Saturday, October 31, 2009

City sues a CPC member

Oh good grief ... why does the Daily News insist on putting such interesting news stories in its Saturday edition?

Saturday is the lowest readership day ...

Now there's this whole thing about Norbert Carey and rail trail land and wow.

The piece does not say it, but Carey sits on the Community Preservation Committee - you know, the committee that decides who gets funding through the Community Preservation Act.

I looked on the city's website and it says his term expires in 2008 (I'm assuming that it has not been updated) so perhaps his new term is up in 2010, or sometime soon, I would imagine ... here's what Mary Baker Eaton had to say in April 2006, when Carey was re-appointed to the CPC:

First of all I couldn’t believe that Norbert Carey was on the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) in the first place. Mr. Carey is a developer, is developing a very controversial piece of land–the Russell Terrace project, and has had some not so good looking run-ins concerning land for the Rail Trail Project (whole other post.) All of this would, in my mind, create a conflict of interest. Seems to be a no-brainer to me.

It might be worth looking up who exactly was on the City Council and voted "yes" to approve this appointment.

And here is the original 2003 easement document, which I also found on the city's website after typing "Norbert Carey" into the little search box.

I'm not that up on easement documents but this situation is sort of reminiscent of the Host Community Agreement with New Ventures, for the landfill. Former Mayor Al Lavender also was in charge of that.

I have heard Carey's name several times in connection to the CPC and the land he owns over by the old access road for I-95 (another contentious parcel). It's a name that kind of sticks in one's mind.

Planning director

An anonymous commenter on this blog asked me about whether I had any knowledge of a possibility of one or both of the candidates for mayor bringing Nick Cracknell back as planning director.

I don't think, from a personal standpoint, that asking that question of the 2 candidates is very respectful to our current planning director, Sean Sullivan.

How would he feel if one or both of the candidates replied that yes, he or she would not re-appoint him and would instead bring Cracknell back?

I know, I know, it is an important question and someone should have asked it. But I was not assigned to interview any of the candidates for the paper, and I did not write the questions for the CEB interviews.

I'm a naughty, evil, bad blogger.

Having said that, I've done a little research and it looks to me as if both James Shanley and Donna Holaday strongly supported Cracknell while he was the Director of Planning.

I don't know Sean Sullivan all that well, but I have learned through experience that both he and Nancy Colbert (his predecessor) are/were creatures of the mayor (Sullivan perhaps a little less so than was Colbert).

I mean that in the sense that the person in the position does the mayor's bidding, not that they are actual "creatures" in a pejorative personal sense.

Nick Cracknell, from what I read in the aftermath of his not being re-appointed by Mayor John Moak (and which was right when I started writing for the Current), resisted being Moak's creature.

The Director of Planning is a political appointment.

Perhaps Sullivan is scrambling as I write, to find a new position.

I could guess that at least one of Holaday and Shanley would consider Cracknell, if not outright appoint him ...

You have to look at certain elements of the situation - those being who is all for some development along the waterfront and has expressed the notion that they have an "in" with New England Development and who perhaps is being a little more prudent (in my opinion) in that regard.

This all depends on whether voters like one viewpoint over the other, whether they liked Cracknell, and whether they want any more buildings on Merrimac St., along the waterfront.

I found it rather interesting that someone such as Mary Harbaugh (wife of Jim Stiles) would clap so much more enthusiastically for Shanley than Holaday at the last mayoral debate - he wants the buildings (not that many of them, but buildings nonetheless) and Harbaugh is all for open space.

(Of course, she can be fickle - she does not want the senior center to go at Cushing Park one minute because the parking lot there is "open space," but she objects the next minute to the parking lots on the river because they are not "open space." I don't know of much that's more open than a parking lot, but ... hey.)

By the way (and not related to Harbaugh), someone recently used the term "dark sider" to me, and I had to ask what a "dark sider" is. Here is a part of the definition, as presented by the P. Preservationist (click on the link if you want to read the full explanation):

The dark side believes that Newburyport’s future lies in industry and not in eco-tourism and heritage tourism. A dark sider reminisces of a community with busy factories providing steady though not perhaps wealthy income to the workers in town. They imagine that after a hard day at work, the family could stroll the streets and live in a safe community where everyone knows everyone else. There were few outsiders. Dark siders after all are about family and financial security. It may be observed that they tend to have the money-like the Great Depression generation, the harbinger of poverty is ever before them – their mantra is jobs and growth. To them, craftsmen and bankers and developers must be given an absolute free hand to do whatever possible to generate money.

The dark sider sees no value in aesthetics – a manicured lawn is no value to them – a job is everything and the appearance of your house means nothing. They do not understand equity and care nothing of raising property values – to them it’s only an excuse to raise taxes.

Bringing in buildings that do not fit Newburyport is okay with them – we must build, build, build. Open space is wasted space – we must build, build, build to raise more tax revenue. To them, the act of construction and industry is the ticket for the future of Newburyport as the dark sider is forever seeking what was lost in the mid-twentieth century: seeking the old Newburyport of the past filled with large factories.

What do you all think?

What was my point, again?

I read this item in today's Daily News, online ... it's about the Ward 1 race.

This bit, way down by the bottom, caught my attention, especially since there has been some chat on Tom Salemi's website about Karp supporting campaigns (this bit is about challenger Allison Heartquist):

Among her supporters, according to the campaign finance report filed this week, are Mark Roland, the owner of the clam shack that McCavitt battled in court. He gave Heartquist's campaign $150. Also, Newburyport Marinas, a company owned by Stephen Karp and New England Development donated $100 to her campaign ...

Heartquist said yesterday her treasurer, John Brooks, has been overseeing her campaign donations and referred questions about donations to him.

It's unclear if the donation from Newburyport Marinas was given as a donation from a corporation, which is prohibited under campaign finance law. Brooks said yesterday he did not have the information on the Newburyport Marinas donation in front of him, but said it was given by a person who is part of the marina.

What does that mean, "it's unclear?" If it says Newburyport Marinas on the information her campaign supplied, then it was Newburyport Marinas who made the donation, right?

Not necessarily, but ...

Even if it was by a person, they obviously screwed up in the reporting and haven't got a clue about campaign finance law.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Dog park flares fire

I had to laugh when I read this little post on Tom Salemi's blog, complete with photo ... and as I'm sure that was his intention, good work, Tom!

In the matter of a dog park, I was surprised this week to hear some vehement protests against any such thing being established here.

Sometimes I think big issues flow on by while the smaller stuff gets people over-heated.

I don't see any problem with a dog park. Sure there are streets to walk your dog down (one of the arguments against) but dogs do need to run, and play, and sniff around randomly ... I don't own a dog, by the way.

So lighten up and let the doggies have a park.

When I lived in Boston, dog owners appropriated one corner of Boston Common as a place to let dogs run free and people went ape-shit. Sometimes I would pause while walking by to watch the dogs play - and the owners socialize.

