Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Waterfront meeting subdued

Well the plan was presented and everyone pretty much admired it - except for those 2 buildings proposed to front Merrimac St.

And how crowded with "stuff" it seems to be ... it does seem to have a lot of stuff: Two play areas, a playground, an "interpretive plaza," a 200-seat performance area (!), a skating rink, a cafe/event venue, fountains ... and that's just on the easternmost part.

Oh, and an installation by the U.S. Coast Guard, which I think was the best part, really.

But I liked how it was presented (with lots of "this is just the beginning" talk) and you have to give the NRA folks an "A" for effort, although they don't seem to totally have their ducks in a row.

But who does?

And then there were 13 (updated)

Add to the list of people who have pulled papers for Charter Commission one David R. Clarridge. The updated list:

  • Paul Bevilacqua
  • David Clarridge
  • Judith Grohe
  • Doug Locy
  • Tom Lyons
  • Janet Marcus
  • Olga McFarland
  • Bruce Menin
  • Cynthia Muir
  • Bonnie Perkins
  • Tom Salemi
  • Bruce Vogel
  • Alexander "Zab" Warren

Remember - only the top 9 vote-getters get in, if the ballot question passes.

They're not real!

I should have said they aren't real penguins ... I'm trying to figure out who put them out there. We have a 'suspect.'

The other day a woman stopped dead in the middle of Water St. - and almost got rear-ended - because she was so stunned by the sight.

Final plan to be discussed tonight

Don't forget the big meeting tonight:

Newburyport Redevelopment Authority (NRA)
7 p.m.

Talk about hot tickets - this one will be sizzling. I think. From today's Daily News:

The conceptual plan will progress to more detailed construction plans, which means parts of it could still change. NRA members have said development of the property would be done in phases over time.

The final conceptual plan keeps many of the features that were in earlier plans: a seasonal skating rink, a performance area, a historic interpretative gateway plaza and a tot lot.

And it could also all be a boondoggle since, like the senior center, the planners have no money to put their plans into action.

Just think of all the things the money spent on all these conceptual plans could have been put towards ...

Ticket booth to move

I guess Katie Farrell was at the Waterfront Trust meeting last night.

Today's story in the DN is about the group agreeing to move the ticket booth for the charter boats off the boardwalk.

To settle the question (posed in one of the comments) about the Trust now not being able to charge dockage fees, I have this from Bill Harris:

Initially the Trustees of the Newburyport Waterfront had no powers to lease the property they managed. At the request of the Trustees in 1992, the settlement parties of the 1977-1980 litigation agreed to permit powers to lease plus associated safeguards. The Trustees could lease lands that were not pedestrian ways to and from the waterfront. They could lease Riverside Park except for the protected pedestrian ways. They were expressly prohibited from leasing any part of the public promenade (boardwalk) at river's edge. All leases were to be at "full and fair market value."
The Waterfront Trust got around this by not charging the charter boat owners any rent for the booth, but it is allowed to charge dockage fees, under the trust.

I don't see why, as was also suggested in the comments to the DN story, the tickets can't be sold at the Chamber of Commerce information booth. Will people really not go on a harbor tour or a whale watch if they have to walk a few feet away from the boats to buy a ticket?

I think the Maritime Museum is too far away, however - unless someone comes up with money to make the water at its bulkhead deep enough to moor a big boat there.

It seems that a lot of money is being spent on the rail trail and the harborwalk (not knocking these projects) and these poor charter boat owners are trying to make an honest buck providing a valuable, and really enjoyable, service. There could even be more, if money was being channelled to something that might actually attract tourists.

Who's going to come here because there's a harborwalk compared to someone who's looking for a whale watch? I recently convinced a friend in Michigan to come here instead of to Boston to go on a whale watch (his wife wants to see a whale and they've already visited Boston).

At least I think I convinced him. Well ... let's just say, if they come east at all, I think they will come here.

My point is - his wife didn't express a desire to see a harborwalk.

Well it has been quite chilly

A reader sent me these photos of the penguins in the river to share. They've been there for a few days now ... cool, huh? Never a dull moment here.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Harborwalk ordinance goes to two committees

Well this - not the regionalized health services - was the hot ticket on the City Council's agenda tonight.

The general government and public safety committees will mull over the ordinance, which I've already described here.

Although the vote tonight was only about which committee(s) to send the ordinance to, Barry Connell, Greg Earls and Tom Jones sneaked in some editorial comments.

Question from Mr. Earls: Is it even legal to confiscate someone's fishing gear?

Resident Dick Monahan (yes, our Dick Monahan) spoke during comment, saying that he agreed with the previous commenter, Jerry Mullins, about the rule concerning the hours the boardwalk will be "open" (dawn to dusk) and that he thinks it's kind of fun to talk to people who are fishing.

As I said previously, I agree totally. But apparently the safety of the people in the condos there (the ones with the private marina) may be in jeopardy from flying flies with deadly hooks, said harbor commissioner and city council candidate Bob Cronin.

He actually did not saying anything about deadly hooks, but since I just bought a fly from that kid at the farmers' market yesterday, nasty-looking hooks are in my head. Cronin added that the ordinance would not "preclude any fishing where people typically fish at Cashman Park."

I'm not sure where that would be. Doesn't the harborwalk begin at Cashman Park? "Westerly terminus at Cashman Park," it says. That, I guess, could mean the terminus is at the easterly edge of the park.

So .... the city is building a harborwalk that only runs in front of those condos? I think there's already a walk in front of those condos so I guess I'm confused.

From the DN (Oct. 1, 2008):

The new 335-foot-long and 8-foot-wide boardwalk will run from Newburyport's North End neighborhood at Cashman Park, past the River's Edge Condominiums and underneath Route 1 bridge to the area known as Waterside West, beginning at Michael's Harborside restaurant.

Council tables regionalized health deal

Maybe that's why there was no reporter from the Daily News present at the meeting? Is the DN prescient?

Nobody else there from here who cared, either (unless that's why Terry Berns was there).

Two Amesbury municipal councilors - President Roger Benson and V.P. Robert Lavoie - were there but didn't speak.

I mean, they spoke to me but not publicly.

I guess Barry Connell, Tom Jones and Larry McCavitt voted against tabling the agreement because they all 3 wanted to vote "no" tonight. Jones and McCavitt both had some pretty strong criticism of the agreement, most notably that Newburyport would bear 64 percent of the cost.

He added that it was a heck of a deal - for Salisbury.

I haven't seen a recent version of the agreement, yet.

Recycling holy images

The driver, Dennis, wasn't that sure about throwing Mary and Jesus into the truck but hey, they were out there with the recycling and I persuaded him to let me snap a photo.

My neighbor Harold put them atop the bins, by the way. They were previously on the ground, behind the bins.
Is there an accepted method for disposing of plastic renditions of the holy family?

Another great day at the market

Or it could read, "Another gray day at the market."

I don't know if it's packed because of the awesomeness or because it's been rainy all 3 Sundays (so no one is going to be beach instead), but the Newburyport Farmers' Market just keeps getting bigger and better.

This week they had some young artisans, including 14-year-old Will Fox, who was tying and selling fishing flies and Samuel Day, who was creating origami.

Speaking of the farmers' market - Get out the Vote!!

Market organizer Shari Wilkinson reports that the market is number 17 now (183 votes), right on the tail of the famous New York City Farmers Market at Union Square (184 votes).

With only 2 more votes we will move a head to number 15!! Thank you for taking us this far, those who have voted and please pass this on to those who may want to support the market. Pls vote (http://www.care2.com/farmers_market_contest/27741/?refer=19673.09.1245419775.628752), if you haven't already, thanks!

To get us to the top 5 we will need about 500/800 votes this week... Think we can do it?? Let's try! The little port that could!!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

It's today!

The Newburyport Republican City Committee and Operation Troop Support of Danvers are conducting a donation drive to support our troops stationed in Iraq and Afganistan.

Donation "Drop Off Stations" are at the entrance to the Shaw's Plaza today until 5:00 pm.

Friday, June 26, 2009

I forgot

I forgot to announce that Janet Marcus, former chairman of the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority and current chairman of the board of the AJH Aid Association, has also pulled papers for Charter Commission.

The Salemi surprise announcement (since I had pretty much just been in the Clerk's Office - at about 11:35 a.m. - checking on recent paper pulling and his name was not mentioned) blew it out of my head.

I hope this isn't a clever ploy.

Blogger goes for Charter Commission

OK, so Barry Connell pulled papers for re-election as At-large councillor on June 11. Somehow he got missed in the jumble.

Not that it's a mumble jumble.

And now presenting the newest candidate ... our own Tom Salemi, who announced today on his blog, that he is running for Charter Commission.

