Thursday, April 30, 2009

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Email from Brian Derrivan re: landfill

Hello All,

New Ventures signed and filed their agreement with the DEP and the AG today. That means that trucks will be coming into the landfill as soon as tomorrow morning. The board of health has been notified by New Ventures and will have staff ready in the morning. I know that there will be odor issues and I ask everyone for their patience as we work to a successful conclusion. I will be emailing weekly as to the progress of the capping and all other activities at the landfill. I will also try and get a copy of the agreement as soon as it becomes available.

Thank you,
Brian Derrivan
Ward Five City Councilor

NEWS FLASH: Landfill deal finalized

I was just (well, about an hour ago) told by Brian Derrivan and Jack Morris that an agreement has been reached between New Ventures, DEP and the Attorney General.

New Ventures today entered the agreement into the court but TRUCKS COULD START ROLLING IN AS SOON AS TOMORROW (Friday).

Derrivan had previously said that NV had to complete boring before commencing capping, but apparently the state is letting them do it concurrently.

Derrivan said he did not think the deal was much different from the last deal that the City Council did not like, except maybe for the part about C&D fines and benchmarks.

I saw David Chatfield accost the mayor (we were all in City Hall) about the ad hoc committee getting a gander at the agreement and the mayor started stammering ...

NV has to complete the borings within 15 days.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Get inside you lawbreakers

Speaking of outdoor dining, which we weren't but we are now, here's a piece from the Globe I just came across.

State law limits sidewalk dining to May through October. For the past several years, the city has bent the rules and allowed restaurants to open their sidewalk cafes earlier, in April, to accommodate unseasonably warm temperatures.

Hey, I saw some people sitting at tables outside Agave, eating, just last weekend!

I haven't heard anything more from Katie Ives about Oregano's outdoor seating, but I was wondering about the barrier they have to put up and how the NFD said it has to be movable in case of a fire on Inn St. - does that mean that the fire truck is going to stop and wait while staff moves the barrier?

Just a thought ...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Another glossy

So my neighbor pranced over a while ago holding a promotional piece of paper for a new glossy magazine, Northshore Life.

To be published by CNC, the entity that owns the Current.

This is going to put me in double Dutch with Merrimack Valley Magazine, which already won't accept anything that any Eagle Tribune glossy ran.

Who knows what they ran? Not me ... and I was getting their mag delivered to me free, up through the last issue anyway.

(I'm not much on magazines, even the ones I write for. A real stumbling block, that.)

So much for my fabulous Marquand story.

Life sucks.

Oh to be a native or somewhere

I love, love, love talking to Townies. In fact, it's becoming an obsession of mine ...

But I gotta tell ya, I could tell a few stories of oddity myself.

I think I've mentioned before how when you're researching someone (or after you write a story, someone comes up and says, "oh you didn't mention he was jailed for holding up an armored car and made off with $1 million in booty ..." or things to that effect).

That kind of stuff usually comes from someone who wasn't born here but who has lived here for a while. I'm finding that Townies do not usually rat out other townies and would rather forget the crimes and misdemeanors of their fellow natives.

Surprisingly, Little Miss Blabberhead (that would be me) goes right along with this.

"Oh? In 1963 he drank himself stupid and ran naked down State Street? That's interesting ... but not relevant to what I'm writing."

But I expect that at least Ralph Ayers, who has told me himself that other Townies don't appreciate his candor, will be blurting out anything and everything this Sunday.

Counting Mr. Ayers (the only person I can think of who still lets people smoke in his house), I have had the privilege of talking with 4 Townies since Friday.

The woman I was speaking with today was talking about something else, but our conversation wandered in the direction that all my conversations with Townies go - about the sense of belonging somewhere.

She said - and not to belittle anyone - that when you get an influx of new people and a simultaneous exodus of natives, a town starts to lose its identity and sense of community.

And this, in turn, leads to an increase in poverty. No one there to pick you up when you fall down because there's no one left who knows you well enough.

The whole United States, which is dipping ever so close to alarming levels of poverty, has become a fragmented society because people move away or don't come back after college; I think this has a lot to do with the success of blogs such as Flint Expatriates.

Readers of that blog actually send the author of it money to support him ... which reminds me, I meant to send him money.

If you have read any John P. Marquand - which I haven't, but I got this from his granddaughter, Beth Welch - you see that in his books, the hero almost always returns home to find his true self.

Gone are the days when someone stayed with the same employer for an entire career. Gone are the days when you could turn to your neighbor in times of trouble ... and it's getting worse but better at the same time.

How is that?

I think Facebook and MySpace and Twitter contribute to this social isolation on a local level while increasing it on a national and/or global level.

People are more aware of what's going on with someone in CA than they are with what's going on next door (unless one's neighbor is on FB or Twitter, of course). They will contribute to some global cause being championed online but not to some local charity or organization that's going down the tubes for lack of funding.

People spend hours playing a computer game, or on Facebook and/or Twitter or a BLOG (I can't speak to MySpace, not having a space) but the city is hurting for volunteers to serve on boards and commissions.

I get the sense of loss this woman was feeling, but I don't necessarily get that from younger Townies, who are the ones on FB or playing computer games.

Although I do envy the ease with which they move about this town.

A river runs through it

Oh I love it when something I wrote about and extolled its values comes crashing down ... take for instance the 'river house' I wrote about last year, for Merrimack Valley Magazine (not on line, can't link to it).

This brief in the Boston Globe tells about how the owner, John Grossi, was fined $12,000 by DEP for violations relating to the home's proximity to the river.

What I think is funny is that nowhere in the story does it say that Grossi is the owner of Latitude Sports Clubs ... is that relevant?

Come one, come all

OK, so I can hardly wait for this:

Ralph Ayers, Newburyport Historian, and Dick Cunningham, Genealogist and Newbury Historian, TOGETHER for a Conversation on Newburyport and Newbury: Oddities of the Past!

2 p.m., Sunday, May 3
Newburyport Public Library

I had my second conversation ever with Ralph Ayers yesterday ... I have not spoken with Dick Cunningham (yet) but I can tell already the library is going to be a "hotspot" on Sunday afternoon.

Greater Newburyport Celebrates Obama's First 100 Days

Join Greater Newburyport Democrats and other supporters of the President for a sign waving visibility to celebrate President Obama's First 100 Days.

Meet at Market Square, Newburyport, on Saturday, May 2 from 10-11:30 a.m. Bring any signs you have leftover from the campaign or make your own homemade sign.

Please join us in supporting the President and his efforts to get our country moving.

For more information, go to

Landfill story in today's Daily News

Here's the story about the withdrawn contempt complaint that is in today's DN.

Jill Butterworth, deputy press secretary for Attorney General Martha Coakley, said yesterday the office dismissed without prejudice its contempt claims against New Ventures LLC.

A dismissal without prejudice allows the commonwealth to reassert the allegations at a later time if appropriate or necessary, she added in an e-mail. Butterworth declined further comment.

The only part of this I find highly amusing is that when I spoke with Ms. Butterworth, she expressed some surprise that she had not heard from the Daily News.

That in itself is news.

I expect to hear any minute now that the AG and DEP have reached a settlement with New Ventures, but just think - if the AG had presented its motion for an expedited hearing with the proper documentation, this might have been over 3 months ago.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Council approves sewer OT

Oh yay, I don't have to hound those poor fellas in the sewer dept. anymore (at least about the PI sewer system).

It appears that going down to Provincetown has convinced them that they need some kind of (probably expensive) system that shows much more definitively where the problems are when vacuum is lost.

Oh wait - I guess I'm still going to have to hound a bit because someone told me a while back that they had the option of installing such a system when they put the sewer in.

More money spent on an already overspent system.

More relevant - DPS Director Brendan O'Regan said P-Town spends a lot more money on maintenance than does Newburyport. Like $100,000 a year.

But gee whiz, Councillor Barry Connell just will not let trying to get money out of either AIRVAC, the manufacturer, or CDM, the designer, go.

The very good news is, they are already working on replacing some doo-dad in, and are pumping out, the pits for the summer season.

Council stands behind Goudey

The City Council what seems like hours ago now - wait, it WAS hours ago now - approved the re-appointment of Cliff Goudey to the Waterfront Trust.

I don't envy them, having to make this decision. Council chambers was packed with people, most of whom stayed silent.

And those who stayed silent and who opposed the appointment paid for their silence.

Apparently what Brian Derrivan said a few weeks ago about people showing up to voice their opinion really is a deciding factor for some people.

Steve Hutcheson said he had come prepared to vote against the appointment, but that listening to the people speaking in favor of Goudey - including former Mayor Mary Anne Clancy, who appointed Goudey in the first place - swayed him in the other direction.

What looked like the entire Harbor Commission sat together and appeared glum. Not one of them spoke.

Voting against the appointment were Derrivan, Tom Jones, Larry McCavitt and Tom O'Brien.

I have to say, I agree with McCavitt that almost everyone on the council who said why they would vote the way that they did made excuses for Mr. Goudey ("oh, that's the way it was done before," "oh, he didn't file financial documents but I'm sure it can be worked out").