What better way to get to know your neighbors? I might even rent a dog, if we do get a park, and wander on down to chat with people.

The mayoral candidates

I have decided that in lieu of any endorsement that I'm reluctant to make, I'll say one thing each about the mayoral candidates that I most admire and one thing that I do not admire, and you can take that for what it's worth.

Echoing the sentiments of many people, I really think that both these people could perform well as mayor (How's that for a tepid statement?). That is, I think there is equal potential for either of them doing a good job or either of them doing a lousy job, only in different ways, if you get my drift.

So here goes, in alphabetical order:

I think that Donna Holaday is brilliant. She knows facts and figures and can throw them around in an impressive manner. I also think, however, that she is too trusting about what she is told as backup for those facts and figures. In an ideal world, you would not have dept. heads who were trying to deceive when explaining why they needed funding for this project or another - but this is not an ideal world. She needs to be more cynical.

I really admire how James Shanley, when I would write something critical on here about one of his councillors, he would write to me and defend them, but only where he thought defense was in order. That may sound like nothing compared to 'oh, she's brilliant,' but it shows something about his character that I think is just as important in a chief administrator (and yes, I think the mayor is both an administrator and a leader). Conversely, I think he's a little too cynical and thus he often comes off as being dismissive.

I will add (again) that I did not like both of them saying they would not run for mayor if John Moak was running for re-election.

I also think - although I have no proof of this - that something really bad happened to their good relationship. Holaday avoids looking at Shanley, if at all possible, and he looks at her in the same way that a man looks at a woman he's been previously close to but has done something she thinks is unforgivable. I'm not sure he understands why she thinks it was unforgivable, given his expression. Most men don't.

It makes me kind of sad, because in 2007, I witnessed Shanley on election night 2007 practically running through the BluWater Cafe to reach Holaday, who was in the downstairs bar. When he reached her, he was jumping up and down and laughing with joy ... he had run unopposed in Ward 3, so it was her victory he was sharing.

Shanley, like me, has a very expressive face. It's been very interesting, to say the least, to watch his facial expressions during City Council meetings. Oh I have to stop adding extra bits in here.

So that's it. Oh, except for the Current has endorsed Holaday.

I had nothing to do with that decision, by the way, and I only checked to make sure after I had written this complete post, except for the line above this one.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Election night

The PortMedia people confirmed tonight that we will, indeed, be broadcasting live from City Hall on election night.

That is, they will be broadcasting live, and I will be delivering the color commentary.

Forget Richard Jones attempting to strangle me with his bow tie and think Allison Heartquist attempting to strangle me with her bare hands. Even if she wins.

Did I mention that she and I share the same birthday? She's only the second person I've ever known who shared my birthday.

Anyway ... I don't know how much this has been advertised, if at all, so consider this your warning ... er, I mean your notification.

What do you think? Humorous or serious?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Me and my theories

I went to the final mayoral debate tonight because I was writing a campaign wrap-up.

They both look tired out ... and wow, poor James Shanley was out of his element. In this case, that is.

I guess it all boils down to how you feel about funding for the schools and where the money will come from, given that the state is not being very helpful in this regard.

Shanley wants paid parking and Holaday wants grants and "efficiencies." I hate that word, along with "transparency."

Anyway, we're down to the final days - and frankly, I don't see much passion for either person. There's not even that many campaign signs.

Apathy is not good.

I proposed to Holaday that the infamous "Khaki Crowd" (so dubbed by, I believe, Bubba) was more for Shanley and the people who think things like the Rail Trail, although quite nice, are a waste of money given the condition of the city's infrastructure and thus prefer her.

She did not agree because, as she correctly pointed out, that money was earmarked for the Rail Trail and could not be spent on anything else. But there was the CPA money.

Oh, well ... So much for another of my wonderful theories ...

DN goes for Shanley

The Daily News is endorsing James Shanley for mayor. Read all about it here.

Pissy pants

Just for everyone's information - What a week this has been! - I don't post comments on the Daily News website (although I do read them).

And even if I were to do it, I would use my real name.

(Ooops - falling off my high horse - I did once post something anonymously to the DN website, using the handle "FrmrFlintoid.")

This McCavitt-Heartquist thing is getting out of hand. If you don't like McCavitt, you should have challenged him for his seat or encouraged someone more qualified to do so.

Knocking me only shows your desperation to make her look qualified ...


Is anyone else having problems with Internet Explorer? Every time I get a Windows "update," IE gets crappier and crappier.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Town approves taking

Voters in Newbury tonight approved the taking by eminent domain of "portions of properties" situated at 58 and 60 Northern Blvd., for purposes of the easements required by the Army Corps of Engineers and state DCR.

Voters also overwhelming approved an amendment to the article authorizing the town to take the easements over the properties that gives the property owners no award for damages.

And that's all she wrote. (I hope the drama is finally over.)

What was I thinking?

When I came right out and said vote for Tom Salemi, I wasn't intending to "diss" the other candidates that I know ... I was referring to those 5 people specifically ... (see below for more about that).

So while I'm not that much into endorsements, I'll say that I also am quite familiar with Steve Cole and Bruce Menin from their work on the School Committee.

I think either or both of these guys would also work diligently on this endeavor and probably are not going into this with an "agenda," at least one that I would not like. Nearly everyone has an agenda of some sorts; it's human nature.

That's the criticism I'm hearing, by the way - that a lot of the people are going into this with an agenda. And that's why I think that it probably was not the best idea for those 5 to go to an event that was not inclusive and was hosted by the wife of a candidate for mayor, however prominent she is in her own right.

Other candidates I "know" (aside from Olga MacFarlane, who I really only know a bit; like Steve Cole, she is a native -of sorts, having grown up at the Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm in Newbury):

I know Bruce Vogel slightly, I know Sheila Mullins slightly ... I know Jim Stiles maybe a little better ... I met Kathleen Bailey 2 years ago at a Yankee Homecoming planning meeting that I was covering for the Current ... I've interviewed Hugh Kelleher over the phone but I've never met him ... and I met Bruce Brown a few weeks ago when he was campaigning for his son out here on the island (I talked to him for 3 minutes, tops, since he was more asking me for some guidance on finding addresses he was looking for and less trying to engage me in meaningful discourse).

So (wow) there are 9 people who are running for Charter Commission that I have met, if I include Olga, and a 10th one I've only talked to on the phone. I have no complaints to report about any of them.

In this instance, I think that people who have lived here longer than I, have the advantage over me.

I like to observe people, their actions (which I do believe speak louder than words) and form my own opinion. I have just not observed, much less spoken to, most of these 20 people.

It's not that I'm not interested - it's more that I have had a conflict with every "meet and greet" that has been organized to introduce them to the public. I really think it's a disservice to the community that there was not some formal, organized event that was taped for cable access, with them speaking and/or answering questions.

