Monthly Archives: May 2007

Helping to Save Newburyport’s Historic Assets

In all the hoopla over the special election for the override for our schools, a snippet from the Newburyport Daily News sat in my “research” pile unattended.

Or maybe it was just too depressing to even think about it.

Yes, Todd Freemont-Smith of Wills Lane LLC got the go ahead to develop the back of the Wheelwright property. Mr. Freemont-Smith will be putting in a road and 4 houses on the back of this historic High Street land on Newburyport’s “Ridge.”

The article was in the Newburyport Daily News, May 22, 2007.

Sad stuff.

But there have been some good things happening for historic preservation in Newburyport, MA.

A demolition permit was requested for 6 Calswells Court a c 1800 Georgian period house. The owners, after talking with the Newburyport Historical Commission and the members of the Newburyport Preservation Trust, are now restoring this historic asset. Yeh.

A demolition permit was also sought for the house next to the Methodist Church on Purchase Street. That permit has been withdrawn as well, and the home is also being restored.

Fighting for one historic asset at a time in Newburyport, MA.

Probably neither the house on Purchase Street or the house on Calswells Court would have been saved if it were not for the 12 month Newburyport Demolition Delay.

The Demolition Delay has provided an opportunity to have a dialogue with owners of these two historic properties. And once the value and options were understood, both owners opted for historic preservation.

But we need more in Newburyport to protect our historic assets. A Local Historic District would be themost comprehensive way to protect the city’s architecture and streetscapes.

The city of Newburyport, MA actually has a Local Historic District Study Committee, which is a very big deal for Newburyport, MA.

And there is a fundraiser for the Local Historic District Study Committee being provided by the Newburyport Preservation Trust.

Local Historic District Fundraiser

State-Street.jpg
Market Square c 1906

The fundraiser will be held this Saturday, June 2, 2007, from 4-6 PM at the historic house of one of Newburyport’s most illustrious writers, J.P. Marquand.

For more information please see the Events page of the Newburyport Preservation Trust.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Mayoral Campaign 2005

An astute reader of the Newburyport Blog told me that the mayoral race is a “third rail, be careful.”

I just can’t seem to help myself. Maybe I have a third rail wish, I don’t know. But I thought it might be interesting to go back and take a look at how Mayor John Moak ran his campaign in 2005.

And John Moak ran an incredibly effective mayoral campaign in 2005.

The face of that campaign were Mr. Moak’s friends, family and neighbors, people not usually associated with politics, but who believed that he would be a good mayor. It was welcoming and it was the face of the community.

It helped that so many of us knew him to be incredibly affable and helpful when we went or called Newburyport City Hall for assistance.

And Mr. Moak had watched many, many mayors and many, many Newburyport city councils, and many folks figured, what a great education for a perspective mayor.

The very conservative folks, who also backed his candidacy, were not the “face” of his campaign. And what a very smart move that was.

Mr. Moak was not particularly articulate. And it is my own opinion that this worked in his favor. People were for routing him, hoping that he would do well.

And the electorate projected on this genial candidate, what they thought he would be for, they did not appear to be listening to what he actually did stand for.

I remember talking to people, and no matter what I said they did not believe me when I tried to convince them that Mr. Moak would be a conservative mayor. They thought I was nuts. They were shocked when it turned out that John Moak had conservative backers and conservative tendencies.

And when Mayor Moak wanted to turn the entire waterfront into a parking lot, people were outraged. But John Moak had campaigned on that very issue. Either most folks weren’t listening, or most folks didn’t believe it would be true. After all, as I remember, mayoral candidate Lisa Mead proposed a parking lot over Route 1 and that, to this day, has never materialized.

And I wonder if John Moak had run a very different kind of campaign whether he would have won or not. We will never know.

If some of the conservative folks had been the “face” of his effort, and he had been more strident and combative, what kind of effect would that have had? My guess is that it would at least have been a much closer race and that his opponent might well have won.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Everything I Learned, I Learned from Jon Stewart

At times I am overwhelmed, especially since 9/11, by the evening news. And often I tune into world events with a little amount of sugar and a big dose of humor. I get my dose of whatever is happening in the world from the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. I might even stay tuned for the Colbert Report.

And by pure chance, I happened to catch on PBS, Bill Moyers’ interview with Jon Stewart on April 27, 2007. It was a fascinating interview. (Plus, I also love Bill Moyers.)

What a great combination, wisdom, humor, intelligence and insight.

My.

And Jon Stewart said a fascinating thing about issues. (I found the transcript on PBS website, www.pbs.org, I wanted to get things right here, so whew.)

He said “people are busy” and basically it is very hard to “mobilize a busy and relatively affluent country, unless it’s over really crucial– you know, foundational issues. That come sort of sort of a tipping point.”

And he pointed out (the issue was war in Iraq) that the only way people are really going to pay attention is if a draft were instigated. “And the minute you do that, suddenly the country’s not so damn busy anymore. And then they really fight back…”

And I think it’s not so different on a local level.

