Wednesday, September 30, 2009
It makes it sound as if the person was jogging in Ipswich, not on the island. I mean, technically it is Ipswich ... but perhaps I'm just too tired.
I always feel so safe out here on the island and many is the time I've been what I thought was alone on the Refuge beach; way down there at parking lot 7.
Once a man in strange monkish robes came down the beach towards me, but he just said, "Good morning" and went on his way to ... where?
He was walking away from all civilization. Maybe he was going to meditate.
I don't do that anymore - walk on the Refuge beach every day - and I don't know why exactly I stopped. I used to be out there in stinging sleet and blustering wind ... but now I know I'll never do it again.
Not alone, at any rate.
The city kept allowing HMBF to expand - right out of parking for the company's own trucks.
But now (I assume) it's HMBF that has nowhere to park its trucks because the City Council voted to ban parking on the side of the road.
I get that the trucks were causing problems for other businesses. I get that the road was being destroyed (I mean, I accept that it is).
What I don't get is why a city that keeps crying and moaning about not enough businesses coming into the industrial park is simultaneously sending the messages of "yes, expand, we'll accommodate your trucks on the roadway" and "stop expanding, dammit."
So, what the City Council is saying is that the Zoning Board of Appeals is not doing its job?
Well ... that was the body that granted the variance for the wind turbine ... and allowed a huge house to be built on an undersized lot at the end of Old Point Road, out here by me ... but what the ...?
And what about when I go over to Opportunity Works, on Opportunity Way, for one of its outdoor events? I often have to park on the side of the road because the parking lot is being used for activities and tents and such.
And another question. According to the Daily News story, no one told the land owners that the taking was on the agenda last night. If true, that is really dumb. If the land owners appeal, they can drag this thing out for years.
All I can say is - it was in the Current that the City Council went into executive session last Wednesday to discuss this matter, and that it would be on the agenda at Monday's meeting. I do not know, however, why the DN did not pick up on it.
I can guess, but I don't know.
Whether or not the City had any obligation to notify the owners, I can't say.
I love that word, "mum."
Well ... one name springs into my mind, but maybe that's just me. And the person who sprang it into my mind, of course.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
He attends the Beebe School in Malden. He's also been writing comic books and novels for as long as I can remember.
The Force runs strong in our family ... ohhhh drat, not the math Force but the writing Force. The math stuff must have come from my brother-in-law's side.
Anyway, we are all so proud of him, as always. He's a good kid.
Monday, September 28, 2009
I had forgotten all about the post and I guess now I feel silly, esp since James Shanley has apologized in a comment.
I told them the story of how when I graduated, I was announced as "Gillian Robert Swart," with a hard G, and of course it's Roberta.
And then there's the time in 7th grade when I was assigned a locker with a boy as my locker mate. We said nothing and that actually worked out OK.
When I was accepted into the University of Michigan, I got a letter from some fraternity asking me to come to their open house for potential new members.
But about land and water ... the City Council directed the mayor to "take" 115 Water St. for damages totalling $1,100,000. Don't ask me about the damages thing - Mark Reich explained it, but I'll have to do some more reading.
And the City Council approved an inter-department transfer in the water dept. to fund emergency repairs at the city's clear well. That's where our drinking water is held for disinfection before we get to have it run out our pipes.
The DPS folks were one happy bunch tonight.
So the other night someone pointed out to me a post by Dawne Shand on her blog or website or whatever it is ... it's right here.
All I'm going to say is that all the candidates got the same list of questions, as in the same file. The question about the CPA was at the bottom of the first page so maybe when she printed the questions, her printer cut that question off ... but she got the same list of questions as everyone else.
I was copied on the email confirming the time of her interview and I checked the attached file.
Am I being too harsh? Oh wait ... I'm the "interlocutor."
Definitions of "interlocutor," from Dictionary.com:
1. a person who takes part in a conversation or dialogue.
2. the man in the middle of the line of performers in a minstrel troupe, who acts as the announcer and banters with the end men.
3. a person who questions; interrogator.
I wonder which definition she applied to me?
Oh - I kid with Dawne, who as I may have mentioned before is actually a member of the same writers group as I am.
So you'd think she could get my last name right ... but in all fairness, I think Greg Earls called me Gillian "Stewart" as well, and James Shanley seems to have difficulty with saying "Gillian" with a soft G.
I answer to almost any permutation of my name.
My understanding from all those interviews I did for CEB is that Newburyport is tied to it for some 20 or so years because it is funding the payments on the bond the city took out to repair the exterior of City Hall.
I don't think even one of the candidates suggested that the CPA should be done away with in the city, or repealed entirely. I could be wrong; I just can't remember now what everyone said.
The target, however, is fast disappearing.
They still don't have all the easements signed, not even the ones in Salisbury, and no one mentioned the rights-of-way so who knows what the status of those is.
(Although Tarr said at the end of the meeting that everyone would be available to answer questions after the meeting, they all formed groups amongst themselves and were not, in fact, available. In this case, even Victor Tine was wandering around trying to get comments.)
So here's the short and sweet:
There are 3 scenarios that could go down ...
- The easements aren't all signed and the sand from the dredging will be dumped near-shore;
- All the easements in Salisbury are signed and they will get their 40,000 yards of sand (or all in Newbury and they will get their 120,000 yards);
- All of the easements are signed and the nourishment project proceeds as planned.
The drop-dead deadline is Oct. 2, which is Friday.
Some of the people present were asking if the Army Corps could put off the dredging, but there is that dreaded $1 million in stimulus funding that would be lost and of course the channel is used by the U.S. Coast Guard.
