Newburyport, Effective Activist Efforts

Watching all the political activity that has been going on in Newburyport, MA lately, I’ve been learning a lot. I’ve been learning what appears to be effective demeanor and conduct as an activist and what might not be.

When Allyson Lawless came before the Newburyport City Council last Monday night, I thought it was a textbook presentation.

I was watching the Newburyport City Council meeting on TV from the comfort of my comfy chair, so this was not an on hand observation. But still, the TV thing works for me.

Ms Lawless appeared out of breath (it appeared the lady in question had been making her way through a packed Newburyport City Council chamber.) She was obviously nervous and took a moment to compose herself.

The Newburyport City Council was addressed with sincere respect.

I have often seen folks come before the Newburyport City Council and various Newburyport boards and committees and open up with something along the lines of “I really appreciate the opportunity of speaking here tonight,” or whatever.

And at times there is a subtle inflection of tone, where the underlining message that comes across is “I’m here tonight because I think you all are idiots (with a possible few exceptions) and I want to persuade you, manipulate you, do anything I can, to make you vote the way I think is the right way for you to vote.”

It’s a very subtle thing, but Ms Lawless, in my opinion, nailed it.

And the subject that Ms Lawless was bringing forth was the ordinance regulating chain stores in Newburyport, MA, which, I suppose, has the potential of being an emotionally charged issue.

The impression Ms Lawless gave (at least from my comfy seat) was that there was no ultimatum here. Hopefully this was the beginning of a discussion and a dialogue on how downtown Newburyport, MA might find an appropriate balance between local entrepreneurs and larger establishments.

With an introductory discussion taking place this Wednesday night at 6:30 at Newburyport City Hall, one hopes that very reasonable and reasoned tone could continue.

And reading today’s Newburyport Daily News, April 17, 2007 on Dr. Robert Wilkins, the activist who helped save downtown Newburyport, MA, there was this wonderful quote which refers to his “kind heart, love of humanity and community, incredible resilience and good nature.”

And maybe that is the key to being a good activist (and Dr. Wilkins was certainly the example of the ultimate Newburyport activist), a kind heart and a genuine love of the community of Newburyport, MA.

Mary Eaton

(Editor’s Note: At this point the Newburyport Blog, a local blog, only has national advertising. This is an irony that is by no means lost on the editor of the Newburyport Blog.)