Newburyport, Parking Payment from the Blog of Bob Cronin

From Newburyport City Councilor Bob Cronin on paid parking and Newburyport’s Waterfront Trust and the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority contributing to the citizens of Newburyport, MA.

“Dear friends and neighbors,

While I usually use this space to give updates and pass along information about the goings on and happenings in Ward 3 and the City, I’m changing course here just a bit today. This entry is about parking, the waterfront and a brief civics primer.

The Mayor has submitted a series of parking regulations to govern parking in the downtown and adjoining neighborhoods, which will contain a resident piece. There will be ample opportunity for input into the process as it moves forward.

The issue at hand is that in the Mayor’s plan the key component of the plan is paid parking in the surface lots. This includes the Waterfront Trust (WFT) lot, the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority (NRA) lots and of course city owned lots. The Mayor is working to get agreements in place with these quasi-governmental entities that manage these parcels and feel they are completely autonomous. Newburyport, like most of the other 350 cities and towns in Massachusetts is cash strapped.

I for one think that budgets must be examined for waste but this tactic only goes so far. Historical sources of local aid relied upon for generations are now a mere trickle from state government. New revenue sources have to be identified and put to use locally. Being against user fees on required services such as “pay as you throw trash”, I believe Newburyport should look more to the discretionary income side of the ledger.

The Mayor’s current paid parking proposal is in the Public Safety committee and I for one will be pushing hard for a significant portion of the net proceeds to go back to ALL neighborhoods in the form of vastly needed sidewalk repairs. We the residents of Newburyport have borne the brunt of poor ankle twisting sidewalks for much too long. This money will come from people visiting our downtown, many from other communities that make Newburyport their destination. When we visit other cities don’t we pay for parking? For the most part the answer is yes. This source can and will greatly benefit our infrastructure at little or no cost to the average resident.

But there is a problem; the WFT and NRA have not yet signed on with our City to make Newburyport better as a whole community. Rather the WFT and NRA continue to stare inwardly at their small outposts. Twenty plus years and there has been glacial movement on the NRA properties. It is time for them, the NRA to partner with the City to raise much needed cash for their properties and the City as a whole. Ditto for the WFT. They currently have paid parking but no enforcement. The City will provide that manpower and enforcement once they sign on.

Both these groups have been in attendance to the Mayor’s parking committee meetings but they have yet to climb onboard; why? What are they afraid of? Losing a grip on their domains?

It is time for these groups to stop being provincial and shortsighted and see the big picture. By signing on to the overall plan, not only will they be helping their City they will also help the areas and interests they supposedly represent. The residents of Newburyport should not only hope these appointed boards can finally represent the entire community and not their self interest, residents should demand it.”

Newburyport, Paid Parking

What I sense as I walk around town, on the subject of paid parking for downtown Newburyport, is still a deep, conscious and unconscious resistance.

Not to the degree that the resistance to downtown Newburyport parking existed when it was proposed about 10 years ago, but it still runs deep.

And my father, who was a very astute man, I think would have said, that the resistance is not just about paid parking, but possibly that people might feel that they are “losing their town.”

I think he would be right.

And I asked Mayor Donna Holaday about this. Her response was, as I understand it, that, yes, there could well be a feeling of a loss of control.

But to make sure people feel that they are in control of their town, the mayor, as I understand it, is proposing, for a fee, and a hugely discounted fee for seniors, a sticker for residents that not only would provide free parking for Newburyport’s downtown, but also for Newburyport’s compost heap, and for parking on Newburyport’s Plum Island Point. And there would be something worked out for businesses and people who work downtown (specifics not asked by me) as well.

So I am very impressed by our mayor. It does not appear that Mayor Donna Holaday would like to mess with the people of Newburyport as far as downtown parking goes and torture them. It appears that her goal would be to give the people of Newburyport a Newburyport parking Christmas present instead.

Vote on the Senior Center

In my mind the stupidest vote by a Newburyport City Council came during the Lavender Administration concerning the parking garage downtown.

At that time there was a piece of property, right off Route 1, on Merrimac Street, right behind the police station on Green Street, called “Lombardi Oil.” The owner of the Lombardi Oil property offered the land to the city for “a song” (especially in 20/20, a real loud song).

There was 5 million dollars good to go from the State of Massachusetts to start the ball rolling. And the Newburyport Planning Office had come up with an amazing (what we now call “Smart Growth”) flexible plan, that included a very attractive street view. This was no ugly parking garage plan, believe you me. It was a complete “win,” not even a “win/win” situation. And the Newburyport City Council at that time, turned it down, I believe, by one vote.