Having said all that - I think the fact that we have 20 people willing to commit to that much time by serving on this commission is extraordinary and wonderful. Even if every one of them has an agenda, it is an act of self-sacrifice on behalf of their community that I think should be rung from every quarter.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Liberator endorses Holaday (and others)

I forgot to pick up a copy of this week's Liberator while I was out, but I did see these 2 posts on the Newburyport, Mass. page on Facebook:

The Newburyport Liberator endorses Donna Holaday as mayor; Larry McCavitt as ward 1 councilor; Bob Cronin as ward 3 councilor; and Kathleen Ives, Barry Connell, Tom Jones, Ari Herzog, and Michael Ferrick as at-large councilors to vote for on November 3.

The Newburyport Liberator endorses Kathleen Bailey, Paul Bevilacqua, David Claridge, Roger Gagnon, Hugh Kelleher, Doug Locy, Tom Lyons, Janet Marcus, Olga MacFarlane, Cynthia Muir, Sheila Mullins, Tom Salemi, Jim Stiles, Bruce Vogel, and Alexander Warren for charter review committee candidates to vote for on November 3.

I love Olga MacFarlane; she had me in stitches one time at a City Council meeting. I don't think her stage-whisper comments and my almost-stifled guffaws were appreciated, though. Take that for what it's worth.

And it goes without saying I'm happy that my friend and fellow blogger Tom Salemi is among those endorsed.

But - there will be just 9 of them, right?

I don't know most of the people who are running for Charter Commission very well and some, not at all.

But I have to mention that all 5 of the candidates who were at that "meet and greet" at the Battles/Shanley homestead are on the Liberator's list.

You have to decide if that makes a difference to you. And even if it does - I still recommend a vote for Tom Salemi. He's only one of the 5, and I know absolutely he'll do what he believes is best for the city, based on the information put before him.

I place my trust in Tom because I know who and what he is.

I really don't know the other people well enough.

Turning on to turnips

I'm enjoying the last vestiges of the fruits of my labor in the New Eden Collaborative Garden this summer.

I added the (small) turnips I harvested over the weekend to some canned chicken soup (that's like an animated oxymoron). I can't tell you how different a fresh turnip is to a store-bought one.

Yesterday I enjoyed the carrots I grew with my own hands (which explains why they're so puny).

I really hope the city embraces a community garden because not only was it gratifying to grow, harvest and eventually eat the crops, it also was a lot of my casual socializing for the summer.

Every time I needed a break, I'd go over to the garden and almost every time there was someone else there to chat with. I met some really great people and got to know better other people that I had only slight acquaintance with before.

I have to say, though, that I can't stand the thought of having to eat store-bought produce all winter. I haven't had to do it, yet, but egads it won't be the same.

On to Tendercrop Farm, which is worth the extra pennies because it's better for you ... even though I still can't quite afford to buy their home-grown beef. I highly recommend their "own" bone-in pork chops, however, which are quite reasonably priced.

Charter review update, from Ed Cameron

The Newburyport Democratic City Committee will be sponsoring a forum for all Charter Commission Candidates on Tuesday, 10/27 at 7PM at City Hall Auditorium. This will be nonpartisan much like the event for Mayoral and Council candidates sponsored by the Newburyport Republicans earlier this fall.

Hope to see you there (says Ed Cameron, who sent all this info).

The Newburyport Charter Review blog is at
And please check out the new page "The Candidates" which features short bio's for all 20 candidates.

Please spread the word about Question 1 on the Newburyport Ballot!!!

Sadly this and other events that I would love to attend tomorrow night conflict with the big eminent domain vote in Newbury tomorrow night.

There are no comments to this latest story in the Daily News. I guess people have moved on, maybe.

And speaking of Townie Tuesday

I took the advice of Ghlee Woodworth and drove through Oak Hill Cemetery over the weekend.

Hard to believe I had the time, with all the conversing I did this weekend, but I did it.

What will you think of me when I say I'd never been in there before?

Next time, I'll actually get out of the car and walk around. Ghlee has an interesting bit in her book Tiptoe Through the Tombstones about people's fascination in the 19th century with graveyards and making them into elaborate places where people went to picnic and otherwise socialize.

I belatedly say that I highly recommend the book. Not only is the content interesting, but it is visually very appealing, which I really like in anything that I am reading, or even places that I am living.

That's mostly what I didn't like about living in southern Michigan.

Thoughts on being a "journalist"

I just posted this comment to my last post before this one:

Took note of the time stamp for this post being after midnight on Sunday ... So surmise when you cite your encounter "earlier today" you mean sometime Saturday.

Was that before or after your Saturday 5:35 p.m. post re the preposterous postulations posted (as comments) on another blog? Given a twisted twine between the twain (entities) that even a cursory investigation will expose ...

(Just) suppose you were to take the cursed advice to heart (that a porter reporter should always heartlessly reveal all she learns, with no self-imposed limitations, relevant or not).

That would be just deserts. But hardly your style and substance.

No reporter that I know takes delight in exposing someone and interestingly enough, I had an exchange last night on Facebook with the man who taught me journalism, on this very topic.

He pointed out that even as a young woman, his pupil, I argued with him about writing things that I didn't think were "relevent" or "of interest to anyone," or even mean-spirited.

But I also had another conversation over the weekend with a third or fourth person (I conversed a lot this weekend) - and this is something I really feel strongly about - you have to know your audience.

So I could bring up, in those Townie Tuesday columns, unpleasant facts that I may have heard about whoever I'm profiling. But even if they made it past the editor, what purpose would it serve?

These people are all contributing to the community in some way; that's the whole point of the column. It begs the question of how much service to your community, if any, cancels out a past misdeed?

When I commented over the weekend that I thought people here liked snarkiness, I got one affirmative response.

Well, yeah ... but where does snarkiness end and just plain mean begin?

I hate the word "journalist," by the way. I use it because it's the term people use, but I don't like it. I think of myself as an observer first and a writer second, and I think "journalist" sounds too impersonal.

Sometimes, when I'm peeved, I get close to or cross a line I have drawn for myself between being merely snarky and just being downright mean ...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

I love this place (a snark-free post)

Next week's Townie Tuesday column will be about native Don Pollard. Never fear, my dear readers - I've spent the better part of today researching all about Don Pollard (found out some good stuff, too).

Anyway, I met him earlier today in the laundromat. I don't usually hang around the laundromat (which would be the Village Washtub on Water St.). I usually run around downtown doing errands while my clothes are in the washer and then take the wet clothes home to the clothes line.

Damn if it isn't winter now.

I also don't usually talk to strange men (as in, men who are strangers), but he approached me because he had seen me on TV. Of course, as soon as he introduced himself, I recognized the name as one I had heard numerous times.

We talked way beyond the time when his clothes were clean and mine were dry.

One of the values of doing Townie Tuesday is not only interviewing the people but hearing all kinds of things that I don't have the room to put into the small column on Newburyport Today.