People’s lives are very busy, and it’s very hard to get them to pay attention to local “issues” much less to get them involved.

One of the things that I found so fascinating was that for, especially, it seems, young parents in Newburyport, MA, the education of their children became a “tipping point.”

And basically, they proposed what many found to be another “tipping point,” raising taxes. And people fought back.

And suddenly, Newburyport, MA became politically awake, in the middle of May, no less, to the tune that almost 50% of the population actually came out and voted one way or another regarding the special election for the override concerning the Newburyport’s public schools.

And the great thing that happened is that so many people paid attention, made room in their busy lives, and became involved in their hometown of Newburyport, MA.

I think both of those “tipping points,” education and an antipathy towards raising taxes are not going to go away.

And I’m still hoping for a win-win situation. And if Massachusetts Stand for Children (www.stand.org/ma) is at all sound, it might be a way to unite those two tipping points. Could you imagine even 25% of Newburyport, MA fighting for educational reform on the state level. Good grief. Wow.

And this Thursday, May 31, 2007 at 6 PM there will be a meeting on Newburyport’s downtown waterfront, at Somerby’s landing. The meeting is organized by Dominique Dear. Ms Dear, who has organized town forums, hopes that the city of Newburyport, MA could work towards common goals and a meeting of the minds on the issue of a financial approach towards education in Newburyport, MA.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

(Editor’s Note: Quotations are taken from the Transcript of “Bill Moyers talks with Jon Stewart,” April 27, 2007, © Public Affairs Television 2007, www.pbs.org. Please press here to read the entire transcript of that remarkable interview.)

Newburyport, Mayoral Meetings

“A Committee for a Better Newburyport” is meeting Tuesday, May 29, 2007, 6:30 PM at the Newburyport Library.

I’m actually very concerned about this meeting, because I don’t think it’s going to help the “progressive” cause. Just my opinion.

The subject is the upcoming mayoral election. “Moak is a dangerous person…” “The potential for long-term, damage has not been greater since the 1950s, when the whole downtown could have been obliterated.”

This is a little over the top for me.

The whole tone of the initial email had me shaking my head and going, “no, no, no, no.” Way too angry, way too strident to be effective for a progressive agenda (or, for that matter, any agenda).

Sigh.

“The latest straw, in case you haven’t heard, is the mayor’s rumored plan to campaign against the CPA (Community Preservation Act), i.e. to terminate this program.”

I actually called the mayor’s office up and asked if this could be true. I got Mayor Moak’s interim assistant, who said she couldn’t imagine it could be, and that she had never heard that possibility ever discussed. And I got an email from the mayor himself later that day and I quote, “Am I campaigning against a CPA tax? No.”

I also asked a conservative friend and politician if they thought there could be any merit to this concern and the response was, “Taking money from the CPA would not be a good way to win friends.”

I’m hoping to take that one to the bank.

“It is time to unite and select a candidate.” The proposal is “the equivalent of holding a mini-convention, or caucus, to hammer out a SHORT and SWEET platform, and to do so in the next two weeks. I propose, after settling on a platform, to a) inform the press via an open letter; b) arrange a photo op, that both city newspapers will run, promoting same; c) invite people interested in running to contact us, and/or soliciting an individual whom we think would run, and could win; d) endorsing same. I think these steps will garner publicity, hopefully generate a candidate, and stir up the city a little bit. It will also produce the core of a machine for the fall. The bottom line for me is simple: Moak must go.”

George Cushing, of Frog Pond at the Bartlet Mall, the political consultant to the Newburyport Blog says, “Oy Vey.”

“And PLEASE, forward this e-mail to whomever you like!”

Am I going Tuesday night? No. And neither is George.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Recipe for Getting Elected as a Progressive

A political cookbook. How fun.

A Recipe for getting elected as a progressive in Newburyport, MA.

1) Don’t tell anyone that you are a progressive. Keep that a deep dark secret (especially in Wards 4, 5 and 6). Wait until after you are elected and then work on initiating your progressive agenda.

After the election for the school override this Tuesday, one can surmise that Newburyport has conservative as well as centrist tendencies (even in Wards 1 and 3).

2) Don’t ask anyone to spend money by raising their taxes, no matter how worthy the cause. It appears that after Tuesday’s election that that one could be a very hard sell.

3) Don’t accuse any other candidate of secretly campaigning against the CPA (Community Preservation Act). Most folks are now well aware that messing in any way with the CPA would not be a good way to win friends, much less actually get elected.

4) Go out and meet people. Let them get to know you. Given the choice between voting for someone they know and like and voting for someone they don’t know, or worse they don’t like, folks will almost always vote for the friendly human being.

5) Talk about the weather, people’s pets, their grandchildren, their children, their garden. Talk about them. People want to be known on a human level and be heard and listened to. Don’t talk about yourself. For goodness sakes, never make it all about you.

6) Make sure the folks on your campaign are open and friendly. If someone doesn’t agree with you as a candidate, make sure the folks on your campaign are gracious, and thank them for caring about the community. It might even win hearts and change minds.

