Monthly Archives: March 2006

Newburyport, Massachusetts, Politicking

Up until now, it appears to me, that Mayor John Moak has been running the City of Newburyport from the approach of running the City Clerk’s office–can’t go there as mayor–big difference, a whole different managerial ballgame.

Mayor John Moak admitted in an article in the Newburyport Daily News, March 15, 2006, that, “Maybe I haven’t been spending enough time politicking.” Yes, I couldn’t agree more.

And I think it could be time for someone to take Mayor John Moak aside (wise men where are you–see earlier post) because I don’t think being a good politician is easy, no, not easy at all.

Being a really good politician is about consensus building. And being a politician is not deciding what you think would be best and then doing whatever you can to get your idea implement. This might work very well in to other areas but it tends to backfire big time as the Mayor of Newburyport, Massachusetts. An example being, yes, the axing of Mary Lou Supple and seriously thinking about Byron Matthews as a replacement. And now a fiscal response to the Community Preservation Act (CPA) bond schedule.

According to yesterday’s Newburyport Daily News, Friday, March 17, 2006, the mayor apparently, does not want to abide by the Community Preservation Committee’s 6-2 vote (and they have a lot of good reasons for voting the way they did) to keep the bond schedule as approved by the Newburyport City Council. According to the article, “despite not having support from the committee, he (Mayor Moak) plans to take his proposal to the City Council.”

Now the mayor wants to ask the Newburyport City Council to alter a vote that they have already voted on. Politically, this baffles me. This is just not a good way to “make friends and influence people.”

It surprises me in a way, but there appears to be a whole lot of difference between observing different mayors as the Newburyport City Clerk (and Mayor John Moak was able to observe a whole lot of different mayors who had a whole variety of approaches to politics) and actually being the Mayor of Newburyport, Massachusetts yourself. “Politicking” is a definite art form and I would very much like John Moak to have some first rate mentors to help him with this new kind of managerial style.

And if I had John Moak’s ear, which I don’t, from a politicking viewpoint I would advise him to apologize to Mary Lou Supple, ask her forgiveness, beg her to come back to the NRA board. And if she couldn’t see going back there, which would be quite understandable after all of this, ask her who she would recommend, appoint her recommendation (if she declined herself) and tell then media all about it.

This would not be a “flip-flop” thing this would be a “learning from your mistakes thing” and “keeping the trust of the people of Newburyport” thing. This would be a very good thing indeed.

Mary Eaton, Newburyport

Newburyport, NRA, Even More of a Mess

Axing Mary Lou Supple from the NRA board and even thinking about putting someone like Byron Matthews in her place, would be like a “progressive” axing Erford Fowler (who was put on there by the State, not the City, so this analogy doesn’t quite work, but bear with me anyway) and replacing him with former mayor Lisa Mead. This would simply not be politically a good idea.

What it would do is make everybody angry. As a more “progressive” human being I would be outraged if Erford Fowler was replaced by former mayor Lisa Mead, not because of any lack of political “know how” on Ms Mead’s part, but because it would feel like a “hostile” act. It would feel like an act that smacked of “pay back,” personal agenda at any cost and not an act that would seem wise or concerned about what would be best for all the people in Newburyport, Massachusetts.

So this whole NRA thing, with the Newburyport Daily News reporting on March 16, 2006, that former mayor Byron Matthews is on the “short list” for a NRA appointment, is becoming even more of a mess.

My only hope is that people will wake up sooner rather than later. And if it is possible that what Harvey Beit (see earlier post) calls the “power group” could be calling the shots in this administration and there may not be a “wise man” in sight (see earlier post), then wow, we are in for a long 21 months. And I would find this possibility to be very, very discouraging, because that is not my hope or wish for Mayor John Moak’s administration.

Mary Eaton, Newburyport

Newburyport, Teenagers and the Brown School Playground

In yesterday’s (March 15, 2006) Newburyport Daily News there is an article regarding the Brown School playground. It seems that the neighbors of the playground have a problem with people (other than the Brown School students) using the playground. They claim that too many teenagers and older people hang out there, they complain that it is noisy and that there is a drug problem there.

