Newburyport, Son, Shakespeare and Theatre Stuff

One of the “perks” of being the editor of the Newburyport Blog is that I get to brag brazenly about my son.

The justification of course is “education,” that a young man who went through the Newburyport Public School system could this day be doing Ok.

MY son, in NYC 10 months and in his fourth play. Yes, very proud Mom.

And the theatre company, Hipgnosis, has picked, for such a young, “hip” theater company, in today’s world, a very politically incorrect play, “The Taming of the Shrew” (by William Shakespeare).

Could Mr. Shakespeare consider moi, a female blogger with an occasional strong, uncooperative opinion, a “shrew?” Goodness, who knows? Maybe.

Hipgnosis Theatre
William Shakespeare
Taming of the Shrew

How did the Hipgnosis Theatre Company go about reconciling what could easily have been done in 1950, no problem, in the year of political correctness, 2007– the solution, a combination of Shakespeare and vaudeville. What can I say, I loved it.

A wonderful romp and what I considered a tongue in cheek approach to the “taming” part (which would be considered “spousal abuse” today) by the hubby and the “compliance” part by Kate, the “tamed shrew.” Plus, by the end of the play, there was no doubt about it, it was real obvious, that they were real, real “hot” for each other. Sizzle.

For goodness sakes, Shakespeare, if he were around today, would be right. It’s not until real, real recently, that women have gotten the privilege of speaking up about stuff (for which this female blogger and painter is most grateful, good grief) without being labeled a “shrew” or whatever nifty label equivalent. (Not that that doesn’t still happen on occasion today.)

We’ve had millenniums, not just centuries of women not being able to have a “say.” And it is this blogger’s humble opinion, that it’s not just in previous millenniums, centuries, decades that men like to have their women good looking, and to shut up and be quiet, and for goodness sakes do and say what you are told to say and do.

But in today’s world, my goodness, there are equivalents. Take the “trophy wife” with a lousy pre-nup:

Darling the sky is purple.

Yes, dearest, the sky is purple. And now can I have my Mercedes-Benz?

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, Joppa, Simmons Beach

Joppa Landing, Newburyport, MA
From a c. 1906 postcard
Simmons Beach is South of Joppa Landing

I’m really glad to eat my hat on this one.

I was a little skeptical when Larry McCavitt was elected in the special election in the Fall of 2006, for Ward 1 Newburyport City Councilor. But Mr. McCavitt has proven to be a really, really good Newburyport City Councilor.


I like the way Mr. McCavitt votes on issues on the Newburyport City Council floor and I like the way Mr. McCavitt cares about and represents his constituency.

And I really like the fact he is not giving up in his quest to make Simmons Beach an asset for Ward 1 and the city of Newburyport, MA, even though the project was not awarded any money from the Community Preservation Fund. (Newburyport Daily News, June 25, 2007)

Simmons Beach has always been one of my favorite hidden treasures in Newburyport, MA. I smile every time I walk past it.

I can always imagine the kids that have played on that small, delightful sliver of beach, tucked away on the mouth of the Merrimac River, cooling off on a hot, New England summer’s day.

Simmons Beach is located on Water Street in Newburyport’s South End on the way to Plum Island, next to the old clam shack, along the way to where Water Street meets Union Street.

And Councilor McCavitt is hoping to restore it for the “Joppa” neighborhood by putting an historic marker, plantings and benches. I think it’s a very cool idea.

Congrats to Newburyport City Councilor Larry McCavitt.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, Fate of the Kelly School Building

Sorry folks, as far as I’m concerned Mayor John Moak appears to be learning on the job.

(But could this be taken as an endorsement of Mayor Moak by moi for the mayoral candidate for election 2007? No.)

The Kelly School building. A great emotional trigger for lots and lots of folks in Newburyport, MA. What do you do with it?

Mayor John Moak is forming a committee to help the Newburyport City Council make that incredibly difficult decision.

The make-up of the committee is not unlike the make-up of something like the Newburyport Local Historic District Study Committee.

So far the appointments have been Newburyport City Councilor James Shanley. Mr. Shanley is the chair of the Newburyport City Council Planning and Development Committee, and the Kelly School building is also in Mr. Shanley’s ward, Ward 3. James Shanley has always struck me as being a very thoughtful Newburyport City Councilor, so in my book, that’s a real good choice.

Newburyport Planning Director, Nancy Colbert is also on the committee. And Mayor John Moak also plans to include a local real estate agent, a parent of a former Kelly School student, as well as a member of the Newburyport Historical Commission. (Newburyport Daily News, June 26, 2007)

As far as I’m concerned, the fate of the Newburyport Kelly School Building is kind of a yikes, wisdom of Solomon thing. And this seems to be a very wise approach to an incredibly difficult community decision.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, Practical Mayoral Dilemma

I looked back at the previous post on the absurdity that there are no (at least that I know of) requirements to be mayor of Newburyport, MA other than to be the ripe old age of 18 and to live in the city of Newburyport, MA.

