Newburyport and Governing

One of my huge questions about President Obama, was yes, this is an intelligent man, yes, he could run one remarkable campaign, but, when push comes to shove (pun intended), could he govern?

And after Sunday’s historic vote on Health Care Reform, love it or hate it, the answer is in my mind, most definitely, “Yes.”

I was concerned that as a nation we had done something so historic by electing our first black president, that just that accomplishment alone would paralyze us from going forward. That after (and yes, probably during) the election of President Obama, there seems to me to be a blistering undercurrent of often collective unconscious racism, and could President Obama and the country move forward with this added obstacle.

And after our own Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown’s election, would President Obama still be as unrelenting in his quest of Health Insurance Reform?

I am moved and inspired by this remarkable and persistent accomplishment.

And one of the things that also concerned me, was that expectations for our new president were so high and unrealistic, that there was no way anyone could live up to those hopes and anticipations. It was a very long fall from the exceedingly high pedestal that he had been placed on.

Conversely, in Newburyport, MA what I have heard since the November election for Mayor of Newburyport, is that the expectations for Mayor Donna Holaday were low if non-existent. This perplexed me, but it has also worked in her favor, big time.

So many people have said to me that they are “surprisingly” impressed with our new mayor Donna Holaday. My response is always one of surprise, and I am delighted to not only reassure people that Donna Holaday, in my mind, is already one terrific mayor, but also to fill in some of the details in why I would think that.

And the question with any new mayor is for me, “Can they govern?” And my hope is that, yes, Donna Holaday would be able to govern Newburyport, MA in a remarkable way.

Newburyport Mayor-Elect, Donna Holaday

One of the things that puzzles me is that people approach me, and almost in a whisper and ask, would Newburyport’s mayor-elect, Donna Holaday be supportive of “X” issue.

And my response, so far, has always been, “You bet” (I’m tempted to say “You betcha,” it’s so catchy). “Have you seen her voting record on “X,” it’s even better than “Y’s,” in fact it’s way better than “Y’s.”

And then I go onto say that Donna Holaday is very approachable, easy to talk to, a very good listener, responsive, and on top of it, a “lovely lady” (and, because I am a woman, I can say this last phrase “lovely lady,” without being sexist, plus it’s an accurate description).

And people who have asked me about Donna Holaday with great concern on there face, relax and smile, and say something to the effect of, “I feel so much better,” or “I think maybe I can relax now.” It’s Ok, as they say in New York, “Relax already.”

My sense is that Donna Holaday will be a mayor who governs from the center (one of the reasons that she got elected), with leanings to more “progressive” issues like historic preservation. Why “historic preservation” could be seen as a more “progressive” issue in Newburyport, MA, is still a mystery to me, after all these years.

I think that she will listen to different points of view, and may move in the direction that she senses her overall constituents feel would be the right way to go, which will definitely piss some people off.

I think too, that mayor-elect, Donna Holaday won’t be afraid to admit that she has made a mistake. I saw this first hand at the second public hearing on Newburyport’s now “controversial” wind turbine. She was very out spoken in the fact that there was so much excitement about the new wind turbine, that there was a rush to judgment on the part of the Newburyport City Council (the vote, I believe was unanimously in favor, or at least very close to unanimous, including Donna Holaday), and the whole issue would need to be seriously reevaluated.

And I think that she would take very seriously the citizen activist groups on certain issues like Newburyport’s landfill and the wind turbine ordinance, and try to incorporate them more into Newburyport’s city government, understanding that often citizen activists, often out of necessity, become the city’s “experts” in whatever issue it might be.

So, not to repeat myself, but to repeat myself, I am very much looking forward to Donna Holaday’s term as mayor of Newburyport, MA.

Newburyport Local Political Election Recovery

I think I am finally coming out of my post local Newburyport political election letdown. After the high of Newburyport’s election night, way back in November 2009 (it’s now December, almost January), practically a post-coital event, where I found myself wanting to roll around in bed and smoke cigarettes.