During the summer, I would also write a full story on the person for SeaCoast Scene, but that's done for this year.

I love hearing about the corner stores, the decrepit downtown that still inspires fond memories and, depending on how old the person is, whether or not they were allowed to swim in the river.

So Don was telling me about the factories downtown, and I guess I never thought about those buildings on Pleasant St. being actual factories. And I certainly did not know that the Custom House had been one, after it was de-commissioned by the feds (or at least I hadn't remembered; I do have Jean Doyle's first volume of Life in Newburyport).

A lot of heels were made in Newburyport. I mean actual heels for shoes.

So one thing I really get a kick out of are those people - and Don is one - who are descended from a First Settler. Oddly enough, the people I have met who are in this category are all descended through their mother.

The usual answer to a question about their father's family is something like, "Oh, the Pollards have only been here since 1850."

My family, on both sides, were kind of rambling folk.

So I'm always impressed when some family has stuck it out in one locale for even 160 years, much less since the 1600s.

Newbury turns 365 years old next year, you know.

I love it here.

It really is the best place in the world.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Oh crikey - Larry and I are losers

Hold the phone, people who asked me to do stuff such as interview candidates for election to city office and participate in the search for a new superintendent of schools as a representative from the local media ... check this out.

Apparently I'm an ignorant slut, to steal a line from an old Saturday Night Live parody of "Point/Counter-Point."

I can't express to you how upset I am; really, I can't.

Oh, look! They're showing Zingerman's (fabulous deli in Ann Arbor) during a break in the Michigan game. Zingerman's has a mail order service, you know.

They have the yummiest foodstuffs, but it's kind of expensive.

Mmmmmm, Zingerman's .... we should try to get one here.

What was I writing about, again?

Never mind, the (very disappointing) Michigan game is back on and Michigan has blocked a punt by Penn State ... if I hadn't gone to Michigan, I wanted to go to Penn State (after my mom and dad soundly rejected my suggestion that I be allowed to attend Berkeley).

And Michigan fumbles the ball. Well now I really am upset.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Parking & etc.

The other day I was at an event where people were talking about parking in our city.

It's always interesting to me when people say - as they were here - that there's never anywhere to park downtown.

This week I've been downtown perhaps 3 times - and all 3 times I've found somewhere to park immediately.

Twice I parked across the street from City Hall on Pleasant St., where I find there usually is at least one space during business hours.

This morning I parked in the east NRA lot, which is where I usually park unless they are charging.

Sure sometimes there are potholes and a lot of puddles of water involved, but part of that lot is paved.

After some questioning, one of the people from the event I referenced above revealed that what she was looking for was a space right outside where she was going to shop.

Now that's another kettle of fish, isn't it?

She takes her neighbor shopping and the other woman can't walk very far.

Well, my mother is like that as well - and what we do is drop her off outside the store, find a place to park and meet her at the store. When we're ready to leave, we go get the car and pick her up outside the store.

This seems to be more a case of laziness than anything a parking garage or satellite parking could ever solve.

I admit that I rarely go downtown during an "event," but during Yankee Homecoming, or the River concerts or something, there was an important meeting at City Hall. I was forced to park all the way up by Kelley School!

What is that, 4 blocks away?

I lived in Boston for 20 years and never owned a car that whole time. If I needed to go somewhere in town, I mostly walked there. I walked to work. If I needed to go somewhere outside of town, I took the 'T.'

We don't have a rapid transit system here, of course (wouldn't that be amusing, though?), but I found that on trips where I was carrying stuff, taking a taxi was the easiest solution. Certainly cheaper than operating a car and trying to find a parking spot for said car.

That being said, I have found that I have gone from walking everywhere (or relying on mass transit) to pretty much driving everywhere. Even when there was bus service out here on the island that would have taken me right into town, I never used it.

Now it's gone due to a lack of participation.

Shame on me ... shame on us.

And don't forget that this garage everyone is talking about is basically a bus station with parking spaces above it.

Forget about analogies to Portsmouth; this is not Portsmouth. That city has a much bigger downtown with many more restaurants and businesses.

I have had a long discussion (about a year ago) with James Shanley about parking. He had some good and innovative ideas. He has studied this matter, along with others, extensively.

Both candidates have positions with which I both agree and disagree. You know I've said I'm not endorsing anyone for mayor and I'm not trying to do that now.

I've watched both these people closely in City Council and over the course of this blog I've noted things I've noticed about most of the councillors, including these two.

The debate is on the PortMedia website.

I don't envy you the choice you have to make.

Why is it wrong to state the truth?

I read the story in the Daily News about the mayoral debate and then I was reading The Newburyport Blog and I was totally bowled over by the notion (later backed away from) that Donna Holaday is dead in the water because she said something that's true.

James Shanley had no opponents for City Council President.

What's the deal?

My first thought was, is Shanley sacred now that he's been annointed by the "young, affluent" segment of our community? They aren't that huge of a segment, you know ...

The truth is the truth, and no one should be thrown into the frying pan for telling the truth. I know the truth hurts, sometimes, but jiminy crickets, what's the world coming to?

I'm just askin' ... anyway, here's my favorite bit from the Daily News story:

Holaday questioned Shanley's experience in handling budgets the size of the city's $50 million budget. Shanley is a self-described small business owner, who operates a small printing shop in Amesbury.

"That's why we have an auditor," Shanley said, adding a key leadership quality for a mayor is setting goals and delegating specific tasks to experts.

"But the mayor does the budget," Holaday replied. "The mayor is the one who designs the budget."

Yes indeed ... the auditor does not prepare budgets; he verifies financial information. Can't do both, you know ... tsk tsk ... but not sure what he (Shanley) meant. Someone should have followed up on that.

Landfill and beach: bummer

Someone from Everett wrote to me this week asking for an update on the landfill.

I realize that I have not written anything about the landfill for a while, but it's not because I'm no longer interested - in fact, I have something in today's Current.

I guess I'm burned out (sort of like the landfill, maybe).

Between that stinking pile that is supposed to be capped by - well, today - the beach and any other issue that has involved dealing with unpleasant people and state agencies that don't know their ass from a hole in the ground ...

See the story in the Daily News and see my story in today's Current (most likely not online) and now this special town meeting that's being held Tues. in Newbury could get verrrrry interesting.

Were these 24 property owners in Newbury really stupid enough to not have realized they were essentially giving away a 20 ft. strip of their property to the town/the state?

I don't know! - All I know is, it's too late to squawk about it now.

Bank of America has finally lost me

It takes a lot for me to abandon anything - or anyone, for that matter.

But Bank of America, with its ever-increasing corporate greed, has pushed me over the ledge.

Now I read the giant corporation is charging/going to charge not only a $35 overdraft fee (no matter the amount of the overdraft) but if you don't pay off the overdraft in I guess what it has concluded to be a 'reasonable' amount of time, they hit you with an "extended overdraft fee."

