Newburyport City Council, City Clerk Appointment (Only in Newburyport)

There was one vote last night at the City Council meeting that I do have some background on, the vote for City Clerk.

Our mayor, John Moak, used to be City Clerk. The City Council has known since the election in November that the position needed to be filled. (The City Clerk works for and is appointed by the City Council.)

There were a variety of applicants one of which was a City Councilor, Jeremy Gillis.

Jeremy Gillis is a young man who has a Bachelor of Arts in Administration of Justice. He is currently working in a retail shop where his skills are under-utilized. He is well qualified for the job and it would be a very good career move for Mr. Gillis.

The caveat is that Mr. Gillis has taken some very controversial political positions that have angered some of his fellow city councilors.

And to apply for City Clerk, Jeremy Gillis had to step down from the City Council. There is an election for his seat, and if Mr. Gillis wishes to run in that election he has to turn in his papers today. If the City Council had made a decision last night, it would have been very clear what Mr. Gillis’s choice would be today. (At the moment I have no idea what he has decided to do.)

Although I strongly disagree with many of Mr. Gillis’s positions, I have always found him to be a thoughtful, conscientious and fair man someone I am always able to talk to.

Last night I would have voted for Mr. Gillis, because my own opinion is he would be quite capable of being impartial in the job as City Clerk. And also, there is someone who is much more in line with my own political beliefs running for his seat. So, if that person were elected, that would help change the balance of the City Council.

I could only shake my head in disbelief last night, along with Tom OBrien, the head of the City Council. And of course wonder what Mr. Gillis will do now and how this “Gordian knot” of a “political drama” will continue to unfold.

Mary Eaton, Newburyport

The Newburyport City Council

Having started this political blog I thought it might be good idea to watch the entire Newburyport City Council meeting last night (usually I only watch bits and pieces.) I could only shake my head in wonderment and disbelief.

These are 11 (at the moment 10) strong personalities with varied political ideologies, conflicting political agendas, often with long histories of personal contention.

It was like watching taffy trying to come to a consensus (yes, I know, it’s a mixed metaphor.) This is not exactly something new, but one always hopes (maybe very naively) that maybe this time the new City Council might be able to move things forward in a timely manner.

People have often asked me if I would run for City Council. It is a job I wouldn’t want, primarily because there are some issues (the budget for example) that are so complex, that I would be completely out of my league.

But last night there seemed to be some pretty obvious (to me) resolutions. The police need a new cruiser (their old one having been totaled.) We need a new City Clerk, but that met with a deadlock last night, despite abundant time to get to know the applicants (every City Councilor should be well acquainted with the two finalists anyway.) The Council admitted that they had no real say on the NRA survey (this has to do with parking on the Waterfront), but decided to send it to committee anyway. This means it is unlikely to go out with the City Census, which would have ensured that as many people as possible could answer it. And, I was unable to make out whether or not the residents from Ashland Street got any relief from their problem or not. To paraphrase one City Councilor, “we’re talking a lot about the issue, but are we actually helping them?”

There are stories behind every vote. The next issue of the Undertoad will most likely address them. But as I watched the City Council meeting, I wanted to hold up signs saying, “keep it simple”, “principles not personalities”, “how important is it?” and “think.”

Mary Eaton, Newburyport

Why I Would Never Want to be the Mayor of Newburyport, Massachusetts

I think being the mayor of Newburyport, Massachusetts is probably one of the most difficult jobs in town.

When I served on one of the mayor’s transition teams, I was dismayed to find out that (and these are by no means exact figures) there is about 80 thousand dollars for 8 million dollars worth of projects that all need to be done immediately, all equally important, everything from the schools to the fire department.

The mayor is all of a sudden the CEO of a multi million dollar conglomeration. Even if he or she were the most astute business person, it would take at least six months to a year to begin to get a handle on this very complicated situation. The mayor only has a two-year term. And for about the last 10 years we’ve had a turn over every mayoral election.