7) Believe it or not, most folks really aren’t that interested in issues. Sorry. And most folks are pretty astute. One look and they know what you basically stand for. Progressives seem to have a certain “aura” and it usually is pretty evident.

8) Be vague on issues. People will project what they want to believe about you. When they find out later that you’re a flaming progressive, they will be shocked.

9) Ask people for their vote. Or at least tell them that you hope that they will vote for you in November. People actually like this and they remember the invitation.

10) Don’t get too worked up about the debates. Mostly only people working on campaigns show up at debates. The biggest thing is to come across as likeable and believe it or not, not too bright. For some reason a display of brash braininess and vast competence appears to be seen as arrogant. Go figure, but in Newburyport, MA, it appears to be true.

So if you are competent and really, really smart, or are under the illusion that you might be competent and really, really smart, most definitely play it down. You may think that this is tongue in cheek, but actually, I’m not kidding here.

11) Enjoy yourself and don’t take yourself too seriously. People are drawn to candidates who have a certain “joy of life.”

12) And finally, for the last tidbit, that last dash of salt, shake of pepper, be gracious in victory, and be gracious in defeat. And remember that if you send your friendly local blogger a not so nice email or vaguely attack your friendly local Newburyport blogger in print, it could, maybe, perhaps, possibly, perchance, conceivably be referenced on the Newburyport Blog.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Election Season

I did it , I think. I think that I managed to tip-toe through the tulips/landmines as a local blogger for my first election. Whew.

Ok, it was a special election, but you got to admit, it was an often heated and often passionate special election. And a whole lot of people did come out to vote (good for Newburyport, MA).

I got to admit, I’m pretty nervous about blogging the Newburyport Blog during the regular election season, which appears to have begun yesterday, well maybe a whole lot sooner.

I’ve heard rumors of 2 more folks about to announce that they are running for mayor of Newburyport, MA, and already emotions appear to be running really, really high.

And this is what I am beginning to see. A possible very unpleasant reality. I may agree with parts of the platform that a candidate may be running on, but I may not think the candidate could make a good elected official. Ouch.

Or, I might not be keen on the approach or on tone of how a campaign might be handled, even though the issues could be of interest. Another Ouch again for yours truly.

Not so much of a quandary for me as a voter, as it is a quandary for me as blogger. And yes, from the occasional email, I can already see the storm clouds gathering on the horizon, if not actually dumping rain right over my little house. And this is May?? Well, I suppose it’s only 5 months or so away from election day 2007.

I had so hoped for a respite. A respite of not shutting my blogger’s eyes every time I check my email. And a possible reprieve from screening my blogger phone calls.

Sigh.

I’ve already received an email (let’s let the human being remain anonymous), asking me if “I’ve lost my ‘#!*’ mind” and “congratulating” me for “undercutting the progressive base.” And that maybe I could “sound out to your (my) frogs before spreading the word to the entire city.”

Well, first of all the frogs are offended (as well they should be), and secondly I had no idea that my “word” had spread so widely, much less to the “entire city.” Wow. Who knew?

And my sin, my “faux pas?” Suggesting that a progressive platform could be ineffective without an electable and likable candidate. It seems to me that folks care as much about the person as they do about the issues, if Newburyport history might be a guide.

What a discouraging word. How terrible of moi.

And as I said, emotions appear to be already running rings, and jumping up and down all over the place. Good grief.

I guess this is how I feel, whoever gets elected this November 2007, people would agree and disagree, but the world as I know it may not come to an end.

I am trying to get my little blogging mind and soul in perspective. We are after all a community. That lovely combo of unity and dissent. Courtesy and respect are always helpful. May I be able to keep that in mind.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Override does NOT pass

It’s 8:45 PM and the un-official numbers are in. The override for the Newburyport schools did NOT pass.

Yes= 2,200
No= 3,263

Total= 5,463

(Handwritten ballots have not yet been read, but according to the Newburyport city clerk, that would not change the election results.)

Number of registered voters about 11,765. So that means that almost half of the register voters of Newburyport, MA voted today, May 22, 2007. That is pretty remarkable for a special election.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

(Editor’s Note: These are the unofficial numbers broken down by wards.)

Ward 1 Plum Island

Yes= 45
No= 182

___________

Ward 1

Yes= 284
No= 376

___________

Ward 2

Yes= 403
No= 373

___________

Ward 3

Yes= 323
No= 488

___________

Ward 4

Yes= 337
No= 573

____________

Ward 5

Yes= 409
No= 553

____________

Ward 6

Yes= 399
No= 718

____________

Newburyport, Override Vote Today, Tuesday May 22, 2007

Whether you are for the override for the Newburyport public schools or against the override or just don’t know yet, make sure that you VOTE, today, May 22, 2007.

This is what democracy is all about.

I have been invited to Newburyport City Hall tonight at 8PM as the votes concerning the special election for an override for our schools come in.