Yay Tom!

Sneaky fees

Our building inspector is also asking for increases in electrical and plumbing and gas permit fees.

Apparently they haven't been raised since 2004 so it's justifiable to double some of them, I suppose.

If you are at all concerned about this, I would toddle on down to the Clerk's Office and pick up an agenda, or the part of the agenda that has the details. Having never applied for a permit to build anything, I don't really have a clue.

I just thought it was interesting that, for example, the permit fee (electrical) for 600 amp service-commercial may go from $150 to $300.

And while the (electrical) permit for a new house 2,800 s.f./$250K would go up $100 under this scheme (from $250 to $350), the one for new house 5,000 s.f./$500K would only go up by $50 (from $550 to $600).

Maybe the first was too low to begin with ... yes, it does seem to be lower on average than area communities (there's a comparison chart provided) but then the second could be construed as being way low, in comparison to at least W. Newbury, Rowley and Salisbury:

Nbpt - $550 (proposed $600)
Newbury- $300
West Nby - $1,000
Salisbury - $750
Rowley - $750
Amesbury - $200
Ipswich - $330
Merrimac -$155
Haverhill - $250

I left off Manchester, Salem, Beverly - all of those were around $1,500.

Judge for yourself.

It's a shame

I am just now reviewing the City Council agenda for Monday's meeting. Verrrry interesting.

You know? One of the things I enjoy seeing while walking along a jetty or a boardwalk, let's say, is people fishing. I used to go to Castle Island (South Boston) just to watch such activity - and hope a plane would be approaching Logan Airport really low since I love that kind of stuff.

But this is not what will happen along Newburyport's pending Harborwalk, if the City Council approves proposed "use regulations."

I should say here that, according to the memo from Snr. Project Manager Geordie Vining, the city has permanent easements with the Rivers Edge Condominium Association and the Windward Marina that includes restrictions on public night-time use and fishing "for the boardwalk portion of the Harborwalk."

This amendment to an existing ordinance will set up special use areas and specific use regulations:

(1) The Harborwalk shall be available to the general public from dawn to dusk; night-time use is prohibited; trespass on private marina and residential property is prohibited.

(2) No persons shall fish, swim or dive from the Harborwalk; no persons shall cause fishing gear to inferfere with the safety or enjoyment of the general public.

(3) The above prohibitions shall be posted in plain view along the Harborwalk.

(4) through (6) are about trash, graffiti, motor vehicle use and solicitation.

(7) The general public shall not be charged any fees for use of the Harborwalk.

(8) All vessels operating near the Harborwalk will do so at headway speed.

(9) No vessel shall be secured to the Harborwalk.

(101) Typo? Violations of this section ... yada yada ... $100 per person per incident, as well as confiscation of illegally used fishing gear.

I guess fishing is too plebian an activity for the new Newburyport, which made its mark on the world in large part by fishing.

I know fishing off the existing boardwalk is also prohibited - actually, I don't know that for a fact; I'm just guessing because I never see anyone fishing - but this is not downtown, per se. This is the area from Cashman Park east to Michael's Harborside.

I observed a lot urban kids being taught how to fish from Castle Island.

What about romantic midnight strolls along the river?

I object.

Holaday, Shanley deny rumors

Well now we have both Holaday and Shanley denying any political ploy right here in the Daily News.

And true to what it also says in the piece, Councillor-at-Large Tom Jones has pulled papers for re-election, according to the Clerk's Office just now.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson dead

Well I heard about this a while ago - the Huffington Post via TMZ broke the news well before the traditional media - but I was kind of hoping they were overstating the case.

Not that I'm a big fan of Jackson's but I used to be.

Poor guy.

Two more for the list (Charter Commission)

Two more people have pulled papers to run for Charter Commission:

Roger Gagnon
Tom Lyons

City Clerk Richard Jones tells me that Olga McFarland and Cynthia Muir are still the only 2 that have returned papers - for any of the races.

I'm off to Gloucester to visit me mum.

Pray for the fisherman who is lost in the sea.

That dreaded sound

Just after midnight I heard a helicopter - it's hovering - it's loud - that means something bad is happening and not too far away.

I just got back from walking down to the basin (the body of water between this side of the island and the east side) and I can see the reflection of a red light flashing off the cloud cover.

Looks like the helo is over the mouth of the river but it's hard to tell.

I can still hear it and now I'm worried about what happened.

But wait - just clicked on the Daily News website and found out there was a boat accident off the north jetty, in Salisbury (at the mouth of the river). It was way too foggy to be out boating.

Wow, I must have been way involved in that Facebook conversation not to have noticed the helicopter earlier.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Dereliction of duty and some other stuff

Wednesday is such a bad day - deadline day for both the Current and SeaCoast Scene.

I was so busy I didn't even get a chance to call the Clerk's office before it closed. Ah, well, there's always tomorrow morning.

But I did want to comment about the beach. Oh it's good to have the beach to rant about again.

I went over there this morning and it looked a lot better than it did yesterday. Either a whole bunch of sand had leaked out of sand bags or the waves had tossed some extra sand up there overnight.

Then I read the story in the Daily News ... then I talked to DEP ... and I have to say, the DN story is a little more upbeat than I think the situation warrants.

Those leaky sand bags are at the bottom of a big pile of heavy bags. Not the very bottom (there is another layer below them) but they are supporting some significant weight.

Also Chuck Kostro, the Newbury town administrator (who I'd never heard of until today), told me the town spent $50,000 just on design for placing those sand bags! That's not part of the $151,000 quoted as the cost of the project.

That money - the money spent on the project - was earmarked for a safety building for emergency equipment and for public 'facilities' at island center.

I'm not saying that the money was wasted on this sand bag project, but it was money that PITA (Plum Island Taxpayers and Associates or Association) got from the state for other projects.

PITA - that recently much-maligned group.

And all the while it came out in the Merrimack Beach Alliance meeting that Newbury sold a property on Hutchins Rd. for a tidy profit.

Where did that money go? Well ... a lot of it is going towards Newbury's match for beach nourishment (the sand from the dredging).

I should note here that Newburyport got public 'facilities' at the Point out of this same grant before the sand bag plan came up, so it's not as if we didn't get our share (although Ron Barrett told me today that the city underestimated how much public toilets cost and PITA had to come up with another $100,000 for the project). Or, rather, DCR got its share of its own grant since it owns the Newburyport beach ... I still can't get over that ... this whole thing has got so many twists ...

OK, so finally, two things: Jerry Klima, the Salisbury selectman who is on the Beach Alliance is indeed the vice president of PITA. I'm not sure that makes any difference to anything since Vincent Russo, the Newbury selectman, also owns property on the island, and he's on the Alliance as well.

Not to mention the 3 guys from the Plum Island Foundation and Barrett himself.

And there's Alan White (not in the Alliance, as far as I know), a head honcho editor with the Eagle-Tribune newspapers, who also lives on the island ... I always wondered how the DN got PI news so quickly and now I know!

I think the beach alliance is doing a good job. Kudos all around.

Seek and you shall find

I'd like to take credit for one Cheryl Sweeney pulling papers today for a position on the School Committee - but I doubt that it had anything to do with my last post.

And no, I don't know if she's related to Dan Sweeney, potential candidate for mayor.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sign on for School Committee

I was kind of asked to point out - which I was going to do again anyway - that there is a definite dearth of candidates for School Committee.

One person? I hear that at least two of the three current members up for re-election are not running so we need at least one other person willing to take the plunge.

And I think that a few more people chasing a spot on the Charter Commission would be good as well. I'd hate to see this whole thing go down in flames because people don't like the politics of some of the 9 people who have taken out nomination papers so far.

Maybe when the sun comes out so will the candidates.

Carry on.

Oh the humanity

As pointed out by reader (and former resident, editor, writer) Tom Ryan, Mary Baker Eaton talks today in a blog post about "go along to get along."

I agree with Tom - it's good to have Mary back posting regularly. With election season coming up, we all need as many voices as possible.

I will admit that I'm not very politically savvy (my brain doesn't run that way), but I can detect a skunk when I smell one.

Unfortunately, I don't see where some city councillors can detect a skunk when it's standing in front of them. And I also don't see where some potential voters can detect one; at least one person I know doesn't even know what a "skunk" does.

(My neighbor the other day actually admitted that she doesn't know "what the City Council does." I found that most alarming since she actually does vote.)

As I said before, it would be good if people actually attended City Council meetings and saw what happens - all the signalling from the hallway, from the peanut gallery ... from the scaffolding outside the window; all the face pulling; all the ignoring evidence to the contrary.

Actually, the latter can be seen on video.

But I get the impression that people just don't care.


