Monthly Archives: October 2011

Save Newburyport – Support a Local Historic District

The “Save Newburyport – Support a Local Historic District” website is up.

Although Gus Harrington and I are listed as the folks heading the endeavor, there are lots of people helping the effort.

Bumper stickers are due to arrive on Wednesday.

On the “Action” page, it gives information and links on how to write to a Letter to the Editor at the Newburyport Daily News and the Newburyport Current.

It appears that there is some confusion out there about how to access information about Newburyport’s Local Historic District (LHD). On the Action page there are links to the proposed map of the LHD, the overview of Newburyport’s proposed LHD, a link to the clarification of some of the confusion about the proposed LHD, etc.

On the Action page there is also a suggestion to call your Newburyport City Councilor, with information on who the Newburyport City Councilors are, and how to get in touch with them.

There is a reminder to vote on Tuesday, November 8, 2011, where to vote, and which Newburyport City Councilors are on record as being in favor of the proposed Newburyport LHD.

There is a recommendation to go to public meetings, to keep an open mind, whether you support Newburyport’s LHD, are against the LHD or simply aren’t sure how you feel yet.

Save Newburyport supports the process of creating a Local Historic District.  That process includes public meetings where the citizens of Newburyport take part in deciding what the guidelines would be for the anticipated LHD.

New Newburyport Charter Website

Newburyport CharterThere is a new Newburyport vote “Yes” Charter website.

On the front page it points out:

“We have had 6 different mayors in the last 13 years!   There is a better way to run a 21st century city with a $54 million budget.”

And on the “Recall” issue the charter website  “Why No Recall?” page:

“Here are some of the reasons that a recall provision is not included in the new Charter.

-  Under state law, a recall can occur for any reason.  For example, if someone is unhappy with a zoning decision, he can institute a recall petition.  This is exactly what happened recently in Chelmsford, where a rich resident, unhappy with a zoning decision that affected his property, spent $90,000 to unseat local leaders.  That effort failed, but it caused an immense amount of bad feeling in the community.

-  Recalls are expensive.  These “special elections” cost the taxpayers money.

-  Recalls are often bitter and divisive.  They can hobble the serious activities that must be provided by city government.

-  There have been examples of communities around the country where a defeated mayoral candidate immediately begins working to recall the person who has just been elected.  This causes enormous disruption in the community, and makes it difficult for the elected officials to begin developing their programs.”

To check the entire “Charter Yes” website out press here.

The election is Tuesday, November 8, 2011, one of the things that you will be voting for is whether or not you would like to change Newburyport’s Charter.

Newburyport, Why High Street is Important

High Street

High Street at the corner of State and High

This morning I got a call from one of the Massachusetts’ newspapers about the upcoming election. And one of the questions regarding the importance of the Newburyport’s Local Historic District (LHD), was, “Why is High Street important?”

I guess I have always assumed that people know the answer to that question, but I guess not.

In 1999 High Street was named an Endangered Resource by Preservation Massachusetts. It was the first roadway ever to be nominated.

These are some excerpts from the Endangered Resource Nomination, which was written by Bill Steelman and Jane Carolan of the Newburyport Historical Commission. The full text us up on the High Street website.

“In an important and meaningful way, High Street not only links, but virtually embodies, all periods of Newburyport’s considerable history.

Beyond its historical significance is its cultural and economic value to the community. High Street is Newburyport’s premier street and one of its major character-defining elements. As the principal gateway to Newburyport, it helps establish the city as an historic, attractive and welcoming place whose citizens appreciate and care for their community’s appearance.

High Street is historically significant. The entire street, its curvilinear course, landscape features and connection to structures, side streets and neighborhoods, contributes greatly to the Newburyport Historic District. Acknowledging its high level of significance and intact nature, the city’s 1991 preservation plan recommends High Street as a local historic district.

It is these images of Newburyport, old and new, which draw several hundred thousand visitors to the city each year, contributing significantly to the city’s burgeoning tourism economy.”

Written in 1999 by William Steelman and Jane Carolan of the Newburyport Historical Commission for the Endangered Resource Nomination.

*The above photograph is of the corner of State and High Streets, circa 1900. It is on the High Street website. It was obtained courtesy of the Historical Society of Old Newbury, at the Cushing House Museum, 98 High Street, Newburyport, MA.


There is No Protection for Downtown Newburyport

The Dodge Building

The Dodge Building, Pleasant Street, Newburyport

There is no longer any protection for downtown Newburyport except for 4 buildings, the E.P. Dodge Building (21 Pleasant Street), the Eaton Drug Building (58 State Street, across from Richdales on the corner of State Street and Pleasant Street), Fowle’s News on State Street and Newburyport City Hall, which are protected through preservation restrictions.