As I remember it, the rational for some of those pivotal votes, was that the money should be used for a spanking new elementary school. That’s what the emphasis should be. And in 20/20 in 2006 and 2007 we know what a lousy visionary approach that turned out to be.

In December 2006, the community at large ranted against what then Newburyport City Councilor Audrey McCarthy referred to as the “Taj Mahal” approach to our elementary school building needs, as opposed to funding much needed basic education.

What was lost, way back there in the last part of the 20th Century, was a crucial moment that could have helped empower the downtown Newburyport economy. Yes, yikes.

And I’m wondering, if a similar lapse in judgment and vision is about to happen on the Newburyport City Council floor in regards to a vote for the location for the Newburyport Senior Center.

It looks like a vote for a Senior Center site at Cushing Park may go down the tubes. (Anyone reading the Newburyport Blog in the year 2008, knows how strongly I feel about having a Senior Center.)

And I am wondering whether in 5 years, whether we could look back, the same way we look back at the vote on the downtown parking garage, and think, “What folly.”

Stephen Karp’s Visit to Newburyport, MA

I wasn’t at Mr. Karp’s visit to Newburyport, MA (see previous post), and having read all the newspaper articles, blogs and having talked to any number for folks, and having put all of that in a stew in my brain, the following “stuff” has emerged.

It does appear that Mr. Karp did good. As Public Relations go, in fact, of all the many, many ways he could have conducted the evening, it was “brilliant.”

To meet folks in person before hand, I gotta tell you, A+. (Does this blogger feel a little bit arrogant giving a developer of Mr. Karp stature, grades that one receives in High School? Yup, she does.) Being the only one to address the audience, relaxed, joking, in shirt sleeves and taking questions–as my son would say, “classic.” Definitely good go’n Mr. Karp.

Stressing public input and public process, on the record no less, well, this blogger likes this big time.

However, there were a few, “wait a moment” moments for moi.

The stress on the city coming up with a solution to the parking issue.

My first thought was, well, we’ve been fighting over this since the automobile first made its appearance, good luck with that one. I guess nothing is ever going to get built on Waterfront West or East. As my mother would say “tant pis,” or French for “too bad.”

And then I thought, hmm, the best proposed location for a parking garage by far, in my opinion, had been on the Lomardi Oil site, on Merrimac Street, behind the Newburyport police station. The Newburyport Planning Office had come up with a pretty awesome design (it failed in the Newburyport City Council at the time by one vote–in hindsight, it appears to be an “oh dear”).

And Mr. Karp has mentioned that he would not be opposed to a public, private enterprise. So 2 great locations on Mr. Karp’s property. Around the Fitness Factory, but even better, a well designed garage right off of Route 1 where the land going down to Michael’s Harborside is, and where I gather the hotel-condominium is being proposed. I think that the citizens of Newburyport, MA might go for a parking garage on that site. I have a feeling however, that that might not give the bang for the buck that Mr. Karp could be looking for.

There was a “ding, ding, ding, ding” going off in my head, hearing that when the question was asked, who on the development team would be the contact person for the Newburyport public on this project, and that at that time, no one had been appointed.

And on the subject of affordable housing, it sounds as if Mr. Karp drew a blank, and our own Nancy Colbert (Newburyport’ Planning Director), came to his rescue.

On his blog, Newburyport According to X, Mr. Npbt X had some interesting observations about Mr. Karp’s audience. What can I say, I wasn’t there. An interesting read.

And it appears that the audience broke down into three separate groups: the “skeptical group,” the “cautiously optimistic group,” and the “can I KYA, leechy group.” All of which, I would imagine, in Mr. Karp’s long career, must seem all very, very familiar.

So welcome to Newburyport, Stephen Karp.

Mary Eaton

Resistance to Paid Parking

I am very pleased to have a new blog by a long time resident.

The blog is:

One of the reasons that I am so please, is that there is now a voice on the Newburyport blogosphere that expresses what so many of the residents of Newburyport, MA would feel. And I think it would be very helpful for those in political office, in helping them to understand all of their constituents.

When the issue of “paid parking” came up, inwardly, I rolled my eyes. It may make fiscal sense, but if there is not the political will (and there certainly has been major opposition to the idea in the past), it could be a good idea for our local politicians, whether it would be the mayor or the Newburyport City Council, to take that viewpoint into consideration.

I remember when the issue of paid parking came up before. Someone from the community called me up and asked me what I thought. As I recall, my response was something like, “Honey, not in a million years are ‘they’ are going to go for that one. You can try, but dollars to donuts, it ain’t going to happen.”

