Wednesday, January 2, 2008

5 Thoughts I've Had for the Week of December 31, 2007

Thought #1
Already not blogging enough, but will make that a resolution for 2008.

Thought #2
The new term for Mayor, City Council, and School Committee begins Monday, January 7th at 10am at City Hall when all will be sworn in. You should go because we're working (or soon will be working) for you.

Thought #3
I'm in favor of the Council taking the next step on the path to a Senior Center early in the term. Mary Baker has a post on why a Senior Center is needed here and I think she's right on. During the campaign, I got an earful from seniors on both sides of the issues -- although I must say more of the folks I talked to are in favor of a senior center than not AND those in favor did prefer the Cushing Park site.

At the end of the campaign, as I was talking to a young senior on Columbus Ave, it dawned on me why some seniors would be opposed to the notion of a Senior Center -- these seniors already have 'community'. The woman I talked to on Columbus Ave was doing fall yard work. She, like some others I talked to, said she simply has no need for a Senior Center. I could see over her shoulder the reasons why. She was doing yard work with several young-to-middle aged male relatives (I'd guess sons). This woman has 'community' and that is great.

But many others I met -- seniors in apartments in Horton Terrace, a disabled woman on Forrester Street, a gentleman in his 90s on Tyng Street -- are the type of people who would use a Senior Center -- and they told me that they wanted one. For seniors who retired from work years ago or have no family left in town or are not all that sociable with the neighbors, a Senior Center is a place where "community" happens.

Thought #4
I'm torn over whether Jim Rice should be in the Hall of Fame. His stats are here. Pro: hit a lot of homers, top 5 in the MVP voting 6 times, good batting average, Tony Perez is in the Hall. Con: slumped after age 33, on-base % not all that high, lots of Ground into Double Plays. Please discuss.

Thought #5
It's 9pm and I'm at home in front of the computer wearing a ratty old Nantucket t-shirt which someday I will wear in public, so of course Thought #5 is about the recent articles on Newtucket. Steve Tait's first-hand reporting from Nantucket was excellent and it was great the Daily News sent him there.

One fact that I found of interest is that Karp/New England Development/related entities owns 75-80% of Nantucket's storefronts and owns 20% of Newburyport's. It would be good to get a handle on these figures (ie is this percentage of the number of storefronts or percentage of the square footage of storefronts, etc?) but on their face, these numbers are quite frightening for Nantucket and cautionary for us. When Waterfront West is developed, do Karp's holdings go to 40% or 60% of Newburyport storefronts? When do we start throwing around the words "monopoly" and "oligopoly"? Here is your primer on concentration in an industry.

The "Karping of Nantucket" a few days later in the Daily News is an op-ed piece that really resonated with me.

Jim Dondero writes,
"My memories of Newburyport in the early '60s include boarded-up buildings, Bossy Gillis' gas station and the abandoned waterfront. It is a far prettier downtown today, but the spirit of community seems to have diminished as the desirability of the ZIP code has increased." (Ed note: hey, I have two ideas for increasing community -- a Senior Center and support for our kids' public school education.)

Jim really hit the nail on the head with his closing:

Karp and every other landowner has a legal right to develop their property, but when they need zoning variances or more parking or other concessions from the city, the people of Newburyport would be wise to make sure they use their governmental power to retain control over what type of a community they want Newburyport to be. Will it be known as a crowded shopping destination or will it be a community where the quality of life was included in the equation of development?"

Quick poll question: am I the only one who had a flash
during "It's A Wonderful Life"of what the future could hold for Newburyport ?

Happy New Year, Ed


its not just downtown said...

I think the overall balance of ownership and the quality of life in NBPT can be helped if we think wholistically and include the Circle area as well as Storey Ave in our thinking.

Why not more residential on the waterfront which would support existing merchants and a hotel at Storey or Circle area along with stores and services there to support residents nearby.

Sometimes I suspect we think of NBPT as localized only downtown thus closing off our options.

Tom Salemi said...

Several good points, hard to pick one.

I'd argue the diminished sense of community isn't a Newburyport problem. It's how society is shaking out. Families are spread thin. People rarely work in the town that they live. That doesn't mean we can't try to address it.

But I've lived in several communities across the Commonwealth and I haven't found one with as strong a sense of community as Newburyport.

That's why I live here.

Regarding Jim Rice. If he played one more season and added 10 dingers to his career stats we wouldn't be having this discussion. I give him credit for hanging the cleats up when it was clear he couldn't be among the best.

