The announcement last week that Councilor Dick Sullivan Jr. will challenge Donna Holaday for mayor — made so early in the election cycle — took some City Hall watchers by surprise.
Sullivan has been a councilor for only a year. If he loses, he is no longer a member of the council.
But there it is — a first-timer with deep roots in the community challenging a political veteran who is running for her third term. And pursuant to the new municipal charter, it will be a four-year term paying $98,000 per year.
Competition promises to generate debate about the key political issue at the moment: the central waterfront.
The Newburyport Redevelopment Authority owns 4.2 acres on the riverfront, which NRA board members say they plan to turn into a combination of park, open space and commercial structures.
True believers recall that during Holaday’s race against James Shanley in 2009, she favored an open waterfront — then defined as a park. Shanley favored some development.
In recent weeks Holaday has said that she would favor some aspects of the Union Studio concept that would include some commercial structures.
The Union Studio plan, and NRA members caution that it is just a tentative vision, would include two commercial buildings — total 70,000 square feet — shops, restaurants and 30-35 condominium units.
Holaday contends that she still favors open space, but asserts that it depends how one defines the term. She says some development might be necessary in order to develop the park and open space.
Sullivan? The 56-year-old retired firefighter has been coy about the issue, saying he has an “open mind” on the matter. He allowed he would favor some development but “not too much.”
Skulking and sleuthing by Your Scribe has produced the deduction that many residents feel that Holaday has turned her back on her campaign position calling for an open waterfront.