Oh that I had the legal contacts and the resources for a class action lawsuit!
There I was up in Seabrook dropping my wife off at work. Since I was up there, I thought I’d check out the new shopping center and the Market Basket expansion. To my surprise, even in free wheeling New Hampshire, they had installed concrete sidewalks to the highest standards and handicap accessible ramps right to the street level.
So, we snobby Newburyporters are suppose to be so much ‘better’ than a bunch of ‘Brookers but we have blacktop where we’re supposed to have concrete, concrete when we’re supposed to have brick to encourage heritage tourism traffic flow; brick, concrete and blacktop all mixed together based not on municipal standards but on the whim of the abutting owner. And we have long lengths of streetscapes either absent of sidewalks, sidewalks from the Great Depression or blacktop just so we can say that it got ‘done’.
My wife was going through her files of old political flyers for the last three decades in Newburyport – I was checking them out and was amazed to see candidates with the same old claims to fix ‘our sidewalks’.
Thanks to Mayor Holaday, we actually have sufficient money to redo large sections of the city in a few short years.
Which is why we are now wide open to a class-action lawsuit. We can’t cry hardship anymore and yet the city refuses to take leadership in coordinating a plan for the consistent re-surfacing of the city. Portsmouth (Yeah, another New Hampshire city) has done brick sidewalks in their historic district and concrete in the rest of the city. Why can’t we?
We as a city are acting like a retiree who’s won the lottery. Yahoo! Let’s splurge the money.
So now instead of crappy sidewalks, we have a patchwork of uneven, sporadic resurfacing that diminishes our heritage tourism, forces most citizens to have to still do the ‘Newburyport Walk’ and in which we still have locals and visitors running up to the hospital for sprained ankles and even broken bones. We even had one person fall and die a few years back.
This is not a violation of health and safety laws, this present condition is a violation of our civil rights as described by the American Disabilities Act.
It is not our beleaguered Department of Public Services – they are understaffed and barely able to keep up with holding the city together.
Nor is it our subcontractors and private contractors bonded with the city – they are simply NOT given firm directions as to the required standards for sidewalks.
Nor is there any ordinance on the books for enforcement on sidewalk violations done by private landowners.
It is up to the city councilors and the Mayor’s office (through the Planning Office) to resolve this problem.
Yes, we are ripe for a lawsuit – we have the money, we have the problem, we have the solution (standards) and the city is negligently premeditated (plan and standards called for in the Master Plan) and willful in disregarding basic civil rights.
After all the promises, and after the election in November – it should be a priority to create a Sidewalk Installation and Maintenance Plan. One that promotes heritage tourism and safety and actually provides for citizens and visitors. Newburyport is a very walk able city (but without walk able sidewalks).
The clock is ticking toward a doomsday lawsuit. Let’s get this issue resolved in 2014 and avoid a looming financial drain on the city.