And he was among the best. HOFer, no doubt in my mind.

Olde Tyme Newburyport Liberal Dude said...

Sense of community has diminished on the whole in modern society. Reasons are many, some (in my opinion) are.....centralization of shopping. When I was a kid in the south end and even on Carter St. there was a store on every corner or it seemed like it anyway. Of course these were the days when you could go to Stickney's with a note from Mom to get her a pack of butts. Kudos to Stickney's, by the way, for staying open and fighting those folks who thought that elementary school kids where buying booze there. On that end, more stores, etc. on Storey Ave would just tax an already over taxed infrastructure. By the way Ed, how about fining the cemetaries for not keeping those sidewalks clear? It's just a matter of time before someone gets killed walking on Storey Ave.

Another is parents who are unwilling to let any other adult tell there kid what to do. There is a definate sense of community when you feel, as an adult, that others are approachable regarding the behavior of their children. There is much more to this than I can get into on this blog but, for the most part, parents today get very defensive when you call their kids on behavior that is rude, inappropriate, or overly physical. That causes a great deal of isolation in neighborhoods and a feeling of not wanting to get involved. Or, in extreme cases getting entities involved in a situation that can be worked out just between the parties. "Back in the day" if you were screwing around and got caught by an adult they basically kicked your ass, told your parents and your ass got kicked again. Let's face it, that's a little overkill but a little more "Red Forman" in some parents would not necessarily be a bad thing.

I have, and will make more of an effort in the new year, to become more involved in the community (PTO, school committee, etc.) and to get to know my fellow towns people better (you'll just have to have more parties).

Is there an actual study out there as to how many of our seniors would actually use a senior center? Wouldn't that be the first step in determining the viability of such an entity? Not to take anything away from the informal studies already conducted but something a little more concrete would have more credibility.

Jim Rice is definately a "Hall of Famer". Anyone who doesn't think so should just go back to the stats for 75-86:

Most Feared hitter in the league
One of league's dominating hitters for 12 years, from 1975-1986

Averaged .304, 29 HR, 106 RBIs during this period

4 - 200 hit seasons, 11 - 20 HR seasons, 8 - 100 RBI seasons
only player to get 200 hits / 35 HRs 3 consecutive years

6 times Top 5 in MVP voting
8 time all-star
8 time Top 10 slugging, including 5 times in Top 2
4 times league leader in Total Bases
Only AL player since 1937 to have 400+ bases in one season
Outstanding defensive left fielder
Career Totals: 2,452 Hits, 382 HR, 1,451 RBI, 79 Triples

Shall I continue? Probably not, I'm blog hogging as it is (blog hogging? Did I just make that up? TM time).

Finally, I'm all for keeping Nbpt. from being "Karpitized". Is that another TM? While it certainly is a far prettier Newburyport than it used to be; there was a lot to be said for being able to go behind the old fire station with a couple of bottles of "Mad Dog" for Duncan and Flynny (RIP guys). Ah, the good ol' days, driving crappy cars, bonfires on Plum Island, buying kegs at Chargros' (bottom of Bromfield St.), and parties in the Industrial Park. Somehow, we all made it through to be somewhat productive members of society.

Becky said...

This blogging thing is great-- I have never done this before. What a great way to air out ideas!
I really appreciate the view that something important is missing when when a town like ours loses it's frayed edges, its humanness, it's balance. Maybe that's what this is all about, really. The sense of community is still there, but out of balance.
We do need involve ourselves in Karp's plans. I shudder to think what we will lose if we let it take its course without asserting our rights as citizens to participate in the development process. And no one should own that much of a community, anyway!! The reference Ed made to It's a Wonderful Life is an apt one. I don't want to live in Karport.
With all due respect to one respondent, I disagree that we need a study about the relative desire/need for a senior center in our community. We absolutely need a dedicated, accessible and comfortable space for the benefit of all of our senior citizens in the area. The message it clearly sends is one of worth; our community is the beneficiary of nurtured, valued, appreciated citizens at all stages of life. I frankly can't believe that we are still discussing this! The elderly of this community make it rich and alive with the past and all of its lessons. Let's honor our elderly with a beautiful Senior Center.

Tom Salemi said...

Correction, 20 dingers. I got my 382 HRers and .298 avg mixed up.

Tom Jones said...

Ed, thanks for asking our opinions. You will live to regret that!