"Our first duty here is to maintain that channel," said Mark Habel of the Army Corps.
As for the eminent domain part - I talked to Bob Connors of the PI Foundation who put the warrant forward to the Town of Newbury.
The proposal is to only take the same 20 feet they are asking for access to in the easements. That's 20 ft. of each of the 26 properties.
Connors thinks the Corps might go for delaying the project if it is assured of the easements.
But another man from the Army Corps, whose name I did not catch, said that if they lose the stimulus money, they will have to wait for another appropriation in the next federal budget roundabout (my word, not his) ... so, oh well, your guess is as good as mine.
Well, I posted it and then I took it down.
Today, even other people made a point of coming over to Victor Tine, who was as usual sitting next to me, and greeting him but ignoring me.
Even Victor said something along the lines of, "I don't know why they're doing that."
Then Tarr remarked again what a good job the Daily News is doing covering the meetings and then added as an afterthought, "And the other papers are doing a good job, too." At least I think he said "a good job" ... anyway, I had to chuckle. Actually I think I more guffawed, if that's a word.
"Well I think you're doing a good job," someone said to me after the meeting.
Last meeting he jokingly commented that some of the papers were reporting too much of what was said at the meeting and was looking at me when he said it. I smiled then, too.
I must be doing something right.
Still, this committee-of-the-whole thing is getting to be a way to do things when people aren't necessarily paying attention (not that we shouldn't be paying attention).
Whatever - it's a done deal and tonight we get to find out how much the city is willing to pay for 115 Water St.
Keep in mind that the cost of the land and design costs for the upgraded sewer plant are not eligible for the low-interest loans.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
The writer's curse - "Hey, why didn't I write that? I could have written that!"
But aside from missed opportunities on the writing side, it opened a door in my head to set someone free. The door was already unlocked so it was fairly easy to kick it a little more so it's open enough for me to kick him through it.
I say with great authority that we women are kind of living in the 18th century, in the days of Jane Austen, when if a man was paying particular note to you, escorting you places and etc. (courting you), he was more or less obligated to follow through. Or so they thought.
If you read Austen, or even Edith Wharton in the early 20th century, you think you know how difficult it was to get out of entanglements of the heart. And if a man, for example, took advice from a trusted friend and did vanish on a woman (read Pride & Prejudice if you don't know what I'm talking about), everyone said how unworthy you were.
Well, your wacko mother did, at any rate.
Nowadays, I think, women will blame the 21st century, the golden age of throw-away something as soon as you're tired of it - or when one or more of your friends tells you to - when a man goes "poof."
But I guess what I'm saying (in the most roundabout way possible) is - the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Austen really marvelously caught what is the essence of relationships, I think.
The problem is, there was always a happy ending (man's friend changes mind about woman and gives him "permission" to marry her in the end of P&P).
So I've given up thinking that either or any of the men who have vanished on me in the last 2 years (even as just friends, for goodness sake) will ever come back, except to occasionally post something on a status report on Facebook.
Actually, I'm deleting people from my friends' list on Facebook because that is the one awful rub that has taken the place of seeing someone at assembly balls and such in the days of Austen - seeing someone's name appear on your Facebook chat list and knowing they will never again chat with you or reply to your invitation to chat.
Ladies, pay attention to the red flags. Red flags don't deceive.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
ROFL - it was Dave Madden who last fall put the skull & crossbones flag on top of the landfill.
Yes, the same Dave Madden who works in the city's health dept.
He did it on camera and it's the very end of the film.
I have not seen it due to a conflict and it was still being edited up to the end of the week, but the producer told me while I was interviewing her for my piece in today's Current.
The DPS will be asking the City Council on Monday for money for emergency repairs to the city's clear well. That's an underground cistern (tank) where our drinking water is held before being sent out to homes.
From what I understand, DPS Director Brendan O'Regan brought it before the council as information at the special meeting of the City Council that was held last Wednesday and which was ... well, not really well attended (although it was posted, I am told).
That meeting was called so the Council could go into executive session to discuss the taking 115 Water St. by eminent domain to be part of the upgraded sewer plant facility.
Another fun episode of "it was posted." Funny how when things are on the agenda that might alarm or inflame the public, no one really knows about the meeting (usually I am notified by someone or the other when a special meeting has been called).
As soon as I heard about this clear well thing, I marched into the water/sewer dept. and confronted Dan Sweeney, who said I should speak to Brendan but who also mentioned the word "collapse."
It's an old, old system and so indicative of how our infrastructure is crumbling. When I talked to the candidates for mayor, I think both of them brought up sidewalks and there was a question about the sewer plant so that was discussed but I have never really heard anyone - other than O'Regan and his staff - bring up the dire situation at the water treatment facility.
I attempted to speak O'Regan yesterday but when I called him, he said he was at the dentist and would call me back. Maybe he tried; I was out most of the afternoon. It was after City Hall closed at noon.
I am guessing that both these things fall into the category of "late file items" since I don't see either one on the agenda I got from the clerk's office.
Friday, September 25, 2009
Project Status - Next Steps: The Project Partnership Agreement (PPA) must be approved by both Corps Headquarters and the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works before it can be executed by DCR and the Corps. The PPA is just one of the remaining outstanding items that must be in-hand before Plans and Specifications can be issued to Solicit Bids. The other items include all remaining easements, and the Coastal Zone Management Consistency Determination Concurrence (CZMC). The CZMC awaits the Chapter 91 license, which itself awaits the easements. The two Towns' shares of the construction cost must also be provided to DCR so that DCR may provide the Corps with the Non-Federal cost-share for the project. So, while we are getting much closer, there are several steps yet to complete.
