Monthly Archives: February 2008

Money and Municipal Conflict


Nothing quite divides a community quite like money, or the lack thereof.

One of the places that I check out on the World Wide Web is the “Around the North Shore Forums” (you have to become a member to participate in any way). And Around the North Shore gives me an understanding about how many people feel about the many things that are going on in the community, which are not voiced in other places.

The sentiment expressed on Around the North Shore thus far appears, almost unanimously, that the expenses in Newburyport, MA are already high enough, and there could be great resistance to any attempt to increase taxes or fees.

And what I am also hearing is a tremendous amount of resentment to those who might propose a raise in city taxes and fees.

This is not exactly a surprise. In fact, it’s pretty much by the book.

As the gentrification of Newburyport continues, the opposition to gentrification is not only inevitable, but understandable. It appears to be the process in almost every community that I know about, that is going through this kind of transition.

Raised taxes and fees means that less and less of the “less well to do” would be able to live in Newburyport, MA, and of course this would create a great deal of anxiety and conflict. How could it not?

I am quite sure that the “less well to do” would not “go gentle into that good night.” And I am sure that the leaders and politicians in Newburyport, MA are well aware of that reality.

Mary Eaton

Being An Activist, A lot of Work

I gotta say that I’m scratching my head here as I read the article on Buy Local by Stewart Stokes, in the Newburyport Current, February 22, 2008, “Buy Local lacks momentum.”

Say what?

Excuse me?

It sounds to me as if Mr. Stokes has never been an “activist.”

Let me tell you honey it’s hard work. It usually comes down to 1, or if you are lucky 2, or if you are really, really luck 3 (I mean really lucky) people doing all the work.

And the “work” involved in being an activist, is the equivalent of having a second, if not a third full-time job, on top of what anything else might be going on in life.

So good grief, give these people a break, and thank them for all the hard work that has gone into this endeavor, which would be on a volunteer basis, no less, on behalf of the citizens of Newburyport, Massachusetts.

If folks care about the efforts of what Buy Local has already accomplished, for goodness sakes, help them out and step up to the plate, already. And plan on the stepping up to the plate thing, being in the form of an extra full-time sort of occupation.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport Politics as a Contact Sport

Wow, the last comment on Newburyport City Councilor Ed Cameron’s blog would be quite something.

It is “Anonymous” and in my mind, a good example of why politics in Newburyport is referred to as a “contact sport,” and why this town has often been called “Cannibal City.”

A partial quote:

“I hope those who raise perhaps valid questions about the wisdom of building a senior center at Cushing Park will not be depicted as “anti-senior” or villified like some neighborhood school advocates were. And I hope councilors will not dismiss their concerns as simple resistance to change. Jim Roy raises some valid questions, which I hope are not dismissed in a cavalier fashion, especially by those elected by all citizens.”

It’s hard for me to imagine this Newburyport City Council as being the sort of folks who are going to be “dismissive,” “cavalier” or “vilify” their constituents.

And it takes a lot of courage for our local politicians to take a stand and advocate a position.

I could not possibly speak for Mr. Cameron, but reservations about a site for a Newburyport Senior Center, would hardly make any citizen “anti-senior.”

To say finding a consensus for a location for a Senior Center would be difficult, could be an understatement. And I applaud Mr. Cameron and Mayor John Moak for taking what definitely is for some, a very unpopular stand.

Mary Eaton,

Resistance to Paid Parking

I am very pleased to have a new blog by a long time resident.

The blog is:

One of the reasons that I am so please, is that there is now a voice on the Newburyport blogosphere that expresses what so many of the residents of Newburyport, MA would feel. And I think it would be very helpful for those in political office, in helping them to understand all of their constituents.

When the issue of “paid parking” came up, inwardly, I rolled my eyes. It may make fiscal sense, but if there is not the political will (and there certainly has been major opposition to the idea in the past), it could be a good idea for our local politicians, whether it would be the mayor or the Newburyport City Council, to take that viewpoint into consideration.

I remember when the issue of paid parking came up before. Someone from the community called me up and asked me what I thought. As I recall, my response was something like, “Honey, not in a million years are ‘they’ are going to go for that one. You can try, but dollars to donuts, it ain’t going to happen.”

It didn’t back then. And it would be my guess, that the concept of paid parking downtown, would have major opposition now, and my reply would be exactly the same.

However, as a “by the way,” the last time paid parking was addressed, the Newburyport Planning Office came up with an incredibly thoughtful and intelligent approach. And Geordie Vining of the Newburyport Planning Office, who could be involved in this present endeavor, to come up with a plan for paid parking, in my mind, is one of the people that I most trust in all of Newburyport, MA. We as a city, are incredibly lucky to have Geordie Vining, in the Newburyport Office of Planning and Development.

