Category Archives: Human Nature

Newburyport’s DPS Deserves a Better Budget and a Big “Thank You”

Nbpt-DPS-TruckI wrote this on The Newburyport Blog back in November 18, 2007:

“It must have been about 4 or 5 years ago during one of the winters from Hell that we had, I called the DPW (Department of Public Works) (the DPW is now combined into the DPS, Department of Public Services) and asked if there could be anyway that they could send a plow to re-plow our small street.

In a very short time a big plow appeared and did one heck of a spectacular job.

I wrote the DPW a thank-you note, saying how much I appreciated their extra care and consideration.

When I talked to whoever at the then DPW a little bit later, they said, I believe, that my “thank you” note was the only one that they had ever received, and that they put it up on the bulletin board as a morale booster for the folks that had been working so hard.

Wow.

Apparently, Newburyport city employees often do not get thanked for a job well done.”

They sure don’t. I wish people would thank them more, and complain less.

And it is my opinion that the DPW (DPS) is incredibly under-staffed and under-budgeted. They are so important for the safety, welfare and in this case, in the winter of 2015, after a crazy amount of snow, sanity of our city.

Yes, I understand that every department is understaffed, and that we as a city “have no money” (I often tell people we have $8,000 for 8 million dollars++ worth of stuff that needs to be done). We seem to be screaming for money for our schools, I believe we need to start demanding more money for the DPS.

And as a btw, these folks are still not treated with the respect they deserve. I still try to thank them and tell them how much I appreciate all that they do when I see them. And I’ve still been told repeatedly, that attitude is unusual, mostly they just seem to be yelled at. And yes, at the moment, after all the snow storms, the streets are really bad in places, but they’ve been literally working around the clock, and are given the equivalent of teaspoons to try and remove an unprecedented amount of snow.

Newburyport’s 40R District around the Train Station

Newburyport is beginning the process of thinking about rezoning the area around the train station, so that there can be a mix of residential units and businesses. This is called a 40R Smart Growth District. This is nothing new, the city has been talking about this since 2004.

“Chapter 40R, encourages communities to create dense residential or mixed-use smart growth zoning districts, including a high percentage of affordable housing units, to be located near transit stations, in areas of concentrated development such as existing city and town centers, and in other highly suitable locations.”

Here is a 2015 map of the proposed 40R District. It includes the area around Lunt and Kelly, where Dunkin’ Donuts is around the traffic circle, it goes up Rt 1 by Haley’s Ice Cream and includes the proposed building by Minco at the train station.

Newburyport-40R-Smart-Growth-Village-District-Map-12-11-2014-small

The 2015 map of the proposed 40R District (press image to enlarge)

Here are the 2 conceptual drawing that were done in 2004 by the Planning Office. The view is from Parker Street coming from Newbury. The first rendering is the way it looks now, the second rendering, done in 2004 (we don’t have an update yet) is what the proposed 40R District might look like. It’s a little confusing, but if you download the two renderings and put them side by side it becomes a little clearer.

Strategic Land Use Plan-small

The 2004 rendering of how the area looks now (press image to enlarge)

Strategic Land Use Plan2-small

The 2004 rendering of what the 40R District could look like (press image to enlarge).

At the moment there is a certain “rush” to get this 40R District going, because Minco would like to build at the train station (this is nothing new, it has been going on for a while) and has a deadline (which may or may not be flexible). And the city gets money for a 40R District (we always need money).

BUT, I think that it is very important to ask hard questions during this process, and be sure to think things through.

So here are a few of my “hard” questions and concerns and reservations.

1) The Minco design at the train station has to look great. At the moment I haven’t talked to anyone who thinks that it is in anyway acceptable.

2) There needs to be a “design review” for that area. This gateway to the city can’t look awful.

3) Traffic. The maximum buildout, when last I heard was 800 units. Folks that I’ve talked to think that it would be a lot less, more like 500 units. We don’t know the exact numbers yet, but even 400-500 units is a lot.

The 2004 rendering of what the area would look like, seems idyllic to me. There are no cars. If that area were to be built out, at rush hour it would be a complete nightmare.

4) Pedestrian traffic. Even with the rail trail, there is no way to safely and or practically cross either the traffic circle or Route 1 to get downtown, even at the crossing at Rt1 at what is called “Back Bay.” People want to get from the area on foot and they want, and do try to get to State Street, which is insanely dangerous. I think at one point there was an idea for a pedestrian bridge, but, oh my, that would cost so much money.

5) I still can’t envision anyone wanting to live up along Rt1, even with the rail trail there. The view is butt ugly, with Rt1 on onside and a view of the Industrial Park on the other.

6) I also can’t imagine anyone wanting to live around the traffic circle, especially where Dunkin’ Donuts is located. The view towards Newbury as it is now, is lovely. However, I would think living next to a dangerous traffic circle would be unappealing, and figuring out a way to walk from there, much less having a denser number of people trying to exit at that location by car, raises the question of safety to me.