I'm trying to determine if indeed the projects can be put off until next year, should the easements not be granted by essentially next week.
The dredging project is being funded partly through ARRA (aka stimulus bill), and it was my impression that those projects using stimulus funds have strict deadlines, at least for start dates (I think some have 2 yrs. to complete).
That's why the sewer plant project has been split into two parts - they only had 60% of it designed by the deadline to submit design specs. That was Aug. 3.
But going by the deadlines provided at the update meeting for the WWTF, construction bids for eligible projects must be submitted by Dec. 1.
So it does not look to me like anything can be put off here. And thus, the potential threat of taking properties by eminent domain appears to be an empty one.
The Beach Alliance is meeting on Monday morning, so I can get an answer then.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Selectmen accepted a citizen petition Tuesday night for a Town Meeting warrant article that would authorize them to "take any and all action, including but not limited to the use of the (state) eminent domain act" to obtain easements to allow the beach nourishment project to proceed. It targets a handful of property owners who have not yet agreed to allow easements over their beachfront land. Without those easements in hand, the project will be delayed several months, until September 2010.
I'm putting it on record right here that a resident proposed this at the last meeting of the Beach Alliance and Vincent Russo replied that, "The term 'take' means 'buy,' and Newbury is not in the business of acquiring private property."
Representatives from the state also said the state would not take any private land for this project.
Newbury selectman can't take any action on this until Oct. 27, and we see from our city's own efforts to "take" the land next to the sewer plant - it's been going on for 9 years, I was told while writing a story for tomorrow's Current - that it ain't easy.
By the way, the City Council went into executive session last night to discuss taking 115 Water St. by eminent domain. It will be on Monday's agenda, I was told.
Now that I am done with all the candidate interviews, I can see that this scheme, if there is a scheme (or two), might work - except that -
The at-large candidates, even the ones not currently in office, all did pretty well in their interviews. Of course, Michael Ferrick did not participate so I have no clue about him.
There are 5 at-large seats and 7 candidates, right? That means 2 of the announced candidates won't get in. Add in a failed candidate for mayor and it gets interesting (not necessarily in a good way).
I'm betting that somewhere, someone figured Ari Herzog and Fran Sullivan haven't got a chance and that Ferrick only has a slim chance.
Fran's got a lot of friends, folks - and every single one of them wants that senior citizens center built NOW. If she does in fact win a seat, I want to be the first to step up and make a movie out of it.
I would say if you're going to write someone in, write in someone like a Gary Roberts. I won't say write in Gary Roberts specifically, because last time I spoke with him, he was reluctant (but not totally dismissive).
Don't write in someone who is running for mayor. It would be setting a bad precedent.
"I won't run for mayor unless John Moak doesn't, but if he doesn't and I do, I'll also mount a write-in campaign so if I lose I won't be off the City Council."
I mean, I thought the first bit was wimpy enough to last us for at least 2 years ...which is mostly why I'm not endorsing anyone.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Nah, it was a great time; very instructive and full of information. Also a tad confounding at times, but c'est la vie.
For those of you who prefer to watch the interviews in your spare time - you know, like at your desk at work - they will also be up on PortMedia.org. And CEB's website. And possibly the Current's website on WickedLocal.
Who knows? I may even throw snippets on here.
Jerry and Chris now have the arduous task of editing the interviews to take out my numerous false starts ("OH! Sorry Jerry!"), the random coughing fit, the "Hey! That question wasn't on the list I got!" and/or loss of voice.
All of what everyone said will remain intact, except for the occasional requests to stop for a drink of water and the aforementioned "that question wasn't on the list I got."
Kudos to that person, who after a brief reflection on the subject at hand, rallied and gave a solid answer off the cuff. (We gave them the option of not having to answer.)
Chris, who was there for most if not all of the interviews, is from the state of Washington. He said he learned a lot from listening in.
So ... thank you to everyone who participated in this massive project. I really did not quite comprehend going into it how big it really was, but I'm really glad I was part of it.
I still can't stop myself from reaching to detach the microphone before standing up, though ...
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Yes, my dear readers, I have been tapped by Port Media to (potentially, if it happens) broadcast live from City Hall on election night.
Watch me shove a microphone into unsuspecting candidates' faces.
Watch me demand to know how unsuccessful candidates "feel at this moment."
Watch as I pester City Clerk Richard Jones until he finally breaks down, rips off his bow tie, and tries to strangle me with it.
Watch me referee a wrestling match between Donna Holaday and James Shanley, the candidates for mayor, to break a tie.
Wow, that last one really appeals to me.
I'll keep you apprised.
This is so that whichever of them loses will stay on the City Council.
I, too, had heard a rumor about this - or someone had told me it was legal - and I was a bit dismayed when I heard it.
So there may be no real "loser" in this mayoral race?
And as someone - probably frequent commenter Bubba - noted, what about those 7 people who are busting their humps running for City Councillor-at-Large?
It may be legal; lots of things are legal (like building a 2-story garage on your riverfront property) but does that make it right?
I think if you are willing to give up your seat on the City Council to run for mayor, you should be clean off the City Council when you lose the mayoral election.
It's the risk you are supposedly taking.
I wanted to address the coverage/comments regarding my leaving the White Hen Pantry meeting the other night. With the benefit of hindsight, I now realize that it would have been wise for me to explain/announce my reasons for not being able to stay for the entire White Hen meeting. By not doing so, I can certainly see why people would construe my early departure as a sign of disinterest. Nothing could be further from he truth, and I would like to take this opportunity now to explain why I left before the meeting ended. Before the White Hen meeting was scheduled, I had agreed to accompany Councilor Cameron to visit a resident to help resolve a long-standing and complicated issue. This meeting was for the same time and date as the White Hen meeting. Since the White Hen is in Ward 3 where I reside, I wanted to attend, yet I also wanted to honor my previous commitment to Councilor Cameron and the resident.