I think there is a real need for a Community Center, a place that can serve a wide variety of citizens and services we need to provide in town. We seem to have lost some of the sense that City government needs to supply services to citizens, not paychecks and benefits to employees. Back when "Olde Tyme Port Dude and I were kids, we had playgrounds for kids, programs for summer, and jobs for teens working for those programs. We lost that, and, with it, some real connection to community. I remember playing ball for Belleville Park against Perkins Playground, and that was how you got to know everybody your age in town. And our coach was a High School kid, who we trusted and respected.

As far as Cushing Park, right now we are locked in an argument over clear title. Neighbors will file suit for not following proper process, and nothing will get resolved until the lawyers have charged us a fortune. And I see no will to compromise on either side of the argument.

We own a school building that is irreplacable, in the Kelly School. It is vacant and needs to be made useful and accessable. Use money for the senior center, get the building working, providing a site and working through the programs and finding out how many people will use it, all the while, working on Cushing Park, if that is the location that makes long range sense. Ignoring the coming fight and trying to force the issue will get us nothing, but being flexable will get us a center, prove how needed it is, and allow us to use a building we need to maintain anyway! Oh, and any attempt to sell the building to some developer for condos will never get support from the council or the general public, so don't even start down that road. We wouldn't get enough money from the sale to fund a year' health care increase. And the building would be gone forever, lost to the public.

As afr as Karp, this community has survived a bunch of barons of realty in the past 200 years, and it will survive this one, as long as there is a loud and committed public who care more about community than cash. We have zoning and planning boards, and we need to speak to the members of those boards when proposals come up. The greatest protection of Newburyport is not the government, but the people, who, from time to time, have to speak out, to remind government who it represents.

Cousin of Otzi said...

On the senior issue. Basically, for me this issue boils down to civic responsibility for our elders. SOME elders sorely need a place to interact, and a place to connect to senior services. And play tennis on the Wii!! Taking a broader view of this issue, our civic responsibility for those who need support should also extend to the K-12 population in Newburyport who not only need solid funding for their education during the school day, but the support for funding enriching programs at a place they can call their own-hence a youth center. So, lets dig int o our pockets (and find grants) to make both center's possible.

On Newtucket. A civically engaged artist named Ricardo Levins Morales said that "...culture is the collective personality of a people". The Karp issue is as much about culture as it is about the liberty to close your shop when you feel like it regardless of who your landlord is, or the arm-twisting it will take to create parking spaces or walkways. My concern is that we are handing over our cultural identity to one man who would homogenize and shine up a community that is already at a perilous crossroads. We can become a disneyland of our colonial past or we can find a way to interact with our history to be a thriving community. So, we are being tempted with a Faustian choice.

Of course anyone can buy property in NBPT. But are we willing to make the concessions that it will take for Karp to have his way? Some towns have just said "no" to franchises in their downtowns--no Starbucks, no Dunkin' Donuts, no Talbots. Do we want a squeaky clean rendition of a town or a town with soul? I say no to Karp's intentions. We have to decide what our "collective personality" is. My vote is to have that personality be a synthesis of many voices, and one not dictated by one guy.

I'm all for economic development if it helps a city be a thriving place, but culture is a vitally important part of what constitutes a healthy community. Let's allow our culture to develop from the collective efforts of individuals and thoughtful institutions, rather than a mall developer. NBPT was tempted to turn the downtown into a mall once before. Have we not learned anything in 40 years?

John Giordano

RM said...

I agree with 'Becky's' comments about frayed edges. The late Jane Jacobs, urban writer who saved New York City/Greenwich Village from bulldozer urban renewal writes that a healthy city needs old and new buildings at differing rent levels, etc. That way there can be a street with a small grocery,a dance studio,an old saloon, news stands, as well as luxury condos and nicer restaurants. If everything is the same age and type, then it can't evolve and adapt incrementally with the times. Mixed use/mixed ages is better.

Anonymous said...

Kudos to Tom Jones for championing the reuse of the Kelley building for a community center, senior center, whatever. When are we going to get over this need to build new, build new, build new all the time? We have so many solid, beautiful and historic structures in this community - let's make the best use of them - and that means no developers!

Oh, and Ed, please try to remember that you're a WARD councilor - I don't see anything on your "To Do" list that has anything to do with WARD 4. If you're not interested in ward issues, then you should have run for an at-large seat.

Ari said...

I'm guessing Jim Rice visited Newburyport several times during his 15-year career with the Red Sox... but anyone know if he's been here lately? That could be a PR story...