Newburyport, the Mayor, the Council as well as “Over-Development”

A first rate editorial in the Newburyport Daily News today (January 8, 2007) by Taylor Armerding. In fact I thought it was so good I called Mr. Armerding up and told him that myself.

The editorial is “Mayor’s report card has unfinished business.”

One of the interesting things is that it references this quote in an article in the Newburyport Daily News, January 5, 2007, written by Stephen Tait:

“”There seems to be a desire in residential areas to keep growth at a minimum and I think that’s happened,” he (Moak) said, referring to a new ordinance the City Council enacted last year to curb so-called “in-fill” development – the building of new homes and additions in Newburyport’s already tightly packed old neighborhoods.”

In an article in the Newburyport Current, December 15, 2006, written by Ulrika Gerth, there is this quote in reference to the “Infill Ordinance”:

“Mayor John Moak, who has been critical of the amendment from the start, said he still has “a few problems, but not enough to veto it.” ”

That’s quite a switch in attitude towards residential over-development in let’s see, about 3 weeks.

It sounds like (and I hope this is really, really true) Mayor John Moak has come over to the “Bright Side” in regards to the residential over-development issue. Who knows why this might be. Could the new Newburyport Planning Director, Nancy Colbert (and believe me this is ALL conjecture on my part, no chats yet by moi with Ms Colbert) have had a conversation with the mayor on the subject??

The other interesting bit pointed out by Mr. Armerding is the acknowledgement that there has been a lack of communication so far by Mayor John Moak with the Newburyport City Council, an unbelievably important and key political skill.

This one has always puzzled me. I watched for years as Mr. Moak as Newburyport City Clerk communicated beautifully with the Newburyport City Council. For this to have been a major stumbling block the first year has always been for me a “say what?” “excuse me?”

I think this particular Newburyport City Council has a great deal to offer and that means, to quote Mr. Armerding, that “showing respect and responding to the concerns of councilors” by the Mayor of Newburyport, MA is really important.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, George’s Talking Points

George Cushing, of Frog Pond at the Bartlet Mall, the political consultant for the Newburyport Political Blog, is trying to get my attention again.

What is it this time George?
George Cushing
trying to get my attention again.

George feels that it is questionable whether the “progressives” can get their “act together” so he would like to make some talking points on what he believes municipal policy could be.

Ok, I’ll bite George, but remember you are a FROG.

What in the world do you have in mind?

1) (We’re doing numbers here George? How very organized.) An aggressive planning agenda that addresses zoning changes to protect Newburyport’s neighborhood character and historic assets.

(Good start. But remember George’s last name is “Cushing” and he comes from a pretty swanky address, i.e. Frog Pond on Newburyport’s historic High Street.)

2) George likes these “Buy Local” folks. He would like two see two economic overlays, one for downtown and one for Waterfront West, sighting tons of ordinances that have been drafted across the country. He’d like to see Waterfront West have a square foot limitation for retail space. Apparently there is a correlation, according to the National Trust for Preservation, between retail space and historic preservation. Who knew? Smart Frog.

3) The Industrial Park, rezoned to include office space. George and Mayor John Moak like that one.

4) The capping of the Crow Lane Landfill completed. He thinks Mayor John Moak is doing all that any mayor could do.

5) The Senior Center, would like to see the Cushing Park (same name as George you notice) plan on the November ballot. (George thinks that if a Senior Center is built that there would be room for frogs??)

6) The Central Waterfront, would like to see the people’s wishes observed and have half park and half parking.

(Ok George, what about parking? From an aerial view, the train station has tons of unused parking? George, that’s from 5,000 feet, you really think anyone is going to go for that one? Hasn’t exactly been a popular solution all these years. And you want the City of Newburyport to include a Frog Pond? I don’t think so George, frogs are a zero constituency, no one is going ask the tax payers to pay for a Frog Pond. Come on.)

7) Schools. (Yes, I agree George, what a mess. Money, where are you going to get the money?) George would like the State and the Feds to get their act together and pony up some major bucks, because the tax burden on the average resident is already too high.

