Thursday, March 26, 2009

Earth Hour This Saturday, 8:30 PM to 9:30 PM

Conservation and energy efficiency will be a key part of any local and national efforts to address climate change and our dependence on foreign oil.

Councillor Katy Ives and I sponsored a resolution a few weeks ago which was approved by the Council. Earth Hour is being promoted locally by the City, Eco Collaborative, NHS Environmental Club, and Energy Advisory Committee.

The resolution is below and you can find more information at

Mark your calendars, turn off the lights and go look at the stars.

WHEREAS, Earth Hour is both an international and local symbolic event organized by World Wildlife Fund to raise awareness about climate change, energy efficiency and natural resource conservation, and

WHEREAS, Earth Hour asks all citizens, businesses, non-commercial establishments and government agencies to turn off all non-essential lighting for one hour beginning at 8:30 pm on March 28, 2009 and aims to encourage citizens and businesses to commit to actions they can take in the coming year to conserve energy; and,

WHEREAS, there is an active Energy Advisory Committee in the City of Newburyport working to further the aforementioned mission by studying, evaluating and making recommendations to the Mayor regarding energy conservation, energy efficiency and conversion to greener energy sources,

NOW, THEREFORE, the Newburyport City Council encourages all non-essential lighting in city buildings and public landmarks to be turned off from 8:30 PM to 9:30 PM on March 28, 2009 in order to conserve energy and raise awareness about global climate change.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Our Taxes, Our Roads, Bridges, Trains, and Buses

What does this have to do with Newburyport?

Nothing really unless you:
  • drive the potholes of Routes 495 and 95 or
  • cross the rusty Whittier Bridge or
  • ride the undermarketed and underused Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority bus which actually is a viable way to get around Newburyport assuming you knew anything about it or
  • use the woefully inadequate (yet free for all including NH drivers who park their cars for 28 days while escaping the winter via Logan) Park N' Ride or
  • use Commuter Rail jamming your paper parking dollars into a little slot so you can ride an awfully late train into Boston.
I support the whole notion of 'Reform before Revenue'. I think the Governor and Legislature have begun the reform process and you can see the details here. I'm all for merging many independent turfs into one MassTrans, getting rid of ridiculous pension benefits, paying off debt in a responsible way.

I'm also for paying for what needs to be done.

I think an additional 19 cents per gallon is a reasonable way to pay for it. The Globe makes a compelling case here in this editorial. There has been no increase in the gas tax in many many years and the results are evident unless you've been living in a cave. I drive 68 miles back and forth to work each day in a car with 145,000 miles on it, so I will feel the pain in the pump, but that is preferable to feeling the pain in the bumps. (Okay, that's really bad but second cup of coffee hasn't kicked in)

By the way, NH has a proposal on the table for a 15 cent increase phased in over three years. So I guess I won't be driving 10 miles back and forth to Seabrook to load up on that cheap gas because it won't be that cheap.

From the picture painted by the Boston Herald, Barbara Anderson, and some MA Republicans, one would think that NH is a land of free milk and honey. Last time I looked their meals tax was 8%, their property taxes included a local tax AND a state tax, their toll whacks drivers for taking a 15 mile short cut through their state, and their hard alcohol is sold in State stores only. Talk about creeping Socialism!

Currently Fed Gas tax per gallon is 18.4 cents, MA State tax is 23.5 which includes 2 cents for Underground Storage Tank removal statewide, and NH is 19.6 cents. Yeah, we're not much cheaper than NH and if ours goes up 19 cents and theirs goes up 15 cents....well you do the math.

Additional data below from which is I've distilled into Fed and state data. I'd be happy to email you a little Excel Chart I made from the data.

