Sometimes you can’t outdo great writing – in fact, attempting to do so makes my efforts a faint echo.
Jim McCarthy wrote an excellent editorial yesterday on the need for a united vision for Newburyport to confront new developments as they come along, in particular, New England Development.
Well, right now, there are two combating visions for our City and Jim Stiles way back in March of 2007 laid them out beautifully in his editorial, “Two visions, one city”.
But let me first add some commentary to provide background to the following statements. In effect, Mayor John Moak projected a vision in which the City would largely dispense with long-term planning (He fired Nick Cracknell and gutted the Planning Office) and the way would be paved for small-time developers to have a free hand in making money (and exploiting the City).
And then the economy plummeted. As I have said before, The single greatest tool for historic preservation is poverty.
If John Moak had continued, he would have by attrition stuffed the boards and commissions with anti-planning supporters. And if developments hadn’t nose-dived, the City would have been plagued with a patchwork of unsympathetic construction that would have accelerated the destruction of our historic neighborhoods.
He was fond of noting that the city’s master plan does not carry the force of law and he was not bound by it.
His vision for Newburyport was no vision.
As Jim Stiles notes in his editorial, “If Newburyport is to continue to prosper, we cannot be led by small-time developers. Their motivation is to cash in NOW. It is what they do.” “We must not cop out with short-term fixes and “wins” that are short term only. Many communities have done that, with the cheesy shopping malls and bad schools to prove it.”
He then lays out a vision, “What we must do to create a great community is to continue to make long term investments in the future of our city so that the prosperity that we enjoy now will also be enjoyed by future generations of Newburyporters.””The issue is maintaining our prosperity.”
[Of course, Newburyport history reveals that] “it was not the small-time developer crowd that saved Newburyport’s downtown – it was the forerunners of today’s planner types. After the master planner crowd saved downtown, the small-time developers cashed in…this is a fine thing – prosperity is good, including prosperity from development.”
Jim Stiles continues to state (and I share his vision too), “I see a city where historical buildings are preserved, where parks are protected, and a well coordinated effort to attract good business is maintained – the kinds of thing that help assure that Newburyport remains a beautiful, prosperous place.”
Right now, we have a current Mayor that understands the City needs historic preservation and master planning – but what we need is a community of citizens that clearly understand the need for a general vision for Newburyport regardless of who is in the corner office.
We can not afford from this time forward not to have a vision.