Mary Eaton, Newburyport

Newburyport According to X

There is a funky new blog called Newburyport According to X, by “Mr. X nbpt.”  Mr. X appears to be a no-nonsense, long time resident of Newburyport, Massachusetts. Very refreshing.

And “Mr. X nbpt” has a blog entry called Karp-etbaggers. Mr. X quotes the Wikipedia definition of carpetbagger: “Since 1900 the term has also been used to describe outsiders attempting to gain political office or economic advantage, especially in areas (thematically or geographically) to which they previously had no connection.”

Take a gander.

Mary Eaton, Newburyport

Time, Trust, Comfort and the Established Every Day

Tom Salemi on his blog, Newburyport Posts asks a very important question, and a question I think that many people ask themselves as well. And that is, since a Senior Center is going to cost the city of Newburyport, MA money, why not save that money, and have the much needed services scattered around the city in various places.

And let’s face it. That’s a very good question, one that I’ve been giving a lot of thought to.

And there are still a few families in Newburyport, MA that are lucky enough, that Mom and/or Dad have sons, daughter, sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, who either still could afford to live in town, or at least would be able to live nearby. But even families who have grown up in Newburyport, MA find themselves in the “modern” world, where loved ones have jobs and lives that are not so close to home.

And many of us who have moved to Newburyport, MA, since urban renewal took place in the 1970’s really do not have family members who live in the area at all. And this poses a dilemma.

And what I have noticed is that loneliness is one of the biggest culprits. Sitting in a small 2 room apartment, day after day, with only the television, maybe, to keep one company, would be soul numbing, to say the least. And this is what many of our senior population are faced with. Maybe that’s something that’s not a lot of fun to think about, but it is true.

And the other thing that I’ve noticed, is that when there is something physically or emotionally that is not right, it is very difficult, even more so as one gets older, to say in an instant, or even an hour, what exactly what that “might not be right” could be. It often takes days with someone trusted, to figure out, not only the general problem, but the nuances of the situation.

If there is a place to go, a trusted place, and one would go on a regular basis, there is “time.” Time to talk through what seems to be happening. Time for folks who are familiar with each other, to notice what is happening. Time to think through solutions to a problem that makes some sort of sense.

In short, a Senior Center would be a meeting location, that could often take the place of “family,” that in this day and age is often scattered and sometimes fractured, and simply, in reality, often not there, to provide very basic interactions, that were once a part of everyday life.

Mary Eaton, Newburyport

Senior Center, Newburyport , MA

The frogs are concerned. There has been a family “call for” and they are afraid that I would not get around to blogging the Newburyport Blog. Well, obviously they are wrong. It’s very sweet of them.

(Although the more I think about it, not to be a cynic here, I hope it’s not because they want to make sure that they would continue to make an appearance on the World Wide Web.)


George expressing his concern to moi 

I checked in on Ed Cameron’s Blog, and was delighted that he addressed the issue of the Senior Center. Well articulated, and in a calm and sensible manner, no less. A definite must read.

I appreciate all his thoughts, including Mr. Cameron’s thoughts on the proposed location of Cushing Park, and who exactly is going to use the Senior Center, and the number of folks that  there might be.

Good for Ed Cameron.

The frogs although not seniors (far from it), are quite pleased by Mr. Cameron’s, what they feel is good go’n chutzpah.

Mary Eaton, Newburyport

Online Writing, Maybe Not So Carefree

One of the things that I am struck by when I read Tom Salemi’s Blog, Newburyport Posts and even a very new blog, South End Blend, is that because these folks have taken the time to show up and voice an opinion or viewpoint, the blogs, for me, take on a certain authority. And I imagine that neither Tom of Newburyport Posts, or Rob and Mary of South End Blend had this in mind.

And I find this paralyzing. Because, if these folks online viewpoint carries, at least for me, some authority, that means that maybe the Newburyport Blog could too.

And it may not be enough just to write something and send it out blithely out into cyberspace, out into the universe, as I have always imagined. Maybe some of my critics could be correct. There maybe nothing casual about an online word or image. Writing, something, anything online, could carry with it some responsibility.

Good grief. Even casual comments about crabgrass seem to elicit a response.

I think I have gradually come to this realization and find it really depressing. Before it used to feel like being in a leaf pile and throwing leaves up into the sky. A joyous and carefree endeavor. It doesn’t feel so carefree anymore.

Mary Eaton

Bobo is Me

A friend of mine recommended that I read “Bobos in Paradise,” the best seller published in 2000 by David Brooks, a “must read” book that I never read.

I started out reading “Bobos in Paradise” with the assumption that it would be a description and an indictment of what has happened to Newburyport, MA. Instead I found many descriptions of myself. And found myself nodding in agreement.

This is a quote from page 264:

“They (Bobos) will talk about preserving local character, fighting sprawl, combating unregulated growth, and enhancing “livability” and “quality of life.”

