Tom Salemi did an excellent analysis of recent history in his Newburyport Today article. The basic issue that he covered is that Newburyport’s past has been a rather mixed bag mostly because of political self-interest, popularly-held but erroneous concepts and the general conceit of many a politician. And yet, we have had great points in history when good things have been done. The saving of the upper Little River basin, the preservation of the Common Pasture, the restoration of City Hall, the restoration of the Downtown, the passing of CPA and our first local historic district on Fruit Street and many other ‘positive’ things.
As I say, a mixed bag.
Right now, we have a city that is suffering from Schizophrenia – according to medical professionals, this illness is a severe mental disorder characterized by delusions, hallucinations, incoherence and physical agitation; it is classified as a “thought” disorder.
We have a great number of our citizens who are suffering from Schizophrenia.
We have a great number of people who picture Newburyport as a comfy little ‘private’ Boston bedroom town where they have all the comforts of a small community and in which they have a deep fear of outsiders ‘coming in to screw things up’. Yes, some are dark siders but most are residents who have a deep rooted fear of losing a ‘good thing’.
It’s a ‘thought disorder’ because Newburyport makes its living off our visitors. Many of these same visitors keep our shops going, and 14% (based on national statistics on heritage tourism) come back, buy real estate and live here pushing up our high property values. In other words, without these ‘visitors’ Newburyport would shrivel up and die.
The Chamber knows it is important to have them here and goes so far as to publish annually an award-deserving visitor book, hold festivals and promote our local businesses.
And yet, this same Chamber receives ‘pressure’ from the fearful, “Don’t tell the outside world that we are a great place!” “We don’t want the crowds here!” Why else is our local commerce group flatly refusing to advertise Newburyport across the country? Why is it that Newburyport is loved in the region but is totally unknown outside of New England? No advertisements in the New York Times, no mention in travel magazines and no effort to attract visitors from outside the immediate area?
Because of this fear of outsiders, we are known and will continue to be known as shabby-chic because we put concrete or blacktop in our historic district sidewalks, allow shabby advertisements such as A-frame signs. (we might just as well put out hand-painted posters and other crudities.) Even though Portsmouth (in New Hampshire of all things) has put in a local historic district, installed historic brick sidewalks and is literally exploding financially with gluts of new visitors; we think it’s an imposition on our private little village. They are bursting with money and we’re left scrambling to get enough visitors to keep our shops going. Instead of committed long-distance tourists willing to spend money, we’re left with local day visitors who eat from temporary street booths and ignore our shops.
Looks like the prevailing mood is to pay higher taxes for our local schools and services while at the same time refusing to protect our Downtown and High Street that will guarantee higher tax earnings. And we, until recently, looked with a blind eye as those same visitor draws, our historic houses, have been gutted or worse, demolished.
Instead of using basic logic, economically-based planning and well-thought out measures to promote Newburyport, we instead are left with citizens with delusions, hallucinations, incoherence and physical agitation.
I’d call that Schizophrenia!
PS. Delusions (Black helicopters, global conspiracies), hallucinations (non-existent LHD commissioners, secret meetings in City Hall, etc.), incoherence (The typical anti-historic preservation tirade against any government intrusion.) and physical agitation. (anger, bitterness, fury and vandalism).