One of the common political mistakes by supporters of a particular cause is to assume that one victory constitutes winning a war.
I have seen it over the years on the local front and on the national front. Concerned citizens work diligently through any means to support a cause or get behind a candidate. Hard work is made to get the right persons into political office and then everyone…goes home.
Secure in the thought that the important issues will be taken care of by the elected officials.
And then to everyone’s surprise, after a few years, the political winds change and another group that is working diligently re-take power and undo all the hard work, sometimes stalling progress and outright reversing it.
This is not the time to take it easy or to take a break or to postpone decisions because we have ‘plenty of time’.
Just because we have a Mayor who supports heritage tourism, and urban planning; just because we have a majority of preservation-minded city councilors; does not constitute that we have won the preservation war. In fact, we’ve just begun the fight.
Unless preservationists keep active and work aggressively, we could see the advances of the last few years horribly reverse themselves.
The opposition are still with us – plotting, planning, and thinking up new ways to regain power. The ignorant new homeowners and deep-pocket developers are still pouring into our hot real estate market generated by our historic architecture.
We still have a local bank (or banks) hostile toward historic preservation. They love passing out loans that see historic homes gutted.
We still have local lawyers who actively represent applicants who want to demolish, gut or renovate to death our historic homes.
We have local real estate agents who are still clueless why people want to move to the historic parts of Newburyport and are actually apologizing to potential buyers that they have to sell an historic building.
The local newspaper is largely clueless on the important issue of historic preservation. Like a mental block, they totally failed to comprehend the real battle for the city council that occurred last year. They are doing this either because they are still living in the past or are doing it deliberately.
We still have a dark sider as President of the City Council.
We still have Cronin the Barbarian* sitting on the city council.
We have a Planning Director (and the Puppet Master behind him) still determined to pursue ‘improvements’ to the city that will in the long run hurt our community. Motivated by dollar signs, he (and the Master) can only see the empty promises of future revenue made by a collection of banks, dark siders and NAID’ers.
We still have the King of Newburyport, the building inspector, squarely spreading his destructive message across the Newburyport Historic District that these ancient houses must come to code (when in fact they are exempt from even the Stretch Code let alone the Building Code.)
We have many important future battles and countless skirmishes ahead. This is not a time to sit in your easy chair. If we lose the war, Newburyport returns to the old days of becoming a yesterday destination and one where static growth and failed budgets will be the constant yearly reality. Just because we’re affluent now and looking pretty doesn’t mean we’ll stay that way – in fact, if the city’s present reality is considered, we are definitely on the road to being a loser community.
If you look at Newburyport today, most people don’t realize that just about every inch of our downtown was the product of epic battles, the dried blood from the losers and victors lost because it blends in with our historic bricks. Amesbury may have a reputation for nasty politics but Newburyport historically has refined that nastiness to a fine art. All that beauty came from hundreds of dedicated citizens who cared about the city and rose up and volunteered and worked and fought– each doing their part.
Just about everything we hold dear in the city had some dispute about it. Those who seek to ‘get along’ don’t get anything done!
* Barbarians are good for pure enthusiasm and efficiency but they don’t comprehend such things as quality of life issues. Architecture, esthetics, heritage tourism, urban planning, etc. – it’s just not their forte.