This entire garage negotiation is extremely complicated. Councilor Cronin has given all of us an excellent glimpse and superb update on the present situation with his blog insert. If you really want to know (instead of anecdotal information from your friends and neighbors) I would encourage you to stop reading this blog this very moment and read his assessment. That way, the rumor mills can be put to rest at least in the person of each reader.
Assuming you have just completed reading Cronin’s update, please understand, even he can’t tell you everything! So many variables are coming in from every different direction. So it upsets me that we still have a tiny minority of dark siders who still are against the garage!
These ‘bitter clingers’ are living in a fantasy world of their own making. They still yearn for the days when Newburyport was filled with smog-belching mills not even mentioning the pleasant odors coming from the tanneries. Those were the days when tourists hurried past the city on their way to the beaches or to the wildlife preserve. The clingers remember empty and quiet streets where everyone knew each other. (Most ‘outsiders’ stayed away from the city unless they had a job there due to our reputation. The same reputation still present in similar ‘tourist sites’ like Lawrence, Lynn and Brocton.) Being a Townie meant influence and power and a tinge of threat. Dark siders still think of those times as the ‘good-old days’.
This tiny group want to chase away tourists, disparage visitors and they especially hate the merchants who man our restaurants and shops who have dared to bring in all these ‘strangers’.
So why am I upset!?!
Because their viewpoint and subsequent actions are close to treasonous to our community!
OUR ECONOMY, OUR QUALITY OF LIFE AND OUR GENERAL COMMUNITY HEALTH AND SERVICES ARE BASED ON NEWBURYPORT AS A DESTINATION CITY.
18,000 citizens are receiving the benefits that only a very large Massachusetts urban center can afford. The aesthetic qualities of our beautiful city is making our property values, and our equity go through the roof. Real estate values are largely based on ‘perceived worth’. Our South End, once poverty stricken and a high-crime area now supports medium size houses going for as much as a million dollars! This makes every property owner ending up sitting on a hefty pile of equity. Even our assessed values are not far behind, so that our city’s tax levies are pushing us into the rich financial world of deep black. No longer are hats, shoes, fabric and silverware what we give to the world. Quality of life is now our biggest and richest product. This makes our city highly attractive and of great value in this world of weary travelers and over-stressed communities.
We also as a city benefit directly from our visitors. As they eat and shop at our stores, the meal tax (thank you Councilor Cameron) goes toward our infrastructure improvements and sidewalks. Our parking fees (thank you Mayor Holaday and Councilor Cronin) goes toward improvements in the city and more than likely will help partially pay for our parking garage and expanded waterfront park. In other words, the visitors, not the residents; end up largely paying for many of the things that for years we couldn’t afford to have fixed. The visitors of which statistically 14% will want to live here, making selling a home here mighty gratifying which is why we are flooded with realtors. My mortgage company’s website is filled with sad stories of mortgages being more than the value of the house in other communities. Not to worry here.
The perks from our visitors also translates into top-rate government services. Belching smoke isn’t coming from our police cruisers; rickety fire engines aren’t rattling down our streets and City Hall when visited doesn’t appear to be a death trap. (It wasn’t too long ago it was!) Our schools which basically are 60% percent of our budget would be an embarrassment to the rest of the Commonwealth without a solid tax base to support our children and the teachers. We still have much improvements to our infrastructure due to the ‘good-old days’ inability to pay for basic maintenance; but we’re getting there.
So what would be the logical conclusion from all these on-going benefits from our visitors?
WE NEED MORE VISITORS!
We need people, nationally and internationally to know about our city. We need a program to attract more visitors to our city. We need to enhance those elements that cause us to be more attractive. (boardwalk, cultural attractions, eco-tourism, historic downtown, historic houses, marinas, unique shops, etc.) We need accommodations for them to stay longer beyond a day. (Increased lodging (which would justify a lodging tax), easier parking and better traffic flows and more attractions such as special events for them to enjoy.
A Garage, hotel, NED’s development are all good things. Thanks to our restaurants, we are now an all-year destination; we need to make sure those visitors go back and tell other visitors to come to Newburyport.
City Council and the Mayor have enough on their hands with all the complicated negotiations to be distracted by detractors who basically want to sabotage our community and our economy.
We need the entire city to get on board as to what is the future and well-being for all of us. Sure, there will be negatives that we will have to endure. (Ever been to Newport, Rhode Island?) but much can be done to mitigate* the affects; but the benefits far outweigh them.
* Which is why I am so strong in advocating for the local historic district ordinance. I was impressed how Newport (I’m not talking about the Mansion areas) has preserved lovely neighborhoods for the locals and helped the developers go elsewhere inside the community. Instead of them devastating our historic neighborhoods; and driving mid-income people out of the city with over-priced new construction; the locals (just like Newport’s citizens which are of varying economic levels) can have quiet, well-maintained but stable property values without heavy, unpredictable jumps in assessments, fees and property prices.