To the editor:
Opponents of a Local Historic District (LHD) in Newburyport, calling themselves "Say No To LHD," were downtown last Sunday to hand out a list called "What they aren't telling you about the LHD" and to encourage passers-by to sign a petition against the proposed ordinance.
The list contains factual errors the group has stated in other forums. For example: "Once an LHD is approved, any changes (including enlargement ... and/or additional restrictions ... ) would require only a simple majority approval by the City Council."
This is untrue. Under Massachusetts General Law, any changes to the ordinance would have to complete the same process as the original ordinance, involving a study, public hearings and approval by a super majority (eight of 11) of city councilors.
Another example: "The LHD commission members would all be appointed by the mayor with only two (2) members required to be Newburyport residents."
This is untrue. The ordinance would not change existing law, which requires that every member of every city board and committee be a Newburyport citizen. The ordinance is written, however, to add a requirement that two members be residents of the historic district itself.
Could the anti-LHD group be given some benefit of the doubt that they simply do not know they are distributing false information?
One of the group's members, downtown on Sunday, was also at an LHD Study Committee meeting just three days earlier. During that meeting the residency requirement was specifically discussed. The committee decided to spell the requirement out in the proposed ordinance, not because it is necessary for enforcement, but to address this persistent "misunderstanding" by some LHD opponents.
I know our city councilors cannot be misled by misstatements of law and fact. But I hope they will also take into account that any constituent concerns may be the result of a big disinformation campaign by a small group of people.