Newburyport, Rumblings of a Political Backlash

Election 2007. I feel the rumblings of a backlash already in progress. Sorry folks–a reaction to the new Newburyport City Council that will be sworn in January 2008.

I think if the current Newburyport City Council had been re-elected, I don’t think I would be feeling the rumblings of a backlash.

And some that I’ve talked to, feel that the rumblings are in part to Tom O’Brien stepping down as the President of the Newburyport City Council and James Shanley seeking to be the new president and, it is my understanding, succeeding.

James Shanley, in my book, is a centrist, and a very thoughtful man. Councilor Shanley has always struck me as the sort of fellow who likes efficiency, and likes to get things done.

When Mayor Lisa Mead took office for the first time in the 1990’s, as I remember it, she wanted to bring what she felt would be a more professional approach towards running the city of Newburyport, MA. Ms Mead, as I recall, was no-nonsense and efficient. This, in my recollection, was a markedly different stylistic approach to her predecessor, Peter Matthews, who could be found in the relaxed atmosphere of Angies, downtown on Pleasant Street, meeting and talking with his constituents.

Let’s just say, as I recall, that Ms Meads no-nonsense, efficient approach was not met with open arms.

As James Shanely takes over the presidency of the Newburyport City Council, it would be my hope that he would do so with the utmost sensitivity and tact. And I think that this could well turn out to be a most difficult job.

The fact that Erford Fowler, after 14 years, would no longer be on the Newburyport City Council floor, is hugely symbolic. I think it has always been believed that Councilor Fowler would be “unshakable.” And I think the fact that he was “shakable” has caused some major unease.

And I do believe that (no matter how smart or how personable and politically savvy she may be) someone, a woman no less, who has lived here “only” 6 months, beat out all sorts of folks with Newburyport political pedigrees, and would sit on the Newburyport City Council floor, has also, on some conscious or unconscious level, caused some major unease.

And the fact that Donna Holaday “is back,” and received more votes as Newburyport City Councilor at Large, than Mayor John Moak did as mayor, wittingly or unwittingly, could set up a dynamic that also, in my book, could cause some major agitation.

If I were the Newburyport City Council 2008-2009, I would take nothing for granted. Act with humility and grace, and bend over backwards to make absolutely sure, that to the best of their ability, all constituencies and residents of Newburyport, MA are heard, understood, appreciated and appropriately represented.

Mary Eaton