The sad thing is, at least it would be my guess, that if someone were to be actually qualified, with lots of appropriate experience and education, and were to emphasize that point, they would be seen as “arrogant” and might well be seen as “unlikable” and “unelectable.”


How crazy is that?

I know zip about the early history of the mayors of Newburyport, MA, but it would be my guess, that up until Bossy Gillis, it was just assumed that the educated, wealthy folks of Newburyport, MA would run for mayor. And things were a lot simpler then (I think) and they probably were as qualified as anyone might be.

It’s hard to imagine that there were advanced degrees in the intricacies of municipalities (maybe there were, I don’t know).

This is where I’m on the strong learning curve thing. I know zip about what happened government wise early in Newburyport’s history. And I have just as strong a learning curve on what government was like in other small and large cities in the USA.

But this I do know. Things have changed. And Newburyport, MA has not changed its way of governing the city. And good grief we need to.

And on a practical matter, the salary of the mayor is just ridiculously low. It might be appealing to someone who is in transition or who is looking for a job or who is retired. But your average very smart qualified human being with a good salary, are they going to give that all up just to probably be booted out in 2 years? Good grief, I don’t think so.

Or if a person sees the job as an honor, and they have a family and children to support, 50 grand or so before taxes and living in Newburyport, MA these days, is going to be tough, unless there is another source of income.

So, although it would take a great deal to change our city charter to either a 4 year mayoral term, or a city manager form of government, we at least could raise the salary of the mayor of Newburyport, MA.

Yes, I know the budget, the budget, the budget. But good grief, can we hardly afford not to?

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, City Qualification Conversation

My Dad and I were talking about Newburyport, MA. My father loves politics. It kind of went like this:

Q. My Dad: How big is Newburyport’s budget?

A. Me: $50 Million or so.

Q. My Dad: What’s the mayor’s salary?

A. Me: $50,000- $60,000 roughly.

Q. My Dad: What qualifications do you need to be mayor?

A. Me: Pause. Tilting my head. Another pause. You just need to be 18.

Response. My father and I: Pause. Another pause… peals of laughter.

You got to admit, that’s a pretty apt response.

Whatever job anyone would apply for in Newburyport City Hall, an appropriate resume would be required.

And there appears to be no resume type requirements at all (that I know of) to be mayor of Newburyport, MA.

Now, if we had a city manager form of government, you bettcha that whoever applied to be city manager would have to have all kinds of city manager degrees.

Do we require anything like that to be mayor of Newburyport, MA? Nope. As far as I know the only requirement is to be 18. (If I am wrong about this, o’ readers of the Newburyport Blog, please let me know.)

The other thing my Dad thought was pretty wild was that we paid the person who runs our $50 Million or so municipality as little as we do. A good city manager or a CEO of a $50 Million enterprise would demand a whole lot more than $50,000 to $60,000. You can take that one to the bank.

And the fact that that the mayoral term is only 2 years.

My Dad: 2 years??

Me: Yup, 2 years.

My Dad: No one could possibly get anything done in 2 years.

Me: Yup, you got it.

My Dad just shook his head in utter amazement.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, “No” is a Complete Sentence, When it Comes to Too Many Frogs

Georgiana Tadpole, frog activist, wants to know if the tadpoles that she and George Cushing of Frog Pond at the Bartlet Mall, the political consultant for the Newburyport Blog, sired (do frogs “sire”?? are tadpoles “sired”?? You’d think with all these amphibians around, I’d be better on my frog lingo stuff) could all move to the Newburyport Blog when they “mature” and turn into little frogs.

Georgiana Tadpole pleading with moi,
to have a whole lot of little mature frogs move
to the Newburyport Blog


No offense, Georgiana, but here at the Newburyport Blog, there are already, count ’em, four frogs. FOUR frogs already.

Good grief. How many blogs actually have one frog, much less four frogs, I mean, give me a break.

It’s one thing for you and George to do whatever, at Frog Pond and the vernal pool (at the back of the Wheelwright House property), but come on, you want the Newburyport Blog overrun with little frogs? It would probably be a health hazard, among other things. I mean four is way more than enough.

Georgiana, you miss them?

You thought it would be fine if they hung out with the “Peepers” at the vernal pool or with all of George Cushing relatives at Frog Pond, but you’d rather have them here??

Look, first of all, I have no idea how you and George Cushing actually got all the way over to the vernal pool and to Frog Pond to have all that frenetic activity, and I really do not want to know, it’s got to be the mating season thing, right? But, that’s the way it goes, kiddo. The little twerps, I mean little tadpoles, stay right where they are, when they “mature.”

Sorry, sorry. Maybe you and George Cushing could coach them, and eventually, they too could become frog activists and frog political consultants.

Think of it this way, maybe they could spread out and be froggy inspirations to the populace of Newburyport, MA. And I’m sure this won’t be the first batch, or bunch, or frog family, or whatever that you and George might “sire.” Right?

