So while I have been carrying on intellectually trying to explain how our City makes money; apparently Tom Ryan’s term, “Cannibal City” has become more and more an accurate label. We’re not just devouring the very thing that has made our community prosperous, we’re busy devouring our own legs right up to the kneecap and beyond.
We’ve got an out of control building inspector who allows developers to believe they will have to gut our historical buildings if they ever wish to get an occupancy permit; a Zoning Board of Appeal’s who totally disregard community benefit or even the voice of dozens of abutters; with a basic line, “Show up with cash and a willingness to build, and you’ll get approved”, a Mayor who is addicted to building ‘things’ no matter if its harmful to the city or not. Finally, we’ve got a directionless Department of Public Services that is busy destroying our heritage tourism by slathering concrete all over the Newburyport Historic District and if they can’t get their way, at least add concrete to each city corner; thus destroying the very ambience of our History and especially the most valuable of all, The South End.
Everyone will admit, and in fact, was just brought up today by Jean Doyle in the Daily News; that our city was turned around from a poverty-stricken deplorable position to its present day renaissance by Historic Preservation. (Yes, it’s in bold face and in caps!)
Now any small child can see with a simple illustration that if you put the cart before the horse then you are going to get no where. A kindergartener would understand right away how absurd this is. And even children in our elementary schools if given a crazy diagram as demonstrated below are going to understand right away that putting the cart before the horse is just crazy. The cart will just sit there and won’t be moved along until you get the horse pulling in front with the cart pointing in the right direction! They would just look at you and say, “That’s just plain silly!”
And yet, our present administration has decided that gutting our historic buildings to the studs, ripping out anything of historic value; or better yet, demolishing our historic buildings is going to guarantee our future prosperity. They see nothing wrong turning our historic neighborhoods into bland urban landscapes. What we will end up is a soulless city with no history, no roots and a shallow Disney-ish feel to it – in other words, a cheap, imitation of real history.
This trend of generating Faux History can be detected by visitors a mile away – Newburyport will begin to take on the reputation of being a shallow tourist trap in which people of any self-respect will avoid.
Las Vegas is the home of fake history: a fake Eiffel tower, fake Italian architecture and fake building icons. And when they tire of it, they just demolish the fake and replace it with a classier fake. And they have suffered for it over the years from a disease – I feel it every time I’m there visiting a business show – It’s called tackiness. And it leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
And then there is Disneyland – a lovely place to visit but even there, it’s an empty shell. Nice to visit but living there? Knowing that everything is a put-on, people pretending in costume. You start to get a different feeling – shallowness, emptiness, lack of reality. Even Walt Disney who unfortunately died before he realized the dream, wanted to make things more realistic and practical with a future city concept called Epcot. (Today’s Epcot is not it.)
Eventually, the Faux History and the dog and pony show are seen through for what they are – cheap imitations of the real thing.
Newburyport is mortgaging our authentic history for a fast buck now. We think that we can generate huge tax rolls by putting in sparkling clean buildings with all the modern features and match it with all the modern conveniences that money can buy.
But the visitors, including the visitors who plan on buying real estate, can be fooled for just so long. Eventually, those seeking an historic seaport are going to abandon us and go to Portsmouth. Those seeking real historic architecture will leave us for Charleston and Savannah. And we’ve traded quality for the cheap stunt of plastic A-signs and tourist trap gimmicks, it won’t be long before we’ll start to wonder why our tax rolls are dropping as the real estate market goes elsewhere. And as the Daily News vividly described today, our city will be shrinking with a smaller population to take on the tax burden.
We, as citizens, have got to wake up and take back our city from the exploiters. This ravaging band seeks none other than to devour our city for fast money now. Not only will they devour for cash but they will also devour the two things that have made Newburyport affluent and a regional leader: Historic Preservation and our Quality of Life.
Let’s stop City Hall and the Developers from putting the cart before the horse!