Yesterday I had a gentleman call me who was interested in working as a planner in Newburyport, MA. This was a first, emails from a variety of people in the planning community about a variety of planning issues, yes, but never a member of the planning community calling the Newburyport Political Blog about a planning job.
The first thing I asked him was how long he had been a planner and if he was happy where he was. He is very happy where he is and has been there for roughly 10 years. The gist my response to him was, “if you are a good planner and you are happy where you are, don’t come here.” It is unbelievably sad, if not downright heart breaking that that would be my very honest reply.
He was interested in working in Newburyport, MA because this City is “one of the most, if not the most beautiful and historic places in Massachusetts.”
I explained to him that if he was interested in the City Planner job, the mayor was thinking or revising that job to include a lot of what the Newburyport Building Inspector does, taking away from the role of what a City Planner in my mind should be. You could almost hear his eyes widen in disbelief at the other end of the telephone.
I explained to him that during the last roughly 14 years or so we’ve had a mayor every 2 years. And since the Planning Director is appointed by the mayor, the job of Planning Director is at the mercy of local politics. I think the reply was something along the line of “you’re kidding.”
I explained to him that our beautiful and unique architecture has absolutely no protection. He couldn’t believe it. His response was that even many of the smallest New England towns that weren’t particularly historic had Local Historic Districts. My reply, “Nope, not us.”
I explained to him that we were experiencing a rash of developers who do not have the City’s best interest at heart. His response was that “pretty soon there would be nothing left” of Newburyport, MA and the town essentially would be worthless. “Amen” to that.
I told him that someone during the last 14 years who was associated with the Planning Office had told me that it was “easier to work for the Mob than to work in Newburyport, MA.” I doubt that the Chamber of Commerce would be happy with me. This was not exactly positive spin.
Basically on the other end of the phone there was a lot of “you’ve got to be kidding,” “I can’t believe it,” “No way.”
It was a very sad phone call. And I found myself unbelievably angry at what we as a City are at the brink of, because this planner was absolutely right. If things keep going way they are going, and the issues are complex and multi-determine—much bigger than the current administration, the planner is correct, we will have nothing left. Newburyport, MA will be no different than a whole variety of generic places in New England and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Folks, we are in a lot of trouble and if we do not do something, we will be in a world of hurt.