It didn’t back then. And it would be my guess, that the concept of paid parking downtown, would have major opposition now, and my reply would be exactly the same.

However, as a “by the way,” the last time paid parking was addressed, the Newburyport Planning Office came up with an incredibly thoughtful and intelligent approach. And Geordie Vining of the Newburyport Planning Office, who could be involved in this present endeavor, to come up with a plan for paid parking, in my mind, is one of the people that I most trust in all of Newburyport, MA. We as a city, are incredibly lucky to have Geordie Vining, in the Newburyport Office of Planning and Development.

Mary Eaton, Newburyport

Senior Center, Where

This is where it becomes wretched. Where to have the Newburyport Senior Center?

Ed Cameron talks about this on his blog.

And I give Mayor John Moak great deal of credit for making a decision about where to locate the Senior Center, the choice being Cushing Park, a location Mr. Cameron also agrees with.

Some seniors have been actively lobbying for a Senior Center on the Central Waterfront (the NRA property).

Well, a hotel didn’t go there and neither did the Newburyport Library.

And to keep lobbying for the Senior Center to go on the Central Waterfront, could in my opinion, not only sabotage any hopes of a Senior Center ever being built, but also could sabotage any hope of the conundrum of the Central Waterfront (the NRA property) ever being resolved (and it looks like there might be a ray of hope that we could be close).

Is there a perfect place for a Senior Center? No. Otherwise we as a city might have agreed on a spot after all these many, many years.

And if a Senior Center is to actually happen, it would be my opinion that it could be time to get real realistic and do a little compromising on the part of those unhappy with the Cushing Park site.

And yes, I understand how threatening it would be for the neighbors of Cushing Park not to have all of that off-street parking during bad winter weather.

However, the same was true for the Catholic Church property on Federal Street where the 2 historic houses where rescued and the area built on (the Federal Street Overlay District).

That area was mostly used for off-street parking during lousy winter weather. What did all those neighbors do? I don’t know, but they sure did something. (And no one ever expected the Catholic Church to give that piece of land up for development.)

And yes, location is important for a Senior Center. However, what happens inside the Senior Center, the people who are there for the Senior Center and having a place to go for seniors, for me, trumps location.

It seems to me that Cushing Park is the best compromise that the city has yet to come up with for a Senior Center. And if you’ve been reading the Newburyport Blog lately, it would be my opinion, that we really need a Senior Center now.

Mary Eaton

Messy Municipal Process

I’ve read (I think) a number of times in the Newburyport Daily News and at least once on Bruce Menin’s Blog that the electorate is impatient with the Newburyport School Committee and would like them to hurry up and make decisions.

As I recall, I have read these words or similar words, from “Yes for Newburyport” members (pro-override group for the Newburyport Schools).

And a number of “Yes for Newburyport” folks are running for Newburyport School Committee.

Unfortunately, running a municipality is a slow and messy business.

John Moak hoped to come in as Mayor of Newburyport, MA and clear up the Central Waterfront and parking issues ASAP, and what he found was, nope, not so easy to do.

In fact Mr. Moak’s opponent in the November 6th election, Jim Stiles, is a pro-waterfront, less-parking on the waterfront candidate. So much for easy, no hassle solutions.

And if one, some or all of the “Yes” folks get elected to the Newburyport School Committee, I imagine they would find that, yes indeed, this is not a CEO, let’s make a decision now sort of thing.

Having the honor of serving as an elected official is about public process and public input, which is almost always muddled and chaotic.

And if that public input could be short-changed, look out. Whatever decision was made, almost always backfires.

In fact, I hate to say it, but it’s almost always best to have too much public input than not enough, especially on hot-button issues.

And the since the special spring election for the override for the Newburyport schools, unfortunately, (in part, in my opinion, due to a hurried decision–an example of a quick decision backfiring big time) the Newburyport Schools have become a very polarizing issue in this small New England city.

So whoever wins the election for Newburyport School Committee would, I imagine, need to ask for the “Wisdom of Solomon,” because that, and public process, is what it is going to take to start to resolve the conundrum that is facing our Newburyport city schools.

Mary Eaton

(Editor’s note: The folks running for Newburyport School Committee for the election on November 6, 2007 are: Nicholas Dekanter, Scott Frisch, Tracey Hurst, Barbara McDonough, Bruce Menin, Stephanie Weaver.)

Newburyport, Fate of the Kelly School Building

Sorry folks, as far as I’m concerned Mayor John Moak appears to be learning on the job.

