major way, pretty quick.  It would be a huge PR win for the plastic bag industry, and they wouldn’t be so vilified and it would be fun to boot. And it would be a good thing for the plastic bag industry to work with environmentalists  to help solve problems for a win-win solution.

Ed Cameron is Running for State Rep

Our Newburyport City Councilor Ed Cameron has announced that he will be running for State Rep to fill Michael Costello’s seat (Mike Costello will not be running for reelection in November).

This email arrived this morning:

Dear Friend,

As you probably know, State Representative Mike Costello announced this past Wednesday that he will not be running for reelection to the First Essex District this November.

I am announcing that I will be a candidate for this House seat.

Thursday’s article in the Daily News linked here provide a great summary of what Mike has meant to the district. The article can be read here.

Mike has been a true champion on issues for Amesbury, Newburyport, and Salisbury.

He has been instrumental in providing State support for bridges, roundabouts, beaches, boardwalks, rail trails, and other important elements that make our communities strong.

I can do a good job representing the citizens of these three communities.

My experience as a Newburyport City Councillor has given me an understanding of where State government needs to do better to sustain local communities, particularly with general local aid, Chapter 70 educational aid, and Chapter 90 transportation funds for local street and sidewalk improvements.

My experience in the nonprofit sector has given me an understanding of how challenging it can be for families to raise and educate their children, find housing they can afford, and get to work on inadequate highways, trains and buses.

Mike has been a strong advocate for us and we’re very fortunate to have Senator Katy O’Connor-Ives represent us in the State Senate.

I want to earn your vote over the next several months. And I do ask for your support. More importantly I respectfully ask for your input on what issues are important to you.

You can click on this link to give me your ideas. The link is here.

I will make a formal announcement in the next few days and begin to collect signatures over the next few weeks. Please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions or want to help.

Thank you,

Ed Cameron
978-518-0786
edcameronNBPT@gmail.com

Meeting to Discuss the Proposed Ban Plastic Bags Ordinance and Contact Information

The Newburyport City Council meeting, the Council of a Whole, to discuss the proposed Ban the Plastic Bag Ordinance, is taking place Tuesday April 1, 2014 at 7PM at City Hall. This is where the public can express their opinions, and legally the members of the City Council can talk about the proposed ordinance together.

The Neighborhood & City Services/License & Permits Committee of Whole
April 1, 2014 – 7:00pm – 8:00pm

Agenda: Thin film plastic bag ordinance

Newburyport City Hall
60 Pleasant St
Newburyport, MA 01950

If you would like to contact the City Councilors and Cc Mayor Donna Holaday, the contact information is below.

Thomas O’Brien – President and Ward 6
thomasobrien11@aol.com

Allison Heartquist – Ward 1
heartquist@gmail.com

Jared Eigerman  – Ward 2
jaredeigerman@yahoo.com

Robert Cronin – Ward 3
croninward3@gmail.com

Charles Tontar – Ward 4
ctontar@comcast.net

Larry Giunta – Ward 5
larrygiunta12@gmail.com

Ed Cameron – Councilor At-Large
edcameronnbpt@gmail.com

Barry Connell – Councilor At-Large
envirocom@comcast.net

Ari Herzog – Councilor At-Large
ariherzog@gmail.com

Meghan Kinsey – Councilor At-Large
meghankinsey@gmail.com

Bruce Vogel – Councilor At-Large
bruce@vogelatlarge.com

Cc Mayor Donna Holaday
mayor@cityofnewburyport.com

Detailed contact information with addresses and phone numbers for the 11 city councilors can be found here.

The Ban Plastic Bags Ordinance – A Newburyport Progressive Political Overreach

OverReachForgive me, but here I go again.

What I see in the Ban Plastic Bags Ordinance, as it is now written and as it has been presented (see 2 earlier posts here and here), is “progressives” overreaching and making the same mistake they made in the 2008-2009 council.