The drama. Two good mayoral candidates, and then in the last two weeks, although at first cloaked in euphemisms, it became evident to the collective unconscious of the 35 percent or so voters who actually go to the polls on election day, that one of the candidates, gasp, wanted to put buildings on Newburyport’s Central Waterfront, after 40 or so years of struggling to come to a consensus to basically leave the land naked. The other candidate won. (A gross simplification, I know, but tough luck, voters generally don’t go for complicated political nuance.)

And in thinking about the mayoral candidate that won, Madam Holaday, it feels like a breath of clear Newburyport seacoast air, on a mild, clear winter day, and a dusting of very shovelable, 1-3 inches of powdery, bright white New England snow.

In the mayor elect, Donna Holaday, I have much faith. Sure I’ll disagree here and there, but I trust her to listen to the folks in Newburyport, MA, or to put it another way, to listen to the 35 percent of Newburyport’s electorate that actually pays attention and possibly cares, while considering the remaining 65 percent who don’t have a clue that we actually have something called a Newburyport city government.

She will listen to different points of view, most probably change her mind on local controversial issues, and will be accused, by those who actually pay attention and care of “flip-flopping.” But in my mind, it would not be “flip-flopping,” it would be a careful approach to governing.

She will probably sit down with the Newburyport City Councilors, show great patience and tact with those whom she might disagree, and for those few who look like they are so “green” (green in the “don’t have a clue” sense, not in the “environmentally correct” sense) that it will, if Newburyport is lucky, take them 6 months to a year to figure out what the hell is going on.

My first thoughts of coming out of my post election climax. And as I further awaken from my November induced haze, it could be that I might have something else to mumble and muse about in the days and weeks that await Newburyport, MA.

A Picture of Winning, Newburyport Election 2009

I had never really thought that there was any correlation between painting, my painting (see previous post) and my love of local politics. But after this last political race, 2009, I’m beginning to think differently.

When I start a painting there is an idea, the canvas is “blocked in” with shapes, the shapes become more and more detailed until, voila, there is a realistic painting.

And in this mayoral race it took a long time for me to see a picture taking shape, but the last weekend before the Newburyport election 2009 and especially the day of the election 2009, it seemed to me that there was no question that Donna Holaday would win.

About two weeks before the election it became clear, for a variety of reasons, the interviews in The Newburyport Liberator being one of them, that there was a huge difference in the way the two candidates approached the Central Waterfront (see earlier entries). And the there was no question that Donna Holaday had the “Waterfront” vote, a vote in Newburyport, never to be underestimated.

By that weekend, it was obvious to me that Donna Holaday had the “City Hall vote,” and the folks at Newburyport City Hall vote, and their ties in Newburyport’s community go deep.

It was also apparent that candidate Holaday had the “townie” vote (except for those who were a little concerned that she might not be as firm about the “override” issue as James Shanley). James Shanley was perceived as the candidate who was the “new comer,” who could take away their town. (I do not happen to think that this is true, but that appeared to be the perception.)

Donna Holaday had the enthusiastic education vote, a large block of voters. Ms Holaday had the “Back Bay vote,” basically anyone in town that really disliked the wind turbine (see earlier entries), which is a huge portion (politically correct or not) of Newburyport’s population.

The historic preservation vote was split.

And when the list of contributors came out, it was perceived that James Shanley was in the pocket of the developers. I know James Shanely, and I know that this is absolutely not the case, although it was the perception. (Mr. Shanley had worked very closely as a Newburyport City Councilor with the Newburyport Chamber of Commerce, a member of which was a major player on his very organized campaign, and my guess is that a lot of the business community gave donations as a result.)

And then there was the fact that Donna Holaday has a huge name recognition, for a whole variety of reasons. And also, a lot of folks in town know that we have a mayor, but they don’t know that we have a Newburyport City Council, much less that we have a president of the Newburyport City Council. So the fact that James Shanley was the president of the Newburyport City Council meant absolutely nothing to a large majority of folks that don’t pay a whole lot of attention to Newburyport politics.