C’est moi.

“Bobos spend more time restoring lost treasures, renovating old structures, or preserving old buildings than they do creating new and experimental institutions. Every third Bob automobile seems to have a bumper sticker on it that implores, “Save the_.”

C’est moi (try “Save High Street” or “Save Our Town”).

“Bobos are saving old theaters, old neighborhoods, old factories and warehouses, or even historically significant diners.”

C’est moi.

“When they do allow new building, these mostly affluent activists will insist that the new construction adhere to the patterns of the past.”

Aside from the “affluent” part, yup, that’s me.

And maybe (I’m still thinking this over), that is why I am skeptical of New England Development and Mr. Karp (who we all know now is arriving here Thursday, March 13th to address the citizens of Newburyport, MA).

I am concerned, along with lots of other folks, about the “new buildings” that Mr. Karp would eventually erect on Newburyport’s Waterfront.

Would they be in keeping with the beauty, historic nature and intrinsic value of Newburyport, MA? Or would they bring a whole different dichotomy to Newburyport than what so many of us cherish about our small, New England coastal city.

Mary Eaton

Guest Blogger on the Newburyport Blog

(Editor’s Note: I haven’t had a guest blogger on the Newburyport Blog for quite a long time. And I’ve been thinking about it. What I’ve decided is to do is to have guest bloggers, by invitation only. Frank Schaeffer is the Newburyport Blog’s first invited guest blogger.)

Why I am Pro-Obama

I am an Obama supporter, because the society that Obama is calling us to sacrifice for, is a place where life would be valued, not just talked about. And as he said in his speech delivered on February 6 in New Orleans, “Too often, we lose our sense of common destiny; that understanding that we are all tied together; that when a woman has less than nothing in this country, that makes us all poorer.” Obama was talking about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but his words also apply to our overall view of ourselves.

And When I listen to Obama speak (and to his remarkable wife, Michelle) what I hear is an understanding of a world that nurtures life. Obama is trying to lead this country to a place where the worth of each individual is celebrated. A leader who believes in hope, the future, trying to save our planet and providing a just and good life for everyone, is a person who is for life.

After 9/11, Bush told most Americans to go shopping, while saddling the few who volunteered for military service with endless tours of duty (this is something that I understand, since my son was a Marine, and deployed several times).

As a nation we need to stop seeing ourselves as consumers. We need to stop seeing ourselves as me and begin to think of us as we. Our country needs someone to show us a better way, a president who is what he seems, someone with actual moral values, that our diverse population could believe in, who has the qualities that make us want to follow him. For me, Barack Obama is that person.

Frank Schaeffer © 2008

(Frank Schaeffer is a New York Times best selling author. He is a frequent blogger on the Huffington Post where you can read a more detailed version of this entry. His latest book Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back, is an insiders look into what the Religious Right is all about. Frank has often been mentioned on the Newburyport Blog.)

Fear and Blogging

I’ve talked about this on the Newburyport Blog before, but 2 years ago, when I started the Newburyport Blog, I also started a national blog.

I would watch the IP numbers (an IP number is the number of a particular computer) and an IP number of a company used by Homeland Security would come and visit the national blog on a regular basis.

Even now, when certain words are used on the Newburyport Blog, I get a visit form the Department of Justice. And when I check to see why they’ve come to visit my small, local blog, I can understand why the key word or words sent up a flag. But still, it is unnerving. And being checked out by Homeland Security and the Department of Justice is pretty scary for me.

I said this in an earlier post as well, I am relieved in this presidential primary that not only the candidates, but also people in general feel much more free to speak out. And if they do speak out, they would not be labeled “unpatriotic.”

And I was also relieved to see PBS really speak out in a program called Cheney’s Law. A must read and a must see.

And one of the things I like about Barack Obama, is when the Senate voted on the Iraq war, Senator Obama voted “no.” He was not intimidated back then, so I don’t imagine he would be intimidated by much now.

And I remember watching both Senators Hillary Clinton and John Kerry vote for the Iraq war, but with many reservations. And as I remember, back then, it was scary times, and the administration would raise the “alert” status, it always seemed to me to manipulate the American people (although I’m sure that is not completely true) through fear. And the Democrats at that time were in a very difficult position. If they voted against the war in Iraq, they ran the danger of appearing “unpatriotic.”

So I am glad that the civil discourse seems to be no longer be log-jammed. And that is probably what pleases me most about this national primary season. That a free exchange of ideas and issues could once again take place without trepidation.

Mary Eaton

An Unlikely Local Obama Enthusiast, Across the Merrimac River

My friend, literally across the Merrimac River from Newburyport, MA, Frank Schaeffer, turns out to be a wild Barack Obama fan.

