Monthly Archives: June 2009

Newburyport is not Pleasantville

If anyone thinks that Newburyport, MA has gradually turned into a bland and happy version of Pleasantville, they are most decidedly wrong.

One of the things that I detect in the upcoming Newburyport 2009 election is still a strong and virulent backlash against the “Yes for Newburyport” campaign in the spring of 2007.

Dan Sweeney, aka “Pedro” of the Around the North Shore who has taken out papers for mayor of Newburyport, MA is probably the most “to the point,” vocal candidate so far, that would give voice to this point of view. “Pedro” has had a great deal to say on the matter, all of which is public record on Around the North Shore, and all of which I imagine he still stands by, otherwise Mr. Sweeney would not be running for mayor of Newburyport, Massachusetts.

But in taking a gander at some of the various folks who have taken out papers to run for Newburyport City Council, there is a strong undercurrent of sentiment aligned with Dan Sweeney’s, although I imagine when it comes down to it, the tone could be more nuanced. In checking out the story on Clete Kijek (see earlier entry), who is running against Ed Cameron in the Ward 4 race, the date on the story about his giant truck urging people to vote on the override is May 16, 2007. It is stated that Mr. Kijek is a member of the anti-override group Know Newburyport.

So one of the spoken or unspoken issues of the local Newburyport 2009 race would be whether or not our local taxes would be raised, especially for the young children in our Newburyport school system. And my guess would also be that another undercurrent would be that old feisty Newburyport spirit–”Newcomers,” however that may be defined, aren’t going to take over our town, no way, no how.

The candidates that embody this point of view might not win, but it would be my guess that they would like to make sure that folks in Newburyport, MA know that they are still very much part of the picture.

Newburyport–Go Along to Get Along

The “go along to a get along” thing, I’ve never been good at it. In fact, I suck at it, so much so that it seems sometimes to me to be deep within my genes. It is both oddly one of my major character defects and one of my major strengths.

To succeed in corporate America, “go along to get along” helps a great deal. As an artist, or an activist, not so much.

My father always tried to encourage the “go along” approach in life, economically, socially, on all sorts of levels, it helps immensely. But if I try the “go along to get along” thing for any length of time, it makes me itch.

And it’s one of the reasons I miss Tom Ryan and the Undertoad in Newburyport, MA. If ever there was someone who refused to do the “go along to get along” approach, it was Mr. Ryan.

Now in Newburyport, MA there are a blanket of blogs out there with a “go along to get along” approach. They are probably very smart. It makes me itch.

I was once asked by a local politician to be the blog voice that supported Newburyport/New England Development, to be a part of something really big. To “go along to get along” with the largest owners of downtown Newburyport and the folks that work so closely with them.

I declined, knowing that I probably would break out in a rash, it would be going so much against the grain of my innate nature.

It seemed to me that as a blogger it would be good for me to have a skeptical nature about our largest downtown landowner and the folks that work so closely with him. I doubted that whatever my input might be, the powers with millions of dollars probably had a pretty good idea already of what they felt would be the most expedient use of their resources to develop the property in question–I would most likely not change or mold anyone’s mind.

So in the political landscape that is shaping up for the 2009 local Newburyport election, I may wonder closely about any candidate that contemplates whether they might have the power of persuasion over the multi-million dollar project that will one day take place on the most expensive land in Newburyport, MA, along the mouth of the Merrimac River. Or think that they might be the person that is able to really “go along to get along” and bring all the powers that be, with all the inevitable conflicts of interest, to the table and shape the Newburyport to come. The fascinating and fractious history and spirit of our small New England city is witness to the difficulty of ever achieving this most ambitious point of view.

Newburyport and Why?

I always used to drive my mother nuts by asking “Why?” “Why was ‘Aunt Hilda’ taking a ‘vacation’ by herself for X amount of weeks or months?”

It wasn’t enough to know that the event was happening, I wanted to know the reason behind it, because “Aunt Hilda” never did stuff like that. Was it because of marital problems, illness, midlife crisis? Why? I was never told why in these situations, but I would not have felt judgmental, it just would have explained a puzzling reality, and the world would seem to make more sense (if that ever would be a possibility).

I have a lot of local political questions. It’s not a judgmental thing, it’s a “this isn’t making sense to me” thing.

