Category Archives: Human Nature

Market Basket, Update August 8, 2014–”Off With Their Heads”

Market Basket

Market Basket

Well, they went and did it. As I write, roughly 20,000 part time associates at Market Basket–their hours next week have been cut to zero.

As I understand it Market Basket employs 25,000 people.

Market Basket’s new CEOs have claimed that the 8,000 part time associates in New Hampshire and 12,000 associates in Massachusetts, have not been laid off.

It’s a technicality, zero hours = no work, and the attorney generals in New Hampshire and Massachusetts are addressing the issue of associates receiving unemployment benefits.

Oy Veh.

Councilor Colin Van Ostern from New Hampshire writes/tweets, “Cutting 8,000 #MarketBasket part-timers from work next wk is economic equivalent of a natural disaster, that is how state must treat it.”

What is so creepy, is that the new Market Basket CEOs are letting the store managers do all their dirty work. The CEOs claim that no one is being laid off. Again, sort of a technicality.

And part time often is 25-35 hours a week, we are not talking about just a few hours here and there for 20,000 people.

So the workers stuck their necks out, and the CEOs and current Board of Directors said, “Off with their heads.”

“The impact of these cutbacks in hours will be devastating, if not crippling, to the majority of the company’s 25,000 employees. Again, it needs to be made clear, the only people striking are the drivers, warehouse workers and those who work in the offices at HQ. But these draconian cuts will impact the employees at all 71 stores.

Many of these employees are college and high school students, single parents and retirees on fixed incomes. These cuts will be crushing.

Which is exactly why Gooch, Thornton and Arthur S. are doing it. They want to rip the very heart out of this employee rebellion by hurting its most vulnerable participants.

They are intentionally punishing those workers who had the temerity to speak their minds and support Arthur T. and the strikers. These employees had the gall to stand up against what they believed to be a wrong being done to their former boss and their fellow workers. All the while, reporting for work every day and doing their jobs.

Their only “crime” is loyalty, a love of their company and their boss and exercising their First Amendment rights…” From Your Tewksbury Today. The entire article can be read here.

Newburyport, Market Basket, Update August 1, 2014

This morning, before I went to Shaw’s to go grocery shopping, I stopped by Market Basket to see how they were doing.

Empty Parking lot at Market Basket, Newburyport

Empty Parking lot at Market Basket, Newburyport

The parking lot was empty.

The employees at Market Basket are not afraid of the yesterday’s threat by the two new CEOs. They were out protesting again on Storey Avenue, and people were honking like mad in support–a practical symphony.

Employees protesting on Storey Ave, at Newburyport's Market Basket

Employees protesting on Storey Ave, at Newburyport’s Market Basket

There were signs all over Market Basket’s front windows.

Signs on Newburyport's Market Basket's front window

Signs on Newburyport’s Market Basket’s front window

And signs in front of the door.

Signs in front of Market Basket's door

Signs in front of Market Basket’s door

And the front window is now littered with receipts from other grocery stores, put there by customers.

And the front window is now littered with receipts from other stores from put up by customers.

The front window is now littered with receipts from other stores, put there by customers.

There is even a heartfelt letter from a customer taped to the window.

A heartfelt letter from a customer

A heartfelt letter from a customer

The parking lot at Shaw’s was jammed. And inside Shaw’s the aisles were full and there were lines at the checkout counters. Peoples’ carts were full. They were shopping there for the weekend.

And I talked to folks. I talked to one woman who said that she had been shopping at Market Basket since 1968, and she wouldn’t go back until Arthur T was once again in charge.

Customers continue their boycott of Market Basket and employees continue to protest (on their days off and on their breaks).

And again, as for the threat of a job fair, if people are working, who is going to go.

And you can see coverage on this story by MSNBC’s “All In with Chris Hayes” here.

Market Basket’s CEOs Scare Tactics and a Misleading and Manipulative PR Statement

Customers grocery slips from other stores on Market Basket's door

Customers grocery slips from other stores on Market Basket’s door and a poster of Arthur T

Late yesterday afternoon, Market Basket’s new CEOs released a PR statement that got a lot of attention all over the world (I’m not kidding). The headline in today’s Daily Mail, UK, “Grocery chain threatens to sack ALL its workers unless they return to work from mass protests to save “It’s a Wonderful Life CEO who lost control of the company.” The article can be read here.

