Saturday, October 31, 2009

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?


Bubba said...

I think P.Preservationist is a little nutty and engaging in false dichotomies.

Mary Harbaugh said...

What's fickle about believing in parks? Advocating for the future potential of Cushing Park to serve the neighborhood -- as opposed to giving up on the possibility of a neighborhood park entirely -- is consistent with advocating for a central waterfront park that 1)removes deadening parking uses and 2)includes a few buildings that either boost the appeal of the park by providing park-related experiences and services or provide funding to pay for upkeep and programming of park activities. (Lots of world-class parks include some buildings!Consider the ideas associated with some of these "great public spaces": )

Of course building placement is important; of course the views should be celebrated in any park design; of course we need some beautiful green space. Both mayoral candidates support an addition to the Custom House. That's one building. I don't know anyone who approves the the disgusting condition of the public bathrooms in the park. A building with a tenant who agrees to maintain public bathrooms is an obvious solution that serves residents and taxpayers. That's another building. If a couple more park-friendly buildings screen park-users' view of private, apartment parking in the east side of the park, that's fine with me. (I'd rather look at interesting architecture than parked cars any day!) We can, and will, continue to discuss the features of the park. Meanwhile, we need a mayor who understands what it means to protect and enhance community character, who supports open space conservation, who will lead in efforts to preserve our historic character, and who brings solid skills and forthright character to the challenges we face. James is my ward councilor. I know and trust him.

Ari Herzog said...

I abstain from commenting on your above content, short of pointing out a fact that the planning director is a union member... a fact few realize.

Gillian Swart said...

Thank you, Mary and Ari. I appreciate your comments.