Monthly Archives: June 2008

Vote on the Senior Center

In my mind the stupidest vote by a Newburyport City Council came during the Lavender Administration concerning the parking garage downtown.

At that time there was a piece of property, right off Route 1, on Merrimac Street, right behind the police station on Green Street, called “Lombardi Oil.” The owner of the Lombardi Oil property offered the land to the city for “a song” (especially in 20/20, a real loud song).

There was 5 million dollars good to go from the State of Massachusetts to start the ball rolling. And the Newburyport Planning Office had come up with an amazing (what we now call “Smart Growth”) flexible plan, that included a very attractive street view. This was no ugly parking garage plan, believe you me. It was a complete “win,” not even a “win/win” situation. And the Newburyport City Council at that time, turned it down, I believe, by one vote.

As I remember it, the rational for some of those pivotal votes, was that the money should be used for a spanking new elementary school. That’s what the emphasis should be. And in 20/20 in 2006 and 2007 we know what a lousy visionary approach that turned out to be.

In December 2006, the community at large ranted against what then Newburyport City Councilor Audrey McCarthy referred to as the “Taj Mahal” approach to our elementary school building needs, as opposed to funding much needed basic education.

What was lost, way back there in the last part of the 20th Century, was a crucial moment that could have helped empower the downtown Newburyport economy. Yes, yikes.

And I’m wondering, if a similar lapse in judgment and vision is about to happen on the Newburyport City Council floor in regards to a vote for the location for the Newburyport Senior Center.

It looks like a vote for a Senior Center site at Cushing Park may go down the tubes. (Anyone reading the Newburyport Blog in the year 2008, knows how strongly I feel about having a Senior Center.)

And I am wondering whether in 5 years, whether we could look back, the same way we look back at the vote on the downtown parking garage, and think, “What folly.”

Tourist Season

Friday afternoon I drive downtown. None of the usual places to park. Park off in sort of far away “la-la” land. I get to where I’m going late. The comment, with no prodding from me, “No place to park, tourist season.”

Yup, tourist season. The week before the Fourth of July. They are here like locusts.

They are easily spotted. Speak foreign language, often. Sort of cool. Come in clumps, often multigenerational. That’s fine. Baby carriages and looking lost, often the case. Older couples comfortable with each other, walking slowly, those are often my favorite.

Ok, at first I always seem to be overwhelmed by tourist season, and readily admit that am relieved when it lets up after Yankee Homecoming the first week in August, and then things get back to “normal” after Labor Day.

My attitude, like so many Newburyporters, is “I just want my city back.”

But Newburyport needs tourists. We need tourists for our local economy to thrive, so part of me says, “Whew, they are coming this year again, I hope they enjoy and, buy, buy, buy,” in our lovely and historic, seacoast New England city.

And, in my mind, the beauty and historic qualities of Newburyport are why so many tourists come. I would.

And the Newburyport Preservation Trust seems to agree. They are working with the Newburyport Chamber of Commerce to assess just how much historic preservation brings to our beautiful town economically speaking. I’d really and truly bet the ranch, that they would find out from the “assessment” that they would be doing together, that historic preservation is the root of our economic tourist attractiveness.

Newburyport From Another Perspective

A while ago a got an email from a gentleman called Shawn Gearin who has started a site called

According to my email from Mr. Gearin, the site “covers the Newburyport experience from a blue collar perspective from 1950-1990.” In my mind, this would be welcomed perspective on Newburyport, MA on the World Wide Web.

Mr. Gearin’s desire is “to connect with people who remember Newburyport as she was during reconstruction, but prior to the current inflated home prices.”

The site is a work in progress and I hope Mr. Gearin preservers. We need more insight from people who know the history of Newburyport, and who have seen it change, evolve, whatever you would like to call it, over the years.

So far, my favorite part of the site is the marvelous photo album which is at the top right hand side of the site. You can either have a slide presentation, or see the photo album in its entirety. There are so many historic photographs that I have never seen, including one of the clam shacks, which I think is my favorite. So please, treat yourself and go take a look.

I am hoping that this would develop into another “treasure trove” of insight and information for those who love Newburyport, MA.

