Why we must always be vigilant in city politics

The vast majority of Newburyport citizens don’t get involved in city government.       It is this reason that we can barely get 30% of the registered voters to even show up at the ballot box.     I was recently outside Market Basket trying to get petition signatures so a candidate could get on the ballot.     I heard so many say, “I don’t get involved in politics.”

You really should.

If people understood how things really work locally, they would finally realize that every day our quality of life is threatened and if it wasn’t for a tiny portion of our electorate who care; it wouldn’t be long before that great quality would start to degrade and then accelerate into the ground.

This is how things work:

Every day, businessmen, craftsmen (of all different parts of the building trade) and developers trundle through City Hall either on their way to the Planning Office or down to the Building Department.      They are especially listened to as they rub shoulders with city hall employees and politicians and well they should.      The fees that are levied off of them usually end up collecting into that wonderful end of the budget year term, “free cash”.     Not an accurate term but basically meaning – what is left over after the budget has been set and disbursements have been made and usually represents extra income beyond the budget requirements.        Therefore, these people have an unusually more powerful influence in the halls of 60 Pleasant Street.

This is a problem.       This group demands immediate profit from whatever endeavor they pursue – therefore any long term city planning is looked down upon even though the long term issue in the end is generally much more beneficial to the community and even to them.      

Here’s a quick example.        We have developers who want to build a 40B in the upper common pasture.    Now in 2007, the land they wish to build on looked like a lake.      But they don’t care.      They don’t care because at the end of the project, they will have $7,000,000 in clear profit.     They don’t care that businesses downstream in the industrial park and residences in Quail Run may suffer expensive flood damage due to the increased impervious surfaces.       They don’t care if the fishing industry is impacted as the Little River is compromised, and consequently the Great Marsh is compromised.      They don’t care that the infrastructure required to accommodate their development may put increased pressure on the city’s taxpayer.        

This is an extreme example but it happens every day on a smaller scale.      Those looking for immediate profit simply aren’t concerned and are not seeking long-term benefits.

That’s where concerned citizens have to push back.       This is not an anti-business, anti-profit push back.       This is working for benefits for all over the long term.        The objective is to create an environment in which the goal is a better community with the widest possible benefit for everyone.       

“What we must do to create a great community is to continue to make long-term investments in the future of our city so that the prosperity that we enjoy now will also be enjoyed by future generations of Newburyporters. The issue is maintaining our prosperity.”

– Jim Stiles, “One City, Two Visions”, Daily News, March, 2007

And it’s a battle that is fought every week and every month and every year.       There simply is no time when we can put our guard down.

They will have consultants, engineers and lawyers pushing for their short-term goals.     All the citizen will have is research, time and heaping portions of patience mixed with common sense.     

Only citizens can push for excellent schools, improved infrastructure, long-term city planning, preservation of historic neighborhoods, quality of life issues and for open spaces.      

“It was not the small-time developer crowd that saved Newburyport’s downtown – it was the forerunners of today’s planner types.     After the master planner crowd saved downtown, the small-time developers cashed in…this is a fine thing – prosperity is good, including prosperity from development.”

  – Jim Stiles, “One City, Two Visions”, Daily News, March, 2007

If Newburyport is to have a bright future, we must have more citizens involved in the political process or our future will be permanently short changed.

-P. Preservationist

This entry was posted in Agriculture & Farms, Businesses, Developers, finances, Health and wellness, News and politics, Open Space, Planning, Taxes. Bookmark the permalink.

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