(But could this be taken as an endorsement of Mayor Moak by moi for the mayoral candidate for election 2007? No.)

The Kelly School building. A great emotional trigger for lots and lots of folks in Newburyport, MA. What do you do with it?

Mayor John Moak is forming a committee to help the Newburyport City Council make that incredibly difficult decision.

The make-up of the committee is not unlike the make-up of something like the Newburyport Local Historic District Study Committee.

So far the appointments have been Newburyport City Councilor James Shanley. Mr. Shanley is the chair of the Newburyport City Council Planning and Development Committee, and the Kelly School building is also in Mr. Shanley’s ward, Ward 3. James Shanley has always struck me as being a very thoughtful Newburyport City Councilor, so in my book, that’s a real good choice.

Newburyport Planning Director, Nancy Colbert is also on the committee. And Mayor John Moak also plans to include a local real estate agent, a parent of a former Kelly School student, as well as a member of the Newburyport Historical Commission. (Newburyport Daily News, June 26, 2007)

As far as I’m concerned, the fate of the Newburyport Kelly School Building is kind of a yikes, wisdom of Solomon thing. And this seems to be a very wise approach to an incredibly difficult community decision.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, Political Timing

Since my involvement as an activist in the fight to save High Street, I’ve become aware that there appears to be a rhythm in public interest in any one particular issue. An ebb and flow if you will.

I can remember when High Street seemed to continually make the front page of the local media outlets. And then there would be a time, when no matter what people did, no one appeared to be interested in the issue at all.

But in its own time, the subject once again made front page news. The interest in the issue seemed to have a life of its own, and there appeared that there could be no way to control it.

This can be both puzzling and frustrating for someone who is advocating for a particular cause.

For the last few weeks the $1.58 million override for the Newburyport schools appears to have been the dominant topic. I would imagine that until the May 22, 2007 special spring election for the Newburyport schools takes place, the $1.58 million override would remain in the forefront of people’s minds. However, even that matter is beginning to faded somewhat from the collective consciousness.

The ordinance concerning the balance of chain stores and smaller entrepreneurial endeavors has appeared to have ignited local attention, at least for the time being.

People who are advocating to save the Wheelwright property have expressed their frustrations to me, that no matter what they might do, they are having very little success at the moment at getting people to pay attention to that issue at all.

I explain that it is all about timing. And part of good political activism is putting one’s ear to the ground and listening for the time when folks would once again be interested in a specific concern.

The same thing appears to apply to the question of a garage. Whether a garage for downtown may or may not be a good idea is almost moot. Folks simply do not seem to be interested in the subject. And since Mayor John Moak was elected in part because people did not want a garage, getting folks to pay attention to that particular matter is proving difficult.

Again it’s a matter of timing. Listening for the right moment. No amount of shouting from the roof tops would make the community listen, not if they are not inclined.

The Newburyport landfill is another example. A nightmare that has been going on for years that effects everyone one way or another in Newburyport, MA. The myriad of problems have not gone away, but the matter has peaks and valleys when it comes down to public attention.

The intricacies of politics have always intrigued me. And since I’ve been blogging, I have found that the nuances of political complexities are yet more intricate and even more fascinating.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, The Garage, The Central Waterfront

My friend, Jim Roy, has been after me to write a post about “the garage.” (He says enough with the frogs.)

The garage, the garage, the garage. Deja vu all over again. Or like “Groundhog Day,” the movie where the same thing keeps happening over and over again.

Ok, Newburyport, MA has been promised 5 million towards a garage by the Commonwealth of MA. And if Mr. Karp would like to cough up the other whatever million, and if the garage would go on the “Lombardi” property, which is owned by someone other than Mr. Karp, so Mr. Karp would have to buy it, and if the garage would have a similar plan to what was designed, lo those many years ago (which I always thought was a great design), I’m all for it.

The voters, the last time around voted for Mr. Moak, in part, because they didn’t want to pay tax payer dollars for a garage. But there doesn’t appear to be any chit chat here for tax payers paying for any garage.

Now the Lagasses (Ann Lagasse, who I remember, was on that “garage committee,” and a darned good committee it was too) weren’t going to pony up money (no Mr. Karp at that time) to co-author a garage on that spot (which in my mind is the only good spot for a garage). So why in the world would Mr. Karp?

Hope he does, I’d like it. I’d like it a lot.

The other thing I hear floating around, is no more Open Waterfront, but historically sensitive building on that Newburyport Redevelopment Authority property. Oy veh. Yet another idea. Here we go yet one more time.