I took this, just to demonstrate the ironic side of this whole erosion issue. No walking - but feel free to build a giant house.

No smart ass comments from me

This is bad. The man on the sandbags, who is from DEP, told me the waves were up above the sandbags last night and that some of them appear to be broken. They do, indeed. The ones on the bottom - the ones supporting the big ones on top.

So much for the sand

If you ever needed or wanted proof that you really can't fool Mother Nature, look at the photo accompanying this story in today's Daily News.

What a fiasco - although, one has to wonder what it would look like if those bags of sand had not been put on the beach.

I think that Newbury had better get going on that right-of-way for Hutchins Rd./14th St. to provide somewhat of a road for emergency evacuation.

[PITA President Ron]Barrett said he’s witnessed cycles of erosion, some worse than what happened last year when the central dune at island center had to be re-built with sand bags. PITA and Newbury are looking at one public right-of-way, at 14th Street and Hutchins Road, that could serve as an emergency route for vehicles, should the central dune be breached and island center be flooded.

And this is where they want to spend millions to put even more sand that will wash away as soon as there's any kind of storm.


I'm heading down there right now to check out the situation.

Monday, June 22, 2009

I also have to wonder

Where are Barry Connell and Tom Jones, the two remaining councillors-at-large?

I mean - as in, why are they not pulling papers for re-election?

Wouldn't it be something if 4 current councillors were to run for mayor, leaving the at-large pool full of 'newbies' and 'near-newbies?' Well, Steve Hutcheson is getting to be less of a 'newbie' and more of an 'old-timer' at this point.

I'm really looking forward to Katie Ives becoming more of a force on the council ... if she gets re-elected ... but her chances (and Hutcheson's) look pretty good the more current councillors switch to the mayoral race.

I love idle speculation.


I think this thinking (from Mary Baker Eaton), in some measure of logic, is behind the rumor I referenced earlier, about James Shanley's run for mayor:

Why is James Shanley running for mayor of Newburyport, MA when Donna Holaday, a very capable candidate with almost an exact platform, with a lot of name recognition, is also running, and has always made it known that this is something that she would always do. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have James Shanley with his experience and institutional memory to be a major part of the Newburyport City Council next year and work constructively with Donna Holaday?

Mind you, I'm not saying that I agree with Mary's assessment of Donna Holaday, or even her rationale for questioning why Shanley is running.

Mary also questions why there are so many people (potentially) running in Ward 3 ... Maybe they heard the rumor, believe it - and want to make sure Shanley has no "out?" Or maybe they all want to block/promote the senior center!

I don't know, but from what I'm learning, both of those sort of make sense to me ... not to mention that maybe Shanley thinks he'd be a great mayor. And all those Ward 3 people think they'd be great city councillors.

The latter is the only thing, aside from some hidden agenda that Shanley assured me he doesn't have, that I can think of to explain it.

That's a pretty good reason, right? That you think you'd be great at it, no matter who you have to beat to get there?

Or maybe I've gone from grouch to naivete.

Charter Commission peoples

So the Clerk's office just confirmed these nine people who have signed on so far to be on the Charter Commission, should the ballot question pass in November:
  • Paul Bevilacqua
  • Judith Grohe
  • Doug Locy
  • Olga McFarland
  • Bruce Menin
  • Cynthia Muir
  • Bonnie Perkins
  • Bruce Vogel
  • Alexander "Zab" Warren
Paul Bevilacqua is a former vice president for academic affairs at Northern Essex Community College and facilitated a joint effort between the college and the city's tree committee back a couple of years ago.

Bruce Menin, as I said previously, is on the School Committee and Bruce Vogel is the former Ward 5 city councillor.

Doug Locy was once on the Planning Board, until the mayor decided to not re-appoint him, just about two years ago now.

Olga McFarland I believe is very involved with the new senior citizens center.

That's all I knew about these 9 people at this moment - except that it took a lot of commitment from them to sign on to this project and I congratulate them for their civic-mindedness.

More blathering on

And since I'm on the topic of James Shanley, I've been hearing this rumor that he is not, in fact, running for mayor at all and that it's just a ploy to scare people off so his pal Donna Holaday will win.

Shanley has assured me that this is not the case, and I think the whole Facebook thing kind of makes it clear that he is, indeed, intending to run for mayor.

So that, as I like to say, is that.

Rainy days and Mondays ...

So earlier I guess I appeared to be bitching about political moves and Facebook ... and perhaps I was being a bit of a grouch.

Anyway, I got a nice email from a certain person apologizing if indeed he had made me uncomfortable with this Facebook 'friending.'

Which was a classy move and deserves a round of applause plus a gold star for said person (James Shanley, of course), which he can put on his khaki hat. I look forward to following his progress on Facebook and everywhere else he plans to campaign.

In fact, not only did he send me a friend request but someone else recommended him to me as a friend.

It really is a solid move on his part (joining Facebook, that is), and I certainly did not mean to imply otherwise. So yada, yada, yada and never mind.

And I apologize for being such a snarky person. I can't help it - it's my nature!

Vote for our farmers' market

Vote to help your favorite farmers market win $5,000 in the "Love Your Farmers Market" online contest, sponsored by Care2.com and LocalHarvest.org.

Every vote helps promote local food, family farms and sustainable agriculture.

Please help the Newburyport farmers' market win by voting today.

The Love Your Farmers Market contest is sponsored by Care2.com and LocalHarvest.org. Vote today and help raise awareness of the importance of local foods, small farms, and community farmers markets in America.

Care2 is the largest and most trusted information and action site for people who care to make a difference in their lives and the world. LocalHarvest is America's most popular website for finding food grown close to home.

Or so they say! Why should we doubt them?

Charter Commission

The Daily News is reporting that nine people have pulled nomination papers for Charter Commission. They only mention two in the story, though - Bruce Vogel and Doug Locy.

With those 2, my list is up to 7:
  • Doug Locy
  • Olga McFarland
  • Bruce Menin
  • Cynthia Muir
  • Bonnie Perkins
  • Bruce Vogel
  • Zab Warren
Here is the website for all things Charter Review, or you can just read Tom Salemi's blog, since he's been covering it pretty thoroughly.

Facebook becomes political

For me, at least.

So I always thought of Facebook as a place where I can go and visit with my friends, such as they are (by that, I mean the number, not the quality).

Now that the political season is upon us, I'm getting pressure! Whoa, become a fan of one person's candidacy, become 'friends' with another candidate.

Well I sure can't have two candidates as friends and not any of the others, right?

So welcome to my new friend on Facebook, City Council President James Shanley.

This serves as a disclaimer to a new "relationship" that I have with a candidate for public office.

Friday, June 19, 2009

City Council goes over budget on video

I've tried 3 times to download this video from YouTube but I just can't seem to get it to work.

If the link works, you will see a snippet of the City Council on June 8 going over the city FY2010 budget.

The vid was shot by City Council would-be candidate Ari Herzog (I can't say he's an actual candidate until he returns his papers).

Nice quality, huh? Every little detail - all my gray hairs, for example - are clearly evident.

Which brings me to the videos of City Council meetings on the city's website. As in - the last one posted is of the May 26 meeting.

What's up with that?

That poor dune

So I'm reading that the woman who 'lost' her PI home last fall wants to re-build. On the dune.

According to the Daily News item, her family has to get approval from the Newbury Zoning Board of Appeals.

The Zoning Board of Appeals will hold a hearing on Thursday evening on a request
by Geri Buzzotta and her son-in-law, Richard Capolupo, to replace the home
Buzzotta lost on Nov. 26 when high tides the previous night eroded the dune on
which it was built. An offshore storm had fueled abnormally high tides, but
Buzzotta's home was the only one seriously damaged.
I really have nothing to say, other than watch that PowerPoint presentation on the sidebar(over there--->).

Landfill update, such as it is

Somewhere in the comments is a question about whether there is anything new to report about the Crow Lane landfill.

... I know in Everett, the odors have been unbearable since he's been digging into the piles. He's not deodorizing and no one from city or state has been there. I cant imagine how bad it could be at the landfill.
I haven't seen much in the way of resident complaints and most, if not all, of the recent complaints have been about the trucks lining up along Crow Lane and Low St., waiting to get onto the site.

Way back when the trucks were allowed to roll into town again, Ward 5 Councillor Brian Derrivan wrote that he would provide a weekly update to residents ... it looks like he hasn't been doing it regularly, unless the updates are no longer being copied to the media.

I have a call in to At-large Councillor Kathleen O'Connor Ives about the information the City Council wanted from Mayor Moak, ASAP, before it decided whether to proceed with any kind of official protest to Moak's administrative order that re-opened the landfill to owner New Ventures.