Outcome, Newburyport Election 2009

Both The Newburyport Current and
The Newburyport Daily News have very good stories on the outcome of the Newburyport Election 2009. Donna Holaday won as Mayor of Newburyport.

The un-official numbers are:

Holaday 2,704
Shanley 2,257

The Newburyport Daily News has an article on the race for Newburyport Councilor At Large. The numbers for that race:

“Connell secured 2,977 votes, Ives 2,877, Hutcheson 2,338, Jones 2,309 and Herzog 1,970. Michael Ferrick received 1,604, while Frances Sullivan took 1,629 votes.”
(The Newburyport Daily News, November 4, 2009)

In Ward 1, incumbent Larry McCavitt lost to Allison Heartquist.

“Unofficial results show Heartquist won by a large margin in the Plum Island precinct, 191-81, while the vote was closer in the mainland section of Ward 1, with Heartquist getting 385 votes to 361 for McCavitt.”
(The Newburyport Daily News, November 3, 2009)

Both the Newburyport Current and the Newburyport Daily News have stories on the Newburyport Charter Commission, Question #1 and the Newburyport Charter Commission race.

“Although results are not yet official, 3,336 voters said yes to a ballot question that asked if a commission should be formed to review the City Charter, the document that outlines Newburyport’s form of government. The unofficial number of votes against the charter review was 1,233.”
(The Newburyport Current, November 4, 2009)

Both The Newburyport Daily News and The Newburyport Current have the results of the Newburyport Charter Review Commission:

Kathleen Bailey 1,373
Bruce Brown 1, 075
Hugh Kelleher 1,006
Bruce Vogel 1,003
Bruce Menin 997
Steve Cole 979
Shelia Mullins 953
Jim Stiles 941
Roger Gagnon 848

(If I get a chance, I will stop by the Newburyport City Clerk’s Office and pick up a copy of the results ward by ward.)

Here are the official results ward by ward of the Newburyport Elections 2009. They are on the Newburyport City Website.

Official results from Newburyport Election 2009, press here.

Here is a copy of the final election results, ward by ward, that I picked up from the Newburyport City Clerk’s office.

Election results for Mayor, Councillor and Councillor At-Large.

Election results for School Committee, Question #1 and Charter Commisson.

Newburyport 2009 Election Results

Results for Newburyport Election 2009

Mayor of Newburyport
Donna D. Holaday
James G. Shanley

Winner: Donna Holaday

Ward 1
Lawrence V. McCavitt
Allison Heartquist

Winner: Allison Heartquist

Ward 3
Robert J. Cronin
Dawne Shand

Winner: Robert J. Cronin

Councilor At-Large
Barry N. Connell
Steven R. Hutcheson
Kathleen O’Connnor Ives
Thomas E. Jones
Michael Edward Ferrick
Ari B. Herzog
Frances E. Sullivan

Barry N. Connell
Kathleen O’Connnor Ives
Steven R. Hutcheson
Thomas E. Jones
Ari B. Herzog

Question #1
Shall a commission be elected to frame a charter for Newburyport?

Question #1 wins by a large margin

Usually the City Clerk hands out the “un-official” results about a half hour after they are read in City Hall Chambers. But (I think because of the number of Charter Commission candidates) only the “un-un-official” results (in some wards only phoned-in results were available) were in, and at 9:45 it was thought that it might take up to another hour to get the “un-official” results. So I came home. I do not have the list of people who won for Charter Commission. I am sure all of that will be in the local papers tomorrow.

Congratulations to those who won, and to all who ran.

Election Day, Mid-Day Report

I actually went to all the polling places, except Plum Island. One thing surprised everyone I talked to. Usually there is an “early morning commuter” vote, from about 7:00 AM to 8:15-8:30 AM. Often there are people waiting in line to get into vote. That did not seem to exist at any of the polling places this year, which could mean a very low turn-out, which would be too bad.

When I went to vote at Ward 2, there was a steady stream of voters, and the total at about 11:30 was 250, which people seemed to think was very low for that point in the day.