That was more paraphrasing than actual quotes, but again - I hope this all works out and we don't end up with a big sweeping drive through the park and the Waterfront Trust disbanded because they don't really own the land anyway (or so hints City Hall).

I wonder if any of those councillors even read what people in question said to the newspapers?

Oh, well, we surely have not heard the last of this.

Google it

I'm reiterating my complaint about ads that appear on the Daily News site, while a page is being loaded.

This latest one, for something called a Zwinky, was up for way too long. I know I'm a very impatient person, but this was ridiculous.

I almost gave up looking for this editorial, about the newest parking study.

While I agree with whoever wrote it that it seems to be an exercise in futility, the Daily News keeps ignoring the facts of the matter (or they're relying on Sean Sullivan, who didn't know all the facts).

Perhaps in the future a garage will be needed, when billionaire Steven Karp finally moves forward with plans for the waterfront. Why not wait until that day arrives and let a plan emerge at that time?

I have the answer to that question. This project is going in dribs and drabs and the money is only flowing in one part at a time. The first part is a study.

As transit authority administrator Joseph Costanzo (from the Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority) said to me here, "This is a very preliminary step in a long journey."

Don't these people do any kind of search before they write stuff? The earmark is clearly spelled out both on a goverment site and in a press release from Congressman Tierney (all except the part about the 20% match).

My objection is that its sucking up federal funds that could have been better used elsewhere. The earmark was granted in 2005 ... the city could just have ignored it and I assume the $1.672 mil would have gone back to wherever it came from.

Which sounds just fine to me.

If Karp needs a traffic study and a parking garage, let him pay for it himself. That's my and your taxpayer dollars going to pay for something a private individual could well have afforded.

I can't wait until this whole Waterfront Trust matter is revealed for what I think it is - a land grab.

I so hope I'm wrong.

Owner of cast out canine speaks out

OK... so I can't help but notice that although the story about the river has just one comment, the one about the dog in W. Newbury has 39 comments.

Now the owner has jumped in to defend him/herself.

(And speaking of pets, my cat just strolled in with some dead rodent clenched between his teeth ... oh good, now he's walking off, leaving the corpse on the mat for me to deal with.)

I always find that once the owner/parent of some evildoer shows up in the comments, they are generally beaten to the ground and then stomped upon. No one had any sympathy for the person whose (unleashed) dog was killed after being run down last winter in Newburyport, but this owner is being in general supported.

Anyway, so now I have the hook for my version of the river story: I'm going to fling a dog into the river ... nah, but I could report on the effects of the dirty water on dogs.

Now THAT would garner attention.

Who cares about your kids frolicking on or near the river when your dog may be in danger?

This reminds me of when I would be out walking with my (then small) niece, in Malden. Nothing to report there.

But if I was out walking my sister's dog in the same neighborhood, people would veer into oncoming lanes of traffic or screech to a halt to avoid being within 10 feet of potentially harming the dog (which, by the way, was always on a leash).

Go figure.

State of the river, part 2 or 3

Here's Lynne Hendricks' story about the State of the River address.

Interesting how the bit about someone/something in Amesbury polluting the Powow got shuttled to the bottom of the story.

Last fall Tabak said the xouncil was instrumental in discovering an E. coli "hot spot" in Amesbury's Powow River, a tributary of the Merrimack. Where the state limit of E. coli is 235 CFUs (colony forming units) per 100 milileters for that waterway, the council's tests revealed 198,630 CFUs per 100 milileter in the Powow River, which resulted in Amesbury being issued a letter of non-compliance from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. According to Tabak and MRWC Water Resources manager Tracie Sales, Amesbury is working on finding the source of that waste, which they believe to be an illegal connection either intentionally or mistakenly dumping waste into the river.

Aside from the fact that they need better proofreaders at the DN, I personally witnessed Lynne's eyes light up when this piece of information was revealed (she's coming on FT to the DN, covering Amesbury, by the way).

Ah, editors - you gotta love 'em.

Landfill trial

The Attorney General withdrew the contempt complaint on Thursday, so there was no trial.

That's all there is to say right now. Literally, that's all there is. I would not hold anything back.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Take me from the river

I have to say, I was really surprised at how sparse the attendance was at the State of the River address yesterday. The talk was given by representatives of the Merrimack River Watershed Council.

Basically only a handful of people showed up to hear about CSOs and other good stuff that proves the federal government has really let us down as far as keeping the Merrimack River clean.

We've got three major problems in MA on the river, after it rains: they would be Lawrence, Lowell and Haverhill. The Council is working with these communities to improve the situation, but really the EPA needs to get on the ball.

It's the old mills and the antiquated systems still in place that allow storm water to get into the river. And the illicit dumping of crap.

I have to say, I did not realize how evil storm water can be. It's the cars people drive and the fertilizers people put on their lawns ...

The long and short of it is - after a big rain event (+ 1/4" of rain in 72 hrs.) you shouldn't be swimming in the river. Sometimes you shouldn't even be boating on the river.

I never see any warnings ... do you?

But my point is, although I'm told Sen. Bruce Tarr stopped in briefly, no other legislator or city official bothered to stop by.

50 miles of river and lots of communities and no one but Tarr even made the effort.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Earth Day celebration winding down

Don't forget about the State of the Merrimack address today ... I'm told on the QT that someone from our little writers group will be doing a reading during the presentation. That's at 2 p.m. at the Refuge headquarters.

Also, tomorrow is the Earth Expo at Maudslay State Park. Heck, here's the entire schedule of Earth Day events for tomorrow:

10:15 a.m. Blessing of the EarthPerformed by Sally Cook, ordained minister and healer. Meet on top of the root cellar adjacent to Maudslay State Park’s Arts Center (directions). Contact: Linda Guthrie by email. Organized by the Greater Newburyport Eco Collaborative.

11 a.m. - 2 p.m. Maudslay Dirty DuEarthlonRun, bike, and run off-road trails for adults and older kids; participate in a team relay or as an individual. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. adjacent to Maudslay State Park’s Arts Center (directions) or you can register online. There are also obstacle courses for young children. If you don’t want to get sweaty, spectate over food, music, and more! Contacts: Heidi Thompson by email or Andy Hawkes by email. Organized by Heat Training and Lighthouse Events.

11 a.m. - 3 p.m. 1st Annual Earth ExpoOver 25 green artisans, eco-friendly retailers and home improvement services, organic food producers, and nonprofit organizations will have tables displaying and selling their work. Held inside the Maudslay State Park’s Arts Center barn (directions). Contact: Ari Herzog by email. Organized by the Greater Newburyport Eco Collaborative.

12 noon - 2 p.m. EarthFest Organic Food Tasting and Cooking DemonstrationOrganic appetizers and drinks provided by Not Your Average Joe’s and Appledore Cove’s handmade gourmet foods. Meet at Jewett Farms Studio, 58 Merrimac Street, Unit 1, Newburyport. Contact: Elena Bachrack by email or 978-222-3110. Organized by Jewett Farms Studio.

2:30 p.m. Walk at Old Town Hill Reservation. Bring your family and explore one of Newbury’s jewels. Let the new “Puzzle Trail” game challenge your powers of observation and reward you with family fun and wonderful views. Meet at Trustees of Reservation parking lot, off Newman Road. Recommended: hiking footwear, insect protection, binoculars. Puzzle map provided. Contact: David Powell at 978-463-4338. Organized by volunteers from the Trustees of Reservations’ Old Town Hill Stewardship Committee.

And don't forget about the Literary Festival! Loads of stuff going on here this weekend ...

Landfill in The Liberator

Jim Roy has graciously sent me a .jpg of the entire last issue of the Liberator. Thank you, Jim.

Unfortunately, Blogger will not upload it into this post (it's a huge file). If someone from Everett wants to write me privately, I will be happy to forward it along.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Dog evicted from West Newbury

I'll state right up front that I have no solution to offer to solve the problem of irresponsible dog owners.

According to the story in the Daily News, West Newbury has ordered a dog out of town because its owners can't or won't keep it contained.

Selectmen have ordered an American bulldog named Striker out of town after he was recently found roaming on Middle Street at night by the Animal Control officer.

The board also agreed to keep a $2,000 bond posted by owners Leo and Louisa Periera, 21 Montclair Road. The Perieras posted the bond as a condition for release of Striker from the pound in May 2008.

We've got a few situations like this out here. One of my neighbors lets their dog run all over all day and another lets their dog out at night, to roam ... and tear up everyone's trash bags every Sunday night.

Another dog, which I see everywhere, comes down the road from Newbury, which I don't believe has a leash law (Newburyport does).

Last summer I had this dog in my enclosed porch because I found her lying on my stoop looking forlorn. I called the animal control officer, who came out even though as I recall it was about 10:30 at night.

The dog did have a license, but it was years old. Fortunately, the dog officer (who has since resigned) knew where the pup came from and took her home.

This dog ran out into the street in front of my car the other day and to my near horror, I almost hit her. So obviously the owner doesn't give a hoot.

There are also a couple of beagles who seem to manage to escape every so often and run around all over the place.