I still say no one is forcing them to allow anyone to go into overdraft. Time was, you didn't have enough funds, your check bounced and you paid the penalty. Period.

You will recall the situation I had some months ago when I had a check to me bounce and I had paid bills against the check and I went into serious overdraft mode because the bank cleared all the payments I had made AND processed the automatic check I had set up to pay my rent, even though I was already in overdraft.

They claimed it was to help me avoid embarrassment.

Well now the Senate Banking Committee is about to step in.

Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, has joined Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and others in sponsoring the Fairness and Accountability in Receiving (F.A.I.R.) Overdraft Coverage Act, designed to protect bank customers from excessive overdraft fees that, according to a release from Brown's office, may run upwards of $30 per charge. (

Oh and even the large bank's only have a 4.3% profit margin - poor them.

I do believe in personal responsibility but these banks are exploiting a situation they helped create with fake "overdraft protection" and other such crap.

Yeah, I fell for it too, but now I see that it's just another way to encourage irresponsibility and it fosters poverty.

Because once you're in the hole, and they start digging deeper with the "extended overdraft fee," it gets harder and harder to crawl out of the hole.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Not dead, injured or impaired

I've been very busy lately with recovering from my recent illness, writing stories and semi-secret projects - but I do appreciate people asking where I've been.

Well today I got the City Council agenda.

The city's Free Cash has been certified at $1,281,624. In his letter to councillors, Mayor John Moak points out that this is a 52% increase over last fiscal year and a 111% increase from the amount available in FY2006 (the year before he took office).

The mayor attributes this feat to a bunch of stuff, including not filling 2 DPS positions and "aggressive collection of fees, taxes and revenue sources."

I applaud the latter, but given the deplorable condition of the city's sidewalks and other infrastructure, I'm not that sure about the DPS positions.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Connect with at-large candidates

Connect with the Candidates and Newburyport's Maritime History

Kathleen O'Connor Ives
Monday, October 19
6:30 - 8:00 pm
Custom House Maritime Museum
Bring friends and come with questions on the issues you care about! Light refreshments provided. Free and open to everyone.
Please RSVP by emailing

Ari Herzog
Wednesday, October 28
6:00 - 8:00 p.m.
Custom House Maritime Museum
Local food! Live music by Dave Hill! Free admission! Bring your friends and family!
Please RSVP by emailing
Note: museum is not handicapped-accessible.

If anyone else wants their event publicized, please email me.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Oh yikes

I just received sections of the Newbury beach management plan that have to do with protecting rare species - and it does include fencing off even the POTENTIAL plover or least tern nesting areas (plover nesting area identified as the area where the birds nested before). "Symbolic fencing," they call it.

But you know what? I don't think there's a damn thing anyone can do about it.

I'm going back to sleep now.

Beach meeting: looks like good news

I have been sick all week, so when I turned over this morning and looked at the clock, saw it was 10:01 - I turned back over and went back to sleep. The phone ringing woke me up at noon.

But I called someone who was at the meeting to get the lowdown on what happened.

It seems as if the beach nourishment could be a "go," after all.

In a nutshell, it looks as if everything hinges on the town meeting about the eminent domain. I can't see any reason why the articles would not pass, seeing as how it appears it will, in fact, cost the town nothing.

This is based on the fact that the strip of land in question has no value since it is under water at this time, I am told.

After the approval at the meeting, the Selectmen have to meet to approve the taking and then someone has to skip on down to Salem and file the article(s) of taking. The new deadline for all this is Nov. 3, I gather.

But I did get a call from Christine Florio a while ago asking for my email address because she's sending out a statment to the press ...

In the not-so-good news dept., the storm that's going on has caused further damage to the sand bags at island center and I guess water has seeped behind the bags. The town is waiting for a break in the weather to go in and pump sand behind the bags, I was told.

So the next couple of days could be critical, depending on the weather.

Oh - and the Army Corps, the federal agency that is a lot like me it seems, is thinking there may not be 160,000 cubic yds. dredged from the channel and that it may be more like 130,000 cubic yds. and they may not get any bids on the job or the bids might be too high and exceed the budget ...

I should apply for a job there.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

As the revenue spins

As Larry McCavitt said at last night's City Council meeting, "I'm really at a loss."

Hey - you wonder where all the money the city rakes in goes, this is one of those places.

Donna Holaday, chair of the Council's Budget & Finance Committee and candidate for mayor, put forth an order that established a "Regional Health Services Revolving Fund relative to shared services."

This fund is at the discretion of the Director of Public Health (you know, the one that's leaving) and the mayor and was written so it could not exceed $30,000 (that was changed so it was only the amount Newburyport actually owes someone or some other town).

I'm no budget & finance person, but all I hear about in City Council meeting these days is this revolving fund and that revolving fund; and apparently if money comes in, it should go into this revolving fund because otherwise it can't go into the general fund this year because tax rate has been certified.

These revolving funds, as I said, are at the discretion of the dept. head and under the direction of the mayor. So next year we'd be hearing about how we had to spend the money in this revolving fund before June 30 because ... yada, yada, yada.

What I want to know is, where is the $10,122.17 in "Newburyport Net Gain" from the 60-day temporary shared services agreement that nobody knew about?

I'm requesting from Councillor Holaday the certified city budget for 2010.

Au revoir.

Senzeni Na!

Volunteer Opportunities and
Poverty Awareness Fair
October 15-17, 2009

The name of the fair is derived from the Zulu phrase meaning, “What have we done?” and is hosted by the Social Action Committee of the First Religious Society Unitarian Universalist, Belleville Congregational Church, Pennies for Poverty: 2 Cents 4 Change, Inc., and the Poverty Program.

“It’s going to be a great fair,” says Catherine Yesair Gould of Pennies for Poverty. “We’ve got the Jelly Bean Mystery Auction, the Community Choir coming from Boston and 28 tables by local (non-profit) organizations – it’s going to be a great time.”

Ghlee Woodworth will be signing her new book Tiptoe through the Tombstones (I highly recommend it, by the way) along with Fran Larkin, author of 5 Words and Then Some: How to Succeed in This Big Game We Call Life (sorry, haven't read this), from 12-4 on Friday and on Saturday from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Unitarian Church on Pleasant Street.

Newburyport native Kathy Heywood will also be giving a presentation on the power of music to create social change and Ward 4 City Councillor Ed Cameron will discuss homelessness.

For a full schedule of events and locations, click here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Charter commission candidates: meet & greet

I got this email from Ed Cameron. It was sent out to people running for Charter Commission:

As you know, City Hall Auditorium has been booked for Tuesday, 10/20 from 7-8:30 for a meet & greet for ALL of the Charter Commission Candidates.

The Newburyport Democratic City Committee will be sponsoring another opportunity for ALL Charter Commission Candidates on Tuesday, 10/27 at 7PM also at City Hall Auditorium. The format of the forum is as yetto be determined. It will be nonpartisan much like the event for Mayoral and Council candidates sponsored by the Newburyport Republicans earlier this fall.

