, Newburyport, MA


December 6, 2012

Council has a duty to vote down LHD

To the editor:

There is a political problem in Newburyport — the Local Historic District. The issue has been placed, according to Article I, Section 8, Clause 14 of the U.S. Constitution, in the hands of the City Council, Newburyport’s legislature.

The political problem is that the pro-LHD faction wants to have public overseers on a certain segment of private historical properties against the historical property rights of owners. The political problem is the pro-LHD group doesn’t trust individuals to make decisions for themselves and that a public overseer is better. The political problem is the supporters of LHD have had many drafts, legal rulings, public commentaries and compromises touting the benevolent and benign virtues of it. The political problem is the proponents of LHD counter that the opposition accepted other forms of regulation and boards that are legal and constitutional, so why oppose this.

The political problem is the pro-LHD group sees it as insurance against bad decisions. The political problem is if the supporters of LHD receive one iota of it — victory.

The political problem is there has been an organic, organized and sustained opposition to LHD. The political problem is the impossibility of a compromise/consensus on the matter due to its very essence. The political problem is the fear of what versions LHD 2.0, 3.0, etc. will bring. The political problem is that governing/regulating bodies don’t recede, they expand. The political problem is the difficult endeavor to remove one of the members of this committee providing historical insurance.

I offer two answers. The first is the U.S. Constitution’s right to regulate property. James Madison, father of the U.S. Constitution, articulated the rights of property owners on March 29, 1792, in the National Gazette. He stated, “Government is instituted to protect property of every sort; as well that which lies in the various rights of individuals, as that which the term particularly expresses. This being the end of government, that alone is a just government, which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own.”

The second, the City Council has a historical and political duty to vote down the LHD to again “impartially secure to every man, whatever is his own.”

D.C. Gagnon


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