Friday, May 29, 2009

Cameron throws his (khaki) hat into the ring, maybe

I do believe Ed Cameron is telling us he's going to run for mayor. Right over here, on his blog.

Well now that the Current is out, I can say that James Shanley told me that he, too, would be running for mayor - if John Moak does not seek re-election.

That seems to be a caveat for everyone - for what reason I cannot say. Do they all think John Moak is that great of a mayor?

I guess so, since they're always voting in favor of all his appointments, large lumps of money for favored staff and whatnot.

So it sure seems like Moak will not, in fact, be pursing a third term. Or, as Shanley hinted, he may not be able to get enough signatures on his nomination papers.

I think as an anonymous person asked in a previous post, would Moak be committed to being mayor, or would he run off the first time another job that pays twice as much pops up?

I'm still trying to get the mayor on the horn to answer some questions. He usually does eventually return my calls, but not this week. But it's budget time.

I make a lot of excuses for people.

Let's get together (no, no, no)

(Some of the names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.)

A few weeks ago now, I met a man that prior to that day I had only known as a person on the periphery of my life.

This person (Doug) and I after that met once more, in a local bar/pub where he hangs out - let's call it the Parched Perch.

At our second meeting, Doug expressed an interest in meeting another person I know (Don) and asked me to introduce them to each other. This was reiterated later that evening, in a "conversation" on Facebook.

Sure, why not, I thought? I can drag Don over to the Parched Perch and introduce him to Doug.

So I wrote an email to Don and proposed just that scenario.

Don replied that we should "change things up" and meet for dinner at Agave instead. I replied that I had given Doug the impression that I was bringing him (Don) into the Perch.

Sure, Don said, we can meet for lunch or dinner at the Perch, if they served dinner at the Perch.

So I wrote to Doug through Facebook and told him what was up.

No reply.

Undaunted (I'm stupid that way), last week a female friend and I had lunch with Don downtown. After lunch, she had to run and Don and I wandered onto State Street. I had to drop in at the Bank of America and Don waited outside for me.

"Hey," I said when I emerged from the bank, "why don't we pop over to the Perch and I can introduce you to that Doug guy?"

Don looked at me as if I were insane and replied, "No, I already ate."

Apparently, Don thinks you can't meet someone unless food is involved. And after I thought about it, I realized that almost every time I see Don, food is involved.

And apparently, Doug thinks you can't meet someone unless alcohol is involved (although you can get both food and alcohol at Agave).

The first time I met Doug, in the Perch place, I only drank water. It was a hot day, I had consumed some fair quantity of alcohol the night before - and it was only 11:30 a.m.

I'm not a prude, but I was raised by one.

At any rate, Doug told me at our second meeting that he thought the first had been too "formal."

(I had two drinks of the alcohol-laden variety at our second meeting, which was well into the afternoon.)

Geez louise, people!

So, to recap: I was trying to introduce two men, one of which won't meet someone unless he can eat at the same time and the other who (apparently) won't meet someone outside of his usual haunt and/or unless he can drink an alcoholic beverage at the same time.

What happened to meeting someone just for the hell of meeting someone? Don wasn't interested in sitting in a bar and Doug it seems isn't interested in sitting anywhere but a bar ... just that one bar.

I figure it just was not meant to be. Let them meet and chat on Facebook - it is, after all, a social networking space.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The gate to hell

You wonder why I was cut back to 2 stories/week with the Current? Well, maybe you weren't but I'm still going to tell you ... well, some guy named Dan Kennedy will tell you, right here.

I couldn't cut and paste from his blog, but I copped this off the Patriot Ledger site:

GateHouse Media New England plans to implement a temporary salary reduction next week as it reacts to an industrywide downturn in advertising sales.

The company, which publishes The Patriot Ledger and nearly 100 other newspapers in the state, announced the salary reduction to employees on Thursday. The pay cut is aimed at saving $2.5 million this year.

The size of the pay reduction will vary depending on an employee’s salary, ranging from 7 percent up to just under 15 percent for the company’s top earners.

The average pay cut would be 7.75 percent. If the reduction lasts through the end of 2009, it would have the effect of an average pay cut of 4.5 percent for the full year.

Still ... CNC (owned by Gatehouse) launched that glossy magazine earlier this year.

I know the people at CNC, at least, made peanuts before the cuts. I have to agree with the comment at the end of the piece: "Wow. So many GateHouse reporters will now qualify for food stamps?"

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I stole this from the Dems/Ed Cameron

The gov is coming! Get your questions organized. You see how well that worked after his last year's visit to Amesbury (when he said he would investigate the landfill debacle).

Governor Patrick Announces Summer Town Hall Meeting Tour

Governor will hold 15 town hall meetings across the Commonwealth

BOSTON– Monday, May 25, 2009 – Keeping to his commitment to encourage civic engagement and to be Governor of the whole Commonwealth, Governor Deval Patrick announced today he will embark on a summer town hall meeting tour across Massachusetts, starting on Tuesday, May 26th.

“As we work to overcome the challenges of today, it is important that the citizens of the Commonwealth are involved in the process,” said Governor Patrick. “I look forward to this opportunity to learn how state government can better serve its people.”

The meetings are part of Governor Patrick’s efforts to make state government accessible for all people in the Commonwealth. The Governor will host 15 town hall meetings this summer and he encourages all to come and share in the discussion. Last year, the Governor held town hall meetings in Salem, Hull, Amesbury, Holyoke, Milton, Webster, Rehoboth, Athol, Great Barrington, and Hyannis.

The town hall-style meetings are open to the public, giving residents a chance to talk directly to Governor Patrick about issues they care about most, including the economy, the state’s budget challenges, and the Governor’s efforts to push for reforms on Beacon Hill.

For more information, visit

Town Hall Meeting Schedule:
Additional Venues TBA

  • Tuesday, May 26th, 6:30 p.m. Dennis, Village Green (1006 Old Bass River Road)
  • Sunday, June 7th, 5:30 p.m. Randolph, Robert C. Williams Gazebo (corner of North and Pleasant Streets)
  • Tuesday, June 16th, 6:30 p.m. Needham, Town Hall Green (1471 Highland Avenue)
  • Monday, June 22nd, 7:00 p.m. Arlington, Robbin Farm Park (51 Eastern Avenue)
  • Monday, June 29th, 6:30 p.m. Lynn
  • Wednesday, July 8th, 6:30 p.m. Shrewsbury
  • Tuesday, July 14th, 6:30 p.m. Adams
  • Thursday, July 16th, 6:30 p.m. Pembroke
  • Tuesday, July 21st, 6:30 p.m. Newburyport
  • Thursday, July 23rd, 6:30 p.m. Grove Hall
  • Wednesday, July 29th, 6:30 p.m. Wareham
  • Tuesday, August 4th, 6:30 p.m. Groton
  • Thursday, August 6th, 6:30 p.m. Chicopee
  • Tuesday, August 11th, 6:30 p.m. Pittsfield
  • Thursday, August 13th, 6:30 p.m. Sharon

Stellar Stella's

I had lunch today, for the second time in 7 days, at Stella's on Middle Street.

I'd forgotten how good their breakfasts are and the lunch offerings ... well, I had breakfast food both times so I'll stick to that.

Friday: Lemon-ricotta pancakes .... mmmmm .... perfecto. I usually don't order pancakes from a restaurant because I like them thin and light and they're usually thick and heavy. Not these ones; they were just the way I like them.

Today I had "Breakfast Around The World:" This sampler includes 2 eggs, half of a Belgian waffle, a small pile of French toast, a link of Italian sausage, a wee bit of Irish corned-beef hash, homefries, a toasted English muffin, and a glass of American Florida orange juice...$8.50

It was served on one of those platters people use to serve a turkey on Thanksgiving (I swear, it was huge!).

I couldn't fit in one piece of French toast and most of the homefries (not being a fan), but I have to say the waffle was light and airy, the eggs were fresh, the corned beef hash was crisped to perfection and even the French toast I could only eat half of was way above average.

If you haven't been there - go there! It's on Middle Street - and it's a way cool space, too.

Don't feed the geese

A couple of City Council meetings ago - or perhaps it was the last regular meeting - a couple of tykes proposed to the council that there should be a sign (and a fine?) asking people to not feed the geese that are over-running the city.

One of the youngsters belongs to city senior project manager Geordie Vining - at least I think so. They have the same last name and they were sitting next to one another during the meeting.

Anyway, last night the council voted to adopt the proposal, with a heavy fine structure: $100 for the first offfense, $200 for the second and $300 for the third.

It wasn't clear what penalty would be imposed for a fourth offense, should someone ever be so stupid.

Only Steve Hutcheson had the good sense to vote "no" on this, saying the fines seemed "kind of high."

Kids today - they're tough.

Back to the beach (it's been a while)

Wow, I got not one but TWO emails notifying me of this:

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) today released an oversight report called “Washed out to Sea” that details how billions of federal dollars have been wasted on beach nourishment projects while critical infrastructure needs go unmet.