It used to be that the buildings downtown that received federal money from the Urban Renewal Plan, when downtown Newburyport was restored to its present wonderfulness, were protected from any inappropriate changes or demolition.

But the Urban Renewal Plan has expired, so downtown is vulnerable once more. (It was partially and almost totally destroyed in 1968.) I think almost everyone would agree that downtown Newburyport is vital to our economic wellbeing. It is one of the major reasons that people want to live, work, visit and play in Newburyport. And a Local Historic District (LHD) is the only thing that will protect downtown Newburyport.

Eventually, after a great deal of public process, where there will be give and take about the actual guidelines of the proposed Local Historic District, it will come in front of the Newburyport City Council (where there will be lots more discussion on the LHD) for a vote.

So who you vote for on Tuesday, November 8, 2011 matters if you care about whether or not Newburyport is protected for those of us who live here now, and those who come after us.

So again, the At Large candidates running for Newburyport City Council who are on record for supporting the process of a Local Historic District, i.e. the economic future of Newburyport are:

Ed Cameron

Barry Connell

Mike Early

Ari Herzog

Steve Hutcheson

Katy O’Connor Ives

(There are 6 candidates listed here who are on record as being in support of the LHD process, but you will be voting for 5.)

Vote on Tuesday, November 8, 2011.

Newburyport, the Memory of What Almost Happened to High Street in 1999 is Fading

When I wrote the post on High Street almost being destroyed in 1999 it really upset me all over again.

And since writing it I’ve discovered something. The memory of what almost happened to High Street in 1999 is fading.

A lot of people, a whole lot of people, don’t even know what almost happened to our historic roadway, High Street, in 1999. Partly because the city of Newburyport has changed that much, and that a lot of the folks who live here now and are interested and are involved in what happens in our city, were not here in 1999.

I’ve also been in touch with The Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHD) the state historical commission, and the folks that I talked to there don’t know what almost happened to High Street in 1999.

And, I’ve been talking to people at MassHighway, and they don’t know what almost happened in 1999. (It used to be that if the word “Newburyport” was uttered around anyone at MassHighway, they would get the vapors, that’s how much of a stink we made in 1999 to save historic High Street.)

So for me, it’s an, “Oy Veh.” (Yes, I’m originally from New York City.)

So it becomes even more important to make sure High Street becomes a Local Historic District (LHD) to give us the political tool incase a federal or state agency ever wants to make destructive changes to our beloved historic street, one of the major economic engines for the city of Newburyport.

So again, the At Large candidates running for Newburyport City Council who are on record for supporting the process of a Local Historic District, i.e. the economic future of Newburyport are:

Ed Cameron

Barry Connell

Mike Early

Ari Herzog

Steve Hutcheson

Katy O’Connor Ives

Vote on Tuesday, November 8, 2011.

Newburyport’s Urban Renewal Plan has Expired

Newburyport’s Urban Renewal Plan for downtown Newburyport has expired.

Eaton's Drug Building

Eaton's Drug Building on State Street

I went to Newburyport’s Planning Office today and asked what that meant, or if it meant what I thought it meant.  And, yup, unfortunately I got it right.

What it means is that there is now NO protection for downtown Newburyport.  Anybody can do anything to the buildings downtown except for the E.P. Dodge Building (21 Pleasant Street), the Eaton Drug Building  (58 State Street, across from Richdales on the corner of State Street and Pleasant Street),  Fowle’s News on State Street and Newburyport City Hall. These buildings are protected through preservation restrictions.  But that’s it folks.

The Urban Renewal Plan protected the properties downtown that had received Federal money.  But now that the Urban Renewal Plan has come to an end, no more protection.

Almost everyone, I think, would agree that downtown Newburyport is vital to Newburyport’s economic health.  And downtown Newburyport is vulnerable once again (being partially destroyed and almost completely destroyed in 1968.)

The only thing that will protect downtown Newburyport is a Local Historic District (LHD).

In the upcoming Newburyport Election on Tuesday, November 8, 2011, the At Large candidates running for Newburyport City Council who are on record for supporting the process of a Local Historic District, i.e. the economic future of Newburyport are:

Ed Cameron

Barry Connell

Mike Early

Ari Herzog

Steve Hutcheson

Katy O’Connor Ives

Make sure you vote on Tuesday, November 8, 2011.

