Years ago, the moment that I saw John Battis frothing at the mouth and jumping up and down like a madman, I knew that the Waterfront Issue would always be a quagmire. I tip my hat to Don Powers of Union Studios, doing his best to satisfy his client’s wishes and the city’s and the citizens of Newburyport. He truly demonstrated his sincerity Saturday in finding out a real solution.
Unfortunately, he may end up being a fine example of an heroic martyr.
We all need to know that in the face of an ideological cause, the facts and people are the first to be sacrificed. Many a consultant, developer, politician and volunteer have dashed themselves against the rocks of ideology. The recent hysteria on the local historic district ordinance was based on the fantasies of Libertarian loonies and the irrational resistance to improvements to Storey Avenue over a CVS; have all demonstrated that compromise no matter how sincerely done, will fail against an ideological cause.
The Committee for the Open Waterfront is demanding no buildings on the Central Waterfront and requiring mostly park. Period.
Any other justifications or considerations such as neighboring businesses, parking or visitor centers, etc. are totally irrelevant.
This is why I don’t waste most of my time over the central waterfront issue; for there are three scenarios that will play themselves out:
1. The NRA will proceed with their business plan and in the end, buildings will eventually be built with much political input and wrangling for the next three to five years and the NRA after completing its objective will finally and peacefully disband.
2. The NRA will proceed with their business plan, a new mayor will be put in office who will do everything possible to sabotage that plan to pacify the open waterfront lobby and in the end, there will be some slight improvements to the envelope but we’ll still be stuck with dusty parking lots surrounded by trees. We’ll still have the NRA but they will fall back into a dormant irrelevant existence.
3. The NRA will proceed with their business plan, Mayor Holaday gets re-elected, and the open waterfront advocates will file lawsuits dooming any action to the slow, drudgery of the courts. There will be some improvements in a slight way as the Ale House greens more of the old Riverfront Park. The NRA, exhausted by stalemate will lose its state backers, and will fall back into a dormant, irrelevant existence.
Of course, there is a fourth way in which the Mayor and the City Council finally petitions for the death of the NRA but since the politics would be refocused onto City Hall, we’ll still have quagmire. Political cowardice will cause such a subject not to even be discussed in the halls of government. The waterfront will be improved but ever so slowly in short spurts interspersed by long periods of inactivity.
I definitely don’t see this happening. Nor do I see the NRA changing their mind and going the all park way.
Let’s face it, ideology kills compromise.
In the meantime, I will get back to working in my small way to enhance and promote our city and let others fight it out. I encourage fellow citizens to follow my example and work to improve Newburyport.
But it’s your choice. This whole Waterfront Issue is mostly a spectator sport.
Watch the political theater and immerse yourself in the drama as politicians risk their careers and their lives on taking sides on this issue; or grab the remote and watch “keeping up with the Kardashians” or whatever popular real-life drama catches your fancy.
As for me, I’ve never been much for watching tragedies.