Of course, that was also a few weeks ago ...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Charter review reaches a milestone

Tom Salemi is reporting that the charter review will be on the November ballot. Supporters got the required number of signatures.

Now all we need is more people to run for the commission.

Keep tuning in to Newburyport Posts because Tom is on top of the whole issue.

Some comments on Cronin

I'm not a huge fan of the Harbor Commission - way too much testosterone at those meetings.

Well, at the one meeting I actually attended. I think it was just the one.

They were talking about floating docks and Chuck Lagasse (of Newburyport Development and a local bigwig) stood up and started yelling at, I think, Larry McCavitt, who was addressing the commission and talking about (what else?) Chapter 91 rules and regulations ... those are the ones that govern state waterways.

I'm not sure if Bob Cronin was at that particular meeting, though.

I do know that he, as did all the harbor commissioners, opposed the re-appointment of Cliff Goudey to the Waterfront Trust and that he is a Moak supporter (or was, when he wrote this letter to the editor of the Current in 2007).

I think those 2 things are contradictory in the case of the Goudey appointment, since Mayor Moak put Goudey up for re-appointment.

Why am I singling out Cronin for comment?

Because the harbor and the waterfront are places that are near and dear to my heart. And the mayor is all for development on the river.

I look forward to hearing from him on these two "challenged" aspects of our city.

Plus I think he's a real challenger for the post, as is Andrea Jones.

Shoot out at the Ward 3 corral

Andrea Jones, long-time but former School Committee member, has thrown her knitted hat into the race to be Ward 3 councillor.

I say "knitted" hat because I know she likes to knit - an admirable pastime, by the way - so it wasn't meant as a jab.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

My "good" deed for the day

This morning (Wednesday) I witnessed a traffic accident on Merrimac Street. By "witnessed" I mean I heard a loud crash and looked. I'll explain that later.

A young woman rear-ended a rather large pickup truck with a rather small Honda while heading east. Actually, he was stopped in traffic.

I noticed that the radiator on the Honda was leaking so I followed both vehicles into the parking lot of the Fitness Factory so I could tell the driver. They moved there because people started blowing their horns. Nice.

She had hit her head on the windshield and had cracked the windshield ... with her head.

She kept saying she was alright. The driver of the pickup, a man, kept pulling his cell phone out of his jacket pocket but was not calling anyone.

So I finally asked, "Do you want me to call the police?" because a head injury is nothing to mess around with.

But I wonder ... I mean, the man thanked me for my help as he left the scene (after the girl had been carted off in an ambulance), but ... again, I just wonder if she would have gone on her way, left to diagnose her own condition?

I'm not trying to glorify myself - I think it was more female/maternal instinct than any particular trait of my own - and besides that, the man said she had told him that she was not paying attention -

Well neither was I. She was in the car ahead of me, in the same lane of traffic, but I was distracted by the big old trolley parked where the pedicab place was last year. I was wondering where the pedicabs live now.

So the lessons I learned were: (1) a victim is not the best judge of whether he or she is "alright" and (2) it's so easy to get distracted while you're driving.

I was lucky I was relatively far behind her or I would have been involved in the crash.

I hope she's okay.

Ward 3 race getting hot

Wow, the potential for a hot time in old Ward 3 is getting stronger every day.

I looked up Bob Cronin and here he is - a full-time deputy sheriff with the Middlesex Co. Sheriff's Office and a U.S. Coast Guard licensed 100-ton master.

Well, as another potential candidate said to me the other day, "Just because someone pulls papers doesn't mean they're actually running for anything."


Daily News exposes deceit in comments

I was checking in on Victor Tine's article about beach erosion from Monday - and I admit to read the comments, which were pretty much blasting PITA president Ron Barrett - only to find most of the comments had been deleted and this message from the DN editor had appeared:

Note to our readers: Six aliases in this thread (oldtimer85, stopcrying, weeds, newblood, sandgirl, and waveman) are all registered to a single Plum Island resident's computer. This kind of practice deceives readers, and so the poster has been warned to stop. Posters who engage in this kind of deceptive practice run the risk of being publicly named by The Daily News. We ask that you use the comments feature responsibly.-- John Macone, editor
Kudos to the Daily News for picking up on that.

And this is what I'm all on about when it comes to trusting stuff you read in online comments, or any source that is anonymous.

Election update

Robert J. Cronin of 126 Merrimac St. #46 for Ward 3 and Kathleen O'Connor Ives of 5 Market Square #1 for Councillor-at-Large (re-election as).

Bob Cronin ... Bob Cronin ... why does that name sound so familiar? Ah ... Harbor Commission.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Assume that I'm on it

Oh and by the way - nobody pulled papers for anything today.

You can safely assume from now on that if I don't update the list or explain why I didn't make the calls, that nothing happened.

The staff in the clerk's office can testify that I call regularly. They're very nice to me, considering how often I do call.

Today I called and dropped in, just for good measure. With zeal. (I like it when Tom Salemi - or anyone - hands me a good word that I had forgotten about. It happens a lot.)

I need to bake them some cookies or something - but that might be construed as bribery.

This is highly amusing

Well, to me at any rate.

According to this website called Twitterholic.com, I am #445 on the list of top 500 Twitterholics, based on followers in Massachusetts.

I haven't been on Twitter for months - but still, I keep getting messages that people are "following" me on Twitter.

It's hard for me to condense my thoughts to a mere 140 characters.

Plus I think it's kind of mindless; although Ari Herzog, I'm sure, would beg to difffer.

I thought my comment was rather clever.


A reader sent me this clarification, after I had declared in a previous post that the Waterfront Trust was established to stop development on the waterfront:

Actually, the Waterfront Trust wasn't established to stop development on the central waterfront.

Establishing a trust was part of a settlement of a court case brought by the Friends of the Newburyport Waterfront in 1973. The case wound its way through the courts until its was decided by the state Appeals Court in 1980. The Appeals Court decision found that three ancient "ways to the waterfront" -- public pathways from the downtown commercial district to the river -- had never been legally extinguished and remanded the case back to state Land Court.

City Solicitor Richard Jones, now the city clerk, and Friends member and attorney William Harris, who lives on Lime Street now but was in California then, negotiated an agreement that set up the trust and five "ways," the three from the court decision and two more that could be moved to accommodate buildings as long as they began and ended at their historical locations. (The Friends had originally sought to preserve 11 ways.)

The Land Court then incorporated the settlement into its final decree. The trust was set up to own and manage the ways and the NRA threw in the boardwalk as well. The point of the ways case was to control the shape of development, not halt it completely. If the ways exist, a developer has to position building perpendicular to the river, preserving some visual and physical access. If the ways are extinguished a developer can put up buildings parallel to the river, cutting off the public. A parallel design, chosen by the NRA, is what got the whole thing going in 1973.
I would guess that all those "ways" kind of prohibit much development, though, whether it be parallel or perpendicular. But I guess if you allowed one of those "ways" to be used to get to an abutting development that is parallel to the river ... that would be okee-dokee.

I also wonder about the words "own and manage." Apparently there is some research going on as to whether the Waterfront Trust owns the land and/or the "ways," or merely manages it and the "ways," for the city.

Now you can see a little bit of why the re-appointment of Waterfront Trust chairman Cliff Goudey was such a hot one - even though all anyone would do was hint at this aspect of it.

Monday, June 15, 2009

PITA vs. Foundation

On Friday, I asked a member of the Plum Island Foundation why there needed to be 2 resident-based groups on little old Plum Island.

PITA, of course, is the Plum Island Taxpayers Association.

Bob Connors, the Foundation person, said that his group is dealing with a very narrow issue - the beach erosion - that is too big for just one group to handle.

Well apparently one group is enough to be present at meetings between the DCR and the 26 property owners that have to grant easements to have a pipe going across their property to deliver sand to the eroded portion of the beach.

Wait - I thought people did not own the beach? Ah, well, wrong again.

Anyway, there was a meeting of most of these 26 owners and the DCR general counsel and it was held at Connors' home. He admitted to me that he was not one of the 26 owners in question, but Ron Barrett, president of PITA, was pretty peeved that he (Barrett) had not been invited and that the meeting was held in a private home.

From the Daily News story I cited before:

PITA President Ron Barrett said he objected to holding alliance-related meetings in private homes and forcefully said it should not happen again.

Tarr said it was easier for Davis to bring the owners together than to hold 26 separate talks.

Barrett agreed, but said the group session should still be held in public buildings.

Tarr and Moak said they had no objection to meeting in public buildings, but the talks themselves should not necessarily be held in open session since they involved negotiations about private property.
On the surface, and from this exchange (which leaves out the part about Barrett being excluded), it would seem that Barrett was being petty. But if Connors was there, why not Barrett? Aside from the fact that it was Connors' home, of course.