People may not remember that the City Council passed the Wind Turbine through fast, very fast, and it passed with an 11-0 vote.  After the Wind Turbine went up, and there was such an incredible backlash, and people saw the effects that it had on real peoples’ lives, I can’t tell you how many councilors said to me, “What did we do?” and wished there hadn’t been such a rush to judgement. And I’m pretty sure, at that point, the vote would have been pretty close to 11-0 against.

I had hoped that this was one of the most level headed city councils ever. It got off to a good start by being careful, thoughtful and inclusive in its approach to protecting downtown (our brand), and our historic buildings (a whole other post).  (The Planning Board has not made its final recommendation yet, and the City Council has not yet voted–the process is still ongoing.) That governing template and process resulted in a bucketload of good will and trust in our city council.

This overreach, in my mind, is a legislative setback and now an “old school” approach.  And I could imagine exactly how it happened. The Citizens for Sustainable Bagging have been working towards the goal of banning “single use, thin filmed” plastic bags (the ones at Shaws and Market Basket) for 2 years, and they have supporters on the council, which is perfectly natural.  And what most probably happened, was the thought, “We have a progressive city council, finally, and we can now get our agenda (in this case it happens to be an ultra-progressive one) passed.”

Please don’t go there, don’t go that route.  If this passes, as is, without a more moderate approach, what will happen is “conservative” candidates will run in the next City Council election, on a moderate restoration of plastic bags, and you have no idea–they will get so many votes. And if the ordinance, as written, is not made more moderate, that bucketload of trust that this Newburyport City Council has right at the get-go, will be eroded so, so, so very quickly.

ConCom-PBags

Letter from ConCom, press image to enlarge.

Editor’s Note:  I have in front of me a letter to the City Council, on city stationary, from the Conservation Commission, that “does not endorse the complete ban on plastic bags at this time,” but supports “a reasonable and practical effort to minimize the use of plastic bags, as a reduction in their use would have a positive impact on the environment.”  (To read the entire letter, please press the image to the left to enlarge.) Seems fair to me.

Second Editor’s Note: The ConCom minutes of August 6, 2013 which are referenced in the letter above can be read here.

“Discussion of Proposed Plastic Bag Ordinance

Sheila Taintor of the Citizens for Sustainable Bagging discussed the ordinance to ban plastic bags that the group intends to put before the City Council. She asked the Commission members to support the draft ordinance. Members commented that they wish to have more details about the way in which the ban would work and how the ban has been implemented in other communities.

They said that while the plastic bags greatly impact the environment they might favor voluntary compliance or an incentive program over a ban. Paul Healy moved that a letter be sent to the City Council stating that while the Commission does not endorse the ban, it would support a reasonable and practical effort to minimize the use of plastic bags, as a reduction in their use would have a positive impact on the environment. Steve Moore seconded the motion. The motion was approved with Dan Warchol voted in opposition. Julia Godtfredsen will draft a letter for approval at the next meeting.” From ConCom minutes August 6, 2013 which can be read here.

Third Editor’s Note:  This is the complete last paragraph in the letter above to the Newburyport City Council from the Conservation Commission:

“While the Conservation Commission does not endorse the complete ban on plastic bags at this time (due to lack of information on how it has been successfully conducted in other similar municipalities), we would support a reasonable and practical effort to minimize the use of plastic bags, as a reduction in their use would have a positive impact on the environment.”

The Ban the Plastic Bag Ordinance – An Unfortunate Guide for Governing

plasticBag-2

I had two emotions watching last night Newburyport City Council during the public comment period (this is where the public can express their opinion to the City Council before the Council gets down to business).

On the one hand, I was enormously impressed that the young people in our community want to and are learning how, at an early age, to become involved in the “civic” process, and speak so eloquently, and at times passionately about an issue that they believe in. Would that so many other residence in Newburyport become involved in our the process of our city government in the same way.

On the other hand, it makes it very difficult for someone like me, who would like a more measured approach to this particular subject, the issue of banning plastic bags, to speak up and ask for a more moderate approach, without sounding like a complete douche bag (a contemptible and despicable person).