On the way over, I drove down Low St. from Storey Ave. and caught a whiff of the wonderful landfill. Not only that, there was a big truck sitting at the corner of Crow Lane waiting to turn right ... I was under the impression that all the material had been taken from Everett and there wasn't enough new stuff being generated to cause so many trucks to be there but oh, well.
Anyway, there is a screening of a 20-min. documentary about the landfill on Saturday as part of the Newburyport Documentary Film Festival. It's called "Dumping Billy: The Story of the Crow Lane Landfill."
It's one of a series of short films that will be screened starting at 11:30 a.m. ... which, of course, is exactly when I will be entertaining members of my family at a pre-scheduled picnic to celebrate multiple birthdays.
I'm hoping to get my own personal copy, though. I hear it's very good.
Mary Godfrey, who is from Newburyport, made it as her doctoral dissertation at the NYU Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. She now lives and works in New York.
Also scheduled is a 6-minute documentary by Newburyporter Rob Napier, called Princess Royal. That is part of a short-doc screening that starts Sunday at noon.
'This film interprets the meticulous rebirth of the “Princess Royal,” an elegant naval ship model whose structure had become unstable. Seventeen months were required to disassemble, document, and reinstall more than 2,000wooden pieces, all documented in less time than it takes a drop of glue to dry."
Here is the full schedule of films included in the festival.
At Amesbury Sport Park ... Have Fun while supporting your high school team.
Play soccer, ride the OGO, summer tubing, pizza and a drink.
All for $20!
When: Sunday 9/27 5pm-closing
5pm-6pm - Youth soccer clinic, put on by the boys high school team. The kids will be separated into appropriate age groups.There will also be a penalty shot contest and a crossbar contest!
Cost: $20 will get you:
The hour soccer clinic, 1 OGO ride (which usuallycost $15 alone), 2 hours of tubing, a slice of pizza and a drink.
*What a deal!
$15 if you take the OGO ride out!
$10 For the soccer clinic, slice of pizza and a drink!
Call Coach Shawn Bleau with any questions (978) 764-3719
NEWBURYPORT, MASS.: Under the newly released ocean management plan
for the state's coastal waters, Greater Newburyport's coastline could one day
be home to 10 wind turbines.
July 02, 2009
Massachusetts officials yesterday released a draft of the plan that spells out rules for
setting up wind farms in state waters.
The plan gives the state's six regional planning authorities the option to build up to 10
wind turbines each, at least one-third of a mile from shore. They must be built within
waters controlled by the state, which extend three miles off the coast. It also gives
refusal rights to the community in whose waters a wind farm is proposed, but not
Locally, the regional planning zone stretches from Salisbury to Rowley, an area that
encompasses the waters off Salisbury Beach and most of Plum Island.
"Newburyport is part of the Merrimack Valley Planning (Commission) area," said
Deerin Babb-Brott, Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Coastal Zone Management in
the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. "Under the
plan, regional planning can allocate 10 turbines where they see fit by working with
individual companies or cities and towns."
We weren't at the top of the list, at the time this came out. I still can't find out what the piece on WBUR was about.
Criticism, car troubles, reluctant documentary film makers, poverty ... all are conspiring to make me very cranky.
Hey, I don't support anyone for mayor. I wanted Ron Klodenski to run, remember? He was my choice, and I'm sticking to it.
I still have 2 interviews left to tape. It continued and I'm sure will continue to be an education for me, not only about local issues but also into politics/politicians and filming stuff (speaking of which).
I keep hearing that people are still expecting me to be pounding these candidates. But no, I did not. I asked a bunch of questions and they answered them.
Monday, September 21, 2009
The new location will be the Elks Hall at 25 Low Street Newburyport.
At the Elks Hall 25 Low Street, Newburyport7:oopm-9:30pm
This is a non-partisan event for the public to meet the candidates and hear their visions for the city's future.Each candidate will be allowed five minutes to address the crowd on any local subject.The candidates' speeches will be aired on the local access channels.All local municipal candidates are invited to speak.All area residents are welcome.For more information please contact Larry Giunta@ 978-265-0597 or email@example.com
First - I just heard some report about money approved for wind turbines and at the end, it said there was some approved project in Newburyport.
HUH? I was only half listening since I was writing. I can't find anything about this on line.
Anyone know what this is about?
This NPR reporter on now keeps saying, "relator." Very annoying.
Second, there was a report about debit cards and how banks have managed to make them into credit cards.
It's simple - and I've had a rant about this before - the bank "covers" your overdrafts and then charges you $35 for this "help."
I had a similar situation to the one they described happen a few months ago when I put a $2.09 latte on my debit card and got slammed with a $35 fee because I forgot about a check I wrote (I hardly ever write checks anymore). I think I could have scrounged up the $2.09 out of my laundry quarters and change I have strewn about the car.
I politely asked Bank of America to stop authorizing charges if it put me in overdraft. I was told that small charges don't require bank approval and they have no control. Further, I was told, most customers like it because it saves them embarrassment.
They removed the $35 fee.
But now NPR has told me that they will probably have to allow me to opt out of this "service," which is what I tried unsuccessfully to do.
The government is looking into this, NPR told me.
Ha! They should have posted this years ago but oh, well.
I tried to do a cost/benefit analysis of the beach nourishment project in my head, but then I remembered that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers thoughtfully provided one a few meetings of the Beach Alliance ago. But only for Newbury.