The CEOs’ statement “We want Market Basket associates back to work…” And it states that they are going to hold a job fair to replace workers starting Monday August 4–August 6th. The whole statement can be read here.

The manipulative implication of the PR statement is that no one is working at the Market Basket stores. And it wasn’t only the UK’s Daily Mail that came to that conclusion, papers all over the country and the world came to the same conclusion as well (the PR statement exploded on Twitter and Facebook yesterday afternoon and evening).

My take, the PR statement was designed to cause panic, fear, anger–anger at the Market Basket employees, and to make folks think that the employees aren’t working, when they are.

It could also be a PR ploy to get the word out, that the stores are actually running (although devoid of, as of yesterday, dairy, produce and meat). A test to see if customers actually return.

I only know about our Market Basket in Newburyport. ALL of the employees are working (some of their hours have been cut back). The employees are protesting on their days off and on their breaks. No trucks from the warehouse have been refused. Many Market Basket managers and assistant managers have signed a petition promising to resign unless Arthur T. Demoulas is reinstated as their boss. BUT, they have not resigned because, the Board of Directors (at least as I write this) has not announced any decision, so they are very much on the job.

How do I know this, I’ve gone over to Newburyport’s Market Basket any number of times to see what is going on for myself.

These folks, the new CEOs, are playing real mean, manipulative hardball. And as of last night it has become not only a local and national story, but an international mega story as well.

The “David vs. Goliath story, a ‘Tale of Two Arthurs’ and even the ‘ultimate Greek tragedy,” To quote the UK’s Daily Mail, has now captured the imagination of the world.

A PR set-up by the CEOs, and may it backfire big time.

The anger that I feel is towards the existing Board of Directors and new the CEOs that they hired.

Market Basket Update, Continuing PR Disaster, and Real Time Info from Twitter and Facebook

Outside-Market-Basket

Outside Newburyport’s Market Basket

On this gorgeous summer day, in the middle of Newburyport’s Yankee Homecoming, what am I doing? I’m tracking Twitter for the latest updates on the Market Basket Story, going up to Market Basket, not for groceries, but to find out what’s going on and taking photos.

Customers grocery slips from other stores on Market Basket's door

Customers grocery slips from other stores on Market Basket’s door

And what one of the things that is so fascinating to me, is that this Market Basket story is unfolding in real time on Twitter and Facebook. And many of the sources that I now have, are the same one’s that the news media has. I’m hooked.

Aisles-empty-of-customers

Aisles are empty of customers at noon.

So this is what I’ve picked up: Arthur T’s original bid was turned down by the Market Basket’s Board of Director’s (unconfirmed), and then there were 4 other bids that were withdrawn after all the chaos started (unconfirmed), for chaos, see previous posts. That’s all in all likelihood, probably right, but, again, “unconfirmed.”

No-produce

No produce at Market Basket

What is confirmed is that a major player in the family, Rafaela Evans Demoulas, Arthus S’s sister-in-law, arrived back in Boston yesterday. What is also reported, as I write, on Twitter, and on Save Market Basket’s Facebook page, is that Arthur T’s offer is now the only one on the table, and that both sides are working, “around the clock to hammer out a deal; #MarketBasket losing millions of dollars a day amid turmoil.” (From a Boston Globe tweet that can be read here).

No-lines-at-checkout

No checkout lines at Market Basket at lunch time.

And at our very own local Newburyport Market Basket, people are out protesting in force on Storey Ave. The door to Market Basket is littered with receipts from other stores put up by customers. Inside, the store is virtually empty of customers. No produce has been delivered to the store since last Tuesday. There has been no delivery of any dairy products except ice-cream. And as you can see from the photos, although there are other things on the shelves, the customers, by and large, have seemed to boycotted Market Basket in favor of other stores. And there are no baked goods, but on the wall behind the empty display cases, there is a picture of Artie T and a sign that says “Artie T We Support You,” (press photo to enlarge).

Bakery-and-sign

The bakery, empty, with a picture of Artie T and a sign that says “Artie T. We Support You.” (Press image to enlarge.)

Yes, You Can Buy Food in Newburyport, and Market Basket’s Continued PR Disaster

Market Basket, Newburyport

Still Protesting for Market Basket on Storey Ave in Newburyport

I went to Shaw’s this morning bright and early, 8:45, and it was packed and the shelves were stocked and being continuously restocked.

