NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

April 2, 2012

No bully pulpit for mayor until 2014

The emergence last week of a citizen group, Committee for an Open Waterfront (COW), to oppose construction on the river adds another issue to the community's political agenda.

This spring, residents will have numerous action items to discuss and/or decide: funding of three building projects (elementary and middle schools and senior/community center), the merits of a Local Historic District, the proposed rezoning of Storey Avenue and now the waterfront.

Mayor Donna Holaday will have a full schedule this spring as she presents her thinking on each issue.

This year will be among the last when the mayor of Newburyport operates without a bully pulpit.

(An aside: The term bully pulpit was coined by President Theodore Roosevelt, who referred to the White House as a "bully pulpit," by which he meant an effective platform from which to advocate an agenda.)

For decades the mayor has been restricted from attending meetings of the City Council.

Odd, but true, that the city's top elected official sits in her office watching the council proceedings on in-house television in her office.

Most mayors, of course, have a seat in council chambers and provide a leadership role at each session.

They often introduce new measures from the podium and are in a position to explain their thinking in the presence of not only those who attend but to the media and the camera from cable television.

But Holaday's opportunities to stand and deliver in the council chambers have been limited.

The new charter changes this dated rule; and beginning in 2014, the mayor will attend each council meeting in a leadership role.

But for now, Holaday finds herself sequestered in her corner office when it is likely she would like to have a more visible role.

That doesn't mean she is not getting the word out. Holaday convenes numerous meetings in her office and speaks frequently at citizen gatherings.

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