Monthly Archives: August 2006

Newburyport, 30-32 Marlboro Street

If we are lucky enough, Matthew Pieniazek, who bought 30-32 Marlboro Street (the property that goes all the way back to Hancock Street,) might not demolish the front of the c.1850 house. His own engineer says the historic house is structurally sound.

For me, the first thing we as a community could do is lobby Mr. Pieniazek not to demolish 30-32 Marlboro Street.

A big “thank you” to Newburyport’s Historical Commission for putting on a 12 month demolition delay on this project. Personally, I appreciate that a whole lot. What an incredible loss that would be.

I think the neighbors are very fearful that something really terrible will happen to that property, that massive condominiums could go in, and that Mr. Pieniazek is rescuing them and that he is their only hope.

It is my understanding that the property is not zoned for a massive condominium unit. So I think the neighbors could relax and start thinking about what would be good for them and what would be good for the City of Newburyport, MA.

Whatever ends up going there, Mr. Pieniazek plans to turn a deeded two family home into a one family (roughly 4,000 square foot) house. That’s a big house.

Why is this a bad thing?

This one goes back to trying to keep Newburyport’s local neighborhood character. And this is having a McMansion in a neighborhood that is not about McMansions.

For me, this is an example of one of those projects that incrementally erodes Newburyport’s economic base for short-term economic gain.

It is also one more example of how Newburyport’s Historic District has absolutely no protection. And it is just one more reason to start lobbying our public officials for zoning amendments that protect our historic heritage, which is vital to our economic survival.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, What Has Happened to a Beautiful City?

I don’t believe I know Ellen Sklar-Abbott, but she wrote a terrific Letter to the Editor in yesterday’s Newburyport Daily News, August 29, 2006.

The letter is headed “What happened to my city?”

To quote from Ms Sklar-Abbott:

“When I first moved here, there were very strong efforts to keep the downtown from being torn down and a Kmart from being built in Market Square! First it creeps in slowly, a McMansion here, a franchise there, then the charm and the land are gone forever. Don’t say it won’t happen here—it already has and it is so sad. Maybe some call it progress, I call it thoughtless.”

I couldn’t agree more.

And a very big “thank you” to Stephanie Chelf and the Newburyport Daily News for the front page story on Save Our Town in today’s Newburyport Daily News, August 30, 2006.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Woodman Property

The minutes for the Newburyport Zoning Board of Appeals for August 22, 2006 are not up yet on the City’s website because they have to be approved at the next meeting.

But, Albert Decie of Citizens for Environmental Balance (CEB) attended the meeting and passed this on in an email:

“Woodman Farm AKA the Seaport Village 40B project… The lawyer, I believe his name to be Healy, has set up a meeting for 8/30 with the mayor to ask the city to drop the land court case, which might otherwise continue for a year or more. The specifics of the developer’s request to the mayor were not divulged…”

Mr. Decie is concerned. So am I.

So, this Wednesday, August 30, 2006 the developer will ask the Mayor John Moak to drop the land court case. Please see the post “Newuryport, Massachusetts, Woodman Property and Mayor Moak” for more information on the project. You can also put “Woodman Property” in the search box at the right side of the blog and all blog posts concerning this issue will come up.

I wasn’t sure who has the authority to take the Woodman property out of Land Court. I’ve asked around and I believe that the Mayor as “Chief Executive Officer of the City” has that authority (please see the Newburyport Political Blog’s guidelines for disclaimer.) It is my understanding that Mayor Moak could instruct the City Solicitor to settle or drop the case.

Cynic that I am, I assume that this was always the “game plan.” That for reasons I still do not understand, Mayor John Moak would not mind seeing a huge 40B project in that spot.

So if this is an issue that you care about, I would give the Mayor a call or an email and contact your Newburyport City Councilor.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Our Luck Has Changed

We had been amazingly lucky for a long, long time. After Urban Renewal started in the 1970’s, people already in town and people who moved here were excited about restoring the rest of Newburyport’s Historic District.