Then again ... Mark Habel of the USACE backed off what he reported that day, I believe.
At any rate, if you want to remember that the nourishment has a life expectancy of 5 years, the benefit is not really measurable, is it? Some of the houses could be leveled by a hurricane, for example, within the next 5 years.
The more I hear about this whole thing, the more I am conflicted.
Just think of the northern end of Plum Island becoming part of Salisbury (which might happen if the channel is not dredged). I heard from a fisherman that big boats are already scraping the bottom.
This is a federal channel. The reason why it has not been dredged regularly is precisely because mostly only recreational boaters use it these days and the money allotted for dredging (which was severely cut back during the Bush administration, I might add) went to projects where commerce is involved.
I'm not sure how much money I would spend on Plum Island, or the landfill, or any other area with an arguably limited benefit - limited IF you exclude the water/sewer system and the spread of toxic gas across the whole city. It's that IF that makes the difference (plus the fact that landfill neighbors have been suffering daily for 9 yrs. now).
The only comment I have is that James Shanley did NOT just stand up and parrot New England Development's stance and then run out the door.
He actually told people that he had moved his pharmacy business to Lynch Pharmacy, and he suggested they do the same if they are upset with CVS.
Honest, I was there - and I reported what he said in the Current. He also sat and listened for a bit more before he left.
And besides - he was right, it is a done deal.
This is not an endorsement of James Shanley (I'm not doing endorsements), but the story that's out there just is not what actually happened.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
To the citizens of Newburyport,
The Newburyport School Committee is pleased to have successfully concluded negotiations with the Triton School District, and welcomes Michael Cuneo back to Newburyport High School to complete his final year. This has been an exacting, difficult and emotional process that not only impacts Michael in the short term, but also provides guidance to the community should a family face a similar matter in the future.
The Committee struggled, in part, because the law that allows a School Committee to waive residency requirements for a student was a little-known rarely invoked single statute in the voluminous Massachusetts General Laws; our research did not yield any instances where a school system had used this statute. Nonetheless, with this situation behind us, the Committee has an opportunity to clarify some of the confusion and misinformation that generated the
concern of the community.
First and foremost, Superintendent Deirdre Farrell bore the brunt of criticism during this process. This criticism was unfair, unwarranted and often lacking in civility. The School Committee ardently supports all of Ms. Farrell’s actions over this matter; she upheld a decision made by her predecessor regarding the Cuneos that was consistent with the district’s existing policy on compliance with residency statutes in the Massachusetts General Laws.
Superintendent Farrell has a responsibility to ensure that the best possible education be delivered to the residents of this city, and to deliver those services equitably, with minimal risk of lawsuit or fines. The Cuneo’s situation is one of many compelling circumstances the district faces each year. The School Committee takes each individual situation seriously, yet with no legal basis for resolution, our actions sometimes seem to lack compassion or even common sense.
We regret that Superintendent Farrell unfairly bore the brunt of criticisms regarding a decision
made in accordance with existing policy.
MGL Chapter 76, Section 12 stipulates the only circumstance outside of Choice permitting a School Committee to waiver residency requirements. The Committee regrets not having a legal opinion that revealed this statute sooner.
Please consider the following:
• After extensive research, we found that this statute is rarely used. In fact, after contacting over 45 school systems, only one recognized that the statute with a policy to implement it. Even that one policy was critically flawed and would not have passed legal muster.
• The delay in obtaining the legal opinion was, in part, our reliance on reviewing decisions made by other school systems, each time our lawyers responding the same—the decision was not made in accordance with existing residency statutes. Further, our attorneys noted that in each case no statute was cited to support the residency waiver decision as implemented. Our community should be thankful that our school administration had the persistence and sound judgment not to place our city in legal jeopardy by simply following the steps taken by other districts, despite their seeming success at bypassing the law.
• It was not until after our motion to reopen Choice as a means of resolving this situation that other districts expressed concern that our decision could disrupt their effort to retain and schedule students, and potentially generate costs beyond those budgeted for the year.
Our community and schools will see tremendous challenges in the coming months. We are facing the worst budget year of the last six, while we are trying to rebuild a school system decimated by budget cuts. There are no current prospects for additional revenue from the city and state.
Changes to the make-up of our district leadership – we are looking for a new Superintendent due to Dr. Lyons’ departure, and the retirement of three of the seven members of the current school committee – will test us, but we look forward to being invigorated by new ideas.
We are ready to face these challenges. Now, more than ever, we appreciate the participation, input and support of the Newburyport community.
The Newburyport School Committee
I heard over the course of the last several days that Deirdre Farrell received death threats over this matter.
God, I sure hope nothing I wrote - anywhere - motivated someone or some people to such an extreme and disturbing action.
It's about beach erosion and efforts to mitigate same (as in, sea walls and beach nourishment). The author, Jennifer Schwartz, suggests that maybe it's time for our love affair with a beach to come to an end.
We should ask ourselves what we’re trying to preserve. Is it the beaches -- or our easy access to and manipulation of them, something to which we feel entitled? Try as we might, the ocean’s unrelenting force dwarfs any man-made structures or costly Band-Aids we apply.
Our mayor, John Moak, has said that the city will bear some of the expense (maybe $70-$80,000?) for trucking sand to the Newburyport beach to mitigate erosion that is happening between 51st and 55th streets.
A candidate for Ward 1 City Councillor told me in their interview for CEB that they would support "unlimited" expenditure of public funds to stop beach erosion. There is a $26 million water/sewer project to protect (that's our dollars).
How much public funding would you support to save the beach, save that investment - or for that matter, to keep the landfill from collapsing or from more gas leaking out of it or from more runoff polluting abutting wetlands?
