Well bless my soul, I can't believe I'm still around ... actually, I'm not around Newburyport and likely won't ever be again, but that's another story altogether ...
So, I'm down here in Malden, where the parking situation is pretty close to what Newburyport officials are proposing (or not proposing): that is, free on-street parking with time limits downtown, one free lot, etc. The only difference is - and forgive me if this is part of the plan - validation.
If you shop or eat or otherwise patronize enough businesses while downtown, you can erase your parking fee entirely through the validated parking scheme. Of course, I'm not sure how this would work w/a pay-and-display machine because you can't hand your validated ticket to a machine - and have it respond favorably.
(I've been downtown Malden w/my sister a few times now, and whereas the downtown Malden of my memory was a virtual ghost town, it's pretty bustling now. I don't know, but maybe it's that fabulous Asian restaurant w/the best sushi I've had in quite a while ... yum ...)
Anyway ... I'm not saying that Malden is Newburyport, or anything like Newburyport, because of course it's not. Like my opening paragraph, any reference to the multicultural aspects of Malden is another story altogether.