People were rescuing old, often neglected properties, some that had been broken up into apartments, and would repair and restore the structure.

For quite a while we were pretty good stewards of our own unique American Story. We were lucky. And somehow our luck has changed.

And, for a whole variety of reasons, we have no protection. There are no zoning amendments that protect our historic heritage. That’s crazy.

I know I am going “on and on and on” about this, but I don’t want to lose what makes Newburyport MA unique.

I think about what could have happened to High Street back in 1999. Part of what makes us economically vibrant would have been wiped out and we never, ever would have gotten it back.

All the trees would have been gone and the road would have been straightened and narrowed. All the carriage steps and hitching posts that are scattered along the roadway, which are like hidden treasures, would have been wiped out. Along the Ridge from State Street to about Temple Street, people would have lost part of their property and a large retaining wall would have been put there to create another turning lane. Who knows what in the world would have happened to our statue of George Washington, no plan for that one.

The same thing is happening now, only it’s happening incrementally. We are losing a house here a house there. Large oversize structures pepper Newburyport’s Historic District changing local neighborhood character. It is happening so slowly, we hardly notice that it’s happening at all until it is too late.

What if we took all those changes and put them along High Street, the damage would not seem incremental—it would seem dramatic.

So why aren’t we pestering our City government for amendments to the zoning code that protects what we have left? It seems like we need to start thinking about doing that.

And since Christopher Ryan has decided not to be our next Planning Director, maybe it would be a good idea to start lobbying the Mayor (who picks Newburyport’s Planning Director) for someone who has a strong background in Historic Preservation and would know how to help us keep what we have—what makes us economically alive.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Vertical Sprawl, Historic Heritage

I keep thinking about an earlier post on the “positive aspects of infill.”

It is my own impression that in the 1980’s and early to mid 1990’s we did experience positive infill. Houses in Newburyport’s Historic District were repaired and restored, reasonably sized additions were built; one could argue that the infill on a street like Lime Street, whether or not one agrees with the architectural style, actually helped lower crime in that area. In fact “infill” and restoration helped cut down on crime in Newburyport, something that “positive infill” is supposed to do.

We are not alone in the fact that we are at the edge, if not over the edge of over development. Gentrification and displacement of lower and middle class families, along with the loss of neighborhood character are happening in other places the United States along with Newburyport, MA.

There is now a new buzz word for what we are experiencing –“vertical sprawl.” From what I gather not everyone in the planning community likes the term “vertical sprawl,” but it appears to be catching on. People are sighting places like Brooklyn, NY…slightly larger than Newburyport, MA.

And people are wrestling with this issue and what to do about it.

I think in our community we could say, “wait a minute, there is a problem, let’s slow down and think about what is happening to Newburyport, MA.” That is my hope for Save Our Town—that we could raise public awareness and change the climate of demolition and replication to one of the protection of our historic heritage, which would include, historic structures, historic landscapes and local neighborhood character.

I’ve talked to many folks who think that it’s too late—too much of Newburyport has been destroyed. It is my own opinion that there is still plenty left, and that if we speak up, we can make a difference. But we need to speak up now.

So take a free bumper sticker and put it on your car. Take a flier and pass it on to your neighbors and friends. Sign the petition and let other people know about it. If we each do one small thing, I think that together we can make a really big difference.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

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Save Our Town—Newburyport, MA bumper sticker

Save Our Town—Newburyport, MA

Ok folks, there’s a new citizens’ group—“Save Our Town.”

Save Our Town came about one day when Sarah White, Steve Rudolph and Mary Eaton (yes, that’s me) were sitting around discussing issues in Newburyport, MA and were wondering what in the world to do.

Save Our Town—Save Newburyport’s historic character, charm and beauty—Be the voice of responsible growth.

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Preserve Newburyport’s historic character, charm and beauty

Save Our Town has its own website www.saveourtown.us .

There are also free bumper stickers.
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Save Our Town—Newburyport, MA bumper sticker

There is a Save Our Town flier and a Save Our Town petition.