“Taxpayers know that Congress wastes money. Yet, many Americans may be surprised to learn that billions of taxpayer dollars have literally washed out to sea through questionable ‘beach nourishment projects’ while critical infrastructure needs have gone unmet. In the wake of major natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, and in the midst of our current financial difficulties, it’s time for Congress to use a little more common sense in its management of taxpayer dollars,” Dr. Coburn said.

While Congress continues to invest billions beach projects that continually wash out to sea, at least 985 levees within the Corps of Engineer’s Levee Safety Program are still at significant risk of failure because of flooding. This investigative report examines why federal funding of beach nourishment is a short-sighted and inefficient use of taxpayer dollars. Specifically, this report finds that these costly beach projects:
  • can divert scarce financial and human resources away from more vital infrastructure needs;
  • are temporary and require perpetual upkeep;
  • encourage risky coastal construction which in turn necessitates more beach nourishment and hinders implementing permanent solutions to coastal erosion;
  • are primarily secured by Members of Congress on behalf of beach-front communities represented by influential lobbying firms;
  • primarily benefit local and wealthy coastal property owners and businesses;
  • often negatively impact the environment and certain species;
  • are linked to human health problems; and
  • can restrict private property rights.
Click here to read the entire report.

Docks get fight but Treasurer gets her bucks

Well you'd think handing over $6,500 to the new city treasurer would have been more of an issue - but it wasn't.

Uniting in disunity were Tom Jones and Tom O'Brien, who both voted against a transfer of $6,462.81 to bring Treasurer Cheryl Robertson's salary up to ... what?

Well, more in line with what former treasurer Mary Lattime made.

I don't buy this argument that she should get an increase because that's what happens when you fill a job that was held for a long-time by one person, especially since Robertson was already a city employee, in the Mayor's Office.

You have a salary range for a position, you should stick to it.

Robertson's salary is/was (who knows?) $74,625/yr., according to Donna Holaday. Lattime's salary was $75,726 with the longevity, and after a mid-year raise last year, according to Julia Godtfredsen, Robertson's replacement in the Mayor's Office.

It's not as if Robertson was an outside candidate; and even then, given that the city is considering layoffs, someone from the outside possibly would have been offered LESS, not more.

But apparently there was some kind of a contract so ... and the money is coming from the salary line for an assistant treasurer, which I guess is a vacant position, so ... 9-2.

Yeah, I agree with Tom Jones, who said it was very poor timing to effectively give someone a raise and with Tom O'Brien, who said it didn't make sense given possible layoffs of police officers.

Everyone is working harder and making less these days ... well, a lot of people are ... It's a sad, but true, fact of life.

The salary line item for the mayor's "executive aide" is $45,218 for FY09 - so I'm guessing that was about what Robertson made before she became Treasurer.

News for boaters on the river

Arguably the biggest issue at last night's City Council meeting - if you go by level of debate - was the Harbor Commission's proposed amendment to the Water Sheet Ordinance that would reduce the width of the small craft navigation zone on a part of the Merrimack River from 150 ft. to 75 ft.

This would be up-river from a line extending from the bottom of California St. to wherever Newburyport waters end (people seemed confused about where this might be - Amesbury, W. Newbury ...).

The SCNZ extends 150 ft. from the southerly boundary for the entire distance of the federal channel, the ordinance currently says.

"The placement of floats, piers or docking mechanism" is not allowed in this area.

Harbor Commission chairman Hans Erwich told the council that the former HC that drafted the ordinance in 1991 made a mistake.

"In some places the zone narrows to land," he said.

At-large Councillor Kathleen O'Connor Ives does not believe a mistake was made in 1991 and thinks this will open the door to people applying to put floating docks on the river where now they cannot (Gee, I wonder who'd want to do that?).

There are currently 7 docks that protrude into the SCNZ, most of which were grandfathered in at the time of the 1991 ordinance, Erwich said.

Ward 2 Councillor Greg Earls demanded greater detail and updated maps and Ed Cameron had to withdraw his motion to approve ... and then Earls and Council President James Shanley were seen after the meeting in a heated discussion outside City Hall ... I told you Earls is getting fiesty.

A lot of action at last night's meeting

Oh my gosh, there is so much to digest from last night's City Council meeting, I don't know where to begin.

Maybe I should give everyone a chance to digest the news about the mayor before I start carrying on about all the other stuff.

Does everyone need to digest?

Before last weekend, I had kind of believed Moak was a shoe-in, given that he made it through to finalist.

That shows how much I know ... so much for my (self) lauded instincts.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Winthrop chooses another

Mayor John Moak said this evening that he heard this afternoon that he did not get the job in Winthrop.

Jim McKenna, who worked with former Gloucester mayor John Bell among other relevant work, was the candidate of choice, Moak said.

"I'm pleased that I got that far through the process," Moak told me, adding that is was "an intriguing situation."

Moak was one of three finalists, along with McKenna and Swampscott town administrator Andrew Maylor, who I believe is from Winthrop. The three were recommended from a field of about 40 candidates.

So there you go.

Diamonds on the soles of their shoes

I was reading this story in today's Daily News, about the Christian Science church closing its doors on High St. and two things came to mind:

1. A church in a town is a business, a local franchise if you will, and


Who has about $900,000 to buy this building for a senior center, before someone else snatches it up?

But back to #1: I find it interesting that people don't think of a church as a business, with legitimate business expenses - and the odd tax break here and there.

Churches have always been about making money - when they weren't being political, that is.

Back in the good old days - that would be Medieval times to me - churches went around collecting tithes from the common folk who could ill afford it, by telling them they would be doomed to eternal hellfire if they didn't fork over their last farthing (or whatever coin they used back then).

That was so the bishops and such could have fur robes to keep them warm and toasty in those drafty buildings. Just look at all that jewel-encrusted finery available to the Pope, for instance. Of course, the lowly vicars and priests were living on moldy bread ...

I've oversimplified to make a point but still, churches (in the forest sense) are big business and they are powerful.

That particular local church isn't making enough money? Get rid of it! ... And on and on it goes.

The flip side

Going back to being in the community garden behind the First Parish Church, Newbury - I was there on Sunday morning when the bell started tolling to tell people it was time to get to church.

And although I'm not a religious person, it made me kind of sad to think that, not even 100 years ago, a whole community answered to that bell.

You know that famous quote, "Do not ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for you ...?" Well, it means something slightly different than what I'm saying, but somehow it fits in this case as well.

Sick (literally) and tired of it all

I was interviewing someone yesterday for a story I hoped would go into one of the papers to which I contribute.

But then I was informed that the Daily News has "first pickings" on the story, so I may have to hold my story until after they run their story and after the fact.

Because, you know? Getting the news out to readers is not as important as being the first one to do it ... although there is that sense of excitement when you are the first one to do it.

So if I am told that this story can't be in a paper I write for, it's going on the blog.

You read it here first, folks - all six of you.

Memorial Day

I wasn't deliberately trying to leave the news from the Daily News off the blog, I just couldn't figure out how to pick up the feed.

I will admit that, after the first attempt, I gave up and forgot all about it until today.

So goes my mind lately.

I've been so involved in our little garden plot in the New Eden Collaborative garden that all else is being pushed out of my head.

Anyway ... Here's hoping you all had a good holiday weekend and that you took the time to remember those lost, even if they weren't lost in a war.

I remember going every Memorial Day (although I think it was still called Decoration Day then) with my (Swart) grandfather to a small cemetery in Thetford Township (Clio, MI) to put flowers on the graves of his parents.

Their graves were not marked then. After my grandfather died, I was the only one who knew exactly where the graves were when my grandmother decided to put markers there.

The reason I'm even saying this is because I saw people, and talked to people, who took the time last weekend to go to the graves of family members and mark them with some kind of tribute.

It reminded me of those trips with my grandfather. I am only pointing out that he was my adopted grandfather because all of my blood relatives (the ones who are dead, at least) are buried in other countries.

My Swart grandparents, my Aunt Sylvia, Uncle Bud and Uncle Harold and my cousins Richard and Rudy are buried halfway across this country from me, but mostly close to one another.

Nevertheless, the meaning and spirit of the day was not lost on me.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Don't let your fingers do the talking

*NOTE (I should have said this before): I'm not publishing any more comments on the topic of James Shanley and his appointment to the NRA.

Both 'sides' have had their say and that's it. I'm the only one allowed to cast aspersions on other people's characters on here!

But I take your point, Tom (Ryan): Why choose the City Council president when you could have picked any one of thousands of people who were not already in a position of power?

I'm not going to fault Shanley for accepting the appointment, though, even if he had promoted himself. He is deeply interested - and has educated himself - in all matters related to parking. And I happen to mostly agree with his positions on the subject (not crazy about the Green St. plan), so ...

