A Win-Win on the Newburyport City Council Floor

The mood on the Newburyport City Council floor on Monday night October 29, 2007 was, I would say, jovial from the get go– the night that the Fruit Street Local Historic District came up for its final vote.

Often when major decisions are made, the mood on the Newburyport City Council floor could sometimes be tense. On the night the vote for the special election for the Newburyport school override, it felt as if the whole place could be on edge.

But not last night. Last night was a whole different story.

During the “Public Comment” period, a lot of folks spoke on behalf of the Fruit Street Local Historic District, and not the usually faces. And sometimes, for me, the “Public Comment” period is not my favorite part to watch. It often feels painful.

But not last night.

The Newburyport City Council seemed to be genuinely moved by the folks that spoke during the “Public Comment” period.

Karen Battles of the Newburyport Preservation Trust had this to say:

“One of the delights of living here is walking through neighborhood after neighborhood of historic homes. Maybe because we are surrounded by it everyday, we don’t grasp how unbelievably rare this is in this day and age. As more and more places become cookie-cutter subdivisions and the same franchise appears every other block, the authentic becomes more and more valuable. We are the currents stewards of Newburyport, we have not only the right, but the obligation to protect our resources.” (Used with permission)

There was also a great deal of laughter and kidding around. This is not always the case.

And when it came to the vote on the Newburyport City Council floor, Newburyport City Councilor James Shanley spoke most eloquently. And you could almost hear people holding their breath as Richard Jones, the Newburyport City Clerk, called the roll.

And when the vote was not only in favor of the Fruit Street Local Historic District, but was unanimous, applause and cheers spontaneously broke out. A lot of jumping up and down with sheer relief and joy.

This is an example of a project that has taken decades to come about. And the actual creation of the Newburyport Fruit Street Local Historic District took a lot of time (2 years), with a great deal of public input and public process. There were no shortcuts here. And, from what I observed, there was also a great deal of dialogue with the Newburyport City Council and the Mayor as well.

And this combination of productive public process and constructive public dialogue made for a win-win situation, instead of public divisiveness that could occur over a variety of issues.

This whole process is an incredible example of how to get positive things accomplished on the municipal level. And again a big congratulations to everyone involved.

And again (see previous post) this Newburyport City Council 2006-2007 has come so far in working together and working for the good of the citizens of Newburyport, MA, and I am so proud of them. And not to repeat myself, but to repeat myself, I cannot fathom why anyone would say that that would not be so.

Mary Eaton