Category Archives: Human Nature

Peace With Your Enemy

Peace with your enemy

Peace with your enemy

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” (From Long Walk to Freedom, 1995) – Nelson Mandela

This quote seems very appropriate for Martin Luther King Day. It also seems appropriate for Newburyport politics (and all politics).

The NRA is not a STD

NRA = Newburyport Redevelopment Authority
STD = Sexually transmitted disease

One of the first things that struck me when I first saw the “Save the Open Waterfront” signs around town, was the phrase, “Stop NRA.” Not “Stop the NRA,” but “Stop NRA,” as if the NRA was not a group of Newburyport residents, but instead something like a STD, a sexually transmitted disease. And maybe that was the point in the marketing strategy, I don’t know.

What I do know, is when I walked and talked to folks during what seemed a very, very long election, the Waterfront always came up, and when the NRA was mentioned, I would try to explain that the members of the NRA are real, actual caring, human beings, not weird, wired, automated machines, cyborgs. Sigh.

And the chair, Tom Salemi, has got to be one of the nicest, fairest, kindest human beings in town–not toxic waste. When I would get beyond the tactfully stated, on my part, “not toxic waste” thing, and tell people about Tom Salemi, they would relax a little, and say, “Really.”  And I’d say, “Really. Really and Truly.”

And judging from the article in the Newburyport Daily News, see earlier entry, it is really and truly true. The members of the NRA are not some uncaring monolith (a large and impersonal political, corporate, or social structure regarded as intractably indivisible and uniform), but people who care about this small New England City and the people who live in it.  Will everyone in Newburyport believe that, probably not, but “really and truly,” that is true.

Newburyport’s Waterfront, Resolved in my Lifetime?

I asked a friend of mine, who not only knows about such matters, but is also “wise” (a much overlooked character trait these days), about why, when the  history of the NRA (Newburyport Redevelopment Authority) land had been massively built on (lots of photos and maps to prove it), did the residents of Newburyport, no matter how long they had lived here, short time, long time, in-between time, seem so passionate about having it stay as an open waterfront.

Disclosure, I am one of the only people I know who likes, and will admit to liking, the proposal by the NRA and Union Studios for Newburyport’s Waterfront.  I was born and raised in Manhattan, NYC, I like tall buildings, I like tall buildings that lead to the mouth of large rivers (the Hudson River for example). As far as I can tell, when talking to people, I am in a minority of one.

What my very wise friend said, was that when buildings get demolished, people get very attached to the open space. Boston’s Greenway was given as an example.

And the residents of Newburyport are very attached to the wide open space called “The Waterfront” along the mighty Merrimac River in Newburyport, MA. When I would walk and talk to folks, what I heard from all sorts of folks is that they would rather have it just the way it is than have anything built on it at all. This is from folks who have lived here, a short time, a long time, an in-between time.

And this past 2013 election has been, in my mind, about a whole bunch of things. But I think it might well be the final “swan song” for anything ever being built on that land. Yes, maybe “it,” the Waterfront, has been resolved in my life time.  “Leave it open.” But, how to pay for it and maintain it, that has always been the question. And hopefully my “wise” friend might have some thoughts on that challenge, that puzzle, that head-scratcher, that perplexing conundrum.

The NRA Changes Direction on Newburyport’s Waterfront

From an article in today’s Newburyport Daily News, the entire article can be read here.

“The chairman of the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority has indicated the organization is changing direction and will cooperate with elected officials and residents to envision a future for the 4.2 acres of land the NRA owns on the central waterfront.

“I met with the mayor this week,” said Tom Salemi, chairman of the five-member NRA during an interview with The Daily News. “We’ll definitely be working more closely with her and the city going forward.

“With the change in (city) councils, I’m going to suggest the NRA hold off on any developments regarding Union Studio’s project until the new year.”

The NRA met Wednesday night, and members indicated they were in accord with Salemi’s statements…

Salemi in recent weeks suggested that it would be difficult to pursue the Union Studio plan without the support of the mayor and city administration.