The Save Our Town petition says:
“We the undersigned wish to preserve Newburyport’s historic buildings, landscapes, and local neighborhood character. We support responsible growth in Newburyport, Massachusetts.”

You can contact Save Our Town at:
info@saveourtown.us
www.saveourtown.us

Mary Eaton
Newburyort

Newburyport, A Conversation About our Historic City

Yesterday I had a gentleman call me who was interested in working as a planner in Newburyport, MA. This was a first, emails from a variety of people in the planning community about a variety of planning issues, yes, but never a member of the planning community calling the Newburyport Political Blog about a planning job.

The first thing I asked him was how long he had been a planner and if he was happy where he was. He is very happy where he is and has been there for roughly 10 years. The gist my response to him was, “if you are a good planner and you are happy where you are, don’t come here.” It is unbelievably sad, if not downright heart breaking that that would be my very honest reply.

He was interested in working in Newburyport, MA because this City is “one of the most, if not the most beautiful and historic places in Massachusetts.”

I explained to him that if he was interested in the City Planner job, the mayor was thinking or revising that job to include a lot of what the Newburyport Building Inspector does, taking away from the role of what a City Planner in my mind should be. You could almost hear his eyes widen in disbelief at the other end of the telephone.

I explained to him that during the last roughly 14 years or so we’ve had a mayor every 2 years. And since the Planning Director is appointed by the mayor, the job of Planning Director is at the mercy of local politics. I think the reply was something along the line of “you’re kidding.”

I explained to him that our beautiful and unique architecture has absolutely no protection. He couldn’t believe it. His response was that even many of the smallest New England towns that weren’t particularly historic had Local Historic Districts. My reply, “Nope, not us.”

I explained to him that we were experiencing a rash of developers who do not have the City’s best interest at heart. His response was that “pretty soon there would be nothing left” of Newburyport, MA and the town essentially would be worthless. “Amen” to that.

I told him that someone during the last 14 years who was associated with the Planning Office had told me that it was “easier to work for the Mob than to work in Newburyport, MA.” I doubt that the Chamber of Commerce would be happy with me. This was not exactly positive spin.

Basically on the other end of the phone there was a lot of “you’ve got to be kidding,” “I can’t believe it,” “No way.”

It was a very sad phone call. And I found myself unbelievably angry at what we as a City are at the brink of, because this planner was absolutely right. If things keep going way they are going, and the issues are complex and multi-determine—much bigger than the current administration, the planner is correct, we will have nothing left. Newburyport, MA will be no different than a whole variety of generic places in New England and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Folks, we are in a lot of trouble and if we do not do something, we will be in a world of hurt.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

A Good-Bye Party for Newburyport’s City Planner

George Cushing (the political consultant for the Newburyport Political Blog) of Frog Pond at Newburyport’s Bartlett Mall, is quite distressed at the impending departure of Julie LaBranche, Newburyport’s City Planner.

George Cushing is not alone. Apparently many of the frogs at Frog Pond at the Bartlett Mall feel the same way. And George Cushing’s cousin Georgette Cushing of Frog Pond is so distressed that she has decided to accompany Julie on her journeys.

Georgette Cushing is a warmer, gentler version of George Cushing of Frog Pond at the Bartlett Mall.

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George Cushing saying good-bye to his cousin
Georgette Cushing of Frog Pond at the Bartlett Mall
who is joining Julie LaBranche as she journeys on

From Geordie Vining of the Newburyport Planning Office:

Please come to a Good-bye Party for City Planner Julie LaBranche

Please join us for an informal get-together on 8-30-06 to extend our appreciation to Julie LaBranche for all her good work for the City, and to wish her well in her new pursuits.

Wednesday, August 30th
Moseley Woods park
(at Spofford and Merrimac Streets)
4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

If you can come, please bring an hors d’oeuvre and/or beverage to the pavilion to share.

(Anyone is invited — please spread the word. Please RSVP to me (Geordie Vining) if you think you can come so that we have some sense of the number of people. Thanks.)