Selectmen will insist the owners pay to have the dog licensed and vaccinated and provide information on where the dog will now reside. It is important to let officials from the new town know that this dog is moving into their community, Selectman Glenn Kemper said.

At a hearing in March 2008, selectmen ordered the Perieras to keep Striker leashed at all times and to put up a fence to contain the dog when outside, after a neighbor reported several incidences of the dog running loose on her property and behaving aggressively toward her and her horse.

When the dog was again found off leash in May, selectmen required the owners to post the $2,000 bond before the dog could be released from the pound.

People seem to want to punish the dogs, but it's the owners. I feel bad for this dog - but then, perhaps it will be happier somewhere else, with someone else.

But like I said at the top, I don't have a solution. If losing $2,000 doesn't do it, what will?

The spring of my discontent

I was reading the most recent post on the blog Night Blind, and as I commented to Macy (aka Jan), I'm green with envy.

If someone had told me when I was 13 years old, living in Michigan (which coincidentally is where I think she wrote that post) and imagining what my life would be like, that I'd be here in Newburyport living on this island and not being as content as Macy described, I would not have been surprised.

Islands seem to have been a big part of my life, as has discontent.

Still - I miss the hour-long massages I used to get when I had a 'real' job ... maybe I should try to sell something to someone.


The lamp posts are on city property. The area that's outlined - Is that where the hedges were? I don't remember - is the area in question. I'm assuming any barriers would be outside that area (actually on what was the street) since there's barely enough room for the tables.

In any case, Chief Cutter cleared the way for the barrier(s) so that's a moot point.

I'm not against Oregano or them serving alcohol out there if approved by the state - although personally I do think it's a little intrusive on Inn St., which is kind of a family-oriented area with the playground and all. What happens to that handicapped access ramp there at the end of the strip when there are barriers, I wonder?

It's more the process I'm concerned about.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Bus stop

First an update: When I got home just now, I had a message from Peggy Brown, chairwoman of the Licensing Commission. (1) Chief Cutter has no problem with Oregano barriers, as long as they are not permanent and can be moved in case of an emergency and (2) the application was forwarded to the ABCC with the caveat about NFD approval attached.

So on to the parking study.

There have been a few comments to the story in the Daily News.

In light of my previous post, which I actually composed this morning, the parking study and the (perhaps) entrance to Karpville might conveniently coincide, if the Green Street lot is selected as the spot for the garage.

With the mixed retail/parking scenario mentioned in the DN piece (see below), I can't see any other viable city-owned spot for it ... except on the waterfront, of course. Don't think that's on the agenda, though.

The consultant will determine a site for public parking that will be most cost effective and provide the most benefit, Sullivan said, noting that a structure would be a more likely outcome than an open parking lot. The parking facility could be modeled after a new structure in Lowell that has retail space on the bottom level and parking beginning on the second floor, he added.

And the coincidences keep mounting. They could just be coincidences ...

Here's another question: how much retail can Newburyport support?

And here's another point: this garage is supposed to be intermodal, which stands for transfer to and from personal transportation to public transit.

Does that mean it could be a bus station for the MVRTA, like the one in Haverhill?

It's possible, according to the MVRTA guy I spoke to last fall. That would be fun, huh?

Bah humbug.

State of the river

Readers may be interested in this address, which will be delivered on Saturday as part of the Earth Day celebration (it's at 2 p.m., but "activities" start at 11 a.m.):

The 3rd annual “State of the Merrimack River” report will be presented to the public during the Earth Day Celebration! of the Merrimack River Watershed Council (MRWC) on Saturday, April 25, at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, 6 Plum Island Turnpike, Newburyport, MA.

Christine Tabak, executive director, and Tracie Sales, water resources manager, both of the MRWC, will discuss the water quality of the Merrimack River via data collected over the past year through its river monitoring program – MAPP (Monitoring, Analyzing, Protecting, and Promoting) Program. They will present data analysis and possible solutions and ideas going forward including information regarding the safety of the river for boating and swimming. The presentation and question and answer session will take place at 2PM in the main auditorium.

I'm planning on attending; I think it should be very interesting.

No way out?

There is a trend emerging here, to my mind ... my earlier post was about the brewing Oregano debacle.

Now here comes attorney William Harris, protesting the mayor's re-appointment of Cliff Goudey to the Waterfront Trust. Harris claims this is all about Goudey's lack of fiduciary responsibility, but somehow it emerges that there is some other debacle here, about access to Waterfront West ...

And it makes me wonder if the real problem with Waterfront West is that it turns out Karp & Co. have no way to get to any proposed development, without the cooperation of the Redevelopment Authority and the Waterfront Trust.

It's not easy to get financing for a project that is land-locked, even though it is on a river ...

Dear Readers, it has been proposed that perhaps the old central way to the waterfront should be re-established to allow one-way access to this (on hold) development because it turns out that a private entity may own part of the drive that runs along the Davis Electric property.

In fact, the owner(s) of Davis Electric appear to own 40' of it. It's all there, in the Essex Co. Registry of Deeds. The Lagasses had a right-of-way only through the drive, to access their property at 38R Merrimac (the building where the Chamber of Commerce is located).

And you will recall, said owner(s) put the Davis property up for sale last year, but NED (New England Development, Karp's company0 did not bite. Perhaps that decision has bitten them on the butt.

The Redevelopment Authority (locally known as the NRA) wants to make a park out of its parking lot, which is also right there in the fray area.

This central way would cut right through the parking lot/park - the original opening to the street is across the street from the entrance to the Green St. parking lot - and then swoop through Riverside Park, which is owned (or is it merely managed, questions the new planning director) by the Waterfront Trust.

* Keep that "merely managed" thing in your mind as events progress - because they will. This is about larger issues that no one is talking about, perhaps even larger to some people than whether Karp has access to his development. Although I'm guessing the access will be the eventual outcome. *

Now you might ask, as did I, why can't they (NED) just come in from the other direction?

I'm guessing that they can't make a 2-way roadway through there (wetlands), so they can only do a one-way drive.

Although it seems inconceivable to me that Karp's people did not 'vet' all this beforehand, it does appear to be somewhat of an issue.

Something stinks in Denmark

This whole Oregano outdoor seating/serving alcohol outside thing is now "snowballing," to quote City Councillor Katie Ives.

Here is the piece I wrote for last week's Current.

To be clear - Licensing Commission chairperson Peggy Brown was not at the meeting where the commission approved the Oregano application, but she had been briefed on what had happened and had minutes from the meeting in front of her while we were talking.

Now it seems the application was sent on to the state's Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission for approval. Peggy Brown is getting back to me on that ... but I already talked to the ABCC.

So this is what we have:

April 1 - Oregano owner goes before the Licensing Commission for a public hearing on his application(s) to serve hard liquor and to serve alcohol at the outdoor seating. His application to serve alcohol outside is approved by the local authority with members' understanding that owner has City Council approval for outdoor seating and with the caveat that the fire department has to sign off on it because whatever barriers they have to erect under state law cannot impede access down Inn St., for fire vehicles.

April 7 or thereabouts - I speak with Claude Elias, owner of Oregano, about his new executive chef and he tells me that not only does he have a new chef, he also can serve hard liquor and that with approval of the fire chief (and the state, which actually issues liquor licenses), he can serve alcohol at the outdoor tables.

April 13 - The City Council approves the outdoor seating based on sketches showing tables along the side of the building. They are necessarily situated partly on city property, which is why the council has to approve it in the first place.

Ward 2 Councillor Greg Earls announces to the rest of council - and to the public - that no alcohol will be served at those tables (including the other tables approved that night, at Upper Crust). *ding ding ding ding* <---- That's the sound that went off in my head.

April 14 - I speak with Earls and then Ives, on the phone. Neither is terribly happy to hear that alcohol may be served outside at Oregano.

Later I speak with Peggy Brown. She is somewhat surprised that the City Council had only approved the outdoor seating the night before. She says that according to the minutes, Council President James Shanley (who attended the hearing) told the commission that the outside seating had been approved.

April 15 - I speak with Shanley, who says he misunderstood and so forth (you can read it in the story).

On Monday, I believe, I called the state liquor commission, where someone confirms that they received the application for Oregano on April 6. That would be before the outside seating was approved.

As I said before, I'm not necessarily opposed to people sitting outside enjoying a meal and a drink.

But I am disturbed by this whole fiasco.

You can see now that everyone and their brother can cite a precedent here (if the state even approves the license). Agave, Upper Crust ... anyone who got approval for outdoor seating on city property can come back to the City Council and claim they should be able to serve alcohol outside, with the appropriate barrier in place.

I hear that Agave has been seeking approval to serve alcohol at its outdoor tables "for years."

Can you imagine State Street, with planters and fences all along it to block the outdoor seating from the general public, as is required by law?

Remember a few years back, when Fenway Park "appropriated" a part of Yawkey Way so the owners could sell alcohol outside the confines of the park? They erect barriers and turnstiles on game days ... well that was approved by ABCC ... so here we go.