What Victor Tine left out of his story - because he wasn't there when it happened - was Barrett walking around showing an aerial photo of erosion at the island center that was taken in 1973.

I do believe it was passed around after the meeting started - yes, it was, because Vincent Russo, a Newbury selectman, said, "It looks like deja vu all over again."

Oh - and I forgot, state Rep. Harriet Stanley was also at Friday's meeting. She also represents Newbury.

I don't think anyone from Sen. Steven Baddour's office was there, nor was there anyone from Congressman John Tierney's office present (someone was there at the last meeting I attended), but Fred Lucey was there representing our state Rep. Mike Costello.

Breaking a trust?

I've been talking to a few people about the central waterfront because it seems to me (and others) that there is a move afoot to sell it down the river.

In the blink of an eye, the right combination of mayor and City Council president could dissolve the NRA (which the city can do) and somehow break the Waterfront Trust, which is there to protect public access to and enjoyment of the Merrimack River.

Contrary to what some people may think, it is NOT the city's problem that New England Development does not have vehicular access to its 8 acres on the waterfront.

And I'm wondering what "concession" could possibly be made for giving up my access to the river, a luxury very few communities retain in this day of big developers seizing waterfront property.

A parking garage? I think not.

But hold on - there is the counter argument that the area was historically a working waterfront so why not return it to some revenue-generating use?

Isn't that why the Waterfront Trust was established in the first place, to stop development on the central waterfront? Have times changed that much in 10 years?

If I were a member of the voting public, I would examine very closely the stance that people running for elected office have taken on this and other vital issues (town manager vs. mayor is another).

I can't remember when I read this, but I seem to recall reading in the Daily News a couple of years back that one, or some, City Councillor(s) were pushing for a town manager over a mayor. Perhaps someone would enlighten us all as to who those people were because I can't find it in the DN archives.

By the way, take a look at this series of posts from Mary Baker Eaton's The Newburyport Blog. It is from 3 years ago and it's the same old-same old: city manager and landfill.

Beach ball of confusion

Here's Victor Tine's story on Friday's meeting of the Merrimack River Beach Alliance.

You can see how much confusion there is, especially amongst the populace, one commenter believing that "Plum Island Center northward" means Newburyport.

I just got off the phone with a woman from the Dept. of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), an agency, by the way, that refers to what we all call "The Point" as the "Plum Island State Reservation."

The state owns the beach, the parking lot, the shellfish plant ... all turned over by the feds in the 70s but run by Newburyport under some mysterious Memorandum of Understanding that I plan on obtaining a copy of right soon.

Well hello. I'm sure many of you knew this already.

This woman from DCR, Susan Hamilton, is the Northeast Region regional director and deals primarily with operations at the aforementioned "Plum Island State Reservation."

But I don't know - it seems to me that the city wasn't entirely aware of the situation until people started working on the beach management plan. I'm sure some people were, just not people representing the city on the committee.

(There are about 26 people on that committee, by the way. I believe there were 5 DCR people there on Friday; folks from MassDEP, Coastal Zone Management and of course the Army Corps of Engineers - I'm sure I'm leaving people out. And of course PITA people and the 3 guys from the PI Foundation. And you wonder why there's confusion.)

And this DCR woman wasn't aware that Newburyport wasn't part of the nourishment plan until last Friday, at the meeting, she said.

As to why we're not, she said to check with the chairman of the alliance, which I believe is state Sen. Bruce Tarr, who of course does not represent Newburyport in the State House. He represents Newbury.

Another one pulls papers for ....

Both Ward 1 city councillor and at-large councillor.

According to the Clerk's Office, Michael Ferrick of Bromfield Ct. has pulled nomination papers for both these offices ... seats ... whatever.

Apparently he is a retired state police officer.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Farmers' market a howling success

Get it - howling success? Dog? Never mind.

It's was pretty rockin', though. Not only were people buying, buying, buying but they were in groups socializing & etc.

Gee, I hope these people don't mind me using this photo ...

I could go on to comment about Betty the sheep from Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm being there and the baad weather ... but I won't.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Da beach

This morning I went to the meeting of the Merrimack River Beach Alliance.

Boy did I f&*% up with my story in last week's Current. Oh, well, everybody had it wrong ... I'm still in agony, however.

So what the story is, in brief:

In order to get the sand dredged from the river onto the Newbury beach (and yes, Newburyport is not in this picture) there have to be a pipe or pipes running along the shore to move the sand along to the Newbury town beach and PI center.

In order to facilitate this, 26 beachfront property owners have to sign easements to allow the pipe and the work that will be done to build up the central dune and to widen the berm related to the dune (otherwise known as the beach).

Why is Newburyport being left out? Because the area is too small for an Army Corps of Engineers study, said Mayor John Moak, adding that, "We'll take care of that locally."

Well lo and behold if it doesn't turn out that Newburyport doesn't even own that part of the PI beach - the Dept. of Conservation and Recreation, or DCR, owns it.

In any case, the area in question (around 55th St., I gather) needs 8-10,000 yards of sand.

And so it's up to Newbury and Salisbury to split the sand from any dredging, since Newbury is reluctant (to say the least) to surrender any of it to Newburyport, and they (not us) also have to come up with the bucks to facilitate all this.

All this is dependent on the money and getting those easements - and I mean, getting them soon, since the Army Corps of Engineers wants to start the replenishment by October.

More info on candidates

OK, someone has commented that they don't know who Bob Kelleher is and I apologize for my haste in publishing the post without the necessary information.

Bob Kelleher ran for councillor-at-large in the last election and I take it from the previous comment that he regularly runs for something. In the phone book, there is a Robert Kelleher listed at 107 Low St. I do know that he is a native of Newburyport.
Clete Kijek, 12 Walnut St., ran for councillor-at-large in 2003.

Morning update

You will notice that Donna Holaday pulled papers yesterday for mayor (and withdrew her papers for councillor-at-large) and that Clete Kijek pulled papers for Ward 4 councillor.

Bruce Menin is also running for Charter Commission, if the charter review question gets on the ballot. I am told they have more than 1,400 of the required 1,930 signatures.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I'm just askin'

Ed Cameron has today announced, on his blog, that he will run for re-election as Ward 4 councillor.

Wow, I did not see that coming like a train that's scheduled to arrive at a set time. In fact, I was told it was a topic for discussion, so my sarcastic quip is kind of wasted. I just didn't think the discussion was going to happen so quickly.

Does anyone else see a pattern emerging here?

Cameron ... Holaday ... Shanley ... Sweeney ... whoops, Cameron's gone ... what if ... what if ... Eleanor Roosevelt could fly?

Also you will notice a couple of additions to the list of potential candidates:
  • Bob Kelleher for Ward 3 councillor
  • Dan Koen for School Committee

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

My old school on the cutting edge

Clio Area Schools, from whose high school I graduated, will this fall be offering Chinese language instruction. It says so, right here in the Flint Journal.

One in five people in the world speak Chinese.

But that number will increase this fall when Clio schools becomes the first district in Genesee County with its own Chinese language instructor.

"The concept of Chinese instruction is not new to Genesee County, (but) no local district has had their own Chinese instructor," said Jerry Johnson, executive director of communications and developement at Genesee Intermediate School District.
I remember the good old days at Clio High (Clio High oh Clio High. May your colors ever fly.)

The year after I graduated, it lost its accreditation ... but this isn't about the high school anyway.

The courses are usually done through a GEDNet program and usually offered at high school levels, Johnson said.

Offering Chinese at the elementary level is unique to the county, said Johnson.
Apparently it's GenNet, not GEDNet (or so says a commenter at the end). And can anyone spell "development?"

On a related note, the school superintendent in Clio is Fay Latture, who was a year ahead of me in school. She was a cheerleader; not that that's a strike against her. But the fact that the district tried to oust her last year I would say is a small strike.

I wanted to be a cheerleader.

Tomorrow night

I've been told that tomorrow evening will be the hot time for pulling papers (City Hall open late on Thursdays).

What a shame I have a meeting of my writers' group tomorrow evening. I'm even skipping the regionalization meeting because ... well ... interesting conversation with like-minded people vs. potential screaming and swearing.

I'm certain the regionalization meeting will be hugely entertaining.

Potential mayoral candidates should be paying close attention to this - although it could blow up and over while Moak is still the mayor.

I will try to remember to take a break to call the Clerk's Office during the writers' group event and post after I get home.

See what I am willing to do for you guys? And do you appreciate it? I don't see any sushi on my doorstep ...