7) The area on State Street.  The intersection where the Court House, Parker Street, State Street and the Traffic Circle intersect is wicked dangerous. I’ve seen really bad accidents there. If that area becomes densely populated, that intersection becomes even more dangerous. And I don’t like the prospect of getting MassDOT involved–Salisbury Square is a cautionary tale for everyone, of what never to do, and of how MassDOT can really mess up an area.

So, I totally get building at the train station if it is done well. And I have a lot of questions about building in the other proposed areas. And I hope, that through this process we don’t ram this through because of Minco’s deadline, and the fact that we would like the money from the state.

You Can go to Jail in Florida for Buying Hearing Aides Online

You can go to jail in Florida for buying a hearing aide online. How do I know this obscure and weird piece of information, one might ask? circuitous research that has oddly led me to pass on some very helpful information to other people–so, why not pass this information on, on The Newburyport Blog?

HearingAid

Behind the ear hearing aids are becoming stylish and are the size of a dime.

Back in my 30’s (oh, so long ago) I was told that I had some hearing loss. I was told this along the way by an astute physician. I did nothing for decades. And yes, eventually it became obvious that something needed to be looked into.

Very short version. If you go to an audiologist, hearing aids (and yes, those of us who are “younger” sometimes need them) can cost between $4,000-$6,000 and up for a pair. And insurance doesn’t pay for them. Whoowza. The price of a number of brand spanking new laptops or a used car. Good grief.

However, several things have conspired to help those whom, “You’ve gotta be kidding,” is their fist and final remark.

First, the internet happened. Second, the FDA did something (which I really don’t understand) that makes it possible to sell hearing aids through folks other than audiologists. Third, some very bright young men were horrified that either their family members or patients were forced to do without, or take out a loan to buy hearing aids, and they went and did something about it (creating hearing aids that vary from $500 to $1,400 a pair). Fourth, Costco, of all places, has gotten into the business of selling hearing aids in bulk big time (for around $2,000 for a pair).

What I went looking for was a first step version of a hearing aid. The equivalent of going to CVS and buying a pair of reading glasses, before eventually making the big leap and going for the more expensive prescription version.

After copious amount of research I found a young Otolaryngologist (a hearing doctor) based in Chicago who was upset that so many of his patients couldn’t afford, and therefore didn’t get the hearing aids that they needed. Dr. Cherukuri came up with a generic, “one size fits most,” that are  apparently not cheap in quality, hearing aid for his patients and now for anyone who wants to buy them. MDHearingAids–starting at $360 a pair to $600 a pair to $1,000 a pair, with a 45 day trial period. Unbelievable rave reviews. Sounded good to me.

Reading a New York Times article on this same dilemma, I found out about Audicus. You send in a copy of your hearing test, that insurance does pay for, and then they customize your hearing aide to fit the prescription, and then mail it to you for $1,200-$1,300-$1,400 a pair, with a 45 day trial period. They are also trying to take away the stigma of having a hearing aid by making them look sexier (not your grandpa’s hearing aid any more).

And then there is Costco, rave review everywhere. They do the hearing test right there, they work with major hearing aid manufactures, they have their own line, and pair goes for around $2,000, with a 90 day trial period.

And you can imagine that audiologists all over the place are having a fit about this. And that’s how I found out that some are having such a fit that in a state like Florida, buying a hearing aid online is a second degree misdemeanor and you can get up to 6 months in jail (although apparently that has never happened to anyone). Who knew that the editor of The Newburyport Blog would discover such an amazing tidbit of information. It makes me wish that I had the talents of someone like Carl Hiaasen because, Whowza, what a fun satire on all sorts of things someone could make out of that small little soupcon of information.

The Fluoride Wars Come to Newburyport

waterwater1

On Monday night outside Newburyport’s City Hall, there were protesters with anti-fluoride signs and people screaming “poison.”

Inside City Hall were there were a stream of people, from all over the region (a couple who actually lived in Newburyport) speaking about the evils of fluoride in Newburyport’s drinking water.

Daniel Eyink of Dr. Dan’s Natural Healing Center on High Street, is a leader of the anti-fluoride opponents. Dr. Dan worked as an internist and primary care doctor in Newburyport starting in 1998 and started his healing center in 2009.

Dr. Dan probably has the best bedside manner of any doctor around. If all doctors followed his example on his bedside manner, the medical profession would be a far better place. My understanding is that Dr. Dan is often the person of last resort when medical professionals cannot figure out how to help a patient. And Dr. Dan is well loved and respected by many people in the community. However, if my doctor helped lead a movement against something that every world health organization enthusiastically endorses, I wouldn’t even say a peep, I’d just find another doctor.

The American Medical Association (AMA), the American Dental Association (ADA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the World Health Organization (WHO), American Academy of Family Physicians, and  the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which named the measure one of the 10 greatest public health achievements of the 20th century–all of these organizations are in agreement that fluoride in the water supply is not only safe, but also extremely effective and important in preventing tooth decay. For the anti-fluoride folks, this does not matter. Fluoride is “poison.” And for me this point of view is not unlike some people not getting vaccinated for measles, mumps and chickenpox, and thereby putting a whole new population at risk.