And the other thing, not to repeat myself, but to repeat myself, is that the proposed ordinance to ban plastic bags had seven sponsors.  It is my understanding that when asked to sponsor the ordinance, at least some sponsors were under the impression that they were the second sponsor (which would be the norm), and that it wasn’t until they saw the actually ordinance, as it was presented, that they understood that they were, unwittingly, part of the “gang of seven.”

I think that this is an unwise template for the democratic process on any level, and in this particular case the municipal level. I am glad that eventually a city councilor asked for the Ban the Plastic Bag Ordinance to go to a “Committee as a Whole” (which means that legally all the councilors can discuss the issue together).  And I hope that folks like me, who have a lighter green approach to life, have an opportunity to be “heard” and taken seriously, and not shunned, because on this matter, we have a different point of view on how to address this particular issue.

Proposed Plastic Bag Ban Ordinance — An Unwise Approach

plasticBagI don’t know how to write this post without sounding like a real “bitch.”

There is a proposed ordinance (piece of legislation) that is coming before the Newburyport City Council on Monday night, March 17, 2014, to ban the use of “single use, thin filmed plastic bags,” i.e. the plastic bags one gets at Market Basket and Shaws.

The first, very first thing that I have a problem with in this ordinance, promoted by Newburyport’s Citizens for Sustainable Bagging, and originally championed by City Councilor Barry Connell, is that it has 7 sponsors. (There are 11 members of the Newburyport City Council, and it takes 8 members to pass a piece of legislation.)

I’ve never seen this before. In my experience ordinances are usually sponsored by at most 2 city councilors.

It strikes me that for a proposed ordinance to have 7 sponsors, that it stifles debate, and undermines the democratic process, which to me is unwise. And comes across as manipulative, with the intent of ramming a particular piece of legislation through our city government, without proper input and feedback from the public. To say that I’m disappointed by this approach, when there has been a template for a truly thoughtful way of governance, with the process of the recent proposed zoning amendments (which has been called “brilliant”), is an understatement (the process of the proposed zoning amendments–a whole other post). “Brilliant,” this process of banning plastic bags, it is not.

The ordinance, as now written, has a punitive approach, which in my mind, if pursued, could cause tremendous resentment and a backlash for Newburyport’s Green Community, which has worked very hard over the last decade, led, with tremendous grace, by our Recycling and Energy Coordinator, Molly Ettenborough.

Backlash and resentment against Newburyport’s Green Community is nothing new.  Both the wind turbine, and the effort to turn off all of Newburyport’s street lights, did not win Newburyport’s Green Community a whole lot of friends. Not a good rerun.

And, if one looks back to the City Council of 2008-2009, it was one of the most liberal councils that I have seen.  A fairly robust liberal agenda was pursued, and a major backlash was the result. I would hate to see this council go down that particular road again, especially, when such a thoughtful governing template has already been demonstrated, with the proposed zoning ordinance process.  I’d be concerned with self-destruction a 2nd time. One would hope that history is something to be learned from.

And I think that there are councilors who would suggest a more incentivized approach to this issue, instead of a punitive one.  This might not please the Citizens for Sustainable Bagging.  However, such an approach could avoid a backlash, and make it a whole lot easier for the Newburyport’s Green Community to achieve its long term goals.

Newburyport’s Waterfront did have Buildings

Newburyport's Waterfront, courtesy of the Archival Center at the Newburyport Public Library

Newburyport’s Waterfront, courtesy of the Archival Center at the Newburyport Public Library

I’m sorry, I just can’t help myself.  I will read statements here and there from folks who desperately would like to keep Newburyport’s waterfront open, and the remarks go something like this, “Well, there never were any buildings on the Waterfront.”  Really, I hear this, sometimes, sometimes often.

Actually, that is not true. Not true at all.  And in this weeks Newburyport Daily News, John Macone wrote a fascinating history of the Waterfront, for Newburyport’s 250th anniversary.

