Very Disconcerting

I was filming at the public hearing and was very pleased the majority understand reality and are truly concerned for their community.    But to realize that a sizeable minority want to turn Newburyport into a Massachusetts’ version of Seabrook is very sad.

I kept asking myself, “What motivates them to live here?”      

And what I have come to the conclusion is, they want the safe, high quality of life that the historic preservation of our downtown provided but don’t want to ‘pay’ for it by having restrictions on their houses.        These are the citizens who constantly complain about our visitors who would love to live here* and are responsible for our property ‘values’.     

When homes are demolished, they simply blink and go on that it doesn’t matter.

When developers pour in and teardown our historic homes, they simply deny it isn’t happening or as one commenter said Thursday night, “I frankly see no need for an LHD – there is no threat!”     This as an historic house in Newbury was torn down for a swimming pool and as historic homes on Hancock & Pine Streets were destroyed so the developers wouldn’t have to ‘fuss’ with the old buildings and plans to ‘infill’ along High Street are quietly being pushed through our planning office by property owners and developers.

When concerns for the entire community are brought up, they withdraw into their castles and haul up the drawbridge and cry out, “I am the only concern here”.        

When the cry is to preserve the city, they respond, “it will all be changed anyway and we won’t care as we will be safe in our ‘homes’” (The image of Nero fiddling while Rome burns comes to mind!)

Our founding fathers knew classical Western Civilization, knew Plato and knew Aristotle and knew the history of Greece and Rome.     They fashioned a society in which there were property rights but  there were also obligations to the community and to family and to God.

Such selfishness as was demonstrated on Thursday would have men like Jefferson and Madison crying for floggings.      Such lack of community concern would not have been tolerated.

Newburyport is in grave danger.     The source of our economic rise ceased in 2005 and we are laid bare to a host of developers with plans to make a profit on Boomtown Waterside.    If you want to know what we will be left with, visit their past handiwork in Marblehead, Plymouth, Swampscott and Salem.       When self is the only motivator, the community as a whole suffers.

Citizens need to rise up and save Newburyport before it is too late – only then will the scales fall off the minority of our civic leaders who refuse to admit we are in trouble.

-P. Preservationist


* The rumor is that Newburyport is filled with ‘wealthy’ people.     I wish.    As Councilor Herzog has pointed out, 40% who live here are below the Federal poverty line.   

This entry was posted in Health and wellness, Local Historic Districts (LHD), News and politics, Preservation, Quality of Life. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Very Disconcerting

  1. YEAT boy says:

    Some of your readers might correct my observation from some in depth historical research I have done ( a lot of this from the book “Patriots and Partisans – The Merchants of Newburyport”) but I am pretty convinced the following is the case.

    Newburyport was a leader in advocating (quite forcefully) for US independence from Great Britain. Even then, without Tories, the town was split into the equivalent of “strong federal government vs states rights”. This translated respectively into Federalists ( represented by Washington, Adams, and Hancock) vs. Republicans (Jefferson and Burr). Even though Essex county was seminal for the creation and introduction of the bill of rights that granted individual rights, many of the same supporters believed that for the common good, government was necessary and a strong central government was an imperative. Much of this came from our merchants who benefited from a federation that had consistent policies toward, and protection for, trade between states and with other countries. After all, our wealth at that time came from trade. Republicans, on the other hand, felt government, particularly federal government, was not needed….decisions were personal and local, and vested in self interest. One could equate that to today’s Libertarianism. Jefferson’s election, as a Republican, generated much talk of succession in Newburyport and the northeast, and we narrowly escaped that. Jefferson’s policies were directly blamed for Newburyport’s economic decline during the quasi war and the war of 1812, mostly due to blockades and trade issues.

    In the early 1800s the town was split 80% in favor of strong central government that benefited the common good (mostly merchants), and a vocal 20% that supported Jeffersonian principles, and limited government (mostly trades people and working classes). Friendships were strained, and much debate happened.

    And so the debate continues today in our fair city, 200 years later; and just like 200 years ago it reflects a much larger national debate.

    I welcome any corrections to my observations from more experienced historians….

  2. My gosh, such insightful commentary is at a level far above my intellectual pay grade! Thank you for your contribution to this discussion! And I might add, so true!

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