Newburyport City Councilors Meghan Kinsey and Ari Herzog have put a proposal to the Newburyport City Council to put banning fluoride on this November ballot. If the Newburyport City Council decides to put this issue on the ballot, it will make the 50 year fight over Newburyport’s Waterfront, and the fight over the Local Historic District look positively civilized.

Slate documented what happened in Portland when this issue came to a vote. The anti-fluoride folks went for a black and white, no holds barred approach based on fear, hysteria and faulty science, and successfully persuaded the people of Portland to vote against having fluoride in the water system–fear and doubt, out did reason and good medical science (the article can be read here).

Newburyport City Councilors Meghan Kinsey and Ari Herzog have put the rest of the City Council between a rock and a hard place. Does the City Council let the people of Newburyport vote, democracy and all, or do they say this is absolutely ridiculous, we are not subjecting the city of Newburyport to voting on such nonsense, and dividing the community over hysteria, fear and misguided science.

If they do decide to put it on the ballot, judging by Monday night–Wow.

Leading–the Best and the Worst of the Legislative Process, Newburyport 2014

CityOfNewburyport

This year, 2014, it is my opinion that Newburyport saw the best and the worst examples of the legislative process in the Newburyport City Council

THE BEST

The best was the attempt to preserve Newburyport’s historic assets.

The process had its origins in Newburyport’s raucous and rancorous LHD debate (see endless posts). The two sides as I now look back:

1) Preserving Newburyport’s historic assets through regulations governed by a particular commission.
2) A concern about the control of that commission, and a distrust of commissions like it in other communities.

I ended up thinking that both were valid points of view.

And then Newburyport City Councilor Katy Ives spent a good year and a half listening to all and sundry and came up with an incredible win-win solution.

1) The properties before 1930 in Newburyport’s Historic District could not be demolished.
2) Newburyport’s commercial downtown, our “brand,” needed to be preserved.

Katy Ives got elected to the Massachusetts State Senate, and the compromise by Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives died. Poof.

That is until Jared Eigerman got elected as Ward 2’s City Councilor. And Councilor Eigerman met with the “Yes LHD” folks, the “No LHD” folks, hardcore preservationists, and hardcore property rights folks. It was made clear that no one was going to get everything they wanted, and that an ordinance would be presented that was possible in the existing political climate. It was basically what Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives had proposed a year and a half before.

People may have not liked all of it, but it passed unanimously with an 11-0 vote.

And people, whether they liked all of it or not, did not:

1) Feel ignored
2) Feel invisible
3) Feel as if their insights were insignificant

People felt that a decision had been made that took into account a wide variety of feelings and thoughts about the issue.

The result = a whiff, or slightly more than a whiff, of trust and hope.

THE WORST

The worst legislative process in 2014 by the Newburyport City Council in my opinion was the Plastic Bag Ban.

For me this was the most frustrating and appalling legislative process that I have been involved in. During that process, all kinds of very productive points of view and ideas were presented. They were swept under the rug.

As a result people:

1) Felt ignored
2) Felt invisible
3) Felt as if their insights were insignificant

People felt that a decision had been made that did not take into account a wide variety of feelings and thoughts about the issue.

The measure passed with a split vote of 6-5 with 2 of the City Councilors who voted for the measure, expressing doubt and reservation on the Council floor.

The result = a huge lack of trust, a festering sore and lingering resentment, and discouragement (the opposite of hope) in a process that did not reflect the larger representation of the citizens of Newburyport.

Newburyport, Market Basket and Artie T are Back!!

Market Basket Associates excited to be back

Newburyport Market Basket Associates excited to be back

What an emotional roller coaster this has been. I have put up photos of the associates at Newburyport’s Market Basket as they have been triumphantly boycotting the store (along with Newburyport area customers), but I didn’t put up any photos of the times that I checked on them, when things seemed bleak, and there spirits struggled.

But this morning, the associates were elated that their boss, Artie T and his entire management team, including the 8 who were fired, are back.

MarketBasketSign

Market Basket sign inside window

And I listened to Arthur T. Demoulas’s talk to the associates this morning. It was incredibly moving, and I cannot imagine too many CEOs in this country saying anything like what he said today. Here are some quotes from the speech.

“It is not about a “Greek Tragedy,” it is about justice, and a moral compass that unites the human soul.”

“Everyone has purpose, everyone has meaning, but no one person is better or more important than another.”

“No one person holds the position of privilege, whether it’s a full timer, a part timer, a stacker or a cashier, or a grocery clerk, or a truck driver, or a warehouse director, a store manager, a supervisor, a customer or a vendor, or a CEO, we are all equal.”

“You, associates, customers, vendors, have taught professors and analysts that the workplace at Market Basket is so much more than a job.”

“Today is a day in modern history where people were put first and all the money in the world did not matter.”

I hope that this Market Basket revolution changes how places like Harvard Business School teach its students how to be CEOs–fairness, dignity and people first, money second. It sounds simple, but unfortunately in our culture, it is a truly revolutionary approach to being a CEO.

Market Basket sign inside window

Market Basket sign inside window

A video of Arthur T. Demoulas’s speech and triumphant return, courtesy of the Lowell Sun, can be seen here.

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.