8) High Street (Oh, George, is this for me?) The Bike Lanes either finished or removed and the rest of the High Street Master Plan, which was passed by the Newburyport City Council, begin to be enacted — brick sidewalks, textured crosswalks, trees etc. (I like this.) (Apparently this was not for me. Had more to do with his feelings about Frog Pond. George wants the rest of High Street to be as nice as the restoration to the Bartlet Mall.)

9) And a discussion about the ineffectiveness of a 2 year mayoral term. Either a 4 year mayoral term or a city manager form of government. (My, “la de da,” aren’t we really out there on that one?)

Well, I’m impressed. That’s not a bad start considering he’s a FROG, except for the insistence that the tax payers pay for another frog pond and that frogs would get to hang around in a Senior Center. Good grief.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, November 2007 Elections Already?

George Cushing of Frog Pond at the Bartlet Mall, the political consultant for the Newburyport Political Blog is trying to get my attention.
George Cushing
trying to get my attention

Ok George what is it? (Some people have assistants or secretaries etc. etc. trying to get their attention, but no, I have a frog trying to get my attention. I realize that this is MY choice, however, at times I do wonder about my choice.)

George is concerned about the next election.

The next election George? It’s January for goodness sakes, get a grip.

George Cushing is concerned about setting city policy.

Now, George, in January?? (And city policy set by a FROG?)

George Cushing is concerned that the “progressives” in the city would not be able to form a cohesive and mutually respectful group, and thereby not attract an attractive and proactive candidate.


George Cushing is sighting an editorial in one of the local publications by a leading progressive “voice” (whom he likes very much by the way, because George thinks, and where he gets this I don’t know, that he likes frogs… I’m rolling my eyes, here) blasting other very involved and thoughtful, hardworking progressives. And George is claiming that this is just one of many, many, many examples of progressives not coming together and working towards a common goal.

George Cushing of Frog Pond at the Bartlet Mall thinks that unless this happens a mayor in the front office with a progressive agenda is an impossibility.

What can I say. Maybe George Cushing may be correct. Who knew frogs could possibly be that insightful or thoughtful. Good grief.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport’s Commercial Progress and Heritage

Certainly the “Buy Local” folks are bringing to the forefront the discussion of an economic plan for downtown Newburyport. We have a Newburyport Master Plan, but I’m not sure that we have a recent municipal Newburyport Economic Master Plan for downtown Newburyport, MA. (I haven’t heard of one, but that doesn’t mean one doesn’t exist somewhere.)

You see, this is where I get in trouble. I am an artist (and now I guess a blogger.) I am not a “business” person in the traditional sense and I do not have a degree in economics, nor do I have an MBA.

In this area, I am a “neophyte.”

And I am now learning more about chain store stuff than I ever imagined.

It seems as if on this subject, Newburyport, MA could be at a crossroads.

How does one define “commercial progress” for Newburyport, MA in the year 2007?

Is it possible that we could sustain ourselves economically with individual locally owned entrepreneurial businesses? Of course I hearken back to the days when I first moved here and almost every business was locally owned, and I loved it. Could I be naïve in wanting to go back to that economic formula in the year 2007? That amazing sense of “community.”

Many people that I’ve talked to think it is very possible for Newburyport, MA to have a viable mix of chain stores and locally owned businesses. And that the chain stores could bring business to other locally run shops.

But of course there is the great fear that landlords would find “tried and true” chain stores so much more appealing than less “tried and true” local entrepreneur business human beings. Especially if those landlords don’t live in Newburyport, MA.

And of course there is the fear that Newburyport, MA would lose it’s “flavor,” and become yet one more bland, homogenous place to live, work, shop and play.

“Buy Local” decal
(Image used with permission)

I am very glad that the “Buy Local” folks have initiated this discussion. It is one that we in Newburyport, MA badly need to have outside of the business community itself, because what happens commercially downtown would affect all our lives in Newburyport, Massachusetts.