That’s a big job?

Well kiddo, frog’o, whatever, I’m not worried, I am quite sure you and George Cushing will figure it out. But they are definitely, definitely NOT going to come to the Newburyport Blog.

Mary Eaton
The Newburyport Blog
(Home already to way too many frogs)

Becoming Involved in Newburyport, MA

When I first started getting involved in politics in 1999, when it finally dawned on me after 9 months of the Newburyport City Council, the Newburyport Historical Commission, Mayor Mary Carrier and various concerned citizens trying to get the public to pay attention to the fact that Newburyport’s High Street was about to be destroyed, I knew absolutely nothing about how the City of Newburyport, MA was/is run.

I knew that we had a mayor and a city council. I could not have told you how many city councilors there were or who my city councilor was.

I had no idea that there was such a thing as the Newburyport Historical Commission. I thought like a lot of people that the Historical Society of Old Newbury was the Newburyport Historical Commission. I found out that that is not the case. That they are two completely different entities.

I had a huge learning curve. And when I started the Newburyport Blog in January 2006, it became obvious right away to me, that there was a whole lot, lot more to learn. And as far as I’m concerned, the city is so complex, that my learning curve is going to be a life long learning curve.

I’m always amazed at how many people are involved in all the volunteer boards and committees. It’s really astounding to me the amount of dedicated volunteer citizen participation that there has been over the years.

And it also comes as no surprise that a lot of the populace of Newburyport, MA is like me in back in 1999, even though they may glance at the various media outlets now and then, most people’s knowledge of how Newburyport, MA works boils down to the fact that we have a mayor and a city council.

So when a “crisis” happens in the city of Newburyport, MA, whether it has to do with the possibility of an unwanted house being built next door, or a crisis in our the Newburyport schools or any number of other things, to me it seems like an opportunity. It appears to me that it is one of the main ways people who have never thought of getting involved, get involved.

People may scream about NIMBYs, but it is usually those folks that sit up and start paying attention.

A classic example is Sarah White and Steve Rudolph who became involved in Save Our Town and the Newburyport Preservation Trust because of a possible infill project in their neighborhood. And how lucky are we to have this young couple take such an interest in Newburyport, MA.

And they are just one of many.

Mary Eaton

Spring in Newburyport, MA

With all this whoopla about election stuff, I forgot it was “mating season.” Good grief.

Georgiana Tadpole (frog activist), has let me know there are little tadpoles swimming, in yup, you guessed it, in Frog Pond at the Bartlet Mall, and her home haunt, the vernal pool at the back of the Wheelwright property.
Georgiana Tadpole

When I looked at Georgiana with a “say what” expression, she patted me with that cute little froggy web appendage of hers, and said, “Mary, what did you think would happen?”

Well, quite frankly, I hadn’t thought about it at all.

I pointed out that the tadpoles at the vernal pool in back of the Wheelwright property might be in some kind of danger. The developer has gotten the go ahead with that property and has decided to moved the houses closer to the vernal pool. One would think that there would be a little construction going on.

Georgiana was not fazed in the least. She was quite sure that the tadpoles would be ok, and when they “matured” would either stay there, depending on what transpired with the property and hang out with the “peepers,” or find their way to some other spot.

Hadn’t she, George Cushing of Frog Pond, the political consultant for the Newburyport Blog (Georgiana’s love interest, and I guess father of the tadpoles??), and the “twins” all made it quite safely here, to the Newburyport Blog.

Well, yes, good point Georgiana, good point.

Georgiana also thought, quite thoughtfully, that it might be a good idea for me to concentrate on the fact that there were these little tadpoles all swimming around that are connected to the Newburyport Blog, instead of getting myself in a “dither” about politics and mayoral elections in Newburyport, MA.

Well, that’s one wise frog. Or is it frogette?

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, Former Planning Director

Nick Cracknell, Newburyport’s former planning director has not been retiring about being upfront and even center about his ideas concerning Newburyport and the upcoming mayoral election 2007.

Back in January of this year, Nick Cracknell and I sat in the Pizza Factory in downtown Newburyport.

What was on Mr. Cracknell’s mind was defeating Mayor John Moak, November 2007. And Mr. Cracknell was neither shy or quiet about expressing his thoughts.

Apparently what was said made it back to Mayor John Moak lickety split, as well it might have. Mr. Moak could have heard what was being said all the way down Pleasant Street to Newburyport City Hall, because Mr. Cracknell was talking that loudly.

The gist of the conversation was that progressives had to come up with a platform and then “we” would wait for our Deval Patrick to show up.

Mr. Cracknell was perfectly forth coming in sharing the fact that recently he had a similar conversation with Newburyport activist and columnist, Jim Roy.

And having listened to various folks since January 2007, it has been obvious to me from bits and pieces of their conversations, that Mr. Cracknell had similar conversations with them as well.