In the recent interview and in comments at the recent NRA meeting, he said the NRA wants to work with the mayor, councilors and residents.

“The mayor would like time to talk with the new council (and those returning) about their views on the waterfront,” said Salemi.

“Then once everyone is settled and up-to-speed, the city and the NRA will decide on a future course.” “

Our Neighbors, Stella Mae Culpepper and On Linden Square

On Linden Square by Kate Sullivan, used with permission (press image to enlarge)

On Linden Square by Kate Sullivan, used with permission (press image to enlarge)

After a long, hard, often nasty Newburyport election 2013,  I found this book On Linden Square by Kate Sullivan (and, yes, it’s a children’s book) to be mighty refreshing.

Stella Mae Culpepper is the heroine of this tale, and she has watched her neighbors, but she has never spoken to any of them, and they have never spoken to her (sounds so New England familiar to me). Along comes a New England blizzard, and all that changes (and in the best of cases, is also so New England familiar to me).  And it looks like from the drawings in the book, that Stella lives in an historic city, not Newburyport, but a lot of bricks and stuff and New England homes (and of course I like that a lot).

And the author of On Linden Square, Kate Sullivan, has a wonderful project, the “Who’s Your Neighbor” Project, the “Write to Stella” project, or in my mind, “the neighbors and folks in Newburyport that I am so grateful for” project.

Instead of all the awful things about people, that seemed to come to the surface this election, to think about all the good things about neighbors and the folks around us, and write to Stella about one or more of them. Also anyone could have their child, children’s friends, grandchildren, students, nieces, nephews, neighborhood children write to Stella as well. And in return, Stella will send you, or whoever writes to Stella, a note back, and a postcard signed by of of Stella’s neighbors in the book, On Linden Square, your, or your child’s, grandchild’s, niece’s or nephew’s very own piece of artwork.  And your note to Stella, and a picture of your neighbor, if you draw one, or your child, niece, nephew, grandchild draws one, might also be featured on the book’s website, which is pretty cool.

Stella Mae Culpepper, used with permission (press image to enlarge)

Stella Mae Culpepper, used with permission, © Kate Sullivan 2013 (press image to enlarge)

So I’ve written to Stella about three of my neighbors (really and truly). I sent my notes by email, you or whoever could also send it by snail mail or through the book’s Facebook page.  And I and my neighbors can’t wait to see what we get back. And writing about what my wonderful neighbors do for me, our neighborhood and our city, a great feeling, let me tell you, especially after what often felt like a slimy, unpleasant, noxious, never ending Newburyport election.

You can see the “Write to Stella” about a neighbor project here.

You can see all about the book On Linden Square, by Kate Sullivan here.

And you can see Stella and On Linden Square’s Facebook page here.

PS. Kate Sullivan lives in Newburyport, and I’ve never met her (sort of like what happens in the book). And maybe a snow storm, or some other New England event might change that. And the only thing that I know, at this point, about Kate Sullivan is what I’ve read from her bio. The fact that her last name is “Sullivan” could be coincidence, or maybe just wildly ironic.

Here are the drawings of my neighbors that I got back from Stella!!

My neighbors on the Brown School Playground

My neighbors at the Brown School Playground

My neighbor helping me with my driveway in a blizzard.

My neighbor helping me with my driveway in a blizzard

And here is a drawing of Stella Mae Culpepper getting her hair cut by Newburyport’s very own Esther Sayer at Inn Street Barber.

Stella gets a haircut at Newburyport's Inn Street Barber

Stella gets a haircut at Newburyport's Inn Street Barber

Both Jabberwocky Books at the Tannery and The Book Rack on State Street in downtown Newburyport, sell On Linden Square.