But it will be interesting to see who is elected chairman of the NRA now that Nat Norton is not seeking re-appointment.

If it's Shanley, I may bitch and whine (especially if he becomes mayor).

Burn notice

A recent comment has compelled me to further expand on Council President James Shanley and his appointment to the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority, or NRA as it is mysteriously known here:

From what I understand (or my own knowledge of events), Mayor Moak suggested James Shanley to the Governor as his (Gov's) appointee on the NRA after (Ward 4 City Councillor) Erford Fowler stepped down from the board when his term expired, in 2008.

As a quasi-governmental board and a vestige of urban renewal, the Governor gets to appoint one member to the NRA. The mayor appoints the rest.

And from Shanley:

John Moak called me and asked if I would be willing to serve on the NRA, filling in for Erford Fowler, who was the Governor's Appointee during the Romney administration. When Erford's term expired, it was highly unlikely that the Patrick administration would appoint a life long Republican.

I didn't seek the appointment nor install myself has Mr. Ryan has implied. I had to give the appointment a lot of thought, as its yet another responsibility on top of all the other things I have going. The first person I discussed this with was my wife Karen, as further involvement in city life would have a direct impact on her and our business. She was supportive. My next conversation was with the State Ethics Commission, who cleared my being both on the Council and on the NRA.

Here's a bit from the Daily News (May 12, 2008) that also might be helpful:

It has been more than a month — since March 31 — since Erford Fowler's term on the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority officially ended.

But the former city councilor is still serving in the position since Gov. Deval Patrick, who is charged with making the next appointment to the NRA, has yet to do so. According to a spokeswoman for the governor, there is no appointee, no short list and no time line for a new appointment to the board ...

Fowler, who was also a long-time city councilor, could not be reached for comment.

And neither could Nat Norton, the chairman of the NRA, so it remains unclear if there is any worry about Patrick's delay in making a decision.

Mayor John Moak, who along with Rep. Michael Costello, D-Newburyport, both are endorsing James Shanley, president of the City Council to the position.

But in the meantime, Moak said he is fine with Fowler still serving.

"He is still there and he has done a great job," Moak said of the former Ward 4 councilor. "I think he's brought a lot of the open meeting law aspects (to the NRA). I have no concerns" about his continued service.

But Moak added: "I'm sure James Shanley would like to get started on his appointment, but that is up to the governor."
As Shanley says, Fowler was appointed by former (Republican) Governor Mitt Romney. Politics, you know? Shanley is a Dem.

I leave it to you, dear readers, to decide for yourselves. If you even care, that is.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

1, 2, 3, 4 ... can I have a little more?

Today was the day I determined I was going to spend looking for additional viable freelance opportunities. (That means that the opp does not have a "no writing for the competition" clause.)

So far I've: watered and weeded the veggie garden, posted on here, talked to my neighbor about the muffler problem on the Jetta, gone to City Hall to pick up the City Council agenda for Tuesday's meeting ...

And that agenda is the subect of this post.

It's chock-full of nuts. Too bad I can only do 2 stories/wk. for the Current because there's about 4 in here.

1. The Treasurer is asking for $6,500 dollars for ... herself. Additional funding is required due to a salary differential and overlap that occurred between the retiring Treasurer and new incoming Treasurer, the explanation reads.

Wasn't the treasurer, Cheryl Robertson, already working in City Hall when she was named as Treasurer - what was that, six months ago?

That's a rhetorical question.

2. Amendment to the "traffic and motor vehicles" ordinance that will, I assume, put an end to those trucks advertising Germinara BioFuel that are parked in various places - or just one truck that moves around.

I know there was a flap on the Daily News comment thread about how ugly the truck is, but I never thought it would come to this!

Hmmmm ... didn't Germinara just start a parking lot at this business, for people who don't want to pay the MBTA to park in its lot since they doubled the fee?

3. A draft shared services agreement for health services between Newburyport, Amesbury and Salisbury.

The agreement covers public health, public health nurse and animal control services.

It looks as if Amesbury and Salisbury will be forking over $45,233 each to Newburyport for public health nurse services and health inspections and services, and Newburyport and Amesbury will owe Salisbury $8,047 each for animal control inspections and services, per year.

4. An order requiring retirees who become eligible for Medicare after adoption of this order (under M.G.L. Chapter 32B, Section 18A) to switch from the City's health plan to Medex.

See? Like I said, 4 things ...

One of these things is not like the others

I love anytime I can give a shout-out to "Sesame Street."

Well. Here we are, maybe at a crossroads. (I'm referring to the possible departure of our mayor before the end of his term, by the way.)

Does anyone else long for the days of a good old-fashioned debate in the City Council?

Are you like me, bored with the 10 "yes" votes and one "no" vote?

Do you think we have a problem here?

Well I'm hearing a lot of buzz about the 10 and the one - and look out, babies, cuz it may soon be 11-0 all the way! Or 9-1 for a while, if they don't have to fill the seat of whoever (Council President James Shanley) gets elected to take over the corner office from Moak as he waves "bye-bye" on his way down to Winthrop.

Oh how I miss the likes of a Gary Roberts or a Bruce Vogel - people who stood up and protested stuff. Although Greg Earls has been pretty fiesty lately. And Katie Ives, although she is frequently one of the "10."

Tom Jones, of course, is the "one."

A promotion for the Youth Services director? I can see in my backwards vision the veins popping out on Gary Roberts' neck, even though that didn't have to be approved by the City Council.

A $6,500 salary supplement (my word) for the City Treasurer/former whatever her position was with the mayor? It's in the City Council agenda, for Tuesday night's meeting.

Overtime for sewer problems that were caused basically by lack of maintenance? Phhht, that's okay - we don't blame you, sewer department. Just hint that you might get us some stimulus funds for the sewer plant project and all is forgiven.

And never, ever mention the potentially HUGE amount of outstanding revenue due from unpaid water/sewer bills.

People, do you really think $40,000 is all that was owed? Who do you think is picking up the slack here?

Someone should force the Sewer Commission and the rest of the city to put that information out there.

The City Council looks kinda stupid, passing outdoor seating for a restaurant without knowing they were going to serve alcohol out there ...

I didn't always agree with Roberts and Vogel, but they along with Jones sure did make things interesting - and never lopsided. I'll bet you a week's pay (peanuts) that Gary Roberts would have been on that sewer dept./outstanding bills thing in a shot.

It has not been even mentioned in passing by any sitting city councillor, that I've heard.

And as Jim Roy suggested in a recent issue of The Liberator, Vogel would have been pelting stones at the windows of the mayor's office after that administrative order that let New Ventures resume thumbing its nose at the city.

I was stunned - stunned - at how little most of the councillors knew about the landfill, based on what I saw Monday night. Stunned.

It seems to me that most of them don't read the newspapers (although I did see Larry McCavitt open a manilla folder that was filled with news stories he'd printed off).

Watch out people - this is going to get dirty and maybe we should all pray that Winthrop picks one of the other guys.

Either way, I'd say the November election will be "gloves off," if Moak is out of the picture.

My predictions?

1. "Suddenly" someone will "discover" something on Jones (an open secret that 'they' for sure already know, since I've heard about it from 2 different people now).

Jones says to come on over to his house on Low St. for tea; the milk in the fridge is fresh - and organic. "I may be conservative, but I am organic," he quipped when I spoke with him yesterday.

He doesn't seem to be too worried about it.

2. Another potentially strong contender for Greg Earls in Ward 2. Fiesty is frowned upon.

3. Ditto for Larry McCavitt, only take the "nother" off the "a" since he ran unopposed in 2007.

4. I wouldn't have thought anyone would mind Brian Derrivan (outside of the people in his ward who have a stinking pile of landfill in their backyard), but ... hey, speaking of Bruce Vogel, he was at the last City Council meeting ...

For such a little town, Newburyport has a big political machine.

Journalism in the crapper

Following up on comments made on my earlier post about journalists and cutthroats, here's an op-ed from Tuesday's Christian Science Monitor.

It is entitled "Why journalists deserve low pay." It was written by one Robert G. Picard, a professor of media economics in Sweden and a visiting fellow at Oxford.

I held back on posting it because ... well, because I didn't want to step on anyone's toes. But now the way is clear, I think, so here goes.

Journalists like to think of their work in moral or even sacred terms. With each new layoff or paper closing, they tell themselves that no business model could adequately compensate the holy work of enriching democratic society, speaking truth to power, and comforting the afflicted.

Actually, journalists deserve low pay.

Wages are compensation for value creation. And journalists simply aren't creating much value these days.

Until they come to grips with that issue, no amount of blogging, twittering, or micropayments is going to solve their failing business models.
That's the beginning of the piece. This is the end:

Finding the rights means to create and protect value will require collaboration throughout news enterprises. It is not something that journalists can leave to management. Journalists and managers alike will need to develop collaboration skills and create social relations that make it possible. Journalists will also need to acquire entrepreneurial and innovation skills that makes it possible for them to lead change rather than merely respond to it.