In the one rare Newburyport Planning Board Meeting that I did attend, concerning the plight of the Wheelwright property, our former planning director was in attendance, and chatted with applicable parties afterwards.

This was no secret, this was in Newburyport City Hall.

Was I at all surprised that Nick Cracknell urged Tom Ryan to run for mayor? Not in the least. And it wouldn’t surprise me if Nick Cracknell has encouraged other people to run for mayor as well.

And if I was sitting in the Pizza Factory with Mr. Cracknell today, I would say, “Nick, stop. Working behind the scenes, sort of, has backfired big time, if what you want is John Moak not to be mayor, and maybe get your job back.

For goodness sakes, fill me in on your job now, and what’s happening with your family and life in Amesbury, MA.

It’s probably time to let go and move on. Ok? And I think people would do some pondering now before supporting you as Planning Director for Newburyport, MA, if that possibility ever transpired.”

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, MA, Planning Director

Since the subject of who might or might not be the planning director of Newburyport, MA has now become a possible campaign issue, the planning director of Newburyport, MA might be worth “chatting” about.

Yes, I do not think that Nancy Colbert, the Planning Director of Newburyport, MA is flamboyantly pro-active. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

Nick Cracknell always struck me as a whirling dervish, and my guess is that he would chafe under direction or supervision of any mayor.

I think Nancy Colbert understands why Newburyport is of value and what would be in the best interest for the entirety of the city of Newburyport, MA. And my sense is that Ms Colbert sees her job as implementing the perspective of officials elected by the residences of the city of Newburyport, MA.

I also think that she would try very hard not to let anything happen to the city of Newburyport, MA that would have a long term, damaging effect.

I could not see Ms Colbert starting an initiative and then communicating to the mayor and city council what was going on. I could, however, see that she might guide elected officials towards a certain direction.

There are two things that have happened during her second tenure here with the city of Newburyport, MA that I am very grateful for.

The Local Historic District Study Committee. Nancy Colbert is an historic preservationist. This works for me. And we have a mayor who I have always had the impression, would lean more towards a “property rights” point of view, and yet Mayor John Moak has taken the first step of appointing a Local Historic District Study Committee.

Now Nancy Colbert has not said “boo” to me on any interactions she might or might not have had with Mayor John Moak, however, I cannot imagine that she did not have something to do with directing this first part of an exploration of a Local Historic District.

And there is the issue of the discussion concerning the possibility of having an ordinance guiding the scope of chain stores in downtown Newburyport, MA.

This is an excerpt from an email that came from “Buy Local,” “”

“After that meeting (a public meeting held by the Planning and Development subcommittee of the City Council), the chair, James Shanley spoke with the Chamber and some key business owners and has determined that the issue needs broader participation and more indepth investigation than his committee can handle. He, along with Planning Director Nancy Colbert, is pursuing the concept of setting up Study Circles ( as a means of engaging the whole community on this very important issue.”

It seems to me that having “Study Circles” for a possible chain store ordinance would be a similar approach to a “Study Committee” for a possible Local Historic District.

Both are about public process, and both are thorough and almost “appeal proof” if you will, and would gather a great deal of information from the populace of Newburyport, MA about what may be two very controversial subject matters–an ordinance guiding the scope of chain stores downtown and the possibility of a Local Historic District for Newburyport, MA.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, Possible Conservative Council Backlash

Well I’m in a funk.

George Cushing of Frog Pond at the Bartlett Mall, the political consultant to the Newburyport Blog says that I am in grave danger of becoming one of those “humorless” liberals.

George warning me I am on the verge
of becoming “humorless”

Ouch, George. Good grief, what a terrible accusation.


This is why George is worried.

With all the recent whoop-la over the mayoral race, I am concerned about two thing.

Mayor John Moak could zip into a second term, at least at this point (yes, I know we have a long, long way to go).

Mayor Moak has moved more to the “center,” but whether it is center enough for me, I don’t know.

Take protecting our historic assets (an ongoing Newburyport Blog theme). Yes, I am incredibly grateful that Mayor Moak has appointed a Study Committee for a Local Historic District, but that is no guarantee that he would give a “thumbs up” to an actual Newburyport Local Historic District, should it come to pass.

And second of all I am concerned that there might be a conservative backlash when it comes to the race for the Newburyport City Council.

I think that this has been a terrific Newburyport City Council. Would all Newburyport City Councils be this good. A big congratulations to the gentlemen and lady in question.

George thinks that I am becoming humorless over these possibilities. He reminds me, that I don’t exactly have a lot of control over these things.

Thank you George.

And it might be good to lighten up a little, and give the old frog a smile, oh editor of the Newburyport Blog.

Ok George, I’ll try.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, Local Historic District Study Committee

One of my favorite scenes in the movie “Chicago” is towards the end of the film where Richard Gere is in court, his client “Roxie” is in trouble, and he does this incredible, frenetic tap dance, literally, and to get his client free.

