NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

September 30, 2013

Recount in mayoral race tomorrow

Newburyport City Notebook
Dyke Hendrickson

---- — The primary municipal election was almost two weeks ago, but it appears the local campaigns won’t start in earnest until the mayoral candidates are finalized.

The recount of four wards (3 to 6) requested by third-place finisher Greg Earls will take place tomorrow at City Hall.

Few observers there think that the Ward 2 councilor can make up more than 50 votes on second-place finisher Dick Sullivan, but there’s always hope in New England as October arrives.

It was almost a decade ago when the Red Sox were down 3-0 to the Yankees in divisional playoffs, but Boston prevailed. (Perhaps that is the dimension of the odds that Earls faces.)

However, it can’t be said that at least one skirmish of the mayoral competition hasn’t started.

Last week Sullivan sent a shot over the bow of Mayor Donna Holaday by calling for the minutes to be made public of council discussions focusing on purported problems with the water and sewer system serving Plum Island.

There appear to be structural problems in the hardware and/or water system that runs from the mainland to the island. Flow of water to homes has been inexplicably disrupted several times.

The Holaday administration has launched a study. She has kept councilors in the loop with executive sessions, but now Sullivan wants those minutes made public.

Sullivan appears to be saying the people should know the extent of the problem; Holaday opposes making the documents public, saying that disclosure could compromise the city’s legal position should it sue developers and/or engineering teams.

Sullivan’s request for the disclosure of minutes is scheduled to be heard at a meeting of the City Council tonight.

It will be interesting to note how councilors receive his proposal.

Numerous councilors were frustrated at a “gag order” imposed by the mayor last winter.

Many residents were seeking answers because this is potentially a huge and expensive problem.

But at the request of the mayor and the city’s attorneys, the councilors remained mum.

Now Sullivan is asking for a full airing.

Any errors or mismanagement that might have occurred did not happen on Holaday’s watch. Still, if a colossal problem is revealed, it will not be an asset for a sitting mayor engaged in a re-election campaign.

(An aside: For almost two decades, Your Scribe lived in this community but worked in Boston. My experience suggests many voters are not closely attuned to the issues. Some voters just catch the headlines. If an engineering calamity is in the air, it can’t help City Hall).

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On another matter relating to Plum Island, officials of the Federal Emergency Management Agency are holding a hearing in Lynn today from 3 to 8 p.m. to hear “concerns” of North Shore residents about rising rates of federal flood insurance.

The meeting is being convened by U.S. Rep. John Tierney, D-Salem, whose office has evidently been inundated by complaints about rising rates.

New flood plain maps and increased insurance rates are a given, based on 2012 federal legislation.

In short, a growing number of natural disasters has meant that federal agencies are having trouble covering insurance payouts — they are not taking in enough money.

So legislation was passed last year, and the feds now are expanding the size of vulnerable sectors and are retreating from the practice of subsidizing insurance rates.

To be crass, “Why subsidize the rich?”

Limiting subsidies makes sense — unless you are a waterfront dweller who has benefited over the years.

So now waterfront homeowners are squealing like the proverbial stuck pigs because of the (inevitable) rise in rates.

Property owners on the North Shore will have their say later today. And by making it a five-hour session, officials are ostensibly giving individuals an opportunity to state their cases.

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

Tonight

General Government Committee of the Whole, 6 p.m., City Hall.

Licensing Commission, 7 p.m., 4 Green St.

Public Safety Committee, 7 p.m., City Hall.

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

Tuesday

Conservation Commission, 6:30 p.m., City Council Chambers.

Wednesday

Library Board of Directors, 5:15 p.m., library, 94 State St.

High School Council meeting, 6:30 p.m., Room 118, high school.

Newburyport Redevelopment Authority, 7 p.m., library.

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

Thursday

Finance subcommittee of the whole, School Committee, 4 p.m., 70 Low 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 dhendrickson@newburyportnews.com.