State Fed Gas Tax State Gas Tax
Alabama 18.40 20.20
Alaska 18.40 8.00
Arizona 18.40 19.00
Arkansas 18.40 21.80
California 18.40 45.50
Colorado 18.40 22.00
Connecticut 18.40 44.10
Delaware 18.40 23.00
Dist. of Columbia 18.40 20.00
Florida 18.40 33.20
Georgia 18.40 26.00
Hawaii 18.40 32.60
Idaho 18.40 25.00
Illinois 18.40 39.50
Indiana 18.40 31.70
Iowa 18.40 21.70
Kansas 18.40 25.00
Kentucky 18.40 18.50
Louisiana 18.40 20.00
Maine 18.40 29.10
Maryland 18.40 23.50
Massachusetts 18.40 23.50
Mass Proposed 19 cent 18.40 42.50
Michigan 18.40 36.00
Minnesota 18.40 22.00
Mississippi 18.40 18.80
Missouri 18.40 17.60
Montana 18.40 27.80
Nebraska 18.40 23.90
Nevada 18.40 32.50
New Hampshire 18.40 19.60
NH Proposed 15 cent 18.40 34.50
New Jersey 18.40 14.50
New Mexico 18.40 18.00
New York 18.40 41.20
North Carolina 18.40 30.20
North Dakota 18.40 23.00
Ohio 18.40 28.00
Oklahoma 18.40 17.00
Oregon 18.40 25.00
Pennsylvania 18.40 32.30
Rhode Island 18.40 31.00
South Carolina 18.40 16.80
South Dakota 18.40 24.00
Tennessee 18.40 21.40
Texas 18.40 20.00
Utah 18.40 24.50
Vermont 18.40 20.00
Virginia 18.40 19.60
Washington 18.40 36.00
West Virginia 18.40 31.50
Wisconsin 18.40 32.90
Wyoming 18.40 14.00

Friday, March 6, 2009

Newburyport Affordable Housing Trust Fund

At the Monday March 9th City Council Meeting, an order to create a Newburyport Affordable Housing Trust Fund will come before the Council. Most likely this item will be referred to committee to work on the details. The order is included in the online Council agenda packet which is here.

As background,

In 2004, the State enacted a local option law283 (M.G.L. Chapter 44, Section 55C) that allows communities to set up municipal affordable housing trusts (MAHT) without state enabling legislation if they follow the model outlined in the law. Technical amendments were made in 2006. Communities can use these Trusts to hold funds, including CPA funds or inclusionary zoning in-lieu payments, for affordable housing activities until they are needed and set guidelines that make it possible to access the funds quickly when needed to take advantage of a housing opportunity. (Source: Chapa's Housing Guidebook

There is also an excellent overview of these Trusts at
if you go to page 39 of the document.

30 communities in Massachusetts have established these entities in the last few years. It will be an important and long overdue step for Newburyport.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Another One Bites The Dust....

Express Video behind the CVS at 13 1/2 Pond Street is going out of business. According to the owner, an extremely pleasant man, he knew for awhile that he'd need to move from that location eventually. He had a tenancy at will which he assumed would go until 2010 but he recently heard he'd need to leave.

CVS will be expanding into that space, I'm told.

According to the Newburyport Assessor's Database, 13.5 (and you need to use the decimal not the 1/2) Pond is owned by some outfit called Newburyport Manager LLC and was purchased in February 2005 for a sales price of $3,827,891.

Secretary of State's filing on Newburyport Manager LLC is here and I'll save you the suspense - yes, it's Steven Karp, but you knew that already.

Hey who says you can't make money in a recession.

Express Video is looking for a Newburyport location, but if it survives most likely will wind up in Salisbury.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Greater Newburyport Slow Food/Local Food

I received the following from Allyson Lawless. It sounds great:

You are invited to a Greater Newburyport
Slow Food/Local Food gathering

Our goal is to connect farmers, makers of specialty foods, restaurateurs, and the general public to encourage more and better local foods and to support the enriched culture and cleaner environment that evolves from that.

  • Where: Newburyport Library 'program room'
  • When: Thursday MAR 5th 6:45-8:45 pm
  • What: Update of Farmers Market, Slow Food, bit of organizing, plus "Crop Circles" our special interest conversation circles

And More: Special guest Julia Grimaldi,
Director of Culinary Tourism for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

This is an open meeting feel free to bring a friend!