Ward 3

Dawne S. Shand - who I'm pretty sure at least once was a member of our little writers' group - has pulled nomination papers for Ward 3 City Councillor.

She lives on Boardman Street and (again) at least as of 2007 was Foundation Chair of the Rotary Club.

She is a writer and (here we go again) has been a blogger.

School Committee and all that

In all this City Hall goings-on I forgot to mention that there are 3 seats 'up for grabs' on the School Committee as well.

The terms of Vice Chairman Gordon Bechtel, Steven Cole and Dana Hooper all expire this year. They rotate terms, which seems like a better idea to me than the way the City Council is set up.

This system allowed Steve Cole to run for mayor last time without having to surrender his seat on the School Committee.

If Cameron, Holaday and Shanley can only run for one office, that means they're all off the council, no matter what - if Ed decides to go ahead and try for the corner office, that is. I have not spoken to him about it as I have Donna Holaday.

So Ward 3 and potentially Ward 4 will get a change of councillor.

Shanley chimes in

You'll notice that James Shanley has been added to the list of possible mayoral candidates. He pulled his nomination papers this afternoon, apparently.

Also while I was talking to the Clerk's Office, there was a woman there pulling papers to run for Ward 3 councillor (Shanley's seat). She wasn't done yet so I don't have a name.

So you see? Everyone was waiting on the mayor.

New recycling bin

Wow a big old truck just delivered a not-quite-as-big (but pretty big) recycling bin to my house.

Industrial size, with wheels and everything.

I have no idea where to put it, but I guess it will live out in the yard.

It's huge!

Oh well

Well so much for my brilliant analysis of the political situation ...

Anyway - I just spoke with Donna Holaday and she will indeed be pulling nomination papers for mayor.

I'm not making any more assumptions!

Moak will not seek re-election

Mayor John Moak just announced in a press release that he will not seek re-election.

I have made the very difficult decision not to seek another term as Mayor of the City of Newburyport. This has been an emotional and complex decision involving not only professional but personal considerations.

In January of this year, I gathered with many of my supporters to confirm my desire to campaign for a third term of office. Unfortunately, with the changing fiscal times that we all face, I have come to the frank realization that it is not economically viable for my family and me to continue this path. Although I will actively be seeking alternative employment opportunities, I remain steadfast in my commitment to bring to fruition the projects I have initiated. It has always been my goal to provide the City of Newburyport with a firm foundation and sustainable tools for the next administration to build upon and I will continue that course.

It remains a sincere honor and a distinct privilege to serve as Mayor of the City of Newburyport and I am thankful to have this opportunity.

So there you have it.

Salisbury BOH now has complaints

In case you were wondering - and I know you all were - what exactly a Board of Health does, here's a quick summary from MAHB (the Massachusetts Association of Health Boards).

Because now, you see, Salisbury's Board of Health is kicking up a fuss about this proposed "shared services agreement" that will in effect regionalize health department services among Newburyport, Amesbury and Salisbury.

According to this report (from 2004) by Kathy Jesperson, editor of something called On Tap:

“Generally speaking, the number one problem involves the fear of losing autonomy, loss of control or power by one group or another, or not being able to control their own destiny,” Larimore explains. “It is very important that all parties involved have bought into the concept of regionalization and believe that they have equal representation, regardless of size. They must be assured that everyone has an equal voice at the table. It is very important to establish this early on in the agreement process.”

This Gary Larimore character is or was from the Kentucky Rural Water Association (KRWA).

"Regionalize" is another made up word.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Charter Commission

So yesterday I was told that people(or that person) were concerned because the papers weren't reporting on who has pulled nomination papers for Charter Commission.

I always ask, but City Clerk Richard Jones has been hesitant to name the names ...Until last night, when I cornered him.

So, these 4 people have pulled nomination papers for Charter Commission:

Olga McFarland, 6 Clipper Way
Cynthia Muir, 10 Hancock St.
(The two above have returned their papers.)

Bonnie Perkins
Zab Warren

No other news. Unless you count Katie Ives telling me she plans on running for re-election as At-Large Councillor.

Auditor gets audited

City Auditor William Squillace sparked a little contretemps with the mayor out in the hallway when he told the City Council that enterprise depts. (water, sewer, harbormaster) could use some of their free cash to reduce rates to their customers.

What a novel idea.

The only reaction I saw in chambers, other than slack jaws, was from Tom Jones, who kind of snorted (I was sitting right behind him).

But then the mayor appeared in the doorway of council chambers and beckoned Squillace out.

I couldn't hear what was said, but there was a lot of hand gestures, arm waving and glowering on the mayor's part.

A couple of weeks ago, I'm sure Squillace got a similar reaction when he turned to health director Jack Morris and said he had "jumped the gun" with some increases in revolving funds related to the health dept.

Speaking of which, it appears from last night's agenda that Morris has withdrawn the Medicare/Medicaid portion of the Regionalization Revolving Fund, which was at the last meeting sent to committee.

This is what the Order originally said:
THAT funds from the Medicare/Medicaid re-imbursement (and regional assessment) Revolving fund be used to maintain emergency planning programs, allow response to emergencies, and disperse funds for regionalization of Health Services...
I wonder if this is in any way related to Brian Derrivan (Ward 5) moving that the emergency management dept. line item be zeroed out?

Did you know that whole dept. (that would be emergency mgmt.) used to be run by volunteers, but now the city pays someone to be the director. I do believe Ralph Ayers used to fulfill that capacity, for free.

There were 14 orders on last night's agenda that related to revolving funds. According to the sometimes unreliable Wikipedia, A revolving fund is a fund or account whose income remains available to finance its continuing operations without any fiscal year limitation.

Within federal and state governments, law establishes revolving funds. Revolving funds, established for the purpose of carrying out specific activities, institute a basis under which financing for the cost of goods or services furnished to or by a government agency originate. Revolving funds are to be replenished through charges made for such goods or services.

I guess that in Squillace's estimation, everyone is jumping the gun.

The dancing of politics

It's so easy to confuse people, especially when they are busy with other stuff.

Deliver a city budget to their homes instead of actually presenting it to them at a meeting and - holy cow - it never gets put on the City Council agenda, is never officially sent to the Budget & Finance Committee and no one points this out until it's time to vote on the budget.

That seems to pretty much sum up the progression of events leading up to the point where At-large Councillor Donna Holaday moved to remove the FY10 budget from committee and Ward 6 Councillor Tom O'Brien stood and said it was never in committee.

The council had to hastily put it in the committee so it could be taken out again.

I'm not sure if this whole procedure - council accepting items for the agenda, which are then either voted on or sent to committee - is part of the City Council rules or is state law.

What I do know is that this is at least the second time something like this has happened (the process to approve the bond order for the mods to the wastewater treatment facility was rife with this kind of confusion).

What I think is that O'Brien could have mentioned this fact before last night, during the meeting - that is, if he realized it before then.

And what I also think is that, since someone else told me in a phone conversation earlier in the day that the budget wasn't actually anywhere on the agenda, this was a smooth move to make at least Holaday look bad.

This is from today's Daily News report on the budget vote last night:
Holaday, a potential election opponent for Moak in the fall, praised the current mayor's budget, as well as the unions for making concessions.
Ummmm .... No. Holaday, like Cameron and Shanley, has said she won't run for mayor if Moak runs for re-election.

I know that some people are counting on we citizen journalists to point out stuff like this, but ... hey, if you're on the City Council and you realize that there is a potentially embarrassing situation about to emerge, don't you let someone know?

I'm giving bad marks all around, because sure it was sloppy (Eleven people on the council and the 3 people in the Clerk's Office and no one noticed?) but I also think the slop was swilled for political reasons.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Shared services agreement meeting on Thursday

The General Government and Committee-of-the-Whole will meet at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday to discuss the "shared services agreement" between Newburyport, Amesbury and Salisbury.

This is in regards to the health department.

At-large Councillor Donna Holaday said that Amesbury Mayor Thatcher Kezer III and, I think she said, his Chief of Staff Kendra Amaral will be at the meeting.

As we all may know, people in Amesbury - and in particular, members of the Board of Health there - are up in arms because they were not given a copy of the draft agreement before it went to our City Council.

Read more about Amesbury's dissatisfaction with the way things have gone here, in a piece that ran in last Friday's Daily News. Well, the BOH and 10 citizens, according to the story.

The board had expressed frustration over the fact Kezer had not attended BOH meetings over the past two months, but Kezer's attendance last night did little to soothe members rankled at being left out of the loop. In fact, by meeting's close, the board voted to rescind the temporary authorization they granted April 30 to allow Newburyport's Jack Morris and Maureen Lee to conduct contracted services for the town.
For more information about the agreement, read this from Friday's Current. Written by me.

