Monthly Archives: October 2007

Progressive and Conservative and In the Middle

What I thought I would do, since many folks that I talk to are unclear about what the Newburyport City Councilors at Large candidates stand for, I thought I would do a very simplistic break down.

I hate to “label” folks, but sometimes it would be good to “keep it simple.”

And there would be no right or wrong category. This is simply meant to be used for easy (and again, somewhat simplistic) information.

(For more detailed information on various candidates, please check out “Election 2007, Newburyport–Blogs and Websites” at the right hand side of the Newburyport Blog.)


Progressive Candidates:

Barry Connell
Donna Holaday
Kathleen Ives

Conservative Candidates:

Mary Carrier
William Deans
Al Lavender

In the Middle Candidates:

Steven Hutcheson
Tom Jones
Gary Roberts

ELECTION DAY: Tuesday, November 6, 2007


And Tom Salemi has a first hand account of the mayoral debates on Newburyport Posts. Please press here to read that entry.

Mary Eaton

(Editor’s Note: Robert Kelleher, who is running for Newburyport City Councilor at Large, has contacted me to let me know that he would not like to be “labeled,” so I have taken him off the list, and put his name down in the Editor’s Note.

Again, for more detailed information on various candidates, please check out “Election 2007, Newburyport–Blogs and Websites” at the right hand side of the Newburyport Blog.)

Election Lethargy

My friend Frank Schaeffer (see earlier entries) who was my activist mentor, used to tell me that when people are involved in an issue that they get “meeting fatigue.” He used to tell me, pick one meeting, hype it, and expect people to go to that meeting only.

And in my experience that has been true. A wise man that Mr. Schaeffer.

What I sense in this upcoming election, next Tuesday, November 6, 2007 is a sense of lethargy.

Folks on both sides of the issue on the spring election for the Newburyport School override spent so much energy and passion, that it almost seems as if the “election passion” for the year has been used up. It feels like it is almost a “one election a year” gig.

It feels almost as if election-wise, “all passion is spent.”

And I have heard this from a number of candidates out there who are walking the wards.

My guess is, that if it would be a low voter turnout, we could very well see a more “conservative” Newburyport City Council.

If the voter turnout is high, it could be possible that we might see a more balanced and/or “progressive” Newburyport City Council.

We will just have to see what the turn out and the results could be on election day, Tuesday, November 6, 2007.

Mary Eaton

The Newburyport City Council Election

Question: Whether or not to go negative?

The question of whether or not to “go negative” on the Newburyport Blog as the Newburyport city election gets nearer (next Tuesday, November 6, 2007) is something that I’ve been wrestling with.

This is a small town, we meet at places like the grocery store and yes, at places like Newburyport City Hall.

There is one candidate that I am particularly concerned about– Al Lavender.

On Sunday, a friend of mine told me about the fundraiser that Mayor John Moak had thrown. And frankly, it was a stroke of genius.

$5.00 for all you could eat, delicious homemade food. I actually know some of the cooks that most probably did some of the cooking, and from what my friend told me, it sounded absolutely “yummy.”

A little like an old fashion church or community dinner, great food, fun, family, fellowship, available for all folks on all socio-economic levels. Very little in the way of political pronouncements. A good time had by all.

It’s one of the reasons Mayor John Moak was so successful in the last election. The “face” of his campaign was your average Newburyport resident, who is not normally involved in Newburyport city politics. And it spoke volumes.

The average resident, given the choice between a thoughtful person talking about issues, or a home cooked dinner that any senior could afford, which says “community” loud and clear–the average resident, I believe, would pick the candidate with “the dinner” every time.

And Mayor John Moak was at the fundraiser surrounded by various politicians and various former mayors, including Al Lavender.


1) On December 2001, $4,690,000 (that’s right 4.7 Million dollars) was on the table for the complete redesign of High Street (yup, that included things like brick sidewalks).

Mayor Al Lavender in 2002 agreed to a mere $792,425 instead (Yup, that’s leaving 4 Million dollars in MassHighway’s pocket. I’m sure that they could not have been more delighted. I was not.)

All of this is documented on High Street’s website under “Reference Documents.”

2) Mayor Al Lavender is widely credited for signing the “Host Agreement” with New Ventures creating the nightmare that the City of Newburyport, MA has had with the Crow Lane Landfill ever since.

3) Mayor Al Lavender granted a “buddy” a piece of the Newburyport Rail Trail. This was discovered at the very last minute. The Newburyport City Council, the Newburyport Planning Office, the Rail Trail folks and even the Newburyport City Solicitor (I do believe) knew nothing about this. (Fortunately the whole thing has been resolved.)

4) And I have been told that if Al Lavender does get onto the Newburyport City Council this upcoming term, that would make 10 years, and the city of Newburyport would be paying Mr. Lavender’s health care benefits, yup, as I understand it, for the rest of his life.

This is not an individual who I would like to represent me on the Newburyport City Council.

As a very conservative friend of mine said, “Al makes everyone else look brilliant.”

Mary Eaton

A Win-Win on the Newburyport City Council Floor

The mood on the Newburyport City Council floor on Monday night October 29, 2007 was, I would say, jovial from the get go– the night that the Fruit Street Local Historic District came up for its final vote.

