Politics is the art of the possible. It is not ruled by facts or reason but by passion. And so it is so true for the day of voting. Many will come out to vote because of a single issue or a grouping of issues that motivate them to mark their ballots.
The recent editorial by Andrew Simpson is simply idealistic. Or shall I be more accurate, wishful thinking.
The fact is, certain groups in town are going to show up to vote in a particular way and they will trump every time the balanced-issue voter. So it is important that we look at each of these groups to find out what is at stake.
The School Group. This block is not what you think of normal parents wishing the best for their children – this is the fanatical group that wants everything to go for the schools. The rest of us are worker drones for the sole purpose of paying for our educational institutions. In fact, this group would love to push out the lower to middle class so a wealthier group would live here. This way a greater yield of taxes would be produced. I might add, a self-destructive voter block, since if that would happen, they would have to import students since most of the wealthy tend to have fewer children or none at all.
The Mother’s Group. Loosely allied with the Greater Newburyport Mother’s Club, this wide-ranging diversity of concerned mothers (and fathers) have but one over-riding concern; the very best neighborhoods and the very best schools for their children. Short on details, they can be easily convinced one way or the other by the saying, “Do it for the children” or, “I’ll provide the best for your children”.
The Dog-walking Group. This group goes far beyond a dog, a human and a leash. This group represents an entire lifestyle. A dedicated life style since they are often found out in all kinds of inclement weather leading the pooch out for a walk. They use this opportunity for self-reflection and social interaction. They expect some kind of accommodation in the form of safe neighborhoods, decent parks and facilities to support their activities. Other than a small minority that suffer from passive-aggressive tendencies (picks up dog waste, puts in plastic bag, then carefully puts bag on private yards, or even directly next to a pet waste disposal can. Somebody call a shrink!), they are deeply concerned about their neighborhoods…and neighbors.
The Dark Siders. This election will be a test to find out what influence they still have in the city. Mostly Consisting of those born and raised here as well as Townies (multi-generational); they have put up their candidate (Lord Sith) in the hopes they can regain their waning control. Most of them are getting on in years, have moved to other communities or have passed on. But they are still sizeable and if they all show up en masse and the other sectors do not, they may be successful!
The Historic Preservationists. Believe it or not, this group is new to Newburyport. Their strength is untried and this election will be a major test for them. The preservation of the downtown back in the seventies was a knee-jerk reaction to the horrors of demolition. It was only years later, that the economic and social benefits of such preservation have translated into hot real estate, high property values and an extraordinary high quality of life. The Preservation Trust only came into existence in 2005! And those who understand the architectural and technical aspects of real preservation and protection are but a small fraction of the citizenry. Most of the city lives in twelve non-historic suburban-like neighborhoods consisting of aluminum and a lot of plastic and most of the domicile have no architectural or historical significance. The preservation group will have to come out in force if they hope to counteract the rest of the city’s ignorance and indifference.*
The Anti-historic Preservationists. In a day of big government, creeping socialism, gun haters, high taxes and now drones and the NSA; has come the rise of Libertarians. Stay out of my sock drawer and mind your own business; this group wants to throw off government or at least make it so minimal, it has no influence in society. It’s all about property rights and “doing your own thing”. Thus, any regulatory control by the City of Newburyport is unwelcome – and they have used the Historical Commission as their scape goat but they deeply resent the Planning Board or any other board or commission that tries to do its job. They have no understanding of the aesthetic value of our downtown & historic district and want no one regulating architectural design.
The Pro-Building Waterfront Supporters. The basic mindset is that building construction, and business development is the key to our city’s success. This comes from a businessman’s perspective: we make money and we create jobs. Government receives revenues from taxes that are generated by income, and business activity will then generate employees who will then be taxed on their income and customers will be taxed on their sales. Then enough tax income will be generated to support an infrastructure that will continue the former activity. In their minds, parks don’t produce tax income and therefore are a drag on a city’s economy.