Yes, teenagers and older people hang out there. There are basketball courts on site, which is why they hang out there (they certainly aren’t there to swing on the swing sets). The playground is city property, open to the public after school hours. They have every right to be there, it is after all, a playground. Some neighbors say they would like to see the older kids kept out of the playground. If this is because they are scared of having teenagers around, then that is blatant discrimination. You can’t say that one group of people should be allowed to use the park, while another is not. In yesterday’s paper, another issue raised is that the park brings older kids from other parts of town, as if the park should be exclusive to only those in the south end.

What really gets me about this issue is that the people with complaints knowingly bought a house next to a playground. What did they expect? When the original story broke last fall, one of the neighbors was quoted as having just moved there in the past 6 months and didn’t like the amount of activity that was taking place there. Well, those 6 months happened to be the spring/summer months, and when the weather is good, the kids want to use the park. Honestly, what did they expect when they bought their house? I hate to have to say it, but if you didn’t want a bunch of kids playing nearby, you shouldn’t have moved there.

As for the drug issue, the police regularly patrol the park and have yet to find any drug related problems. The simple truth is, whether or not there are drugs, you can’t exclude an entire group of people because you “think” they are doing something wrong. For every kid that might have drugs, there are plenty that don’t and they shouldn’t be allowed to use the park because some neighbor doesn’t want them too? I like to go down there occasionally on the weekend and shoot a basketball, maybe play a pick up game, and certainly don’t have any drugs on me, so why shouldn’t I be allowed to do so?

What it boils down to, from what I’ve read and seen, is that the neighbors, some of whom are new to town, don’t want this in their backyard, but I’m sorry, the park has been there for a long time and it isn’t an exclusive club, so you have to allow everyone to use it. Could the kids that hang out there find somewhere else to go? Not likely, they don’t call it “Nothing-to-do-buryport” for nothing, and I’ll tell you first hand from someone that grew up here, it seems no one wants kids around. They don’t want them hanging out downtown, they don’t want them hanging out on the waterfront, they don’t want them hanging out at the Brown School. It was a miracle to even get a skate park built in town, and even that has restrictions on it. So how do you solve the problem? Closing the park at 5:30 isn’t the answer (it is sunny in the summer until 8 o’clock) and excluding everyone over the age of 13 isn’t fair. So I say the neighbors have two options, learn to live with the situation, with the help of regular police patrols, or move somewhere that isn’t located next to a city park.

Ben Laing, Newburyport

Newburyport, Massachusetts, Wise Men

Let’s have a little chat about political “wise men.” It appears after the taking Mary lou Supple off the NRA board blunder, that a chat about political wise men might be in order.

Now a political wise man is different from what someone that Harvey Beit calls the “power group.” People from a power group are not wise men. People from a power group have their own agendas and own egos in mind and most probably would like to use the mayor for their own individual gratification. Not pretty.

Wise men on the other hand have their egos in check. Or, if they don’t have their egos in check, at least they are willing to check them at the door for the overall good of Newburyport, Massachusetts. An obvious example of a wise man would have been Ed Molin.

I can think of a very good group of political wise men, from a variety of different political points of view who could come together as a “think tank” if you will, and hash things out with the Mayor, and come to a consensus that would be politically beneficial to the people of Newburyport, Massachusetts. Now the nice thing about these wise men is that they would be enormously upset with me if I mentioned their names as “wise men” on the Newburyport Political Blog. And that’s why they are wise men.

Now I would think that a political wise man would tell the Mayor of Newburyport, Massachusetts a) not to ax Mary Lou Supple from the NRA board in the first place and b) absolutely not to even think about putting someone like Byron Matthews on the NRA instead. (The Newburyport Daily News, March 16, 2006.) And not to even think about having someone as controversial as Jonathan Woodman (who is the architect for the Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank that demolished One Temple Street, part of Newburyport’s historic down town–see earlier post) taking charge or having any influence at all over a design review board for the City of Newburyport. No, no, they would tell the Mayor of Newburyport, Massachusetts that these would be very, very bad ideas indeed.