That’s a little bit of how I feel about where we as a city are with the issue of the Local Historic District.

Monday night, June 11, 2007 the Newburyport City Council passed on the first reading the members (including soon to be ex-Newburyport Planning Board member, Doug Locy) appointed by Mayor John Moak, to the Local Historic District study group.

Tapetty, tap, tap.

Whew. Now, the final reading to get through.

Tap, tap.

And there are blasts by “property rights owner” advocates against having their property rights violated.

Tapety, tap, tap, tap.

The Local Historic District study group is just the beginning of a long process towards exploring whether or not to have some, part or parts of Newburyport, MA be designated a Local Historic District.


The process of all of this, including who goes on the study group (an architect and a realtor at least) is set in stone by the Massachusetts Historical Commission and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This is no fly by night process.

Tapety, tap, tap, tap.

To property rights advocates. Get over it.


You live in one of the most historically significant small cities in the US of A.


The National Architectural Trust has said that Newburyport, MA has lost one third of its historic assets since 1984.

Tap, tap.

If you do not want to be a steward of something a whole lot bigger than you are, an historic city, then go somewhere where historic assets are not endangered.


So those of us who care about preserving what is left of our town could have the opportunity of being stewards of this amazing place, whether we’ve lived here all our lives or just arrived here, or something in between.

Tappety, tap.

And no, a Local Historic District does not have to be onerous. It could be Local Historic District light. And the people on the Local Historic District study group are all A+ people, who are supper sensitive to how people feel about this issue.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, A Challenge for a Candidate

I need George.

George Cushing, of Frog Pond at the Bartlett Mall is the political consultant for the Newburyport Blog.

And I need George to do some consulting.

I woke up this morning more excited by the Newburyport political scene than I have in a long, long time.

However, I also woke up confused.

George Cushing trying to help me out

I expected chatter, a lot of chatter about the fact that Tom Ryan is running for mayor of Newburyport, MA, but so far the silence has been deafening.

Victor Tine did write a good piece on the announcement of Mr. Ryan’s candidacy in the Newburyport Daily News, June 12, 2007. And Ulrika Gerth is doing a lengthy interview with Mr. Ryan for Friday’s Newburyport Current.

Mr. Ryan the candidate sounds a whole lot different than Mr. Ryan the editor of the Undertoad.

Example: As editor of the Undertoad, Mr. Ryan trashed the “Yes for Newburyport” committee.

As a candidate, Mr. Ryan tells me that people have got to understand that the schools are in trouble. Superintendent Kevin Lyons has got to be the “face” of the Newburyport city school crisis, and as mayor he would walk door to door with Mr. Lyons explaining to people the plight that the schools are in.

Example: As editor of the Undertoad, Mr. Ryan has trashed Newburyport Building Inspector Gary Calderwood.

When asked by moi, if as mayor Mr. Ryan would fire Mr. Calderwood. The answer was “no.” Of course I’m thinking here former Newburyport Planning Director, Nick Cracknell and Mr. Calderwood did not exactly make a harmonious team (vast understatement). Mr. Ryan’s response, “I would be running the city, Nick Cracknell would not be running me.”

Example: As editor of the Undertoad, Mr. Ryan has trashed any number of Newburyport City Councilors.

Mr. Ryan says that he would meet individually with the Newburyport City Councilors throughout his term as mayor. And that as mayor he would discuss anything controversial and try to problem solve any issue with the Newburyport City Council before that issue would be made public.

Ok, can you see why I was excited when I woke up this morning.

This is the agenda and voice of someone who could actually lead the city.

George agrees that what we are hearing is real different than the often cruel, smart assed editor of the Undertoad, who often appears to have a very large chip on his shoulder.

And George and I agree that Mr. Ryan’s biggest challenge is to convince people of Newburport, MA that the persona we that we have seen as the editor of the Undertoad, is not the same person who could lead the city of Newburyport if elected mayor. George and I agree that is going to be one heck of a challenge for Tom Ryan.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, Politics and Power Plays

I’ve been thinking a lot about the “Yes For Newburyport” committee and their campaign for the override for the Newburyport Schools, which did not pass.

It seems to me that the “Yes” folks were predominantly young parents. Usually, if one has a 6 year old and you explain something that you think is important, the 6 year old would usually agree with you and most likely comply.

It is my observation that the “Yes” folks assumed that the electorate of Newburyport, MA would respond like a 6 year old. The group explained their position. And if folks didn’t agree, they explained again, just like one would with a younger child.

However, it is my take that the electorate might be much more like a 14 year old. A 14 year old hears you the first time. However, if the point is made repeatedly, or they feel belittled and/or scolded, the 14 year old may well dig in their heals, do the opposite and see suggestions, instructions as a “power play.” And then they will let you know exactly who has the “power.” And then lo and behold, whoops, things are not going as one would have expected.