The Anti-Building Waterfront Supporters. This group believes that Newburyport has become affluent because it has generated a high quality of life. That includes safe sidewalks, nice parks, crime-free neighborhoods and a general pleasant environment. And they take their public spaces very seriously. Not only do they value the intrinsic value of a park; they believe that open space in general is a precious commodity especially public open space. Handing the land over to private developers or leaving it as parking lots is to them the height of betrayal to the sacred trust. (If only this group had been around in the early sixties when they paved over Cushing & Riverfront Park!)
The City Hall Employees. The politicians come and go but largely they stay on to do the daily tasks of government. A sizeable group of them believe that the taxpayers of Newburyport exist to serve them not the other way around. Any way to squeeze the citizens of Newburyport out of another dime is fine with them. A minority have setup cushy hack jobs or established small fiefdoms. At first glance, since many live outside of Newburyport; you would think they would have minimal influence but this is a small town. Each employee represents a web of friends and relatives who live here and many vote to protect their acquaintances. They as a group are always motivated with the promise of more “benefits”.
The City Planning Group. This group is all about infrastructure. This group is all about regulation. They envision no longer a shabby city but one that has high-municipal standards that solve such diverse challenges as safety, quality of life, social divisions, zero-waste and consistency in quality. To get there requires a lot of money and a lot of government involvement. This group is a firm believer in government and so tends to lean toward the left.
The Anti-Planning Group. This group is all about real estate and building construction. Often called the “Park Lunch Crowd”, they are local craftsmen who, like the dark side, yearn for the old ways but not in the way you would think. They have a palpable fear, almost a deep-throated terror that Newburyport will reach a critical mass in its affluence. The local government and the wealthy will start to bring in highly-qualified, skilled tradesmen who will have a paper-towel length portfolio and will push out the local workmen. Worse, if the city planning group and the historic preservationists have their way; these less-connected (and less qualified) will have to move outside of the city to find work or spend a lot of money in upgrading their training. They will do anything no matter how coarse to protect their perceived livelihood from this threat.
The Anti-Tourist Group. The tourists take your parking space in front of your house. The out-of-towner steps directly into traffic and has this dull-gawking look. They drive up Green Street and down State Street. Worse, they clog the main roads making it impossible to get anywhere. And when you visit downtown, they have taken all the parking spaces and more often than not, the choicest spots in the restaurants. They often bring crime or are dirty or worse, mispronounce Bartlett Mall and have no idea what is going on, or even where they are. This anti-tourist group would love to see them all go away and leave the city to the citizens. They yearn to see their town free of them.
The Pro-Tourist Group. This group understands that the entire cultural, economic and social well-being of the city is based on attracting an ever-increasing body of visitors to Newburyport. Whether by hook or by crook, they understand the value of our festivals, shops and cultural and historic sites. Unfortunately, they don’t know how to translate their message to the larger citizenry and usually restrict their message to businesspeople and the Chamber. Small group indeed but they are widely influential. They will show up to vote!
The Gripers. What they grip about is not necessarily about any one thing but if you get enough of them together, they can become a powerful force indeed. This is the griper for example that for years steps over an 8” high projection of concrete thrust up in the air by frost heaves and says nothing until the city comes along to fix it. Then, out comes the complaints of noise and traffic disruption and whining over it not being done right, etc. Yes, we’ve seen them lately haven’t we. They gripe over the Clipper City Rail Trail work, the Whittier Bridge construction, the Roundabout, the Green Street parking lot and yes, road obstructions from paving & water/sewer improvements. Their objection comes from “something” that has caused them to be delayed from their daily routine and, “They don’t like it!” The gripers often take any affront by a politician as a personal insult. Add in the shock over the Brown School playground and this group indeed could be a force at the polls!
As I indicated at the beginning of this post, it is not who is right or who is wrong, what is best for the city or any other concern – it will be which group is the most motivated to not only show up at the voting booth but will actively encourage all their friends and relatives and supporters to show up too. It maybe anger, disgust, fear, hate, love, loyalty, outrage or just raw passion; but it must be sufficient to shake off the apathy and depression and create the physical response of turning a lever. (Okay, in our town, it’s marking a dash line with a heavy marker without getting the ink on your clothes)
What group do you fall under?
* And they better stop talking education and actually do it. (That’s a jab from me.)