And the thing that surprised me, was that people said that there was a lot of sentiment against Question #1… about whether to discuss the structure of Newburyport’s City Charter, so it could turn out that Question #1 could be very close.

At Ward 1 and Ward 2 there were a many more people holding Donna Holaday signs, when I went, which surprised me. At the Bresnahan School, Ward 5 and Ward 6, and Hope Community Church, Ward 3 and Ward 4, the signs were about even for Donna Holaday and James Shanley.

Newburyport Election Day 2009

Go Vote! (Polls are open from 7 AM to 8 PM)

Vote for:

Mayor of Newburyport

Newburyport City Council

Newburyport School Committee

Question #1 (whether or not we should have a discussion about the structure of Newburyport’s government, voting just on having a discussion–vote “Yes!”)

9 members for Newburyport’s Charter Review (who will be leading the discussion about the structure of Newburyport’s government.)

Polls close at 8 PM.

The Newburyport Daily News will have the election results as soon as they are available on their website.

Port Media will reporting the election results live on Channel 9. Gillian Swart will be doing the commentary.

I may go down to Newburyport City Hall just to watch the results as they come in.

Day Before Newburyport Election 2009

I am a political junkie. In local elections, I love the day before voting day, and voting day itself. The candidates have waged their campaigns, the last push over the weekend has been made, and there is a certain excitement and anticipation in the air.

And no matter who wins or loses, I always have a let down the day after election day.

Make sure you vote tomorrow, Tuesday, November 3, 2009.

If you do not know where to vote, the Newburyport City Clerk’s Office has this link here, where you can put in your street information and it will tell you where to go.

Here are some of the contested races for Newburyport election 2009 and the ballot question.

(* Means that the person is an incumbent.)

Mayor of Newburyport (Vote for one)
Donna D. Holaday
James G. Shanley

Ward 1
Lawrence V. McCavitt *
Allison Heartquist

Ward 3
Robert J. Cronin
Dawne Shand

Councilor At-Large (Vote for five)
Barry N. Connell *
Steven R. Hutcheson *
Kathleen O’Connnor Ives *
Thomas E. Jones *
Michael Edward Ferrick
Ari B. Herzog
Frances E. Sullivan

Question #1
Shall a commission be elected to frame a charter for Newburyport?

For all the information on the ballot for Newburyport’s 2009 election, press here, The Newburyport Daiy News, including the 20 candidates running for Charter Commission.

Newburyport Current Endorses Holaday

A friend of mine with a long institutional memory has told me that this is the first time that they could remember when the two local papers endorsed different candidates.

I would agree with the Newburyport Current’s analysis which you can read here.

And their analysis came down to, out of two “terrific” candidates, who would be best suited to lead the city in these very difficult economic times:

“Holaday’s careful and measured approach to problems, her wide range of experience with people from all corners of the city, and her deep roots and long institutional memory are the types of qualities the next mayor probably will need. Then there are her major assets: her expertise with budgets, her knowledge of not only how to create programs, but also how to fund them, and her legal background.”

And the Newburyport Current does have glowing things to say about James Shanley as well. And I would agree, that no matter what :

“You could look at the mayor’s race and say it’s kind of a win-win for the city, and no matter what, things will be fine.” (The Newburyport Current, October 29, 2009)

Local Newburyport Political Leadership

I was watching Charley Rose last night, and he and the person that he was interviewing were talking about the nature of politics. The conclusion that they appeared to arrive at, and I am paraphrasing here, is that politics is yes, an ability to form sound political policy, but politics also involves “passion,” and “irrationality.” They were talking about national politics. But I would argue that those same principles, “sound policy,” “passion” and “irrationality” are also part of the local political process.

The Newburyport Daily News has endorsed James Shanley for mayor of Newburyport, MA. They were talking about how James Shanley’s proposal for Newburyport’s Central Waterfront (see earlier entries) makes “economic sense” and that Mr. Shanley’s “management of the City Council has been businesslike, respectful and efficient.”