Newburyport's Waterfront, courtesy of the Archival Center at the Newburyport Public Library

Newburyport’s Waterfront, courtesy of the Archival Center at the Newburyport Public Library

“This was a crowded, loud, dirty, busy, smelly, bawdy and in later years a somewhat dangerous place, thick with buildings perched on wharves that stretched far out into the Merrimack River. Vessels came and went from ports all over the world, and the riverside rang loud with the clang and bang of shipbuilding yards that lined the shore…”

The Waterfront c1920, courtesy of The Historical Society of Old Newbury

The Waterfront c1920, courtesy of The Historical Society of Old Newbury

And John Macone ends the piece by saying, “Newburyport’s great ship captains of the 18th and 19th century would find today’s central waterfront unrecognizable — too quiet, too neat, too big, and too open.”

You can read the entire article here, along with some fascinating photographs.

Newburyport Tells its Own Past

Photo courtesy of the Archival Center at The Newburyport Public Library

Market Square, Photo courtesy of the Archival Center at The Newburyport Public Library

This is one of my favorite quotes. And I love this photo of Market Square, which is courtesy of the Archival Center at the Newburyport Public Library.

“There can be no significance without memory…And if memory is necessary for significance, it is also necessary for both meaning and value. Without memory nothing has significance, nothing has meaning, nothing has value…

The city tells it own past, transfers its own memory…and it is memory that makes places significant.”

Donovan D. Rypkema, writing about the historic buildings in Newburyport, Massachusett

New Archival Center Link for Historic Photos at The Newburyport Public Library

Historic Photograph

High Street at Summer and Winter Streets Courtesy of the Archival Center at The Newburyport Public Library

There is now a new link to the historic photographs at The Newburyport Public Library Archival Center.  It can be found here.  If you download the photograph please give the Archival Center credit.  Thank you.

(It is one of my pet peeves that people download photographs from The Newburyport Blog and repost them elsewhere, without saying where they come from.)

Peeps, My Bad and a Rubber Chicken

I was going to call this post, “The Mayor is Scary,” but then I decided against it, more fun with the weird title (and part of the title will actually make sense).

I went for a walk a few weeks ago and ran into an old, old acquaintance, and during the conversation, a little out of nowhere, my old acquaintance said to me, “The mayor is scary.”

I can’t tell you, with multi-multiple variations on that particular theme, how many times I’ve heard that sentiment. And if you are a reader of the Newburyport Blog, you’ve either probably said it, or heard it too.

What came out of my mouth in response, (and I think I said this the very first time someone asked me about Donna Holaday, when she first ran for Newburyport City Council), Donna’s husband is a serious, at one time, a real big-time rock and roll (Wikipedia link here) guitar player/singer, who sings a song with a rubber chicken on his head (also in the Wikipedia link) — really. And Joe Holaday has to be one of the most grounded and kindest people I know.  How scary can someone be who’s married to someone who performs a rock and roll song with a rubber chicken on their head, who is also grounded and kind, be? (Unless funky rubber chickens frighten you.)

And this is a woman, who in a recent City Council meeting, gave a history, without notes, with lots of confusing detail, about the Plum Island Water and Sewer mess. Let me tell you, I was impressed.

This is also a woman who can be politically deaf. It is one of her shortcomings. I saw it when Mayor Holaday was a city councilor and I’ve seen it as mayor.  My own personal experience was when it looked like the City could save a bunch of money by turning off all the street lights (really and truly).  I was upset, especially when I got a hold of the list.  And when I made the list public on the Newburyport Blog, a lot of other people were upset too.

Could I tell that the mayor was a little dismayed with me? Yes. Did I take it personally? No.  And Mayor Holaday and the Energy Advisory Committee came up with one brilliant solution, it was a win-win-win solution (way, way too complicated to explain here, but you can sort of understand it, a little bit, here).

Do I disagree with the mayor on some stuff? Yes. Do I wish that Mayor Holaday put more emphasis on things that are my passion, like historic preservation?  Yes.  Do I think she’s perfect? No?  Do I think that she is a good mayor? You betcha.

And I do have an anecdote. I had worked on first “saving” High Street, when it was almost destroyed by MassDOT (then MassHighway) back in 1999 (my intro to local Newburyport politics), and I worked on a Master Plan for High Street for 6 years.  When, in a weird political hurricane, it was denied existence (it was eventually resurrected and sits in the Planning Office, somewhere), then City Councilor Donna Holaday was the only person who called me up, and she said how sorry she was, and how she appreciated all the years of work that I had helped put into the project. That’s something you don’t forget.  At least, that’s something I don’t forget. And that is the Donna Holaday I know.