The demise of the news business can be halted, but only if journalists commit to creating value for consumers and become more involved in setting the course of their companies.
Along the way, Picard says something I've been saying: people are tired of the same-old standardized style of reporting. Well, he doesn't say people are tired of it, he says it doesn't work anymore.

We can all see that for ourselves.

I look at old newspapers - ones from the early 20th century - and I see that the style back then was much more "homey" and included rich details and descriptive devices that are no longer in practice.

Perhaps because I did not go to journalism school, I am somewhat enriched in that it is a real struggle for me to strip down a news story to its bare bones.

For example, what are the implications of Mayor Moak seeking a job in another community? What effect would it have?

It's fine for a newspaper, or several newspapers, to quote someone saying the implications are far-reaching, but what are the implications?

How do people in Ward 3 feel about perhaps losing their ward councillor if all this goes down and City Council President James Shanley becomes mayor?

And why isn't this situation addressed in the city charter? The charter review people are short on signatures. Wow, this is one good case for charter review.

Perhaps the City Council should not elect Shanley but rather go for an At-Large person, like they did when Lisa Mead left.

Why is it up to us bloggers to try and analyze this?

But the fact is, we do. And therein lies the problem facing newspapers.

Get the news, report it in a timely fashion and most important, get it on line as quickly as possible. That's where people are looking for their news now.

That story, the one from the CSM? I got it off a Facebook status update. I don't have the time to surf the Net for relevant stories; I have to make money.

All that being said, I think Picard ignores one basic fact: you get what you pay for. Maybe journalists are tired of busting their hump for pennies.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Globe finally gets on the train

I totally missed this story from Sunday's Globe North about Mayor John Moak's being a finalist for the Winthrop town manager position.

You've gotta love Katie Ives' persistence in challenging this landfill deal.

Newburyport Councilor at large Donna Holoday (sic) said she was surprised when Moak informed her last week he was a finalist in Winthrop.

"But I certainly understand his reasoning for applying for a new job with double his salary. And it's a community in financial trouble and this is John's area of expertise," she said.

But Councilor at large Kathleen O'Connor Ives said she is concerned that Moak is pursuing another job after having recently acted independently of the council to order closure of the landfill. The effort to close the site, a persistent source of odor complaints, has been a longstanding issue among city and state officials and the site owner.

"Where he is taking the lead" on the landfill issue, "it's very difficult for me to understand how he can make those decisions independently and then simultaneously seek opportunities elsewhere," Ives said.
Some sloppy fact checking and copy editing in there ... but Ives is like a terrier that has a hold on Moak's leg, and she's not letting go.

Tax and tweet

I was shocked and amazed when I saw this page on - not because of the sales tax hike deal (not a surprise) but the Twitter feed with local Boston tweets that's on the same web page. is the web presence of the Boston Globe, which as we all know is in BIG financial trouble. Whoever did it should never have sold the paper to the New York Times Company.

I'm not sure exactly why they are doing the Twitter thing since I think most, if not all, of the Tweets link back to Globe stories, but hey, it's progress, right?

Anyway ... here's what it says about the tax hike:

The Senate plan, which cleared the House in April, would push the sales tax from 5 percent to 6.25 percent, while generating an estimated $633 million to offset deep cuts in services for the poor, elderly, and disabled.

The Senate plan, which cleared the House in April, would push the sales tax from 5 percent to 6.25 percent, while generating an estimated $633 million to offset deep cuts in services for the poor, elderly, and disabled.

Lifting the sales tax exemption on alcohol sold at package stores would raise another $80 million for those services, senators said. Allowing cities and towns to impose a 2 percentage point increase in taxes on hotels and restaurant meals will help offset cuts in state aid to municipalities, senators said.

At 6.25 percent, Massachusetts would have the second highest sales tax rate of the six New England states plus New York. Only eight states nationwide have a higher rate.
Not sure that's fair because while New York's sales tax rate is 4%, they allow cities and counties to impose sales tax of up to 4.75%.

Of the five sates bordering Massachusetts, only Rhode Island, at 7 percent, has a sales tax rate above 6.25 percent. Massachusetts, however, does not impose sales taxes on groceries, clothing under $175, and prescription drugs.
If Gov. Patrick signs off on this, I can see the flow of cars travelling north to (sales tax free) New Hampshire increasing dramatically.

It's about time they taxed alcohol, though, I think, and the meals and room tax bump will certainly help here.

Carousel ousts Lowell's

And the winner is - the Paragon Carousel in Hull.

The Greater Boston Partners in Preservation program announced yesterday (and today) the winner of the popular vote. The Carousel will receive its full grant request of $100,000 to restore its doors and windows, recreating a fitting home for "this seaside gem."
The National Trust for Historic Preservation says not to worry (yet) -
Don’t despair if your favorite project didn't come in first, there is still a chance that your favorite project will be awarded a grant. In the second part of our effort to give away $1 million, our Advisory Committee will be making recommendations on the rest of the grant awards. Stay tuned for our June 16th announcement of all the additional grants.
So Lowell's Boat Shop may get something yet and if its not from there, it may be from here:
Each year, The Provident Bank gives the community the choice to vote for which local non-profit organizations should receive a share of the $20,000 set aside by The Provident Community Foundation for their OUR COMMUNITY, YOUR E-VOTE PROGRAM.

Vote today for Lowell's Boat Shop by visiting and clicking on the "OUR COMMUNITY, YOUR E-VOTE" button.

Deadline: May 31, 2009. Only one vote per person, please.

Now I feel better

I was reading this post from a new blog I'm following called Words on the Page. The author of the blog is the person who started Writers Worth Day (you know, the day on which all I did was bicker with people for who/whom I produce copy).

This is the opening sentence:
Have you ever come across someone whose appeal is instant, whose manner is so easy or so charming that you can't help but want to know them?

Well, Lori Widmer, I have to say "Yes! Yes I did, just last month!"

She is talking about a client, but I met someone like that socially. As she says, it has nothing to do with looks or sex appeal.

It has to do with people wanting to be around that person because he makes them feel good - special - to be part of his world.
Yes, Lori Widmer, yes! I thought I was being weird about this guy because that's how he made me feel. And I wrote to him and told him so ... (btw, this isn't about dating, this is about interpersonal relationships and that whole Townie thing).

Jerk me back to reality when upon second meeting, this person told me he thought this one was better than the first. Wow, you know? There probably wouldn't have been a second one if I hadn't felt that way about the first one.

I guess the comfort level wasn't mutual. But what I was looking for - and what I got - was a Townie who made me feel totally okay about not being one myself and who made me part of his world.

"Stop in anytime," he said.

Like the man described by Lori, he started out putting me at ease by saying he found my multi-locale background interesting. Those were practically the first words out of his mouth.

Whatever he thought/thinks of me (he never replied to my message), it was still special. And as Lori notes, you want to do extra nice stuff for the "catnip" person, when you meet one.

Read it here ... no there ... first

For those of you who are wondering what would happen if the mayor leaves for Winthrop - as in who would step in to take his place - and did not read the Current's story that already explained it all last week - here it is in the Daily News.

I'm dead serious about this now.

I know I write for the "competition" and I wrote the Current story in question (which of course is not on line so I can't link to it), but this is bad. Especially since the reporter wasn't able to speak with Council President James Shanley, who most likely would be the one to step in.

James wrote me on Monday that he wouldn't be at the landfill meeting that evening because he was out of town.

Anyway, equally bad is the Current story not being on line. I know I wrote it, but ... that's awful. Not just for my sake, but for the readers' sake and the Current's sake.

We all know that newspapers are struggling and at least should be coming to realize that the online presence is the more important one right now.

And it is annoying to me because if it's not on line, I can't link to it or email it to other prospective freelance employers. Merrimack Valley Magazine, although it has an online presence, does not post content online. SeaCoast Scene, which I also write for, does not even have an online presence.

I got next to nothing to show - and I don't own a scanner.

So what gives?

I am told that with the Current, it's too difficult to post stories on line so ... many of them just don't get there.

With MVM, I believe, the publisher thinks he's giving something away that he wants people to pay for, if he puts content online. He does not provide clips, at least not for free.

This isn't about competition or giving stuff away for free, this is about serving the community. Not so much with the magazine but with the paper ...?

Finally, I read this in Katie Farrell's story:
At-large Councilor Donna Holaday, who ran against Moak during his first run for mayor, receiving 40 percent of the vote, said yesterday she would "absolutely" be interested in seeking the job if Moak leaves — both temporarily and long term — but called taking any action right now "premature."

"I'd prefer to focus on budget workshops and the work ahead of us," she said.

Holaday, who has taken out re-election papers for her at-large seat, said she will wait to see what happens with Moak to know if she should exchange them for another set of nomination papers.

Holaday said she wouldn't consider a run if Moak were to seek re-election in November.