What the Newburyport Daily News endorsement does not take into account is the “passion” and “irrationality” of local politics. And I would argue that the reason “the city has been unable to achieve (a solution to the issue of the Central Waterfront) in 41 years,” would not be for a lack of good ideas over the last 4 decades, but because this piece of land, for whatever reason, brings out tremendous “passion” and yes, forgive me, sometimes “irrationality.”

I think both candidates, Donna Holaday and James Shanley, would be very respectful, efficient and business like in their approach to the office of Mayor of Newburyport. However, having watched both candidates for any number of years now, I think Donna Holaday has a better grasp and a lot more tolerance for the “passion and irrationality” of Newburyport politics, which I would argue, would be a much underestimated and under-appreciated, but much needed quality in local political leadership.

Newburyport Election 2009–The Liberator

If you have not done so already, go out and get yourself the latest copy of The Newburyport Liberator (I get mine at Richdales, but they are sold all over town). You may or may not agree with the Liberator’s endorsements, but this election copy (October 23, 2009) would be extremely useful in giving people information about the candidates, to help them make up their minds about who they might vote for, on Tuesday, November 3, 2009.

Jim Roy, the editor of The Newburyport Liberator, has worked for decades on Newburyport’s parking issues and for an Open Waterfront on the NRA property (the two dirt parking lots on either side of the Firehouse Center for the Arts), so take this into consideration as you read who the Liberator has given its endorsements to.

However, all the candidates, both for mayor and for Newburyport City Council, are given some space to express their answers to 3 questions, so the reader can hear directly from the candidates themselves.

The Newburyport Liberator also gives a big fat endorsement to voting “yes” for the Newburyport Charter Review, and has its take on the 20 candidates running for the opportunity to lead the discussion about where the Newburyport city charter could go. So, by all means, go get yourself a copy.

Debate for Mayor, Election 2009

I watched the mayoral debate between Donna Holaday and James Shanley last night on Channel 9 (see earlier entries for other times, as well as the video and link below).

I came away thinking that we are lucky to have two really good candidates, who I think would both make good mayors.

I know both of the candidates, and they both have very knowledgeable and “geeky” sides, as well as relaxed and funny sides.

In the debate I saw the knowledgeable, thoughtful and “geeky” side of both candidates. What came across was Donna Holaday’s strength on the financial aspect of running our city, especially doing the budget, which is huge. And James Shanley’s strength on the planning and developing side, which is also huge.

In my conversations with James Shanley over the years, I’ve often been struck that he has gone to regional planning seminars-conferences, that none of the other Newburyport City Councilors had gone to. In the debate candidate Shanley referenced one of those conferences, with a comment, and this is not an exact quote, “It was kind of a ‘geeky’ thing to do,” which, it sounded like on tape, brought chuckles from the audience. James did manage in that debate to show the relaxed and humorous side of James Shanley, a side which is very appealing.

Gillian Swart in her post on the debate has her take, and she does point out the importance of Donna Holaday’s financial expertise, especially when it comes to the budget.

Below is the video of the evening debate and a link to PortMedia, so you, reader of the Newburyport Blog, could make up your own mind about who you would like to vote for mayor of Newburyport, MA.

(Editor’s Note: The video is no longer available at

The Newburyport Mayoral Debate, Election 2009, video courtesy of PortMedia.
(Voting day is Tuesday, November 3, 2009.)

Newburyport Mayoral Debate, Election 2009

For those who did not make it to the Newburyport mayoral debate last night at Newburyport High School, you can watch it on Channel 9 at PortMedia. And I would imagine that PortMedia would eventually have it on video like the interviews with the candidates (see earlier entry).

The schedule is as follows:

10/22/2009 at 5:00 PM

10/23/2009 at 12:00 PM

10/24/2009 at 4:00 PM

10/27/2009 at 8:00 AM

10/30/2009 at 4:00 PM

An article in the Newburyport Daily News about the debate can also be read here.

My phone has rung (I did not make the debate) and I have read the article. It was my feeling that Donna Holaday really needed to “knock it out of the park” to win, and certainly to make absolutely no mistakes, and to demonstrate her relaxed, charming and funny side. Apparently that did not happen.