I do not know whether I will be able to go or not. But if I do, I will post the results tonight on the Newburyport Blog.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Parenthood and Education

Being a parent. No small thing.

I have one child, a son, who turns 23 this Thursday.

He lives in my home town of NYC and opens in his 3rd off (sometimes off-off) Broadway production since being in NYC for 9 months.

My son is the product of the Newburyport public school educational system.

When I first moved here, low so many years (decades) ago, I would most definitely have considered the Newburyport public schools to be “mediocre.”

Somewhere along the line they could have gone from “mediocre,” as Jim Roy has said in his article in the Newburyport Current, to “average.” The great fear is that they could be “mediocre.”

When my son entered the public school system I had no illusions that he would at any time get anything close to a private school education. He did not.

And when he went to a private college following Newburyport High School, the college was well aware of the discrepancy between a public and private education and adjusted their curriculum accordingly.

No, my son did not learn Latin, but I think he learned many more valuable lessons. One can always learn Latin if one is so inclined.

He learned what it was to be part of the community of Newburyport, MA, the good, the bad, ugly and the downright wonderful and moving.

He did not think he was “special,” but he knew that he was appreciated and that he was loved.

And somehow, along the way he acquired a great curiosity for learning. Maybe one of the greatest gifts that an educational system can bestow. In his freshman year, although it was not on the curriculum at Newburyport High School, he discovered the “Beat” writers and read everything there was to read from Jack Kerouac and company.

He continued to read at a college and post college level, which again had nothing to do with curriculum, all the way through Newburyport High School. Reading Nietzsche as a high school sophomore is pretty impressive. I have never read Nietzsche, so believe me, this is something he did not get from me.

To this day he reads on, as well as discovering and reading authors that I have never heard of.

He also writes poetry and plays.

And I thought for today’s post, I would include one of my favorite poems that my son has written.

in my belly is the sea
of my mother
i am the wind
a white dress
slips through a hand
like water
this is love

© Hal Fickett

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Vote on Tuesday’s Override Election

I can’t call this override election, but I will be fascinated by the results.

One of the odd things that has happened to me as a blogger, is that I have become more interested in the process of how things develop and unfold than feeling passionately about an issue one way or another.

This is very new.

No matter what happens on Tuesday, May 22, 2007, VOTING DAY, the debate about education in Newburyport, MA has come to the forefront as one of the city’s important issues.

And I don’t think this issue is going to go away.

If the pro-override folks lose, the issue will most likely be on the November ballot.

And if the pro-override folks win, it would be my guess that we could see an “under-ride” on the November ballot.

I think one of the worst thing that could happen would be for apathy to set in and for us as a city and to have “education memory loss.”

And one of my great hopes is for folks on both sides of the issue to join forces and fight for educational funding and reform on the state level. With any luck (and a lot of hard work), Massachusetts Stand for Children stand.org/ma could be a great boon to Newburyport, MA.

And one of my other great hopes is that some of the pro-override folks could become involved in the political process in Newburyport, MA, beside this one particular political issue (can you imagine all this energy going into a fight for new fire trucks?) There are some very smart, savvy, well educated folks here. They may be a little green about how the Newburyport political system thing works. But, hey, as far as I am concerned, it’s Ok to be on a political learning curve, as long as it’s a real true learning curve.

My experience is that most folks start being part of the political process with one issue in mind. Sort of like entering a forest and focusing on one particular tree. And then what usually seems to happen is that folks start to look around and realize that there is a forest, and in fact, there are a whole lot of trees. And then, often I’ve observed that people start to see how large and complex the forest is, and how the trees are in relationship to each other.

Oh, good grief, I’m beginning to sound like the fellow in the movie “Being There” (this dates me big time, but it was a great movie).

I’ll stop talking now about the forest, tree thing. Got a little carried away there. (The frogs like the tree thing, but then they would, they’re frogs.)

But right now, the most important thing for the city of Newburyport is to get out and VOTE on Tuesday, May 22, 2007. Not to sit on the apathetic sidelines and be “political couch potatoes.” (If you are reading the Newburyport Blog, you are probably not a “political couch potato,” but there may be a “political couch potato” near you.)

This election effects everyone in Newburyport, MA, so get out there and get your friends, neighbors, family and you to the voting booth in your ward, next Tuesday, May 22, 2007.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Override, Vote Tuesday, May 22, 2007

I have receive contact from people who are for the override and against the override in regards to “Massachusetts Stand for Children,” www.stand.org/ma. From what I understand, people on both sides of the issue have been in touch with each other about getting together after the override vote is over to see what they could do together to work on a state level.

I could not be more pleased.

My feeling is that “Massachusetts Stand for Children” has already “invented the wheel,” so to speak. The organization is already 85 communities strong, and there is definitely strength, as well as good old political “know how” in “numbers.” 85 communities already involved in the same fight for educational funding and reform sure works for me.

And I was also enormously pleased to see that at tonight’s forum on the override, which is now sponsored by the Newburyport Daily News, along with the Newburyport Chamber of Commerce and the Newburyport Education Business Coalition, that both sides of the override issue would be represented as part of the discussion.