SEED, and Newburyport’s Local Environment

I’ve watched the emergence of Newburyport’s Seacoast Energy & Environmental Design Coalition, (SEED) with great interest.

SEED has, wittingly or not wittingly, been very politically savvy. It also helps that the timing is “on the money.” It is finally politically correct to be “green.” And it doesn’t hurt either that our very own Al Gore shared the Nobel Peace Prize for building awareness about man made climate change. And even President Bush’s awareness on the “green” issue is sort of evolving.

While Al Decie and all the folks who worked with him in CEB (see previous posts), was ahead of his (and their ) time. And folks like David Hall was ahead of his time. The SEED folks have hit the timing just right (and as a btw, it appears that folks like David Hall [see many previous posts] are extremely pleased, as well as now being involved in the organization).

The organization also took an inclusive, pro-business, pro-Newburyport Chamber, non-adversarial, non-political approach, and it’s worked really, really well.

It is not an “Us vs Them” approach, the way so many of the activist groups in Newburyport have navigated for so many years. This new dichotomy appears to possibly be a new model for getting things done. It seems to be possible, in part, because of the new folks that have moved into town. But it is also embraced by new folks and folks who have been around for “a while.”

And basically, the cement, which is great activist cement, is that being “green” is economically good for everyone. And one of the things that I’ve learned as an activist, is that it’s much more effective to get things done, when the majority of folks are united, rather than at each other’s throats.

So although SEED is in so many ways non-political, and I don’t see anything on their website about this, and I can’t find (I could keep looking) anything on the web, it would be great if SEED could help Newburyport, MA out, by being very proactive in regards to the Newburyport Landfill. It would certainly tie in with their goal of protecting the environment. And I don’t know of anyone in Newburyport, MA who does not want to see the Landfill capped as soon as possible. So it would tie in with their approach of a unifying theme.

Al Decie, Newburyport Green

I miss Al Decie. And weirdly, or maybe not weirdly, there are a lot of people who would go “Al Decie, who?”

Al Decie, who left Newburyport not long ago, with very little fanfare, was in my opinion, one of the people who helped make Newburyport the desirable place that it is today.

Al Decie founded Citizens for Environmental Balance (CEB), way before it was fashionable (in fact one could possibly say that it was downright unfashionable) to be “green.” And one of Mr. Decie’s passions was the Newburyport Landfill. God Bless him.

I found an old post on Al Decie and CEB, on the Newburyport Blog, written by a CEB member here.

CEB and Mr. Decie had a wonderful website chock full of unbelievable information, including original documents, including the original “Host Agreement” for the Newburyport Landfill, that’s gotten us, as some believe, in so much trouble. And when Mr. Decie left, the site went down, and alas, all that great information went with it.

But, “A Ha.” Low and behold, I’ve come across a site that has the same (as well as updated documents) on the “Landfill Capping,” “The Common Pasture,” and the “Vernal Pools.” To see the site Little River, press here. In fact it has a very detailed chronology of the whole mess (with a disclaimer) dated 5/1/08 here (PDF Version).

I don’t know who has resurrected the site (I have my suspicions). And if you really want to get the history of “Newburyport Green,” visit,

Landfill and Suffolk Superior Court

Relief for this blogger about the decision yesterday by the judge at the Suffolk Superior Court in Boston, to include Newburyport, MA in the negotiations for the Landfill, along with the DEP, the State Attorney General and the owner of the Crow Lane Landfill, New Ventures.

Well, whew.

Yes, it may cost more money in legal fees, but, in my mind, that would be money very wisely spent.

The worse thing would be for the City of Newburyport not to be included in the negotiations. Good grief.

So I’m proud of the Newburyport City Council for voting unanimously against the latest, in my mind, unacceptable proposal by the owner of the Landfill.

And I realize that legal bills make our mayor nervous (yes, legal bill are expensive and no fun), but taking the long view, it would be much more expensive for the people of Newburyport, MA to have accepted the most recent legal proposal by New Ventures (bringing in a lot more stuff, a whole lot more stuff to the landfill) and not push for the darn thing to be capped ASAP.