Often when major decisions are made, the mood on the Newburyport City Council floor could sometimes be tense. On the night the vote for the special election for the Newburyport school override, it felt as if the whole place could be on edge.

But not last night. Last night was a whole different story.

During the “Public Comment” period, a lot of folks spoke on behalf of the Fruit Street Local Historic District, and not the usually faces. And sometimes, for me, the “Public Comment” period is not my favorite part to watch. It often feels painful.

But not last night.

The Newburyport City Council seemed to be genuinely moved by the folks that spoke during the “Public Comment” period.

Karen Battles of the Newburyport Preservation Trust had this to say:

“One of the delights of living here is walking through neighborhood after neighborhood of historic homes. Maybe because we are surrounded by it everyday, we don’t grasp how unbelievably rare this is in this day and age. As more and more places become cookie-cutter subdivisions and the same franchise appears every other block, the authentic becomes more and more valuable. We are the currents stewards of Newburyport, we have not only the right, but the obligation to protect our resources.” (Used with permission)

There was also a great deal of laughter and kidding around. This is not always the case.

And when it came to the vote on the Newburyport City Council floor, Newburyport City Councilor James Shanley spoke most eloquently. And you could almost hear people holding their breath as Richard Jones, the Newburyport City Clerk, called the roll.

And when the vote was not only in favor of the Fruit Street Local Historic District, but was unanimous, applause and cheers spontaneously broke out. A lot of jumping up and down with sheer relief and joy.

This is an example of a project that has taken decades to come about. And the actual creation of the Newburyport Fruit Street Local Historic District took a lot of time (2 years), with a great deal of public input and public process. There were no shortcuts here. And, from what I observed, there was also a great deal of dialogue with the Newburyport City Council and the Mayor as well.

And this combination of productive public process and constructive public dialogue made for a win-win situation, instead of public divisiveness that could occur over a variety of issues.

This whole process is an incredible example of how to get positive things accomplished on the municipal level. And again a big congratulations to everyone involved.

And again (see previous post) this Newburyport City Council 2006-2007 has come so far in working together and working for the good of the citizens of Newburyport, MA, and I am so proud of them. And not to repeat myself, but to repeat myself, I cannot fathom why anyone would say that that would not be so.

Mary Eaton

The Fruit Street Local Historic District

Tonight, October 29, 2007, the Newburyport City Council passed the Fruit Street Local Historic District unanimously.


I am really proud of this Newburyport City Council. This is an historic moment and they can be very, very proud.

It has taken many, many decades for Newburyport to take this very important step towards protecting our historic assets, something that is so vital to the future of Newburyport, MA.

And I take great exception to 2 candidates running for Newburyport City Councilor at Large, saying that this particular Newburyport City Council either “does not work with the mayor,” or “works against the mayor.”

Excuse me.

This is an incredible example of the mayor and the Newburyport City Council working together for what is best for the city of Newburyport, MA.

And this is also an example of people meeting in the middle and building bridges. I am sure “historic preservationist purists” would have liked a much stronger version of the ordinance than what was passed. And I’m sure that “building rights” folks would have liked to have seen no Fruit Street Local Historic District at all.

But this version of a Local Historic District (LHD) is “Local Historic District light.”

Not too strict and not non-existent. But just right.

Its goal is to be stewards of our historic heritage without being anything close to being tyrants. And the committee that worked so hard for over almost 2 years has my deepest “Thank You.”

A job well done and a great deal of credit to all sorts of deserving folks, including the Newburyport Historical Commission, the Newburyport Office of Planning and Development, the Historical Society of Old Newbury and the Newburyport Preservation Trust. As well as the residents of Fruit Street for setting this amazing example for the citizens of Newburyport, MA.

Mary Eaton

Corporate Conglomerate and Local Blogs and Blogging

Probably one of my favorite blogs is not a media blog at all, but a blog about how bloggers could have better blogs called “Problogger.” I am hardly alone in my sentiments about “Problogger.” I think it is one of the best resources, and one of the most popular blogs on the World Wide Web, for those folks interested in making their blogging “better.”

(Problogger has recently changed its “look.” It was an “average” looking blog. But recently, it has gone to what I call “the next blog level.” Going from a “familiar” and “comfortable” format, to one that looks, feels and sounds more “professional.” I happen to like the old “comfortable” format better. But that’s just me.)

When I started the Newburyport Blog almost 2 years ago, I also wanted to start a “national” blog. However, having read “Problogger,” I realized that the “national blog” “niche” was already really full, and that I most probably would have little or no fresh insights to offer any audience. So that one was out.

It did, however, dawn on me that no one appeared to be writing “local blogs,” and there would be a real “niche” for writing a blog about Newburyport, Massachusetts. I also happen to love the place, as anyone reading the Newburyport Blog could probably attest to, and found that I also not only really enjoyed blogging about Newburyport, MA, but also learned a whole lot about the city in the process.

And I wanted to put “Adsense” in the Newburyport Blog. And early in 2006 I could not find anyone who knew about blogging software, who could help me. In fact, the reaction that I got over and over again was, “Why in the world would you want to do that” (ie blogging about Newburyport, MA, or blogging period).

