The Newburyport Opinion poll stated the following: “Do you feel a parking garage is necessary for Newburyport.”
I use the term, ‘feel’ because the very concept of an opinion poll is rather unscientific in itself. There are approximately, give or take 500 people, 18,000 people in the City. Granted, subtracting children, there are about 12,000-14,000 adults. Of these adults, it is unknown how many just haven’t a clue as to what is going on in town. (We are a bedroom community of Greater Boston.) In addition, it is hard to decide on the will of the community on 28 people and of course, no one knows if someone was so emotionally agitated on the subject so as to compromise their integrity and vote more than once!
But there are a few things that can be deduced from this poll.
Fortunately (and unfortunately for government workers*) Newburyport is a very political city. We do react powerfully on issues regardless of the topic. One of the multiple choice answers was, “I do not have an opinion”. It was left blank. This means the long lethargy that fell over our City in the last few years has thankfully passed on like a fog burnt away by the sun. It also means that the topic like the White Hen is a very polarizing issue. It will be rare to find someone doing a fence straddle.
Another broad conclusion is that usually a very dedicated group of people who decide on an issue and understand the complete situation will usually be a about 22% of the population, regardless of what side you are on. There will always be that hardcore support group. In this case, those who support the garage understand exactly why they do and vote accordingly. They feel that a parking garage is necessary when the Waterfront Lots are converted to a park. They support the garage as a means to making an ever-growing increase of customers have easy access to the downtown shops. They see a parking garage as a draw for more people to come.
In reverse, there is another dedicated bunch that think that we have just enough parking downtown to handle most of the year – and they sight the relative emptiness of the waterfront lots year-round. They are also the ‘statists’. They like Newburyport as it is now. To them, it is in perfect equilibrium and perhaps might be better if we chase out more of the visitors!
The vast majority clearly are terrified emotionally of a parking garage. Paralleling the emotion produced by a Waterfront Hotel, the feeling is that the very intrinsic feel and uniqueness of Newburyport will be lost forever if the garage becomes a reality. One can’t blame them when you see the architectural horrors in downtown Boston, Haverhill, Lawrence, Lowell, Salem, Worcester and even Portsmouth. Letting some ‘cost-saving’ bureaucrat build such an ugly edifice in our City would as a matter of fact, destroy Newburyport’s very character much as the Sullivan Building and the Water Tower on March’s Hill have done.
To be fair to all, I am very much in favor of a parking garage because I do not believe in Keynesian Economics. There is no such thing as a finite number of customers. We can and should do everything to increase more shoppers that translate into more money for prosperity and tax revenues. I also don’t believe in money at any cost. If we lose our uniqueness and our beautiful wonderful City’s character, we end up finding our efforts were short-sighted and the stuff of greed. Customers will recognize immediately that we compromised everything to pluck cash from their wallets and they will go elsewhere where they are better treated. Walt Disney built Disney World after he built Disneyland in California because the theme park that brought people from all over the world only to find his theme park surrounded by schlocky tourist traps and crappy businesses. He drove the bankers crazy by buying up huge tracts of land around his theme park. He wanted to preserve the experience in Florida.
Newburyport has a large number of businessmen and politicians who want to infest and surround Newburyport with shlocky tourist traps and crappy businesses. They want to replace our genuine historic homes with plastic replicas and modern architecture. They want concrete sidewalks instead of historic brick. Unlike Disney, we can’t go elsewhere to ‘fix’ the problem. We need ordinances and stricter codes to avoid our own destruction.
The solution for all is a parking garage that is hidden that blends convenience into the architecturally beautiful downtown. I cite Princeton New Jersey as a fine example and many European cities and towns who recognize that authenticity and architecture are a powerful combo for prosperity.
* Public workers are like cockroaches. They scatter furiously when exposed to the light. They hate public exposure and scrutiny.