Kay Lazar on the Newburyport Landfill

Kay Lazar has written an awesome piece in today’s Boston Globe North on the Newburyport Landfill, its owner and the relationship to Everett, MA. The article is a must read, so press here to read it.

Kay Lazar is a first rate reporter, and when I called her last week, she said it was her last day as a reporter at Globe North, and that she is being moved to another beat on the Boston Globe.

One of the joys of doing the Newburyport Blog has been getting to know various editors and reporters at different newspapers and publications. And I first got to know Kay Lazar when she did a front page article, September 17, 2006, on blogs on the North Shore and she included the Newburyport Blog.

A friend of mine had told me to be very careful of reporters, that unless I said, “We are off the record, you agree,” and they did agree, I was on the record, you betcha, and anything I said could be used.

Not having known this, and having been quoted in not too flattering ways in various civic endeavors that had been reported on, I was mighty wary of reporters, you better believe it.

And when Kate Lazar showed up to interview me, I was mighty, mighty on my guard. But Kate could not have been more professional or kind. And after that article was published, and I realized that she could be trusted, I’d like to say that we became friends.

So I will miss Kate Lazar, and her trusted reporting on Newburyport, MA and the North Shore. And wish her all the luck in the world on her new beat. Can’t wait to see what she is going to do.

Pulling a New Yorker in Newburyport MA

Pulling a “New Yorker” in Newburyport, MA.

Good grief it is good to see The Newburyport Blog up and running correctly again. Whew!

(Please press here to go back to the main page of the Newburyport Blog if you are not on the main page already.)

After 2 weeks of being told by the hosting company that the blog was going to be just fine shortly–Nada, Zip, same old frustrating technical difficulties.

Oy veh. What to do?

Switch hosting companies, or summon the energy to throw a “New Yorker.”

(For those of you who have been reading the Newburyport Blog for a while now, back in November 2007 I wrote a post called Political Rules of Accomplishment that explains what a “New Yorker” might be. I was going to call the post “Rules of Engagement,” but then I realized that there was a TV sitcom by that name, so that title was out.)

I’ve been with this particular hosting company since the birth of my website, and I’m a sentimental sap when it comes to switching. So I summon up lots of energy and write one off the wall, angry, boy am I going to make your life miserable, message. And felt very sorry for the poor, probably underpaid techie who got the darn thing.

But, for the moment, throwing that darn “New Yorker” worked (I think, I hope). And I wrote the techie who made it happen a nice “thank you so much” note.

And as a PS. When the blog was completely down and I was at my wits end, I contacted some folks here in Newburyport called iMarc and got an email back right away saying they would be more than happy to help me and the Newburyport Blog.

I figured out the “why the Newburyport Blog wasn’t coming up at all stuff” in the end all by myself, and ended up not needing their help (yet). However, their thoughtfulness was a ray of sunshine in a dark, frustrating, technical difficulty day.

iMarc is a very successful small web firm located on Inn Street in Newburyport, MA. At one point after I discovered them on the web, I went over just to say “hello.” And I continue to be mucho impressed by these young, smart Newburyport entrepreneurs.

Newburyport Calm

With the exception of the ongoing Landfill fiasco (The Landfill owner threatening Newburyport with legal action if more “stuff,” a lot more stuff, would not be allowed to be brought in, thereby stretching the actual capping of the darn thing, and relief for the good people of Newburyport, MA, into who knows whenever. The Newburyport City Council voted unanimously, “no way,” but left the door open in an attempt to settle the retched, yes, pun intended, thing..) all appears to be pretty Ok on the Western or Eastern or Newburyport front.

It’s not July 4th yet, the tourists haven’t arrived in droves. School has just gotten out. The weather has been pretty Ok. It’s nice walking around town. The place is gorgeous. The new Newburyport City Council appears to be settling in, and the second term of Mayor John Moak is moving along (as far as I know), and Jim Roy is starting his own publication, to be out, according to his Letter to the Editor, at the end of this month–something to look forward to–colorful and entertaining political commentary. My.

And I am enthralled by national politics.

Yes, Hillary Clinton, as predicted by a tiny, tiny tidbit of political punditry, is looking as if she would support Barack Obama with class. (Yes, Newburyport voted for Barack Obama) So, whew. I figured the Democrats would get their act together, to try and win this thing.