"We'll see how this plays out," she said.

Donna said most of this to me, but said she preferred me to leave it out of my story, as it was "premature."

I guess I'm not cutthroat enough. The man who taught me journalism always used to tell me, "There's no such thing as 'off the record.'"

I don't agree, but ... well, somehow I knew I'd be reading it in the Daily News before I wrote it for the Current.

C'est la vie.

Missed it by that much

Wow, I did not know that the "Burn Notice" dude was from Amesbury!

In that case, I won't say anything rude ... no, I actually watch the show ...
With two seasons as the star of television’s hit series “Burn Notice” under his belt, the streets of Miami may now be familiar to Jeffrey Donovan, but not as familiar as the streets of Amesbury where he grew up.

Donovan will return home next week to accept an Amesbury Educational Foundation Inc. Hall of Honor award.
OK - you talked me into it - so I'll only say that the main woman is way, way too scrawny to be doing the things she supposedly does on the show.

Of course, I've totally missed getting press entry to this ceremony, since "next week" is now "last week." Figures.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Landfill meeting: long and short

I suppose I should say something about the big, long landfill, committee-of-the-whole City Council meeting last night (that would be Monday) but there's really not a hell of a lot to say.

Here, I'll let Katie Farrell tell about it, from today's Daily News.

I know it's hard for the City Council to keep up on the minutiae of every issue, but ... I thought the councillors were more up on landfill issues than they appeared to be last night.

But it's such a complex issue; you could write a book.

Notice I said "you," not "I."

Big Memorial Day activities

Newburyport’s Memorial Day Celebration
Monday - May 25th

Assemble in front of CVS parking lot, Pond Street 10:15 AM

Walk/March to City Hall 10:45 – We will have marching with us members of the 182nd Sapper Engineering Battalion Massachusetts National Guard stationed here in Newburyport.

Invocation 11:00 – Reverend Aram Marashlian

Star Spangled Banner – Newburyport High School Marching Band under the direction of Joe Nuccio, his 25th year. The vocalist is Barron Brissett Jr., from Newburyport, a retired Army veteran and professional singer.

Pledge of Allegiance – Kelly Bennett and her two sons Nick and Daniel. Kelly’s husband is presently serving in Afghanistan with the United States Army.

Introductions of elected officials and Guest Speaker(s)
Invited Guests:
U.S. Representative John Tierney
Massachusetts Senator Steven Baddour
Massachusetts Representative Mike Costello
Essex County Sherriff Frank Cousins
Newburyport City Council Members

Page Two – Memorial Day Press release

Medley of Military Music – Newburyport High School Marching Band.

Walk to the River 11:40 (approx.) –gather at the Boardwalk at the boat ramp next to Black Cow restaurant

This portion of the parade will honor fallen Coastguardsmen, Navy and Merchant Marine who have given their lives for this country. A forty-seven foot Coast Guard cutter will be holding close to the Boardwalk

The Newburyport High School Marching Band will play the Coast Guard Hymn – Semper Paratus.

The Newburyport Police Honor Guard will render a rifle volley of three shots

A wreath will be thrown from the Coast guard Cutter

Two vintage war planes will fly over, one trailing smoke

The parade continues up State Street to the Veterans’ Cemetery on the corner of Pond Street and Route One. Estimated arrival time 12:15.

Benediction - Reverend Aram Marashlian

Gettysburg Address recited by students from the Nock Middle School.

Solemn Music & Taps – Newburyport High School Marching Band

Newburyport Police Honor Guard Rifle Volley

Bagpiper walks up and over the hill and disappears

Rain will move the ceremony inside to the City Hall Auditorium
Plan to be there, if you can!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Leave Flint alone!

Wow, Michigan has two cities on the "America's Most Depressing Places" list - according to Clusterstock editor Joe Weisenthal.

Number 1 is Detroit.

Number 10 is Flint.

Personally, I always found Flint much more depressing than Detroit, but I haven't been in Michigan for years.

Actually, I found Flint to be depressing when I was young, when the city was booming, so I kind of object to all this jumping all over Flint NOW. It's too "in" to mess with Flint NOW.

That's all.

The defiant one

I just came across this, on the Newburyport page on Facebook ... or one of them, at any rate ... It's from March, but somehow I missed it.

The woman in question is 80 years old.

Fran Dalton, a retired artist, survives on about $600 a month, checks from Social Security, and the Veterans Affairs Administration. She lives in a small, subsidized apartment in Newburyport. The next-to-last time she bought a carton of Lucky Strikes, it cost something like 60 bucks, and that was in New Hampshire.

"Every cigarette I have, it's a joy," she says. "It calms me. It soothes me. But I couldn't afford them."

Someone told her about a cigarette company run by Native Americans in New York that was selling by mail at discount prices.

And in that last sentence is the burn (pun intended).

In April, she got a letter from the Dept. of Revenue saying she has to pay taxes on her cigarette purchase from the tribe. She, at least at the time the piece was written, is refusing to pay the $91.58.

Now that it was in the Globe that she bought cigs in New Hampshire, I'm sure the state will be right on that, too.

I love this last paragraph:

So, if anybody from the state is looking to pinch the dangerous, seditious, and defiant Fran Dalton, she'll be easy pickings any Wednesday, around noon, at the corner of Water and Fair streets. You can't miss her. She's the one smoking Senecas.

The corner of Water and Fair streets is where the Salvation Army is. They serve free lunches there.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Just what we needed?

Check out this story, from the Boston Phoenix website, about a group calling itself Cure CVS and its claims against the nation's largest drug store chain.

Really? Wow, I had never heard of CVS before I moved to Mass.

For more than two hours, in hearing room A-1, speakers who have banded together under the name "Cure CVS" blasted the nation's largest drug-store chain for ripping off shoppers.

Hearing room A-1, I assume, is somewhere in the State House.

The activists — who have demonstrated their determination by commissioning embroidered CURE CVS windbreakers — brought damaging findings. According to the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business, between 2007 and 2008, CVS paid nearly $350,000 in fines for pricing-accuracy violations — more than 20 percent of the total for all Massachusetts retailers.

I have noticed a couple of times I have not been charged the advertised sale price for an item, but one of the times the cashier caught it. I'm guessing the registers don't automatically ring up the sale price without some input from the cashier.

In correspondence with the Phoenix, and in a recent press statement, CVS spokesman Michael DeAngelis denies malicious intent on his company's behalf. As for the prevalence of fines and expired items found on shelves, he chalks those up to inevitable human-workplace error, and accuses CtW of being a veiled union-organization effort.

Change to Win, or CtW, according to the piece, is delegates representing various of the more than one hundred groups that comprise the consumer-advocacy federation. They have adopted the name Cure CVS ... or something. Not sure why they need 2 names.

I shop at CVS because it's the closest drugstore to my home. But maybe I'll switch to Lynch Dan L (is that really its name?) on High St.

Now that I think about it, it is strange there is no drugstore right downtown - on Water/Merrimac, State or Pleasant streets.

For those of you who don't live here, our CVS is expanding into a mega-store - and in the process, many small businesses that serve the immediate area are being forced out. These would be a video rental place (already re-located on the other side of town), a White Hen Pantry and a dry cleaner.

When I first moved here, I thought Panda was a Chinese food joint, not a dry cleaning place.

I miss the little dry cleaning store on Beacon Hill (a mom & pop). And the convenience store on the corner (ditto). And the little hole-in-the-wall Italian place down the way from the store (double ditto).

Why is there no drugstore downtown?

Why I think the mayor has to run (away)

I wrote in a previous post that I wasn't going to go into this and that the mayor has to do what the mayor has to do, and I still believe that.

But I've been thinking about this - it's much easier to think about stuff you're supposed to be on top of if you're not worried about paying your rent, by the way - and I have concluded that the following (the numbered bits) may have contributed to this sudden application for a job in Winthrop.

Forget about friends/colleagues urging him to apply. That line was used before, by school superintendent Kevin Lyons.

Surely there have been other jobs he could have nabbed. And don't forget that if the Swampscott guy gets the Winthrop job, the Swampscott job will be open ...

Anyway ... here goes ... and again, this is all just conjecture on my part:

1. The landfill. In making his "deal with the devil," I think John Moak went against his own sense of who and what he is. There is going to be backlash, if not from the City Council then from somewhere else. Honestly? I don't think he's up to that amount of backlash. He really isn't a politician, as he says all the time, in the true sense of the word.

And honestly (again)? It's above his pay grade - the mayor makes peanuts.

2. Karp. It looks like Karp & Co. are prepping to make some moves here. What would happen if Karp somehow wrangles vehicular access through the central waterfront? Would Moak be re-elected?

Remember that former Mayor Lisa Mead was willing, in the late 1990s, to sign off on a hotel on the waterfront in exchange for guaranteed public access to the water. Doesn't Karp's pitching to and wooing of the local Chapter 91 people sound like a tentative move towards asking for similar concessions?