These wise men would tell the Mayor to use high profile people with contacts on a state or even possibly national level, to help with such things as the DEP and help solve the mess at the Crow Lane land fill and Plum Island. Now the DEP probably is not going to pay a whole lot of attention to a newly elected mayor. But, if there are folks in town who have any kind of contact with large agencies like the DEP, that’s where it’s a good idea to put these folks to work.

At the moment the Mayor of Newburyport, Massachusetts is getting a political “F” in my book. Not a good grade. But learning from one’s mistakes (we all make mistakes, that’s just part of being human) with the help of people who have the best overall good of Newburyport at heart and not their own agendas and ego gratification, could bring that political “F” up to a solid political “B+.” And a mayor with a solid “B+” would definitely work for me, in fact I would even settle for a decent “B-.”

Mary Eaton, Newburyport

Newburyport, Massachusetts, Let the Games Begin

Axing Mary Lou Supple from the NRA board ( today’s Newburyport Daily News, March 15, 2006.) Bad political move, John Moak. What do they call this, a “Pyrrhic victory” (a victory won at too great a cost)?

And the two names I hear floating around (Now I said “floating around” which does not mean “definite”, it’s only definite, positively, absolutely true when it appears in the Newburyport Daily News, the Newbuyrport Current or the Undertoad. This is a blog, the editor (me) does not fact check except to read the three periodicals mentioned above.) are yes, Byron Matthews and a possible second, Norbert Carey. Pray that it ain’t so folks, but don’t be surprised if it could be.

My guess is that if there were some rumblings in Newburyport, Massachusetts so far, this is the beginning of an 18 month all out rumble, if not an all out riot. Especially if the Byron Matthews thing, or the Norbert Carey thing or anyone remotely close thing is anywhere near the truth.

Going to be hard to get anything you want done after this one John Moak. If you think it’s bad now, this is “bubkes” (Yiddish for “nothing”) if you go and ax Nick Cracknell on top of it. Wow.

Mary Eaton, Newburyport

Newburyport, Good for Harvey Beit

In the Newburyport Daily News, Monday 13, 2006, there is a Letter to the Editor by Harvey Beit urging Mayor Moak to keep Nick Cracknell on as Planning Director. Now Harvey Beit is one of the most respected lawyers in town, and as Mr. Beit points out at the beginning of the Letter to the Editor, he has been practicing law in Newburyport for the last 40 years.

Harvey Beit nails it, when he says, “Unfortunately, there is a power group in Newburyport who would like to see his (Nick Cracknell’s) removal because he does not yield to their goals or accommodate their wishes. Simply stated, he is tough and does not play ball as a result of influence.”

A whole variety of names and projects came to my mind when I read that part of the Letter to the Editor, and I couldn’t agree with Mr. Beit more.

Nick Cracknell is looking at what is the overall good for Newburyport, Massachusetts. One of the things I really like about Nick Cracknell is that it is irrelevant to him what kind of “influence” someone in Newburyport might have. And what is important to him is what is best for the present and future for all of Newburyport, Massachusetts not any one individual or “power” group. From my point of view, that is enormously refreshing.

But as a result, Nick Cracknell has stepped on a few toes.

I can imagine how frustrating it could be that Nick Cracknell is just not cooperating. Folks in town that have been used to getting preferential treatment, most likely aren’t getting preferential treatment, instead, from what I understand, they have been asked to discuss what they have in mind. This is new, this is very new. And it is my impression that people have been getting some “bang for the buck” but not as much “bang for the buck” (those New York phrases again) as they would like to get.

And let’s face it, with Nick Cracknell as Planning Director it sounds like a lot of people no longer have the complete power and control that they once might have had–pretty frustrating. And from what I hear Mr. Cracknell has been saying, “sorry folks, good planning is more important than anyone’s particular agenda.” And I can imagine that this could be very frustrating indeed.

So thank you Harvey Beit. And I hope your letter gives Mayor John Moak extra incentive to say “no” to the “power group,” and to stand up and say that good present and long term planning is what’s best for the City of Newburyport, Massachusetts, not individual interests.

Mary Eaton, Newburyport

Newburyport, Massachusetts, Losing

One of my favorite authors is Rachel Naomi Remen. I first discovered her in Bill Moyer’s “Healing and the Mind.” Rachel Naomi Remen talks about 4 steps: “showing up, paying attention, telling the truth and letting go of the results.” Wise woman.