Not Qualified to be Mayor

As I recall, in the 2001 election, people voted for Al Lavender, as a reaction against Mayor Lisa Mead (not a “for” Al Lavender vote). I thought Lisa Mead was an incredibly competent mayor. And I feel that we are still recovering from the consequences of two years of Al Lavender’s tenure in the corner office (we are still cleaning up the landfill, which has caused untold misery–something that came out of Al Lavender’s two year term).

I would like a smart, well educated (more than a high school education), competent person, who can deal with an array of complex issues, in the corner office for the next four years, someone with a lot of executive experience (this is one complicated city to run) (a retired firefighter and a Home Depot greeter does not do it for me).

I think firefighters are incredible people, unbelievably brave, but with a skill set that, in my mind, does not translate into dealing with the incredibly complex issues that the Mayor of Newburyport deals with.

I would surely like to see the electorate vote with their intelligence, instead of reacting emotionally, and to see this not just as a one issue election (i.e. the Waterfront).

And I also think, given his resume, that if Dick Sullivan didn’t have the last name “Sullivan,” no one would take his candidacy seriously for being the CEO of this complicated city.

Miss Manners has a Few Things to Say on her Facebook Page

Miss Manners, moi, has a few things to say on her Facebook page.

The tone of this election season (don’t even get me started about an illegal, destructive and anonymous flyer and robo-call that happened this weekend) has been so off the charts, that I sat and thought long and hard before putting up the most recent Facebook post about the NRA and the Waterfront. How to make it so that there wasn’t a collective meltdown, uncouth, brawl. Passion about issues is one thing, complete un-civility on the part of the electorate is quite another. It can happen other places, but not on my Facebook page.

And as for setting a “tone” for the upcoming election, the “male” who survived the mayoral primary, has, in my books, done one lousy job. Maybe “chivalry,” in this day an age, is way too much to ask for, even, apparently, in a local election. And I guess being a “gentleman” would be completely out of the question. But being that “uncouth,” as someone who would like to be the leader of Newburyport, our small New England city–you have got to be kidding me.

To show up at a press conference, that one would suppose to have been agreed upon, a press conference that was, I thought, supposed to be about denouncing the underhanded, destructive, anonymous and illegal political tactics that took place over the weekend. To then say that the press conference didn’t seem necessary, and use the opportunity to bash one’s opponent… if I was mayoral candidate Dick Sullivan’s mother, I would have taken him by the ear, not caring how old either one of us might be, and given him a good whoop’n.

Some of the candidates this electoral season have set a tone of “classiness.” Mayoral candidate Dick Sullivan, has not been one of them.

I digress.

So what do I, the editor of The Newburyport Blog, do about setting some boundaries on The Newburyport Blog’s Facebook page?

As of this morning a “comment policy” is now in place:

“If you do choose to comment on the Newburyport Blog’s Facebook page, please be civil, polite (which could be perceived as a radical concept), and constructive, otherwise your comment will be deleted (even if it slightly crosses the line) and you will be banned (something I really would not like to do); you may (or may not) get a “warning” if I feel that “banning” from this Facebook page is warranted. (How about that for a disclaimer!!) Mary Baker Eaton, Editor of The Newburyport Blog.

(One of the ways to make your comment “polite,” is to use “I,” as in “I feel that this would….” instead of “You,” as in, “You are…” or to have no preposition at all, which can come across as not being “polite.” )”

And I, Miss Manners, mean it.

Bushee Estate Demolished for a Subdivision

The Bushee estate on Newman Road has been demolished for a subdivision.  That’s a “Yikes.”

The home that carried her ( Florence E. Bushee) name boasted a twin chimney 2 1/2-story colonial with 13 rooms and eight open fireplaces, ornamental gardens, a carriage house, a post and beam cow barn and multi-stall horse barn.”  Newburyport Daily News, January 25, 2102

The entire article can be read here (it’s worth reading!!).

Nesting, Mother’s Nest, Newly Married Nesting, Empty-Nest

In my new fascination with my burgeoning photoshop project (I am mulling an actual name), I am curious about the images that I choose.