If my Dad was around, he would love, love, love the “I told you so” stuff that is now coming, pouring out about the present administration in the White House. He knew it all along.

And I am really, really looking forward to seeing how this very, in my view, astute Democratic politician, candidate would go about going about and doing stuff. And I will be fascinated to see how Mr. McCain would fair.

After terror and then a desert of ineptitude, national politics looks like it could be fun again. Loving this.

A Robin’s Nest

While I was gone for a few days in the Spring, a pair of Robins built a nest in the tree right next to my front door.

In fact I could see the nest from the top step of my dwelling.


Robin’s nest

I couldn’t figure out why, for a couple of days, I had some wildly angry Robins in a big maple tree right outside my house. I’d look out the window and it seemed as if they were “Robin heckling” me. And then I realized, they were pissed… I kept going right by their nest all the time. For goodness sakes, the audacity of moi.

But the location probably looked like a wonderful place for any sort of nest, if there just weren’t humans nearby. And when they built it, I guess they had not “cased the joint” very well, because humans, I guess, for a short time, were in short supply.

The Robins stuck it out for a while. After I would go inside, I’d peek out the window at the nest, and a Robin would be sitting, really, really camouflaged, on top of the eggs, blending in completely with the tree.

I was please. Perhaps the Robins and I had come to an understanding. I would not think of harming them, and they could go about their business of raising a Robin family.

But, alas, it was not so. After a day or two, the Robins gave up and abandoned the nest, and the unhatched eggs, and disappeared. But they’ve reappeared in my backyard lately, and I figure they have found a better place to build a more discrete nesting habitat.

And I think, if only they had done a little more Robin research, in deciding about their first nesting location, instead of jumping to the immediate conclusion that all was A-Ok, no humans in sight. There would be no abandoned eggs.

Or, if I only knew how to speak “Robin,” I could have assured them, that I would have most graciously welcomed them, and that I would have been more than delighted to watch a Robin family blossom right outside my abode.

A-Frame Signs Downtown Newburyport

A-frame signs downtown Newburyport.

When one of my Newburyport City Councilors mentioned that was a major agenda item, my first response was, “Well, if that’s all we have to worry about, things can’t be too bad.”

But then I read the article in the Newburyport Daily News. And yes, A-frame signs could make or break a business. And well, things would be very bad for that business indeed.

If you have an off State Street business or an upstairs State Street business (for those readers who do not live in Newburyport, MA, State Street is the main street going through downtown Newburyport) then yes, an A-frame sign would be a “must have.”

The Tannery has a very classy way of listing all the stores that live there. But, I got to say, I rarely if ever read it. Maybe, possibly, an occasional glance.

I like A-frame signs. They seem to be almost always for local businesses. And they, for me, give a homey and inviting feel to downtown Newburyport, MA. A statement against “high end homogenization.” And quite frankly I often forget that our local tea shop or a yummy chocolate shop is there, and the signs are a reminder. Don’t forget, a little something to make your day just a little nicer.

Landfill and Everett

On the Landfill, one of the things that I have never seen happen, is that, as far as I know, and as far as I can imagine, I could not imagine that any of our local politicians, Mayor John Moak or any person on the Newburyport City Council ever taking a campaign contribution from the owners of the Landfill.

From what I remember, that could not be the case in other towns.

And eons and eons ago I talked to one of the editors of The Everett Mirror and said that I would let the readers of the Newburyport Blog know of the existence of their blog and the ongoing “relationship” that Everett has with our very same Landfill owner, and the “unfortunate” situation that they would also be in.

And recently Gillian Swart over at Port Reporter Unlimited in one of her post on the Landfill alerts readers to another blog, The Doughboy Chronicals and their account of the very same folks.

Newburyport is not alone.

Landfill Craziness

I was talking to one of my fellow local bloggers a few days ago about why the Mayor of Newburyport, MA and the Newburyport City Council would not just say an immediate and resounding “No” to the Landfill owner’s new, very invasive request–shipping in lots and lots of more stuff, and NOT capping the retched thing NOW, and leaving the good folks of Newburyport, MA alone, and doing the whole thing right. Good grief.