Newburyport, High Street, Almost Destroyed in 1999

Readers of The Newburyport Blog have asked me what happened to High Street in 1999 that caused such alarm.

High Stree
What was once High Street between Summer Street and Winter Street
, 
Courtesy of the Newburyport Archival Center
 at the Newburyport Public Library

The City of Newburyport got a grant to fix up High Street. And in 1998 the Massachusetts Highway Department (MassHighway) came back with plans for High Street that met the “robotic” federal regulations for the roadway. It took a year to get people’s attention to the threat to the historic roadway. Finally in January 1999 people started to pay attention. “Citizens to Save High Street” was created (by yours truly), and on February 4, 1999 there was a huge meeting in Newburyport City Hall, standing room only, and the citizens of Newburyport demanded that the plan not take place.

These are the “Highlights” of the proposed plan in 1998 by MassHighway.

The Massachusetts Highway Department considered trees to be a “safety hazard” because they were too close to the road, consequently, the future of many of High Street’s trees were in question. (i.e. they were going to remove almost all of the trees.)

Close off of Ferry Road.

Completely reconfigure the “Three Road” area up at Atkinson Commons and put in a traffic light there.

Put a traffic light at Toppans Lane, by the Newburyport High School.

Remove 10 feet of land along the side of the Bartlett Mall facing High Street, that belonged to the City of Newburyport, to widen the roadway.

Remove land from private property owners, from the area between Fruit and State Streets along the “Ridge” side of the roadway, and put in retaining walls to make the street wider.

Make High Street as straight, narrow and uniform as possible from one end of the street to the other.

Remove plantings and all historical elements.

Remove the statue of George Washington by Pond Street and the Bartlett Mall. There was no plan to relocate the statue of George Washington. Pond Street was completely reconfigured to be one way.

A Local Historic District (LHD) would protect against destructive changes that could take place to our historic roadway.  We would never want to go through this experience again.

Thank You to my Fellow Newburyport Bloggers

A very big “thank you” to my fellow Newburyport bloggers for such a warm “welcome back” as I return from a blogging sabbatical. Especially to the P. Preservationist and my fellow blogger Tom Salemi, who writes the Newburyport Posts.

And also for the nice “thank you” on Facebook from fellow bloggers Ed Cameron and Ari Herzog, who are both running for Newburyport election, Tuesday, November 8, 2011, as City Councilor At Large.

George Cushing

George Cushing Political Consultant to The Newburyport Blog

One of the great things, among so many great things in Newburyport, is that if you don’t want to read an “editorial” blog, such as this blog, with a frog as a political consultant (ie George Cushing, political consultant to the Newburyport Blog), or P. Preservationist or the Newburyport Posts, we have Newburyport City Councilors who blog, so you can go right to the source.

Along with Ed Cameron, and Ari Herzog, Bob Cronin, Newburyport City Councilor running unopposed in Ward 3 updates his blog on a regular basis and in a very thoughtful manner. And we also have Allison Heartquist, Newburyport City Councilor for Ward 1.

And all these blogger want you to go out and vote on Tuesday, November 8, 2011.

Newburyport Charter, November Election 2011

I got a large gray “Report” in the mail yesterday (from the Newburyport Charter Commission). I almost threw it away. I imagine that about 85% of Newburyport households receiving this piece of mail, either put it in a pile to be “looked at later,” i.e. “looked at never,” or just tossed it outright.

Newburyport CharterProbably the next 10% put it aside, intending one day to actually read it, but they probably will not. The next 3%, like moi, looked at first page “Ballot Summary” so I would know how to vote. And maybe the last 2% actually perused the 51 page document at hand.

So much for 2 years or grueling hard work and utter transparency by the Newburyport Charter Review Committee.

So I’m going to make it easy.

On Tuesday, November 8, 2011, this is a really important vote. Basically a “Yes” vote means that the mayor of Newburyport, MA will be elected for 4 years instead of 2 years. (It’s a good idea, vote “Yes.”)

Newburyport November 2011 Election – What Election??

People ask me to “Put my ear to the ground” and find out what is going on with Newburyport’s election on November 8, 2011.

I have found an alarming piece of information.

Basically people have no idea that there is an election, when it might be, who is running, what it’s about, or what they would be voting for, including The Newburyport Charter, which is mucho important!

The Newburyport Charter

The Newburyport Charter

I’m talking about citizens of Newburyport who are not wildly involved in Newburyport city government, but they know what’s going on and they vote, they always vote.