Why is James Shanley running for mayor of Newburyport, MA when Donna Holaday, a very capable candidate with almost an exact platform, with a lot of name recognition, is also running, and has always made it known that this is something that she would always do. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have James Shanley with his experience and institutional memory to be a major part of the Newburyport City Council next year and work constructively with Donna Holaday?

Why are there 4 people at the moment running for Newburyport City Councilor in Ward 3, James Shanley’s Ward? Not that I’m not for civic enthusiasm, I am, and not that I don’t think it will make it a more interesting race, it will, and I like interesting races.

Who is Clete Kijek (actually that one wasn’t so hard to find out, I remember him most vividly from this story in the Newburyport Daily News) and why is he running against Ed Cameron in Ward 4.. there has to be a story there.

Why did Mayor John Moak really step down, when he seemed pretty enthusiastic about running for mayor of Newburyport, MA for a 3rd term in January of 2009.

And what is happening to “institutional memory,” in Newburyport, MA, it seems to be vanishing. I rarely see it in our newspapers, one of the reasons being it’s hard to keep local reporters, and it’s getting hard to keep any newspaper afloat, and I don’t see it much in our local blogs.

And when is Stephen Karp going to start building on Newburyport’s waterfront?

And just how many folks will come out of the woodworks and end up running in some capacity in the Newburyport, 2009 election? My guess is that we may see a few more yet.

Newburyport’s True Self

One of the things that fascinates me is what really happens in life, and what happens to make things happen, what are the “politics” of the situation, not what is on the surface. Not gossip and innuendo, but the reality behind the veneer.

And in the reporting business, this is almost an impossible thing to accomplish. Advertisers want their veneer kept in place, so that they can sell their product, so that they can make a living. Who is going to buy anything if they know the “real” story behind a company, no matter if it’s probably the story behind almost every average company. Nobody’s perfect, no company, institution, municipality is perfect. There is always a story, and it’s usually a pretty interesting story because the reality is usually so universal.

And like it or hate it, it is what was at the heart of what Tom Ryan did in his political journal of 11 years, the Undertoad, and whether I agreed with Mr. Ryan or not, I was fascinated that here was someone who was interested in the underbelly of Newburyport, MA, not a fluffy outside. Policy and politics were part of it. But exploring what was really going on, from Mr. Ryan’s point of view, was at the heart of the journal.

And I miss it. I know so much stuff about what is happening and making stuff happen in Newburyport, because people talk and I listen, that keeping it to myself makes me itch. But floating it out there, what good would it do me, except make me feel less itchy.

One of the things that I really enjoy are the emails that I get from people wanting to know what the “true” story is. It’s usually from someone who is thinking of or planning to move here. They could be interested about the landfill, the wind turbine, the parking situation, just to name a few things, and they seem to trust a blogger from Newburyport over the realtor that is selling them the product.

And I always email back, and give them my opinion, just my opinion, and if applicable, who else to talk to get a fuller picture. So thank you all of you out there in Web Land, I am honored and touched that you would think of contacting me, and I have enjoyed our exchanges. I love my home town of Newburyport, MA, but I know that it is not perfect, and I know that knowing the reality about Newburyport helps people make wiser and more informed decisions. Just the way knowing the reality or getting a fuller picture about just about anything helps us make wiser decisions in this lifetime.

Recycling Soldiers

I walk down Federal Street in Newburyport, MA and there they are, all neatly lined up on both sides of the street, like SWAT soldiers, waiting for the order to charge.

64 gallon dark green and black recycling soldier bins.

A couple of weeks earlier I get the notice form Newburyport’s recycling center letting me know that a 64 gallon recycling cart would be delivered to my dwelling in Newburyport, MA.

I think to myself, “64 gallons large??”

I Google 64 gallon to see how big it might be. Yes, very large. I appear only to use 32 gallon garbage cans, so yes, twice as big.

The one I have, the blue 14 gallon Newburyport recycling bin does the trick. When it’s full, I know Newburyport recycling day on my street in Newburyport, MA has arrived. Plus, I have no place for a 64 gallon anything.

I put in a call to Newburyport’s very conscientious recycling center, tell them what I have is just fine. No need for a 64 gallon recycling soldier.

But as I look at the large recycling soldiers lined up on the street leading from High Street in Newburyport, MA all the way to the Merrimac River, the message is clear. Recycle. And no more messy stuff flying around on windy or wet day from smaller open recycling bins. Tidy large retainers with lids meant to remind to recycle everything. We are green, we are responsible and we do it right.