Reason #2 why you should watch all the interviews.
Reason #1 is because I told you to.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Of course I wrote about the parking meeting for the Current but I did not get a chance to comment on here. It's been a hell of a week and frankly, I'm exhausted.
I agree totally with the Preservationist, except that I was surprised that at the very least Jim Roy did not JUMP all over the fact that the city may hand Mr. Karp a parking garage that would be paid for with public funds.
Just what I want - my tax dollars going to support a billionaire's business venture that I don't want to happen.
Of course our planning director Sean Sullivan told me that it wasn't giving New England Development anything because NED would be giving the land (they would be required to provie parking anyway, but not necessarily for the public - although NED would make more $ if it was open to the public).
Would this solve NED's problem of not having access to those 8 acres on Waterfront West? Would our tax dollars pay for that as well?
I have to say, though, that if this garage thing goes through, that would be the only place identified that I think it should go.
What a dilemma for me.
Jerry told me that there is a core of members - he named some of them - and other people join depending on what cause CEB is working on at the moment.
So there ya go.
I think this is the 'perfect' solution for people actually here (the ones who don't want the project to go forward). No one can do anything to this person, unless they want to take a long trip.
It makes me wonder, though, why people would want to put their homes in jeopardy, just to prevent the state from traipsing over their property at will?
And the Beach Alliance meeting scheduled for next Friday has been re-scheduled to Monday Sept. 28.
Maybe Vincent Russo or Bob Connors has flown, or is about to fly, to Thailand.
Just kidding. They would send Howard Marlowe.
Speaking of who, I had a conversation with him a couple of weeks ago. Sounds like a very reasonable man.
I thought it would be all over by the end of today, but due to circumstances beyond most people's control, 2 people had to be scheduled outside the 2-week window.
I'm exhausted, both mentally and physically. I don't know if the fact that the sessions got shorter and shorter as time went on is the result of that or if the people with the most to say signed up for the first week.
All the people scheduled for last week signed on almost immediately after being notified.
The interviews so far run from 21 minutes to 80 minutes in length. Except for the people running for mayor, they were all asked the same questions (the candidates for mayor got the same questions as the candidates for City Council plus some related specifically to the office).
I really don't know what to make of it - but I would not ignore the 80-minute interview since obviously a lot of information was shared during the course of the session.
Every time I stand up, I automatically go to unhook the microphone from my lapel, which of course isn't there when I'm at home since I don't usually wear jackets w/lapels while lounging around the house.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Late in the meeting (probably around the time the Patriots were getting ready to win the game in dramatic fashion), the Council had the first reading of an ordinance to ban parking on the northwesterly side of Opportunity Way, in the industrial park.
It seems that the evil company Home Made Brand Foods (aka Greencore Group) has gone and been so successful that they needed to expand their facility, and the influx of trucks from this success-based expansion is causing trouble.
The facts as I understood them (keep in mind this was about 3.25 hrs. into the meeting):
The truck traffic to HMBF has increased 10-fold since they expanded.
Trucks are parking on the edge of the road.
Opportunity Way can't handle the trucks.
The trucks are ruining the side of the road!
I was stunned that they appeared to be bitching about a business in the city being successful. Did anyone from the city approach HMBF to seek a mutual solution to this problem?
Wouldn't it be funny if they do ban the parking and HMBF moves out of the city because they can't conduct business here?
That'll teach 'em to grow and expand. Begone, foul successful business; there is no place for you in this city.
Triton Regional School District actually agreed to pay $4,500 in tuition, it seems.
I hope he can catch up from being 2 weeks behind - but score one for the kid.
First, they have banned use of all electronic devices from Council Chambers. That includes laptops - except for the ones they are using, or the ones someone else needs to use to show them something.
Despite Tom Jones turning around and saying to me, "Sorry, Gillian" mid-meeting - lol - I am not the one who ever uses an electronic device in the course of covering a meeting.
That would be (sometimes) the reporters from the Daily News.
I am, however, considering purchasing and toting in a typewriter for the next meeting, if I can find one.
I'm not clear on the motivation behind this. I can see the cell phone thing - ringing phones and chatting with ones buddies during meetings may be a tad disruptive - but texting? You could argue that to text, one needs a cell phone. Or a Blackberry, which didn't used to be synonymous with cell phone but is now, I guess.
Someone sitting near me said, "What's next? What if I decide to pick up a comic book during the meeting and read it?"
Then there was this list of rules for city parks. There used to be individual rules, I guess, for some individual parks. Now there's one big mess o'rules.
Parks are closed for active use and the playing of loud music at 9:30 p.m. but close at 10 p.m. - so as Greg Earls said (and I'm paraphrasing), you could lounge around for half an hour, in the quiet and in the light because the lights (if applicable) will stay on until 10.
Hey - you could text or type on your laptop.
Activities are not allowed that would potentially endanger members of the public.
What does that mean?
Because you also can't carry a firearm, start a fire, shoot off fireworks (without permission at any rate), drive your car, or ride your horse in the parks. I guess it means that, although not specified, practicing your knife throwing act is also verboten.
Hmmmmm ... I kid the City Council because
Oh - and they approved John Morris to the Redevelopment Authority, 7-4. They really pulled out all the stops with comments of support for his nomination.
I was not surprised - I was told by several people that the forces were being rallied a la the Goudey re-appointment.
Who knows? He could be the best thing since sliced cheese (if you like sliced cheese).
Monday, September 14, 2009
He was joking around (although I used to annoy my former boyfriend endlessly by saying, "Many a true word is spoken in jest"all the time) ... although after making the comment about the media reporting sometimes too much detail of what is said at the meetings, he did throw the bone to the Daily News about what a good job they are doing reporting on the projects.