(I think the argument there was that the park established a "right" to use Yawkey Way for a private purpose.)

You can also see that somehow, another business located in a property owned by Newburyport Development got something that no one else has been able to get - and call me whatever you will, but it was all done in a questionable manner.

Where's the story in the Daily News?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

It's here already!

I just realized that the contempt hearing for New Ventures starts tomorrow in Suffolk Superior Court.

Seems like just a couple of weeks ago we were thinking it was too far in the future ...

Save the Globe (newspaper)

I guess there's a rally tomorrow to 'save the Boston Globe.' It is sponsored by these people the Boston Newspaper Guild.

It's from 12-2 at Faneuil Hall.

Roy turns up the amps

In my various travels today - I'm really starting to dread Wednesdays (deadline day for both the Current and Seacoast Scene) - I saw a copy of The Newburyport Liberator on sale at Tendercrop Farm.

I knew I had to eat at some point, or I'd be biting someone's head off later ...

Anyway ... The Liberator.

It's almost all about the landfill. The front page headline screams:


Sadly, Jim Roy doesn't put his content online. He's got this whole article, in which he outlines out everything Mayor DeMaria said was going to happen with Mayor Moak did, in fact, happen.

He also makes this declaration: "Time for a change in Ward 5. If Bruce Vogel was still in office, he'd be standing out on Pleasant Street tossing grenades into the mayoral office."

For those of you not in the 'know,' Derrivan beat out Vogel for his Ward 5 seat in the last election. And City Hall is on Pleasant St.

Roy goes on to quote from my story on the infamous YouTube videos featuring DeMaria and then writes, "Mouthpiece, stooge, BS artist ... whatever ... it appears DeMaria got it right. Everything DeMaria said was going to happen, has happened. Let's put a halo around the Everett mayor's head and move on, shall we?"

Jim Roy sure does know how to turn a phrase ...

Along on page 10 are two side-by-side pieces, one by former mayoral candidate Jim Stiles and the other is an interview with Ron Klodenski. Stiles says he reluctantly supports Moak's plan to close the landfill.

"As matters stand now, it's the only game in town."

Klodenski, of course, does not support Mr. Moak's decision.

Ron: ...I have two hopes for the future. The first is that there will be some kind of turnaround. That sure, Moak is right, we're all wrong, NV really has turned over a new leaf, they're going to do what they're supposed to do. The second hope is that I'll win the lottery next week.

NLib: Then you can move.

Ron: Exactly.


I'm confused.

I just read this in the Daily News, about restoration of funding for a parking garage feasibility study

State money for another downtown parking garage study has come through after all, city officials said yesterday, meaning the city can once again take up the question of what to do about the parking situation.

"That's big news and very good news," Planning Director Sean Sullivan said.

The state will fund $95,178, and the federal government will contribute $380,000. The city is working with the Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority, which was the actual recipient of the grant.

Just last October, I wrote this for the Boston Globe North.

A portion of the $1,672,000 is in the transit authority's hands to cover fees for the consultant, Costanzo said. Congress will in 2009 be authorizing transportation funds for the next six years, and the $1,672,000 will cover the study and maybe up to final design of the project, if it moves forward, he added.

I guess the "portion" was $380,000 - but what happened to the whole $1.672?

Looks like I'm going to have to find out!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Never date within the division

OMG, take a look at the new (?) commercials for the Boston Bruins.

They're over there, on the video bar.

I just saw the dating one on NESN and knew I had to share ...

Get your fresh turkey here (or not)

This story in the Daily News reminded me that my elderly neighbor the other day told me that a pair of wild turkeys were on a nest in the vacant lot that's practically across the street from here (there's a fenced-in yard in between).

He's always telling me that he sees turkeys (and cayotes) all over the place out here, but I've never seen - or heard - a turkey in the neighborhood. I do have a bird feeder, so you'd think a turkey in the immediate vicinity would at least wander over to investigate ...

I did see a cayote one night, but it was down by Angie's service station at the other end of Old Point Rd. Seems to me like the 2 sets of creatures would be incompatible in such a small area ...

Anyway, I do frequently see turkeys roaming around the airport, as it is noted in the DN piece that they do tend to cluster in that area.

The piece also reminded me that I've twice now seen crows harassing a hawk.

A couple of weeks ago on the PI Turnpike, there was a hawk sitting on the top of a lightstand and 2 crows were circling it and diving at it while cawing like maniacs.

Last week, when we were at the community gardens at the First Parish Church, a hawk flew overhead, followed closely by a crow that was diving at it ... I don't know if it was the same hawk (or for that matter the same crows - the first one was joined by a second) but my partner in gardening, Elizabeth, and I had a good laugh about the poor hawk and the daring of the crows.

In both cases, it was a relatively small hawk.

Fire 'burns' owner for $40,000

When/if your water and sewer rates get jacked up again this year, remember this story and think of all the other ratepayers who simply have not paid their bills.

The payment of more than $40,000 in back water bills by the owner of a downtown building that suffered fire damage a month ago has cleared the way for Glenn's Galley and Cool Bar to reopen May 1.

The money was owed by the owner of the building, which on the assessors database is listed as Geonautics Inc. Is that the same Geonautics as this, I wonder?

According to Water Department Chairman George Lawler, the $40,000 bill owed to the Water and Sewer Departments was built up over the last few years. Because of the bill, the city would not allow new permits to be pulled for the building's tenants, causing Glenn's owners and operators, Glenn Mayers and Charlene Ferreira, to fear they would not open on time.

I'm certainly glad someone is on the ball with this.

But late Thursday afternoon, building manager Tracy Jan made a full payment to the city's Water Department to make sure nothing was owed.

"The owner didn't mean to fall behind on payments," Jan said. "These things happen with vacancies, etc. We don't want a problem and we certainly want to be good landlords to Glenn's."

These things happen? What the heck? If there hadn't been a fire, would anyone have ever forced them to pay up?

This reminds of last year, when no one was forcing the marinas to pay up for the moorings they were "renting" in bulk from the city ... Ralph Steele, the harbormaster, told me recently that the issue had been resolved ...

And why didn't the Daily News name the owner? They had no problem throwing Robert Finneran's name all over the place, and his similar offense was much lighter.

Perhaps the commenter to the DN story, DDS, is correct in questioning what exactly is the budget deficit, given how poor the city's collection methods seem to be ...

But we have a new treasurer now and hopefully she will be right on this problem.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


We (Current editor Barbara Taormina and I) stopped by Taffy's today, on our way to the (disappointing) flower market at Bartlet Mall.

Jimmy said he probably won't be open until early May since he's still trying to undo all the fancy-schmancy interior modifications that were done by the previous lessee.

At least he found a way to spray paint that obnoxious brown faux tin ceiling, which made the place seem like a cave. And he has painted the walls a nice shade of yellow.

It's lookin' good! I can't wait to try it out.

Oregano beefing up ... oh my

OK, they are having problems at the paper posting things to the website, so I'll just summarize the story on the liquor licenses.

The City Council on Monday approved outside seating for Oregano, that pizzeria/Italian restaurant on Pleasant St. (which coincidentally also has a new executive chef so the food should be better although it won't come faster because there's only one 6-burner stove in the minuscule kitchen).

But councillors did not know that the Licensing Commission on April 1 had approved Oregano to serve alcohol at that outside seating.

In fact, Greg Earls stood up after the vote and said that there would be no alcohol served at the tables.


Well, since I had just written the story about Oregano - and had owner Claude Elias tell me that, pending approval from the fire chief and the state liquor commission, they would be serving alcohol at the outside tables - this kind of put me on alert.

So on Tuesday I called both Earls and Katie Ives, neither of whom had a clue that this approval had taken place.

I ran into Ives earlier today, as she was walking up Inn St. The tables have been put out - and she also was a little put out.

I'm all for helping local businesses increase the customer base and I really don't see a huge problem with serving alcohol at those table, but honestly? This really disturbs me.

The council needs the full story before they approve what appear to be routine things.

At this time I'm not going to claim this is a Karp/Lagasse-related incident because the commission also approved the same type of license to the River Merrimack Bar & Grill(e), which of course is in The Tannery.

I'm sure they'll sort it all out (not really) but in the meantime, give Oregano another try for food. This new chef guy used to work with Todd English at Olive's in Charlestown and also used to cook at my favorite North End eatery, Pomodoro ... best chicken carbonara ever ...


Here are some clips from purporting to show Wood Waste hiding piles of C&D materials on site instead of removing them from the Everett facility.

I say "purporting" because I don't know the facility and I can't tell exactly what's going on, based on that lack of knowledge and the quality of the images ...

But if it's true ... Why does this not surprise me?

Community garden

I think I mentioned before that my friend Elizabeth Rose and I have a plot in the New Eden Collaborative gardens behind the First Parish Church.

I think I'm supposed to be keeping a journal of events surrounding the creation of these gardens ... well actually, they were there last year, too, but have been re-configured.

So I'm going to log it on here.

March 21: We met at the church for the initial prep meeting.

This involved a discussion over coffee and pastries and then going out to stake out the whole garden and the individual plots.

