Historic Preservation is the single, most important issue in our city. It fuels our affluence, our schools and our quality of life. When it comes to our economy, the restaurants and shops downtown depend on it. Our real estate industry lives off of it, and each and every property owner, inside and outside the National Register historic district benefits from it directly or indirectly. Our local skilled craftsmen thrive on the demands of our ancient structures. But above all, our local government and that includes our schools literally couldn’t enjoy the high rate of revenue; if it wasn’t for our historic downtown and neighborhoods. Even our marinas and waterfront wouldn’t have nearly the draw if it wasn’t for the desire to moor the boat, and ‘head into town’.
So, yes; we have many challenges in our city – and I am well aware of them; but this is right at the very top.
Unfortunately, historic preservation has become as easy to adopt as making that often heard empty statement, “Yes, I’m for an open waterfront!”† The DOD is in place, the DCOD covers the now recognized Newburyport Historic District, and the sign ordinance for the downtown has been put back and is now part of our regular enforceable rules for the city. It is so easy now to declare support for ‘historic preservation’.
Back during the American Revolution, only 30% of the populace actually risked their lives and their fortunes to defeat the British; but after the last Redcoat boarded their ships and left our shores; and there was no longer a risk; EVERYONE BECAME A PATRIOT.
We still have a long way to go! Unlike a local historic district ordinance which has long been vetted in our legal system; the DCOD and DOD have not been tested in our courts; our historic brick sidewalks need to be extended through the district, deep-rooted trees need to replace shallow-rooted ones, our very historic street lamps need to replace the ghastly telephone poles near our downtown and our building department needs to be thoroughly re-structured to promote historic preservation. Our zoning re-write and our new Master Plan will be pressured by self-serving special interests to abandon it. Even those who want to go on the cheap; will try to sacrifice it for short-term objectives. And yes, the local historic district ordinance must be re-visited if we are to have a future.
When the pressures on, will the city councilors stand firm or will they whither away? Or worse, will they try to weasel out of their stand and weaken themselves with compromise?
But there it is! Hard questions to ask by every citizen especially those who have especially been ravaged by infill and their historic neighborhoods threatened.
It is unfortunate the Mayor and some are using historic preservation to promote their favorite candidates especially when the Corner-office is hardly a shining example. I have an eye for independent candidates who could actually install a break on the ‘bulldozer’ but regrettably, many would squash historic preservation efforts at the same time! Hopefully, citizens as they have met them at their door have impressed on them how important this issue is in Newburyport!
Fortunately, we do have many running who have a track record for historic preservation. Some of my ‘endorsements’ will be forced in the next two years to have to make a choice – historic preservation’s way or the Mayor’s way? It is very difficult to stand in front of a bulldozer! Theophilus Parsons may have been the creator of the Bill of Rights but he was also a champion (Check out the Essex Result, Position 13) for checks and balances in government – the executive and the legislative keeping the other in balance. Our citizens need to support our elected officials when they make a strong, independent stand.
But that will be the next two years.
Now I am endorsing the following candidates because they do have a track record and if elected would be the closest to a perfect city council ‘at-large’ that could advance the big HP: (In alphabetical order)
PS. My full disclosure.
† The devil is in the details!