Candidates who would like to participate on the 27th should RSVP to me at

Well ... I wasn't going to bring it up, but since Ed stresses that these 2 events are for ALL the candidates, I have to say it did raise my eyebrows a bit when I saw that there is an event at the home of a candidate for mayor (Shanley) for just 5 of the people running for Charter Commission.

I tried to tell from the flier if it was just one in a series of 4 events that eventually would encompass everyone who is running, but I could not.

Does anyone know?

I would ask Mr. Shanley at the City Council meeting tonight, but I'm still feeling poorly and will watch the meeting on TV rather than pass around my germs - or pass out, as the case may be.

Sometimes it feels like I might pass out. Horrid virus, or whatever.
So it's true that our Director of Health Jack Morris may migrate up to Amesbury and be the head of its regional health dept. with Salisbury.

I don't have anything much to add to this comprehensive report in the Daily News.

Monday, October 12, 2009

That's crazy talk

Well, as you all know, I don't generally agree with the views expressed on the Newburyport's Voice blog (but I will defend to near-death Larry Giunta's right to express them), but this I have to applaud.

People just don't realize how much we pay in taxes, fees, surcharges and all those other words used to trick you (can't think of a better term) into thinking that you're not being nickel-and-dimed to death.

And now there's the potential for paid parking as well.

Oh dear.

Russo was right

Here's today's story about the beach nourishment from the Daily News.

I just want to point out here that what Vincent Russo said was true - "taking" by eminent domain means paying.

These people who are holding out will get PAID for the 20 feet or so of property that is the target of the action.

I'm not sure, because I have not seen the easement documents, that much, if any, compensation is involved in the permanent easements.

I really think, personally, that the talk of eminent domain should have been held off, or held back, because now there is the scent of money in the water.

I don't know if that's the motivation; I spoke to 'holdout' Christine Florio, but I don't know her. She was not in front of me, and I could not tell if she genuinely believes in her argument or if it's spurious.

All I know is - she and the rest of her family would get paid for what others volunteered.

And I cannot imagine that it will make those who volunteered very happy (as I imagine it won't make them happy if they change the language in the easement documents, which I don't believe they can in any case).

The 24 other people did the right thing for their neighbors; if anyone should get any money out of this, it should be them.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Candidate interviews online

The CEB interviews with candidates for office are up on Port Media's website, here:

Someone in a store told me today that she was surprised at how "calm and composed" I was during the interviews.

Apparently she was under the impression that I'm some kind of wild woman - in the very best way, I'm sure - even though she has never seen me be anything but calm and composed, knowing me as a customer only.

She even mimicked a clawed feline reaching out to slash someone, with an appropriate sound effect to her hand motion.

"They seemed to be taken aback," she added about the two mayoral candidates. Her parting comment, however, was, "You're the lady!"

Yes, it's this unusual character trait I have of being a professional, when in a professional situation.

I know - it's confusing.

This blog, which I started to make up for the fact that I was no longer a reporter, is reaching the end of its useful life (if it ever had a useful life at all).

And once again I will say - there's a reason there are editors. Blogs, although they often are professional, are also often personal and not subject to scrutiny by eyes other than the author.

But I can't stand to watch

Well ... Mary Baker Eaton over on The Newburyport Blog is obviously more on the ball than am I - she's got my interviews with Holaday and Shanley up on her latest post.

Thanks, Mary, for the compliment - but I tuned in on channel 9 the other day, and as soon as I came on the screen, I screamed and switched the channel.

It was easy, actually, because they are all good people who only want what they each believe is best for the city.

I leave it up to you, dear readers, to decide who you think represents your views the best.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A post in which I use the word "important" a lot

I received an email from DN reporter Victor Tine explaining to me why certain information about the dredging/beach nourishment that I have cited as being important is not included in his reporting.

Since it was a long communication, he went ahead and sent it in an email as opposed to posting it as a comment.

As he always is, he was very nice and polite. (This isn't an endorsement, but James Shanley is also always very nice and polite when he writes about something I wrote on here that he thinks needs more "clarification.")

I'll say right here that I was assuming - "Never assume, Gillian" - that, like some of my stories, things got changed around and/or taken out. Editors, ya know? ... my mistake.

And there is reporting about Salisbury getting sand in any case that I must have missed.

Well ... as I have said many times, two or three or more people can go to the same meeting and come out with a different idea of what was important and what was not. And this is such a case.

Of course, what each individual thinks was important ... well, they thought that was important enought to pass on.

So he does not necessarily think that the things I think are important are that important and that's fine. It does not mean anything except what it is: a difference of opinion.

I never mean to imply, however, that what I think is important trumps what he (or any other reporter, anywhere) thinks is important. Except to me, of course, who does not get why no one else thinks what I think is important, is important. And to those who agree with me about what's important.

(I made that deliberately confusing.)

I remember my mother once saying that she read the former magazine Saturday Review because since she found that what it said was important was in fact important to her, so she trusted the other opinions expressed therein.

Which I guess explains FOX News.

So that's why we still need newspapers, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, and news magazines and such. Because everyone does think different things are important. Even us reporters, who are left to decide what's important enough to include in our stories.

And wow, you know? If it was allowed, all us reporters should all have blogs. Sometimes I go back and read stuff I wrote in the paper and I'm like, "OMG!" Omge. And frequently I lie awake at night thinking about stuff I could have put it a piece that may have been more important.

All I have is Bubba to occasionally tell me on here that I've really lost it this time.

But you should read it all - yes, even the Daily News. And the Liberator and whatever else may pop up someday that is not relevant to this post.

Oh, good grief, I'm kidding. The DN does some excellent reporting; I just leave it to Tom Salemi to point it out.

Who needs a newspaper?

Earlier this week I stopped in for a visit to someone I know who lives on the Newbury section of Plum Island.

I asked this person a question about the beach nourishment project, just off the cuff, and the person picked up the phone, called Newbury Town Hall, and got the answer.

I have to note here that although Newbury officials are quite forthcoming, I usually have to actually go to Town Hall and confront the person I need to talk to because they don't answer phone messages.

Then this person says to me about the local daily, "Oh, we all know it's controlled."

Is this the explanation for the death of newspapers?

People tell me of the days when freelance reporters - stringers - worked for any and all newspapers. There was competition, sure, but not the sense today that everyone and every publication out there is "the competition."

I've said this before, but I really object to this.

It doesn't matter who delivers the news as long as it's delivered in an accurate manner. I have at least twice now tipped off a "competing" reporter to a big story that needed to be told when the paper I write for either declined to cover it or could not do it in a timely manner (as in, the story would be dead before the paper came out).

And I have received such sharing back. We as reporters are a more cohesive group than people imagine. Much like people on Plum Island, who are islanders first and Newburyites or Newburyporters second, we reporters all share the desire to deliver the news.

