Override Friction in Newburyport, MA

As I understand it, basically whether or not the city of Newburyport, MA has a special election for a $1.58 million override comes down to a decision by the mayor. To quote from the Newburyport Daily News, April 4, 2007, “Mayor John Moak has pledged to find the money in the current budget to fund it (the election for the $1.58 million override).”

That money was awfully hard to find a couple of weeks ago.

I would say that the pressure must have been pretty intense for Mayor John Moak to be willing to come up with $17,000 for a special spring election.

During last Monday’s Newburyport City Council Meeting both Steven Hutcheson and James Shanley stated that they did not want to write a blank check to the Newburyport School Committee, they wanted to know exactly how the money would be spent, they wanted to hear the report from the Office of Educational Quality and Accountability (EQA). And I imagine they also would have liked a vote on Superintendent Kevin Lyons’ school reconfiguring plan.

All of that took place, and it appears that the two Newburyport City Councilors kept their word.

The other Newburyport City Councilors against the Newburyport School Committee override, stated that they thought, given the unfortunate fiscal state of the city of Newburyport, MA, and the already existing high taxes, that it would be a mistake to have a permanent tax hike. That’s 5 City Councilors.

I would bet my bottom dollar that no one in city government, the Newburyport City Councilors or Mayor John Moak, has enjoyed this process in the least. It has been a nightmare.

And with the mayor of Newburyport, MA coming up with the funds, unless someone changes their mind, the vote to let people vote will pass, with a narrow margin.

And the tension in the city of Newburyport, MA hasn’t lessened. The tension in the city of Newburyport, MA has gone way up. And I don’t imagine that the friction will go down any time in the foreseeable future, which is really unfortunate.

It feels as if the city of Newburyport is at one of these awful growing pains, crossroads again. The ill feeling that is here now reminds me of the kind of tension that existed when Mayor Lisa Mead took office for the first time. And a huge “us vs. them” hostility that had been simmering for a long time, came up to the surface.

I’ll have to think on this one. But it feels like the hostility around the override is an indication of something more significant that is happening in the city of Newburyport, MA.

Mary Eaton