To the editor:
The Newburyport Redevelopment Authority earlier this month sent out 11,000 mailers to every mailbox, residence and business in Newburyport. The mailers cost roughly $4,000. The fee was paid through parking fees collected from visitors who park on the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority’s lots, not taxpayers’ money.
It’s ironic the lots would help finance an effort that we hope will lead to their own disappearance. For the past two years, NRA members have devised a plan that paid for the expansion for Market Landing Park, covered ongoing maintenance and strengthened Newburyport’s downtown. Our goal is to accomplish this at no cost to current Newburyport taxpayers.
The flier we sent out explains our approach toward achieving those goals. We proposed selling or leasing just over one-half an acre (.55) of our 4.2 acres (less than 15 percent). The land would house residences, restaurants and retail. The sale/lease of the property plus taxes from this project would cover the costs of expanding the park and building new parking lots on the remaining 3.6 acres.
The mailing has generated some controversy given the coming election. I’ve heard theories about how the information is going to drive voters to one candidate or the other (even though neither supports our project).
Here are the facts. We sent out the mailer to reach the thousands of people who live, work and care about this city but don’t necessarily follow the news. I frequently have conversations with friends who simply have no idea what the NRA is or what it’s trying to do. And I’m on the NRA.
NRA members simply wanted to get our proposal out to residents at a time when they pay closest attention to city affairs. Had we sent out this flier after the election — as some have suggested we should have done — opinions already would have been established. And many of those opinions would have been based around campaign buzzwords fired by either candidate for mayor or City Council rather than information delivered directly from the source.
I don’t accept that informing the public equals campaigning. Neither does the Office of Campaign and Political Finance. They reviewed our mailer at my request and found no violations or improprieties.
We invite the public to view presentations by our architect Donald Powers and real estate consultant Barry Abramson. Both presentations will be run on Channel 9 PortMedia through the end of the month. The schedule can be found at newburyportra.blogspot.com.
While neither candidate favors our approach, we’re eager and willing to work with any mayor who would like to see the work on our waterfront completed.
I’m personally proud of the work done by the NRA’s five volunteer members. We’ve started a productive dialogue, and we, as a community, need to keep talking and working. Together, we can find the right way to expand our park and strengthen our downtown for the benefit of the community. Let’s all keep working at it.