Just about one year ago I was pretty unceremoniously told by the Boston Globe North editor that he couldn't guarantee me a story in the paper on a regular basis and that I had best go back to the "competition."

As it turned out, I was later cut back by the Current to just 2 stories/week, so I probably should have stuck it out at the Globe since they pay so much more - and I would have made almost the same with just one or two stories per month in the Globe - but oh, well.

The Globe considers other papers, no matter how local, and regional magazines to be competition - even though neither the Globe itself, nor its magazine, can possibly cover every story that is worth covering in this state.

The Daily News and the Current together cannot cover every story worth covering in this city, which is why it's good there's a Liberator and a Town Common. I don't know exactly what happened to the Port Planet.

I think every neighborhood in Boston has its own little paper. I know there's one for the Back Bay, the South End and Beacon Hill.

But the Daily News considers the Current to be the competition and vice versa, although I'm not sure the people at the Current would admit to it.

So why can't we just all get along and for sure not be "controlled" by anyone, if that is indeed the case?

Because that's just not the way it is. And now we are all paying the price.

A lot of reporters who have lost their jobs are starting online newspapers and blogs. A lot of these are non-profits.

Maybe that is the answer, although gods know that when I start such a thing, it will be a for-profit (but not controlled by anyone).

All quiet on the beach front?

I anxiously pulled up the Daily News website today to see if there's any word on the easements and the beach nourishment project.

Nada - at least on line.

I really don't think that any government official is going to change the language in the easement documents relating to marine and wildlife habitats & etc. And especially not for just one or two people.

For one thing, the state reserves the right to close off habitats of endangered species.

For another, 24 other people have signed off on this and I can't see where they would not go ballistic if someone gets out of it when they have not.

The argument that some bird is not going to build a nest on a busy beach to me is a spurious one. How many of us have seen birds building nests right outside of doorways and in other places where people are frequently passing by?

That doesn't mean they don't usually abandon such nests, however. But by that time, some state or federal official has already rushed over and closed off the area ...

Someone suggested to me that at the moment a plover was seen even appearing to build a nest on the Newbury beach, there would be a plover BBQ on the beach that same night.

That is as it may be.

I'm always conflicted by the rights of other animals vs. the rights of humans. Humans are the dominant species and well .... on the other hand, maybe the plover serves some really important part in survival of our species?


The Army Corps of Engineers really needs to get the bidding process done for this job and the dredging, a fact that the Daily News conveniently forgets to mention. There is a mandate for the length of time that this process takes. Not to mention that the whole thing has to be approved all up a federal chain of bureaucracy before he job even goes out to bid.

That and the stimulus money involved in the dredging, which would probably be lost if the dredging is not underway by Feb. 17.

This whole project involved many steps and I sort of see the beach management plans as having been one thing that held up everything that came after that.

The easement documents couldn't be drafted until the beach management plans were submitted to the state.

Looking back, I'm sure we will all say there should have been beach management plans already in place before all this went down.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

City Council takes up more hot issues

I got an email from Ed Cameron directing me to his blog where he lets us all know about orders on the next City Council agenda re: civil service and local excise taxes.

These are issues that were asked of the candidates in the CEB interviews. I don't know if one has anything to do with the other but it will be interesting to see what comes of the orders.

Also interesting were some of the responses I got to the question about civil service and the positions of fire chief and city marshal, from the candidates not currently on the council.

Even if you don't live in Ward 1, check out Allison Heartquist's interview. It's only 20 minutes long so it's not like I'm asking you to spend a lot of time on this. I think it airs tomorrow for the first time.

And then check out the campaign sign supporting her, on the home - or rather the garage - of our latest appointee to the Redevelopment Authority.

There's despising Larry McCavitt (current Ward 1 councillor running for re-election) and then there's ... well, you judge for yourselves.

I hear she just got a job in Mayor Thatcher Kezer's office, over in Amesbury.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Corrected interview schedule

Apologies to Councillors Earls and McCavitt for previously leaving them out:

Thursday, October 8,15,22,29 at 8am & 7pm
Cameron (Ward 4)
Connell (At-Large)
Cronin (Ward 3)

Friday, October 9,16,23,30 at 8am & 7pm
Derrivan (Ward 5)
Earls (Ward 2)
Heartquist (Ward 1)
Herzog (At-Large)
Hutcheson (At-Large)

Saturday, October 10,17,24,31 at 8am & 7pm
Jones (At-Large)
McCavitt (Ward 1)
O'Conner-Ives (At-Large)
Shand (Ward 3)
Sullivan (At-Large)

Sunday, October 11,18,25, & November 1 at 11am - All candidates

Larry left out - again

I got the word a while ago that Ward 1 City Councillor Larry McCavitt is not on the CEB interview schedule I was sent last evening.

Awww, shucks. And he did such a good job, too.

No, I'm not endorsing him - I'm just saying he did a good job.

This is obviously a little omission that I hope will be cleared up rather quickly.

In the meantime, enjoy the candidates for mayor, won't you?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

PSA from Port Media

(click on image to enlarge)

CEB interviews on air

Interviews with candidates who chose to participate will be airing on PortMedia (Comcast channel 9) as follows:

Mayoral: Wednesday, October 7, 14, 21, 28 at 8am & 7pm – Holaday & Shanley

City Council:

Thursday, October 8, 15, 22, 29 at 8am & 7pm – Cameron (Ward 4), Connell (At-Large), Cronin (Ward 3), Derrivan (Ward 5)

Friday, October 9, 16, 23, 30 at 8am & 7pm - Heartquist (Ward 1), Herzog (At-Large), Hutcheson (At-Large)

Saturday, October 10, 17, 24, 31 at 8am & 4pm - Jones (At-Large), O'Conner-Ives (At-Large), Shand (Ward 3), Sullivan (At-Large)

Sunday, October 11, 18, 25, & November 1 at 1pm - All candidates

All interviews will be available on line after each has aired on PortMedia for the first time.

Interviews will be available at,, &

"Citizens for Environmental Balance undertook the creation of the questions & filmed the interviews. Part of CEB’s mission statement is “To present factual information so that informed decisions can be made regarding the future of the community.” CEB reached out to local freelance journalist Gillian Swart to be the interviewer. CEB wholeheartedly thanks Gillian for her time, dedication, & effort to making this possible. CEB also thanks PortMedia for their help in making this happen."

Me: Thanks, CEB.

Holding the Red Sox hostage

Yesterday I was clicking through the few remaining TV channels I actually get now that I have scaled back my Comcast service.

I noticed that while I still get Home Shopping Network, I still have no access to baseball games in this crucial point in the season.

Highly significant games are being broadcast on stations such as TBS (31 on Comcast), ESPN, etc.

I was told when I reduced my service for economic reasons that I would get channels up to, I think, channel 25. The Red Sox, of course, are broadcast on NESN, which is channel 51. I choked down acceptance that I had lost regular baseball viewing from my life until the ALCS and/or World Series.