So out of necessity I became a “blogging nerd.” I taught myself all about blogging software. How to write it, tweak it and put just about anything I wanted to put into it. Who knew I had a “software engineering” gene within me? Not moi. And it’s turned out to be one of the “perks” of doing the Newburyport Blog. I am fascinated by that whole aspect of it.

And a local blog was such a “small” niche back then, that unfortunately it was difficult to find directories in which to place the Newburyport Blog. Oh, well.

Much to my “delight,” about 6-8 weeks ago I started to find directories that were featuring “local” blogs. “Eureka.” I said to myself, “Finally folks are beginning to get onto the ‘local blog’ bandwagon. ”

When I checked out the local blog directories, there did appear to a few “local independent” blogs, but many of them appeared to be associated with one particular news organization.

I said to myself, “Oh, well. Who cares. At least now I have some company. And no one is going to ask me, ‘Why would you even think of doing that.’ ”

How completely trusting and naïve of me.

But how could I have known that a large media conglomerate would decide to launch 158 “hyperlocal” sites.

And I fear that the Newburyport Blog, a labor of love, could be completely swamped by a tsunami of large corporate money, and all that it could buy. And the new genuine, fledgling “local,” “independent” blogs which have the potential of really offering the community of Newburyport something of “value,” especially if they are “niche” blogs, could be drowned in this wave of corporate internet interest as well.

Mary Eaton

A Local Blog Mystery

At the very beginning of the month of October, I got a call from one of the local newspapers asking me what did I think of “all the blogs?”

Needless to say I was somewhat confused, a sentiment that I think I expressed to the person calling from the paper. Note: I’ve always tried to have a good to great relationship with printed media since the Newburyport Blog began almost 2 years ago on January 1, 2006, and I like them a great deal. I was somewhat baffled by the question, and could not imagine what the person could have in mind.

The end story made reference to 7 “blogs.” One blog that had not been updated for almost a year, one site that is not a blog, one site that is a forum (not a blog), 3 brand new blogs and me.

(I told the interviewer when they called that, “For goodness sakes I’m ‘the old lady of blogging.’ ” And then I remember saying, “Oh my goodness, please don’t call me that. Don’t even call me the “middle aged lady of blogging.’ ” And they graciously did not.)

When the article came out, I was no more enlightened about the whole situation than I was during the “phone interview.” Still mighty confused here.

And then Friday (October 26, 2007), maybe, possibly an answer. It was another “local” paper, owned by a “conglomerate” that is out of Fairport, NY– 158 new “hyperlocal sites” (new Internet buzz word). It also has 86 daily publications, across 19 states and a local readership of more than 10 million per week. It is traded on the New York Stock Exchange.


(Remember the entry on our “local” banks, how they are not “financial conglomerates” traded on the stock exchange, but are really and truly “local” banks. (Please press here to read that entry.)

So maybe, could be, possibly, this is the mystery, the somewhat bewildering basis for me, of why all of a sudden, there was an article on “local blogs?” (I have not verified this.) A paper-conglomerate, has gone into super-duper, Internet “blog overdrive.” (These are the folks that were using the name “The Newburyport Blog,” until all of that got sorted out.)

Another, good grief.

I am going to digress here for a moment.

One of the things that I have been doing since 2004 is work as one of over 75,000 editors for the “Open Directory Project,” (DMOZ), an online “human-edited” directory, which is owned by Netscape and used by Google. I’ve seen my share of websites, etc. over the years. And what I have learned, among other things, is that it is a good idea for a blog to be “up” and undetected for about 3 months or so, so that a blogger could begin to find their voice, see if a blog is worth reading on a regular basis, and see if a blog actually has staying power.

I was lucky and started an obscure blog about 3 months before starting the Newburyport Blog, and got to find my “blogging feet,” without anyone much reading it. And I learned a whole lot in those early 3 months. And I sure am grateful to have been able to blog in virtual obscurity, because I made a whole lot of weird blogging mistakes (and yes, occasionally, still do).

And we have 4 promising, new, actual “local” and “independent” blogs (none that I know of, are being traded on the New York Stock Exchange :-). And I would like to see them all get their “blogging sea-legs,” so to speak, before being exposed to the sometimes cruel and uncivil world of the blogosphere.

Mary Eaton

You’ve Come A Long Way Ms Ives

You’ve come a long way Kathleen Ives.

Back on September 4, 2007, I wrote a post about my meeting candidate for Newburyport City Council at Large, Kathleen Ives (Katy).

I found her to be delightful, smart, gutsy and energetic, someone who could be an real asset to Newburyport, MA. But being a newcomer, I really and truly did not think she had a prayer in the upcoming elections.

I do believe that Ms Ives could, might prove me wrong.

I have not talked to one person, once they have talked to Kathleen Ives, who would not like to see her on the Newburyport City Council.

And that’s no small accomplishment.

At first it was the more progressive folks and centrist folks that seemed to take a shine to Ms Ives.

However, when I started to talk to more conservative folks, they had the same reaction. They liked her too.

When Kathleen Ives started to put out signs, I would often see a sign just on its own. No other sign to be had on whatever property it might be. And that is often still the case. It appears that for some folks, Ms Ives would be their only pick.