Reflecting back, I'm not sure he even knew my name although I'm sure he's aware I'm there for the Current and seeing as how we all have to introduce ourselves at the start of the meeting ... but then he came in late, after the introductions.
Anyway ... It appears to me just as a person watching these meetings that it's not so much DCR that's muddled, it's the presence of the Plum Island Foundation, with the blessing of DCR, as one more entity with its hands on the pie that is the problem.
It was the Foundation that was holding meetings with property owners at the home of one of its members, and since Bob Connors (said member) nodded affirmation when they were talking two meetings ago about the date the easement docs were mailed out and the DCR counsel looked at him to confirm ... well, I'd say that group is playing a pretty large role.
The other group of affected property owners - the ones who appear not to be well off financially - seem to have been disenfranchised. And the DCR counsel Gary Davis said he thought it was okay for non-governmental entities to be present at the two scheduled meetings with property owners this week.
Russo, for example, said he planned to be there. Ron Barrett, president of PITA, said after the meeting that PITA and the Foundation should not be there. No one from PITA attended the meetings held at Connors' house.
It would be very interesting to me to find out how many of the 26 owners belong to the Plum Island Foundation and how many do not.
One other interesting note:
All of the public officials usually sit in a row on either side of Tarr at one table (the tables are arranged in a big rectangle).On Friday, Vincent Russo (Newbury selectman), Joe Storey (chairman of the Selectman) and our own Mayor Moak sat along the side where the DCR people usually sit. Until Tarr got there, that left Salisbury Selectman Jerry Klima sitting there by himself at one end of the main table, with Barrett.
The DCR people took their places opposite, sitting with the Army Corps people.
I don't know what this was all about - yet - but I'm sure it meant something.
There's City Council tonight and
Tonight's City Council meeting should be interesting, if only for the fact that they will probably be discussing the appointment of John Morris to the Redevelopment Authority.
I was going to do a story for last week's Current about this, but signals were crossed and it never got done.
Suffice it to say that the property Morris owns on Water St. could not be split up due to zoning regulations -and the Zoning Board of Appeals back then (1997) would not grant a variance - so he bought the whole parcel from the Trust that administers Joseph Hale's will, under a quitclaim deed.
The deed granted the Hale people a perpetual right and easement to maintain the part of Hale Park that is next to the parcel where Morris and his family live and also granted the Trust the option to buy back that part of the property for $500 at any time until Feb. 25, 2017.
The current Zoning Board of Appeals in May approved a non-conforming use variance that created a lot that does not conform to the zoning there, which is agricultural/conservation according to the Planning Office.
That zoning requires a minimum lot size of 130,000 sq. feet there. Even left alone, it's nothing like that size.
That is their function but boy, the ZBA sure seems to love giving up stuff on the river. At least it's for a park.
Oh - and the Trust had to grant Morris a 10-foot strip of land along the revised property line so the 2-story garage would be in compliance for setback from the new lot.
From all the records I could find, Morris has been paying taxes on the full parcel all this time.
Doesn't seem like such a good deal to me, except that the value of the property has gone up substantially - but then I assume so have his taxes.
And that's the scoop. Not much of a scoop.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
For mayor: Donna Holaday, James Shanley
In Ward 1: Allison Heartquist, Larry McCavitt
In Ward 2: Greg Earls (running unopposed)
In Ward 3: Bob Cronin,* Dawne Shand
In Ward 4: Ed Cameron* (running unopposed)
In Ward 5: Brian Derrivan (running unopposed)
Candidates for councillors-at-Large (5 seats up for grabs):
Kathleen O'Connor Ives
So that's 15 of 17 candidates for office.
The interviews with City Council candidates are running right around an hour. I would encourage everyone to watch all of them as well as the mayoral interviews because all the candidates (so far) have had very interesting and diverse viewpoints on the same issues and have offered a lot of information to the general discourse.
We are all really pleased with how it's been going so far.
I'm looking forward to the upcoming interviews - all 11 of them - next week. Yikes.
Again, the interviews will run on cable channel 9 throughout the month of October - I was kidding about the continuous loop - and thankfully the candidates have the spotlight because I have annoying apple cheeks on TV.
Nobody offered to do my makeup. Drats.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
We are extremely lucky to have some good, strong candidates running for office.
I think a couple of them were kind of surprised that I wasn't hurling abuse at them ... hey, there's still time ... I'm about to go interview Ed Cameron.
Seriously, though, that is not what this is about. I'm there to keep them on track and to make sure they answer the questions. So far, so pretty good.
Friday, September 11, 2009
As I alluded to in my last week's story in the Current, some of the property owners are not anxious to sign the easements. Some of them were at the meeting this morning. Maybe as many as have signed the easement documents (which would be 8 out of "about" 26 property owners).
Also seems that at least a couple of the owners are not in the state and one is in Thailand.
State Sen. Bruce Tarr (who represents Newbury but not Newburyport), and who chairs the group, tried to tone down the anxiety but of course I'm going to ramp it up.
The deadline for having everything ready to go for the nourishment has now shifted slightly from Oct. 1 to Oct. 5, or thereabouts.
I asked Tarr and PITA President Ron Barrett after the meeting about the potential for retribution and such for anyone who dares to not sign the easement. Both expressed surprised at such a notion.
Well ... since I've seen nasty comments on the Daily News website from someone on PI about the very same Ron Barrett (and which the DN caught and deleted), and since I remember a Newbury health agent telling me that people threw dog poop at her house after dogs were banned from the beach, I'm not betting against anything.