OK, well ... there were too many men with too many tape measures and too many impatient females.

While the men (and a couple of women) were running about with aforementioned tape measures and green metal stakes (these stakes will become very important later), the rest of us tried to figure out where our individual plots were, based on a site map.

Here's a tip: don't think you know where you're situated before the perimeter measuring is done.

One woman, who shall remain nameless, got so disgusted after she staked off and started to work what she thought was her plot only to discover she wasn't even close that she stalked off in anger, never to return.

Elizabeth and I, and the gardeners to the north and south of us, were equally impatient. We measured and staked and measured and staked and I think once again before it was all done.

Then, when it was all done, our plot was only a fraction of what it should have been.

Oh dear! It turned out the measurement from the back fence was off by 3 feet.

Luckily for us, these people know the meaning of the word "community" and we worked it all out with no residual hard feelings.

Elizabeth and I, tired and dirty, retired to Hana Japan for chirachi. We laughed a lot.

Happy belated anniversary, blog

I missed the one-year anniversary of this blog, which was March 26.

This all began because I missed being a reporter in the city ... but now I'm back being a reporter in the city.

I'm kind of thinking that I'm a conflict of interest to myself and good grief, I'm all over the place!

When I call people for an interview, I sometimes forget who I'm representing ... "This is Gillian Swart from the Current .... er, no, Merrimack Valley ... no (insert either of two other places here) ..."

At this point, I can really relate to Tom Ryan throwing it all aside and moving to the mountains of New Hampshire (and I've only been doing this a fraction of the time he did it).

Don't forget the flower market on Bartlet Mall today, if it doesn't rain. The rain date is tomorrow.

Friday, April 17, 2009

More turbine talk

I hope you all are keeping up with Mary Baker Eaton's blog, The Newburyport Blog. She's kind of taken up where I left off, with "As the Turbine Turns."

Only she's a lot more forest and trees, with references to Copenhagen, Denmark, and Costa Rica ... good stuff.

I particularly enjoyed the video featuring Jay Leno - I would link to it but my browser is taking forever to load her blog.

Draft schematics for senior center on line

See the DRAFT DRAFT DRAFT schematics for the proposed senior center here, on the city's website.

Note: At the last meeting of the Building Committee, everyone liked Plan E best.

But they are DRAFTS.

"Note the use of the word DRAFT," writes Ward 4 City Councillor Ed Cameron. "....we need community input at the Tuesday, April 28th 6:30PM meeting at the Library."

Ignore the man behind the curtain ... (?)

I got a forwarded email just now that heralds the demise of the small and/or organic farm - or does it?

Read this, from the blog Here's the beginning of it:

The panics over salmonella, E. Coli and unsafe foodstuffs from China have heightened the prospects that Congress will enact a measure known as H.R. 875, the “Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009″. Should the measure in its current form become law, “food establishments”, which to quote Patrick at Popehat “means anyone selling or storing food of any type for transmission to third parties via the act of commerce”*, will have to register with a new federal regulatory agency, submit to federal inspections, and, perhaps most significant, keep “copious records of sales and shipment by lot and label”. Penalties for infractions will be very, very steep.

Under H.R. 875, apparently, all participants in farmers’ markets will be forced to register or the market will be shut down as an illegal operation. Failure to comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009 could result in a fine of up to $1,000,000 per violation.

Here's the definition of "food establishment" directly from the proposed act:

(A) IN GENERAL- The term ‘food establishment’ means a slaughterhouse (except those regulated under the Federal Meat Inspection Act or the Poultry Products Inspection Act), factory, warehouse, or facility owned or operated by a person located in any State that processes food or a facility that holds, stores, or transports food or food ingredients.

The bill was introduced by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) - and since late last fall, she has been vilified across the Internet. If you dig deep enough, though, you find her side of things (per the Huffington Post, via

"The intent of the bill is to focus on the large, industrial processes such as the peanut processing plant in Georgia that was responsible for the salmonella outbreak that killed nine people," she says. She emphasizes that the Constitution's commerce clause prevents the federal government from regulating commerce that doesn't cross state lines. DeLauro says she's open to making technical changes to the bill if any small farmers remain concerned that the bill is aimed at them.

And that is that!

Klodenski calls it quits

I keep forgetting to post that Ron Klodenski this week resigned from the Mayor's Ad Hoc Landfill Advisory Committee.
Over the past several years, this advisory group of concerned and thoughtful citizen volunteers has spent hundreds of hours of personal time attempting to provide you and other mayors with the information they need to make wise decisions regarding the capping and closing of the Crow Lane landfill. Unfortunately, I've concluded that further efforts to work with your administration on this issue will be a waste of time because they are unlikely to have any effect on your decision-making.
The group was formed, I believe, by former Mayor Mary Anne Clancy.

The mayor I'm sure did what he thought was best for the city ... but you have advisors to advise you.

Plus, from what I understand, Health Director Jack Morris is no longer attending the meetings because of potential litigation against the Dept. of Health (that would be from the City Council, I imagine).

The last meeting of the committee, scheduled for April 16, was canceled anyway, as was the meeting before that. The mayor had other meetings/events to attend ...

Bank of America love

I have to say - again - that Bank of America has really come through for me.

From Kim Baldinelli in the State Street branch right on up to the man from the Chairman's office, Matthew Taft, the bank delivered.

I know in today's world, people love to hop around jobs and banks and credit cards, but I've stayed with my BofA accounts and credit cards, inherited by them through BayBank, BankBoston and Fleet.

This week I settled with the bank over my credit card debt - and wow it feels good.

And of course I have to also thank my dad, who made that part possible ...

Between that and finally getting my 2007 tax situation squared away (thanks to my brother-in-law, Phil), I now have nothing to agitate about when I wake up in the morning.

It may be the economy, but the bank could have been much harder on me than they were (although some of the whipper-snappers who called me could have been more polite).

I said it before and I'll say it again: loyalty and longevity have their rewards.

Even with big, "impersonal" banking institutions.

And it helps to have a supportive family.

I still grieve, though, for the people who don't have these familial relationships, or who are hesitant to approach big banking executives. I certainly was.

(So here I have to thank my neighbor, Lisa, who encouraged me to go into the branch and talk to someone, which led me to Kim.)

Hell, I was hesitant to approach my dad. I thought I was way too old for that (and it's not as if he has money sprouting from trees).

I know it's hard for people to talk about their financial situation, but I do hope that I have - by doing so myself - given at least one person some hope or some impetus to straighten things out.

Procrastination and fear do not help. Stand up and fight.

Ignorance isn't bliss ... or is it?

It appears I have made yet another vital mistake - I've been ignoring Jim Roy's publication, The Newburyport Liberator.

This was not deliberate (I just keep forgetting), but probably nonetheless not the best idea ...

So in answer to Tom Salemi's blast from the recent past, here on this blog, I say that perhaps I don't have any (heretofore) certain knowledge about the Daily News and New England Development ... but maybe Mr. Roy does.

I don't know; I'm just speculating.

And anyway, for the record - I was talking about newspapers in general when I made that charge about newspapers not reporting the news if it had an adverse effect on local political interests.

My observations about the DN and NED were in a separate post. But now I've been given a juicy bit of info, very relevant to the issue at hand - and I still don't see anything about it in the DN. There was, apparently, something recently about it in the Liberator ... I wish he had content on line ...

Tiptoeing down Toppans Lane

I have to say, I was happy to read this in today's Daily News - the Planning Board rejected the proposed development on Toppans Lane, at the site of a former farm.

I know that development is part of (financial) forward progress, but honestly - I was driving through Newbury as usual for a Thursday (coming back from Gloucester) and I was paying attention so I noticed how much of the farmland has been broken up for development.

I'm not blaming anyone; I just think it's a shame.

Especially now, when local farms are coming back through community supported agriculture and other initiatives that are being embraced by people looking for food not tainted by chemicals.

On a related note, I can't wait for the Farmer's Market to open, in June. Boston has - or had - one at Copley Square every week and I used to bop over there after work to pick up fresh veggies and baked goods.

And even Flint, when I lived there oh so many years ago, had a permanent market in an old mill building on the river ...

I'm happy to see that, at least for now, some open space has been preserved.

Hello again

I have some comments on stories appearing in this week's Current - but since I don't think the paper is out yet and the website hasn't been updated yet, those will have to wait.

Meanwhile, remember when I posted this, about the Literary Festival and Earth Day? Ye olde conflicting events?

I got some private feedback and it seems there is some bruising ... so I did some reflecting.

And it seems to me that there is not a whole lot of communication and/or cooperation going on - not just in this matter, but in general.

I don't think it's necessarily deliberate, I think people just forge ahead and do whatever they want, in some semi-haphazard way.

Good grief, the Eco Collaborative (hosting Earth Day) didn't even get City Council permission to use Bartlet Mall for the flower market until last Monday ... what if someone had objected?

(Although I have to add that the letter from the Bartlet Mall Commission to the City Council was dated in early March, so I'm not sure who/what was being haphazard in this instance.)

Stepping on toes ... everyone is stepping on everyone else's toes.