And I think that’s part of what happened with the special election for an override for the Newburyport schools. The whole thing ended up in a series of “power plays,” ending up with the ultimate “power play” of election day.

And what I think maybe happening to our mayoral race here in Newburyport, MA, is that in reaction to the platform initiated by Jim Roy, we may end up seeing that this election may not, in part, end up being about issues, but about a series of “power plays.”

Would Tom Ryan have taken out papers to run for mayor of Newburyport, MA if Mr. Roy and company had not put forth their platform? We will never know, but it does appear that whatever multi-determined reasoning Mr. Ryan may have, Mr. Roy’s platform was one of the “tipping points” for Mr. Ryan’s entry into the race.

And in another turn of events, it looks like Jim Stiles, although he has not yet pulled papers, is having a get-together this Sunday for an informal enlisting of support as a candidate for mayor of Newburyport, MA. An informal “enlistment” usually means a person is running for mayor of Newburyport, MA.

I had heard a rumor that Mr. Stiles might run for mayor, and it looks like that rumor could be true. It is no secret, however, that Mr. Ryan and Mr. Stiles are not the best of friends. Mr. Stiles would be making a “pre-announcement” just after Mr. Ryan has pulled papers. One wonders about the conscious or unconscious “coincidence.”

It appears that the race for mayor may indeed, for the electorate of Newburyport, MA, end up being more about personalities than principals or issues. But this is not necessarily a bad thing. It could get the electorate’s small attention span (after all it is Paris Hilton that appears to be making headlines, not the war in Iraq), and some of the issues might actually subconsciously become part of the election process.

Weirder than fiction.

Mary Eaton

Tom Ryan Takes Out Papers to Run for Mayor of Newburyport, MA

Tom Ryan, the editor of the local journal, The Undertoad, has taken out papers to run for Mayor of Newburyport, MA.

Good grief I must be getting a journalistic streak, because, boy, did I ever want to break this story.

And a big story it is too.

Mr. Ryan and I actually had a “chat,” because, holy crackers, yes, I had a few questions (and by the way, so did George).

Apparently there were two “tipping points” towards Mr. Ryan’s decision.

The first was a communication, or I gather a whole lot of communications, with former Planning Director, Nick Cracknell, who on Wednesday night, June 6, 2007 urged Mr. Ryan one more time to run for mayor of Newburyport, MA. How about them apples.

The second was (and I knew, knew, knew this was going to be weirder than fiction) in reaction to the “Committee Towards a Better Newburyport” the political platform initiated by Jim Roy, and endorsed by many a far-thinking progressive (see previous post).

The few people that I’ve talked to have asked me if this is a joke.

This is what I know. Mr. Ryan and I chatted about exactly how he would run his campaign. The answer is low key and going door to door. Little in the way of a campaign committee (and definitely not the “Committee Towards a Better Newburyport” from either side’s point of view).

There was conversation about what would happen if he actually got elected mayor of Newburyport, MA. He would be a progressive’s, liberal’s dream.

He would put Nick Cracknell back as Planning Director of Newburyport, MA. Put Doug Locy back on the Newburyport, Planning Board. “What do I know about finances? Nothing,” says Mr. Ryan. The answer to that, a group of top rate financial advisors. (Works for me, and would be a good suggestion for any mayor of Newbuyport, MA.)

Also, a group represented by every constituency in the city of Newburyport, MA, from a stay at home mom to a senior, to give Mr. Ryan a true picture of what people are thinking in our small seaside city. The group would, as I understand it, rotate every 3 months, to keep it fresh.

And working with the Newburyport City Council? No problem. Mr. Ryan says he would look forward to working with the Newburyport City Council.

Ok, this was a “chat,” this was not an interview. Apparently the editor of the Newburyport Current, Ulrika Gerth, will be sitting down to interview Mr. Ryan this week. That will be quite an edition of the Newburyport Current to get your hands on next Friday morning, June 15, 2007.

So get ready to rock n’ roll. Mr. Ryan has made a whole lot of enemies in Newburyport, MA, during his 10 year plus tenure as the editor of the Undertoad. Including, ironically enough, a number of people endorsing the “Committee Towards a Better Newburyport.”

However, Tom Ryan apparently also has a whole lot of friends, if former Newburyport Planning Director Nick Cracknell is any gauge.

Weirder than fiction folks. Possibly this election could be a blogger’s feast. Or a blogger’s nightmare. I have no clue, but we all surely will find out.

Good grief.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, Election Time Agendas and Platforms

I’ve known and been very fond of Jim Roy for many, many years. It’s been so long, I don’t even know how we got to know each other. (And I am also very fond of his wife Jan, who is a wonderful painter.)

A feisty Irishman, with a big heart and a love for local politics and a passion for an open waterfront.

Mr. Roy’s latest venture is his deep hope that the citizens of Newburyport, MA would actually pay attention to the issues that effect their lives.

For me, Don Quixote poking at those pesky windmills. Just one blogger’s opinion. But an enlightened electorate is a worthy objective.