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

The Interview with Newburyport’s Proposed Planning Director

Ok I just couldn’t resist.

I went to last night’s meeting of the Newburyport City Council Planning and Development subcommittee to sit and listen to who our next Planning Director would most probably be.

I came away thinking, “Boy, am I glad I’m not on the Newburyport City Council.” Because after last night’s meeting with proposed planning director Christopher Ryan I would have a lot of sleepless nights figuring on how I was going to vote on this one.

Bottom line, Christopher Ryan seems to be a very bright, capable gentleman, but just does not seem to be a match for the City of Newburyport, MA …well, that was my take.

I was impressed, 9 out of the 11 City Councilors were there, I imagine the other 2 were on vacation (it is August.)

Before the meeting Mr. Ryan looked nervous. And Mayor Moak when he arrived looked very nervous. Mrs. Moak looked a little tense herself. I quipped to somebody, “As long as Mr. Ryan has done his homework and hasn’t killed his grandmother, everything’s going to be just fine.”

My impression was that Christopher Ryan was very candid and not manipulative in the least.

He had not done his homework. He had not read the Newburyport Master Plan or the Zoning Code or any of the other pertinent documents. You could almost hear the entire audience murmur, “Say what?”

He also made it very clear that he was dedicated to the teaching job in the Fall and that was where all his energies at the moment were going and that he would be teaching again in the “Spring” semester, January-March 2007.

Again you could almost hear the entire audience mumble “excuse me?”

He admitted quite candidly that he had (I think I have the phrase right) “very little” experience in historic preservation. Yes, you can hear the reaction …“What?”

And there was a lot of chit chat about the ability to get along with the Building Inspector ….a lot of biting of lower lips and eyes raised to the ceiling among the people in the audience.

I thought the Planning and Development subcommittee was very professional. No, they were not warm and fuzzy, but that was not their job.

At one point Mr. Ryan expressed that he had never experienced an interview process like this one. Councilor Shanley replied, “Welcome to Newburyport.” Yes, and you could practically hear the audience say “Amen.” I wanted to say, “if you think this is bad, wait to you see what the actual job is like, this will be like a walk in the park.”

Anyway, there was lots and lots more. The City Council Subcommittee did not make a recommendation on the appointment, they wanted to “sleep on it” because there was so much new information.

I don’t see how in the world they could have made a recommendation last night. I was hoping for a “slam-dunk, whew, we have a new Planning Director.” In my book, a “slam-dunk” just didn’t happen. Monday, August 28th the Newburyport City Council will take a vote, and I do not envy them in the least.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Protecting our Historic Heritage

When I first moved here back in 1981, as I remember it, it never would have occurred to anyone to demolish an old building. Downtown Newburyport had been restored and restoration was spreading to the rest of Newburyport’s Historic District.

The idea was to remove years, if not centuries, of wallpaper, skim-coat the old plaster walls, update heating and electrical, put in much needed insulation, repair sills and rotting windows, sometimes remove years and often centuries of accumulated paint.

As far as I remember, demolition was never even on the radar. Preserving local neighborhood character was a given.

So what has changed?

People write PhDs on the subject and PhDs on the solution, this blogger doesn’t have the answers. One heartening thing, however, is that the Newburyport Preservation Trust has among its membership the kind of brain trust that could address these kinds of issues. And for that I am quite relieved and grateful.

I think we are definitely at a crossroad. Depending on your point of view our unique historic heritage is already eroding or is on the verge of eroding due to over-development. I feel that it has happened slowly and incrementally and that some of us now look around us and say, “What in the world has happened or is happening?”

It’s not like our City government is sitting idly by. It is not. In fact our City government has been very proactive over the last 4 or 5 years. We now have a 12 month demolition delay, a site plan review; we have a host or zoning changes and amendments that address the problems, including the zoning amendment that is coming up that specifically addresses “infill” in Newburyport, MA. We now have various zoning overlays and are working on our first local historic district—the Fruit Street Local Historic District. Good for the City of Newburyport, MA. I don’t think anyone in our City government would like to see the erosion of our historic heritage.