Yes, let’s postpone this whole Waterfront shebang another 50 maybe another 100 years. It can only add to the Waterfront Saga.

And I’m excited about the designs coming in for an open Central Waterfront. Although, I recall, this has already been done before.

It was after Mr. Foster was finally defeated that I remember a design for those dirt parking lots in the front hall of Newburyport City Hall. Deja vu all over again.

Why are we so passionate about this last piece of Newburyport Redevelopment land? It’s as if we can’t let go of that last little bit.

So, I’m not putting any bets anywhere on this one. And I still don’t think that the Waterfront Opus is going to be resolved in my lifetime. Although, of course, I’d like it a lot if it actually was.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, The Waterfront

Is anyone who has been following the riveting Central Waterfront ongoing saga now surprised that Mayor John Moak did not reappoint Janet Marcus, the current chair of the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority?

Well, I gotta tell you, I’m not.

No big surprise here. Mayor John Moak has been upfront and center about his wish to have LOTS of parking on Newburyport’s Central Waterfront, and there was some disagreement on this one on Ms Marcus’s part. (Is this an understatement? Yes.)

And should Patricia Dorfman, the former Executive Director of the Customs House Maritime Museum as an appointee be a huge surprise? I don’t think so.

Ms Dorfman has stated her understanding for parking in regards to the Customs House Maritime Museum, and perhaps Mr. Moak is hoping for a receptive ear.

My experience is that Ms Dorfman is a very bright young lady. And it is also my experience with very bright young ladies is that they are not always as predictable as one might expect. Don’t put any money down on this one yet, folks. I’m not.

And my experience is that Ms Dorfman is very personable and easy to get along with. This seems to be a prerequisite when it comes to Moakian appointments. Is this a terrible, terrible character flaw? In my book there are a whole lot worse, let me tell you.

Ok, so let’s say that this the worse case scenario happens. All Mayor Moak’s appointments turn out to share and vote for his very focused goal of having LOTS of parking on the Central Waterfront and NOT paying any attention to the people’s wishes in 2 surveys of having half park and half parking.

What Mayor John Moak does not appear to grasp yet, is if the “all-parking” thing actually got voted on, it would be litigated in the courts for years.

Legally the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will not allow it. And forget about the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, war chests in Newburyport, MA are most probably already being stocked for this very possible conclusion.

My money is on Ms Dorfman being fair and balanced. But whether she would be fair and balanced or not, one thing seems to be almost guaranteed, no matter what happens, the Central Waterfront Saga may “delight” and “entertain” us for years and possibly yet many more duplicate decades to come. This is only the 85th act of goodness knows how many acts of the Central Waterfront performance to follow.

And yet one more thing. I hear “newbies” (good grief, I a “newbie never a native” who has been here for “only” 26 years, am now calling 5-10 year transplants “newbies”) speculating on all kinds of things that might be possible on the Central Waterfront property.

To these “5-10” year “newbies,” whatever you have thought of, has not only been thought of before, but has been vigorously fought over before. But, hey, if everyone wants to fight about those things all over again, go right ahead. Just “enhances” the Central Waterfront drama that much more.

Who’s to say there should be any time limit on this saga. A half a century, a full century, maybe even 2 full centuries. Why not go for the Guinness Book of Records for the longest and “most delightful” civic brawl?

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, a Hotel, the Waterfront

Mayor John Moak would very much like Mr. Stephen Karp to build a hotel on Mr. Karp’s waterfront property.

The only thing that would appear more cursed than resolving the Central Waterfront parking conundrum, would be a hotel on Newburyport’s waterfront.

Hmm… let’s see, Roger Foster had an awful lot of problems with a proposed hotel on the waterfront way back when. Didn’t do much for his pocket book, as I recall, a lot of litigation.

And, hmm… let’s see, my recollection is that the Lagasses, who bought a lot of property from Mr. Foster, also proposed a hotel on the waterfront. And that was way back whenever. That proposal is still being litigated, yo these many, many years later. (Newburyport Current, February 2, 2007)

The Newburyport hotel waterfront curse. Be a real selling point for anyone wanting to leap in yet again. And from what I can make out from the article by Ulrika Gerth in the Newburyport Current, February 2, 2007, there is a little bit of hesitation. No one appears to be running gleefully towards the notion with wide and inviting open arms.

Judging from past contentious history, the notion of a hotel might be approached with caution. But no, Mayor John Moak apparently would like to dive into this one.