The platform of the “Committee Towards a Better Newburyport” initiated by Mr. Roy, is signed by many a far-thinking progressive. (I’ve seen various “tweaked” drafts along the way.)

The schools are in trouble, the Central Waterfront, Mr. Karp, historic preservation, a 4 term mayor or city manager, and yes, Mr. Moak’s refusal to cooperate into taking a gander, for the moment, at the possibility of a parking garage for downtown.

The tone has been toned way down from “John Moak one of the most inept mayors”… “Moak is a dangerous person”… “Moak must go,” to a more gentle and friendly, “A mayor with initiative and verve is required.”

A planned photo-op and the hope for the ever hopeful candidate.

And this is what this blogger thinks. Having a platform without an endorsed candidate has the possibility of opening one heck of a can of worms.

A little like saying, “Here are my chattels, anyone who wants to get hitched, step up to the plate.” Instead of maybe asking the person in your English class for a date and seeing how it goes from there. (I’ve been trying to think of an analogy, and that’s what I’ve come up with so far.)

What if after all of this input, there would be no candidate that this group would find credible?

Mr. Roy says he would take out papers. That would be mighty interesting.

Or what if there is major disagreement among the signeees if there are several candidates that members of this committee are partial to, who embrace this platform?

Or what happens if any or all of the candidates that embrace this platform are not likable or electable? Well, Ouch.

It is possible that this could end up being way weirder than fiction.

Ah, but will it help the progressive cause? My guess, is that even with all the good intentions and bright minds, instead of putting the spotlight on Mayor John Moak’s shortcomings, it could make the electorate actually feel sorry for the gentleman in question. It’s possible that the endeavor could backfire big time.

This local campaign has the possibility of many a twist and turn. If the whole thing became about personalities instead of principals, well that might well spark the electorate’s fancy, and small political attention span. We will all listen, learn and we all will see.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, A Young Municipal Candidate

A concern I have about Gardiner Bacon as a possible mayor, is yes, Mr. Bacon has no experience being part of the city government of Newburyport, MA. I think, as I mentioned in the previous post, having well thought out opinions on issues is very different than dealing with the day to day decision making that goes on as an elected official.

And my second concern would be the lack of life experience. The optimism and energy of youth is infectious. However, dealing with life’s inevitable setbacks and responsibilities could, one always hopes, provide a maturing process, combined with a perspective that could help with life’s altering choices and decisions, that would aide leadership on the municipal level.

That being said, I am very excited about following Mr. Bacon’s journey as a candidate. Self assured and articulate, my great hope is that with Gardiner Bacon’s leadership, possibly for the first time, we could see the “youth” of Newburyport, MA mobilized and energized in the municipal political process.

One of their own is running for mayor of Newburyport, MA.

And running as a serious candidate.

Although, I still maintain that most of the populace of Newburyport, MA is oblivious to mayoral debates, I think Mr. Bacon would enliven those debates, no matter who would be running for mayor of Newburyport, MA (including the possible candidacy of Jim Roy, the ever articulate and feisty Newburyport activist.)

Charming, articulate and quick on his feet, I would imagine on some level many would be routing for Gardiner Bacon.

And I also think that we as a community would be very proud that such an intelligent and thoughtful young man from the Newburyport public school system, would be willing to step up to the plate, so to speak, and take civic involvement so seriously. What an incredible example not only for the “youth” of Newburyport, MA, but for the “youth” everywhere in our country. Not to mention being an example for the general populace of Newburyport, Massachusetts.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, Candidate for Mayor

I like Dan McCarthy. I like Dan McCarthy a lot. And his wife, City Councilor Audrey McCarthy, is a “peach.”

I have two concerns about Mr. McCarthy as a possible mayor for Newburyport, MA.

One of the things I think I’ve learned from watching Mayor John Moak is that observing how city government is run from the side lines is a whole lot different than actually doing it.

It would be like any job. Let’s say you were training as a nurse. Practicing putting a needle in an orange, would be a whole lot different than the first time you actually tried it on a human being.

I would imagine that answering the phone for a City Councilor spouse and the municipal knowledge gained from having a spouse on the City Council for lo so many years, would be very different than actually being on the floor of the City Council, going to all the different meetings that City Councilors do go to, and making, what I think must be almost sleep depriving decisions because they effect people’s lives, where the buck stops with you.

Just one woman’s opinion.

The other, is the elephant in the room. The fact that Mr. McCarthy lost the civil rights lawsuit against the city of Newburyport, MA, and the state’s Civil Service Commission rejected Mr. McCarthy’s appeal of a 22-day suspension. (Newburyport Daily News, March 15, 2007)

It’s my observation that the McCarthy family has been through hell. I remember running into Audrey McCarthy at the bank (this is what I love about our small New England city), and it was obvious that the pressure she was under was enormous. I ached for her.

