NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

November 11, 2013

Ruminating on the post-election results

Newburyport City Notebook
Dyke Hendrickson

---- — Another municipal election is over, and here are a few names and numbers that still resonate:

The central waterfront was one of the key issues, and several newcomers to the City Council appear to support some form of development, though not necessarily private.

Jared Eigerman, who won in Ward 2, indicated he would review plans for limited activity, and Charlie Tontar, the new Ward 4 councilor, said he favors getting vehicles off the riverfront because they emit damaging liquids. He would consider new ideas. At-large Councilor Bruce Vogel says he wants to achieve consensus.

Incumbent Councilors Allison Heartquist, Ed Cameron and Barry Connell have indicated they would be willing to look at new approaches with “some” construction, such as a visitor center and restrooms.

So it appears that if Mayor Donna Holaday does want to work with the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority regarding its 4.2 acres as she indicated, there will be councilors who will listen to new ideas.

City Councilor Ari Herzog had an interesting thought after the election: Why not get numerous stakeholders to discuss the future of the waterfront, including the mayor, City Council, NRA, Waterfront Trust, Harbor Commission and various zoning luminaries?

As some councilors have privately complained, the City Council has had almost no input this time ’round as to what will happen to the historic riverfront.

The thinking has been that the NRA has the “authority” to make plans on the waterfront, but the huge amount of energy put forth in the recent election shows that many different constituencies want to be part of the planning.

And since not one of the two dozen candidates for mayor and/or council favor the current NRA plan, it appears a change of approach will be considered.

Before the sun sets on the 2013 council, let’s note that Councilor Tom Jones attended every scheduled council meeting for the past eight years. He was defeated by Tontar but flew in from a construction job in Oklahoma to hold signs on the last day.

Two council candidates who were defeated, Paula Chambers (preliminary) and Leslie Eckholdt, said they enjoyed the experience of being a candidate and meeting the voters.

Some were surprised that Bruce Menin, a veteran of 12 years on the School Committee, did not win an at-large council seat. It must have hurt him that he was seen as a leading advocate in the ill-advised initiative to remove the name of late school Superintendent Francis Bresnahan from the new elementary school.

City Councilor Greg Earls racked up write-in votes in both the mayor’s race (18) and for at-large councilor (40).

Earls made an interesting point during his run for mayor: Consider directing part of waterfront parking fees toward expanding the park.

Statistics from the city clerk’s office show that in fiscal year 2013, the city brought in $687,595 in parking fees and fines.

(An aside: Your Scribe is intrigued that $300,945 of this sum is derived from those distasteful parking tickets).

The NRA received $103,860 in parking revenue that year as a result of past contractual agreements; the Waterfront Trust received $30,000.

Taking the thought of Earls, could this $133,860 (annually) somehow be earmarked for the park that everyone says they want to develop?

Dick Sullivan Jr. made some deft moves during his campaign: He declared he would try to have the NRA disbanded, which was an unequivical stance against commercial development on the waterfront.

And he forced Holaday to host a briefing session about what is happening with the troubled water system to Plum Island.

But many City Hall observers say that Sullivan was not forthright enough, not informative enough, during the Oct. 22 debate at the high school.

The fact-filled Holaday offered her best performance of the year and she gained the momentum that night.

Sullivan was silent on numerous issues during a session that was designed for debate and questioning.

The former firefighter has indicated he might run again. But this time the challenger will have to wait for four years.

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The following meetings are scheduled this week and are open to the public:

Tomorrow

City Council, 7:30 p.m., City Council chambers.

Conservation Commission, 6:45 p.m., 4 Green St.

Zoning Board of Appeals, 7 p.m., City Hall.

License and Permit Commission, 6:30 p.m., City Hall.

River Valley Charter School, 7 p.m., 2 Perry Way.

Wednesday

Joint Planning Board and Planning and Development Committee, 6 p.m., City Hall.

Technology Subcommittee of the Whole School Building Committee, 6 p.m, City Hall.

Thursday

Traffic Safety Advisory Committee, 5 p.m., City Hall.

Disabilities Commission, 6 p.m.,, City Hall.

Tree Commission Meeting, 7 p.m., library.

Harbor Commission, 7 p.m. City Hall.

Fruit Street Local Historic District Committee, 7 p.m., City Hall

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Dyke Hendrickson covers Newburyport for The Daily News. He can be reached at 978-462-6666, ext. 3226 or dhendrickson@newburyportnews.com.