“Mayor John Moak said attracting a hotel is a prime focus of his administration… “I know this administration, me and the Planning Department, would be much more interested in trying to tweak things if it means more overnight accommodations,” he said. “We’re committed to that and we know we have to make some compromises to make it work.” ” (Newburyport Current, February 2, 2007)

What has people puzzled to downright alarmed is the reference in the above quote by Mayor John Moak to “tweaking things” and “making some compromises to make it work,” much less having a hotel be his “prime focus” (big news to a lot of folks). A hotel at all costs? Tweaking? Compromising? If history is any indication it is possible that not all of Newburyport’s populace would necessarily agree.

And maybe one of the most discouraging things in the article in the Newburyport Current is not about Mayor John Moak, who is desperately trying to find money somewhere to pay for all the civic things that Newburyport doesn’t have money for (like our schools among other things). But the fact that Stephen Karp, who controls Newburyport’s destiny, has only bothered to have one conversation with the gentleman in the corner office.

And I find this very dispiriting indeed.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, Bike Racks Around the City

Bike Racks around the city of Newburyport, MA. What an incredibly good, sensible, obvious and downright fun proposal.

The Newburyport Parks Commission, the Seacoast Energy and Environmental Design Coalition (SEED) and Newburyport City Councilor Larry McCavitt together are working towards this goal. Good grief this really works for me.

This triumvirate hopes to cut down on pollution and help the environment in an effort to “encourage residents to bike rather than drive,” (Newburyport Daily News, January 8, 2006, by Stephen Tait) as well as help on the downtown parking dilemma.

According to the article in the Newburyport Daily News, SEED is seeking “donations from local businesses to support the effort and get more people downtown.” And the Newburyport Department of Public Works will help install the bike racks no less. This just gets better and better. And none of this is going to cost the City of Newburyport, MA a cent. How can we not love this.

And the “styles range from modern and streamlined to more historic-looking racks.” Sounds unbelievably well thought out.

Congratulations to City Councilor Larry McCavitt, SEED and of course the well love Newburyport Parks Commission.

It is a delight to see such a comprehensive and well thought out proposal that is such an incredibly “win-win” solution.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, George’s Talking Points

George Cushing, of Frog Pond at the Bartlet Mall, the political consultant for the Newburyport Political Blog, is trying to get my attention again.

What is it this time George?
George Cushing
trying to get my attention again.

George feels that it is questionable whether the “progressives” can get their “act together” so he would like to make some talking points on what he believes municipal policy could be.

Ok, I’ll bite George, but remember you are a FROG.

What in the world do you have in mind?

1) (We’re doing numbers here George? How very organized.) An aggressive planning agenda that addresses zoning changes to protect Newburyport’s neighborhood character and historic assets.

(Good start. But remember George’s last name is “Cushing” and he comes from a pretty swanky address, i.e. Frog Pond on Newburyport’s historic High Street.)

2) George likes these “Buy Local” folks. He would like two see two economic overlays, one for downtown and one for Waterfront West, sighting tons of ordinances that have been drafted across the country. He’d like to see Waterfront West have a square foot limitation for retail space. Apparently there is a correlation, according to the National Trust for Preservation, between retail space and historic preservation. Who knew? Smart Frog.

3) The Industrial Park, rezoned to include office space. George and Mayor John Moak like that one.

4) The capping of the Crow Lane Landfill completed. He thinks Mayor John Moak is doing all that any mayor could do.

5) The Senior Center, would like to see the Cushing Park (same name as George you notice) plan on the November ballot. (George thinks that if a Senior Center is built that there would be room for frogs??)

6) The Central Waterfront, would like to see the people’s wishes observed and have half park and half parking.

(Ok George, what about parking? From an aerial view, the train station has tons of unused parking? George, that’s from 5,000 feet, you really think anyone is going to go for that one? Hasn’t exactly been a popular solution all these years. And you want the City of Newburyport to include a Frog Pond? I don’t think so George, frogs are a zero constituency, no one is going ask the tax payers to pay for a Frog Pond. Come on.)

7) Schools. (Yes, I agree George, what a mess. Money, where are you going to get the money?) George would like the State and the Feds to get their act together and pony up some major bucks, because the tax burden on the average resident is already too high.

8) High Street (Oh, George, is this for me?) The Bike Lanes either finished or removed and the rest of the High Street Master Plan, which was passed by the Newburyport City Council, begin to be enacted — brick sidewalks, textured crosswalks, trees etc. (I like this.) (Apparently this was not for me. Had more to do with his feelings about Frog Pond. George wants the rest of High Street to be as nice as the restoration to the Bartlet Mall.)

9) And a discussion about the ineffectiveness of a 2 year mayoral term. Either a 4 year mayoral term or a city manager form of government. (My, “la de da,” aren’t we really out there on that one?)