But in spite of everything that the City of Newburyport has and is doing, the climate, attitude towards protecting our historic resources appears to have changed.

It seems that the first thought is to demolish historic buildings instead of valuing there worth. I find this disturbing and I know that a lot of other people feel the same way.

I also think that if this trend continues it will have short and long term economic consequences for our City, because Newburyport will no longer be a exceptional place to live, visit, work and play.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Report on Newburyport’s Planning Office

I get a lot of flack, I mean a LOT of flack for the fact that I take Newburyport’s journal, the Undertoad and its editor, Tom Ryan seriously. I’ve said before on the Newburyport Political Blog that although I’m not too fond of Mr. Ryan’s (now we have two Mr. Ryans, Tom Ryan and proposed Planning Director Christopher Ryan) toadisms, and I don’t always agree with everything he writes, we need him as a fearless progressive voice. (And I also gotta say that the Current is appearing pretty fearless itself these days with the expose on Julie LaBranche (Newburyport’s soon to be departed City Planner) and everything.)

Thank your Mr. (Tom) Ryan for the piece on the front page of the Undertoad on the disarray of Newburyport’s Planning Office. Tom Ryan can say things that I would never be comfortable saying and as far as I’m concerned the article on the state of Newburyport’s Planning Office nails it. I hope in a couple of weeks when the next Undertoad is out, that Mr. Ryan will put that article up on the Undertoad Blog.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Demolition Delay Granted for 30-32 Marlboro

The Newburyport Historical Commission last night told Matthew Pieniazek of 36 Marlboro Street, who purchased 30-32 Marlboro Street that there would be a 12 month demolition delay on the property. For the moment, there is a reprieve.

While I’m relieved that a neighbor bought the property, one who has his and his neighbors’ interests at heart, I was very disappointed that demolition was the name of the game. Apparently Mr. Pieniazek’s own engineering report says that the front part of the c. 1850 building is sound.

As I understand it Newburyport’s Historical Commission had no problem with the demolition of the back part of the property. However, they hope that Mr. Pieniazek will restore the front part of this historic home. The Historical Commission hopes that they and Mr. Pieniazek can have an ongoing dialogue.

The Historical Commission pointed out that all the modern amenities could be placed at the back portion of the property. It is my understanding that there was some talk of the central chimney being in the way. It was pointed out that the central chimney was the heart and hearth of historic homes of this period, and to remove it in the name of restoration would destroy its historic heritage.

Newburyport Massachusetts has a unique history. If builders/ developers in town or out of town have the attitude that the wear and tear of an historic home is an inconvenience to making money, our unique historic heritage will be lost. And this, in the long and short term will adversely affect our economic survival, because Newburyport, MA will no longer be a distinct community in which to visit, work, live and play.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Process for Newburyport’s Proposed Planning Director

Christopher Ryan, the Mayor’s choice for Newburyport’s Planning Director, seems more than willing to meet with the Newburyport City Council Planning and Development Committee on Monday August 21, 2006. (That meeting is open to the public, 7 p.m. at City Hall.)

The Newburyport City Council is “going by the book” on this one, as they should. “Typically, mayoral appointments are ‘received’ by the council on a first reading and then confirmed at the next council meeting to allow time for questions or issues to be addressed.” (Newburyport Daily News, August 17, 2006.)

Councilor Tom Jones, the chairman of the Planning and Development Committee had this to say:

“We are trying to be consistent, fair and equitable…My concern is that it seems when we don’t do what the mayor wants, it becomes a contest of personalities…I’m really concerned following the rules doesn’t fit into (Moak’s) time frame and schedule.”

And Christopher Ryan had this to say:

“This is an indication how much people really care about this and (that city leaders) choose a good candidate.” “People (in Newburyport) really care and have strong feelings on issues and concerns.”