Council passes FY2010 budget

The City Council tonight passed the budget submitted by the mayor - $46,673,714.81.


The breakdown:

  • School Dept.: $21,036,039
  • Water: $4,343,950.43
  • Sewer: $4,566,700.28
  • Harbormaster: $338,884

There were no cuts to the budget submitted by Mayor John Moak.

Ward 5 Councillor Brian Derrivan tried to eradicate the Emergency Management department and Councillor-At-Large Tom Jones tried to get a couple of things out (painting the interior of the Rawson Hill water tank at a cost in FY10 of $400,000 for just the design, a new utility truck for the DPW and the $338,884 for the Harbormaster seeing as how the dept. has $400,000+ in free cash), but it was all in vain.

I asked Ward 4 Councillor Ed Cameron how they could pass a budget without asking about outstanding property tax and sewer payments, but he said he didn't know anything about that.

Anyway ... I need to get a new job, as a water tank painter.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

At least he's being 'transparent'

I've heard a lot of mostly good-natured joshing about Ed Cameron pulling nomination papers for three different positions - Ward 4 councillor, councillor-at-large and mayor.

Although I think it's somewhat odd for someone to want to be mayor, but only if he doesn't have to run against the current mayor, at least he's put it out there.

And I think it's really odd that Mayor John Moak has not officially declared his intentions (way back in January he announced he would run for a third term but has yet to pull nomination papers).

So all these people in limbo ... and as Tom Salemi says, "What exactly is he waiting for."

Also - if I lived in Ward 3 right about now, I'd be a little concerned. This is nothing against James Shanley (the ward councillor who's apparently waiting on Moak) - but I'd be a little worried that no one else has stepped into the building void.

I know - it's still early - and I keep hearing that people wait until the last minute because they are trying to figure out if they can win or not ... but gee whiz, I think people want to hear from the mayor.

Moak knows whether he wants to be mayor again or not; Shanley, O'Connor Ives, Connell and Jones know what they want to do as well.

Why not just declare themselves as 'yeah' or 'nah, I've had enough?' Can we assume they will all make a bid for mayor, should Moak not run?

I wonder what happens if only 4 people run for the 5 at-large seats? Nah, that wouldn't happen ... someone would step up at the last moment, knowing they would be a shoo-in.

Speaking of parking

I'm getting really tired of not being able to see oncoming traffic as I turn from any side street onto High St. because cars are parked in the bike lane.

I also the other day saw a person on a bicycle nearly nailed because he had to bike into traffic because of some truck parked in the bike lane.

I have no idea how many times this happens to other people, but pulling out of the laundromat onto Water St. is also really a hazard because of on-street parking. In both these instances, if someone on the main street doesn't wave me out, I take my life into my hands.

And while I'm on the topic of turning out of a parking lot/side street, I'm also getting tired of not being able to see people/cars coming along in a parking lot, when I'm backing out of a parking spot, because I can't see through the SUVs parked next to the Jetta.

Last year, I actually hit another vehicle while backing out of a spot in the Green St. lot. An SUV parked next little Jettski (which I admit is unusually low) and I nailed the other vehicle. Fortunately, I was backing up really, really cautiously.

The woman driving the other vehicle admitted she wasn't paying attention because she was looking the other way for an empty spot.

(Of course, there happened to be a handy policeman on his bike in the immediate vicinity.)

It's common these days to designate spots for small cars only. Perhaps it's time to do that in parking lots here. I know it's done to maximize spaces but it also could be safer for those of us in normal-sized cars, for city driving.

Shrewd move?

I remarked to someone a few months ago that one does not necessarily know the party affiliation of our elected officials, since party affiliation does not enter into the election process here in Newburyport (which I think is kind of odd).

But according to the local blog, Newburyport's Voice, Steve Hutcheson, at-large councillor running for re-election, has registered as a Republican.

Newburyport's newest Registered Republican, City Councilor Steven Hutcheson.

Councilor Hutcheson changed his political affilation (sic) from Unenrolled to Republican this past week.

When asked about his change he wrote by email that "he has felt the Fiscal Conservative agenda of the Republican Party was more in line with his personal beliefs."

The Newburyport Republican Party welcomes Councilor Hutcheson with open arms.
Of course, we know (or should know) that Ed Cameron is a Dem since he's the chairman of the Newburyport Dems.

And I'm going to assume that Barry Connell, Greg Earls, Donna Holaday and James Shanley are also Dems since they were at the rally celebrating Pres. Obama's first 100 days in office.

And further, since one of the above-mentioned people remarked, "I'm surprised Brian isn't here," I guess we can surmise the political affiliation of the Ward 5 councillor.

I would be surprised if this move by Hutcheson was not at least somewhat related to his running for office.

But does it matter?

I would be surprised if it does not.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Oregano tries again

OK, so Oregano has been asked to submit new drawings to the city relating to their outdoor seating and serving alcohol out there.

I'm looking at the new drawings, which are in the packet for Monday's City Council meeting, and I notice that in order to accommodate the barriers that have to be erected, an existing ramp for handicap access to - what? the restaurant? - has to be taken out and re-built.

People in wheelchairs have to enter the place through the back?

In any case, the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission has determined that "the current floor plans do not conform to [its] guidelines. Egress from the inside to the outside must be clearly established to insure safe, uninterrupted service of alcoholic beverages. Staff members are not able to go from the inside to the outside without leaving the licensed premises under the current floor plan."

At least the ABCC is on the ball.

Oil truck stirs up anger

About this Germinara Oil truck - why not just charge people rent, as if it were a billboard?

I guess, though, that would still be offensive.

I'm of mixed minds about this truck ...

One, the business is kind of off the beaten track and the owner is promoting biofuel, which is 'green,' and the city says it wants to promote green.

Two, when it's parked at the Rte. 1 traffic circle, it's not like it's in a high-tone location (not to mention it's practically in the shadow of a ginormous windmill that was embraced lovingly by the City Council).

Actually, I can't think of anything in particular against it; I only notice when it's not there.

By making it a zoning ordinance, Councillor Barry Connell is trying to make it not similar to the A-frame signs (which are still in place; most of them without current permits).

Why not worry about enforcing laws/regulations we already have instead of creating new ones?

I still haven't heard anything about outstanding property tax bills and water/sewer bills - except that perhaps a debacle that ensued after a property owner who owes a bundle on the latter went crying to the mayor sparked at least one candidacy for city office.

City councillors would be much better off addressing how to get people to pay up on their obligations to the city and cut the budget deficit than worrying about whether trucks with advertising on them warrant a new law.

When your water and/or sewer rates go up soon - and this would be outside of the increase to cover the mods to the sewer plant - think about lax collection methods, not shutting people off who won't pay their bills, and how people can avoid paying up by going straight to the corner office and raising a fuss.

Do you really want to pay more in sewer rates because there may be a huge amount outstanding to the sewer dept. that is not being collected?

Where is the outrage?

Oh - and Tom Salemi also has a post about this same issue, although it's not as long-winded and angry-sounding as this one.

Two more for the list

As of about 8:30 this morning, which was the last time I checked, Larry McCavitt had pulled nomination papers for re-election as Ward 1 councillor and Steve Hutcheson, as he said he would, also pulled papers yesterday for re-election as an at-large councillor.

Again - as if you need reminding - there are 6 ward councillors and 5 at-large councillors. If there are more than 2 candidates for any ward councillor and/or mayor, there would need to be a primary election to winnow the candidates down to 2 for each position.

With the at-large councillors, there would have to be 11 candidates for the 5 seats on the council in order to trigger a primary (if there wasn't going to be one already).

The 5 at-large candidates with the most votes win. At-large councillors represent the interests of the whole city, not a specific ward.

In the last election, which is the only one I've covered so far, not that many people voted for at-large candidates - although Donna Holaday was the runaway top vote-getter.

"Regionalization" needs more review

One has to think that this shared services agreement/regionalized health services issue has to come up at Monday's City Council meeting.

Because Amesbury's Board of Health is not happy, according to this report in the Daily News.

I can see that: the BOH was not made privy to the agreement, a draft of which is in committee with our City Council. The agreement is due to go into effect on July 1, so again we have a "rush" situation that involves unhappy/disgruntled people.

Specifically, Amesbury's BOH is losing members faster than trucks are coming into the landfill.

And when Todd McGrath announced just prior to the meeting's close that he was stepping down from the board, that brought the original five-member board to just three members. Former Chairman Phillip Yetman resigned two weeks ago.

The three communities involved in the agreement - Amesbury, Newburyport and Salisbury - are all supposed to retain their boards of health.

