Last night was very strange in City Council. A large crowd had packed the chamber ready to make comments and witness the proceedings and then…a closed-door executive session. (Over the O’Regan firing Issue.).
So out in the hall, opposing opinions were forced to politely wait it out. (Ended up an hour and a half.)
The conversations that I overheard confirmed my suspicions of encroaching xenophobia. I heard statements uttered, “We don’t want to be a tourist attraction!” (Ahem, someone is about 40 years late. We already are.) “Those shops downtown serve locals.” (Ahem, news to the shop owners. How many curios and house accessories do the locals have to buy to keep those shops open?”) “We don’t want buses downtown.” (Ahem, we have MVTA buses, commuter buses and tour buses that come downtown all the time. Where have all these people been?) “There is not a parking problem downtown.” (Ahem, might want to talk to those shop owners again. Besides, this is about the loss of hundreds of parking spaces on the waterfront in the “future” not now.) “We’re not like Portsmouth!” (Ahem, we are exactly like Portsmouth except on a slightly smaller scale. A successful parking garage and paid parking and open waterfront park and money for infrastructure improvements and strong stable property values are a fact in Portsmouth. And they’re New Hampshire-ites of all things! If such Northern Bumpkins can do it, we most certainly can do it here.) “Newburyport is perfect right now, we don’t want it to change!” (Ahem, the Universe is all about winding down – if you don’t believe it, check the condition of Inn Street and the brick sidewalks and broken lights. If we don’t strive to improve and maintain what we have, it will simply break down and wear out. Even our future must be energetically pursued if Newburyport is to prosper economically.)
Fortunately, the City Councilors with all the hubbub kept most of their eyes fixed to the future. Even those last night that voted against the garage were concerned with the future. Unfortunately the most important issue was kept from the councilors by the MVTA consultants until the end of these meetings (That funding and servicing the garage would not be the city’s responsibility) and like brutish beasts, they made no real effort to blend the garage designs into the historic architecture of the city. It was clear that choosing Titcomb Street allowed for the funding process to keep churning away and allowed the City to sit at the trough and at least control how the ladle will be dipped. Everyone knew that paid parking and coordinated parking plans and Brownfield cleanup of the waterfront were all in the way long before a garage would ever come on the scene. Voting for a site simply keeps it “out there”.
I also was pleased that the Wind Energy Ordinance Amendments were approved and that serving of liquor at the restaurants that have outdoor seating was also approved.(I drink alcoholic beverages rarely but I understand what an impediment it is to “visitors” who want to have a social gathering when Newburyport is at its most pleasant and half the menu can’t be provided them or their quests.) This means one more obstacle to our downtown prosperity has been removed.
As for the Wind Turbines? I feel that enough safeguards are in place that the historic district and the quality of life of our citizens will not be impacted by the next “Giant”. (Of course, I hope there ARE no more giants period.)
It was a great night for the Future of Newburyport.