In challenging James Shanley about the candidate’s “proven leadership,” apparently there was a less than tactful rebuttal by Donna Holaday, which by all accounts ” ..drew audible gasps and grumbling from the audience, and Holaday apologized to Shanley immediately after the debate ended, saying her words didn’t come out as she intended.” (Newburyport Daily News article.)

I’m not a betting woman, but in my experience there is sometimes one thing in a mayoral race that decides the outcome of the election. And my response was, “Good grief, that’s it. The election is as good as delivered. This will put James Shanley way over the top.”

I will watch the debate on PortMedia.

Editor’s Note: I have heard other voices over the day, saying that the debate was pretty much a tie, and the “incident” at the very end was “nothing,” and was actually an appropriate comment. Good for PortMedia in video taping the event.

Editor’s Note 2: I’ve heard from even more voices, which have said that Donna Holaday was superb.

Newburyport Central Waterfront Risk, Election 2009

In re-reading the 2 previous posts on the mayoral candidates differing positions on their vision for Newburyport’s Central Waterfront, I was struck by something.

If I had “recently” moved to Newburyport, and a candidate had suggested to me that we replace what was destroyed on the Central Waterfront during Urban Renewal (see last 2 earlier entries) with historically sensitive buildings (James Shanley’s position), I might say, “Why not? That makes perfect sense to me.”

The problem for me is that it might make perfect sense, except that this particular piece of land, in this particular city, with a particularly long and volatile history, for whatever reason, is unbelievably emotionally charged.

A friend of mine likens it to the abortion issue, not that in any way it has remotely the same seriousness as that particular issue, but, locally, it does have an emotionally charged electricity about it. We have gone to COURT about this piece of land.

If James Shanley does get elected mayor, pursues this idea for the Central Waterfront, I think people will come out of the woodworks and go nuts, making what Mayor John Moak (see two earlier entries) went through seem like a “walk in the park.” And I wonder if the “new people in town,” that James Shanley talks about, would have the same passion, and fight, because it is my take that they would need to fight and fight relentlessly for this waterfront proposal, or just say, “Forget about it, this is just not worth it.”

Think about how upset people got about having a ticket booth on the boardwalk (see earlier entries). And that was just a tiny, shack-like ticket booth, not buildings.

So for me, although James Shanley’s idea for the Central Waterfront could make sense in a vacuum, or some place else, it strikes me, to even suggest going there, as being “politically deaf, ” and this concerns me.

Having ideas about projects is one thing, but reading the political climate, and understanding whether or not a project is politically viable, is crucial in a civic leader, especially the mayor. And should James Shanley pursue this project, if he were to be elected mayor, I think it could consume everything else that he would want to accomplish.

Building on Newburyport’s Waterfront

I looked back at posts on “the waterfront” on the Newburyport Blog. And when the blog was started back in January 2006, for about 6 months the subject of the resistance to Mayor John Moak’s proposal of paving over the Newburyport’s Central Waterfront, comes up over and over again, and I had forgotten just how viscerally passionate people were. There were still entries on the subject in 2007.

I don’t know if in three years that passion about this particular piece of land has disappeared, but it would be hard for me to imagine that it would have. And if folks were upset about Mayor John Moak’s proposal, how would they feel or react to mayoral candidate James Shanley’s much more ambitious proposal of building “something historically based, something like what was there before” (The Newburyport Liberator, October 9, 2009) on Newburyport’s Central Waterfront.

I’m sure that James Shanley, who is a very bright and thoughtful man, if he were to be elected mayor, would appoint a commission of very bright people to look at this “new” approach, to make this piece of land, which the candidate has called an “underperforming asset,” generate money for the city.

And then I can see all hell breaking lose, a little like all hell broke lose when Mayor John Moak started the process of trying to put mostly parking on that piece of land.

On July 2006, Al Decie wrote on the Newburyport Blog about Newburyport’s Central Waterfront, “The public’s wishes have been expressed loud and clearly by majority votes and voices in referendums, surveys, and in the courts.”