Who's to blame when a party gets out of bounds? The mayor, that's who.

Maybe it's time to realize that you get what you pay for and even a person with the best intentions and love of his city gets to a point where s/he wonders, "Is this worth it?"

At that point, s/he becomes another person.

How much can you expect a person to do for so little return? Trust me on this one.

There really comes that point when you start to do what's expedient, not necessarily what's your best effort - and the self-doubt creeps in.

This is when you want out, because nothing is going to change and you really don't want to be that other person.

No, I think John Moak would be a much better as a city manager; I think it would be a better fit for him as a person.

Read Tom Salemi's post with his take on what maybe should happen here, if you haven't already read it.

I am so impressed (with myself)

I actually went into the bowels of this blog template and made it so the footer line is separated from the body of the post.

Don't you love my technical term, bowels?

There is really no reason to have all kinds of made-up terms to describe how stuff works on a computer.

It's really so everyone else will think they're dumb because they think they can't understand it - "think" being the operative word there.

Even I have fallen into that trap, but when something goes wrong with my computer - and no "techie" is around or one blows me off - I can usually figure out what's the problem.

The real problem is, I go through several days of seeking advice and/or being put out by the situation before I realize, "Hey, I can do this!"

Why do you suppose that is the case?

The problem with all this computer/Internet stuff is that there are too many people using them without taking the time to understand what they (the people) are doing.

One of my neighbors was over here last week and I warned her about Facebook being hacked.

"What does 'hacked' mean?" she asked.

Oh brother, where art thou?

P.S. This is true of all kinds of situations. I can fix minor stuff on my car, too - but I still look for someone else (a man) to do it for me. Why operate a car if you don't know how it works?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

This just in

Info from Ron Klodenski:

The city council is meeting at 7 pm on Monday (5/18) at City Hall to discuss the opinion given by McGregor & Associates about the mayor's and health department's administrative order reopening the landfill.

The council will discuss the contents of the opinion and its options for action.

The format of the meeting and whether citizens will be allowed to speak hasn't been determined at this time as far as I know. It would probably be a good idea, however, for citizens to be present in case the council wants an update on what is now happening on Crow Lane.
Thanks, Ron. (Insert campaign slogan here.)

This should be interesting since different people seem to have different opinions on what the opinion actually says. At this point I would link to my most recent story that was in yesterday's Current, which was on this very subject, but it's not up on line.

Emails have been flying from landfill neighbors, most notably about trucks lining up along Crow Lane before 8 a.m. Trucks are not allowed to start dumping until 8 a.m.

I'm sure that can be worked out ... fingers crossed.

Welcome "weisure" time

I'm bored so I started surfing the net - and I found this on

The line dividing work and leisure time is blurring right before our eyes, says one expert, and it's creating a phenomenon called "weisure time."
Oh, so that explains people checking their Blackberries while gardening, for example.

I would suggest that a reporter has always been in "weisure time."

I mean - it's hard for me to ignore interesting/intriguing things that people say in social situations.

For example, while breakfasting at Plum Crazy the other day, someone happened to mention that someone they knew contracted to have truckloads of sand dumped on the beach in front of their home on Plum Island.

"Good thing there isn't a reporter around to hear that," I commented.

The person went into panic mode.

I'm trying to make at least my gardening experience at the collaborative gardens a "no news" zone. As in, if I happen to see a certain city councillor there tending his garden, I won't grill him about landfill deals and waterfront issues.

But people are still tempted to preface comments made in my presence with the words "off the record."

As I said today, "I won't report anything I hear here - unless it's something interesting, of course."

Friday, May 15, 2009

He's a frackin' cat

I called my vet last week and asked for some worm medicine for Chewy (the furball). She said she'd call in a prescription to the Newbury Animal Hospital there on Rte. 1.

Because you need a prescription for this.

My vet does not have an office - she's a traveling vet (as in, she comes to the house, which is very convenient).

So I drove on over to the place to pick up the pills and was told they had not received any prescription. *sigh*

I called Liesl (the vet) and she said she had faxed it over. Back in Newbury - and after several minutes of confusion - they found the faxed script. I was told it would take 24 hrs. and they would call me when it was ready.

About 27 hours later I called to find out what was going on.

Woman: "Oh, we don't carry that brand anymore so she has to call in a new prescription."

Me: "Can't you just substitute something?"

Woman: "Oh, no, we can't do that. He's not a patient."

(Well whose fault is that? I tried to get little Chew in there and they told me they were not taking new patients.)

Me: "Good thing he's not really sick, huh?"

Woman: Silence

Me: "I mean, I'm asking for worm medicine for my cat, not cardiac meds for my mom."

Woman: Silence

One dose of worm medicine - that's all I need, just one dose. But noooooo ... the vet called me today and told me she got the same attitude. They wouldn't take her verbal OK to switch to another medicine; they want a fax.

So I won't sue them if the medicine doesn't work, I guess.

Good thing he's not really sick, huh?

The bunnies are innocent

I apologize to the Newbury bunnies that I yesterday blamed for eating our lettuce plants at the Eden Collaborative Gardens behind the First Parish Church.

Rita at the Herb Farmacy informed Elizabeth and me that the most likely culprit was cutworms - and damn if we didn't find them in our little garden plot, just like she said we would.

They eat young plants with small stems.

Luckily, some of the plants are re-sprouting. Of course, we only discovered this after we had bought even more lettuce plants.

We put cuffs around the new plants - you know what came in handy? Those cardboard cup holders they give you now with hot coffee. I had been saving them because I knew someday they'd be useful for something.

If you love salads, check back with me in a couple of weeks. I'll be up to my elbows in lettuce.

I really have to stop laying blame before I have all the factoids.

Writers and debt

A reader (my faithful reader) sent me a link to this post on The Atlantic's website. I copied the salient points here.

Debt: A Writer's Life
15 May 2009 11:04 am

This is the bravest thing I've read for a long, long time. For a reporter--an economic reporter--to admit that he's been in the hell of excess debt and unpaid bills that he reports on is a major statement in middle class America. There was a time when America tolerated a certain amount of this in its writers--one reads nearly approvingly of the repeated flirtations with bankruptcy undertaken by the likes of Dorothy Parker or F. Scott Fitzgerald. But these days, their profligacy, like their alcoholism, is no longer admired, or even tolerated, in the editorial world.

Yet writers are, as a class, extraordinarily at risk. They spend their twenties, and often their thirties, living paycheck to paycheck. They are extremely well educated, and all that education is not only expensive, but builds expensive habits. You end up with a lot of friends who make much more money than you--who don't even realize that a dinner with $10 entrees and a bottle of wine is an expensive treat, not a cheap outing to catch up on old times. Our business is in crisis, and we lose jobs often. When we do, it's catastrophic ...

And so the debts creep up, one happy hour or Colorado backpacking adventure at a time. They are confessed in moments of panic: the 420 credit score that requires a cosigner on a new lease, the $10,000 in credit card debt, the car loan that can't be paid off nor recouped in a sale of the sadly depreciated vehicle, the deliberately bounced checks and collection calls ...

Until we're comfortable with talking publicly about the fact that we don't make much money and likely never will, that our lives are risky, and that this has obvious impacts on our ability to consume on the level of our educational peers, writers will keep getting into trouble. Bravo to Andrews for leaning into the strike zone and taking one for the team.
I don't think I lead the life of a profligate - I rarely drink alcohol, I don't take drugs - but I do shop at Tendercrop Farm! I used to go to England every year and Barbados every so often.

Right now I can't imagine either of those trips happening again, ever.

I have been back and forth for a week with one of the "clients" for which I write over invoices submitted four weeks ago and which remain unpaid.

Anyway ... earlier I was talking to my friend Elizabeth, as we went to buy replacement lettuce plants for our garden plot, and we were wondering why writers are so undervalued.

So are teachers, but today we weren't talking about teachers.

There would be hardly a drop of knowledge about anything if not for writers. There wouldn't even be a Bible without some one or some people who wrote it all down.

So I just don't get it.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Plot #12 is available

As you may know, my friend Elizabeth Rose and I are sharing a garden plot in the Eden Collaborative Gardens behind the First Parish Church, Newbury.

Erin Stack, who is running the whole thing, has notified us that a garden plot has become available.

If you're interested, please email Erin at

It's fun! Except for the lost lettuce plants.

Damn bunnies.

Lavish gifts are always acceptable

Hey, folks! Tomorrow is "Writers Worth Day."

The Second Annual Writers Worth Day has been scheduled for May 15, 2009. This online event, the brainchild of Lori Widmer, a Philadelphia-based writer and editor, is designed to promote the fair market value of writers through education, awareness, and ongoing support.

“Writers Worth Day was established in response to the increasing amount of job postings that offer little, if any, compensation for the amount of work expected,” says Widmer, a veteran writer and editor, who has seen a decline in market rates. “More beginning freelancers accept abominable rates. The message of Writers Worth Day is every writer has marketable skills, and those skills should be compensated fairly and within industry-acceptable standards.”