And coming up later, on the same topic:

How is it that the City Council did not know, when approving outside seating for a certain restaurant, that the Licensing Commission had a couple of weeks before approved the place for serving alcohol at said outside seating?

And not only that, but the Licensing Commission, when approving the license, was under the impression that the place had already secured permission to have outside seating ...

Who's to blame for a party gone out of bounds?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

City Council stunned by more controversy

Last night's City Council meeting was one of the more bizarre meetings they have had ...

I don't know, maybe it was just me, but they all seemed kind of "off." Being kind of "off" myself this week (so far) I can relate.

But perhaps it was the start of the meeting that got the whole thing off to a bad start.

Three people stood up in public comment and spoke against the re-appointment of Cliff Goudey to the Waterfront Trust.

Shades of Building Inspector Gary Calderwood ...

The councillors seemed gobsmacked at this turn of events. (All except Tom O'Brien, who seemed kind of amused. I've been chatting a little with O'Brien recently, and he's actually quite amusing in general.)

Then came a period of confusion over what they could do with appointments made by the mayor, and when they could do it without suspending the rules, which they hadn't done.

If you've got a spare hour, I would recommend watching the video of the meeting. That would paint the picture far better than can I.

Landfill update

At the City Council meeting last night, Councillor Larry McCavitt asked about the status of the landfill - which was good, because I was wondering myself.

"No change," was the answer.

Afterwards, a snowy owl told me that New Ventures is revved up to go and is stockpiling grading and shaping material at the site. That's not C&D fines. There's still a cease and desist order on the C&D fines.

Apparently NV has to do test borings on the berm before they can proceed with closing the landfill.

But they can't do anything until they sign that agreement with the Attorney General and DEP. The AG must be freaking out about all this litigation.

Looks as if Brian Derrivan was right when he said it could take weeks. Director of Health Jack Morris said it would be days ... so I had the Current's editor take out from my story the "but don't expect trucks to be rolling in anytime soon."

Man ... hey, what's going on in Everett? I think someone said there would be news from there, after last night's meeting of the Alderman ...

Mark Fidrych RIP

It's hard to explain pitcher Mark Fidrych. If you never saw him pitch during his glory year, well you really missed out on something.

Fidrych was killed yesterday on his farm in Northborough, MA. He was 54 years old.

From the Boston Globe:

Fidrych’s baseball legacy is as one of its more memorable and enjoyable shooting stars in the sport’s history. In 1976 -- less than two full years after the Tigers selected the lanky righthander in the 10th round of the 1974 amateur draft out of Worcester Academy -- Fidrych made the Tigers’ Opening Day roster out of spring training as a non-roster invitee.

With his out-of-nowhere success, affable grin and unkempt curls -- he was nicknamed ‘‘The Bird,’’ after the Sesame Street character to whom he bore a resemblance -- it wasn’t long before the 21-year-old had an enormous following.

Fidrych’s starts soon became must-see events -- he appeared on the covers of ‘‘Sports Illustrated’’ (once with Big Bird) and ‘‘Rolling Stone,’’ among others. But his newfound celebrity did not hinder him on the mound.

I guess with the huge number of ex-baseball players out there, many have died tragically, per capita.

But gee - Billy Martin (ex-Tigers manager) gone in a truck crash, (Tigers first baseman) Stormin' Norman Cash drowned - OK, so they were both drunk at the time - and now The Bird.

Funny I never realized he was from MA, but as soon as I watched the clips on Flint Expatriates and he opened his mouth, I heard the accent.

At any rate, thanks to Fidrych for the great memories.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Senior Center public meeting April 28

The Senior Center Building Committee is hosting a meeting for public input on Tuesday, April 28 at 6:30PM at the Newburyport Public Library. Working with Court Street Architects, the Committee is looking at several options for the Senior Center at Cushing Park.

For the ultimate design to be successful for the entire community, the Committee needs input from seniors, neighbors, and all citizens. For more information, please contact co-chairs Councillor Ed Cameron (at and Councillor Brian Derrivan (at

It won't get fixed it you sit idly by

I was interested to read this piece, by Nicholas Kristof, in today's New York Times because I found the Boston Globe's coverage of its own ailments interesting.

The big news in the article today is that the Globe turned down a proposal to invest $1 million in the fledgling in the mid-1990’s. That would have been a huge infusion of cash and value to the Globe, while diversifying its revenue sources.

So the Globe is run by stuffy, out-of-touch people - I think we already knew that. I can't find the article in today's Globe, by the way ...

But then I got down to the comments section and found this, from someone calling themselves "FreeDem."

Ultimately the Media business will diverge into two camps that Bill Moyers defined perfectly. Publicity and things that powerful people don’t want you to know (actual News).

Most Media has for quite sometime been almost exclusively Publicity and the existence of News barely accessible before there was an Internet to make actual news available, not just from the top down but bottom up and most importantly side to side.

Now that people have tasted actual news, fake news just doesn’t have the umph it used to and people are unwilling to pay for it. Publicity will always be paid for, but few will read it if actual news is available.

Actual News never was paid well and will increasingly be a part time passion from people whose actual job gives them access to that news. Being able to buy ink by the trainload doesn’t grant the power it once did to promote or block such revelations.

This bolsters my contention from last week that actual news does not make it into some newspapers because powerful people don't want you to know it.

Now that I've got the power of FreeDem and Bill Moyers behind me, will you think about it a little?

Here's a snippet from the keynote address Moyers gave in 2003, to the National Conference on Media Reform:

When the journalist-historian Richard Reeves was once asked by a college student to define “real news”, he answered: “The news you and I need to keep our freedoms.” When journalism throws in with power that’s the first news marched by censors to the guillotine. The greatest moments in the history of the press came not when journalists made common cause with the state but when they stood fearlessly independent of it.

So when do people who stand "fearlessly independent of it" get lauded, not vilified?

You want to label someone who is trying to protect your freedom to access the Merrimack River a "bully" because a newspaper said so? Fine.

You want to call people "NIMBYs" because they object to a hastily-entered-into turbine installation ordinance? Fine.

But how did apartheid end in South Africa? Because, as (singer/songwriter) Peter Gabriel said, the eyes of the world were suddenly focused on South Africa - by the media.

The media are here to serve you, not to spoon feed you pablum fed to them by people who could pull advertising.

Make every news outlet give you the news, not the publicity. As one of the people I quoted on here said, this isn't E! Entertainment Television, this is your freedom to know what's going on, unvarnished.

To quote John McCain (perhaps the only thing he ever said that I agreed with), "Stand up! Stand up! Stand up and fight!"

Mayor puts cap on order review

The Daily News is reporting today that the mayor is allowing $5,000 to the City Council to see if he made a 'boo-boo' with the administrative order.

Here's the whole blurb from the DN's "City Notebook:"

Mayor John Moak said last week he believes a $5,000 cap for the City Council to use for an attorney to review the administrative order issued by the Health Department to New Ventures, owner of the Crow Lane landfill, was fair given the city's financial state.

"We're all struggling," Moak said.

The city had good legal representation through the entire negotiation process with New Ventures, the mayor said. City councilors agreed to hire their own attorney to review the legality of the move by Moak and Health Director Jack Morris.

Moak notified city councilors a few weeks ago that he was going to have Morris send the administrative order to New Ventures to cap the Crow Lane landfill. As it is an administrative order, the City Council has no power over the decision, and several councilors have criticized the mayor's move, feeling they should have been involved.

Well, since Councillor Ives said that they were only looking for the answer to 2 questions, I guess it is a fair amount.

Sounds like he doesn't expect they will find that he did anything wrong ...

Heavy days

I've been so busy, what with writing stories and finalizing my taxes - god, even typing "taxes" makes my head hurt - I feel as if I haven't been very observant. Until yesterday, that is.

So speaking of the "T" word, my whole situation has cast a new light on a lot of issues for me.

It struck me yesterday, when I realized that I would be better off hanging up the freelancing and going on welfare (it's true), how brutal the current tax code is on non-traditional professions and entrepreneurs.

Artists have always had it tough, unless they had a patron. I'm not exactly clear on why that is because art is such a vital part of existence and can give such joy.

As can a well-written story.

For all the talk a certain ex-president spouted about wanting to encourage entrepreneurship (something of which he once said the French didn't understand the meaning - what a buffoon), I don't see how small businesses survive at all.

My brother yesterday pointed out that 50 years ago, you could support your family on a small business or being a bus driver, or whatever ... actually, bus drivers probably make good money, so check that ... but you get my point.

I don't want, nor do I intend to, go on welfare. It was just that I realized that I would be better off on a state program - which would in turn make it oh so tempting to 'cheat' and take money under the table for the odd job.

They don't make it easy ... but who said it was going to be easy?

So while you may be sitting there expecting or spending a tax refund, remember that there are people out there who every day have to struggle with the decision to make an honest buck that doesn't stretch far enough or go on welfare - or worse, cheat.

Every experience I have is so enriching for me. You really do have to walk in someone's shoes ... and then you can write about it and still not be able to pay your enormous tax bill!