Small, tiny bit of history here. Frank Schaeffer taught me how to be a political activist. No kidding. I never would have known how to go about fighting MassHighway to save High Street without him. Plus he and his wife Genie go back almost 35 years with moi. Good grief.

Frank started out, as a friend of mine would say, “Right of Attila the Hun.” Something he readily admits to in many of his books, including the last one.

The Frank of, let’s say 30 years ago, would probably have been a Mike Huckabee fan.

With a son in Iraq, Frank morphed into a John McCain kind of Republican. And all of this can be read in Frank’s books as well.

Well good grief, it turns out that Frank Schaeffer, once “Right of Attila the Hun,” has now become an fervent Barack Obama enthusiast. And this is an understatement.

When Frank talks to me passionately about Obama, instead of saying, “Yo there honey, remember you, the right wing conservative.” I’m saying, “Alright toots, bring it on. Keep it coming.”

Frank has taken, among other things, to blogging on The Huffington Post on why he’s an Obama aficionado. (He’s also figured out that if he emails Letters to the Editor at 3 in the morning to the New York Times, sometimes they will actually print them.) Am I loving this or what.

My long time friend, fellow artist and neighbor across the Merrimac River, is not only voting for, but actually working hard for a Democrat. All I can say, if Frank Schaeffer has done a 180, this Obama guy has to be quite something.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport Blogger Watches Fox News and Karl Rove

Where has this Newburyport blogger been? Well, among other things this Newburyport blogger has been glued to the national primaries, political junkie that she is.

And, although I hate to admit it, Liberal Democrat that I am, I’ve been getting my political fix, in part, from yes, Fox News.


But they’ve been balanced. I’ve been shocked. And much more coherent than CNN, which has me crossing my eyes, trying to figure out their various paraphernalia.

That was until last night.

Last night Fox News had Karl Rove on as their political analysis.

I’m sitting there going, Karl Rove? The Karl Rove? Excuse me. (Jon Stewart later that night on “A Daily Show” was “Say what?” too. I’m sure that it’s by no means just moi who had the “Say what?” reaction.)

I flipped channels immediately. But I couldn’t help myself. Good grief, there was Karl Rove.

He was asked very matter of factly to give his political advice and strategy on behalf of the various Republican candidates. He managed to keep a straight face through that entire shtick.

And then he was asked very calmly to give his political advice and strategy for the Democratic candidates.

When it came to Obama he pretty much seemed to be able to keep a straight face. But when it came to Mrs. Clinton, I swear there was a subtle body language twist, and it seemed to me that the lip curled ever so slightly, and there was a struggle to keep it from curling all the way.

Karl Rove. Who knew? Apparently a number of people. But not moi.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport Political Junkie and the National Primary

Being a political junkie, I’ve been following the National Primary very, very closely.

Ok, I am thrilled that Barack Obama won in Newburyport, MA. I’m a huge fan. Have been from the moment I heard him open his mouth at the Democratic Convention in 2004, giving the keynote address (you can watch it on YouTube). He seemed to me to be the next Democratic rising star. And as of Super Tuesday, he’s still with us, and I hope surging.

And as for Mitt Romney. Bleh. Even though he won in Massachusetts, well, I’m glad he’s struggling. His, what I consider, really lousy Massachusetts, state health care plan, that creates havoc for the middle class, sticks in my craw, let me tell you.

Plus the flip-flop thing on the social issues. Excuse me. I’m sorry the rest of Massachusetts, but what are you thinking. Come on.

And although I don’t agree with Senator McCain on tons of stuff, like the Iraq war, at least, to me he appears to have integrity. He’s going to show up and tell people, not what they want to hear, but what he thinks would be true (like in Michigan, where they apparently didn’t agree, he lost).

And as for Mrs. Clinton. Ok, I desperately want a Democrat in the White House (plus my father is a huge fan, we are a divided family on this one).

And for the first time in a long, long time, the national political landscape is enjoyable. I love this. And it appears that the candidates have broken away from the present resident of the White House. And as a nation we finally are able to speak out. And I love Tony Auth’s political cartoon of February 6, 2008. Amen.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport Goes to Obama and Romney

If you are looking for local Super Tuesday election results for Newburyport, the Newburyport Daily News has done a great job.

According to the Newburyport Daily News, February 6, 2008, reported by Stephen Tait and Angeljean Chiaramida, 55% of the registered voters went to the polls (this is not bad at all). Barack Obama getting 2,339 to Hillary Clinton’s to 2,311 votes.

The Newburyport Daily News has also done a really good job having a city by city, town by town map of Northeastern Massachusetts, which I very much appreciate.

And for the Republicans, according to the Newburyport Daily News, Romney gets 1062 to McCain’s 878. And Ron Paul gets 75 to Mike Huckabee’s 55.

There is also a more basic, less snazzy version of the voting breakdown on the Newburyport Daily News website.

Good job.

Mary Eaton