According to the Newburyport Daily News, May 17, 2007, former City Councilors Brenda Reffett and John Norris, who head up the “kNOw Newburyport” effort will now be on the panel.

Who says democracy doesn’t work.

The forum on the school override will be from 7 to 8:30 PM at the Newburyport High School, today, Thursday, May 17, 2007.

And whether you are for or against the override, or simply won’t know until voting day arrives, for goodness sakes VOTE on Tuesday, May 22, 2007. It is one of the privileges that we as citizens of the USA are blessed to have.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Historic Photographs, 43 Winter Street

One of the most popular things on the Newburyport Blog appears to be the historic photographs of Newburyport. I had one more left that I had found from the Library of Congress, and I thought I would share it with the readers of the Newburyport Blog.

The photograph is of 43 Winter Street c. 1725 that was demolished in 1934 “For Highway Cut-Off,” to make room for what is now Route 1.

The Library of Congress has two wonderful exterior shots.

I not only love the house, but I also love the barn that is to the left of the dwelling in the first photograph below.

43Winter_2.jpg
43 Winter Street
Library of Congress, Prints and Photograph Division. Historic American Buildings Survey, Arthur C. Haskell, Photographer, 1934.

43Winter_1.jpg
43 Winter Street
Library of Congress, Prints and Photograph Division. Historic American Buildings Survey, Arthur C. Haskell, Photographer, 1934.

The Library of Congress has an interior shot of 43 Winter Street as well. It might not make other people’s hearts go pitter-patter, but to me it is amazing. And it is particularly amazing because so many of the interiors of Newburyport’s historic assets are being ripped out without thought.

This interior invokes all kinds of memories for me, and I love it. It would be wonderful if people could be reverent not only of the exterior of our historic assets but of the interior of our historic houses as well.

And again here is this quote by Donovan Rypkema:

“…And if memory is necessary for significance, it is also necessary for both meaning and value. Without memory nothing has significance, nothing has meaning, nothing has value…

The city tells it own past, transfers its own memory, largely through the fabric of the built environment. Historic buildings are the physical manifestation of memory – and it is memory that makes places significant.”
© Donovan D. Rypkema, 2007, PlaceEconomics

43Winter_inside.jpg
Interior, 43 Winter Street
Library of Congress, Prints and Photograph Division. Historic American Buildings Survey, Arthur C. Haskell, Photographer, 1934

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, State Educational Funding and Reform

In my quest for trying to find some sort of resolution to local funding problems that is less divisive to our community (and other communities) than a local override, I came across an organization called “Stand for Children,” www.stand.org/ma.

This is from the Massachusetts Stand for Children website:

“The financial crisis in education is no secret. On March 14, 2007, our own Education Commissioner Driscoll testified to the Ways and Means Committee that this year’s school funding crisis was the worst he had seen yet…”

“Today’s outdated foundation budget shortchanges state and federal mandates, curriculum frameworks, classroom technology, the cost of educator development, early education needs, and best practices established in the 13 years since Ed Reform. In addition, it grossly understates the costs of special education and other services to at-risk populations…”

“On Wednesday, April 25, nearly 2,000 education supporters, representing more than 85 communities across the Commonwealth, joined the Stand for Children School Funding Rally on Boston Common. And early in the day, Stand for Children brought more than 400 citizens in to the State House to meet personally with 48 lawmakers and legislative staff to deliver a simple message: our schools need funding relief and reform.

Parents, teachers, and students from across the state demanded that Massachusetts lawmakers provide immediate financial relief to school districts facing teacher layoffs and school closures. They also urged legislators to find a long-term solution to our state’s school funding crisis by committing to reforming state education funding.”

Governor Deval Patrick addressed the crowd. And in an article in the Boston Globe, May 2, 2007, “Patrick Targets School Funding,” by Lisa Wangsness:

“Patrick issued some of his most pointed comments to date, saying the state can no longer afford to rely on the local property tax to fund public education…

The pressure on the local property tax in recent years has chafed cities and towns, as the cost of healthcare has ballooned and state aid — despite recent increases — has not kept up with inflation…

Currently, the state covers less than 40 percent of the cost of local education, with cities and towns picking up the rest through the property tax. While it is a stable source of revenue, it places a sometimes difficult burden on the elderly or people with fixed incomes, and some argue it increases the disparity between communities based on personal income and property value.”

Governor Deval Patrick hopes to release a comprehensive education reform plan in June.

Well, whew, someone on the state level is listening to the anguish of cities and towns across the state of Massachusetts.

There is a “Chapter” of Stand for Children in Lowell. And there is a “Team” for Stand for Children in Gloucester.

It would be nice if there were a “Chapter” or “Team” for Stand for Children in Newburyport, MA. And that at any further rallies for state funding for our schools, Newburyport, MA might be in the forefront of those meeting with lawmakers and legislative staff fighting for educational funding and reform.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, No to the Override

I’ve seen literature from the “Yes for Newburyport” folks, but until this Saturday, I had not seen anything from the “Know Newburyport” (knownewburyport.com) folks.