Well, I’m impressed. That’s not a bad start considering he’s a FROG, except for the insistence that the tax payers pay for another frog pond and that frogs would get to hang around in a Senior Center. Good grief.

Mary Eaton


One of the other reason’s I’m pissed about all these complications I’ve discovered (like being sued) if I keep on blogging on the Newburyport Political Blog is that George could no longer make an appearance on the World Wide Web.

I love George. We are talking about George Cushing of Frog Pond at the Bartlett Mall, in Newburyport, MA, who has graciously offered to be the political consultant for the Newburyport Political Blog, for goodness sakes.

And George has a big fan club. And when he gets upset about something all the frogs in Frog Pond at the Bartlett Mall get upset too. So upset sometimes that they even make guest appearances in an effort to comfort and abet (as in support) whoever they seem to feel needs comforting and abetting.

You know any other political blog that has a frog for a political consultant? I don’t.

George mulling over multiple dilemmas

George is mulling over how I could keep on blogging. He’s thinking of “safe” stuff that maybe I couldn’t be sued over. Like the mayor’s current plan for Newburyport’s Central Waterfront.

The map of the latest version of the new Waterfront possible plan has already made an appearance in both the Newburyport Current and the Newburyport Daily News (you’d think I’d be covered on the “being sued stuff” on this one.)

George and I both looked at the latest version of the new Waterfront possible plan, and said to ourselves, “Say what? The green part is where?”

And one of the things he and I are both confused about is a delightful gentleman, an ardent preservationist, seems to be plugging for this less than green wonder of a proposition.

(One of the things I’ve learned is that people don’t like to see their names in anything that could possibly be inferred as a “bad light.” That’s one of the ways I get these nasty phone calls. So, that’s one of the reasons I’m not saying who this well loved, ardent preservationist is, in this post at least. You’re just going to have to read the Newburyport Current’s past issues, they are on line.)

This very well respected preservationist has been described to me as “going over to the dark side” (George is wondering if “going over to the dark side” is suable. I hope not, I think it’s just someone’s opinion. I hope.)

“Going over to the dark side” (this is someone else’s phrase, not my phrase, I’m just repeating it here) is a little over the top, but it does indicate how impassioned (is that an understatement or what?) people are over this darn waterfront thing. People are equating the Newburyport Central Waterfront saga to “Star Wars!”

George (who is green) recommends that the mayor put in lots more green (i.e. park) in this particular parking plan. That might mean there could be some sort of resolution in my lifetime (how utterly optimistic of moi) to this ongoing, going on way more than a quarter of a century, emotionally charged, stunningly baffling Waterfront opus.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, The Waterfront

As I type away, massive opposition against Mayor John Moak’s stand to pave over Newburyport’s Waterfront is beginning to intensify.

Are we surprised? No.

This is my guess, if Mayor John Moak came out and said, yup, let’s do some combination of park and parking, the majority of opposition that is mounting feverishly would stop and a great sigh of relief could be heard across our small seaport New England city.

The “word on the street” is that Mayor John Moak is entrenched in his position of all parking on the Central Waterfront, and has absolutely no intention of backing down period. One would hope that the “word on the street” is wrong, but it is the opinion of this local political blogger, that the “word on the street” might well be true.

So, I would very much like Mayor John Moak to wake up, politically so to speak, “drop the waterfront rope” and do a little political compromising here.

The truth is there are no easy answers to the parking solution, answers maybe, but not easy ones. To face that reality, and get on with wrapping this whole waterfront thing up, would be a wonder. Plus, Mayor John Moak would go down in the history books as finally helping the whole thing to come to a resolution. Not a bad legacy. Believe me, that would work for me.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, A Report on the Meeting of the Waterfront Task Force

Dear Citizens,

I am placing in bullet points some highlights of Mayor Moak’s meeting on July 12, 2006 (at the Newburyport police station conference room) regarding the Newburyport NRA central waterfront issue.

* The mayor’s hand out during the meeting is titled, “Central Waterfront Task Committee”; list the various individuals and groups as listed in the Daily news story of July 13, 2006.

* CEB Note: General Law Chapter 39, section 23A list committee or subcommittee however otherwise constituted, deliberating on public business, as a government body and guided by Chapter 39, section 23A of the Open Meeting Law. This is being referred for consideration.

* Susan St. Pierre was invited by the mayor to present a Chapter 91 overview to the Mayor’s central waterfront task committee.