I had a very good friend who’s offspring lives in town, always votes and asked her parent what all those weird signs were around the Mobile Station at State Street and High Street. Their parent clued them in.

I think our candidates running for office are assuming if there is a sign up at that particular juicy spot, people will know that it’s election time. But apparently, not so folks.

Yesterday, I walked down the High Street on the South End of Newburyport, and no political signs. None. For the city’s more progressive candidates, Wards 1 and Ward 2 are the most “progressive” wards, and people need to know that there is an election!! So please, good grief, some signs from someone,  somewhere along the South End of High Street would be such a good idea!!

This is an important election. Readers of The Newburyport Blog and elsewhere, spread the word.

Along with the Newburyport Charter changes, is the very important Newburyport City Council At Large race. Who wins that race may determine what sort of Local Historic District (LHD) Newburyport may have.

So again – the upcoming Newburyport Election is on Tuesday, November 8, 2011.

The At Large candidates running for Newburyport City Council who are on record for supporting the process of a Local Historic District, i.e. the economic future of Newburyport are:

Ed Cameron

Barry Connell

Mike Early

Ari Herzog

Steve Hutcheson

Katy O’Connor Ives

And… You will be voting on the Newburyport Charter. Basically a “Yes” vote means that the mayor of Newburyport, MA will be elected for 4 years instead of 2 years. (It’s a good idea, vote “Yes.”)

Newburyport, High Street and the November Election

George Cushing Political Consultant for the Newburyport Blog

George Cushing Political Consultant for the Newburyport Blog

George, the political consultant of for the Newburyport Blog is very glad that the editor of the Newburyport Blog, moi, has decided to write again. He likes to see himself on the World Wide Web.

George, web-savvy frog that he is, feels that it would be necessary to include an historic photo in the blog posts about the upcoming elections and the whole conundrum of Newburyport’s proposed Local Historic District (LHD), because people keep landing on the Newburyport Blog looking for historic photographs.

So, Ok George, here’s an early 20th century postcard of High Street that’s in the public domain. Happy??

Actually, it suits me, I love historic photographs of Newburyport.

I love the historic character of Newburyport, period. It’s why I moved here.

In 1981 (no I’m not a native, Newburyport City Councilor, Tom O’Brien, called me an “almost native”) I drove down historic High Street and by the time I had parked in front of the real estate agent on Green Street, I wanted to live here. And I am hardly alone. High Street is that beautiful and that compelling.

Newburyport, High Street, Early 20th Century Postcard

Newburyport, High Street, Early 20th Century Postcard

And having seen High Street almost destroyed by MassHighway in 1999, I don’t take the street for granted anymore. And in 1999, fighting to save High Street, I discovered that a Local Historic District (LHD) would enhance political protection against destructive changes to our historic roadway. I’ve wanted political protection for that particular part of our wonderful city for a long time.

And here we are. It’s now a possibility again. And I would hate to see that political protection slip away yet one more time. It’s not like this is the first time the city has fought over having a LHD for High Street. We’ve been fighting over this since at least the 1970’s. If a LHD had passed in the 1970’s, one could only imagine how incredible the roadway would be today.

Looking back on the Newburyport Blog I found a quote in 2007 that at that time Newburyport had lost a third of its historic housing stock. The number has gone up since then.

So, the upcoming Newburyport Election, on Tuesday, November 8, 2011:

The At Large candidates running for Newburyport City Council who are on record for supporting the process of a Local Historic District, i.e. the economic future of Newburyport are:

Ed Cameron

Barry Connell

Mike Early

Ari Herzog

Steve Hutcheson

Katy O’Connor Ives

And.. You will be voting on the Newburyport Charter. Basically a “Yes” vote means that the mayor of Newburyport, MA will be elected for 4 years instead of 2 years. (It’s a good idea, vote “Yes.”)

Newburyport, Local Historic District is a Process

Creating a Local Historic District (LHD) for Newburyport (the ultimate protection of our historic assets, the economic engine for our city) is a process.

The map of the proposed LHD has changed! It now consists of downtown Newburyport, extended on one side to Rt 1 and on the other side to Federal Street, and historic High Street. (It’s a whole lot smaller than it originally started out being—part of the process.)

If we get Newburyport City Councilors elected who are in favor of the process of creating a LHD there will be a long process.

What the LHD Study Committee (LHDSC) has proposed is a list of “guidelines.” “Guidelines,” not “set in stone this is what you have to have-lines.”