I don’t think people in local politics have a problem “showing up, paying attention and telling the truth.” Now I may not think they are paying attention to the right sort of things. And I may not like their version of telling the truth, but it’s their “truth” and their own particular way of “paying attention.”

What I think is hardest in local politics (and maybe this is true of state and national politics, I don’t know) is “letting go of the results.”

It felt hollow as a “progressive” when Donna Holaday lost the mayoral election. And for the first time I could really identify with the “old boys” (I still haven’t come up with a better phrase) losing to Lisa Mead way back in the 90′s. It must have felt awful. It must have felt as if the city they loved was in serious jeopardy. I really, really get that now.

As a progressive it feels as if the future of Newburyport is in jeopardy and I am helpless to do anything about it. Now that may or may not be the case, the jeopardy and the helpless part. And I have choices, I can focus on other things, I can give up, I can stop caring, I can become angry and bitter or I can try and figure out something constructive to do about it.

Jim Roy started a column in the Newburyport Current. He has a “voice.” I guess starting the Newburyport Political Blog is a way for me not to feel so hollow and to try not to become politically angry and bitter. Because I do care (and so do a whole lot of other people), I care a whole lot.

Mary Eaton, Newburyport

Newburyport, John Moak and the Election

This is another mystery I’ve been trying to figure out, why John Moak won the mayoral election. Now I can understand why “conservatives” (see previous post) voted for him, but why “liberals” apparently voted for Mr. Moak in droves (well maybe not droves, but pretty much droves) alludes me.

When a project I had been working on “went south,” Donna Holaday called me up and said how sorry she was and that she knew how hard I had worked on this particular issue. She was the only one in the entire City of Newburyport who did that. With that one phone call she won me over for life.

So the question I keep asking myself is why didn’t the people of Newburyport see in Donna Holaday what I came to see? And different people have pointed out that it took a while for me to “come to see” Donna Holaday, whereas people seemed to relate to John Moak immediately. And as I’ve said in earlier posts, I agree, John Moak is a very affable person.

And John Moak was also an excellent candidate. Because “liberals” ( I still haven’t come up with a good phrase) apparently assumed that he would be open to their ideas and there would be some genuine give and take.

From what I can make out, so far there hasn’t been any genuine give and take. But if there could be some genuine consensus building then John Moak could end up being a pretty good mayor. And if there is no give and take ( the Mayor’s letter to the editor about Waterfront parking in the Newburyport Current on March 10, 2006, is a tad discouraging in the give and take department) then John Moak could end up being a not so good mayor.

So, please John Moak, I want to advocate for you, I want you to be a “pretty good mayor.” Learn from your political “wise men, ” (I hope you have political wise men) even though I know I would probably disagree with them politically, I can’t imagine them not counseling you that the “give and take,” consensus building thing is part of being a very good politician.

Mary Eaton, Newburyport

Newburyport, John Moak, Fiscal Conservative

I’ve been trying to get inside the head of Mayor John Moak here. I just can’t understand why he would even think of the possibility of having a Chapter 40B housing project on the Woodman property on Storey Avenue, or getting rid of someone as talented as Newburyport’s Planning Director, Nick Cracknell.

And then I had an epiphany if you will, an understanding, the big light bulb went off–fiscal conservative.

So I went to the Wikipedia Encyclopedia on the Web and looked up, “fiscal conservative.” ( Believe me, I am learning more stuff than I ever dreamed of doing the Newburyport Political Blog. If you had told me three months ago I would be looking up “fiscal conservative,” I would have told you, you were definitely nuts.)

So to quote Wikipedia:
“fiscal conservatism is simply is the stance that the government must “live within its means”. Above all, fiscal conservatives oppose excessive government debt; this belief in balanced budgets tends to be coupled with a belief that government welfare programs should be narrowly tailored and that tax rates should be low, which implies relatively small government institutions…

…In other words, a government doesn’t have the right to run up large debts and then throw the burden on the taxpayer; the taxpayers’ right not to be taxed oppressively takes precedence…

conservatives support a smaller role for the government in the economy…”

Well now things are beginning to make a little bit of sense to me.