It is true, as James Shanley has said, that people like Al Decie (unfortunately) no longer live here, and that there may be a lot of new people, who “don’t understand how we got here” (Newburyport Liberator again) do. But, Mr. Decie is right, this piece of land produces such passion, that it has been involved in a very long, expensive and drawn out process IN COURT. And the issue was about building on that very same spot.

So either we as a city have “moved on” and are willing to think about a completely “new” approach to a much fought over piece of priceless downtown, Newburyport property. Or, if we even consider that route, those wild passions could come forth again (you can almost bet on it) and could derail much good that needs to be accomplished.

Personally, I like Donna Holaday’s approach “reduce the parking, install grass, plantings, landscape design…it would be perfect.” (Newburyport Liberator, same issue again) And we could concentrate on what Stephen Karp would be building on either side of the Central Waterfront, and “get on with it.” Do I really think that this “miracle” would ever happen in my life time. I haven’t before (see earlier entries here and here), and actually, I am still skeptical that it could.

Newburyport’s Central Waterfront, Election 2009

The differences between the two candidates running for Mayor of Newburyport in the 2009 election, Donna Holaday and James Shanley are beginning to emerge. And the one, unbelievably significant distinction is their plan for Newburyport’s Central Waterfront.

The Central Waterfront is not the land owned by Stephen Karp and New England Development, but the two “dirt parking lots” on either side of the Firehouse Center for the Arts, that the city has been fighting about for the last 40 years. It has always turned out to be a political third rail.

Jim Roy, the editor of the Newburyport Liberator, is one of those people who has fought for an Open Waterfront, and knows the most minute, tiny and important information about this whole long 40 year process. In the latest issue of the Liberator, which is out now, Jim has two very good interviews with both mayoral candidates. And in the next issue, due out this weekend, there will be an Op-ed piece by Mary Lou Supple, former chair of the NRA, in response to the interviews, specifically concerning the Central Waterfront. (I get my copy of the Liberator at Richdales, but you can find issues of the Liberator all over town.)

The position of James Shanley would go something like this–during Urban Renewal (The Newburyport Daily News did an excellent series on Urban Renewal called “A Port in Progress”), the city tore down a whole lot of historic buildings that were once on those two dirt parking lots. The city could put back buildings that would be in scale, that would run parallel to Water Street, leaving both access and views of the Merrimac River, that would resemble the wharfs, taverns and shops of earlier days, with places to sit and enjoy the mighty mouth of the Merrimac River.

Donna Holaday’s position is crystal clear. NO buildings. That space is “the Jewel of the city.” There should be a park period on the Central Waterfront, which is what the citizens of Newburyport have said that they wanted and have vigorously fought for, for at least 30 plus years. It’s time to get on with it, and make this long awaited vision finally come to fruition.

The Central Waterfront has always been Newburyport’s political third rail. I think that Mayor John Moak was “surprised” by the visceral response that he got early in his administration back in the winter, fall and summer of 2006 when he wanted to pave the central waterfront for parking. Mayor Moak was only talking about cars, not buildings. I think if we put aside 40 years of “discussion” that we as a city have had about the Central Waterfront, we would be opening one incredible can of worms.

Writing about Newburyport Elections

As a blogger, I really, really don’t like election time. Even if I might disagree with a candidate or wonder about their qualifications, I am always impressed when someone takes the time to run for office–it indicates that they care a tremendous amount about Newburyport, MA. And I really get more upset with an electorate that isn’t paying attention and does not vote, than with differences in the candidates.

Tom Salemi over at the Newburyport Posts says, in his always tactful approach, something along the same lines. Tom Salemi’s post on the subject, “Take Time to Care” can be read here.

blond_blogI thought I would go back and read what I had written for the Newburyport election in 2007. And I came across something that I had “drawn,” which I think is still to the point and pretty funny– not as tactful as Tom Salemi. You can see it to your left. Paris Hilton could probably be substituted with a more 2009’ish “it” person, but the general idea would be the same.

