Sidewalks are going to be a BIG ISSUE in this coming political season. Smoke and fire and people running about shouting and wildly gesticulating – why, it’s going to be quite exciting and rather emotional.
First, we’ve got Donna Holaday – as much as the Daily News through the mouthpiece of Dyke Hendrickson; keeps repeating it over and over again: this election is a referendum over our first-in-history, four-year mayor. We’ve gone from Caleb Cushing who insisted putting it into the city charter, of getting paid nothing to be mayor; (For a Democrat, he was pretty chintzy on local power.) to the present corner-office Powerhouse. Who gets elected and who does not in City Council and School Committee may be decided by the citizens on how they feel about this new setup and what this Mayor has accomplished while in office.
Now this Mayor, hooked on state funding and the complications of sub-contracting; has chosen to slather concrete all over the city. It lasts long, its comparatively cheap to install, is low maintenance. (Big in a state with the Pacheco Law and prevailing wage laws) She was also behind the increased funding for sidewalks to which we are all grateful for her doing (with much steerage from Councilor Cronin) which begins a process which will eventually replace our crappy pathways.
Second, the Mayor is behind the push for actual sidewalk standards for the first-time in the city’s history. We’re supposed to be a first-class, International urban center – but we are, and still are, a New England version of a hillbilly hamlet. No wonder we have a large core of Libertarians in town – born from years of doing whatever the hell they wanted on their property! (This is of course, great except it hurts everyone else’s property rights who are unfortunately abutting them!) Wayne Amaral has presented to the Planning Office and the City Council, the first draft of this proposal to make us into a real city.
This is where great confusion may occur as we are actually dealing with two separate issues.
Our city is embued with a very high equity level, a very high quality of life level and, as anyone has noticed, a very high property value level that approaches astronomical proportions. All of this was not the result of our marinas, nor our Central Waterfront, our Chamber of Commerce events, our ‘trinket’ shops, nor shockingly, our restaurants. All of this came about because visionary first-arrivals took huge Federal and Greek Revival homes that were in terrible condition, bought them for a song; fixed them up and sustained stable, beautiful historic neighborhoods. Crime-ridden Joppa and South End are now dazzlingly desirable places and the North End and Back Bay have caused newcomers to fight vigorously to get into the ‘place’. When people envision living here, Turkey Hill and Quail Run nor the area around the Hospital are not even in the running.
It’s living inside the Newburyport Historic District. That’s what everyone wants.
Unfortunately, the Mayor and the DPS can not see this. Historic brick as put in by John Bromfield, and which is so identifiable to Newburyport; has been setup by the city’s procedures as to make it punitive for anyone to install it (unless you’ve got a good stash of money ready for use.). Thus, our heritage tourism is being trashed not just on Green Street and Temple Street but all over the central part of the city. Large numbers of people are angry, infuriated and determined to impose a stop to this ‘nickel and dime’ approach that is so negatively impacting the real wealth-generator for the city.*
Thus, I just want to say that we need to steer our anger in the right direction. The imposing of urban standards for our sidewalks is a real plus for the city. It will finally make us a safe place for pedestrians and we can happily dispense after a few years of the ‘Newburyport Walk’. It will also shield us from lawsuits that other communities were subject to (such as our neighbor, Ipswich) in which a judge and not the city gets to dictate what kind of sidewalk we should have! The standards will be going through the vetting process in City Hall and I encourage many who wish to see it tweaked, to read it and make some input before it gets implemented into our ordinances. There will be little politics about it (Unless you’re a Hillbilly objecting to having your cobblestone or designer sidewalk on public property taken away!)
The real fight will be ‘pushing back’ this negative trend to ‘mayonnaise’ Newburyport so we blend into any other urban center in Massachusetts. I just finished last year commuting into Burlington and as I travelled around the state, community after community; my spirit would sour every time I made it back to my city. We are a destination, not a faceless suburbia of Boston; our juxtaposition at the Merrimack River, with the Common Pasture and the Great Marsh to our back; and Plum Island to the east – with a major state park to the west; and then cram in all that history – it is a crime to destroy what we have enjoyed and seen rejuvenated since 1964.
Why would we allow evil-doers, with their perverted, self-serving motives, destroy the good we have enjoyed for so long!?!
Our Founding Fathers understood that the benefits of our great Republic with all its blessings would need citizens willing to fight just to keep the good so dearly bought with blood.
We need to fight to keep the good we already enjoy!!!!
We need to focus on keeping our Newburyport Historic District with brick sidewalks and the rest of the city with concrete. That’s one of our major fights this election year!
* Next week, I will be revealing the next huge issue that will be covered during this upcoming election. It is even more serious to the city that one can even imagine. But a post-Labor Day time is the right time to reveal it so everyone can understand this horrific situation.