The latest image is from someone who, at this point I know only as “katmystiry.”  I have emailed “katmystiry,” and maybe I will know more about whoever this might be, but at the moment it is just an anonymous username and a “mystery.”

The image that I photoshoped away at is of a robin nesting.

robin-sm

Photoshop Robin Nesting, thanks katmystiry

The first thing that comes to mind is part of a poem that my wonderful son wrote way back in May of 2006, which I keep over my desk.

“i look under my bed
and see hundreds of feathers
i am content in my mother’s nest”

When I asked my son how he came about this incredibly moving for moi poetic tidbit, he told me, in college at the time, that he had a feather pillow that leaked, and literally there were hundreds of feathers when he looked under his bead.

And this year, lo 6 year later, my son got married.  And as I marvel at these lovely newlyweds, I think about them “nesting,” and am glad that my son is now so content in his newly married nest.

And then there is the empty-nest thing.

And then I wonder what a “back-story” could be on this photoshoped robin sitting on her photoshop nest.  I remember being a new mom, feeding my son in the very early hours of the morning, wondering if there were other moms out there like me, sitting  alone with their child in the dark.  And to me, this robin reminds me of those nights so many years and decades long ago.

Mold Quandary or the Exploding (Gluten Free) Baked Potato

I walk into my house and I sniff – mold??  I may now be a spider slayer (see earlier entry), but I can be as neurotic (this is a New York City term) as Woodie Allen.

I go down into the basement. Sniff, sniff. Basement smell, but not the same smell.

The odd, apparently or hopefully, not mold smell comes and goes. Who knows.

Potato

Potato

(I’m going circular now….) Over the last 3 years and some months, since Black Friday, the Celiac, you must now go on a gluten-free diet from hell, friday, I have become a big fan of baked potatoes.  They are absolutely gluten free, plus they are wicked good for you, who knew.  Chock full of all sorts of amazing nutrients. 48% Vitamin C, 18% Iron, really. And let’s not forget both Potassium and Vitamin B6 at an amazing 46%, if you don’t believe me, read all about it here.

The amazing baked potato, good for breakfast, lunch and dinner in all sorts of concoctions, instead of awful gluten free bread, or full of gluten bread.

So for 3 years and how many months, every night, I bake at least 2 potatoes, and use them in all sorts of ways the next day.

(For you gluten-free folks out there in web-land, I am now visiting the Newburyport Blog for some reason, land – a potato baked at 350 degrees for an hour and a half (i.e. fairly slowly) and then cooled, can be used for all sorts of things, including potato salad, much better, and easier, than boiling.  An odd tip I’ve learned, who knew?)

Before baking a potato, it is necessary to pierce them or it with a fork or a sharp knife, lest they or it explode.  And over the 3 years plus how many months, I’ve watched the pierced potato parts leak and dribble onto my oven floor. Not being a super duper oven cleaner, I’ve never much cared.

But an “ah ha,” eureka moment.  The other day, an apparently un-pierced baking potato exploded, and that weird smell (see, I told you I’d get around to it), well, it was like that weird smell, the not the basement maybe, oh dear, mold smell, but  “the” odd smell, on steroids.

So, I am relieved.  Odd, but probably not terribly dangerous smell explained. A wet paper towel, or a lot of wet paper towels, scrubbed against the bottom of the oven, seems to alleviate the long sniff quandary. And I will now need to find something else innocuous, but perplexing enough to obsess about, to take the place of the great exploding baked potato whiff enigma.

Newburyport Carpetbaggers, the 95%

Carpetbagger

Carpetbagger

One Newburyport City Councilor (Dick Sullivan) got up in the Newburyport City Council chambers and lamented that all these “newcomers” were coming in and telling the folks who were born and raised here what to do.

Another Newburyport City Councilor (Tom Jones) got up (Thursday night) and said how Newburyport was a working class town, and seemed to intimate that it was still a working class town.  No it’s not. In the year 2012, Newburyport is an upper-middle class city, quickly approaching a upper class enclave – especially when Mr. Karp starts building.