And then I began to see Kathleen Ives signs clumped in with progressive candidates. Nestled in, for example, among signs for City Council candidate Donna Holaday and Mayoral candidate, Jim Stiles.

And then, low and behold, Ms Ives looks like she could be a crossover candidate. Her signs started to appear with mayoral candidate John Moak.

Kathleen Ives
John Moak
Campaign signs
in conservative ward, Ward 6

Kathleen Ives struck me as a person who could be able to facilitate people coming together. And other people appear to think so too. And if the signs are any sign that that could be true, despite her recent arrival, it is a possibility that Ms Ives could, might be an addition to Newburyport politics.

Mary Eaton

Bruce Menin, Newburyport School Committee

In my quest to learn more about the Newburyport School Committee election which I now know a little bit more about than “zip,” I contacted folks about who they would consider voting for Newburyport School Committee.

Bruce Menin’s name was also one of the names at the top of the list. Again, from some of the not the usual suspects.

“Menin–Tip O’Neil said always lash to the old oaks when the storm wind blows. Bruce is a proven commodity.” Was one reply I received.

If re-elected this would be Mr. Menin’s 3rd term (one 4 year term and half of a 4 year term, 2 years). (Please see “Editor’s Note” below for clarification.)

That anyone could have a sustained and tenacious passion for trying to solve the ongoing conundrum of our school system is remarkable. (I would give up after the first week. It seems as if the position chews folks up and spits them out. This is not an easy volunteer undertaking.)

I met Bruce Menin one day on the street about 3 months after he had begun his first School Committee term and he looked gaunt. I must have had a questioning look on my face like, “How’s it going?” because Mr. Menin looked up and said, “It’s real different when you’re in the inside.”

Yes, and “Amen” to that. How true.

It strikes me that change in any political process is like moving a barge or trying to wade in a swimming pool full of taffy.

If the barge gets moved even the slightest bit, that’s quite an accomplishment. In my experience the barge rarely turns a quick 180 degrees.

And politics, most politics, appears to me, to often be slow and sticky.

One of the things I have observed about Mr. Menin is that he is never afraid to ask the question which no one wants to hear and no one wants to talk about. It appears to me that in the last 6 years Mr. Menin has more than once challenged the “status quo.”

As uncomfortable as that might be, challenging the “status quo” is something I happen to think would be a good idea. And Mr. Menin does so often with a New York sense of humor and approach, that I very much appreciate.

Mr. Menin has a certain “ironic irreverence” that may not be understood by one and all, but there is more than just this blogger who thinks that that character trait is “not all bad.”

And Mr. Menin is not afraid to let people know who he is or what he thinks. His blog is a testimony to that. If you would like to know who Bruce Menin is, I would check out his blog at:

Mary Eaton

(Editor’s Note: Please see the very moving post by Bruce Menin about Vickie Pearson that clarifies the length of the School Committee terms (4 years) and how Bruce Menin has come to serve 6 years on the Newburyport School Committee. Please press here to read that post).

Confessions of a Painter

Bear with me here. “Confessions of a Painter” doesn’t sound like it would have much to do with Newburyport, MA, but I’ll get around to that, I promise.

Discloser: I happen to be a painter.

Discloser: I have this “love-hate” relationship with PhotoShop.

PhotoShop (and similar commuter software applications) changed painting (Ok, that’s my opinion).

When I first discovered PhotoShop I was absolutely fascinated by it. I still am. Things that would literally take me years to do as a painter, could almost be done instantaneously in PhotoShop.

Someone, anyone could take a digital photograph, manipulate it in PhotoShop to look like a painting, print it on a canvas and sell it for a fraction of the price that I would sell my paintings for. And it would take a fraction of the time.

This in is the discouraged part of my “love-hate” relationship with PhotoShop.

And what is lost in this way of doing things, is the understanding and gradual knowledge that comes from the long and often tedious process and the creative journey of bringing a painting into existence. As well as the feeling of “power” and “intensity” that a painting transmits compared to something that is more like a “print.”

PhotoShop could also give a sense of “instant gratification.”

It feels as if “short sound bites,” “instant gratification” could become a way of life; as well as a possible identification with pop icons, or “interchangeable entities” that large corporations often provide, instead of longing for a “deeper” culture.

A hotel room in California could be identical to one in Massachusetts. Why bother to go to a different “culture” if so much of the culture could be interchangeable.

And that is why I think it is so important to take long hard looks at what is, could, might happen to Newburyport, MA. That we stay a distinct “community,” with a distinct sense of place, with a distinct “local” ambiance. That we don’t become yet one more bland, interchangeable, faceless place to be in America.

We have so much to offer in Newburyport, MA. And we are in a vortex of change, just like so many other communities in the USA. And we have choices that we can make. And I so desperately do not want to lose that sense of community that is here, that makes Newburyport such a wonderful place to visit, live, work and play.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, Local Community Banks

One of the things that has puzzled me is the response I often get from people who “recently” moved here, or who recently bought property here, about the 2 local banks in our small New England city.

The reactions could be anywhere from, “Are they real?” to “Why would any bank do banking that way?” to “If they only did x, y or z they would be making so much more money.”

