NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

October 14, 2013

At-large council candidates to debate Wednesday

Newburyport City Notebook
Dyke Hendrickson

---- — The campaigns for City Council seats are accelerating, and councilors at-large will be engaged in a forum Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in the auditorium of the high school. The event is sponsored by The Daily News and the Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce.

There will be significant turnover on the 11-member council this year as several councilors are not seeking re-election. Also, unlike two years ago when there was no competition in the wards, every seat is being contested. Ward 2 Councilor Greg Earls and at-large Councilor Dick Sullivan Jr. chose to run for mayor. (However, Earls remains mum about whether he will run for the council as a write-in candidate after placing third in the mayoral preliminary election).

Brian Derrivan, who represents Ward 5, is leaving after three terms; and Steve Hutcheson, who was appointed as an at-large councilor after the departure of Kathleen O’Connor Ives for the state Senate, is also stepping aside.

There are nine candidates for five at-large seats. Several at-large candidates are well-known in the community due to past experience in elected office and volunteering with civic groups.

Bruce Menin was a member of the School Committee for close to a decade. He says he is an advocate of open government.

Bruce Vogel is a former city councilor, and speaks energetically about the what he sees as a need for stronger youth and/recreation programs. Vogel runs the coffee shop Plum Island Coffee Roasters on the riverfront, which allows him to chat with many potential voters during the day, he said.

Meghan Kinsey served as a key organizer in the Port Pride campaign to get new schools built, and it appears many parents with young families have been impressed by her energy and initiative.

At a forum last week on Clipper Way, candidate Lyndi Lanphear spoke forcefully about her desire for an open waterfront. Some identify her with the anti-Local Historic District movement, and now, she has done her homework relating to development near the river.

Candidate Laurel Allgrove also staked out a position of being strongly against the three-building proposition proposed by the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority.

At the Thursday event, incumbents Ed Cameron, Barry Connell and Ari Herzog found themselves attempting to share more facts on complex issues than time allowed during the nine-candidate question-and-answer forum.

To no one’s surprise, the waterfront was the key issue of the night.

Is this a one-issue campaign? No, likability is always paramount. But the waterfront is the only controversial issue, in part because numerous pressing matter have been addressed by the administration of Mayor Donna Holaday.

The clearwell (water source) was crumbling; now it has been replaced. The sewage-treatment plan was in disrepair, but millions (including state and federal dollars) have been spent on its improvement. The Bresnahan School is being replaced and the Nock-Molin has been refurbished. Funds for a senior community center have been approved after two decades of discussion.

That leaves candidates to talk about the central waterfront, a crucial question for the city upon which there are many disparate views.

OK, roads and sidewalks are on the minds of voters, but that’s been true since Caleb Cushing was running City Hall.

Unsaid: The monster task for the next mayor — even more time-consuming than the waterfront — is going to be fixing the water/sewer system to Plum Island, but little information is being released by city officials at this time.

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The following meetings have been scheduled for this week and are open the public:

Tomorrow

River Valley Charter School, 6:30 p.m., 2 Perry Way

Budget and Finance Committee, 6:30 p.m., City Hall

Conservation Commission, 6:45 p.m., City Council chambers, City Hall.

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

River Valley Charter School Executive Committee, 8 p.m., 2 Perry Way

Wednesday

Last day to register to vote before Nov. 5 election, City Hall

Beach Management Commission, 1:30 p.m., City Hall

Bartlet Mall Commission, 6 p.m., Newburyport Library, State Street

Newburyport Redevelopment Authority, canceled

Planning Board, 7 p.m., City Council chambers, City Hall

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

Thursday

School Building Committee, 6:30 p.m., mayor’s conference room, City Hall

Open Space Commission, 7 p.m., police conference room, 4 Green St.

Tree Commission, 7 p.m., Newburyport Library

Parks Commission, 7 p.m., City Hall

Historical Commission, 7:30 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 at dhendrickson@newburyportnews.com.