All this month, Widmer’s weblog – Words on the Page – is highlighting numerous career tips for new writers and extending into the blogging community to inspire other established writers to educate and offer guidance to their followers and all within the writing community. Numerous other bloggers have already joined Writers Worth Day and will be posting their own tips and inspirational posts to extend the reach of the Writers Worth Day message.
Don't forget Tom and Ari and Mary ... to name just three others. We've got a lot of writers in this little town.

More on Moak

Ari Herzog has an interesting post today about our mayor and his potential departure (or not) for Winthrop.

I'll let the post stand on its own because I think the mayor has to do what the mayor has to do and he has to have a job, come November, I assume. And remember - Lisa Mead left and then was elected as mayor again.

I have no doubt that John Moak loves Newburyport - why else would he have served it for so long, as head librarian, city clerk and now mayor - but it must really be hard to be mayor and also live here.

The man probably can't take his dog out for a dump without being accosted by someone.

As a person, I really like the mayor. As a mayor, I sort of like the mayor. He's a little too fiscally conservative for me, but that's what is needed in these economic times, I guess.

The personality stuff I can relate to, although I see the similarities in our characters as being more or less flaws in both of us. I do believe I've written about this before.

I'm impatient to get things done; he's impatient to get things done.

I ask a bunch of people for their opinion on what I should do and then do exactly what I wanted to in the first place.

But my instincts are usually right on, you know? So given all the things I know about myself, I sort of trust that his instincts may prove to be spot-on as well. Maybe (sometimes I think I barely make $6,500/yr. much less $65,000).

Although I also don't feel that criticism is out of line in that regard ...

By the way, there's an account of his public interview with the Winthrop Town Council here, on the DN website.

I don't know what will happen, but maybe if he gets the job, he'll hire me as his grant writer. I hear there's this book called "Grant Writing for Dummies."

Plum Crazy

Triple-D and I ventured over to the other side of the island this morning to grab a bite to eat at that new place, Plum Nuts ... or Plum Crazy.

Suffice it to say that I now have indigestion - although we did meet up with 2 other neighbors, one of whom I'd never met, and had a good chat.

Local hangouts are good places to get story ideas ...

Anyway, it's a nice airy spot (in contrast to Mad Martha's at least) and I'm sure with all the Plum Crazy merchandise - and wine and beer - they have in there, it will be full of tourist types sooner rather than later.

I'm not knocking Mad Martha's by any stretch of the imagination. Until the new Taffy's opens and I can cast my judgment down on that, MM's is still my most favoritest breakfast place.

I can't give this a pass ...

The lead article in the current issue of a certain local paper is "Charity Searching for a Cause."

The piece is about the desire of Hobo's Restaurant in Salisbury to hold a fund raiser.

Among the charities listed as being helped by previous events is (I kid you not) "Ann and Jake's Hospital."

And no, it's not the Daily News.

After being alerted by a reader (whose own words I have used liberally here), I actually saw a copy of the paper in question and picked it up.

Sure enough ... not that I doubted the reader. It just was there and so I took a peek for myself.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

No landfill trucks on Saturday

Note: I got a message from Brian Derrivan telling me that the person who said he saw smelly trucks going to the landfill on a Saturday was mistaken.

I did not see the email that the person sent to Derrivan correcting himself that it was a Friday.

I have to say that both Brian Derrivan and Mayor Moak have been very responsive to emails with concerns, coming from neighbors. I don't think everyone likes what they are saying, especially replies from the mayor, but they are being very responsive to questions/concerns.

While I'm on the topic, I'll say that Derrivan has always been straightforward in providing me with good information for my stories.

For example, while everyone else was saying trucks would be rolling into the landfill within days of the issuance of the administrative order, he was the only one who said it would probably be weeks.

Plus he hardly ever says anything "off the record."

And the answer is: 555,140 cubic yards.

That's how much total "material" New Ventures can now bring to the landfill (counting, I assume, what's already been brought in).

Thanks to Jill Butterworth of the AG's office for providing the big number.

When you think that's before the 1:1 soil mix, that's a lot of .... well, foul, smelliness.

I also understand that the mixing is being done on site (here), so the trucks coming in are full of C&D fines only.

At least one landfill neighbor is complaining about the stinkiness of the trucks:

The stuff coming from Everett already smells. I personally witnessed several trucks come in this past Saturday and every one of them smelled like rotten eggs. It wasn't just the dump either, it was each truck.
I thought they were 'perfuming' the stuff in Everett ...

Oh - and Saturday?

The HCA specifically states in section 3.8 that "there are no truck deliveries on Saturdays," I read in another email.

It's all here

Here is a link to all the documents, judgments and settlement matters relating to the recent decisions about the landfill.

Looks like I've got my work cut out for me for the rest of the day and into the night.

Thanks to Ron K for setting it all up. Oh, and by the way -

Klodenski for mayor!

Another message to share

I highly recommend all of you watching this. It was a good time, and really interesting, too.

Ralph Ayers and Dick Cunningham TOGETHER Conversation to air on Media One, Channel 10:

Monday, May 18 at 11am
Tuesday, May 19 at 1pm
Friday, May 22 at 3pm
Saturday, May 23 at 6pm

A DVD of the event will also be available soon at the Newburyport and Newbury Public Libraries.

Pennies for Poverty: 2 Cents 4 Change, Inc. would like to thank Ralph and Dick for a wonderful afternoon of stories and laughter! We'd also like to thank Media One, Jay and Paula Jorgenson for their time and committment in filming the event for future generations.

Holy salary, Batman!

I just got this, in over the wire ... well, the MetroWest Daily News, at any rate:

HUDSON — School Committee Chairman Christopher Yates announced last night that the district has agreed to a three-year contract with Superintendent Kevin Lyons, which will pay him $169,000 a year.
He's still going to make more than Moak - if Moak gets the job in Winthrop, that is.

Well, maybe there's hope for Moak (if he gets the job) ... $125,000 is what the salary was when the last town manager was hired, I think.

Does anyone believe he won't get the job, though?

Except for a few bumps in the road and the fact that I think now he's afraid of offending me (Who isn't? Oh! I forgot about Bubba ... and that one 'anonymous' ... Just forget I ever said anything.), we've always gotten along pretty well.

But still ... How come I don't have friends who call me about jobs of this stature? Both of these guys said they weren't looking.

Perhaps that is the key.

I no longer need a job. I'm fine; I'm loving it. Don't ever want to leave what I'm doing now ...


Ron told me he would have been offended at my saying I laughed when I saw the headline on the Liberator - except for the fact that he did, too.

Landfill allowed volume increased

Hi all,

I just got the info from the Attorney General's office that the allowed volume of C&D material going into the landfill has been increased under the settlement agreement between New Ventures and the Commonwealth.

I'm trying to get that new number ...

I was also told that the entire 300-page agreement (most of it appendices and diagrams) will be up on the DEP site at some point in the near future. They are working on that now, according to Deputy Press Secretary Jill Butterworth.

And of course the mayor has promised a hard copy no later than Friday. Butterworth said it can also be viewed at the court, if anyone is around Boston or wants to nip down there ...

I do have a copy of the basic settlement agreement (32 pages), which upon a quick scan looks to be very similar to the Final Judgment.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream
Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 7:00 PM
Newburyport Public Library Program Room

Transition Newburyport is hosting a free screening of the award winning documentary film THE END OF SUBURBIA: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream at 7:00 PM on Wednesday, May 13 in the Newburyport Public Library Program Room.

This film examines America’s lifestyle characterized by dependence on cheap and abundant fossil fuel and questions its sustainability in the upcoming era of fossil fuel depletion. A discussion of the film will follow the screening.

This is the first in a planned series of films dealing with topics such as, peak oil, climate change and community resilience. The event is free and open to the public.

A film preview can be viewed at

The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil
Wednesday, June 17, 2009 at 7:00 PM
Newburyport Public Library Program Room

Transition Newburyport is hosting a free screening of the award winning documentary film THE POWER OF COMMUNITY: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil at 7:00 PM on Wednesday, June 17 in the Newburyport Public Library Program Room.

This film examines Cuba's response to a sudden loss of oil and food imports when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990. With imports of oil cut by more than half – and food by 80 percent – people were desperate. This film tells of the hardships and struggles as well as the community and creativity of the Cuban people during this difficult time. Cubans share how they transitioned from a highly mechanized, industrial agricultural system to one using organic methods of farming and local, urban gardens. A discussion of the film will follow the screening.

This is the second in a series of films dealing with topics such as peak oil, climate change and community resilience. The event is free and open to the public.

A film preview can be viewed at

Key Links
Transition Newburport Website:
Social Networking Site:
Transition United States:
Transition Initiatives and the Transition Network:


The Attorney General's office has asked me to clarify that the landfill will be capped by the end of the year and what will be done in the spring is the spreading of loam and grass seed (because that can't be done in the winter).

