, Newburyport, MA


September 20, 2013

Finishing up what's been left undone

There were shades of the late Andrew J. “Bossy” Gillis campaigns early this week in the broad mailing of an attack on the performance of Mayor Donna Holaday.

We haven’t seen the likes of what used to be called “dirty politics” for some time.

It’s always open season on incumbents. Identities of message senders, however, are required by law. That’s why television advertisements by candidates always end with their formal approval for what they have just read.

Local campaigning has become more expensive, and so have the means.

There have been major structural changes in local governance over what has become my very long lifetime. All three levels — national, state and local — are more closely bonded, and the impressive growth of regulatory authority from the top down has greatly intruded on local authority.

Consequently, those we elect face far more complications than was the case more than a half century ago when I joined this newspaper.

Downtown Newburyport was in shambles in 1951. What it has become is the fruit planted and nurtured by local responders — the elected and volunteers who, often at odds over what was to be done during years of debate, found ways to turn Washington around on urban renewal, and ultimately finding those willing to invest in the changes we enjoy.

What was left undone in its earliest efforts was to find a solution to off-street parking. There had been metered street parking and a more modest metered lot that seeded the large one at the intersection of Green and Merrimac streets.

Some parking was expected to be provided for on the waterfront by its commercial occupants, but never was it intended to dominate the open space encircling the park.

That’s the result of extended legal challenges over issues not directly related to parking. Those challenges eventually prevailed, with the most heralded of them protecting the historic ways to the waterfront.

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