This year, 2014, it is my opinion that Newburyport saw the best and the worst examples of the legislative process in the Newburyport City Council
The best was the attempt to preserve Newburyport’s historic assets.
The process had its origins in Newburyport’s raucous and rancorous LHD debate (see endless posts). The two sides as I now look back:
1) Preserving Newburyport’s historic assets through regulations governed by a particular commission.
2) A concern about the control of that commission, and a distrust of commissions like it in other communities.
I ended up thinking that both were valid points of view.
And then Newburyport City Councilor Katy Ives spent a good year and a half listening to all and sundry and came up with an incredible win-win solution.
1) The properties before 1930 in Newburyport’s Historic District could not be demolished.
2) Newburyport’s commercial downtown, our “brand,” needed to be preserved.
Katy Ives got elected to the Massachusetts State Senate, and the compromise by Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives died. Poof.
That is until Jared Eigerman got elected as Ward 2′s City Councilor. And Councilor Eigerman met with the “Yes LHD” folks, the “No LHD” folks, hardcore preservationists, and hardcore property rights folks. It was made clear that no one was going to get everything they wanted, and that an ordinance would be presented that was possible in the existing political climate. It was basically what Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives had proposed a year and a half before.
People may have not liked all of it, but it passed unanimously with an 11-0 vote.
And people, whether they liked all of it or not, did not:
1) Feel ignored
2) Feel invisible
3) Feel as if their insights were insignificant
People felt that a decision had been made that took into account a wide variety of feelings and thoughts about the issue.
The result = a whiff, or slightly more than a whiff, of trust and hope.
The worst legislative process in 2014 by the Newburyport City Council in my opinion was the Plastic Bag Ban.
For me this was the most frustrating and appalling legislative process that I have been involved in. During that process, all kinds of very productive points of view and ideas were presented. They were swept under the rug.
As a result people:
1) Felt ignored
2) Felt invisible
3) Felt as if their insights were insignificant
People felt that a decision had been made that did not take into account a wide variety of feelings and thoughts about the issue.
The measure passed with a split vote of 6-5 with 2 of the City Councilors who voted for the measure, expressing doubt and reservation on the Council floor.
The result = a huge lack of trust, a festering sore and lingering resentment, and discouragement (the opposite of hope) in a process that did not reflect the larger representation of the citizens of Newburyport.