And what the “Buy Local” folks are suggesting, which never occurred to me, is that as residents, we have a choice, if we decide to use that choice, about how downtown Newburyport, MA would look like economically. We could choose what would or would not go into downtown Newburyport, MA the way Nantucket, MA, Bristol, R.I. and Ogunquit, Maine have done.

This is a radical and fascinating idea, and one that had never occurred to me.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, Community

(Image used with permission)

I think one of the things that I like so much about is the emphasis on “community.”

I was also astounded at the figures that local business “pour more than 50 percent of the revenue back into the local economy compared to 14 percent for national chains.” (Newburyport Current, December 21, 2006)

The detailed reports can be found on the website. These folks have done their homework.

And to quote Gene Volovich from the same Newburyport Current article, “A city like Newburyport, where most of downtown is in the hands of one owner, is particularly vulnerable to ‘manipulation’…”

Yes, that is most definitely the concern.

That locally owned businesses would have the City’s best interest at heart over “large corporations” and “national chains” and that it would be better to promote “community welfare” over “corporate welfare.” (Source website.)

Works for me.

And I certainly would want our local entrepreneurs to be supported and to flourish.

(Now I’m wondering out loud here, which has gotten me into trouble before, so if there’s any “Mary could be sued” stuff, please let me know, ASAP.)

This is what I wonder. Would the corporate folks at large corporations use our local banks, our local lawyers, our local insurance people?

If a very large landlord (of course I’m thinking of Mr. Karp here) has the choice between a “tried and true” establishment, that is guaranteed to pay the rent and possibly pay more, would the landlord take the “tried and true” business over a lesser-tried local entrepreneur?

If let’s say (and this is absolutely guaranteed hypothetical) a national chain store like a Barnes and Noble went in the yet to be developed Stephen Karp property, would our local (much loved, at least by me) book stores suffer? I would think the answer would be “yes,” but possibly I’ve been watching way too many movies.

Anyway, this new group, founded by Allyson Lawless and Gene Volovich, has created a decal for local business to put in their windows.

“Buy Local” decal
(Image used with permission)

And the decals are beginning to pop up all over downtown Newburyport, MA. Obviously there are local business out there in our downtown that would like to remind folks to “Buy Local.”

Mary Eaton

Newburyport,, Buy Local

I can’t tell you how pleased I was to read the most excellent article by Ulrika Gerth in the Newburyport Current, December 22, 2006 on “Buy Local,”

And I was a little puzzled by Mayor John Moak’s comments in this Sunday’s Globe North, ‘”Locally owned businesses are the backbone of our community,” Moak said. “But I also believe that larger corporations can be an intricate part of the city as long as they understand the limitations of the city.”‘ (Boston Globe, December 31, 2006 — Kay Lazar.)

Ah, and let me quote from the beautiful website of (it is also on their most excellent brochure.)


‘It grows out of people stopping by the bar for a beer, getting advice from the grocer and giving advice to the newsstand man, comparing opinions with other customers at the bakery and nodding hello to the two boys drinking pop on the stoop . . . hearing about a job from the hardware man and borrowing a dollar from the druggist . . .

‘Most of it is ostensibly utterly trivial, but the sum is not trivial at all. The sum of such casual, public contact at the local level. . . most of it fortuitous, most of it associated with errands . . . is a feeling for the public identity of people, a web of public respect and trust, and a resource in time of personal or neighborhood need. The absence of this trust is a disaster to a city street.’

‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities,’ by Jane Jacobs”

What I would beg to differ with Mayor John Moak is that it has been my experience that “large corporations” are an anathema to “community.” And community, I think, is one of the things that so many of us love about Newburyport, MA. Could I possibly be right about this one?

And of course, the elephant in the room here, that I haven’t mentioned so far, is of course Mr. Karp. Our new huge downtown landlord, developer Stephen Karp.

I would imagine that this blogger will be blogging a little bit more about “Buy Local”.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, A Real Estate Inquiry About the Landfill

Shortly before Christmas I got a phone call. The phone call was from a young lady who was about to buy a house in Newburyport, MA and wanted to know if it was safe to live here because of our Landfill issue.