But, as I was walking around Newburyport, MA, , at least in the South End of town, there were bright yellow flyers with the heading “Stop Tax Override.” The content of the first page of the flier is below:

Passing the Override Fails Our Community

    • It is a “Band-aid” approach to long-standing systemic issues.
    • Adds to each property owner’s real estate tax forever without any assurance of a solution to the financial challenges of the schools.
    • No assurance that the money will go to the schools after the first year.
    • This override only addresses school needs and ignores the fact that our city has other financial challenges. Additional overrides/debt exclusions are currently being considered for as early as the November 2007 election. A full comprehensive city/school plan is needed.

    Saying No to the Override is a Positive Response

    • Voting No encourages responsible analysis and fiscal accountability within the School Department.
    • Allows the School Department time to create a long term plan, based upon the recently approved reorganization, thus ensuring Newburyport’s children the best education possible.
    • Allows the necessary time to fully investigate other revenue sources and options.

    Vote No to Encourage Adoption of True Zero-Based Budgeting

    • Zero-based budgeting ensures against unnecessary spending by requiring complete analysis line by line in each program.
    • Successful private large and small corporations have utilized zero-based budgeting for decades as a means of insuring fiscal responsibility (not a “modified” version as the schools recently claimed they used this budget year).
    • For the past 10 years, citizens have requested the school committee and Superintendent to utilize this effective tool because it is a proven sound business practice.
    • Why is there continued resistance to this request???

    VOTE NO ON TUESDAY, MAY 22nd

    (Editor’s Note:  I was unable to duplicate the format of the flier. My apologies to the folks involved in the “kNOw Newburyport” campaign.)

    Mary Eaton
    Newburyport

    Newburyport, Override and Community

    I guess that I’ve been obliquely charged with stirring up “dissension between the ‘old timers’ and the ‘newbies.’ ” And that this might be an “unwise way of thinking.”

    Oh.

    To think that there is no tension between the newer arrivals or the “newbies” (I do believe that was my phrase) and the folks who have lived here all their lives or even a good part of their lives, would be, in my opinion, a tad out of touch with the reality of Newburyport, MA.

    To walk around town and talk to a whole variety of folks, would, I believe, confirm that possible “unpleasant” reality.

    However, to hope that we might be a “unified community” could in fact, I believe, be “unwise.”

    I went looking for a definition of “community,” and didn’t find anything that I liked much. But I did find some help from the website of the University of Texas (of all places).

    To paraphrase, the idea of “community” is a place where people know and care about each other. That there is a sense of “belonging.” But this is also coupled with a need for diversity, pluralism and dissent. And it is finding that balance between a sense of unity and diversity and dissent that is, I believe, so tricky.

    One of the things that concerns me about the “Yes for Newburyport” campaign for an override, is that people are afraid to speak out against it.

    I am ambivalent about this override, but I respect and understand and empathize with the folks who feel so passionately that it is important. But I also feel that it would be wise to “honor” and “respect” the folks who might feel differently, if we are to sustain a true sense of community.

    And, there is a public forum sponsored by the Newburyport Chamber of Commerce along with the Newburyport Education Business Coalition to discuss the issue of the override. The panel only includes people who are for the override for the Newburyport Public Schools.

    I would suggest that if we are a “true” community, and if this is a “true” neutral discussion, that at the very least, the two people who are heading the “Know Newburyport” (knownewburyport.com) campaign be included in that panel discussion as well.

    And that it would also be a good “educational” example (pun very much intended) to present in such a forum, not just one, but both sides of a political issue. Certainly that is what democracy is all about.

    Mary Eaton
    Newburyport

    Newburyport, Money, Funding and Fiscal Stuff

    I worry that I am no longer a Liberal Democrat. Ouch.

    On social issues I am probably left of Ted Kennedy. But when it comes to fiscal stuff, ie money, after a year and 4 months plus of blogging, I find that I am more and more a fiscal conservative. Good grief.

    And weirdly the 2 seem to be at odds with each other.

    How can we as a city support quality education if there is little to no money at the local, state or federal level?

    Ditto for a senior center. Ouch.

    Ditto for practical things like fire trucks. Ouch

    Ditto for the arts in places like the school system. Ouch.

    Ditto for really good health care for the people who work hard to serve the city of Newburyport, MA. Ouch.

    Ditto for expensive parks or parking solutions. Ouch.

    There is a lot of stuff on the “Ouch” list for me.

    I am finding that being a “pragmatist” and an “idealist” may in fact, in my case, be an oxymoron.

    And as I walk the street of Newburyport, MA and talk to people, I feel a tension in town, brought to a head, most likely, over the concern over our educational system.

    Do I feel “hopeful” about the future of our city, at least on May 10, 2007? Honestly, I have my doubts.