The mayor also works with the Newburyport City Council, 11 members, with strong personalities and conflicting political agendas.

To top it off, Newburyport is a very opinionated and feisty community (which is one of the reasons I like living here so much.) If the mayor comes up with a solution to one problem, a good portion of the community is very likely to have strong objections.

It is a wonder that anything can get done. Our new mayor is hoping that he can “manage” this great octopus of a conundrum. He is already meeting with strong opposition on the first issue he has addressed, which is how to solve the parking situation and what to do with Newburyport’s waterfront. This is probably has been one of Newburyport’s most controversial issues for over three decades.

No matter from which political ideology the job is approached, being the mayor of Newburyport, Massachusetts requires a combination of background and job skills that is almost impossible to find in anyone individual.

Mary Eaton, Newburyport

A Commonsense Solution to the Newburyport Waterfront and our Parking Problem

In a recent posting about the nettlesome problem of park/parking for the central waterfront, it was stated that “Unfortunately, unlike the statue of George Washington, there are no obvious or easy answers to this controversy.” I agree with half of this statement – I agree that there is no obvious answer to the controversy.

Several recent mayors have attempted to get obvious solutions accepted and have failed, badly. I can only hope that the current mayor will also fail to gain acceptance for the obvious solution he is promoting – if he succeeds I can only imagine the comments of residents ten years from now on how extraordinarily foolish people were to place a parking lot in a beautiful waterfront location that will by then be at the middle of massive waterfront development that will span from the Gillis Bridge (Rt. 1) almost to Joppa Park.

People scoffed (with some justification) about the recently proposed Green Street location making downtown Newburyport look like Haverhill. However, making a parking lot the centerpiece of an otherwise beautiful downtown is so utterly lacking in vision as to beggar the imagination.

Fortunately, there may just be a relatively easy solution. It entails moving beyond a one-size-fits-all solution like a new large central parking lot/garage, and breaking to parking problem into pieces.

First off, the city government must come to understand that a very large number of parking spaces in the downtown are used only rarely – the best data indicates that except for 2 days a year, there are approximately 200 unused spaces (although personally I think it may be a bit fewer). These 200 spaces alone would make it possible to greatly expand the waterfront park. This would leave the city short 200 more spaces for massive concerts and for the Yankee Homecoming parade day, but it is beyond foolish to preserve parking spaces that are used only twice a year.

Next, the best data indicate that there are over 200 people who work downtown who park illegally every day. I believe that a solution should be found for these parkers.

I feel that the most likely solution is to find places to shoehorn in dedicated parking spaces for these parkers here and there. In my walking about in the downtown, I have come to believe that this is very doable (I am happy to share these ideas with anyone who is interested).

Now, my math says that this totals in the 400 parking space ballpark – just what the doctor ordered for a really great waterfront park.

This leaves one problem unsolved – parking for major events. For these few days, I would suggest that we explore shuttle service with MVRTA or other interested parties. Between large lots at the train station, along Storey Ave, Merrimack St. and elsewhere, I believe that on these days it should not only be possible, it should be easy to intercept cars on their way to downtown and shuttle their passengers in from there.

The numbers work. Getting this solution would take some time and money, but for what I believe would be small money, we can have plenty of parking when and where we need it plus a great central park.

Plus, 10 years from now we will not have to look back with profound regret at what we have permitted to befall a downtown that could have been great, but instead is put to shame by nice places like Haverhill.

Jim Stiles, Newburyport

Jim Roy’s Article on Mayor Moak’s Threatening to Fire Nick Cracknell

I got a phone call this morning saying something to the effect of “Oh my #@ Mary! You were right! I voted for the wrong person! I should have listened to you! Have you read Jim Roy’s article in the Current this morning? John Moak is going to fire the planning guy!”

A little late I’m afraid for an “I told you so.” (The Undertoad did “hint” at this possibility as well.)

One of the things I’ve always liked about Jim Roy is that he doesn’t beat around the bush (anyone who knows Jim Roy, knows that to be an understatement.)

So to quote Jim Roy in today’s Newburyport Current, January 27, 2006:
“Candidate Moak spent a lot of time this past fall blathering on about our city’s architectural heritage, yet what is he doing now? Threatening to fire city planner Nick Cracknell because developers hate him.”…”If Moak has Cracknell walk the plank, it will represent a betrayal to even lip service that he intends to protect our architectural legacy.”

The whole article is well worth reading. You can find it on line at

A Story from Todd Woodworth and Why I Don’t Think the Newburyport Waterfront Will be Solved in my Lifetime

Todd Woodworth, one of Newburyport’s beloved local historians, told me a fascinating story. Now, because Todd Woodworth told it to me, I believe it is true. (I’ll admit, I haven’t double and triple checked it with Todd.)

Todd Woodworth told me a story about the statue of George Washington that is at the Newburyport Mall (which for those of you who have never been to Newburyport, is on historic High Street above Newburyport’s historic downtown.)

Apparently after completing the statue of George Washington, the artist was so upset with the people of Newburyport that he put his own name below the statue on the marble pedestal instead of George Washington’s name.

According to my conversation with Todd, it took the Newburyport Historical Commission 50 years to get the City of Newburyport to change the name from the artist and put George Washington’s name below the statue instead.

What fascinates me about this story is what did the people of Newburyport do to make the artist so angry that he put his own name below the statue instead of George Washington’s. As well as the fact that it took 50 years for the City to put in the statue’s correct name.

For approximately 30 years Newburyport has been debating on what to do with a piece of property downtown that goes along the mouth of Merrimac River called the “waterfront.” The debate continues with yet another administration.

Unfortunately, unlike the statue of George Washington, there are no obvious or easy answers to this controversy. I figure if it took the City of Newburyport 50 years to put the correct name under the statue of George Washington, it’s very likely that the waterfront won’t be resolved in my lifetime.

Mary Eaton, Newburyport

Newburyport’s Site Plan Review, a Strong Planning Director and the New Mayor

Several years ago the City of Newburyport established the “site plan review.” In today’s Daily News (January 26, 2006) Doug Locy, the Chairman of the Planning Board, explains that the purpose of the site plan review is to “protect the city’s historic characteristics.”

Mayor John Moak is quoted in the Daily News today as saying that he feels Nicholas Cracknell, the Planning Director for Newburyport, is “forcing ‘too much personal taste’ on developers” and would like to create a new board to take over the reviewing process.

Jonathan Woodman, a Newburyport architect, is also quoted. Mr. Woodman has become an extremely controversial figure, having taken on the project of expanding the Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank. This project has entailed the demolition of one of Newburyport’s historic downtown buildings, One Temple Street. This has been felt by many to set a dangerous precedent, seeing that almost none of downtown Newburyport is protected from similar destruction (see earlier post.)

Mr. Woodman has also been criticized for creating a structure that is out of keeping with Newburyport’s historic character. Anger over the project has become so heated at points that the outspoken editor of The Undertoad, Tom Ryan, has gone so far as to call the design a “goiter.”

In the article Jonathan Woodman is quoted as saying, “sections of the site plan review law are stifling design” and that “the design review process should look at making things better, not making them conform.”

It appears to me that yes forming a review board is an excellent idea. But what seems to be the real issue is that Mr. Cracknell has ruffled many a feather in fighting to keep Newburyport’s historic character. Having sat through almost the entire site plan review of the Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank, I would guess that a few of those ruffled feathers have been Mr. Woodman’s and quite likely the bank’s and portions of the business community itself, along with any number of developers.

It does not sound from the article in the Daily News that Mayor Moak has any real enthusiasm for keeping on Planning Director Nicholas Cracknell. One gets the feeling that an extra three-month trial (see earlier post) will most likely not change his mind. The City of Newburyport will loose a defender of historic preservation.

Mary Eaton, Newburyport

Newburyport Can’t Afford to Lose Nick Cracknell’s Vision and Passion

I was deeply troubled when I read Monday’s article, Jan. 16, “Master planner?” in the Newburyport Daily News. The article detailed the work of Newburyport Planning Director Nicholas Cracknell and philosophical differences with newly elected Mayor John Moak that may cost him his job. Having worked with Nick here in Amesbury, I can say without reservation that losing him would be a disservice to the people of Newburyport.

Nick is a leader and he has the kind of infectious vision and persistence that builds great communities. Time and time again, growth management has been cited as a central concern of the citizens of this area. Our citizens have a progressive vision of what they want our communities to look like and in Amesbury, Nick has turned that vision into a reality. We are now recognized statewide as a model for smart growth in a state that too often promotes bad development.

It has been said that Nick steps on the toes of developers in his work, and I won’t argue that. He was just as controversial when he worked here in Amesbury. Nick saw himself as an advocate for growth management goals and policies that were stated time and again by our citizens. Often, he is the only advocate for the city, while developers have plenty of lawyers, money and influence to step on the collective toes and will of the community.

I can remember talking with Nick after a meeting one night in front of Town Hall just before he left for Newburyport. We looked up Friend Street toward downtown and he commented about the beauty of our downtown. “Look at that,” he said, holding his hands up. ” What we have here is precious and fragile. Promise me one thing. You have to care for it and nurture it. You have to cradle it and protect it.”

It is that kind of passion and vision that Newburyport and the Lower Valley as a whole can’t afford to lose.

Roger Benson, councilor-at-large

(Editor’s note: Posting was also a Letter to the Editor in the Newburyport Daily News on Jan 23, 2006)

Burnout and Local Politics, the Difficulty in Getting People to Volunteer in Newburyport, Massachusetts

There are many people who get involved in local politics and issues in Newburyport and many of them end up getting burned out or disillusioned.

There are two very good examples illustrating this point in two recent publications.

Jim Roy wrote an article in the Newburyport Current called “A “Great” City?” in which he expresses his frustrations and laments, among other things, about how difficult it is to get people to volunteer in Newburyport. Possibly my favorite line was, “trying to get that historic district going? Lots of luck, Mr. Solo.”

This sparked a very impassioned Letter to the Editor in the following issue of the Current expressing outrage at Mr. Roy’s article.

The letter implied that Jim Roy has little appreciation of what it is like to volunteer in Newburyport. For the record, Jim Roy has volunteered for C’10, the Newburyport Traffic Committee, the successful effort to bury the power lines across the Merrimac River, involvement in Newburyport’s water front, helping to save High Street and volunteering for a variety of political campaigns. These are just a few of the projects that Jim Roy has been involved with over the years.

So, yes, I think I can safely say that Jim Roy knows a little about volunteering in Newburyport, Massachusetts. Mr. Roy’s diatribe may be inflammatory, but I understand his frustrations.

Too many events fall on the shoulder of one or two individuals. And then when the project is completed, instead of an outpouring of praise for hard work well done, there is usually a great deal of criticism, often very harsh, for a project that has taken countless hours and, often years to accomplish.

Another example is the response to Gary Roberts article in The Undertoad on January 6th discussing, among other things, the complications surrounding the entrance to the Atkinson Common on Plummer Avenue.

A Letter to the Editor in the following issue takes Mr. Roberts to task for misspelling “Belleville” instead of thanking Mr. Roberts for taking an interest and trying to help the project. I’m afraid that my experience over the years has been that a letter like this is all too typical of the attitude of many people in Newburyport, Massachusetts.

There are literally hundreds of stories about how hard working volunteers in Newburyport are disparaged and very often viscously criticize for the work that they do.

I don’t know if this will ever change and it is certainly one of the reasons why we are often referred to as “Cannibal City.”

It would be nice, however, but probably naïve, to think that the first thought in seeing a project completed or being worked on would be, “I may not agree with the outcome, but I certainly appreciate all the work that has gone into it. If I don’t like it I won’t whine, lambaste and complain. Instead I’ll appreciate the effort and maybe next time I’ll even get involved myself.”

Mary Eaton, Newburyport

Newburyport, Massachusetts–Support for Nick Craknell as Newburyport’s Planning Director

In the most recent publication of The Undertoad, January 20, 2006, the journal’s lead story is about a city councilor’s assertive effort to keep Nicholas Cracknell on as Newburyport’s Planning Director. At the end of the publication, Mr. Ryan states that unlike this particular city councilor, he is willing to give the new mayor “a chance” (this appears to be in reference to Nick Cracknell, I think.)

Now this had me scratching my head because in the previous issue of The Undertoad (see earlier posts), Mr. Ryan seemed to feel that Nick Cracknell was out. (And for those of you who don’t live in Newburyport or haven’t read the Undertoad, it is very rare that Mr. Ryan gives anyone the “benefit of the doubt”, which is one of the reasons people in Newburyport are so fascinated by The Undertoad.)

Yesterday I talked to someone who is close to the present administration who said that Newburyport’s Mayor John Moak was willing to seriously consider keeping Nick Cracknell on as Newburyport’s Planning Director.

I have no idea if this is actually true, but I would be delighted if it was. If Mr. Moak does keep Nick Cracknell on permanently it would say a great deal about his integrity (it is my understanding is that there is a great deal of pressure on John Moak to terminate Mr. Cracknell’s contract.) I believe that both John Moak and Nick Cracknell have the City’s best interest at heart even if their goals and styles may differ.

I would urge people to take Linda Miller’s advice in the previous post to “to give support, and encourage the City to look at the larger picture.”

If you would like to see Mr. Nicholas Cracknell kept on as Newburyport’s Planning Director, I would call the Mayor’s office at 978-465-4413. You will get his executive Secretary, Lois Honegger. Leave a message that you would like to see Nick Cracknell permanently reappointed. Also follow that up with an email to Mayor John Moak at urging the Planning Director’s reappointment.

Then call the Planning Office at 978-465-4400 and leave a message saying how much you appreciate everything that Nick has done for the City of Newburyport. Also follow that up with an email to Nick at, voicing your support.

Mary Eaton, Newburyport

The Newburyport Preservation Trust Supports Newburyport’s Planning Director Nicholas Cracknell

The City of Newburyport has benefited greatly from having Nick Cracknell as Planning Director.

Many good projects have been completed that would not have been successful if he were not here. Long-range planning issues such as growth, waterfront development and open space have been addressed in a thoughtful, long-term direction.

Preservation of buildings, streetscapes and landscapes is the principle mission of the Newburyport Preservation Trust and we hope to be working with Nicholas Cracknell for a long time.

Mr. Cracknell is dedicated, enthusiastic and insightful in his job and uses the long-term welfare of the City as his goal.

We strongly support the retention of Nicholas Cracknell as Newburyport’s Planning Director and hope others will come forward to give support, and encourage the City to look at the larger picture.

Linda Miller, Newburyport

Linda Miller is the founder of The Newburyport Preservation Trust. Linda is also a restoration and preservation architect who works in Newburyport, Massachusetts. Linda can be reached through her website at

Editor’s note, October 24, 2006: The new web address for the Newburyport Preservation Trust is

John Moak, Nick Cracknell–the Planning Office in Newburyport, Massachusetts

I mentioned to a very strong Moak supporter and campaign worker during the election that Mr. Moak would get rid of Nick Cracknell. I was told that that was absolutely untrue and that Mr. Moak wanted everyone to stay on.

Tom Ryan reported on January 6th that “Moak has informed councilors by letter that he is trying to see if Nick will be a team player.” (Mr. Ryan also points out that if Nick Cracknell leaves at the end of January, he would get a two month severance pay, but he would not get any severance pay if he were to take the “four-month trial contract.”)

In the article in the Newburyport Daily, Jan 16, 2002, it stated:
“Mayor John Moak said he would not reappoint Cracknell before his contract expire Jan 31 and instead has offered to wait three months before making a long-term decision on Cracknell’s future, according to a letter Moak sent to Cracknell Jan.12.”

(See earlier post for additional information.)

John Moak has been in City Hall (as the City Clerk) the entire time that Nick Cracknell has been Planning Director, and should have a very clear idea whether he would keep him on or not.

If Mr. Moak really wanted Nick Cracknell to stay on as Planning Director, he would have re-appointed him right away. But I think Tom Ryan and the Daily New’s assumption that “Cracknell’s days may be numbered” is correct.

By offering Nick Cracknell a four-month trial contract, John Moak looks like “the good guy.” He can truthfully say that he asked Nick Cracknell to stay. But it seems pretty clear that John Moak would like this very talented planning director to leave.

For me this is not an example of decisive and thoughtful leadership. A proactive and farsighted Planning Director does not come along very often. For me the apparent plan to ease Mr. Cracknell out is unfortunate and disingenuous politics.

Mary Eaton, Newburyport

Newburyport, Massachusetts, Tom Ryan and The Undertoad

It’s impossible to talk about politics in Newburyport, Massachusetts without talking about The Undertoad, a political journal, and it’s editor, Tom Ryan.

For those of you who don’t live in Newburyport, The Undertoad has been described by the Boston Globe (in its article on November 3, 2002) as the “insider’s guide to the underside of Newburyport.” I can’t think of a better way to describe it.

Mr. Ryan publishes stories that don’t always, (and many times absolutely would not) be printed in a traditional newspaper. Mr. Ryan has his ear to the ground, and if there is anything important going on in Newburyport, Tom Ryan knows about it. If Mr. Ryan publishes it in The Undertoad, most of Newburyport knows about it as well. As a result, The Undertoad has probably been one of the most significant influences on Newburyport politics since Mr. Ryan started it in 1996.

The Undertoad has been described as “controversial” and “divisive.” That’s probably an understatement. Many people have been stung and exasperated by The Undertoad’s commentary. But most eventually get over it, and go and take another peek.

It’s almost “shock Newburyport journalism,” it’s just hard not to wonder what The Undertoad is going to say next.

I’ve seen many a politician in Newburyport reading the Undertoad at Richdales (which is downtown) and look up and say either “I want to make sure I’m not in it” or “I want to know what’s going on.”

The Undertoad is not online otherwise it would have a link in the Newburyport Political Blog.

Mary Eaton, Newburyport

The Case for Growth or Why Newburyport Should Seek to Add People

As a city Newburyport benefits from the density and amenity that our village downtown offers. For residents the center brings all of the possibilities to live life well on a daily basis. Restaurants, retail, medical and dental care, financial and legal services are available and, in my opinion, almost completely adequate to make Newburyport a supremely livable city.

Now, don’t get me wrong, as a suburban entity, Newburyport is top level. Plenty of open spaces, plenty of cars to drive around in and plenty of strip malls. My issue is that I prefer the city aspects of Newburyport better than the suburban aspects.

As a city, Newburyport has a slightly smaller population than optimal. I’d like to see more density in the downtown area, more young adults in apartments and condos by the train station, and more diversity in both our population and in our economy.

There are lots of reasons not to grow. People are concerned with school costs. Some people don’t want anything to change from their high school glory days, and there is a certain amount of disruption in the process of growing.

Personally, I like living in the City of Newburyport and I’m of the mind that entities have to grow and evolve or they stagnate and die.

Ron Martino, Newburyport

The Significance of Google’s Indexing of the Newburyport Political Blog

People may wonder why it is significant that Google has indexed the Newburyport Political Blog.

(As I said in an earlier post, Google usually takes 2 days to a week to make the index permanent, meaning that the index will come and go on Google for the next couple of days.)

Every post will remain permanent. The blog will also begin to be visited from people all over the world. I know this is hard to believe, but it’s just amazing what people who are surfing the Internet want to read.

Google will translate a post into almost any language.

People in Massachusetts and in other states will become interested in what is going on in Newburyport, Massachusetts. I know this seems unlikely, but I guarantee that it will happen. (My own very small website is read all over the country and gets visitors from all over the world, including countries like Chile, Poland, Spain and Japan.)

People outside of this town will be watching to see what happens in Newburyport, Massachusetts.

People will wonder why we demolished an historic building like One Temple Street; why Newburyport is one of the few places that does not have an Local Historic District. They will wonder why someone in an historic town would even consider demolishing an historic mint.

Readers will wonder why a new mayor would consider letting go of a Planning Director, one of whose strengths is historic preservation. Why an historic property like the Wheelwright House on High Street might even considered the possibility of having a 40-unit complex.

They will follow the fact that Newburyport is interested in growing its international business profile and be able to read about it in almost any language.

Readers will be interested in the fact that we have The Newburyport Preservation Trust and follow its progress.

People will observe what we as a city do with a piece of property as priceless as the waterfront.

As of this morning the Newburyport Political Blog had 577 visitors in about 2 weeks (purely by word of mouth.) Once the blog is permanently indexed I guarantee that number will go up.

People outside our small community will be watching what we do. What we do will no longer matter just within our own city limits. What we do sends a message about who we are to people all over the state, the country, and yes, all over the world.

Mary Eaton, Newburyport

Google index’s Newburyport Political Blog

As of Janurary 17th, Google has indexed the Newburyport Political Blog.

This means that if you type in “Newburyport politics”, the blog comes up.

If you type in “Newburyport and “parking” or “international business” or “demolition, historic preservation, Wheelwright House, Mint, Perkins, Perkins Mint, Nick Cracknell, Temple Street, Jim Lagoulis, Lagoulis,” the Newburyport Political Blog comes right up.

This means that the issues concerning Newburyport will now be read outside of our city, by a statewide, national and yes, even an international audience. The Internet is an amazing thing.

(Sometimes it can take 2 days to a week for the indexing by Google to become permanent, ie, for the next week the index for the blog may come and go.)

Mary Eaton, Newburyport

Newburyport, Massachusetts, Nick Cracknell, Planning Director–Job in Jeopardy?

In the January 6 issue of Newburyport’s political journal the Undertoad, Tom Ryan, the Undertoad’s editor stated that Newburyport’s Planning Director, Nick Cracknell, will be let go by Newburyport’s new Mayor, John Moak.

In the Newburyport Daily News on Monday, January 16th 2006, the headline story was “Mayor Considers Removing Controversial Cracknell.”

As someone who has long advocated for historic preservation in Newburyport, Nick Cracknell has for me been a dream come true. Whether or not people like his style, Mr. Cracknell has fought unbelievably hard to keep the historic character of this New England city. It is my own opinion that we as a city have been incredibly lucky to have him. I feel it would be very unfortunate, to say the least, if our new mayor, John Moak, were to let Nick Cracknell go.

Mary Eaton, Newburyport

Newburyport, Massachusetts, the Zoning Board of Appeals Ruling on the Mint

The Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) voted to continue the application regarding the Mint until March 14th.

Nick Cracknell (Newburyport’s Planning Director) outlined a “last minute” overture by the Historical Society that he felt was of some significance. He outlined various conditions that he wished to impose on the property owner, Jim Lagoulis. He stated quite directly that the issues presented by the property were the most complicated he had seen in his 14 years working in Amesbury and Newburyport.

On the positive side, the recognition that imposing on-site parking for 5 or 6 units (I forget how many units the owner wishes to crowd into the buildings) was not an attractive option for the ZBA. This would entail the destruction of 5 antique shrubs (mostly rhododendrons) as well as additional black-topping. Sanity reigns.

On the negative side, three direct abutters continued their objections, along the usual lines of parking and density. There appears to be a lot of mutual mistrust.

My feeling is that the Mint has a 50/50 chance of making it. By that I mean:
1) The apartments need to get approved by the ZBA.
2) The Historical Society will step up to the plate with vigor. (I have communicated to the Historical Society and to anyone else who would listen, that there is a viable path to pursue.)
If these two steps were accomplished, the process could be speeded up and, I think, brought to a successful resolution.

The deliberate and “baby-step” approach of the Historical Society seems to me to be excessive.

I am not a member of the Historical Society, however, if any reader of this blog is a member, and wants to get involved, there is plenty of information available. Certainly there is plenty of information from me.

Jim Roy, Newburyport

(Editors note: “The Mint” which has also been referred to as the “Perkins Building” is on Fruit Street right below the Historical Society, also known as the Cushing House Museum)

Newburyport, Local Political Activism

I became involved in local politics in 1999 when the Massachusetts Highway Department wanted to upgrade/destroy High Street by taking down all the trees, widening and straightening the roadway, in most simplistic terms, making High Street look like a strip mall. (For detailed information see High Street’s website.)

I called my long time friend Frank Schaeffer, a very successful political activist across the river in Salisbury, and asked him if he would take on the project. Frank said he would, but he was going out of the country for two weeks and there were a couple of things I could get going on and a few things I should know.

1) Get a petition going that anyone could sign. (We did that and ended up getting 2,000 signatures in 3 weeks.)
2) Write a short “Highlight Sheet” that people could look at and understand the issues immediately. Put the Highlight Sheet, along with the petition, all over town.
3) Organize a large meeting, invite everyone from the Mayor, to the City Council, the State Representative and MassHighway. They wouldn’t all come, but invite them anyway.
4) Write Letters to the Editor, making sure that people knew about the meeting, when, what time and where.
5) People read the obituaries first in the local paper and then the Letters to the Editor, before or if they read anything else. Letters to the Editor were very important.
6) People get “meeting fatigue”, so only expect them to come to one or at the most two meetings. The first big meeting was the most important one.

When Frank got back two weeks later he told me that I was doing a great job and that I didn’t need him at all. That’s how I became a political activist.

(I’ve passed Frank Schaeffer’s “to do” list onto people all over the state who have contacted me and it always works.)

Many people had been working on High Street for almost a year, especially the City Council and the Newburyport Historic Commission. I happened to come along at the “right time.”

A meeting was scheduled on Feb 4, 1999, hosted by two City Councilors and the Newburyport Historic Commission. 450 people showed up, packing City Hall. High Street had a chance of remaining a beautiful historic roadway.

Mary Eaton, Newburyport

Newburyport’s International Business Profile

A new group has been formed with a set of goals aimed at growing Newburyport’s international business profile. The group’s mission statement is below:

The Newburyport Chamber of Commerce International Subcommittee provides an economic, social, and service mission to help existing area businesses grow internationally, attract new international businesses and facilitate high quality international business services for the community.

Those interrelated pieces of our mission consist of:

Service Mission
To assist local businesses in their international growth.
To attract new international business.
Create an environment of trust, respect, and teamwork through quality service.

Economic Mission
To assist and support the Chamber in its international efforts.
Support the creation of a multi-faceted chamber.
Assist in the creation of long-term and sustaining members.
To encourage job creation.

Social Mission
Educate chamber members, city businesses and residents on the global economy.
Build relationships beyond buyers/sellers for international business.
Encourage diversity amongst area businesses.
Create an information exchange on relevant international issues.

The next meeting of the Chamber’s “International Business ” committee will be held at the Chamber’s conference room on January 19th at 8AM.

Our guest round table speaker is Dorothy Zur Muhlen-Tomaszewska, Director of U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Boston Office.

The topic is “Export Assistance and Global Business Solutions”. This topic we be interesting to consultants and professional service providers, as well as the more traditional manufacturing audience.

Please feel free to extend this invitation to any of your colleagues or friends.

Ron Martino is the Co-Chairman of the International Business Committee at the Newburyport Chamber of Commerce.

Ron Martino, Newburyport