Why in the world was she calling me?

She had called the Mayor’s office to ask this very question. I felt sorry for Lois, Mayor John Moak’s secretary, who apparently had the pleasure of trying to answer such an inquiry. My caller was not satisfied.

And she was told that our health inspector was “not available,” which he probably wasn’t, because he was probably out inspecting the work being done on the Newburyport Landfill.

So, low and behold, Google gave me up as a source of information on this subject. (There’s lots of information when one Googles “Newburyport Landfill,” not just moi, thank goodness.)

It was assumed that the “Newburyport Blogger” would have some answers for this much panicked individual.

Well, this Newburyport blogger knew that she was no source of reliable or informed information, and gave the young lady in question phone numbers of individuals who she felt would be able to impart educated, knowledgeable and fair insight into whether or not it was safe to live in Newburyport, MA.

Well, I live here, so obviously I think it’s safe.

However, the cautionary tale here is to the realtors in Newburyport, Massachusetts. The Landfill issue apparently appears to be hurting the realtor bottom-line, if people are Googling me for info and “guidance” on this stuff. Good grief.

So, I would suggest that it might be a good idea if the realtors in the region ban together and help the City of Newburyport, MA put additional pressure on the “powers that be” on the state level, so that the Landfill issue can get resolved, really and truly, real quick, and folks wouldn’t wonder if it would be a problem to live here health and real-estate-wise. My.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, The Importance of the “Ridge”

Why is the “Ridge” important to Newburyport, MA? The Newburyport Daily News has been asking this question, and an excellent question it appears to be.

The “Ridge” is the area on High Street, in the “South End” of the city that runs roughly from State Street to a little beyond Lime Street, down towards the Newbury line, that is on the upper side of the roadway. That’s the geography.

High Street itself has been called, “one of the most scenic streets in all of New England,” by the “Michelin Guide to New England.”

And to quote the High Street website, “The wholly intact nature of the setting allows the High Street of today to impart the same sense of spaciousness, beauty and dignity that it did 100 years ago.”

The Ridge has beautiful and stately mansions (not McMansions but real to goodness, the real thing, mansions.) And what adds to their beauty, their sense of mystery, their stateliness is LAND. In some cases many, many acres of land.

And this of course was true of the Wheelwright House, the back of which Mr. Todd Fremont-Smith is proposing a suburban subdivision. (See all kinds of previous posts. Just put in Wheelwright into the “search” box at the top of the main page of the Newburyport Political Blog, and you will find gobs of stuff.)

Now not to get too grandiose here, but to get grandiose here, think of “Versailles.” Yes, I’m talking about the Versailles in France, a la King Louis XIV. Yes, I realize this is a bit of hyperbole, and that any mansion on High Street, Newburyport, MA is not quite the same thing, but bear with me here, Ok?

Now, no matter how stunning, how beautiful, how tasteful, would anyone want a subdivision built at the back of Versailles? No.

No, because it would be tacky and lack class, and just plain not a good idea.

The same principle applies to any land in back of the High Street mansions on the Ridge in Newburyport, MA.

To build a subdivision of any kind back there would be tacky and lack class.

Now, my one gander at Mr. Todd Fremont-Smith at the last Public Hearing concerning his project to build a subdivision in the back of the Wheelwright property, the young man in question did not strike me as “lacking class” or being “tacky.” Nor did he strike me as lacking a conscience. (This bloggett obviously finds Mr. Fremont-Smith’s proposal completely unconscionable.)

And if Mr. Fremont-Smith goes ahead with his proposed subdivision — “tacky and without class,” what a lousy legacy to be left with. My.

And I would imagine that if he ever thought that the project would gander so much negative publicity, that he might never have taken the project on at all. And I’m afraid for Mr. Fremont-Smith, that things, bad publicity-wise, are just beginning to really rev up. Vroooom, vroooom.

So one and all, this bloggett does not wish the Ridge a tacky and without class legacy. And I know many (vast understatement) out there in Web Land do not wish this for Newburyport, MA either.

Happy New Year…

Mary Eaton