The two things you don't mess with: people's homes and people's dogs (not necessarily in that order).
Anyway, DCR and whoever else (PI Foundation seems likely to be there) scheduled two meetings for Tuesday and Thursday next week, 5-7 p.m. at PITA Hall, to go over things with the reluctant property owners in question.
These informational meetings were previously held at the home of PI Foundation member Bob Connors, who is not one of the property owners who needs to sign an easement.
Barrett had suggested a few meetings ago that these sessions be held at PITA Hall, and I guess someone finally figured out that maybe he was right.
DCR counsel Gary Davis kept saying he would continue to treat the owners with respect - and if just one of them refuses to sign, the nourishment project is off.
The dredging would go on and the sand would be dumped offshore.
Too bad Newburyport can't get any of it because you all know who's going to foot the bill for trucking sand onto that beach. DCR and ... hey, Newburyport taxpayers!
But if the nourishment is halted for Salisbury and Newbury, there would be no point in dumping sand on the Newburyport beach, the Army Corps of Engineers man said.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
For mayor: Donna Holaday, James Shanley
In Ward 1: Larry McCavitt
In Ward 2: Greg Earls (he's running unopposed as well so I'm equally impressed)
In Ward 3: Bob Cronin, Dawne Shand
In Ward 4: Ed Cameron
In Ward 5: Brian Derrivan (more impressiveness)
Candidates for councillors-at-Large (5 seats up for grabs):
So there you have it - 13 candidates out of 17 running for office have responded, as of right now.
Note that Tom O'Brien (Ward 6) is also running unopposed, and I think Katie Ives might come in late.
Today's session went well.
I don't recall ever having any particular problem reaching the Health Dept. or Director Jack Morris.
I'm sure all of you know the story but in case you don't, here's the piece from today's Daily News.
We in this area seem to be taking more than our share in losing our young men to this war, but I know you join me in thanking them and their families for making the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf.
As I write this, Jordan Shay is returning home for his funeral service tomorrow.
It's just too sad.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Today is the deadline for RSVP to participate. I was going to create a poll for you guys to fill out to guess who accepted CEB's invitation and who did not - but in the end, I couldn't be bothered.
I'm not telling - yet - except I'll say that tomorrow's guest is Barry Connell, and that if you read his comment on a previous post, you know that Ed Cameron has also agreed to be interviewed.
He's running unopposed, so I'm impressed.
I do hope there are no tears involved (those would be my tears, not those of any candidate).
** By the way, I can hear the ocean making strange noises over there on the other side of the island. It's not usually this loud over here in the summer.
Picture it: Laker airlines (the first cut-rate airline, I believe) and Captain Weekly.
The fact that I remember Captain Weekly's name should tell you something.
Capt. Weekly was one of those pilots from hell.
"If you look out the left side of the plane, you'll see (mumble, mumble, mumble)."
Anyway, we left Detroit on a hot summer day, so the plane could not fuel up completely. We had to stop in Greenland. All was well until we were taxiing out to take off for merry old England, land of our ancestors.
Well, Capt. Weekly came on and mumbled something about having to wait for another plane to land. Keep in mind this was not too long after 2 planes had collided on a runway in Tenerife.
He came back on moments later and said (honest to god, this is what he said), "No ... I think we'll take off now."
As if he had made the unilateral decision to take off while another plane was landing.
Obviously we made a successful take-off and hours later we were weaving our way across southern England. Literally; Capt. Weekly was weaving.
By looking out the window, we concluded that he was following the Thames River into London. As in, following each twist and turn in the river.
We were correct in this conclusion.
Finally Sarah again peered out the window and said, "Do you think that's the airport down there?"
At which point we went into pretty much a nose dive.
"Yes," I replied.
It was a wild night earlier, in Room 118 at the high school . The School Committee got even more bizarre since I haven't been paying attention to it ...
Just kidding, School Committee.
I do believe the committee couldn't buy a pencil without debating it for 6 months ... but bravo to Steve Cole (although he could have been even more forceful in his advocacy for former NHS student Michael Cuneo - a little bit of banging on the table would have livened things up a bit), Bruce Menin and Tim Brennan (of the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority, who was watching the meeting at home and raced over in order to comment in person).
Anyone who does not know about Michael, read this, from the Daily News. Or suffice it to say that he spent his entire life in Newburyport, in Newburyport schools, and then his family had to move to Newbury - and he had to switch to Triton Regional High School. For his senior year.
Because Newburyport did not know there is a state law about situations like this one; a law that allows a student to complete his or her education in one school district, if the family moves.
Methinks Newburyport needs better legal advice.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
The interviews will be aired on cable access TV over the month of October, leading up to the Nov. election. All me, all the time. yikes
Citizens for Environmental Balance
Purpose: To ensure public concerns on environmental issues are heard and represented in municipal issues to preserve the quality of life of Newburyport and surrounding region.
Activities: Campaigned for the passage of the Community Preservation Act, fought for open space preservation in Common Pasture, work to protect wetlands and the Little River watershed.
Achievement: "There's no Route 95 access road, there is no building in the Common Pasture. I'd say we've been somewhat successful, through collaboration with a lot of people," said CEB founder Al Decie.
The candidates' speeches will be aired on the local access channels.All local municipal candidates are invited to speak.All area residents are welcome.
Web site: http://www.vettestovets.org/
List of donation items needed:
Blankets • Wheelchair bags • Board Games • Men’s and Women’s Clothing
Check donations accepted as well. Please make checks payable to Vetts to Vets and note 'GPF 9001' in the memo section of the check.
This event is sponsored by the Greater Newburyport Republican Committee