My response, after a brief moment of saying to myself, “Say what?” is that not only are they real (I send folks in to look at the gorgeous interior of the Institution for Savings, for example), but that also we as a city are so incredibly lucky to have them.

Huge disclaimer: I know absolutely “zip” about banking. Anything I might have learned in the course of my research for this post comes mainly from “Wikipedia.” And yes, I can actually hear the sound of eyes quite rightly rolling, and the groans of the various versions of “say what?”

Neophyte blogger on banking. Yes, good grief.

My vast knowledge on banking from Wikipedia:

Our local community banks are “mutual savings” banks not “commercial” banks or “financial conglomerates.” Bank of America or Citigroup according to good old Wikipedia, would be examples of a “financial conglomerate.” defines a “mutual bank” as “A state-chartered savings bank owned by its depositors and managed by a board of trustees.” Or my definition of a “community bank”.

My neophyte understanding of this is that the term “mutual” is the opposite of “non-mutual.” A non-mutual company is a company “whose shares can be traded on the stock market.” (Again, my old friend Wikipedia.) Or in my book, a “faceless” corporation” and not a community” bank.

What does this all have to do with anything you might quite rightly ask.

For me the fact that Newburyport has community banks is huge and plays a big part in Newburyport, MA being a “community.”

I don’t imagine that most people would know what the president of Citigroup would look like, much less be able to say “Hi” on the street to that individual. Saying “Hi” to bank presidents on the street happens all the time in Newburyport, MA.

And in Newburyport, MA I’ve actually wandered into the office of bank presidents on several occasions, without an appointment, to say the most “trivial” of things.

I don’t imagine that during a blizzard the president of a “financial conglomerate” would come to check to see if a person is Ok. But, here in Newburyport, MA, this happens.

I don’t imagine that the president of a “financial conglomerate” when he hears that a child who has been in the hospital and that child has come home, would rush down the street to give the child’s parents a huge bear hug of relief. But here Newburyport, MA, this happens.

The people of Newburyport are not faceless numbers, dealt with by machines. They are human beings that are treated with dignity, individuality, empathy and respect by our local banks.

And for me, this is “priceless.”

Mary Eaton

Real Estate and The Bottom Line

Someone playing “devil’s advocate” (this works for me) said that they thought there would be very little difference between Mr. Karp owning much of downtown Newburyport, MA and someone like David Hall who also owns a great deal of property in our small New England city.

For me, the difference would be vast.

David Hall is “on the ground” and “walking among us.” (Please press here to read earlier entry on David Hall).

Mr. Hall has done incredible things for our community, like raising the money and being the chair-person to see that the skateboard park (which is really amazing) at the Nock Middle School got built. This is a huge accomplishment.

Mr. Hall did this by contacting and connecting with “all and everyone” in the community to raise money to get this remarkable project completed.

And that’s just one of the many things that he has done and is doing for our community. David Hall’s involvement with the Rail Trail, a long and lengthy process, would be another amazing example.

And David Hall was also one of the first if not the first to go solar and green. And it must be to his total delight that finally “going green” has become popular, if not just downright “politically correct.” This is a man way ahead of his time.

And David Hall is physically part of the community. He is part of our “everyday trivial” lives (please see previous post). He and his family can be found at the pharmacy, doing errands around town, at the checkout line at the local supermarket. He is enmeshed in our community, our neighborhood, our town and our lives.

When the Lagasses owned much of downtown, I think people had a trust level, because they were/are one of us. And the fact that they are on the ground leasing the retail properties owned by Mr. Karp and New England Development (NED) is a relief.

However, a huge corporate entity owns so much of where we exist. (Please press here to see NED’s website). And I think that is what is so unsettling to me and to so many folks in Newburyport, MA.

Looking at NED’s website, Newburyport is just one of many projects. And yes, to reiterate, Mr. Karp may indeed be a “benevolent” landlord, but the bottom line is making money. (And that is his right, he bought all that property.)

But that is very different for me, than the bottom line being “what is best for the community on all socio-economic levels.”

I know that David Hall knows the folks in Newburyport, MA, and it is not all about the bottom line of “making money.” That there are many times, that no one knows about, that Mr. Hall has committed random acts of kindness and empathy, because, in my experience, that is who is he is. And he is viscerally connected to the community of Newburyport, MA in a way that Mr. Karp, unless he moves to Newburyport, MA (which I would imagine be unlikely) could never, ever be.

Mary Eaton

(Editor’s note: Here are two related and very helpful links for the Newburyport Rail Trail. The Coastal Trail Coalition and The Essex National Heritage Commission.)

New England Development and Downtown Newburyport

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

“The Death and Life of Great American Cities”, by Jane Jacobs from the website of

It’s Mr. Karp again.

I had an email conversation with an elected official who met with Ann Lagasse recently. What I took away from my email conversation would be something that many folks could be happy seeing develop in Newburyport, MA.

Basically that New England Development (NED) is thinking of stuff like the store on Middle and State Streets– “independently owned or small-chain outfits that offer something that complements, not detracts from, the existing retail mix of downtown….”

That…”help bolster the downtown, and who stand a good chance of making it.”

And my email friend says that they would “doubt very seriously we will be seeing anything that is low to mid market.”

