Over the past year, I have carefully followed the multitude of point-counterpoint opinions regarding the proposal to establish a local historic district (LHD) expressed in news coverage, letters to the editor, and Viewpoint pieces in The Daily News. Though not a Newburyport resident, I live nearby and have an interest in this issue.
The generally courteous dialogue on this issue is an excellent lesson in civil discourse. This comes in stark contrast to the continuing descent of civil discussion nationally on just about any matter of significance, especially the recent presidential election.
As a long-time federal mediator and facilitator of environmental and public policy disputes, I recognize well the diversity of beliefs, interpretations and emotions that emerge when issues that affect people personally, especially their property and finances, are brought to the fore by proposals or actions of government.
Those on each side of the LHD issue, which in part is readily evident by driving along High Street, are practicing their right of free speech in a constructive manner that attempts to inform and persuade. This provides a fine example for anyone watching, especially children and teens who’ve yet to find their own voice.
There have been numerous letters and a few Viewpoint pieces that attempted to present facts researched diligently by the authors to support a position or to point out flaws in the position of the others. In the mediation field, there is a saying that there are three sides to every issue: yours, theirs and the truth. This isn’t to question that the authors believe passionately that what they write is true and accurate; they do indeed.
So it is a noteworthy and revealing human trait that people can delve into the same background information, digest and process that information and use it to arrive at and support opposing opinions with equal passion and conviction. That reality is part of what makes public policy disputes especially controversial, highly charged and fascinating to follow and analyze.