Which reminds me ... as someone else said to me on Friday, "It's the choice between being rich or being happy."

We non-traditional folk need help! And work ... but sometimes we can be happy being poor.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Where in the world is Donna Seim?

I got this photo just now from fellow writer (and owner of The Dragon's Nest toy store downtown) Donna Seim.
She and her husband (I always forget his name) have been touring all the Grand Turk and Caicos Islands reading her children's book, WHERE IS SIMON, SANDY? to all the primary schools and donating a book for each of their libraries.
This trip we took a boat ride with Smitty to Salt Cay. A small island about 30 minutes south of Grand Turk by boat. (Rough waters and all!) There are 76 inhabitants on the island and no cars! This is a picture of the Kindergarten class of 7 girls. They were delightful to read too! I am told that the students that come out of the Salt Cay School do very well due to the excellent teacher/pupil ratio.
Donna is donating the proceeds from the book to the children's program at the Turks and Caicos National Museum.

A slow news week

Compared to the last few weeks, this was a really slow news week. Even Monday night's City Council agenda is thin.

One thing they will be taking up again is OT for sewer personnel. I'm not sure exactly why the council voted to table it at the last meeting (it's not as if it hadn't already accrued), but I guess it was a message.

Not sure to who (whom?), but I would guess the mayor and/or DPS Director Brendan O'Regan.

Everyone still seems all hopped up on getting either CDM (who designed the water/sewer project) or AIRVAC (manufacturer of the vacuum sewer system) to reimburse the city for the $49,500 in OT for issues around freezing in the sewer pits.

I don't know why, since both the mayor and O'Regan have said repeatedly that the 2 companies are not inclined to do any such thing.

I think everyone has learned a valuable - and somewhat expensive - lesson and things will be better now.

Here's hoping that sewer crews got adequate training from AIRVAC - that which was included in the cost of the system - and that nobody is trying to extort more money from the city under the guise of, "Oh, your crews need more training."

That would not be very nice now would it?

Other beach photos

I had never noticed that window before, on what is obviously just a summer residence. I love it.

The other is obviously a mushed shoe print, but it looked to me like some design for a piece of jewelry, or something exotic. I like taking photos of impressions made in the sand ...

Let's go to the beach!

I hadn't been down to the (ocean) beach in a while, so I toddled on over this morning for a peek.

What a difference, huh? Remember how that white building - Jeanne's - was hanging on the edge of the dune a few months ago?

As for the other image - now we need to stop people from doing shit like cutting into the dune for easy access to the beach ... I ran into a woman I know and she told me there's a sandbar now, extending out into the water from the beach. It was high tide so it wasn't visible, but you could see the waves breaking over it. I took a pic but it doesn't look that great.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Sewer saga

I got a first-hand look at one of our infamous sewer pits this afternoon.

My neighbor, who apparently does not know how to use a plunger, called the sewer dept. complaining of backup in her home.

I do have to say that I've had a clogged commode but never had it back into the house before ... anyway, she said she called at 10 and a crew only came right before I got home at 2:30 and she still couldn't flush without overflow so I told her to call Dan Sweeney.

She wanted me there to witness the events and I guess to threaten people. I don't know; I was busy washing dishes - but I made a belated appearance because I was curious.

The 2 guys who came out (the second of 2 crews dispatched to the location) were really pleasant and one made a valiant attempt to explain the system. He gave a neat little demonstration of how it works and I got to hear the sound the system makes when a valve is stuck open.

I don't know how anyone could miss it since it sounds like the wind is howling - you know, in the house.

The guys said they haven't had a call on PI for about 3 weeks, which is great news. They also said they had been tied up at the sewer plant all day working on some dire situation going on there.

Oh! And I found out recently that under the Clean Water Act, the federal government has to pay for upgrades to sewer plants to meet federal guidelines so I guess that takes care of that matter.

Let's get that thing fixed.

Carry on.

Cohasset questions our methods

Thanks to Tom Salemi for pointing out this story from The Patriot Ledger ... well I didn't have quite the reaction he had ... it's about the turbine (what else?).

Speaking of public officials

Do you think that people working in City Hall who have city-issued cell phones should make those cell numbers available to the public?

I notice that when I call a state agency and get voicemail (about 99% of the time), the state worker offers up a cell phone number in their message.

During my first stint with the Current, I got into a huge hassle with a woman who answered the phone at the DPW barn. She refused to give me DPS Director Brendan O'Regan's cell # and it's not listed on his business card (at least the one I have).

I pointed out to her that it was a city-owned phone so she had to give me the number.

She didn't give me the number.

I snitched to the mayor, who looked most displeased and acknowledged that this was a problem. (He does not have a city-owned cell phone, by the way.)

Stop the madness! Get on your high horse! Take back City Hall!

Literary Festival

I keep losing track of dates.

For example, I was most surprised to find that Easter is this Sunday.

Everything in my life is about meetings and deadlines.

That's an example of 'old school' journalism - just the facts, ma'am.

Anyway, the Literary Festival is traditionally the last weekend in April. Last year, I was on the PR committee so I was blowing its horn all over the place because it was on my radar.

This year - not so much.

I'm not complaining (Who has time for PR committees this year?), I'm just saying ...

So now I feel compelled to point out that, as opposed to last year, this year's Festival runs head-long into Earth Day festivities (or vice versa).

And while organizers of each of these multi-day events have been in contact with one another and have worked out the details to avoid pandemonium downtown, it seems that some people participating in one of them have their panties in a twist because of the perceived "conflict."

I wonder if your organization looked at the community calendar? The festival has been on the books since last year.
Well holy moly, Earth Day has been 'on the books' for many, many years - so I have to wonder when this person thought Earth Day should be celebrated ... in June, perhaps?

It's funny how huffy people can get, dontcha think?

But don't let that deter you from participating in the Literary Festival and the Earth Day celebrations. Like I said, the organizers of both are down with the overlap.

Lots of fun, starting next week.

This is interesting

I read this story in today's Daily News, about municipal councilors in Amesbury and public access to the councilors' email.

Municipal councilors created a policy to make it easier for the public to see the e-mails they send to each other, but the huge workload has led to a quiet change in the public's access.

In 2006, the council was accused of illegally exchanging e-mails about the defeated library renovation project, and an Essex Superior Court judge required councilors to establish an e-mail policy that would restrict how they communicate electronically with one another.
I'm not really interested in the Amesbury bit; I'm interested in the larger picture.

The state's Open Meeting bylaw prohibits public officials from deliberating about town issues, except during a public meeting. For certain topics, the bylaw allows town committees to go behind closed doors. But the intent to conduct an executive session must be announced during a public meeting, and the reason for doing so must be stated.
First of all - do residents of Newburyport have access to the City Council's emails? Sometimes councilors and I have some pretty interesting email exchanges ... I don't blurt everything on here, you know.

And more relevant, what's to stop any "public official" from "deliberating" via Facebook or some other social media networking site, if they are so inclined?

Town Clerk Bonnijo Kitchin estimated that in 2007, 10 hours of her work week was spent reading, printing and filing e-mails.
Does someone have to start monitoring social networking activities as well? All of these applications or whatever have a private message feature. I'm not clear on how a town clerk would be able to read, print and file these messages.

Is there going to be a law against officials being friends on Facebook, for example?

Again - I'm not saying anyone is doing this.

Not to mention that there's this thing called a phone, which anyone can pick up, dial a number, and talk.

Unless we're going to tap their phones as well.

I've had discussions with a couple of our councilors around this law and it seems they at least are pretty clear about their limitations on deliberating outside of meetings.

And since they seem sometimes to be pretty clueless (in a good, law abiding way) about how each votes on a matter before them, I think they're doing a good job with it.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

I hate Lucy

I've tried periodically, over the years, to love Lucy. I really have.

Every so often I watch an episode, thinking that as I get older I might get what's so funny.

But in actuality, it just gets more irritating.

I know Lucy is an icon, but really - if your wife was like that, how long would you stay married?

Oh! - but I did like the episode with William Holden where turns the tables and stares at her after he catches her staring.

(Actually, in my limited experience with celebrities, they tend to not make eye contact with the general public. It gives them a certain zombie-like air.)

But then, I always did love William Holden.

Facebook tries to be interesting

I took this quiz on Facebook last night.

They have all these pretty stupid quizzes on there, such as, "Which punk rock star are you?"

My result was Joe Strummer (The Clash), who of course is dead, so that wasn't very comforting.

But that was last month. I had promised myself to never take another stupid Facebook quiz, ever, again.

But I was intrigued last night by the "Ultimate Grammar Quiz."

I was intrigued because, on the whole, quizzes on there tend to include pretty horrific grammar.

Anyway - I am a grammar "master," according to a Facebook that wouldn't know good grammar if it hit the quiz writers in their pixilated faces.

Hey, that was my proudest moment yesterday ... and it was a pretty stupid quiz, all in all.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Even bloggers get the blues

Good grief - now I'm getting calls asking if I'm OK after my 2 rants from this morning!

How would you feel if you just found out you owe the IRS and the state a grand total of $5,000? Yikes! ... Oh the joys of being self-employed ... and taking an IRA disbursement 4 years too early ...