And that “New England Development chose to invest in Newburyport (the Lagasses) because it is working and is successful. They see no reason to change what is obviously not broken.” (Excerpts from this email have been used with permission.)

The shop at Middle and State Streets (see earlier entry) confirms the above statements.

However, this doesn’t mean that I do not have some reservations.

Ms Lagasse is in charge of leasing the stores in downtown Newburyport, but Mr. Karp owns them. He owns “us.” (“Newburyport, Fifty top retail properties in downtown Newburyport and along the waterfront,” is listed on NED’s website under “Portfolio”.)

And, Mr. Karp may be very “good willed” and have very “good intentions,” but he is not part of our everyday, “trivial” lives. And that is important for trust, major community trust.

It has to do, for me, with the very confusing times we live in. A dehumanizing thing seems to be taking place.

Bill Moyers in his speech, “What Adam Said to Eve” (see earlier entry) talks about the “corporations that largely control our media and telecommunications systems,” and the chilling effect that has had on journalism.

And it feels to me that with luck that we may have a “benevolent” corporation as a landlord, but it would still be a corporation (New England Development, Mr. Karp) that would control so much of our downtown.

It would, for me, be the opposite of community. First of all I’m not big on monopolies, and to state the obvious, personally I don’t think it’s healthy to have someone or anyone control that much of Newburyport, MA.

And one does not meet (although one might meet its representative, Mr. and Mrs Lagasse) a corporation, in this case, New England Development (NED) at the pharmacy, doing an errand downtown, or over vegetables at the supermarket. The “trivial” things that are part of community, neighborhood, that create empathy for the people inhabiting a particular place, our place.

Mary Eaton

Stephanie Weaver, Newburyport School Committee Election

Well, I learned something.

For me, anyone with a name associated with the “Yes for Newburyport” folks would be “polarizing.”

But, I think that the election for Newburyport School Committee is really, really important, and I got to tell you I know almost zip about the candidates. (Now I know a little bit more than completely zip.)

So since Stephanie Weaver (who is running for Newburyport School Committee) lives near by, I decided to stop by on one of my walks and introduce myself.

Well, I gotta tell you folks, I had an incredibly pleasant surprise.

Stephanie Weaver, in my book, turned out to be not a “this is how we are going to do it” sort of person, but instead someone who is a “listener” and appears to have a talent that is very much needed– a communicator and a “bridge-builder.”

It takes a whole lot to impress me, and I was way impressed.

I’m sure many of you have noticed signs around town. Most of the time they are clumped together in ideological groups.

But take a look at this twosome:

Stephanie Weaver, School Committee
Gary Roberts, Councilor at Large

In most people’s books, this would be a political and ideological “odd couple.”

But there they are. Two folks very much trying to be Newburyport “bridge-builders.” And I got to say that this works for me.

And the feedback that I’ve gotten from other folks, and I gotta say unlikely candidates, is that Stephanie Weaver is one of the folks at the top of their list.

Ms Weaver has been working real hard at going door to door. So if she happens to knock on your door, take a moment, have a chat and take the time to introduce yourself to this young lady. Be a bridge-builder too.

Mary Eaton

Local Journalism, Newspapers and The Newburyport Blog

Ask not what The Newburyport Blog could do for you, but what you could do for The Newburyport Blog.

Just to mess up the famous and inspiring words of John F. Kennedy.

What I am seeing is that local newspapers are having any number of blogs. (One local newspaper actually, for a few days, had a blog called “The Newburyport Blog.” This mix-up has been taken care of and the name has been changed, which I very much appreciate.)

And all of this had me scurrying to see what in the world could be going on.

And I spent several days doing some research. (Disclaimer, a few days– not a PhD’s worth of days.)

From what I read, it appears that local newspapers in general are now under the same pressure that national newspapers have been. Many people appear now to be getting their news more and more from the Internet. Especially I would imagine the 40 and younger crowd. And folks who grew up with newspapers, the “older” crowd, as I understand it, may still very much enjoy having that newsprint to read with their morning coffee or whatever, as a way to get the news.

And it appears that newspapers could be in a cyclone of transition–what to put in print and what to do with the Internet. And apparently how to convince advertisers that advertising on the Internet would be a good thing, which it most certainly would be.

And local newspapers in general, as I understand it from my reading, could be at risk.

And personally, I am a big fan of “old fashion” journalism.

Bill Moyers (Bill Moyers keeps showing up on the Newburyport Blog, because I happen to be a big fan of “wise men.” And Bill Moyers fits into that category for me big time) addressed this particular issue in a speech called:

“What Adam Said to Eve,” For the annual conference of the 
Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication
, On August 9, 2007 in Washington, DC. ( Please press here to read the entire transcript of that speech. It is truly fascinating and very moving.)

And what does this have to do with the Newburyport Blog?

Well, apparently, folks take the Newburyport Blog (this Newburyport Blog) way more seriously than I ever intended, wanted or realized.

The Newburyport Blog does try to analyze events in a meaningful way, and does try to be fair, and does try to do its best for its own version of “truthiness.” And, I’ve been around awhile, and do try and put events in context of what Newburyport, MA, as a city, has been through.