I also remember running into Dan at the supermarket when it looked like the lawsuit was resolved during the Clancy administration. Dan did not have to say a word (and he did not say a word). It looked like that giant weight had been lifted off his shoulders, and it was obvious what that weight would be. And if it was that obvious to me, then it had to be very obvious to people who know the McCarthy family a whole lot better than I do.

I remember when the Newburyport Daily News (March 15, 2007) reported on Mr. McCarthy’s “legal blow.” I usually try and keep a record of any major stuff so I can go back and take a look at it if I need to. But, I remember the article being so painful, I couldn’t bring myself to keep a copy.

But if Dan McCarthy is running for mayor, that means that this blogger went and found the articles that were written, as well as reading the 26 page document written by the Civil Service Board commissioner, John Guerin.

And it is an elephant. I wish so much that it would not be so. But it is an elephant that would cast a shadow over any platform candidate McCarthy has. And it is an elephant that would cast a shadow if he were to become mayor of Newburyport, MA.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, Lead Paint, Historic Preservation

One of the (number of) things that I think has worked so radically, and persistently against historic preservation in Newburyport, MA or in fact anywhere, is the “Lead Paint” law.

I seem to remember a Newburyport developer saying that he would love to bring up his young family in a large house where he was not haunted by the specter of “lead paint.”

No, I am not against the health of young children. No I am not for the abuse of landlords who let their properties decline and expose young children to the hazards of lead paint.

I think, however, that when the law was enacted, only one issue was thought about. What the ramifications might be for historic preservation did not seem to have been on the radar.

And face it, the lead paint laws are pretty spooky for a home owner, or a developer, or a landlord who owns a property built before 1978.

“The Lead Law requires the removal or covering of lead paint hazards in homes built before 1978 where any children under six lives.” “This includes owners of rental property as well as owners living in their own single family home.” “If a child is lead poisoned by lead hazards where the child lives, the owner is legally responsible.” (

In 1987 the law was revised. It became mandatory that prospective buyers of residential properties receive notice about the lead paint law. It also became mandatory that doctors give blood tests to screen children for lead.

According to The National Architectural Trust, Newburyport, MA has lost one third of our historic properties since 1984.

Could there be a correlation? I’ve always thought so.

Let’s say if lead paint was not a hazard, would we see so much of the whole sale stripping of the interior and exterior of historic homes, or for that matter a gut instinct to go for demolition over preservation.

Why go through an expensive deleading process, when it is easier to take out the offending pieces of wood and replace them with features that carry no possibility of litigation?

And we see this all over Newburyport, MA.

Whenever I see a homeowner outside in their backyard stripping an old door, I always want to go up and hug them and say, “thank you so much.”

And one of the things that I really appreciate about the Newburyport Preservation Trust is their emphasis on education. How and why is it so important to preserve those small seemingly unimportant pieces of our historic assets. And what we in Newburyport, MA have seen, is that when put together, those “small” pieces that have been destroyed over the years have become an overwhelming number.

Mary Eaton

Override, How Did Newburyport Organize so Quickly

The post override question I often hear is “how did ‘you,’ ‘they’ organize so quickly” against the override for the Newburyport schools?

I think one of the answers to that question is that “we,” “they” were never “unorganized.”

If you were born here in Newburyport, MA there is a deep interwoven fabric, that simply exists, “it” doesn’t need “organization.”

If you’ve been here in Newburyport, MA for a while, raised a family, become interwoven in the community through various activities, you too have become interconnected as part of the community fabric. You just know. You just are. “It” simply exists.

I also still maintain that the override on some level was never about education. It was about something else.

Newburyport is a “Yankee” town, as in “thrifty,” “cautious,” “prudent,” “economical.” The very notion of an override goes against the grain, so to speak (yes, I know I’m mixing metaphors here), of the fabric of the community.

And it seems “we” resent anyone who might try to disrupt that inherent, very intricate part and personality of this small New England city.

If the override had succeeded I would have wondered, I think, if Newburyport, the soul, good, bad or indifferent, of Newburyport had radically changed. The fact that the override failed by a 60% margin, didn’t say to me that “we” were against education, but that our fundamental “Yankee” temperament was still primary. And on some collective unconscious level, it was an act of civic rebellion against anyone or anything that might attempt to in any way unravel it.

I think it is one of the reasons there is such an unspoken “distain” (harsh word) of the “money” that has come into town within the last 5 years or so, since the price of real estate has made it almost mandatory to make some fairly big bucks.

“Yankees” don’t drive around in fancy cars talking on cell phones. “Yankees” probably glare at their cell phones as an unwanted necessity, and their cars may well be less than brand new.

“Yankees” don’t demand a “fancy” education. Meat and potatoes would do. The “frills” could go. An intrinsic “Yankee” thrift would prevail.

I don’t think any amount of “educating” people on the issue would change that fundamental and underscoring temperament. That might happen in a place like Wellesley or Arlington, but there is a chance it might not happen here.

Mary Eaton