If I can't afford an expensive Comcast cable package, I certainly can't afford to go to an actual game - even if they weren't all sold out.

I pointed out the fact that Comcast was holding the Red Sox hostage when the Comcast woman described the package to me. She said it wasn't Comcast's fault that NESN is channel 51.

For those of you who don't remember - or never knew - the Red Sox games used to be broadcast on channel 38, which was actually viewed on channel 6 (I have no idea why).

I object to having access to the Home Shopping Network, which mysteriously moved from some high-numbered channel to channel 3 during this whole transaction, and not the Red Sox games.

The only good thing that came out of this is that I no longer watch TNT all day. In fact, I rarely turn on the TV at all anymore.

Being poor sucks for more reasons than one would think.

A new twist to the nourishment project

The Daily News is reporting a new twist on the easements and eminent domain.

The town has begun proceedings to obtain the easements by a forcible eminent domain taking, and [state Sen. Bruce] Tarr said the objective of yesterday's talks was to get the Army Corps to accept the taking as the equivalent of the easements if necessary.

I have to run off for the day, but I wish Sen. Tarr and all good luck with that and the negotiations with the property owner who is holding out.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The reasons, oh the reasons

I have at least two examples of extremely personal examples of how people choose whom to vote for. Not personal to me - personal to the people.

There in the comments on the Daily News website we see someone who feels that (in part) because Donna Holaday sent her a campaign contribution letter with her last name spelled incorrectly, Holaday cannot possibly understand her concerns.

As I was told a couple of weeks ago by someone I ran into on Liberty St., she isn't voting for James Shanley because when he came to her door campaigning, he not only allowed the cat to run out (after she asked him to come in quickly so the cat would not do so) - but he did not help her retrieve the cat when it did run out.

As she tells it, "He ran away."

It only goes to show that, while campaigning, you have to watch every little thing you do (or don't do).

Because in this instance, every little thing you do is not magic.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

No egg on their faces

So I was talking last week to someone who is in the news business.

I was expressing my hardline position that the "fourth estate" should report the news in an unbiased manner, damn the consequences.

The discussion was about (Newbury's) state Sen. Bruce Tarr, in the last 2 meetings of the MR Beach Alliance, kind of slamming me/the Current for printing what actually happens at the meetings. I mean, he actually said that some of the media was reporting "too much of what happens" at the meetings.

I was told by the first someone that my position was "naive and old-fashioned."


I have come to realize that people don't trust - or even expect - news sources to be accurate or unbiased.

It's the 'expect' part that gets me.

What I don't expect is to be shunned and basically made fun of by a public official (or officials) in a public meeting because I'm reporting the facts.

I have an idea why Gary Davis, the counsel for DCR who attends the meetings, slighted me at the last meeting (not my imagination). I slammed his public information officer in one of my stories because she gave me what turned out to be totally wrong information.

No wonder people don't trust the government, either.

Although ... all I hear privately is that it's Davis' fault that this whole thing is falling apart. He was the one talking with the property owners about the easements.

(I call this, in my head, "Blaming The Black Guy." He seems perfectly competent to me; but I could be wrong.)

Just keep in mind that at the first meeting I attended of this beach alliance group, there were reps from Tierney's local office, I believe Kennedy's local office, someone from (Newburyport's) state Sen. Baddour's office ... and (Newbury's) state Rep. Harriett Stanley was there.

Somehow, somewhere along the line, these people all dropped out. I believe they saw right from the start that this was likely a failed effort and didn't want to be associated with it, politically.

Tarr is the co-chair of the group so he was obligated to stick it through. Fred Lucey from (Newburyport's) state Rep. Mike Costello's office, bless his heart, is also always there.

But I think Fred and Mike might also be a tad miffed at me.

Sorry, guys. I believe in the public's right to know.

The scoop on the beach project

This is all in my story in the Current, but I'll repeat it here anyway.

The sand for the beach nourishment project is coming from the dredging project.

The dredging project is partially funded with stimulus funds ($1 mil).

ARRA deadlines require "shovel in the ground" by Feb. 17, the one-year anniversary of the signing of the bill.

If the dredging is not done this winter/spring, the Army Corps will likely lose the stimulus funds for this project (I believe they could divert the funds to another project that will be ready by the deadline).

Plus, the other portion of the money was an earmark on a federal bill, which I assume also has a deadline for use, but which is probably not as imminent.

So basically if they lose the $1 mil, the money would have to be replaced out of the next federal budget.

As Mark Habel of the Army Corps said at the last meeting, the have plans in place for three contingencies: 2 beaches, one beach, no beach.

Since apparently all the people in Salisbury signed the easements, Salisbury will still get its share of the sand, no matter what.

I have heard from multiple sources, including Habel at last week's meeting, that boats - including Coast Guard vessels - are scraping bottom in the mouth of the river, under certain tidal conditions.

What do you think will happen, given all these circumstances?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Beach nourishment drowns

I just heard on the news that 2 people held out against signing the easements.


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Guest post: a squirrel story

By Steve Hutcheson

This past week my stepson found a baby squirrel in the middle of the street with one eye closed and favoring a hurt arm.

It was sitting on a sewer cover and people were driving over it.

He took her home in a shoe box that a lady was kind enough to give him. Once home, we had to figure out what to do with it so he called the city for advice. They told him to throw it back in the woods where he found it.

Although that is standard answer for things like this (see link below), you really need to care enough to dig further to see if it makes sense in that particular case. In this case, the wildlife rehabilitator said the baby would not have survived the night due to cold or predators.

The best thing to do if you find a baby animal that is definitely orphaned (see link details: ) is to call one of the wildlife rehabilators on the state internet link ( ) and not the city for advice.

In addition, there are also websites that tell people how to temporarily help them until you can drop them off to a professional. For instance, even taking it home would not have helped if we had left the baby outside that night in the box without bedding, she would have died from the cold anyway. So the Internet was real important for this baby squirrel from immediate care to knowing where to bring her....without the internet we would not have known what to do....

Don't call the city first. I need to work on improving that.

Per the wildilfe rehabilitator, the baby squirrel turned out to be 4-5 weeks old and had either fell or been pushed out of the nest. That is what most likely caused the arm injury. One eye was closed because it was so young her eyes were just starting to open. Her eyes just starting to open was significant since the first thing she saw was a person. So it thought people were her family and not another squirrel.

My wife and daughter tried to let her go in the same area she was found but it ran back to them for that reason (which we didn't know at the time). My wife and daughter both thought she just liked people not knowing it actually thought we were it's family.

So we took her home for the night and brought her to the animal hospital in the morning. We would have liked to keep her as part of the family but we didn't know how to feed and care for the baby squirrel and it's illegal to keep them as pets.

Here is a photo of the baby squirrel warming up in its new bed. Happy ending to this story thanks to my family and the internet!