So 2 things. Local “traditional journalism” is vital to our democratic society (Please read Bill Moyers). Please support local newspapers. It is a really important thing to do.

And second of all, The Newburyport Blog is a “labor of love,” but it is still a “labor.”

And if you value The Newburyport Blog, please–ask not what The Newburyport Blog could do for you, but what you could do for The Newburyport Blog.

Mary Eaton

Mr. Steven Karp and Downtown Newburyport

The corner of State Street and Middle Street in downtown Newburyport, MA.

I walked by the store that used to be the Candle and Mug shop. A much beloved place, accessible to all socio economic groups of folks.

This is one of the properties that is now owned by Newburyport’s new landlord, Mr. Steven Karp.

The first time I walked by, it was about to pour rain, so I didn’t go in. But I went back the next day.

The shop, that just opened, sells shoes (and a few clothes, but mostly shoes).

It has a very “up-scale” look.

(Note to readers: I probably am one of the few women in the USA who doesn’t love shoes. That’s just me. But I respect all those folks out there who do love shoes.)

I went into the shop and picked up a very nice looking pair of shoes, and went, “Ooops, not in my price range.”

Then I went and picked up another pair of shoes and went, “Oooo, really not in my price range.”

Then I saw a pair of boots and when I looked at the price, I said to myself, “Don’t even go there.”

And finally, I saw a pair of men’s shoes that I was impressed by, but when I saw the price, I went, “Say what?”

Let’s just say this is not a place that middle income families are going to be shopping at a lot. This store is definitely geared towards the more “well to do.”

And this is where Mr. Karp could be headed with Newburyport, MA.

This is not a chain store. This is a store out of Maine, that is beginning to expand (one day it might become a chain store, but it now has 6 stores, so it’s not chain store at the moment.)

This is a privately owned, family run business, not local, but out of New England (Maine). It’s been around since 1830. All very hard to argue with.

It is also aimed at a certain socio economic group. (It does not fit in with the goals of our Master Plan.)


So, enjoy places like Angies. Give the “buyLocal” stores in town that appeal to all socio economic groups of people, lots of patronage, because it would be my guess that they would need it.

If the new shop at the corner of Middle and State Street (as nice as it might be) is any indication of where Mr. Karp might be going, it could be a pretty good indicator of the direction that Newburyport might be taking in the next 10 years.

(For those who might not know, Mr. Karp owns a great deal of downtown Newburyport, and has bought up a great deal of waterfront property in Newburyport, MA.)

And I don’t know, my guess would be that if folks might not like it, that if this would be in fact Mr. Karp’s objective, that there would not be much that anyone could do about it. (To re-state the obvious, this is the danger of one person owning so much vital property in Newburyport, MA.)

Mary Eaton

(Editor’s Note: Mr. Karp has been on a many people’s minds the last few days. BuyLocal sponsored and co-sponsored two events this weekend. And Ed Cameron has recently blogged about Mr. Karp noting that the phrase “high-end consumer” appeared to be a phrase that is often used. And Tom Salemi on his blog is doing some major in-depth blogging on Mr. Steven Karp.)

Newburyport Activists

As an (sort of former) activist (fighting to save High Street, etc.) I am very sympathetic to activists who contact the Newburyport Blog, hoping that I would give a plug to their cause.

This is what I learned as an activist fighting to save High Street (starting in 1999).

There are times when folks pay a great deal of attention to what you might be saying. And then there are times that no matter what you do, people simply are not listening, especially the way you might like them to. And there is really nothing an activist can do when this happens.

An activist can push their agenda during these fallow activist times, but my experience has been that if folks aren’t in the listening mood, that it could often be a waste of time and energy, which might be better saved for a more seasoned moment.

“Timing is everything,” certainly applies.

And sometimes pushing an agenda could backfire.

My experience is that after a certain point, folks in the political world know what the activist agendas are that are out there. And what I have found is that pushing an agenda when folks aren’t ready to act at that moment, could make whoever it might be, feel pushed into a corner. And instead of “cooperating,” whoever it might be, could be pushed the other way.

And as I continue to blog the Newburyport Blog, one of the things that I find that I often try to do, is try to listen to what the residents of Newburyport, MA might be willing to hear.

And if my gut tells me, don’t push that particular issue now, and then I go ahead and do it anyway, because I feel really sympathetic or pressured or whatever, it almost always backfires.

So activists out there, it’s not that I haven’t read your emails or heard your requests, it is that I am waiting for what feels to me to be the right time to blog about whatever it might be that you could be passionate about.

Mary Eaton

Building Political Bridges

When I look over the last two posts–the thread, theme what have you, appears to be people who are capable of being “bridge builders,” as well as caring and hard working folks, folks willing to “serve” the community.

And I think for this election, November 6, 2007, that is what we would desperately need for the city of Newburyport, MA. Not folks who could be “polarizing,” but folks who would be willing to meet somewhere in the middle for the good of the city.

Gary Roberts, Tom Jones and Greg Earls are hardly alone in the “bridge-building” category. But for me, “bridge-building” would be a good litmus test to apply.

And maybe I would ask myself, if “bridge-building” skills might not have been demonstrated before in a candidate, could that quality exist, because it would be very much needed now.