Honey, it ain’t your father’s Newburyport anymore.

If you haven’t noticed the carpetbagger thing has really, really gotten out of hand lately.  You don’t just have the carpetbaggers who came in the first wave, in the mid to late 1970′s and very early 1980′s,  right after Urban Renewal renewed.  There was a wave in the late 1990′s after the MBTA came back to town. Remember that, a big housing spike when a lot of the old timers cashed in.  I remember folks saying  that it was a joke that anyone would want to live in Newburyport’s South End. There was a lot of bitterness about how high the taxes had gotten because of the housing boom, but that money bought more house not so far away, in a place where there weren’t so many doctors, lawyers and financial folks. Where the working class folks felt more comfortable.

And then the super duper influx around 2005, when Mr. Karp bought so much land and real-estate downtown.  Yup, and people have just kept coming, with more and more money, lots more money.  And the old-timers, the natives, they pay attention and they vote, but their numbers just ain’t what they used to be.  It’s not your father’s Newburyport by any stretch of the imagination, no how, no way, any more.

Contemporary Art, Gone the Way of the Buggy Whip and the Typewriter?

I wonder to myself if contemporary art, like the stuff being painted today, like today’s fine art, has it, or is it going the way of the buggy whip and the typewriter? This is from a contemporary painter (and a good one!!) no less.

In the movie “Other People’s Money,” Danny DeVito’s character, Larry the Liquidator, a successful corporate raider, sort of, very sort of, like Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital, compares the company in question to the last buggy whip maker, technology having made buggy whips obsolete. No point in having a buggy whip factory around anymore.

Lots of things have become obsolete. Camera and film stores, Ritz Camera and Infocus in Newburyport, sayonara.

CD stores… adios.  Newspapers, alas, are going goodbye.  Patch-AOL here we come. HuffPost the updated, un-obsolete medium. Books, adios. Kindle, the Nook, IPad, cha-cha-cha.

The United States Post Office, oh dear.

The typewriter – gone with the wind.

Twitter and texting, yup. Complete sentences, TMI.

Starfish, digital photo by 4eyesphoto (used with permission)

"Starfish," digital photo by 4eyesphoto (used with permission)

None of this is bad, it just is. Most of it is really fascinating. But what about the quaint idea of painting.  Photoshop, my love hate relationship with Photoshop, in my mind, has changed painting forever.  And for goodness sakes, any photo can now be put on canvas in an hour by places like CVS.

The thing that make my heart go pity-pat when I walk into a gallery, is really great digital photography. It reminds me of that now quaint painting style, Photorealism, one of the last contemporary art movements, that used to make my brain twirl. And there is some amazing digital photography being made.  The photo by 4eyephoto.com that gave permission to use their incredible photograph “Starfish,” to my son’s theatre company for their poster, a gorgeous example.

The quaint art of painting going the way of the buggy whip – reality??

The Tale of a Spider Slayer

Wiffle Bat

Wiffle Bat

I started killing-slaying spiders when I became a single mother. (I’m not entirely sure why single mothers still get a bad rap. Any single mother or father will tell you it’s probably the hardest thing that they’ve ever done. In the second debate Mr. Romney made a not such nice comment about single mothers, and from the conversations that I’ve had, it didn’t go over so well with single mothers or single fathers, and there are a lot of them out there, voters and everything. I once naively thought that since the President of the United States was raised by a single mom, that single mothers might not get such a kick in the head. How “Pollyanna” of me.)

I found out there was only so much screaming and wailing one can do when confronted by a spider, before it becomes evident that that’s not going to do much good. And there are few folks who will drop everything at that “spider moment,” and run over and kill that spider (unlike the famous scene in Annie Hall, this could date me big time, or not?? where Woodie Allen rushes over to help Annie Hall slay the spider that’s the “size of a Buick.” I found the scene, or part of the scene on YouTube here.)

dragon1

Dragon

So bravery and ingenuity become a necessity. I ended up killing spiders on a regular basis with my very young son’s Wiffle Bat. Plastic, light, a flat end, and good for killing, squishing, slaying spiders on the ceiling. My son actually remembers this, although I don’t think it’s one of his favorite childhood memories.