Good for Christopher Ryan.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport, MA

Newburyport, Senior Center and Cushing Park

From the emails that I have received it seems that there is already a strong, mounting opposition to having a Senior Center at Cushing Park. (Cushing Park is off Kent Street and is often confused with Cashman Park that is along the waterfront on the North End of the City.)

When people call me about issues that I know nothing about, I try and ask them to educate me. And this was the case when I received phone calls about the Senior Center from “seniors.”

My first question was, why not the YWCA, a community center for all ages (I realize that this is a vast simplification.)

I know in middle age although I enjoy and appreciate “young” people of all different ages around town, actually having them in close proximity for any length of time is a little jarring. Not because I do not like them, I like them a lot, but because basically I am “out of practice” and am no longer “acclimated,” so to speak, to the hustle and bustle of youthful energy. If I feel this way in middle age, I would think that this would increase as I get older. And from what I understand, this is true of many older folks.

My second question was why not the Industrial Park? I like the idea of when I get older of not much traffic and lots of parking and possibly a place for a one level building. Basically, the answer, as I heard it, is that it gets lonely as one gets older and seniors do not want to be isolated from their community.

Actually when I thought about it, I remembered when the library had its temporary setting out in the Industrial Park (thanks to the great generosity of Ed Molin), it felt like I was going out to the middle of nowhere (although that was not the case) and went to the library very infrequently.

Now that the library is downtown, it is one of my favorite places to go, and I go all the time. So I can empathize with how our seniors feel about not wanting a Senior Center in a more isolated area.

This is where I think civics is very, very difficult, because there are legitimate, competing needs among our populace. And I am always impressed when we do find creative solutions or come to difficult compromises, because civics is not easy.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

The Meeting on 8/21/06, Newburyport’s Proposed Planning Director

Clarification—The meeting on Monday night August 21, 2006 at 7:00 PM of the Newburyport City Council Planning and Development Committee is a public meeting to allow Newburyport City Councilors to familiarize themselves with proposed Newburyport Planning Director, Christopher Ryan.

The meeting is open to the public. The committee would like to open up the meeting to the public for comments and questions. Please feel free to attend.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Historic Preservation

A reader of the Newburyport Political Blog sent me this information on Shaker Heights, OH.

“Shaker Heights is a PLANNED “garden community” that sprang up beginning in 1912, and became a city in 1930. It was the vision of two developer brothers, M.J. and O.P. Vam Sweringen of Cleveland. The community began with a strict and uniform zoning code, and a master plan that worked around the natural topography of the area and designated specific locations for houses, apartments, commercial areas, public and private schools, municipal and religious buildings, and parks.

Building in Shaker was controlled by a set of restrictive covenants and building guidelines established by the Van Sweringens and known as Shaker Standards. Shaker Standards prevented the community from being developed in any way contrary to how the brothers intended. Standards limited commercial development, rental property development, and residence style and size.

Standards set roof slope angles, materials, finishes, and garage placement. All residences were required to be unique and designed by an architect. Duplex residences in the community were restricted to designated areas, and were required follow guidelines designed to give the impression that the structure was a single family home.

While there is architectural variety throughout the city, most of the houses are in the style of Colonials, Tudors & Georgians. It is very lovely and very predictable.

To this day, Shaker Heights maintains stringent building code and zoning laws, which have helped to maintain the community‚s housing stock and identity throughout the years. According to the city’s website, the building department inspects every property on a revolving schedule to make sure that property owners don‚t violate any of these codes. This makes a Local Historic District seem tame by comparison.

Granted, like Newburyport, much of Shaker Heights is a National Register District, however, it is based on very different criteria than those for Newburyport. In Shaker Heights there is no hodgepodge of architectural styles nestled against each other; there are no REAL 17th, 18th or even 19th century homes. You would NEVER find a 1950s ranch house next to the 18th century mansion of a ship‚s captain in Shaker Heights.

In Newburyport, property owners can pretty do whatever they’d like to a building, and woe to the person who tries to interfere. These folks would never survive a day in Shaker Heights, where slate roofs and wood windows are ardently protected by the CITY government, hard as that might be to imagine for residents in Newburyport, Massachusetts.

