Newburyport, Ward 1 Race

I was very interested to read Tom Ryan’s thoughts in the recent issue of the Undertoad, March 24, 2006, on the outcome of the Ward 1 preliminary election.

This is complicated.

What I hear as I walk and talk around the South End of Newburyport, which is where part of Ward 1 is located (the other part is on Plum Island) is that Mr. Ryan is right, that folks are not happy with Mr. Gillis’ choice to resign his seat and seek the Newburyport City Clerk’s position. Actually, this surprised me. The other thing I hear is that many people were upset that Jeremy Gillis didn’t return their phone calls the way they would like. (I myself would always wander down to Port Paint and Paper, where Mr. Gillis works, when I wanted a chat with Jeremy Gillis). The other factor is Mr. Gillis’ position, which in the preliminaries was to pave over the entire waterfront, and his voting record on the issue of infill (put “infill” in the search box, and hopefully the post on that subject will come up.) And last but not least, Jeremy Gillis’ allegiance, if you will, to Mayor John Moak.

I would also agree with Mr. Ryan, that Larry McCavitt the other candidate running in this election can be bombastic and persistent. Whereas Jeremy Gillis has a very deft hand when it comes to politics, which I admire enormously, Mr. McCavitt’s approach appears to be more like a political sledgehammer. Larry McCavitt is also a proud, unapologetic, if not somewhat inflammatory “progressive.”

Now, I have no idea what will happen in this race, and I will follow it with great interest, but it is my feeling that it is no accident that Mr. McCavitt won two to one over Jeremy Gillis.

It is my feeling that the good people of Ward 1 learned from the mayoral election. Elections matter. Political positions matter. And the fact that it appears that Mayor John Moak is not listening matters.

Whereas in previous elections, a sledgehammer approach could backfire, it seems that people are so angry and so disillusioned with the present administration, that a strong, progressive, sledge hammer approach could be appreciated. It could be seen as a way of trying to get the administration’s attention and tilting the Newburyport City Council to a more progressive side, to counter what appears to be, at this point, an entrenched, “good old boy” mentality.

I’m putting a little money on this race, and ordinarily I’m not a betting woman. If Mayor John Moak does not start listening and honoring his all his constituents, and if he goes and axes Newburyport Planning Director, Nicholas Cracknell, that those two things would most likely guarantee that Larry McCavitt could win the Ward 1 election.

Mary Eaton, Newburyport