Now when I see spiders in my dwelling, and I do so on a regular basis, I have a conversation. It goes something like this:

“How in the world did you get here, there??” I never understand how they suddenly seem to appear out of nowhere.

“You know what the house policy is don’t you?” I say. “If you don’t mosey on real fast and disappear from where ever you came from, you are a goner.”

Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc

And since they never disappear quickly, and I’ve long since given up even the “silent spider scream,” it’s simply getting a step ladder or climbing up on a piece of furniture, and taking the spider in a small kleenex and down the toilet it goes. Whoosh.

I’ve become very proficient, so far, at spider slaying. I didn’t include a picture of a spider, because I don’t like pictures of spiders, so I included a picture of a dragon, which is in my mind the emotional equivalent of a spider. And since I couldn’t find any art work that was about women slaying dragons (no such thing, alas), I did find a painting of Joan of Arc, by Dante Charles Gabriel Rossetti, and I can imagine her with a Wiffle Bat, instead of a sword, getting read to be a “Spider Slayer.”

A Really Good Compromise on Newburyport’s LHD

This sounds like a really good compromise on Newburyport’s Local Historic District (LHD) sponsored on Monday night by Newburyport City Councilors Katy Ives and Bob Cronin. Excellent work!!  I hope it is one that the Newburyport City Councilors see as a “win-win” alternative.

The proposals address what Councilor Ives called the “most egregious” situations affecting our historic assets in the city of Newburyport, i.e. demolition, as well as protecting downtown Newburyport, the restoration of which is responsible for the revitalization of a once dying city.

A very well written article in the Newburyport Daily News about the the proposals sponsored by Councilors Katy Ives and Bob Cronin can be read here.

When Newburyport Looked Like a Slum

Newburyport 1967, courtesy of the Archival Center at the Newburyport Public Library (press image to enlarge)

Newburyport 1967, courtesy of the Archival Center at the Newburyport Public Library (press image to enlarge)

I was telling a business owner this week that Newburyport didn’t always look the way it looks now.  The business owner commutes from just outside Boston, and has had their business in Newburyport for over 10 years.  It was a complete shock to them that this now gorgeous place was literally in “shambles,” a slum in 1967.

The Archival Center at the Newburyport Public Library graciously let me take photos of their archives of Newburyport from 1967-1974, HUD, NRA and Urban Renewal.  A link to the 54 photographs that I took from the Newburyport Archival Center can be found here.

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

Newburyport, Inn Street, 1974

Inn Street, 1974 (press image to enlarge)

Inn Street, 1974 (press image to enlarge)

Inn Street, downtown Newburyport, 1974 (press image to enlarge)
Courtesy of the Archives at the Newburyport Public Library.

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

Newburyport LHD Political Reality

I am now going to piss off Newburyport preservationists!  Ooops!

The final report of the Newburyport LHD Study Committee (LHD = Local Historic District) is absurdly fair.  The five members did backflips to accommodate feedback from the community and from the Newburyport City Councilors. Backflips, cartwheels, you name it, right from the get go. And despite all of that, on an up and down vote it’s not going to fly. That’s just the existing political reality.

The leading member of the “Say No to LHD” group, its heart and soul, who got up in the first informational meeting a year a go, disrupting the entire meeting and storming out, vowing to stop the LHD, has done a remarkable job. It’s definitely a “Wow.” It appears that the end most certainly justified the means. Trashing people’s reputations and character, personal attacks, threats of law suits (most recently in a comment in the Daily News), presenting information early last winter (good tactic starting early) that was and is simply not true, has worked. Congratulations.