There are so many things that divide us, and there are so many things that would be good to have a working relationship on.

And as a city, it feels to me as if we are going through huge growing pains. And when that happens it would be much easier to be cranky and blame other folks, than it would be to sit still and try to figure out the best solution for the city as a whole.

And this is not to say that I think disagreement, advocacy, dissent would not be good things. I think that they would be excellent things, and greatly needed to have an honest exchange and thought process to arrive at civic solutions.

Am I a big fan of “I have all the answers and you do not.”

No, not particularly.

And on the other hand, if Newburyport was one cohesive, gooey, sweet family, I wouldn’t want to live here.

I love all the fascinating personalities that make up our town, and serve on all the boards, committees as well as serve as elected officials.

And probably one of the other qualities that I would hope for, would be an ability for mutual respect. Anger, feistiness and disagreement could be very much part of that equation as well. But at the end of the day, a capacity for consideration would work so well.

And I know that yes, we’ve been called “Cannibal City” and that “politics in Newburyport is a contact sport.” But, my, sometimes that feels exhausting. And in the year 2007, almost the year 2008, it seems that there would be just too much at stake.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport City Council at Large, Tom Jones and Gary Roberts

I started blogging the Newburyport Blog on January 1, 2006 when this present Newburyport City Council took office. And because I’ve been paying so much more attention to stuff than I ever would have before, I’ve ended up paying a whole lot more attention to this particular Newburyport City Council.

This Newburyport City Council seemed to started off kind of ragged, but gradually over the last almost 2 years, in my mind, they have become, for the most part, a thoughtful, reasonably cohesive, deliberating political entity.

And 2 of the “newbies” to the Newburyport City Council, Gary Roberts and Tom Jones, have for me, become 2 delightful surprises. I see them both as thoughtful “centrists.”

I think my initial concern about Tom Jones and Gary Roberts was that they could both be “polarizing,” “simplistic” and “difficult.”

And in my mind, the opposite has proven true.

Two things concern me when it comes to the electorate.

Both of these men voted against having the spring override for the Newburyport Schools. And I think in many folks minds, this pigeonholes them as being “anti-school” and “anti-children.” And from my discussions with both men, nothing could be further from the truth.

And I think that the folks, including “Yes for Newburyport” folks, who have gradually gotten to know Gary Roberts and Tom Jones, have come to see these two men as problem solvers and bridge builders, wanting what is best for both the schools, as well for the larger community.

And from what I am hearing, some of the electorate could wonder that both men might have disagreed with Mayor John Moak.

Well, “reasonable people can disagree” (I’ve always loved that quote).

And what I have witnessed from both Tom Jones and Gary Roberts, is that when something is proposed or if there is an issue to be solved, that both men take a great deal of time to think things through. And the conclusion that they reach, may or may not be to folks liking, including Mayor John Moak’s, but a time-consuming and thoughtful deliberation has been behind whatever conclusions have been made.

And the other thing that I like about Gary Roberts and Tom Jones is they are not petty and they do not hold grudges (this has not always been true of Newburyport city councilors and some politicians). After an issue is voted on, both men move on to the next issue and don’t hold it against whoever it is that might have disagreed with them.

In my book this is called maturity.

I have enjoyed seeing Tom Jones and Gary Roberts grow as Newburyport City Councilors. And I would very much like to see them be re-elected to the Newburyport City Council on November 6, 2007 and watch them flourish as they might continue to serve the city of Newburyport, Massachusetts, which they both obviously love.

Mary Eaton

Greg Earls, Ward 2, Newburyport

Greg Earls is a terrific Newburyport City Councilor.

Greg Earls is the City Councilor for Ward 2, the most progressive, “liberal” ward in the city.

And Greg works really hard and represents his Ward really well, and I cannot imagine why anyone would not want to see him re-elect. Just my opinion.

I was talking to Greg, this was quite a while back, about how hard I thought it must be to be a Newburyport City Councilor. Difficult choices to be made on complex issues, would keep me up at night.

Greg Earls said a very interesting thing. He said that he thought the hardest thing for him was the bad feeling stuff that happened between neighbors in his ward.

And an issue came up in our neighborhood that could have turned neighbor against neighbor and destroyed friendships for life (I’ve seen stuff like this happen all over the city.)

And Greg Earls was wonderful.

I talked to him about what my concerns would be. Other neighbors talked to him about what their concerns might be.

Greg came and had a neighborhood meeting. He listened to everyone, he was involved, thoughtful and just downright kind. And reassuring that there was a solution that everyone would be comfortable with.

And I felt really relieved, because here was someone who understood how things worked on a municipal level, and clearly has a real gift for working with folks and mediating and defusing what could be damaging situations.

What I witnessed and experienced was Greg Earls serving his community and his Ward, in this particular instance.

And the other thing that I like so much about Greg is that when I have questions about stuff, a) he always gets back to me and b) I never feel as if I am intruding or silly with whatever questions I might have.

And if Greg is not there, his wife, Nancy, is always warm and gracious. And for me, this is huge.

And I am proud to have Greg Earls representing me on the Newburyport City Council. And I hope that he would be representing me come January 1, 2008.

Mary Eaton