( One of the things I like about Newburyport is that in local politics there are no Republicans or Democrats. There are however, “progressives” and “good old boys,” two labels I’m beginning to really dislike. I’m working on new phrases to capture the different political viewpoints in Newburyport, Massachusetts. If anyone has any thoughtful ideas please “chime in.”)

So, if I now look at Mayor John Moak as a “fiscal conservative” I can understand why keeping taxes low is to him more important than having a Chapter 40B project on the Woodman property. Paying for open space or a senior center, a youth center–a whole myriad of possible and needed projects, would burden the taxpayer, hence, for our mayor, things like these would not be commendable ideas.

Obviously I come from a completely different point of view. I think things like preserving open space helps the taxpayer. It helps keep Newburyport a unique and desirable place to live, instead of just another place to live in New England.

So I think I’m beginning to understand where Mayor John Moak is coming from a little better, which believe it or not is a huge relief, because up until now, for me it’s been a complete mystery.

Mary Eaton, Newburyport

A Youth Center for Newburyport, Massachusetts

Recently I was speaking with a group of parents, as I explained some of the challenges that face our youth today, the inevitable question arose…”Why don’t we have a Youth Center?” For as long as I have lived in Newburyport, I don’t think a week has gone by that I have not heard that question in one way or another.

This week I went to hear Nina Dickerman speak about friendship among youth. In this discussion, the adults in the group spoke about growing up in neighborhoods where you played from dawn ‘till dusk. This allowed opportunity to make friends, be a friend and strengthen our relationship skills.

A Center has been talked about for years. There have been countless hours spent by so many caring people in our community looking for dedicated space for our youth to have a place that they could come explore who they are and what they can be. The idea gets shot down over and over…”not in my back yard; not my building; not this budget season; we spend so much on education that should be enough; we didn’t have a community center; my kids didn’t need a youth center.”

Our kids are exposed to increasing negative and violent influences, in video games, TV, movies and the Internet. The rate of drug and alcohol use by minors continues to increase, and kids start drinking younger and younger. Most youth today don’t have neighborhood experiences like we did. Over the years we have lost bowling allies, the YMCA, movie theaters, and other healthy choices.

Youth need the opportunity to practice making friends, and being a friend. To me it is as basic as air. As adults, the connections that we share with other adults are important to us. It is vital for youth to have regular opportunities to make strong connections with each other, adults, and the community.

Imagine a place that has rooms for programs, doing homework, or art projects; a gym to play basketball, volleyball, or floor hockey; a space to hold a concert or a dance; an area for pool tables, and ping pong; couches to hang out on and strengthen friendships. Space is needed for after school, during vacations, and in the summer. Imagine youth of all ages from 1 to 101, coming together to play. A safe place where laughter happens and fabulous teen-age energy and attitude are welcomed.

A Center like this could have benefits for our entire community, reducing drug and alcohol use, violence, crime and the words that every parent hates to hear ” I am bored.” Providing this type of place would create greater value of our homes, businesses, and our community.

Newburyport is filled with smart, energetic people. It seems to me that there must be a way to make this happen. The caring adults in Newburyport need to find a way to provide a space that will allow our youth the opportunities to make healthy choices. I invite you to offer your suggestions as to how this can become a reality in our city.

Beth Tremblay Hall, Newburyport

Newburyport, Political Tasks Forces and Special Committees

I’m afraid I’m on a bit of a “tear” about this business of a Chapter 40B housing project on the 22 acre Woodman property on Low Street behind the Storey Avenue Shopping Plaza.

According to the Newburyport Daily News, on March 6, 2006, Mayor John Moak “plans to form a task force to study the future” of the Woodman property.

I am very suspicious of “task forces” and “special committees.” I think task forces are often used for political purposes by administrations to justify making politically unpopular decisions.

It has always been my opinion that the first Building Needs Committee that was assembled, was in great part assembled to justify closing the Kelly School. I always thought it was a great piece of political maneuvering, except that I’m a big fan of the Kelly School.( And btw, since there now seems to be even more momentum to close the Kelly School, feel free Kelly School parents and fans to use the Newburyport Political Blog to educate people on why keeping the Kelly School open is so important to the fabric of Newburyport, Massachusetts.)

