NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

June 17, 2013

Election ballot grows more crowded

Newburyport City Notebook
Dyke Hendrickson

---- — Perhaps because local issues last winter engaged a large number of residents, elections this fall will have more candidates in all major categories than two years ago.

In the municipal election in 2011, all six ward seats on the City Council were uncontested. Also, Mayor Donna Holaday ran unopposed for mayor.

It appears that a vibrant competition is shaping up for council seats this autumn, plus four residents have announced they are running for mayor.

The last day to take out papers for municipal office is Friday, July 26; the final date to file nomination documents is Aug. 6. The preliminary election is set for Sept. 17, and the final ballot will take place on Nov. 5.

Several things to consider:

There will be turnover on the council in 2014. Greg Earls,who represents Ward 2, and Dick Sullivan Jr., an at-large councilor, are running for mayor and thus are giving up their council seats.

Ward 5 City Councilor Brian Derrivan and at-large Councilor Steve Hutcheson have announced they are not running. So it appears at least four of the 11 seats will have new occupants in 2014.

Last year’s municipal debates might have inspired citizens to run.

Jared Eigerman, who was a proponent of the Local Historic District, has taken out papers for the Ward 2 seat; Meghan Kinsey, a leader in the Port Pride movement that resulted in successful votes for new schools and senior center, is a candidate for an at-large seat.

Plus former councilors Chris Welch (Ward 2) and Bruce Vogel (at-large) are attempting to return to the council after self-imposed interregnums. Bruce Menin, a member of the School Committee, is also running at-large.

Two years ago, Holaday ran unopposed. Now she is seeking her third term against Earls, Sullivan and newcomer Keith Kennedy.

This election will result in a four-year term for the first time, with a new salary of $98,000. That’s less than some firefighters and police officers make, but still, it’s the most ever for the corner office at City Hall.

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Inappropriate statement from Your Scribe: How about the Community Preservation Committee, via the City Council, buys “open space” from the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority?

The CPC is recommending that $50,000 be put aside to purchase open space.

This is a predictable financial ritual because most citizens believe in earmarking money to purchase open, recreational land when it becomes available.

But the most attractive open space in the city is currently owned by the NRA.

A recent memo from NRA consultant Barry Abramson noted that the NRA’s 4.2 acres on the riverfront consists of about 182,000 square feet.

An architect-rendered outline of a tentative NRA plan calls for two three-story commercial buildings to be built on that land. The exact footprint has not been estimated; but if this game plan is pursued, some unoccupied land will disappear.

Could “open-space money” be earmarked for that acreage on the river?

Just kidding. But it does appear odd that the CPC is salting away cash for the day attractive recreational land becomes available, and the NRA, a quasi-municipal agency itself, is making plans to build on open space.

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The online petition to provide support for a new playground and open space for the Brown School property acquired close to 400 signatures in just two days, according to organizers.

In the old days, it would have taken weeks to acquire that many. They used to call it going door-to-door, or standing in the parking lot of local supermarkets.

Now an appealing local issue can gain palpable support in just hours.

It’s sometimes said that political apathy stands in the way of municipal progress. But not this time.

Residents of the tightly packed South End are intent on replacing the old park, created in 1997. They are driving to get a commitment from municipal leaders that open space and a sector for playground structures will be saved if the building is turned into affordable housing, or a similar use.

They have planned a meeting for tomorrow night at the library, and it appears city officials will host a session to listen to residents the following week.

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

Tonight

Communications Subcommittee of the Whole School Committee, room 118, high school, 5:30 p.m.

School Committee, 6:30 p.m., room 118, high school.

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

City Council budget hearing, 7:30 p.m., City Council Chambers, City Hall.

Tuesday

Bartlet Mall Commission, 6 p.m., library.

River Valley Charter School finance committee, 6 p.m., 2 Perry Way.

Conservation Commission, 6:30 p.m., City Council chambers, City Hall.

Department of Energy Resources, 6:30 p.m., City Hall, second floor.

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

Wednesday

Board of Water Commissioners, 5:30 p.m., 16A Perry Way.

Planning Board, 7 p.m., City Council Chambers.

Thursday

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

Parks Commission, 7 p.m., City Hall.

Board of Health, 7 p.m., police conference room, 4 Green St.

Historical Commission, 7:30 p.m., City Council Chambers.

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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.