Voting is a tremendous privilege, and I’m with Tom Salemi, whoever you might be, take the time to get to know about the candidates, there are many available venues, as Tom points out. And get to know about this year’s very important issue on the ballot, The Charter Review, which Tom has all kinds of information about on the side of his blog.

Newburyport Councilor at Large, Election 2009

The election for Newburyport City Councilor at Large. There are 5 seats for Newburyport Councilor at Large and 7 folks are running. All 4 incumbents would get my vote. They are, in no particular order:

Kathleen (Katy) Ives
Thomas (Tom) Jones
Steven Hutcheson
Barry Connell

For me that leaves the seat vacated by Donna Holaday, who is running for mayor of Newburyport. The three people who are also on the ballot would be Michael Ferrick, Ari Herzog and Frances Sullivan. It is just my “take,” but Francis Sullivan might lack a certain “toughness” that in my mind would be a must for anybody on the Newburyport City Council (they don’t call us “Cannibal City” for nothing).

For a Newburyport City Councilor embarking (either chairing or being on a committee) on a “rumble,” in my mind would be no picnic. A “rumble” being a large meeting where folks are very upset about a certain issue, the landfill or the wind turbine would be two examples that come to mind.

One of the things that I found very interesting in the taped interview by PortMedia (see earlier entry on the two videos of the candidates running for mayor of Newburyport MA) is Donna Holaday’s comments that often the neighbors in such instances, like the landfill or the wind turbine, become the “experts,” providing the City of Newburyport with much needed information. And the “neighbor”, “experts” need to become an asset to whatever project might be going forward. (This would be different than NIMBY, “not in my back yard.”)

Anyone who has become involved in a city project on a volunteer basis, knows just how much minute information they know, whether it be traffic, the Fruit Street Historic District, High Street, the Central Waterfront, just to name a few.

So ideally, I think it takes a certain “toughness” along with a certain amount of “wisdom” to know when the neighbors have become the “experts” and not NIMBYs, and to constructively incorporate them into the process and learn from their accumulated knowledge. And one of the things that I like about Donna Holaday, is over the years, and in that interview, she has demonstrated that ability to pay close attention to information which she might not have known about or appreciated before. This would be refreshing in a mayor.

But for Newburyport Councilor at Large, Ari Herzog or Mike Ferrick–to tell you the truth, at this point in time, I just don’t know.

Newburyport Charter Review

On November 3, 2009 we (residents of Newburyport) go to the polls and vote whether or not we would like a discussion about whether we would like to think about changing our current form of government or not. We will be voting only on whether or not to have a “discussion,” that’s it, just a “discussion.”

And we will be voting on who we would like to elect to have that discussion.

Tom Salemi on his blog The Newburyport Posts, has this subject covered. Tom Salemi is also running as a candidate for Charter Review. He has my vote because he would be great (and not because he is a fellow blogger, but because he would be great), and there are a whole lot of other folks who would be terrific as well.

20 candidates are running for 9 spots. And Tom has done a terrific thing. If you go to the side of his blog, you can click on anyone of the candidate’s names, and you will get a page with their picture and bio/statement.

Tom Salemi also has all kinds of terrific information about what exactly a “Charter Review” would be on the side of his blog. And the Newburyport Charter Review also has it’s own website.

Way back when in June 2007, I wrote what is probably one of my more favorite posts on why our current form of government would be so antiquated. And here is an edited version:

“My Dad and I were talking about Newburyport, MA. My father loves politics.

Q. My Dad: What qualifications do you need to be mayor?

A. Me: Pause. Tilting my head. Another pause. You just need to be 18.

Response. my father and I: Pause. Another pause… peals of laughter.

You got to admit, that’s a pretty apt response.

And one of the other things that my Dad thought was pretty wild would be the fact that that the mayoral term is only 2 years.

My Dad: 2 years??

Me: Yup, 2 years.

My Dad: No one could possibly get anything done in 2 years.

Me: Yup, you got it.

My Dad just shook his head in utter amazement.”