Two Things I learned during Newburyport’s 2013 Election — And it’s not what you Think

I am a local political junkie. I just can’t help myself. And on the evening of the mayoral primary 0f 2013, I went down to Newburyport City Hall to hear the results.

I love going down to City Hall to hear the whatever election results. There is an excitement and buzz, and no matter what candidate or candidates one might be routing for, there is usually some kidding around and a sense of comraderie. It takes a lot of guts to run for any city office, and admiration for the folks who actually do run for office is palpable.

And then our wonderful City Clerk, Richard Jones, comes out, looking distinguished and dapper in his bow tie. And with a twinkly in his eye and some gravitas, he reads the election results, city ward by city ward (Newburyport has 6 wards), and everyone is scrambling to type the results into their laptops.

(And as a btw Richard Jones is one fantastic artist!! Really. What he is doing in Newburyport City Hall, except bringing a countenance of dignity and calm, beats me. And if you want to see his work, Richard Jones’s new painting hangs proudly in the lobby of Newburyport’s bank, The Institution for Savings, in its home bank branch on State Street. And you can go there and look at it it. I do. Richard Jones’s website can be found here.)

That evening, for the mayoral primary, the chit chat was that the vote was going to be split roughly in thirds, and it was just a matter of which two candidates had some more votes (which btw that is how it “fell.”). And while I was chit chatting with a fellow political junkie they said, “Dick Sullivan has his “peeps.” (Dick Sullivan came in second in the primary.) And I said to myself “peeps??” “Peeps” sounds like ghetto speak. My fellow political junkie is about my age, and I’m no “hip,” sprightly, spring chicken. “Peeps?” I must be really out of it. A new word — “peeps,” which I could never imagine myself effectively executing. “Peeps?”

And during the election cycle I was going to meet with one of the new candidates running for Newburyport City Council. Coffee and chit chat that day didn’t come about, and in apologizing for the miscommunication, the candidate used the phrase “my bad.” “My bad??” I’m thinking, “homies,” “rappers,” and urban ghetto speak?? “My bad??” Am I ever out of it. (I might be able to say, “my bad” one day — perhaps, but I’m not sure I could pull off “peeps.”)

So during the 2013 election I learned two new words/phrases, “peeps” and “my bad,” which might bring me further into the 21st Century, possibly. An etymology lesson during the Newburyport election of 2013, who knew??

Perspective from Newburyport City Councilor Meghan Kinsey

I really appreciate the perspective from Newburyport City Councilor Meghan Kinsey that was expressed in an email to her constituents.

“I would fully agree with Councillor Cameron’s assertion that the Council (10 of the 11 were present) did not “balk”. Quite the contrary. We were intrigued and impressed by Councillor Eigerman’s ability of to remove much of what made the previous LHD proposals so unattractive to many and start new with a zoning change.”  …and “Let me start by saying that this community is quite fortunate to have Councillor Eigerman, and all the expertise he brings, on our council. As a land use attorney who is trained in city planning, we got a lot of “bang for our buck” in him.”  Councilor Kinsey points out that the three proposed ordinances “are heavy with legal-speak and we, as a council, are still trying to get our heads around them.”

Councilor Kinsey’s entire email can be read here.

Have an Opinion and Make People Angry

I came across something to the effect on Facebook of, “Want to make people angry? Have an opinion. Wait.”

This is now my 8th year writing The Newburyport Blog, and I’ve had lots of opinions, on lots of things, and pissed a lot of people off at one time or another. I piss off “Conservatives,” “Natives/Townies,” and, yes, “Progressives.” Conservatives and Townies have one way of reacting, and Progressives have another, equally pesky, way of reacting.

Conservatives and Townies will call me things like “vicious” and “foul,” send me stormy emails, or leave me ranting Facebook messages ALL IN CAPS!!!!!  And accuse me of outrageous felonies and misdemeanors, in print, to the point where I might have a very good case for suing them for libel.  However, since I am among a whole string of fairly illustrious folks that have been accused of libelous actions, I’ve decided to let that one go, at least for now.

Progressives, on the other hand, seem to take to the phone.  I’ll get long and very “intense” phone calls, and when I say, “I think I’ll hang up now,” they call back and continue. An attempt to reduce me to tears is sometimes pursued, and not to rule out possible threats of lawsuits. And sometimes follow-up, guilt-trip emails from young children and college students, in an attempt to get me to change my mind about whatever.

The people who don’t pull these various and sundry maneuvers, interestingly enough, are our local politicians.  Either their possible displeasure is left up to surrogates, or they have developed a thick enough skin, having been in “the game,” to know that people having opinions about things, issues, campaigns and candidates, is part of the democratic process. It’s called free speech.

(And P.S. whether it’s a Conservative, townie or a Progressive that pulls one of these vagaries, believe me, I do not forget.)

Zoning Overlay NOT a Local Historic District (LHD)

Unfortunately the Newburyport Daily News has repeatedly reported that a Local Historic District (LHD) is being proposed.  This is NOT the case, there is NO LHD period.  I am extremely disappointed in our paper of record.  I feel that it is the paper’s responsibility to inform and educate people, not to scare them. To me saying that this proposal is a LHD is like shouting “Fire” in a crowded room, when there is no fire, for me this is unfortunate and irresponsible journalism.  I expect more from the Newburyport Daily News.

Newburyport City Councilor Ed Cameron has clarified what is being proposed in the comment section of the latest Newburyport Daily News article on the subject.  Here it is:

Several clarifications to this reporting are necessary:

First of all this is not a single proposal by Councillor (Jared) Eigerman. He has submitted three separate zoning ordinance changes. Although they can be seen as related, they are each separate.

The three are:

1) a proposal establishing an Interim Downtown Overlay District is zoning that would preserve our historic downtown. Currently there are zero protections since the deed restrictions related to the HUD rehab of downtown which were in effect from 1971-2005 have lapsed. The Planning Board which oversees downtown site plan review would be the Special Permit Granting Authority.

Please note that Councillor Eigerman’s submitted change for downtown zoning is not a local historic district. A local historic district is created under Massachusetts Gen. Laws Chapter 40 C. What is proposed is a zoning change, not a local historic district, and is covered by Massachusetts Gen. Laws Chapter 40A. In this proposal, the local Historic Commission is not involved.

2) a proposal establishing an Interim Demolition Control Overlay District is zoning which would establish protections regarding teardowns in the Federal Newburyport Historic District established in 1984. The ZBA would be the Special Permit Granting Authority in these cases.

3 ) a proposal to amend our off-street parking regulations so that developers who are making a use change or building a new development and want to use public parking to meet their parking requirements will have to pay for it.

Please note that the Council Planning and Development Committee and Committee of the Whole did not “balk” at approving these zoning changes last night. The process is that these zoning changes will go to a Joint Public Hearing of the Planning Board and the Council’s Planning and Development Committee, an opportunity for the public to give input. Any zoning change in Newburyport must go through this process before the City Council takes action. That meeting has been advertised in the Daily News and will occur on Wednesday, February 19 at 7 PM at City Hall.

More details are here:

Councillor Ed Cameron”

Editor’s Note:  This is a comment  from John Macone, the Editor of the Newburyport Daily News, in the comment sections in the latest article in the Newburyport Daily News.  I appreciate it a lot.

“ Thank you for your comments. I agree with commenters who have said this is not a true local historic district proposal, as set down in state law. However, it is also clear that these zoning amendments seek to achieve some of the same protections/property restrictions that the LHD contained.

I’ve changed the headline to better reflect the intent of Councilor Eigerman’s proposals. Also, we will be following up shortly with a comprehensive explanation of the similarities and differences between these proposals and the LHD proposal.
John Macone, editor”

The headline was changed to: “Historic Protections Proposed for Downtown.”