* CEB Note: Susan St. Pierre worked for Roger Forster (directly or indirectly) during the time a hotel was being proposed for the NRA/Public lands.

* CEB Note: The NRA holds the deed for these two lots on the waterfront. The original intent for this creating of an entity to hold the waterfront deed was to keep local politics out of the decision process.

* It was noted several times that all data collected from the mayor’s task force committee was for a presentation to the NRA in the form of a position paper.

* Janet Marcus Chairperson of the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority noted the most recent public waterfront survey would be tabulated shortly.

* CEB Note: A rumor is floating that the current citizens’ survey on the use of the NRA/Public waterfront is indicating the public’s desire as the last survey and referendum before that; some parking (100-150) and mostly park.

* Mayor Moak stated that all he wants is what this group (Mayor’s central waterfront committee) determines as use/needs for the waterfront.

* The Mayor also noted he hoped that the people’s wishes to be in this plan. The mayor remarked about the process, would hate to see it stymie the imagination.

* As of this e-mail, the next Mayor’s central waterfront committee meeting is Aug. 9, 2006, 6 PM at the police station.

The public’s wishes have been expressed loud and clearly by majority votes and voices in referendums, surveys, and in the courts. If wisdom applied, it maybe wise to wait and listen to the most recent citizens’ survey STILL being tabulated. This would be wise if city government is interested in the voice of the people. I refer to the term city government; all officials elected by the people are responsible to maintain that trust of the ballot box.

It would be a grievous sin to allow the two Newburyport Redevelopment Authority lots; the most beautiful waterfront locations on the North Shore; to become an over flow parking lot for Mr. Karp’s Waterfront West project. This would also be a grievous sin towards the Citizens of our community and our Democratic Freedoms.

Albert G. Decie
Citizens for Environmental Balance (CEB)
Newburyport, MA

(Editor’s note: This is an edited version of a much longer email I received from Albert Decie. The longer email is a memo that is being sent to the District Attorney’s office enquiring whether or not the Open Meeting Law has been followed by Mayor John Moak. For the complete memo please contact Mr. Decie.)

Newburyport, The Mayor’s Waterfront Task Force Meeting

According to someone who attended the Mayor’s Waterfront Task Force meeting, it was well attended. In fact the room at the police station apparently was full. And yes, there was a reporter from the Newburyport Daily News.

Evidently folks like Mary Lou Supple and Albert Decie joined the group. And half the group, as someone explained it to me were “interlopers.”

“Interlopers” work for me.

And yes the Mayor was there and introduced the person, Susan St Pierre (I believe Ms St Pierre is with Vine Associates, 253 Low Street, Newburyport, Massachusetts,) who was to explain why Newburyport’s waterfront could be paved over.

As one would expect there were intelligent challenges made to the fact that somehow the Waterfront could get around Chapter 91. (For an explanation on Chapter 91 see earlier post.)

The Mayor apparently assured everyone that he would make sure that the Waterfront Task Force was posted.

Apparently much has been made out of the fact that this most recent meeting was not posted. At least two people have contacted the District Attorney’a Office and the Ethics Commission. Not good PR for Mayor Moak.

As I understand it, the Mayor told the gathering that the Waterfront Survey, from the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority would be one piece of information and the Waterfront Task Force would be another piece of information that would help guide the fate of this important piece of land.

Of course, this baffles me somewhat. It seems an odd way to govern, if the process of democracy is what one is after.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, Tonight’s Meeting On the Waterfront Task Force Never Posted

Tonight’s meeting concerning paving the Waterfront and the “Waterfront Task Force” was never posted.

I don’t know much, well, I don’t know anything about the “open meeting laws,” but I do know this, it’s always good to have an open and transparent government—it doesn’t hurt to avoid the appearance of being secretive.

I was going to give the mayor the benefit of the doubt here. I thought surely there must have been a slip up somewhere, these things do happen.

However, I just received an email from Albert Decie saying that he in fact did check with the Mayor’s office, and apparently the Mayor’s office did not feel this meeting of the Task Force qualified as a meeting that needed to be posted.

And to quote Mr. Decie in a follow-up email “I just talked with the Police Department conference room scheduling person. The scheduling of the conference room at the police station for this evening at 6 PM is listed as scheduled by Mayor Moak.”

(The fact that anyone who attends this meeting gets to be considered part of the Waterfront Task Force gets odder and odder.)

The whole thing is very odd indeed.

I’m not going to be able to make it tonight. But I would think that the fact that this seemingly informative if not important meeting is taking place without being posted would ensure somewhat of a skeptical crowd.

I’ll be interested to find out.

Mary Eaton