Then there is a huge public process, public hearings, where everyone gets to say their piece. (My hope, and part of it I think, could already be a hollow hope, is that we could actually have a constructive public dialogue, instead of two sides digging in their heals and screaming over each other. What I saw at the one public information hearing that I went to, was very vocal anti-LHD doing a whole lot of loud talking, and not a lot of constructive listening. It’s much easier to come up with negative suggestions, “NO,” than constructive solutions – and constructive solutions are a major component of any sort of activism.)

And then it goes to the Newburyport City Council, where it goes into “committee,” and everything gets hashed out by our public officials. (That’s why it is very necessary that on Tuesday, November 8, 2011 you go out and vote!).

Will the LHD as it is proposed now look the same? My pretty good guess is “no,” it will look different. And that’s because we have a democracy. A wonderful, messy, process-oriented democracy.

So those of you out there who are really scared by the whole idea of a LHD, this is only the beginning. And those of you who are determined that the proposed LHD as it stands is going to happen, relax, it’s going to change.

So again, I’m going to say this until election day, vote on Tuesday, November 8, 2011.

The At Large candidates running for Newburyport City Council who are on record for supporting the process of a Local Historic District, i.e. the economic future of Newburyport are:

Ed Cameron

Barry Connell

Mike Early

Ari Herzog

Steve Hutcheson

Katy O’Connor Ives

Newburyport, Save Our Town

In August 2006 Steve Rudolph, Sarah White and I created “Save Our Town.” It was at the height of the housing bubble, and development was out of control. The goal was to advocate for “responsible growth,” and what was being voted on at the time in the Newburyport City Council, what I call, the “Infill Ordinance,” and to advocate for the ultimate protection for Newburyport, a Local Historic District (LHD).

Steve and Sarah went on to become a huge part of the preservation community. An incredible Newburyport, “Aren’t we incredibly lucky” story.

Steve Rudolph, a very intelligent and articulate man (vast understatement), wrote some very astute things for Save Our Town. Here is an excerpt from one of his writings:

“Newburyport is unique. Newburyport offers a combination of historical appeal and local neighborhood character found nowhere else. Simply put, Newburyport is a place where the past lives with us in the present.

Some say that the issue about how to protect Newburyport is about property rights and progress vs. government intrusion and stagnation. Not true. The battle to preserve the historical American treasure that Newburyport represents is about economic and cultural responsibility. Economically, we have a model here that works. Historic preservation has and will continue to drive economic growth. Culturally, we owe it to all of the Newburyporters who came before us to continue to honor their unique vision of Newburyport.

We’re in trouble. Newburyport is under threat. Newburyport is growing – which is good – but not always in ways that preserve the characteristics that have made Newburyport a success story. The destruction is happening one piece at a time. It’s death by a thousand paper cuts. A house demolished here. An open parcel filled in there. A subdivision going up in the middle of an historic neighborhood.  And once our historical treasures are gone, they’re gone forever.

The vision that we Newburyporters have outlined for our future is slipping away right before our very eyes.”

If you want to save Newburyport, vote on Tuesday, November 8, 2011.

The Newburyport City Council At Large candidates running for Newburyport City Council who are on record for supporting a Local Historic District, i.e. the economic future of Newburyport are:

Ed Cameron

Barry Connell

Mike Early

Ari Herzog

Steve Hutcheson

Katy O’Connor Ives

Vote on Tuesday, November 8, 2011. Your vote matters.

Newburyport, Elections Matter

Elections matter. How you vote matters. You can make a difference.

Newburyport has a very important election on Tuesday, November 8, 2011.

You will be voting on The Newburyport Charter. Basically a “Yes” vote means that the mayor of Newburyport, MA will be elected for 4 years instead of 2 years. (It’s a good idea, vote “Yes.”)

The Newburyport City Council At Large race. VERY IMPORTANT. What is at stake here is the economic future of Newburyport.

In 1968 downtown Newburyport was partially and almost totally destroyed.

In 1999 MassHighway came very close to destroying High Street.

The historic character, beauty and charm of Newburyport’s downtown and Newburyport’s High Street are the economic engines for our city. Without Newburyport’s historic charm and character, I wouldn’t want to live here, and probably you would not want to live here either.

The only protection for downtown Newburyport is a Local Historic District (LHD).

If you want to save Newburyport, support a Local Historic District and vote on Tuesday, November 8, 2011.

The At Large candidates running for Newburyport City Council who are on record for supporting a Local Historic District, i.e. the economic future of Newburyport are:

Ed Cameron

Barry Connell

Mike Early

Ari Herzog

Steve Hutcheson

Katy O’Connor Ives

Make sure you vote!