Frankly, I feel the City of Newburyport has come up with an excellent idea of what to do with the Woodman property. Obviously the Open Space Committee and the “Planners” have put an enormous amount of thought and effort into what I am calling this “dilemma.” So forming a task force, in my mind, means that Mayor John Moak most probably has a whole other agenda and could be using a task force to get it implemented.

Now, if Mayor Moak forms a task force to look at what the City of Newburyport would do if plan A falls through, that would make sense to me. But forming a task force to look at the “plus and minuses of the land purchase” smells of political strategizing to me, and politically opening a huge “can of worms.” Again, what part of “you cannot negotiate with a Chapter 40B project” does the mayor not understand?

This does not mean I am not for affordable housing. I’m for affordable housing in a big way. In fact I think 10% of the housing stock for affordable housing is way too low, I’d like to see Newburyport have 25-30% affordable housing, “how about them apples.”

And as far as I’m concerned, Chapter 40B is mostly used by developers to make huge amounts of money, without taking into consideration the overall fabric of Massachusetts’ communities. I’d like to see our affordable housing be incorporated into the fabric of Newburyport, which has been the emphasis for the last 4 years ( and yes, I’m talking about Nick Cracknell’s leadership as Newburyport Planning Director on this particular issue.)

Mary Eaton, Newburyport

Newburyport, Waterfront West

In response to Ben Laing’s post, I do not have a Ph.D. in zoning or planning and development, a real amateur here, but as I understand it, the zoning overlay for Waterfront West is to provide the City of Newburyport with some protection for that area.

My understanding is that Waterfront West is the area west of State Street that contains such things as the Fitness Factory and Michael’s Harborside.

The goal is to try and make sure that the land is developed properly and matches the rest of the City of Newburyport, using State Street as the model.

And I think a lot of people in Newburyport share Mr. Laing’s unease about Stephen Karp. (That’s why we need to keep Nick Cracknell as Newburyport’s Planning Director–see earlier post.)

Newburyport, Concerns about Stephen Karp

After reading yesterday’s (March 8th) Newburyport Daily News article about the concerns of local businesses downtown, I became a little concerned as well. In the article there was a list of all the property owned by Mr. Karp. The list is about as long as my arm. I’m not sure what the exact figure is but it would seem he must own 75% of the down town area.

What really worried me was a line in the article talking about Stephen Karp’s plans for his property on the waterfront — “Karp has been silent on specifically what he plans to do.”

Now, I could be wrong but did not the Newburyport City Council overwhelmingly vote to approve a zoning change for the Waterfront West area? Does it seem a little strange to anyone else that we would approve something like that without knowing exactly what is planned to be built on the site? Wouldn’t that sort of information be crucial in determining whether or not a zoning change could be made?

As I said, I could be wrong about this, maybe the Newburyport City Council knows something that I don’t. And maybe there is a legitimate explanation, but from where I’m sitting it would seem that the Newburyport City Council dropped the ball on this and was negligent in their duties, in essence it would seem they “sold us out.”

To approve such a drastic and dramatic zoning change such as that without even seeing a plan for what might be built there seems irresponsible to me, and frankly scares me. In my mind, if a proposal to make such a change came in front of the Newburyport City Council, I would hope the Council would make Mr. Karp, or a representative, come share a detailed plan, so that everyone would know exactly what we were getting ourselves into.

Now it may be out of our hands to stop any development that would be harmful to the city. I share the thoughts of Lee Yeoman’s, quoted in the Daily News, “I’m very concerned where we are going with Mr. Karp. He’s a big player in town. Not knowing is a little uneasy.”

Ben Laing, Newburyport

The Future of Newburyport, Massachusetts

I got a call from a major publication asking me what I thought the future of Newburyport would be.

First of all I was amazed that they were calling me. Second of all I was amazed that someone from a major publication had been reading the Newburyport Political Blog.

We had an “off the record” background discussion, because basically I don’t have a clue as to what the future of Newburyport will be. And I told them if they figured it out, I’d love to know, and they could always call me back later for an official “on the record” quote.

