Wednesday, March 12, 2008

March 12: Council, Wind, Tour, Some Developer, and the World is Billions of Times More Complicated Than Our Minds

A few random thoughts:

Council Related Information on the Web
The City is taking strides to improve its website. As always, you can find contact info on your Councillor here. If you're at home and want to tune into City Council meetings via local cable, it is helpful to have a copy of the meeting 'packet' to follow along while you munch your popcorn. According to my audience survey (aka my wife), the audio has markedly improved, so you should be able to hear it.

Wind Energy
A subcomittee of the Planning Board and the Council's Planning and Development Committee have been discussing a draft of a wind energy ordinance which you can find here on the City's Planning and Development Dept page. An interesting wind related site is Newburyport's proposed draft ordinance will be introduced to the Council very soon.

Tour of City Departments
A few weeks ago the Mayor and Department heads organized an open house for Councillors to drop in and visit the various departments in the late afternoon and early evening. I was able to visit the Council on Aging located at the Salvation Army which I had been to before, the Waste Water Treatment Facility (aka Sewer Department) on Water Street, and the Public Services/Public Works Facility on Perry Way in the Industrial Park. These visits were very informative to me and I have to say I was pretty impressed with what these respective staffs are able to do with the resources they have. I thank the Mayor and Planning Director Nancy Colbert for taking the lead and setting this up. It would be great to have this for citizens, so they can connect better with City government.

Some Developer is Coming to Town
Lost amidst the hoopla, there will still be a public meeting with New England Development on Thursday night, March 13 at the Nock Middle School. You should go if you can if for no other reason than it's time to move beyond fears, suspicions, and mind-reading and get to reality---a development corporation owns a lot of our key commercial real estate and is going to develop it---someday, someway. Our local government and citizens need to help shape that development in ways which will work for us as a community--not just for the business people, not just for the investors, not just for wealthy tourists but for everybody who lives here. This can be done right and there are millions of ways for it to be completely screwed up. And if it gets screwed up, we'll regret it. "Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life." So show up.

Bill James
Now that I've borrowed from 'Casablanca' written by Theo Epstein's grandfather and great-uncle (full disclosure: we have a cat named Theo), I turn to baseball and one of my favorite authors. I speak, of course, of Bill James featured in today's Boston Globe here.

Here's the wrap-up of the story and it says it all:
"All research," he says, "begins with ignorance. The ability to focus on what it is that you do not know is critical to doing research. I'm absolutely convinced that none of us understands the world.

"I'm not a person that the world irritates, to quote Bill Buckley, but you turn on the radio and in any debate, you've got people who are convinced they know. Liberals, conservatives, Christians, Muslims, people who think Terry Francona is a genius, those that think he's an idiot. They're all convinced they've got this figured out.

"None of them has it figured out. We do not understand the world; the world is billions of times more complicated than our minds.

"You can make a useful contribution to a discussion if you can figure out specifically what it is you don't understand and try to work on it. If you try to start from the other end - 'I've got the world figured out and I'm going to explain it to everybody' - maybe there are a lot of people who succeed in doing that, but it doesn't work for me."

Happy Daylight Savings,