    I feel very hopeful about the leadership of Superintendent Kevin Lyons. I think that he is one of the best things to happen to our school system in decades.

    This is why I am a little confused about the “Advisory Board” put together by the “Yes for Newburyport” folks. I think the leadership of our school system is in the best hands that it has been in for years. Frankly, in my opinion, in a lot better hands than some of the folks on the “Advisory Board” list.

    I most definitely think that Dr. Lyons has the leadership ability “to set an agenda to guide Newburyport’s school system into the 21st Century.” And that we would not need an “Advisory Board” for that goal.

    But, what we could use an “Advisory Board” for is to provide leadership, as well as a city wide policy, to help us advocate for state and federal funding (that would not trigger anymore very expensive and intrusive state and federal mandates).

    And it would be wonderful if all the brain power and all the state and sometimes federal connections this “Advisory Board” has, could be put towards that purpose for the city of Newburyport, MA.

    This is where I think these folks could be unbelievably helpful, and we as a city would be most grateful.

    Mary Eaton
    Newburyport

    Newburyport Preservation Trust and Community

    One of the things I really like about the Newburyport Preservation Trust (and whether or not they are consciously doing this or not I do not know), is that they are building a sense of community around the issue of historic preservation.

    The opening ceremonies for Preservation Week, sponsored by the Preservation Trust, were held at the old jail which is on Auburn Street, next to Newburyport’s Bartlet Mall, on Saturday morning, May 5, 2007.

    Over 120 people attended, old, young, with and without children.

    Chuck Griffin gave the tour and a history of the jail. There was a list of all of the prisoners who had been housed in the jail. The jail is also the subject of the oldest known photograph still existing in the US (taken in 1839, two months after the daguerreotype was introduced to the world). Mr. Griffin had examples of the buildings drawings and a petition signed in 1823 by a dozens of Newburyport residents who were in favor of having the jail built in our city. And there were also many tales of the jail itself.

    Sarah White, the president of the Newburyport Preservation Trust, told me that a 90-year old woman reported to the Preservation Trust that she had been waiting her whole life to see the jail, but her mother told her, “don’t you go playing by that old jail,” when she was growing up. For years, the old jail was either used for different functions or was privately owned. The lady in question was thrilled to have finally seen it. And apparently many other folks felt the same way – they had always wanted to see the old jail.

    The Newburyport Preservation Trust has also managed to unearth a documentary film about Newburyport’s Urban Renewal, made in 1974, right in the midst of the time when Newburyport’s Urban Renewal was taking place.

    The film, will be shown Friday, May 11, 2007 at 6PM at the Firehouse Center for the Arts, which is located at Newburyport’s Market Square.

    Mary Eaton
    Newburyport

    Newburyport, Override Press Release

    I received a press release from “Yes for Newburyport” yesterday evening, and instead of thinking, “Yes, good go’n folks, smart political move,” my reaction was one of being really, really, pisssed.

    Now, I’m not sure why my reaction was one of being really, really pissed, so I got the frogs out to take a look at the email/press release.

    In the previous post I commented on how useless the frogs have been up to this point on this issue, so you see here, I’m really, really desperate.

    First, George Cushing, from Frog Pond at the Bartlet Mall, the political consultant to the Newburyport Blog, took a look at the email and then he was joined by the “Twins,” and eventually by frog activist, Georgiana Tadpole.

    george_comp.jpg
    George Cushing taking a look
    at the email/press release on my computer.

    The feeling I had was one of being manipulated and rail-roaded into voting for an override for our schools that, to say the least, I am deeply ambivalent about. (Is that tactful or what.)

    The opening quote on the email/press release is from Sheriff Frank Cousins (who I like a lot):

    “In the correctional system I see first hand what happens to kids when education is not a priority…”

    I have a feeling that Sheriff Cousins didn’t mean it the way it sounded to me which was, “Unless you vote for the override, Newburyport, MA will probably turn out a bunch of criminals.”

    A little heavy handed, which is definitely not Mr. Cousins’ style (at least not in my experience).

    And then there is a long list of “important” people, who I could have told anyone, would support an override in Newburyport, MA for a whole number of reasons.

    They have formed an advisory board.

    ” “Forming the advisory board lends a level of credibly to the grass-roots organization that will help maintain the group’s momentum long after the May 22nd special election,” said Paul Acquaviva, YES for Newburyport’s chairman.”

    Oh.

    (I suppose that’s a little catty of me. But gosh darn it, that email/press release brought out the very, very “catty” in me.)

    It did say at the very end:

    “…the committee has also identified the need to create a broader strategy to address long-term financial issues.” That part works for me.

    I guess what doesn’t work for me, is that there is no sense of community in that press release. It has the cumulative effect of a “pep-rally” combined with an “all out war effort.”

    I want to be able to live side by side with my neighbor, build bridges, not flip them the bird.

    I want this to somehow be a “win-win” situation, where “reasonable people can disagree.” And obviously, I was feeling slightly cantankerous by the time I got through reading that darned press release. (For goodness sakes I hauled out the frogs to take a look at the email/press release, and that’s a little scrunchy, believe you me, when I’m relying that heavily on the frogs!)