What I will say, on the record, on the Newburyport Political Blog is that I am really worried about the future of Newburyport, Massachusetts. We have a mayor who has planning and development policies that not only “progressives” would disagree with, but I think that even some, if not a lot of the “old boys” would disagree with them as well.

We don’t have any Local Historic District to protect historic Newburyport. This means that all of downtown, except for, I believe, Fowles, the Firehouse and one other property, could be demolished and no one could do anything about it. And, it’s already happened. The Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank has demolished an historic downtown building, One Temple Street that was part of Urban Renewal in the 1970′s.

We have a new landlord in town, Mr. Karp, and I certainly can’t get a handle on what he will do. We just know the example of what was developed in Nantucket. Is this a good idea? Tom Ryan, in the last edition of the Undertoad, March 3, 2006, feels that the unique, individualist and independent spirit of Newburyport is about to be stamped out. And for all of you out there in web-land who are upset that the Newburyport Political Blog quotes the Undertoad, after watching the Undertoad for 10 years, I’ve seen Tom Ryan almost always nail it again and again on really important issues. So yes, I would take Tom Ryan’s ruminating about the future of Newburyport with some seriousness.

And then there’s the whole disastrous mess on the fate of Plum Island (this is a whole series of posts.)

So when this story comes out about the future of Newburyort, Massachusetts I am going to be really interested to read it. Maybe someone with an outside perspective can see what I cannot.

Mary Eaton, Newburyport

What Happens in Newburyport, Massachusetts When an Administration Doesn’t Listen

More and more I am beginning to hear people say, “I’ve gone and talked to Mayor Moak and he doesn’t listen.” These are progressive people that voted for our mayor.

Intelligent, progressive people who really pay attention to local Newburyport politics, voted for Mayor John Moak, and apparently when they go talk to the mayor about things that really matter to them, what I hear is that our mayor is not listening. I find this very disturbing.

Why these good folks voted for Mayor Moak, I don’t know. Because I feel Tom Ryan, the editor of the Undertoad, nails it when he describes Mayor John Moak as a “good old boy.”

So, wake up everybody, if you are a “progressive” and have a certain ideas about the direction in which you feel Newburyport should go (and believe me, a lot of these ideas are shared by many of the “old boys” as well, because they too have a reverence for Newburyport’s integrity,) we as a city could be in deep trouble.

And what happens in Newburyport, Massachusetts when administrations don’t listen?

Well, what has happened in the past is a lot of very angry citizens groups form. And believe you me, citizens groups are very effective. And the citizens groups go over the top of Newburyport’s Mayor and the Newburyport’s City Council and go to their state representative and Senator John Kerry and Senator Ted Kennedy, because that’s the only way they can be heard.

And let me tell you, that’s pretty embarrassing for the Mayor of Newburyport, Massachusetts. But if Mayor John Moak doesn’t start paying attention, valuing and taking into account all of his constituents, that’s exactly what is going to happen. All hell is going to break loose.

We are a very feisty community and we are not afraid to fight for what we believe is the best course for Newburyport, because often our local politicians don’t have a clue. Historic downtown Newburyport and historic High Street were saved by citizens, not by local politicians. And yes, I am comparing Mayor John Moak’s administration to other deaf administrations that could have caused irreversible damage to the City of Newburyport if it wasn’t for the people of Newburyport who saved the day.

Mary Eaton, Newburyport

Newburyport, Leadership and The Waterfront

Mayor Moak’s platform touted his “leadership” abilities and his openness. I think a leader listens to his/her constituency, studies all sides of the issue with an open mind, and then formulates a plan/action based on a balance between perceived needs and what’s best for the community.

The role of a Mayor is not to thwart public comment or to only appoint people who mirror his/her point of view. A case in point: Mary Lou Supple has endeavored to educate people, listen to the multitude of opinions about the fate of the waterfront, and help the NRA Board and City reach a consensus as to the best use of the NRA lots. If she is not re-appointed to the NRA, I think we will see a lot of contentious attitudes about the waterfront’s fate.