What I sensed among shoppers, many clearly were Market Basket shoppers, was a sense of bewilderment and a sense of panic, “Will I be able to get groceries,” Will I be able to afford groceries,” “Are the groceries here any good.”

The answer is “Yes,” you will be able to get groceries, do not panic, and Shaw’s grocery store, from my conversation with various folks, is doing its best to welcome customers, be unbelievably gracious to customers, welcome back customers, and to do everything they can to take advantage of the opportunity that has now been given them. I was very impressed. Shaw’s hasn’t been this hop’n in a very, very long time.

Arthur S. Demoulas Interview with Boston's Channel 7

Arthur S. Demoulas Interview with Boston’s Channel 7

Market Basket, Board of Directors, this is a very bad thing for you.

And I went over to Market Basket, to put up my Shaw’s grocery receipt up on the window, which was now crowded with receipts from other grocery stores, and the parking lot was empty.

The one shopper that I saw starting to go in, turned around and left.

Wow!!

And Market Basket employees were out on Storey Ave protesting again with signs and had signs just outside the door and the petition to sign, having had a rally for Arthur T. Demoulas yesterday, with an estimated 10,000 people (the story can be read here.)

And yesterday I watched Boston’s Channel 7, WHDH, trying to get a response from President, Arthur S. Demoulas before yesterday’s board meeting.

I was, excuse me, appalled by his behavior when asked about his customers and loyal employees, to me the arrogance and contempt he displayed was astounding (you can watch that exchange here).

To me this is a continuing PR nightmare for Market Basket, Arthur S. Demoulas, the current management, and the Board of Directors. Wow!! And the emotional and psychological stress that it is putting on the community is palpable.

Market Basket/Demoulas Dysfunctional Family Threatens Jobs, Economy, Food in New England

I went foraging for food today.  I went to Shaw’s. On my way past Market Basket there were employees that I’ve known for a long time out on Storey Avenue protesting with signs. And I honked like mad in support.

Market Basket, Newburyport

Protesting for Market Basket on Storey Ave in Newburyport

I talked to one of the employees at Shaws.  The grocery store is scrambling to keep up with demand, and the gentleman thanked me for being patient and supportive of their effort to get food on the shelves for the folks in Newburyport. He also said that he fully supported the workers at Market Basket, and I quote:

“Once it’s no longer in the family and it becomes public, it’s all over.”

(And I remember Shaw’s when it went public.  The prices there are now a whole lot higher than at Market Basket. And as I remember it, it didn’t used to be that way.)

Market Basket, Newburyport

Protesting for Market Basket on Storey Ave in Newburyport

Then I went over to Market Basket and took photos of the people protesting.  Their spirits seemed to be much better today than they were yesterday.  I think they really appreciate the local support, and the larger support for their effort.

Market Basket, Newburyport

Protesting for Market Basket on Storey Ave in Newburyport

I put my Shaw’s grocery slip in the window at Market Basket, I hope other folks do the same.

Market Basket

Shaw’s grocery slip taped inside Market Basket by a customer

And one of my favorite photos is of a really sweet young lady holding a sign inside Market Basket, next to the photo or Arthur T, that says, “More for your dollar Family.”

Market Basket, Newburyport

Protesting inside Market Basket

For an explanation of what’s going on, my favorite is still Buzzfeed, “Mind-Blowing Pictures of Empty Shelves As Employees Protest Corporate Greed,” which can be read here. Yesterday’s post on the Newburyport Blog about Market Basket, “Newburyport, Market Basket, a PR Disaster,”can be read here.

Market Basket, Newburyport

Sign outside Market Basket in Newburyport

Newburyport, Market Basket, a PR Disaster

Today, walking into Market Basket, one of Newburyport’s grocery stores , the one that I have shopped at for decades, it felt as if there had been a local disaster, and the employees were required to do their best, stocking what they could in a very spooky feeling store.

empty-store

Not many people in Newburyport’s Market Basket, or check-out line.

I walked around, took photos, and asked how the folks who worked there were doing. Some said that they were holding up Ok, some said that they were really scared.

no produce Market Basket

No produce on Newburyport’s Market Basket’s shelves.

Buzzfeed has an article, “Mind-Blowing Pictures of Empty Shelves As Employees Protest Corporate Greed,” which explains what is going on, better than I can.  I’ll quote from that article, which can be read in its entirety here.

Newburyport's Market Basket-empty shelves

Empty Shelves at Newburyport’s Market Basket

“Deliveries from Market Basket’s warehouses were halted on Friday, July 18th as warehouse workers walked out to protest the firing of three top level executives in the company…

Market Basket, a family-owned company founded on principles of quality, low prices, and excellent customer service, fell victim to a long-running family feud last year which resulted in board room shake-ups and the ouster of beloved CEO Arthur T. Demoulas…. He is famous for his hands-on approach to management and frequently visited the chain’s 70+ stores, chatting with managers, associates, and customers…

After the new management team refused to address concerns regarding Artie T’s removal, associates, vendors, customers, and even Massachusetts lawmakers banded together to send the board and the new CEOs a strong message about loyalty to their Market Basket “family” through boycotts, rallies, and petitions…

Stores remain open and fully staffed, but with no deliveries everything from produce and meat to plastic shopping bags is in short supply…

On July 20th, at least eight more high-level associates from the corporate office were fired via a letter delivered to them by courier. The eight highly respected associates lost had a combined 280 years of experience with the company….

Associates maintain that they are fighting not just for themselves and their co-workers, but for customers as well, many of whom have fixed or low incomes and rely on Market Basket’s low prices…”

Market Basket, Newburyport, empty parking lot

Pretty empty parking lot at Market Basket

The complete story on Buzzfeed can be read here.

Late to the Instagram Planet

I find myself often late to many planets.  Late to the David Sedaris planet (my discovery of David Sedaris, or the “scull guy,” Christmas 2008 here), who has now become probably my most favorite writer, and “Me Talk Pretty One Day,” probably my most favorite book.

Hal-In

(An Instagram portrait of my son, Hal, who always, graciously, seems to acquiesce to his mother’s instinct to create yet another portrait of him.)

In my rebellion about being chained to a cell phone at all times, I was one of the last people on earth to get a “smart phone,” and probably the very, very last person on earth to text (I still do not like texting. I find it to be yet another handy way to avoid human interaction.)

Although, as my son pointed out, I did “tweet,” long before others (including my son) “twittered,” and blogged, low 7+ years now, when people, in general, thought blogging to be a weird and unnatural thing.  So I have actually been on some planets on the early, rather than almost late/last side of the equation.

And Instagram, who knew, not moi. (You have to have a smart phone, or a tablet, or something to Instagram, so, of course I was wildly late-ish to the Instagram planet.)  And along with reading David Sedaris, Instagram, at least for the moment, has become one of my favorite occupations (this is a vast understatement).

And I am so new to the Instagram planet, that it is instantaneously instant, so it may fade after a time. But for this time, I am most definitely “hooked.”

My at the moment, obsessive Instagraming can be found here.

(I am hoping that this is a nice change of pace from the subject of plastic bags — see a lot of earlier posts.)

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.

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.

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

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.

The Jackals are Out – Newburyport Zoning

It didn’t take long. And yes, they are back.  The Say No to LHD Jackals are back.  Lyndi Lanphear, who got soundly defeated in November’s election for Newburyport City Council at Large, coming in second to last, is out with a Letter to the Editor in today’s Newburyport Daily News, that once again twists the facts, misrepresents the facts, and tries to scare the wits out of people by telling them stuff that is blatantly not true.

And Larry Cavalieri is in the cheering commenting section of the Newburyport Daily News, with comments that one can only think are meant to not only twist the facts, but intimidate people into not speaking up as well. “Vicious” and “foul,” are words, in my mind, that are not meant to be an “opinion,” but words that are meant to be invective.

And The Newburyport Daily News, btw, all sorts of anonymous commentators are also back.  Might want to clear that one up.

I can only hope that this Newburyport City Council can stay above the screaming fray, and come up with a good and equitable decision on Newburyport City Councilor Jared Eigerman’s three detailed and thoughtful zoning proposals.

And if you would like the correct information please press here.

Update:  Lyndi Lanphear has organized a meeting this Saturday to try and stop the zoning proposals from ever happening. Newburyport City Councilor Jared Eigerman has offered to explain to the people at that meeting what the zoning amendments are actually about, and what they hope to accomplish (zoning is complicated).  It is my understanding that Mrs. Lanphear has not taken Councilor Eigerman up on his charitable offer. It is my opinion that Lyndi Lanphear would rather confuse, obfuscate and frighten people with fictitious statements, than acknowledge the facts, and make constructive and helpful observations, the way Dick Hordon, the chair of the Say No to LHD group, who Councilor Eigerman sat down with, already has.

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.)