Newburyport Central Waterfront Risk, Election 2009

In re-reading the 2 previous posts on the mayoral candidates differing positions on their vision for Newburyport’s Central Waterfront, I was struck by something.

If I had “recently” moved to Newburyport, and a candidate had suggested to me that we replace what was destroyed on the Central Waterfront during Urban Renewal (see last 2 earlier entries) with historically sensitive buildings (James Shanley’s position), I might say, “Why not? That makes perfect sense to me.”

The problem for me is that it might make perfect sense, except that this particular piece of land, in this particular city, with a particularly long and volatile history, for whatever reason, is unbelievably emotionally charged.

A friend of mine likens it to the abortion issue, not that in any way it has remotely the same seriousness as that particular issue, but, locally, it does have an emotionally charged electricity about it. We have gone to COURT about this piece of land.

If James Shanley does get elected mayor, pursues this idea for the Central Waterfront, I think people will come out of the woodworks and go nuts, making what Mayor John Moak (see two earlier entries) went through seem like a “walk in the park.” And I wonder if the “new people in town,” that James Shanley talks about, would have the same passion, and fight, because it is my take that they would need to fight and fight relentlessly for this waterfront proposal, or just say, “Forget about it, this is just not worth it.”

Think about how upset people got about having a ticket booth on the boardwalk (see earlier entries). And that was just a tiny, shack-like ticket booth, not buildings.

So for me, although James Shanley’s idea for the Central Waterfront could make sense in a vacuum, or some place else, it strikes me, to even suggest going there, as being “politically deaf, ” and this concerns me.

Having ideas about projects is one thing, but reading the political climate, and understanding whether or not a project is politically viable, is crucial in a civic leader, especially the mayor. And should James Shanley pursue this project, if he were to be elected mayor, I think it could consume everything else that he would want to accomplish.