Yikes! I read that whole agreement, at least twice, and I missed that part.

So, you see? That's the value of editors.

(If you recall, I was griping because someone at the Current had taken that whole bit out of my print story from last week ...)

Thank you and now I'm going back to writing the latest landfill story - which I will now be paranoid about for at least a week.

Monday, May 11, 2009


Is it a slap in the face for the Harbormaster to spend $86,500 on a new boat while times are so bad?

This is the debate that was in City Council tonight.

The Harbormaster Dept. is another of them there enterprise accounts so the city cannot avail itself of the proceeds of its enterprise.

There was this long debate about how enterprise depts. are not supposed to run at a profit. So how did the department accumulate $450,000 in its free cash account?

Well damn. I guess being in the harbormaster biz is very lucrative.

The dept. is getting the boat. It sounds like they need it.

Fed up with Facebook

I downloaded the malware program recommended by Ari Herzog, and according to that, I had 12 - yep, 12 - viruses on my laptop.

They were all over the place, but seemed to be all related to one piece of malicious nonsense, which probably came from the Facebook hack last week.

The friend whose FB account sent me the virus(es) has closed her facebook for good. And I'm thinking that maybe isn't such a bad idea.

I started to send out over the weekend messages to my FB friends giving them my contact info so they will know how to reach me, aside from on there.

I like the phone - it's nice and hopefully safe - so I gave people my phone #s also. Because I don't post my phone numbers on Facebook.

It's really kind of silly anyway, my having to sign in to some program to send a message to someone who's supposedly my friend, or conversely, to sign in to reply to a message they have sent me.

It was late in the evening

Isn't it kind of an afterthought for Karp's crew to be meeting with McCavitt's crew to discuss the future of the waterfront?

From today's Daily News:

Two active leaders in the Citizens for Chapter 91 Committee met with representatives from Stephen Karp's New England Development recently ...

Chuck Lagasse, a longtime waterfront landowner and partner with Karp's team, did not take part in the meeting but said it was arranged to discuss the comments raised by McCavitt about the waterfront plans in a recent Daily News article, and how the two groups can work together.
I wonder what "recently" means - aside from meaning it happened while no one was watching.

The group discussed potential public access and ways to the waterfront as those development plans for the Karp property moves forward.
Sure, this has noting to do with Karp needing to go through the Waterfront Trust park/NRA parking lot for access to the development ...

"We discussed what, if anything, New England Development could do prior to the actual development of the site to enhance public access down there," McCavitt said. "We had a very positive meeting."
According to the paper, Planning Director Sean Sullivan served as a "go-between" to get the meeting going.

First former Planning Director Nancy Colbert had to literally force Karp to address the citizenry last year (and don't let anyone tell you anything different) and now, a year later, her successor has to get Karp's people to meet with local waterfront advocacy groups.

Someone needs to read between the lines ... not me, I'm too worn out.

What the ...?

So late last night/early this morning, I was on Facebook.

I signed off and immediately, a printer icon appeared on the toolbar or whatever it's called down there at the bottom.

I right clicked on the icon and there in the queue was a job - to print my Facebook home page.

Can't tell you how sick I am of this computer being invaded.

Or perhaps I'm overreacting and it's a ghost who's curious about what I'm doing on Facebook.

Anyone have any ideas?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Concern over newspaper scale back (in Flint)

The Flint Journal, as far as I know the only newspaper that serves that city, is going to a 3-day/wk. publication schedule.

Strangely - or not - the paper reports that the biggest concern has been about obituaries.

Changes coming in June to The Flint Journal include a comprehensive strategy to ensure current obituary information is available, even as the newspaper moves to a three-day-a-week print schedule.

"Access to up-to-date obituaries has been the top concern I've heard from our readers," said John Hiner, executive editor of The Journal, The Saginaw News and The Bay City Times. "We've listened, and we think we have a solution that covers all the bases."

Obituaries will continue to appear in the newspaper on publication days of Thursday, Friday and Sunday. Also, death notices will be posted daily through an obituary link on the newspaper's Web site,

I remember, when I was a little girl, going to pick the paper up from the front lawn. It was always tightly wrapped in reddish paper, into a roll.

In fact, I do believe there is a photo somewhere of a much smaller version of me standing in my grandparents' driveway, clutching a roll of Journal.

I look exactly the same now as I did then, except for the much smaller part.

Danger Will Robinson

I went on my Yahoo mail today for the first time in weeks and in the mailbox was a message purporting to be from Bank of America.

It said someone had tried to access my account from a remote location and I needed to verify my online account. Of course, I was supposed to click on some link in order to do this.

Unusually alert to this kind of thing, I immediately saw that:

For one the message was sent to the email address that used to be attached to this blog, not my "real" email address.

For two, it included really, really bad grammar and typos.

And then, of course, there was the 'click here.'

By the way - don't buy a Compaq/HP laptop. The keys randomly stick. Now it's the comma; last week it was the 'n.'

My sister has the same problem with her laptop. Of course, I don't think the cat hairs I'm always digging out of it help ...

It's quite frustrating.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Grab a copy

I just saw a copy of The Liberator, while shopping at Woodman's Farm Stand. I saw the headline
and I laughed out loud. The clerk thought I was nuts, which is not that far off ... but that's beside the point.
I bought the paper, pamphlet or newsletter (I'm not sure yet what to call it) because it was so apropos given yesterday's startling revelations. You know the revelations that were forced out because it was printed in a paper, in some other town.
I'm not giving kudos to anyone, especially not myself. On Wednesday, I was chatting with someone who out of nowhere started talking about the mayoral salary and unhappiness with said salary, and - if I had not been sulking about cutbacks at the Current - I might have asked that person why they were bringing that up at that juncture.
Anyway ... I know Ron Klodenski a little bit and I think he'd be good.
But is he willing? Read the damn Liberator and find out for yourself!
Actually, it doesn't say, but it's a good issue.
Also in there is a piece about the Waterfront Trust and its chairman, Cliff Goudey. Jim Roy (or whoever wrote it) does a good job of explaining the motivations behind the people who fought the re-appointment.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Check it out boys & girls

I got this today, from a Port person, and it came from a Lynn newspaper. Read it ... especially paragraph #4.

Swampscott's Maylor a finalist again for Winthrop town manager
By Debra Glidden / The Daily Item

SWAMPSCOTT - Once again, Town Administrator Andrew Maylor is a finalist for the town manager position in Winthrop.

Maylor said it's still early in the process and the town council would not be interviewing the three finalists until next week, but he confirmed he is one of three finalists. Maylor admitted Winthrop holds a special appeal for him.

"The first thing that needs to be stated is I spent 35 years of my life in Winthrop," he said. "My parents still live there. It is home. The place where you grew up is home. This presented an opportunity to be part of the government process in the place where I grew up. The ability to participate in what you love to do in the place you grew up is something that doesn't come along very often."

The other two candidates are Newburyport Mayor John Moak and James McKenna, a trial attorney and two-term administrative assistant to former Gloucester Mayor John Bell.

Maylor said the list of 35-40 candidates was winnowed down to five people, who were interviewed by the screening committee.

The screening committee than recommended three finalists to Town Council President Thomas Reilly.

"Under their charter the council president will make his selection and make a recommendation to the full (town) counsel," Maylor said. "It is up to the council whether to ratify his selection. From what I've been told I don't expect that to happen before Memorial Day."

Maylor said the job posting for the Winthrop position indicated a salary range of approximately $125,000 and it is comparable to what he makes in Swampscott.

Oh, and I just saw it on the Daily News website, as "Breaking News," here.

This is what I get for cavorting around town, gardening and drinking, instead of being home reading my email ... ah what the hell, what I was doing was much more fun!

I need a job

I'm going to be totally frank here and say that I need some gainful employment.

I know it's highly unusual for me to be so frank and personal (kidding), but there you go ... the Current is cutting back on freelancing funds so I won't be contributing as much to the paper as I have been.

Of course I don't like it (just when I thought it was safe to go back in the water) but that's business and in particular, that's the newspaper business.

Suck 'em in and spit 'em out.

You'd think by now that Community Newspaper Co. would have realized that businesses in NBPT don't do advertising and if they do, they do it in the Daily News.

But as we can all see from the Globe fiasco, newspapers are not all that good at looking forward and adjusting to the changing times (no pun intended).

I have to wonder at the New York Times even biting off that piece of pie that is the Globe in the first place ... and conversely, wonder at CNC launching a glossy magazine right now.

Was this country much better off when small businesses were small businesses and not part of some mega-conglomerate?

I don't know! That's why I'm asking you.

Anyway, if you hear of anything, please let me know. I have experience in light bookkeeping (using QuickBooks), project management, acquiring "toys" for rich people and of course writing and editing.

au revoir