The final version of the LHD ordinance has finally gone to the Newburyport City Council, a meeting will take place this Thursday, October 25, 2012, Newburyport City Hall at 7PM.

As I see it, the political realities. (The boundaries of the proposed LHD are High Street, the gateway to the city, and downtown Newburyport from Winter Street to Federal Street.)  Lob off the North End of High Street at the Kelly School, and put those folks out of their misery.

There is unanimous support along the South End of the “Ridge” to Willis Lane (which is roughly across the street from Fruit Street).  Shorten High Street from Willis Lane to the Kelly School, maybe include St Paul’s Church on the other side (but, good grief, don’t cross the street!).

And protect downtown Newburyport.  After all that HUD Federal money, please, does anyone dispute that the restoration of downtown Newburyport is the reason that Newburyport has become the thriving place that it is today?  Really, not to protect downtown, good grief.

When Governor Deval Patrick came for a visit at Cafe Di Siena (February 2010), I asked Newburyport City Councilor Tom O’Brien if he would vote for the Newburyport LHD, and his response (this was before all of the hullabaloo), “Of course Mary, there’s been too many tear downs.”  This statement was witnessed by Newburyport City Councilor Barry Connell, who with a wink and a smile by both Newburyport city councilors, pretended to write down this vote for the LHD by Councilor Tom O’Brien on the back of his hand.

So why not have have a “No Demolition” zone/overlay for the entire Newburyport Historic District, that would also include “interior demolition for exploratory purposes,” which, for example, lead to the unfortunate creation by a developer on Pine Street, for which the neighbors are suing the developer and the Newburyport Zoning Board of Appeals.

Can the Newburyport City Council come up with the equivalent of the “Wisdom of Solomon?”  Can they do it in one night?? And what will they say, now that they get the chance have to have a say.  It will be really fascinating to watch.

Preservation is in the Business of Saving Communities

Preservation is in the business of saving communites

Preservation is in the business of saving communities

Newburyport preservation quotes:

“There may have been a time when preservation was about saving an old building here and there, but those days are gone. Preservation is in the business of saving communities and the values they embody.”

—Richard Moe, National Trust for Historic Preservation

Hyperventilating

Ever since Governor Romney announced his VP pick, (late Friday night during the Olympics??) Paul Ryan, I’ve been hyperventilating.  Really (unfortunately).

The issue, Medicare.  If Romney/Ryan squeak by in November, I’d squeak by under their Medicare radar before it turns into a voucher payment plan, but I’m still hyperventilating. Why?  I’ve paid my own health care cost as an artist from way back in the dark ages (“in the day,” maybe not quite that long), and to say I don’t trust the healthcare private insurance folks to do anything but look after their bottom line, without state and federal regulation, would be a vast, vast understatement.

(In 1990, I paid $340 a month for my son and myself, for GREAT health insurance. Today, here in Massachusetts, that kind of health insurance that we had, doesn’t exist for any price (that I know of). Something similar, but not really, would go for $2,165 (a month). For a family $3,545 (a month).  In New York State for a parent and child, a similar, but not really, insurance exists for $3,176 (a month). For a family, it’s a whopping $5,294.  How about those apples? And people think Massachusetts is bad!)

As an artist, I’ve been waiting for the day when I am relieved of the onerous burden of crazy individual $1,000 a month and rising health insurance premiums (and that’s cheap compared to a state like New York State, demonstration above), and having an offspring that has fallen right next to the preverbial artistic tree, I’ve always wanted that for him and his family as well – some sort of safety net, you betch’a.

Private Health insurance industry to regulate itself, no, no, no – dream land.

Medicare vouchers to keep up with health insurance cost, please, dream on.

That’s my main hyperventilation.  But the other, Mitt Romney was an old fashion Republican moderate  in Massachusetts (I know, I know, you know).  But with Paul Ryan, darling of the hijacked Tea Party, as his running mate, has he sold his soul? or was he lying way back “in the day?”  Not good either way.  To have someone so ideologically extreme on the ticket, unsettling and telling.

