I was deeply troubled when I read Monday’s article, Jan. 16, “Master planner?” in the Newburyport Daily News. The article detailed the work of Newburyport Planning Director Nicholas Cracknell and philosophical differences with newly elected Mayor John Moak that may cost him his job. Having worked with Nick here in Amesbury, I can say without reservation that losing him would be a disservice to the people of Newburyport.
Nick is a leader and he has the kind of infectious vision and persistence that builds great communities. Time and time again, growth management has been cited as a central concern of the citizens of this area. Our citizens have a progressive vision of what they want our communities to look like and in Amesbury, Nick has turned that vision into a reality. We are now recognized statewide as a model for smart growth in a state that too often promotes bad development.
It has been said that Nick steps on the toes of developers in his work, and I won’t argue that. He was just as controversial when he worked here in Amesbury. Nick saw himself as an advocate for growth management goals and policies that were stated time and again by our citizens. Often, he is the only advocate for the city, while developers have plenty of lawyers, money and influence to step on the collective toes and will of the community.
I can remember talking with Nick after a meeting one night in front of Town Hall just before he left for Newburyport. We looked up Friend Street toward downtown and he commented about the beauty of our downtown. “Look at that,” he said, holding his hands up. ” What we have here is precious and fragile. Promise me one thing. You have to care for it and nurture it. You have to cradle it and protect it.”
It is that kind of passion and vision that Newburyport and the Lower Valley as a whole can’t afford to lose.
Roger Benson, councilor-at-large
(Editor’s note: Posting was also a Letter to the Editor in the Newburyport Daily News on Jan 23, 2006)