The historic preservation issues of Shaker Heights, OH are unlike those of Newburyport, MA.”

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Planning Director, Newburyport

I think it would have been unrealistic to expect that the appointment of Christopher Ryan, the mayor’s choice for Planning Director, to pass on the first reading at last night’s Newburyport City Council meeting. City Councilors appear to be listening to their constituents, and constituents still have lots of questions.

Residents are concerned about Mr. Ryan’s time commitment. They are concerned about the fall teaching commitment. And they also want to make sure that the teaching job this fall is a onetime deal, and that teaching is not going to be an ongoing activity. Reasonable questions.

Residents want to give Mr. Ryan time to really study the Newburyport Master Plan and they would like very specific answers on how he feels about specific issues. I think that is a reasonable request

And then there is the question of historic preservation. For many the preservation of Newburyport’s unique history is one of the most important issues facing our City. Residents want to make sure that Christopher Ryan is committed whole heartedly to historic preservation in Newburyport, Massachusetts.

Mr. Ryan has cited his work in Shaker Heights, Ohio. Shaker Heights, OH was designed and built as a planned community (1912?) whose buildings were erected over a specific period of time and their style and character reflect a particular era. Newburyport obviously is quite different, having evolved over more than three centuries.

Councilor James Shanley at last night’s Newburyport City Council meeting said a very import thing. I’m paraphrasing here. Councilor Shanley said that the Planning Director is a key position and that decisions that are made would affect the City for decades if not centuries. I couldn’t agree more.

As I understand it there will be a sub-committee meeting held on Monday, August 21, 2006 to find out more about Mr. Ryan and then a special meeting on Monday August 28, 2006 to vote on Mr. Ryan’s appointment. All of this sounds very reasonable to me.

In today’s Newburyport Daily News, August 15, 2006, Mayor John Moak appears to be uneasy about losing Mr. Ryan as a candidate for Newburyport’s Planning Director saying that “Ryan has turned down other offers to accept the Newburyport position.”

I would think that this whole process would give Mr. Ryan the beginning of an idea of what it would be like to be Planning Director in Newburyport, MA. It is, as Council Shanley stated, a key position, and one that we as a City value. I think the process would indicate to Mr. Ryan that the expectations of Newburyport’s Planning Director are very high.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, MA

The response to the story and editorial (the editorial is in a previous post) about the departure of Julie LaBranche, Newburyport’s City Planner in the Newburyport Current, Friday, August 11, 2006, has been a fascinating one, although, not terribly pleasant.

Yes, phone calls and emails for this local political blogger, the subject of which is City Hall. This morning I even debated, fleetingly, of starting a blog called “Inside City Hall.” It was a passing fancy that passed very quickly.

Politics within politics…yes it is ever thus.

My recollection is that when Lisa Mead was first mayor (1992?? I haven’t looked up the date) Ms Mead wanted people at City Hall to be “professional.” It’s been a long time, but as I recall the response was that the employees at City Hall unionized, in part, as I understand it, to protect the jobs of people who had been there a long, long time. (I haven’t verified these facts by going back and reading everything at that time, frankly, it’s just not worth it.)

And my observation is that through various and sundry administrations City Hall politics have always been sticky, sometimes downright gooey, but it appears (being that we are all human) that there has always been a certain degree of stickiness.

And the year 2006 appears to be no exception. Things appear to be fairly high on the gooey chart. What I keep hearing over and over again is that there is a “vocal minority” (yes, I’ve heard that phrase a whole, whole, lot) that has a political agenda which is to ruin Mayor John Moak. I suppose I would be considered part of the “vocal minority,” oh well.

I think there are plenty of folks who have “philosophical differences” with the Mayor (including me) and the obvious human meshing of styles and communication. But “ruin” (yes, and I’ve heard that word a whole, whole lot), no I really and truly do not think that is the case. I think that’s way too dramatic and doesn’t do justice to the whole wonderfully messy democratic process that makes the USA such great place in which to live and work.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport