Monthly Archives: March 2006

Newburyport, the Kelly School, the Bartlet Mall and the Parks Commission

Something happy to blog about. Something not politically charged. How nice.

The Bartlet Mall promenade project will be finished! Hurray! The Kelly School parents and children are happy! Hurray! And Mayor John Moak apparently had a very positive and productive meeting with all parties involved. Awesome.

Bob Uhlig, the chairman of the Parks Commission, is a hard working (vast understatement,) talented, kind, thoughtful, smart human being. One of those people Newburyport, Massachusetts is so lucky to have.

Bob Uhlig is also a Kelly School parent (so am I, once a Kelly School parent, always a Kelly School parent) and fought very hard to keep the Kelly School open when it was under siege in 2000 (I have to admit I’m not exactly sure of the year.)

And Kelly School parents know how import that playground is to the Kelly School. I could not imagine that the Parks Commission would not work with the Kelly School parents. And it sounds like everyone has come up with a good plan that works for all.

And I’m very happy that John Moak had a good experience. After this last week, I’m sure it feels nice. It would be hard to imagine that he wouldn’t want the Kelly School to have the best possible playground and want the best for the Bartlet Mall.

And I sure hope he would like the Kelly School to stay open too and might be able to figure out a way to make that happen. That would win many, many points in my book.

Mary Eaton, Newburyport

Newburyport, That Other Big Appointment

Let’s obsess about Nick Cracknell, Newburyport’s City Planner for a moment.

There is a month before Mr. Cracknell’s extension expires. If Mayor John Moak is going to fire him, does he already have a suitable nominee in place? One who is already up to speed on the unbelievable amount of projects that are being dealt with by the Newburyport Planning Office? One that the people of Newburyport, Massachusetts will be pleased with? One that won’t cost the City of Newburyport, Massachusetts any delays and waste the city’s time and money?

If Mayor John Moak does not reappoint Nick Cracknell there will be almost no hope or just downright no hope at all of getting anything done. Things are bad now, with the response of the people of Newburyport to his axing of Mary Lou Supple and the unsuccessful nomination of Byron Matthews as her replacement. As I’ve said before this will be “bubkes” (Yiddish for “nothing”) compared to the axing of Nick Cracknell.

The boards and committees that Nick Cracknell works with wouldn’t exactly feel conciliatory or deferential towards Mayor Moak. The people of Newburyport would torment him.

The people of Newburyport would definitely want the Newburyport City Council, if Nick Cracknell was actually reappointed, to pass the nomination on both the first and second readings.

There was one “progressive” City Councilor (the only “progressive” City Councilor) who voted for Byron Matthews. This surprised me. Surprised a lot of people. Quite out of character. Won’t be forgotten.

I would imagine, as I’ve said before, that if Nick Cracknell’s name actually does come before the Newburyport City Council (what a happy day that would be,) that the citizens of Newburyport, Massachusetts will be typing away at their emails and picking up their phones.

Mary Eaton, Newburyport

A Big Thank You to the Newburyport City Council

I thought the Newburyport City Council was incredibly courageous on Monday night, March 27, 2006, not to accept Byron Matthews, Mayor John Moak’s appointment for the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority board on the first reading. Wow. Good for them.

I am glad we have checks and balances in our city government and that someone is listening to what the people of Newburyport have to say. And they are saying it in a very loud way.

I am a little flabbergasted that Mayor John Moak would even think of submitting Byron Matthews name again (the Newburyport Daily News, March 28, 2006.) Even on a federal level, it’s understood that when an appointment is turned down, the appointee is not proposed one more time. “No” is a complete sentence.

And a lack of ”politicking” on the mayor’s part is not the reason that Byron Matthews was turned down. I am just amazed that Mayor John Moak does not realize that. In fact, I find that to be a little scary.

“Politicking” after this fiasco would be to sit down with the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority, as requested by its chair, Janet Marcus, instead of ignoring them and not even bothering to reply to their letter. Finding out what they would recommend. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to sit down with all the City Councilors, to meet them face to face and ask for their input as well. And then after having all that information, when finally coming up with a “thoughtful” nomination, then contacting each of the Newburyport City Councilors, thank them for their input, and discuss the decision that has been made.

One could call this “politicking,” or one could call it simple courtesy, respect and common sense. Politics is about people.

I can tell you, right now however, what many would recommend, and that would be to reappoint Mary Lou Supple. There is nothing more powerful than acknowledging mistakes that have been made and a sincere “I am sorry.”

I would also like to thank Ben Laing for his post on March 28, 2006 on short-term solutions at the expense of the character and integrity of Newburyport, Massachusetts. I think he articulated what many people are thinking and feeling.

And one of my concerns, with Ben Laing’s post in mind, is that obviously Byron Matthews is a very strong influence on John Moak. This last appointment and how it has been handled demonstrates that there is no doubt about that.

And I think the points on planning and development or lack thereof made by Tom Ryan the editor of the Undertoad (see earlier post,) during the Byron Matthew’s administration, should give us all pause.

These are definitely at odds with the kind of “smart growth” that Nick Cracknell has been advocating for and working towards for the last four years. All I can say is keep up the loud noise on the Nick Cracknell front. The Newburyport City Council cannot help us on this one, but let’s not give up trying.

From my point of view there appears to be no wise men that John Moak is listening to. However, there is something to be said for the “squeaky wheel.” Folks, we better squeak a whole lot.

(Editor’s note: I have been reminded that the Newburyport City Council approves the appointment of the Newburyport City Planner. If Nick Cracknell does get reappointed by Mayor John Moak, I would imagine that there would be very heavy lobbying on the part of the citizens of Newburyport, Massachusetts to have that appointment approved by the Newburyport City Council.)

Mary Eaton, Newburyport

Short Term Solutions at the Expense of the Character and Integrity of Newburyport, Massachusetts

After reading an earlier blog post regarding former Mayor Matthews, I was shocked to hear some of his proposed plans for the city of Newburyport. Could you even imagine our lovely city today if some of those ideas came to fruition? An oil tank farm on Low St.? What really struck me is how blatantly obvious it is to us now that these are terrible ideas and that they would have ruined the city. It seems like we really dodged a serious bullet in those days, however, I’m sure at the time there was a segment of the population that may have supported those ideas. Jump forward to today, and you can almost sense that we face the same type of questions today, decisions that will determine the fate of Newburyport for future generations.

It seems that Mayor Matthews plans were short term solutions to improve Newburyport financially. I’m sure the oil pipeline and garbage incinerator would have meant fast cash for a down-trodden Newburyport, and I’m sure many people argued that it would keep taxes low, etc. etc. Thankfully, local citizens with more foresight realized how devastating those projects would be to Newburyport, that had they been built we would have crossed a sort of “point of no return” which would have led our city down a very different path and ultimately to a very different destination than the one we’ve arrived at today. Those citizens stood up to the local government in town and made them listen to their ideas, their thoughts, their fears and concerns and made the government realize that they indeed, work for us.

Again, jump ahead to the present. We are again faced with important decisions, many of them short term solutions designed to make some fast cash at the expense of the integrity of the city of Newburyport. Do we really want a huge condo complex built on the Woodman farm? In 20 years would we prefer to look at giant development there or would we prefer to look back and say, thank god we got together and prevented that project and kept such a critical piece of land as open space? Would we look back and laugh at how foolish an idea the project was at the time and how lucky we were to avoid such an irreversible situation? The same can be said about the waterfront, do we want to look back at this point in time and say, “What were we thinking? Pave the entire waterfront and charge people to park in all the lots downtown? We must have been crazy!” or do we want to look back with regret and say,” I sure wish someone would have stood up and said something, came up with a better plan, protected such an integral part of the character of Newburyport.”

I’ve tried hard throughout this post to avoid this cliché, but I don’t think I can hold out any longer, “Those who don’t understand history are condemned to repeat it.” I hope that we are fortunate enough to have some of those citizens with great foresight that can stand up to the critical issues of the day and come up with better solutions, be it Woodman Farm, the waterfront, infill, bike lanes, parking, over development, the senior center, or whatever. There are those that will say you can’t stand in the way of progress, but years ago progress meant having a tank farm across the street from the middle school, and thankfully we avoided that disaster. It’s ok that to preserve the things that make this city special, its ok to hold on to the character and traditions that have grown in this place and it’s ok to stand up and say no to projects that only seek to make a quick buck for the city while devastating everything we love about it.

Ben Laing, Newburyport

Newburyport, Thoughts from Wise People Needed

I would very much appreciate some input from the readers of the Newburyport Political Blog, some wise men and women if you will. You could email or call me, which would be off the record, off the blog, which I would want all thoughts on this subject matter to be. Also if you see me on the street or someplace like the supermarket, take me aside and let me know how you feel and what your thoughts on the matter might be.

My question is this: when tragedy strikes in our community, what would be an appropriate way for the blog to handle the circumstance. This is not a newspaper or a local journal, and there aren’t very many local political blogs out there like this one (in fact I can find any yet) to give an example.

I think one of the worst things is not to acknowledge tragedy and loss. On the other hand, I don’t know if a blog would be a particularly appropriate place to do that. Also, I am wondering if in a tragedy that affects our community, whether it might be prudent for the blog to be silent for a certain amount of time.

I would appreciate all feedback because I really, really don’t know what would be appropriate for the Newburyport Political Blog in a circumstance like this.

Thank you so much.

Mary Eaton, Newburyport

An Extra Clarification from Jeremy Gillis on Newburyport’s Waterfront

There seems to have been a great deal of confusion created over my position on the future of the Downtown waterfront. Let me try to make this as clear as possible:

I am not in favor of paving the waterfront but am for a mix of park and parking.

If the question were geared towards the NRA survey I would honestly and unequivocally support option #2 on the survey “Mix of expanded park and parking lots.”

The downtown will not be viable without parking. However it would also not be viable without the waterfront. I am opposed to paving the waterfront and would be happy to answer any questions on this matter. Feel free to call or email me, or just stop by the store. I hope this clears up any confusion about my position.

Take Care

Jeremy

(Editor’s note: Jeremy Gillis’ email address is: ward1issues@yahoo.com, phone number is: 978-463-0660 and the “store” is Port Paint and Paper.)

Byron Matthews as Mayor of Newburyport

More than a few people have taken an exception to my description of Byron Matthews as being “by all accounts was an excellent mayor” (see earlier post.) Tom Ryan in the March 24, 2006 edition of the Undertoad, elaborates on my apparent misconception.

To quote from the Undertoad:

“He (Byron Matthews) was in charge when the restoration (of downtown Newburyport) took place. However, it was Mayor George Lawler who secured finding from HUD on his way out the door. He did this because of the work done by the heroic citizens involved in the Newburyport Historical Society. Had Matthew’s had his way the downtown we know today would not have existed, it would have been a strip mall and a parking lot.”

I stand corrected.

Mr. Ryan also goes on to report that if former mayor Byron Matthews “had has his way there would have been a major docking station three miles off the coast of Plum Island and oil tankers would have pulled up and unloaded the oil that would run through huge pipes over Plum Island, through Newburyport and end up in a tank farm that was to have 18-24 huge oil tanks (40-50 feet high) on the corner of Low and Hale where Port Rehab and the neighborhood that sits behind it is now.”

I stand corrected again.

And to quote from Mr. Ryan in the Undertoad one more time, in the Newburyport Daily News, October 30, 1995, Alan Davitt wrote:

“Later in one of his administrations he (Matthews) advocated a waste treatment facility exactly as the one now operation along route 495 in North Andover. If Newburyport had been selected, the project was to be located in the Quail Run area.”

I stand corrected one more time.

I thank the Undertoad for these corrections and clarifications. I now know much more now about the 10 year administration of former mayor Byron Matthews than I did before. And it becomes even more apparent that Byron Matthews might not be the best appointment to replace Mary Lou Supple for the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority.

And it also becomes apparent that what Bill Plant refers to as the “good old boys” may not in fact have always been either prudent or wise.

I stand corrected a fourth time.

Mary Eaton, Newburyport

A Response From Jeremy Gillis

Hi Mary,

Just felt I needed to respond to your recent blog entry:

I am sorry people feel upset that I resigned my seat to seek the Clerks Position, but as I have posted on other forums and was printed in the Undertoad it was a decision I felt was in my, my family’s and the city’s best interests.

I return phone calls/emails as quickly as I can. If I neglect to return a call, I am sorry but rest assured that the issue/problem has been taken care of to the best of my ability.

I never said I wanted to pave the entire waterfront. I am for a mixed use, nicely landscaped combination Park/parking. I do not feel that the Downtown can be viable without some parking on the waterfront. I have always said that it would be a sin to pave over everything down there.

As far as the whole “infill” thing I have stated my posistion many times. The ordinance as written was too restrictive on the homeowner. I and Councilor McCarthy offered to reconsider our vote but the planning board would not compromise. This was the only ordinance change designed to curb development that I have voted against.

John Moak is a friend of mine. I have known him most of my life. He was always great to work with when he was Clerk. That being said I have no allegiance to anyone in the corner office. I would vote for his policies when I agree with them and vote against them when I don’t. That was the same as it was with Mayor Clancy when I was a councilor and the same philosophy I have had with past administrations as a private citizen.

My record over the past two years has quite a bit to show for it. I am not a “conservative good ol’ boy.” nor am I a “bombastic progressive.” I have and always will vote the way I feel is in the best interests of ward 1 first and the city as a whole. We would never have accomplished what we did if we had an extremist viewpoint (from either end of the spectrum) in that chair. The common pasture would not have been purchased, we would have no bike lanes slated for Plum Island, Perkins park would not be remedied and Joppa park still would not be handicapped accessible. I am proud to have been a part of what the council accomplished in the last two years and hope to be part of it in the future. We will let the voters decide which way they want to go.

Take Care

Jeremy

(Editor’s note: I received this very thoughtful response to my last posting from Jeremy Gillis, and I thought it would be appropriate to publish the entire email as it was sent to me. I did not ask Mr. Gillis’ permission, but I thought he would not mind.)

Newburyport, Ward 1 Race

I was very interested to read Tom Ryan’s thoughts in the recent issue of the Undertoad, March 24, 2006, on the outcome of the Ward 1 preliminary election.

This is complicated.

What I hear as I walk and talk around the South End of Newburyport, which is where part of Ward 1 is located (the other part is on Plum Island) is that Mr. Ryan is right, that folks are not happy with Mr. Gillis’ choice to resign his seat and seek the Newburyport City Clerk’s position. Actually, this surprised me. The other thing I hear is that many people were upset that Jeremy Gillis didn’t return their phone calls the way they would like. (I myself would always wander down to Port Paint and Paper, where Mr. Gillis works, when I wanted a chat with Jeremy Gillis). The other factor is Mr. Gillis’ position, which in the preliminaries was to pave over the entire waterfront, and his voting record on the issue of infill (put “infill” in the search box, and hopefully the post on that subject will come up.) And last but not least, Jeremy Gillis’ allegiance, if you will, to Mayor John Moak.

I would also agree with Mr. Ryan, that Larry McCavitt the other candidate running in this election can be bombastic and persistent. Whereas Jeremy Gillis has a very deft hand when it comes to politics, which I admire enormously, Mr. McCavitt’s approach appears to be more like a political sledgehammer. Larry McCavitt is also a proud, unapologetic, if not somewhat inflammatory “progressive.”

Now, I have no idea what will happen in this race, and I will follow it with great interest, but it is my feeling that it is no accident that Mr. McCavitt won two to one over Jeremy Gillis.

It is my feeling that the good people of Ward 1 learned from the mayoral election. Elections matter. Political positions matter. And the fact that it appears that Mayor John Moak is not listening matters.

Whereas in previous elections, a sledgehammer approach could backfire, it seems that people are so angry and so disillusioned with the present administration, that a strong, progressive, sledge hammer approach could be appreciated. It could be seen as a way of trying to get the administration’s attention and tilting the Newburyport City Council to a more progressive side, to counter what appears to be, at this point, an entrenched, “good old boy” mentality.

I’m putting a little money on this race, and ordinarily I’m not a betting woman. If Mayor John Moak does not start listening and honoring his all his constituents, and if he goes and axes Newburyport Planning Director, Nicholas Cracknell, that those two things would most likely guarantee that Larry McCavitt could win the Ward 1 election.

Mary Eaton, Newburyport

Honoring All the People of Newburyport, Massachusetts

In the Newburyport Current, Friday, March 24, 2006, Mayor John Moak has this to say in regard to his controversial appointment of Byron Matthews for the board of the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority, replacing long time board member Mary Lou Supple:

“This is a good decision. It’s not a fluff choice for a fluff job. It’s a tough job. Some say this is a ‘Good old Boy’ decision. But you know what, good old boys and good old girls do a good job for the city. That’s why we’re where we are today, because of what they did 30 years ago.”

Wow. One hardly knows where to begin responding to that particular remark.

I think that if Mayor John Moak had made similar remarks during his election campaign as part of a stump speech, my guess is that he most probably would have lost the election by a landslide.

It may indeed be true, good old boys and girls do an excellent job for the city of Newburyport, Massachusetts. But what that remark indicates is a lack of respect and honor for all those people who also do an excellent job for the city of Newburyport, who are not good old boys and girls. (For a definition of “good old boy” please put “Bill Plant” and “good old boys” in the search box, and hopefully the appropriate post will come up.)

And for all those folks, who I call “progressives,” who voted for him in a big way, thinking that John Moak was a “safe” candidate, (to use Jim Roy’s phrase in the same issue of the Newburyport Current. I would interpret “safe” as meaning “fair and balanced.”) I would imagine that this remark could sound harsh and dismissive.

What I am hearing more and more, and this is not just from “progressives,” but also from people who have lived here all there lives, is that John Moak is not “honoring” all the people of Newburyport.

Many people feel that the opinions and contributions by people who do not agree with Mayor John Moak are being treated with disdain. And it appears to me that this makes many people from all different political points of view feel very nervous, and that they may feel that this does not bode well for what could happen in the next 21 months of this administration.

Mary Eaton, Newburyport

Editor of the Newburyport Political Blog

As the editor of the Newburyport Political Blog I find myself saying “no” to many posts that are sent in. All these posts could make excellent letters to the editor for the Newburyport Daily News, but for some reason, which I can’t quite articulate, they don’t quite fit the feel of the Newburyport Political Blog. And now I find that I always try to err on the side of caution. If I have the slightest doubt that it might not quite be a match, I say “no,” And it’s always a different reason for every post that comes in.

Again this is a major learning curve for me. I had no particular plan when I started the blog a little less than three months ago, but I find that I am very protective of the Newburyport Political Blog as it evolves. I also find that I am very protective of the people of Newburyport, and that includes my “guest bloggers.” I know how mean people can be, and I guess my inclination is that if in doubt, I don’t want to take any chance that they could be “slammed.” And having lived here since 1981, I think I could have an ear for what people would be receptive to and what could end up being “gossip,” if you will, “around the water cooler.” I also know how hard everyday folk work to honor the City of Newburyport in all kinds of ways, paid and unpaid and I would like to do my best to honor that, even though I may not always succeed.

So, this is another very interesting, but unexpected learning curve for me and the Newburyport Political Blog. So, I really don’t know where the blog is going, and I’ll take it a step at a time, and we will all find out together. And be assured that this is “progress not perfection” and the editor of the Newburyport Political Blog (me) will make tons of mistakes.

Mary Eaton, Newburyport

Newburyport, Concerns About our City

So, over the past couple of weeks it seems there has been bad news after bad news regarding the future of Newburyport, be it the development of the waterfront, parking, the NRA, Woodman Farm, infill, etc. etc. Even yesterday in the Newburyport Daily News, March 22, 2006, there was an editorial calling for Mr. Karp to let the city know of his plans for downtown ( see earlier post). It seems that things are starting to snow ball around here and I’m sure I’m not alone when I say it’s starting to get me worried.

Anyway, I was driving around yesterday, running a few errands, and a song I haven’t heard in a long time came on my MP3 player, it seemed to me to be the anthem of Newburyport. It is by a band called the Living End, and I don’t expect many people who read this blog to have heard of them, first because they are from Australia and secondly because they appeal to a much younger audience. However, hearing the song I thought I would post the lyrics as I feel they really apply to the situation here in Newburyport:

“All Torn Down”

I see the city and it isn’t what it used to be
A million houses goin’ up and down in front of me
No time to let the concrete set before it’s broken up again
Don’t care if it’s historic
Don’t really care at all

A hidden landscape on the brink of a development
A protest rally never satisfied with development
Both striving for a perfect world
Each having their own opinion
And so the city it grows
It grows on and on…

All Torn Down
All Torn

I see the city and it’s grown into a big machine
The streets are freeways and the parks are just a memory
No time to let the concrete set before it’s broken up again
Don’t care if it’s historic, don’t really care at all

All Torn Down
All Torn

You’ve got no reason.

(for those of you that want to actually hear the song I suggest going to the Itunes site, they will let you listen to a sample of the song)

Despite your taste in music, I’m sure everyone can see some truth in this song as it applies to Newburyport. Hearing it got me thinking, and I hope by reading it, it will do the same for others.

Ben Laing, Newburyport

Newburyport, Brief and Tiny Bit of Levity

After all this wailing and gnashing of teeth over the axing of Mary Lou Supple and the proposed appointment of former mayor Byron Matthews for the NRA, I thought it might be time for a tiny bit of levity.

I put Google ads on the Newburyport Political Blog in hopes of making some money. What happens is that the Google robot or “Google-bot” crawls the blog every day looking for words that match its advertisers. There is a bit of a lag time between when the Google-ad-bot crawls the blog and when the ads actually show up.

At first the ads were about Newburyport, as I expected. Then all of a sudden there were all kinds of ads about fuel. And I realized that the Google-bot had picked up on the word “energy.” Ok, no problem.

Then on St. Patrick’s Day there were little shamrocks all over the Google ads. It took me about 45 minutes to figure out that this was a nifty Google surprise. On special holidays it is going to decorate the ads. I’ll be interested to see which holidays they pick and what the decorations look like. I can opt out of this new special treat if I want to apparently, but I thought I’d wait and see what Google comes up with next for nifty holiday decorations.

And then recently I noticed that there were ads for “militias” and “infantry.” I couldn’t imagine how in the world Google came up with that one. Well apparently it’s all this chit-chat on the Newburyport Political Blog about the NRA. The Google-ad-bot thinks that the Newburyport Political Blog is talking about the National Riffle Association, which as far as I know we are not. I’m not sure I can straighten this one out with Google. So if you are a peace advocate, it’s just that Google apparently doesn’t read things in context and must not have a lot of advertisers for the word “waterfront,” but does have a whole lot of advertisers for “militias” and “infantry.”

Mary Eaton, Newburyport

Newburyport, Politicking

Let’s have a little chat about “politicking.”

In the Newburyport Daily News, March 15, 2006, Mayor John Moak said, “Maybe I haven’t been spending enough time politicking.”

Tom Ryan the editor of the Undertoad has made the observation that Mayor John Moak had been paying attention to the Newburyport department heads but not reaching out and paying attention to the Newburyport City Council.

The Newburyport Daily News on March 17, 2006 say’s, “It was the first time Moak has addressed councilors at a meeting. He believed the reason they did not approve his requests Monday was because he did not do enough “politicking” beforehand.”

What I hear from many Newburyport City Councilors is that they feel that they have been ignored and shut out by Mayor John Moak. Newburyport City Councilor Bruce Vogel goes on record as saying that in the March 17th article in the Newburyport Daily News and also expresses his frustration at the lack of a “collaborative approach to governing” by Mayor John Moak in the Newburyport Current, March 17, 2006.

So I was really surprised to read in today’s Newburyport Daily News, March 22, 2006 that former mayor Byron Matthews, Mayor John Moak’s controversial appointment to the NRA board has this to say:

” ‘One thing lacking is no one talks to the mayor,’ Matthews said. “It’s time we starting communicating, the City Council ought to be interested in that.’ ”

Wow. Lots and lots of people have been talking and trying to reach out to Mayor John Moak, and that includes members of the City Council, and as I’ve said in other posts, from everything that I’ve been told, Mayor John Moak is just not listening, not listening at all. Let’s just take his very public and repeated comments on the fact that he apparently has had no interest in taking into account the NRA survey for Newbuyrport’s waterfront and has said on record repeatedly, that he is going to do exactly what he wants.

This is the kind of politicking I do not like. I do not like it when good people try to reach out to Mayor John Moak again and again and then are “accused” and “blamed” (harsh words, but that’s what it sure sounds like to me) of not wanting to communicate with him. It would be one reason right off the bat that I would have reservations about former mayor Byron Matthews being on the NRA. It appears to me that there has been a vast lack of politicking on Mayor Moak’s part, and not any lack of trying to reach out on the part of the Newburyport City Council. Good grief, let’s set the record straight on this one.

Mary Eaton, Newburyport

Newburyport, Thoughts on the Appointment of Byron Matthews

I can imagine that people who have lived in Newburyport, Massachusetts a “short” time wonder what in the world all the whoop-la is about Byron Matthews being picked for the board of the NRA, and what in the world a “good old boy” could be.

Bill Plant, who served as the editor of the Newburyport Daily News for many years, has a description of “good old boys” in the Newburyport Daily News, October 6, 2003, and he has this to say:

“Most of those who participated in what became the economic recovery of Newburyport between 1950 and the end of the century knew one another because there was little movement in or out of communities at that time. They could be separated by age groups, but, in the main, those who are sometimes referred to as the “good old boys” were in their 30s as they began to move through careers and public service after World War II. We not only knew one another, we often had family relationships on some level. That was true of my family and that of Byron Matthews.”

Mr. Plant also indicates in the same article that it was this generation that replaced that of Andrew J (Bossy) Gillis’ time ( and Bossy Gillis is a whole other series of posts.) There is an indication in the article that there was great pride in this generation that they took this initiative and also were the ones that began turning Newburyport around with Urban Renewal in the 1970′s.

Byron Matthews served as mayor of Newburyport, Massachusetts for a 5 year term from 1968-1978, the longest anyone has ever served in the corner office. Mr. Matthew oversaw much of the restoration of historic downtown Newburyport, and by all accounts was an excellent mayor.

When I moved here in 1981, the “good old boys” were a closed community that “newcomers” just could not penetrate. There was a definite wall. It has always been my impression that as more and more newcomers arrived in Newburyport as a result of Urban Renewal, that a resentment of not being let into this inner community festered and grew.

When Mayor Lisa Mead, a young women of 32 from Ohio, was elected mayor in 1993, for a newcomer, it was like the walls of Jericho came tumbling down. It finally felt as if Newburyport was now our town too and finally we also had a “voice.”

Also, part of the story is that Lisa Mead defeated Byron Matthews in her second term as mayor of Newburyport, Massachusetts. It must have been an extremely bitter pill for Mr. Matthews to swallow after everything that he had contributed to the community. It must have felt as if “history” had been erased.

Ever since I’ve lived here I have felt that there has been this incredible tension between these two groups within the community of Newburyport, Massachusetts, the “new comers” and the “good old boys.”

Many, many “newcomers” felt that Mayor John Moak was “one of them,” and that their voice was going to continue to be heard. So, I think it came as a shock to find out that Byron Matthew, to quote the Newburyport Daily News, March 21, 2006, is a “long time friend and mentor” to Mayor John Moak.

I think that there is a great deal of fear that this appointment is an indication that the “voice” of the “newcomers” will no longer be heard, and their many contributions will be discounted, if not wiped out. And that the disappointment that Mr. Matthews must have felt when he was defeated by Lisa Mead could cloud his ability to be objective, appreciative and embrace the point of view of those of us who have moved here as a result of all his hard work and vision.

Mary Eaton, Newburyport

Newburyport, Old South Church Silent Auction

I would like to help get the word out about the Old South Church silent auction. The silent auction is not to help the congregation, it is to help preserve the steeple of the defining building of our neighborhood. I’m not a member, just a neighbor who would like to see it restored.

The steeple of the Old South Church, which is on the corner of Federal & School Street, is leaning. It must be repaired. It is going to cost more than $200,000. This is more than its small congregation can afford.

Old South Church is the oldest church in Newburyport, Massachusetts. George Washington attended a service there. And George Whitefield is buried under it. It has great significance.

There is a silent auction to benefit the Historic Restoration Fund on Saturday, March 25, from 6 to 8 PM ( the preview is at 5 PM ). There are lots of interesting items in the auction, including special dinners, a sailing charter, and antiques.

There will be food and entertainment and a chance to meet your neighbors.

Dick Monahan, Newburyport

Newburyport, It’s Official, Recommendation is Byron Matthews

The Newburyport Daily News reports today, March 21, 2006 that Mayor John Moak will ask the Newburyport City Council to appoint Byron Matthews to the NRA board in place of Mary Lou Supple. The Newburyport Daily News also reports that there is a certain amount of criticism with the “mayor’s controversial decision.”

As I’ve walked and talked to folks, the response I get is one of anger and disbelief. So, since the Newburyport City Council will comment and vote on this appointment, do not hesitate to give your City Councilor(s) a call or an email to let them know how you feel. No sense in keeping it to yourself, that won’t do any good. And you will not be bothering them. I’ve called three myself and they were very glad to I know how I felt, and said that they would very much like to hear how people feel about this appointment, so don’t be shy.

Councilors At-Large

Audrey McCarthy…..978-465-0032
Barry Connell………..978-462-7462
Thomas Jones…………978-465-4002
Steven Hutcheson…..978-465-5149
Gary Roberts, Jr……..978-465-1781

Ward 2: Gregory Earls……..978-465-9324
Ward 3: James Shanley……978-463-6806
Ward 4: Erford Fowler……..978-462-8569
Ward 5: Bruce Vogel………..978-462-5463
Ward 6: Thomas O’Brien…..978-465-0314

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And Ward 1, don’t forget today is voting day for the primary for your City Councilor.

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Mary Eaton, Newburyport

Newburyport, Byron Matthews, Looks Like a Go

I’ve heard from so many reliable folks, that I think this one is no longer floating around in the air, it looks like it may actually have landed. It looks like it didn’t land soon enough to make it in time for today’s Newburyport Daily News. Most probably it will be a headline tomorrow. It appears that yes indeed, Mayor John Moak is planning to bring Byron Matthews forward for the NRA appointment to replace Mary Lou Supple.

Mary Eaton, Newburyport

Newburyport, Design Review Board

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I hear floating around and that is “allegedly” the conflict with many architects in Newburyport and Newburyport’s Planning Director, Nick Cracknell. What I hear floating in the wind, is that when it comes to design review that there are many folks who feel that nothing can get by without Nick Cracknell’s approval and that Nick Cracknell in the area of design review, is a “dictator.”

Again no fact checking here. This is a blog, the editor (me) doesn’t “fact check” and none of this particular design review conflict stuff has been in any of the local periodical as of yet that I know of.

Now Nick Cracknell is using the Newburyport Master Plan as the guideline. And a very quick read through, by no means thorough, the emphasis appears to be keeping the historic quality and integrity of Newburyport, Massachusetts. I can’t find in my cursory reading anywhere where it says that the emphasis is a combination of historic integrity combined with contemporary culture (which might apply to someplace like Stanford Connecticut or my hometown of New York City.) And I am continually amazed at the at the diversity of viewpoints that assembled this document, including such folks as Jonathan Woodman, former mayor Byron Matthews and current mayor John Moak.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about Inn Street, which is in my mind is a marvelous weaving together of the old and the new. The “brick court yard” (I don’t know what else to call it) with it’s contemporary sculpture, to me makes the whole thing visually “pop.” (Sorry folks that’s the artist in me.)

And I’ve always thought of Jonathan Woodman as one of the original historic preservationist, because he was one of the first people to take a chance and restore one of the downtown buildings, which at the time was a very risky venture, very risky indeed. And for this, we all owe him big time.

Now, I grew up in New York City, and I love contemporary architecture, so I am very sympathetic to architects who have a modern/contemporary background and would like to do something more than historic replications, and find that notion artistically stifling.

Jim Roy in the Newburyport Current, keeps alluding to a design review board made up of all architects (I haven’t asked Mr. Roy where he keeps getting this one from, again here we go with the no “fact checking” thing), which I agree would be a deadly idea.

I like Doug Locy’s (Chairman of the Newburyport Planning Board) proposal in the Letter to the Editor in the Newburyport Daily News, February 16, 2006, of “a proposed five-member board that would l consist of a registered architect, a landscape architect, a developer, a member of the Historical Commission and a member of either the Planning Board or ZBA (Zoning Board of Appeals).” (Personally, I’d throw in the Planning Director, but that’s just me.)

And I’m guessing that this board would review every applicable project. (And from what I hear in the wind, there is by no means a consensus on this approach–again, no “fact checking” here.) This would at least assure of some give and take and hopefully a respectful coming together of ideas on how, from a design point of view, Newburyport, Massachusetts could proceed.

And from what I understand, the Newburyport Planning Board and the Newburyport Planning Office have been advocating for a design review board along this line for sometime. And from what I hear floating around in the wind, the conflict is how it would be constructed, who would make up the design review board and how exactly it would be implemented. Civics is never an easy thing.

Mary Eaton, Newburyport

As the Newburyport Political Blog Evolves

One of the surprising things that has happened as the Newburyport Political Blog evolves, is that people are beginning to tell me all kinds of political stuff. And now, I often know about things that are floating around in the political community, whereas I never knew about them before. This doesn’t make me feel good instead it makes me feel completely overwhelmed.

Often when I hear things that are floating around, my first reaction is one of disbelief and denial (a friend of mine once told me that “denial is a shock absorber for the soul.”) And then I get very angry and then I begin to get to the point where I calm down and can begin to accept whatever the “story” might be.

I can see where it could be really easy for the Newburyport Political Blog to become a ranting, raving, angry, sarcastic blog. And now I can understand why there are a lot of political blogs like that out there.

So now, instead of just typing away and sending posts out into cyber-land, I find that I often sit on a post for days and try to slowly whittle out the anger and frustration. I am very sure that there are times when I won’t (and probably haven’t) be able to get there.

So sometimes it’s becoming very difficult to abide by my own “guidelines.” How about that one for ironic. I did not expect this development to be part of the blog adventure. And I would like the blog to be a fun adventure, and I’m really hoping I can manage to keep it that way. So this is another very unexpected learning curve.

Mary Eaton, Newburyport