But I'm much better now. I ventured out earlier and ran into a couple of people who cheered me up.

Plus the woman at Villagio Cafe in The Tannery made me my favorite Egg Ado a full 2 hours after she officially stopped serving breakfast.

"I'll do it for you," she said.

It's amazing what one simple act can do to raise the spirits of another.

The slow death of a daily, Part 2: the grouchiness continues

You'd think that with all the talk about print newspapers going under, everyone would be looking to improve their news product.

But I guess people here don't want a better product - they'd rather complain and call the Daily News "The Snooze."

I don't know if you've ever noticed that I've never once called it that.

But it does become complacent unless some other entity is on its tail. Jim Roy with The Liberator is now on its tail; the Current is back on its tail - a place that, again, a weekly really has no place being.

It's not the fault of the reporters; it's the powers that be. The average person has no idea how much what a reporter files is changed before it gets to print. But the reporter gets the complaints.

What is the reporter supposed to say? "That's not what I wrote?" (That's what we say.)

In fact, I actually wish there was some kind of organized group of all us reporters.

I will back off my frequent statement that sometimes when I read an account of a meeting in the DN, I wonder if the reporter was at the same meeting as I was.

Now I've got the editor of the Current going to meetings with me and - lo and behold! - our accounts and impressions of what was important to pass on about the meeting are different.

And that is why you need to read more than one paper - or, in this case, both papers and every blog post written about a meeting.

An example: the recent hearing about the wind energy ordinance.

I reported one way, editor reported another way and Mary Baker Eaton was struck by other stuff (here's the story that ran in the Current). I will state here that I tried not to get carried away by the emotion -

To wit, while I totally sympathize with the Back Bay residents who have the top of an enormous turbine in their line of sight, I also totally sympathized with the guy out here on the island whose house now is in complete shade all day because someone built a monstrosity in front of it.

The guy thought the lot in front of him was not buildable - a situation that changed after the municipal water and sewer was put in.

I think it's fair to say he thought his life was never going to be the same since he moved.

The same person who said her life would never be the same also said she had already been ripped from one home in the city because of eminent domain (which is what struck a chord with Mary) ... well, yeah, but so was I, and so were lots of other people ...

There comes a point - and I think coverage of this issue reached it a while ago - where people stop getting your news angle because you're still carrying on about emotional issues.

I thought a dead flat, straight out account of the hearing was the way to go at this point because OK, the city gets it now that they may have goofed and people are trying to fix it so the same mistakes aren't made again.

(I have to explain at this point that I somehow totally missed filing my piece on the turbine hearing until the next morning - Thursday - when the editor questioned me about where it was. She had already written something up so she plugged in parts of my dead flat story, and quotes.)

As for not being notified ... well, maybe they did not all get registered letters (direct abutters did), which is bad, but hell, even I knew there was a turbine on tap for the Richey property and I wasn't reporting on Newburyport at the time (and I wasn't reading the DN regularly). So I take issue with a lead in a news story that says, "They never saw it coming."

So now I'll say that I last year applied to the Daily News and was put off. Does that mean that everything I say, no matter how valid, can be dismissed?

Well yeah, according to some people.

I didn't knock the Current last year because I didn't read it - it wasn't worth reading recently, until Barbara Taormina took over as editor.

Someone the other day told me that the Current has to work double-time now to make up for the credibility it lost last year.

And I'm getting complaints about the Current's coverage of the turbine issue being too "one sided."

Now the Current is a major source of my income, Barbara reads the blog and I can't complain about the Current ... you have no idea how much that bugs me (no offense intended, Barbara).

So I knock my own stories, when I think knocking is due.

That does not include the ones that were changed substantially, because knocking them would mean knocking the person who hands out the assignments, or her boss ... AARGGGGGGHHHHH ...

My morning joe

Well of course I've got lots to whine about, having been too busy yesterday to blog.

Today is no different, actually - except I'm in a funk.

I was thinking a while ago, in my favorite thinking spot (bed), about the exchanges I've been having with reader Bubba about Larry McCavitt.

I guess I can relate to McCavitt because, in my experience, nothing gets done unless you scream about it. Then you take your losses along with your victories.

That's the way it works: you scream about every little thing and hope something fundamentally wrong will be changed as a result.

Why do you think a Ron Klodenski has been screaming about the landfill for 20-odd years? Because he likes spending all his free time working on matters relating to a stinky pile of shit?

Well ... maybe ... I don't know Ron that well ... (that's a joke).

Why do you think I carry on about the Daily News? It's not because the paper is a competitor to the one for which I write, it's because I WANT it to be better.

McCavitt wants it to be better. Ron K wants it to be better. Note that both these people are up against the DEP. I think we can all agree that the DEP needs to do better.

Whatever good the DEP has done here after kicking and screaming all the way is because people like that are willing to take them on when the rest of us aren't.

They are not whining - they are trying to fix what's wrong with the system for you and for me.

Without them and others like them, we'd probably have a vacant hotel/inn next to the Custom House Museum (one without adequate parking), we'd have a landfill that never closed (we might still have that) and an owner who wasn't called to task for not following the rules.

And private citizens would have no access to the river at all.

That's my morning joe.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

This week's landfill story

Here's this week's installment of the saga of the landfill.

It's difficult to tell if the City Council is trying to cover its butt or if councillors are genuinely peeved.

Or if - as someone has suggested to me - the mayor is looking for a way out of a bad deal he felt pressured to make.

He did offer to pay for independent counsel ... which could confirm that opinion or confirm that he was right all along.

We'll see.

P.S. The editor of the Current never did post her editorial from last week, about the landfill.

The slow death of a daily, Part I

I'm all caught up in the ongoing saga of the Boston Globe - I don't really think anyone is going to let the paper fold, by the way.

Most of the comments attached to stories on are sputtering about liberal bias, which of course is bullshit. Massachusetts is a very 'blue' state so the Globe fits in so many ways with the prevailing bias.

All the other people can read The Herald, which is I think is a piece of shit waste of paper even without taking 'bias' into account. The Herald panders to the lowest common denominator - but somebody has to or that denominator would be disenfranchised (not good).

I don't like it so I don't read it.

At least stories in The Herald show some emotion - usually in my opinion the wrong emotion (anger), but there you go.

As for the newspaper as watchdog; well, that has gone by the wayside as newspapers have been gobbled up by corporate interests - or pandering to interests.

Think of the stories the Daily News did on Stephen Karp when he first started revving up his agenda for Newburyport. The paper sent a reporter down to Nantucket to investigate Karp's influence there, and it was heralded (in the good way) for tough reporting.

Then it all stopped.

No more stories that would be uncomfortable for New England Development/Newburyport Development appeared on its pages. Poor (at least in this instance) Larry McCavitt started being tagged as a "bully" and the paper printed some ridiculous paraphrase allegedly from the mayor that McCavitt "uses government and laws to press people into compliance."

And people bought into it as a charge against the Ward 1 City Councillor - in this case, which revolved around some floating docks in the river and the Chapter 91 law.

Well, except for my blogging colleague Tom Salemi, who responded, "Well, I certainly hope McCavitt uses government and laws to press people into compliance." That's the entire point of government isn't it?"

Then you get the blustering, oh, well, [McCavitt's] interpretation of the law. From what I understand, McCavitt helped draft the Chapter 91 law ... so if anyone should get it, he should.

Where is the newspaper to point that out?

And then there was the Great Black Dog Story - I still can't tell who was responsible for leading people to believe those tall ships would be conducting tours and programs for kiddies here in Newburyport, as reported in the Daily News.

Was it the owners themselves? Well, owner Morgan Douglas was not too happy with the story - although the link to the story is prominently displayed on the home page of the company's website, with what he complained to me was the erroneous information intact, and it was his brother who was quoted.

It's not like the Daily News made it up - but the story in the Current ran a week ago and I haven't seen any clarification/correction from the DN on its own story.

Or was it Newburyport Development that was being misleading?

Whoever it was perhaps doesn't matter to you since it's only one small thing. But it was still misleading and plenty of people bought into it.

Need I even mention that as part of keeping its DEP license under Ch. 91, NED needs to have some kind of marine camp running from its docks?

Anyway ... I read that story and thought, "Really? They're going to bring those tall ships up here in favor of keeping them on Martha's Vineyard?"

Which is why, when I was writing my story, I called and asked ... but then, even Little Miss Skeptical (me) bought into the false story that Carol DiMaiti had been killed by some random black guy with a raspy voice ... so don't think I'm patting myself on the back or anything.

(I do what I do and sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't - which is why I always say, "You should never believe totally everything you read in the paper.")

Oh - back to my main point - and I think the demise of the newspaper is attributable to what most people think: the Internet and access to instantly refreshed news is killing the printed page.

The problem with that is this - instantly usually means "incomplete." You can read a news flash online, think that's what happened and then go away - and miss entirely the whole story, which may include any corrections, clarifications and/or additions.

If anyone bothers to make them, that is. News organizations don't like to admit they make mistakes.