“…the only way for Ryan’s numbers to work would be to effectively eliminate nearly all non-defense discretionary spending, including not just much of the social safety net but infrastructure spending, R. & D. investment, federal support for education, air-traffic control, regulatory and public safety spending, and so on (editor’s note, moi – let’s not forget NPR and The National Endowment for the Arts). This would be, needless to say, a radical remaking of the federal government.  …it would basically return the federal government to something like its nineteenth-century role—and early nineteenth-century at that.” The New Yorker,  August 12, 2012, “Paul Ryan’s Budget Games.”

“More than three-fifths of the cuts proposed by Mr. Ryan, and eagerly accepted by the Tea Party-driven House, come from programs for low-income Americans. That means billions of dollars lost for job training for the displaced, Pell grants for students and food stamps for the hungry. These cuts are so severe that the nation’s Catholic bishops raised their voices in protest at the shredding of the nation’s moral obligations.

Mr. Ryan’s budget “will hurt hungry children, poor families, vulnerable seniors and workers who cannot find employment,” the bishops wrote in an April letter to the House. “These cuts are unjustified and wrong.”

It (the federal government) will not be there when the unemployed need job training, or when a struggling student needs help to get into college. It will not be there when a miner needs more than a hardhat for protection, or when a city is unable to replace a crumbling bridge (editor’s note, moi – or sidewalk).

And it will be silent when the elderly cannot keep up with the costs of M.R.I.’s or prescription medicines, or when the poor and uninsured become increasingly sick through lack of preventive care.  New York Times, August 11, 2012, “Mr Ryan’s Cramped Vision.”

So I’m hyperventilating for my offspring and his family’s future, much less my old age, should I get to live that long, should this pair get elected in November.

“..the Ryan budget is a plan that forfeits the future and global leadership to China.” Steve Clemens, The Atlantic, August 13, 2012.

Newburyport, Demolition on High Street

182 High, courtesy of the City of Newburyport

182 High Street, courtesy of the City of Newburyport

The strange story of 182 High Street.

182 High Street has been lovingly restored by its present owner.  The property contains a beautiful 200+ year old carriage barn, which the owner wanted to restore in 2010.  The owner jumped  through many hoops, as anyone who has done such a thing knows – Zoning Board, Planning Board, Historical Commission,  and just a few feet short of the finishline, withdrew the application to continue the project.

Public record shows that the boards and commissions in the city were enthusiastic about the project.  Public records show that the Planning Board thanked the applicant and their team, noted the applicant’s sensitivity toward the historical nature of the property, the reduction of occupancy level and preservation of historical structures. (January 12, 2010).

In July of 2012, however, the owner chose to demolish the beautiful carriage barn at 182 High Street.  A one year demo delay was imposed.  Head scratching all around.

In January 2010 public record shows that the owner wanted to make every attempt to preserve and rehabilitate all the historical aspects of the carriage barn, and to ensure that it would be in keeping with the restoration that was being done on the Federal Period home.

To do what the homeowner desired from a zoning point of view, requires  something called “public benefit.”  The public benefit in 2010 was, without any question on anyone’s part, including the homeowner’s – historic preservation.

If the carriage barn at 182 High is indeed demolished and a new structure built in its place, the owner would still be required to show “public benefit,” as well as go through all the zoning and planning board hoops.  The attorney for the owner was able to say with a straight face, that the public benefit could be affordable housing.

More head scratching all around.  The stated goal in 2010 was to use the structure as a guest house for visiting family members.  Affordable housing would eliminate that possibility, and affordable housing on High Street?? like having affordable housing on Park Avenue. Happy neighbors?? one wonders.

One of the ironies here is that the significantly historical house in Newbury, the Tappan House, bought for 1.6 million dollars, was demolished for a swimming pool, but the barn was kept to be made into, yup, you got it, a guest house.

The historical write-up of the 1792 home at 182 High Street can be found on the city’s website here.