    Mary Eaton
    Newburyport

    Newburyport, Meal Tax to Help Municipalities

    Well, George Cushing, of Frog Pond at the Bartlett Mall, the “astute” political consultant for the Newburyport Blog was going to roast our State Representative, Michael Costello.

    george.pillow.1.jpg
    George Cushing being astute

    An article in the Sunday Globe, “Option on meal tax stirs debate
    Communities could benefit,” by Kathy McCabe, May 6, 2007, caught George’s eye.

    The frogs have been feeling left out lately. I haven’t consulted them in this whole school override debate thing. (And quite frankly, between you and me, I haven’t consulted them on this issue because they have been absolutely no help at all. Good grief, aren’t political consultants and aspiring political consultants supposed to be helpful??)

    But, both George and I think the 1-2% meal tax that would help municipal coffers to pay for stuff like the schools and fire trucks, would be a really, really good idea. (Never mind that the Massachusetts Restaurant Association doesn’t like it, of course they wouldn’t like it. Is anybody actually surprised by this? No.)

    At the end of the article in the Boston Globe, May 6, 2007 by Kathy McCabe, there is this quote:

    ” “This tax has been talked about before,” said Michael Costello, executive director of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce in Gloucester. “This tax gives a glimmer of hope to communities. . . . But all it really does is unfairly tax businesses, to right the municipal ship.” ”

    Well, George Cushing proceeded to get his panties all in a bunch (do frogs wear panties??) that Michael Costello would not be for the proposed meal tax that would help his very own city of Newburyport, Massachusetts.

    Whoa. But wait a minute here.

    Good thing I am the editor of the Newburyport Blog and George Cushing is not.

    On closer inspection this morning, the Michael Costello in the article is the “executive director of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce in Gloucester.”

    Am I massively confused or what? How many people by the name of Michael Costello could there possibly be? And is our State Representative moonlighting as the “executive director of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce in Gloucester?”

    How to resolve this weirdness. Do I call Michael Costello’s government office in Boston, and ask, “Are you working for Gloucester too??” Or do I call the Gloucester Chamber of Commerce and ask, “Is Michael Costello a state representative??” Which would be less embarrassing for moi?

    In the end I decided to try the Gloucester Chamber of Commerce, and yes, I had the feeling when they answered my question that they thought I was completely nuts.

    But, the mystery of our State Representative Michael Costello working in two places at once is solved. He’s not. There are, low and behold, 2 Michael Costellos. Who knew?

    So, I have spared George Cushing the embarrassment of making a total fool out of himself (lucky George).

    I have no idea how our State Representative feels about the meal tax. I am presuming that he is for it, since he knows first hand how municipalities are struggling. But neither George or I have checked that pertinent piece of information out.

    We were way too busy checking out just how many Michael Costellos there happened to be within a certain proximity. I guess we’ll find out State Representative Michael Costello’s position on this very important matter at some later date, whenever.

    Mary Eaton
    Newburyport

    Newburyport, Preservation Week

    I’ve been waiting for stories on Preservation Week sponsored by the Newburyport Preservation Trust in our 2 local newspapers, and today there were stories on the front page of both the Newburyport Daily News and the Newburyport Current. Whew!

    I especially liked the story in the Newburyport Daily News, May 4, 2007, by Nick Pinto. Some great quotes by Karen Battles the chair and main organizer of Preservation Week, and Sarah White the president of the Newburyport Preservation Trust.

    A big “thank you” to Nick Pinto for this quote:

    “According to the National Architectural Trust, since the early 1980s Newburyport has lost one-third of its historic structures to demolition or “insensitive alteration” — changes so drastic they negate the historic value of the building.”

    And 2 different points made by Sarah White:

    ” “For many years, the continuity and sense of place in the city’s neighborhoods was preserved by residents whose ties to the city stretched back generations, White said. “These days, though, everyone is so much more transient, and we have a different relationship to our homes and our hometowns. We need to think about how we can return to that sense of stewardship.” ”

    White also goes on to say that it is “important that residents begin a citywide conversation about how to balance the city’s modern vitality with its historic foundations.”

    The panel discussion this Sunday, May 6th at 3PM at City Hall, “Historic, Green and Profitable,” as aimed at addressing the balance between “modern vitality and historic foundations.”

    And I think Ms White is quite right in her observations that Newburyport, like so many places in the United States, is inhabited by a much more “transient” population, especially in the last 25 years. And people often come and put their “stamp” on the city of Newburyport, MA, many times without a full understanding the city’s history and significance, and then move on.

    I have great hopes for the Newburyport Preservation Trust. One of my greatest hopes is that they might inspire that sense of “stewardship” to everyone who lives in Newburyport, MA, whether they inhabit our amazing seaside historic city for a short time or for a long time. Wouldn’t that be wonderful.

    Mary Eaton
    Newburyport