People come to Newburyport because it is unique; because the waterfront, with its boats (working vessels, sailboats, as well as fancy yachts) reminds us of our maritime heritage; because it’s fun to stroll along the waterfront. There are other areas of Newburyport better suited to parking. If Waterfront West becomes a reality, Mr. Karp should provide parking for any new development; he should not look to the public to provide parking that will benefit him and his investors.

The (new) NRA questionnaire will help the Mayor, City Council, and the NRA decide on the fate of the NRA-owned land. Let’s get the questionnaire circulated (widely) and see what “the people” (once again) would like.

Vicki Carr, Newburyport

(Editor’s note: The NRA survey arrived in my mailbox today along with the City Census. I filled it out. I’m hoping everyone else does too. And thank you Vicki Carr for being a guest blogger.)

Ward 1 City Council Race, Newburyport

I just spotted my first “Ferrick” signs. The bright green signs (plural) were on Sheriff Frank Cousins’ fence.

For all of you out there in web-land or who are new to Newburyport, Massachusetts, Frank Cousins (whether you agree with him or not) is a major political “player.” Who knows, this may turn out to be a pretty interesting race for City Councilor for Ward 1.

Newuryport, Massachusetts, Woodman Property and Mayor Moak

One of the things that I’ve been doing since I started the Newburyport Political Blog is mining different publications for information. And in the Newburyport Daily News, Monday March 6, 2006, tucked away on page A3 is a little ditty about Mayor John Moak and the Woodman Property on Storey Avenue.

The Woodman property is the 22 acres that sits across from the Port Plaza Shopping Center. The project that has been proposed by Seaport Village LLC is for 150 units, I believe in three buildings, two containing 38 units, one containing 36 units. ( I have gotten that information from a story written in the Newburyport Daily News on August 19, 2004. Do not take this information “to the bank,” please see disclaimer on all information on the Guidelines page of the Newburyport Political Blog.)

Previously, the City of Newburyport stepped in with an alternative plan that would buy the land and the project would only contain 10 dwellings, to include affordable housing. At the moment this is all up in the air, and the issue is in Land Court (all of that is for some other post.)

The Seaport Village has been filed under a state affordable housing law, Chapter 40B. The law allows developers to bypass all local zoning laws and there is no restriction on how high or how dense the project can be when a quarter of the units are set aside for affordable housing. This has been a nightmare for cities and towns all across the Commonwealth.

In Monday’s Newburyport Daily News, it sounds as if Mayor John Moak thinks that having this huge development might not be a bad idea. (The Mayor is forming a task force to look at the issue.)

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my city to look like Danvers or Revere (please, no offense to Danvers or Revere.) I don’t want sprawl in Newburyport, Massachusetts, I want smart growth. I want us to be an historic seaport city with an historic character. I don’t want Newburyport to be yet another North Shore suburb and Route 95 pit-stop. (Is this the “vision” that Mayor Moak wants?)

The city cannot negotiate with any project that is Chapter 40B (what part of this does Mayor John Moak not understand.)

Does Mayor John Moak have any idea how many communities are fighting against 40B projects like this? (Amesbury and Chelmsford to name two. Chelmsford has a whole website against their project, as do a lot of other communities) All over the state there are citizens groups fighting the harmful effects of 40B projects. And if Mayor Moak doesn’t think that’s not going to happen here, especially when there looks like there is a possible positive solution at hand, the Mayor of Newburyport, Massachusetts is just kidding himself.

I do not know what Mayor John Moak could possibly be thinking here, but it gives me the willies. And out there in web-land, I hope it gives you the willies too.

Mary Eaton, Newburyport

Newburyport Preservation Trust

The newburyportpreservationtrust.com is currently up and running. It is in its infant stages and I as well as others are working closely with Linda Miller as the website of the Newburyport Preservation Trust develops. Linda’s goal is to have an efficient, successful site to inform all interested parties of the trust’s importance, how to join, recent success’, how to get involved etc.

It is encouraging to see all the support on this blog. Please make frequent
visits to the newburyportpreservationtrust.com to see updates.

Thank you for all your support. Anyone interested in finding out more can
visit the website or contact Linda Miller at 978-462-9079 or
www.lindamillerarchitect.com .

Thank You
Diane Dodge, Newburyport

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