“There Oughta Be A Law!”

This expression usually comes from some awful situation that’s been allowed to continue in the community or society but unfortunately no law exists to stop it.       Something so atrocious that law-abiding, upstanding citizens exclaim in desperation, “There oughta be a law!”

Here in Newburyport, we have just such a situation.   A violation of our decency that exists day in and day out and in every season.     So wretched that people have been seriously hurt and yes, even died from it.       Our economy suffers by it, our quality of life is severely damaged due to it and yet it just keeps continuing.

Crazily, without even tugging on our wallets – all it would take would be bold leadership by our legislators to resolve it.         Property values would rise, community spirit would be lifted and our visitors to which we depend on financially would spread the good news ever increasing our reputation and bringing more of them back.

We have horrible sidewalks.       They are uneven, consist of a wide-ranging list of materials from packed stone dust to brick to blacktop to concrete to cobblestone.     They are often cracked, crumbling, uplifted, choked with weeds, too narrow, and unpredictably wavy.     The locals have consciously and subconsciously adjusted by walking down the middle of our less-busy streets.     The children are endangered; and our visitors?      They have sprained their ankles, been seriously hurt and often leave our city with a sour view of our streets.

And what about those less-fortunate to have two good feet or even basic balance?    They too must use our public streets for motorized wheelchairs and even using crutches can guarantee a fall.     Curbs are precipitous and the lack of maintenance make the sidewalk terrain treacherous.      Our elderly too are endangered right along with our children trying to get to school.

And yet – the city’s attempt has been horrifying.     They won’t maintain the sidewalks leaving them (hopefully) for an adjacent homeowner to do all the work.     Many citizens don’t have the resources or if they do, they are told that is ‘city property’. (hinting at, ‘don’t touch’)    The city insists on putting in concrete (when they have the cash) right into the heart of the heritage tourism area (Newburyport Historic District) but self-consciously understanding the wrong they are doing, they allow certain stretches to be kept brick thus violating the American Disabilities Act about consistent surfaces.   They try to destroy our historic district with ghastly ramped areas in concrete ruining the look and feel of our historic city.    When they are tight with money they slather blacktop even though their own policies forbid it as a recommended surface.    And we have still street after street with crumbled Great Depression-era concrete, wavy blacktop and shattered brick and, of all things, nasty cobblestones. (because some homeowner thought it was ‘historic’ and attractive.)

There oughta be a law!


Incredibly, there are ALREADY laws and policies and standards that are right in place!    But they happen to have been passed by other heritage tourism towns and cities.     Their locals and visitors get to enjoy increased property values and a high quality of life, general safety for their children, for the elderly and for the handicapped.     Positive words have gotten around about their towns and cities and their economic conditions have been improved. (and I might add that last statement has been well-documented).

So, the question bears – when will our community and our legislators resolve this agonizing situation?       This as I will indicate in more posts is not a money problem; it is a lack of community and political will.

Laws need to come first!

-P. Preservationist

This entry was posted in Economics, Environment, finances, Health and wellness, Heritage Tourism, Maintenance, News and politics, Quality of Life, Real Estate, sidewalks, Streetscapes, Taxes, Tourism. Bookmark the permalink.

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