I told my fellow local blogger that I would “bet the ranch” that the mayor and every Newburyport City Councilor understands the crazy and agonizing stuff that people have gone through for years (one only has to have one whiff of noxious odor to get the message real quick). But that my guess would be that the owner of the Landfill would have come up with some sort of legal “Gordian knot” to further complicated an untenable situation, and continued to make it really, really hard for the City of Newburyport, MA to get rid of the fellow.

And, yes, it appears that is what it would boil down to.

And, the reality is, which I’m pretty sure every politician and former politician and civil servant and former civil servant in Newburyport, MA would know, is that it wouldn’t take much to cap the damn thing and to leave us all alone.

A reality show nightmare that just appears to keep on “giving.”

Missing in Action

I’ve been missing in blogosphere action for a while. A sad amount of posts for the month of May.

But, personal stuff, due to the death of my Dad (along with lots and lots of technical difficulties, like the blog not even showing up at all, good grief, see previous post) has kept me off my blogger feed. We’ll just see how things go. And I appreciate the calls and emails checking in to see if everything is/was Ok. Thank you. That was very kind.

And, I’ve also been fascinated by what has been happening on the national political scene. A Democratic candidate, finally. Whew.

I love national politics. (It’s one of the things I miss talking with my Dad about. I have so many questions I’d like to run by him.) Part of the reason I started a local Newburyport blog, back in January 2006, was that I was so discouraged about what was happening on the national stage. (And there were lots of other reasons too.)

But now I am interested, really, really interested again. And I’m looking forward to how the whole thing will unfold.

And there are lots of things to say since I’ve been gone from the blogosphere. But the thing that most readily comes to mind, is that I miss Jim Roy’s column in the Newburyport Current. I hardly glance at the Newburyport Current now, it just seems so lifeless without his voice (which I didn’t necessarily agree with all the time, but I sure did enjoy reading it). Bring back Jim Roy, blustery fellow that he is. I know that I’m not the only one that misses him. (Editor’s Note: Blogger minds think alike! Tom Salemi over at the Newburyport Posts, just said the same thing! Love when that happens.)

The Newburyport Blog, Technical Difficulties

(Editor’s Note: The Newburyport Blog is no longer having technical difficulties. Please press here to go back to the main page of the Newburyport Blog if you are not there already. Thank you so much for your patience.)

One of the things that I’ve been reading in the local blogosphere is why don’t I have “comments” and why do I have a “Testimonial Page.”

Well, it’s a long story, and maybe the one good thing about the “technical difficulties” that the Newburyport Blog has been experiencing (because, of the server, and it’s worldwide, and it’s going to take a couple of weeks to fix, maybe, and that’s why the last pages are now showing up first on the Newburyport Blog) is that if folks are really curious as to why there are no “comments” and there is a “Testimonial Page,” the story of how that all came about, can be found on the beginning of Newburyport Blog (which is the “Home Page,” for the moment, because of technical difficulties–can you tell I’m pissed, because I am really pissed) and through the first 10 months of the Newburyport Blog’s history.

There is no longer the quaint “guidelines for posting” or the “Newburyport Political Blog Overview and Information” page (although there sure is the “Disclaimer” page). And the goal of giving “people, besides myself, a forum for expressing their feelings on different subjects” concerning Newburyport, backfired big time (all of how that happened is told on the blog itself). And, yes, the Newburyport Blog has evolved into mainly my own voice and my own entries, with the very, very occasional “guest blogger.”

And in the beginning, folks thought I was nuts to have a blog, most people had never heard of blogs. But now we have lots and lots and lots of local blogs, on a whole lot of subjects, from a variety of different points of view. So, the Newburyport Blog is no longer the anomaly it once was, and has lots of company in the local blogosphere.

Mary Eaton
(And maybe, I no longer need to sign my name, because I no longer have lots and lots of folks posting. But I’ve been doing it for so long that it’s become sort a comforting habit. The posts could seem naked without it. No one has questioned that one, that I know of, in the local blogosphere. I’ll mull it over.)