Unfortunately, I can't see where Newburyport officials and sadly Amesbury's leaders play well with others. I know people in Amesbury are a little feisty (my new favorite word), but this attitude of "I know what's best so shut up" isn't going to fly.

One animal control officer for all 3 communities? Salisbury's ACO thinks the job is his for the asking but Newburyport is interviewing people without being specific about what job the interviews are for (could be the night/weekend person, but no one knows).

This isn't regionalizing, this is a power play - why does Jack Morris automatically get to be in charge? Shouldn't the job have been advertised and interviews conducted by all three communities?

These same people were telling Everett what to do about the landfill and now they are dictating to Amesbury: get rid of your long-time ACO, you don't need to review the agreement ... does any of this sound familiar?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Steppin' out

OK, now I'm freaking out ...

I've been accepted as a North Boston Political Buzz "Examiner."

What the hell is that, you might ask?

Go to Examiner.com and find out!

I'm also the Boston editor for blognetnews.com; for the time being, at any rate.

Of course, neither of these positions involves any kind of guaranteed salary ... but thank you to Ari Herzog for putting me on to the blognetnews thing and to Shari Wilkinson of the Newburyport Farmers' Market (and the New Eden Collaborative garden) for doing the same for the Examiner gig.

The garden will soon have a blog up and running, and I'll be contributing to that, as a participant in the collaborative.

A blog, you say? I have my own blog?

Oh la, I'll think about that tomorrow.

I built this garden for us

I've been out of touch all day, even more than usual.

So I did not call the Clerk to find out if anyone else has pulled nomination papers for elected office.

Aside from driving to Gloucester, I spent the entire day gardening - first at my mom's house, in Gloucester, and then at our own veggie patch in Newbury. My brother and I were pruning rose bushes, which all attacked me and now I'm covered with scratches.

Mom's yard looks awesome, though! (My sister Helen - the one who lives in Malden - was also there, only she was clever enough to mostly stay away from the sprawling rose bushes.)

Stuff grows faster in Gloucester. I can't figure it out.

I'm now trying to figure out how to trellis watermelon plants ...

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Another message from Ed Cameron

They have to stop having these meetings so early - and on Monday, to boot!

The Senior Center Building Committee is meeting on Monday, June 8 at 8:00AM at Newburyport City Hall to discuss input from the two recent public input sessions. For more information, please contact co-chairs Councillor Ed Cameron (at edcameronNBPT@gmail.com) or Councillor Brian Derrivan (at derrivan@comcast.net).
One too many "inputs" in the same sentence, Ed!

The Editor

No news

I just talked with Richard Jones and no one pulled nomination papers today, except for one person for Charter Commission.

Let's see ... that leaves only Ward 1 and Ward 3 still up in the air.

James Shanley, I guess, is waiting on Mayor Moak - if Moak isn't running, Shanley told me he will run for mayor.

So no one else from Ward 3 is that interested? Or perhaps s/he is waiting on Shanley ... oh boy.

I tried to get info on Frances Sullivan, who is running for at-large councillor, but her listed number has been disconnected. The mechanical voice didn't say when.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Herzog hits the trail (or trial)

Tom Salemi beat me on this one, but that's life in the blogosphere.

Ari Herzog is running for councillor-at-large.

"You're kidding me," I said to clerk Richard Jones when he told me.

He expressed a sentiment akin to that's what I've said every time he tells me the newest person who has pulled papers for some city office ... I've got to get a new line, I guess!

DISCLAIMER: I actually do socialize with Ari ...

Another one steps into the fray

I was recently (as in, like, an hour ago) informed that At-large Councillor Steve Hutcheson will also be seeking re-election.

Surprisingly, he did not say he would run for mayor if Moak does not!

He hasn't pulled his nomination papers yet, though, so I only have it on his authority that he will be running in November. Just to be clear (and hopefully somewhat amusing).

Also, I guess I should disclose that 'Hutch' is a 'friend' of mine - on Facebook, at any rate. We don't socialize. In fact, I don't even call him 'Hutch.'

Just to be clear.

Charter Review: message from Ed Cameron

The ad-hoc Charter Review Group is scheduling volunteers for the next several weekends, to collect signatures. A total of 1914 valid signatures – 15% of all voters -- is needed by July 28th to put the question on the November ballot.

Volunteers with signup sheets at various public locations will be scheduled for a two-hour shift on either Saturday or Sunday.

If you have two hours to spare, please contact Judith Grohe at 978-463-7680 or via email to jgcgrohe@aol.com.

Also, if you are interested in being on the Charter Review Commission (which comes into effect IF we get enough signatures to get the question on the ballot and IF the voters say yes to a Commission in November), please pick up nomination papers at the City Clerk's office. 50 valid signatures are needed to get on the November ballot to be a Commissioner.

The race for City Hall, as of yesterday

Here is who had pulled nomination papers with the clerk, as of yesterday at about 3 p.m.:

  • Donna Holaday - At-large Councillor
  • Frances Sullivan - At-large Councillor
  • Greg Earls - Ward 2 Councillor
  • Ed Cameron - Ward 4 Councillor, At-large Councillor, Mayor
  • Brian Derrivan - Ward 5 Councillor
  • Tom O'Brien - Ward 6 Councillor
  • Dan Sweeney - Mayor

I got this list from the Clerk's office; it's odd that the mayor is not on it. I guess he just announced back in January that he was seeking a third term and has not actually pulled papers.

I don't know who Frances Sullivan is ... but I do know all of the others, to varying degrees, and as a local reporter would know people that she talks to in the course of her duties.

Now I know that somebody is going to pop up and say that Dan Sweeney is my friend. In fact, I do believe that Bubba has said it, albeit in French, on this blog ... and I have to say, nearly every time I have stopped in at the sewer dept. to talk to DS about sewer issues, the mayor has appeared in the office ... there's no love lost in that association, dear readers.

So bring it on, if that's your inclination.

Monday, June 1, 2009

* Breaking News *

Another person has thrown his hat into the mayoral race - Dan Sweeney!

Dan is the admin assistant to the Board of Sewer Commissioners.

I doubt very much that he is only running if the mayor does not.

In fact, since I just spoke with him; I know he's not.

He was on a vacation day, on his boat, on the river so he kept cutting out.

But he's in the race (if he gets the required signatures) - and this should be very interesting!

You've left my ring by the soap ... Now is that love?

Isn't this just the most recent in a spate of stories about someone flushing something valuable down the toilet, or dropping something down the drain?

This was in Globe North last week:

It seemed like another Tuesday morning for Melissa Bromby of Newburyport. She was in a hurry to get her daughter, Brooke, to preschool in Ipswich. At 9 o'clock, she cleaned her platinum wedding and diamond engagement rings and then inadvertently placed them on the bathroom vanity.

Boy, if I knew this was such a hot topic, I would have been searching all this time for such commonplace events.

I guess platinum wedding bands and diamonds are more interesting than bizarre mayoral races or city councils pondering lawsuits against the city (just to mention two things going on in our fair city).

I have heard that the people at Gatehouse Media/Community Newspaper Co. have concluded, based on web traffic, that people are more interested in police logs and stories such as this than actual hard news.

I want to be fair - we bloggers rarely write about people losing wedding rings and such down the drain.

And isn't that what traps on drains are for?

Woo doggies

I was reading this story in Saturday's Daily News - front page news, by the way - in which it states that Ward 4 Councillor Ed Cameron is running for mayor against Mayor John Moak (if Moak decides to run, that is).

OK ... well from what I understand, city reporter Katie Farrell is on vacation and I guess they handed this over to Katie Curley ... and I'm not blaming KC for the misleading nature of this story because someone had to have edited it.

City Councilor Ed Cameron said he will run for mayor, the first person to pull papers as of yesterday afternoon.

As Cameron (and I, quoting Cameron's blog) has said, he will run if Moak does not. And did not Moak himself pull papers, in January?

City Clerk Richard Jones confirmed Cameron is so far the only person to have pulled papers for the mayoral race. Cameron also took out papers for re-election as Ward 4 councilor-at-large.

For those of you who don't know this stuff, there are six ward councillors (currently McCavitt, Earls, Shanley, Cameron, Derrivan and O'Brien) and five councillors-at-large (currently Connell, Holaday, Hutcheson, Jones and O'Connor Ives).

Cameron has written that he took out nomination papers for mayor, for re-election as Ward 4 councillor and for councillor-at-large. He's more of the latter, actually, having been involved in the senior citizens center planned for insertion into Ward 3.

In any case, none of the various councillors who have stated their intentions either by voice or by pulling papers - the latter at this point only Cameron and Holaday - none seems inclined to run against Moak.

I've already written about that.

What we need is someone who IS willing to run against Moak. Not because I'm against Moak; that's just the way it should be, right?