, Newburyport, MA

October 29, 2013

Hoping the mayor will listen to better angels

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

In the closing days of the campaign, we hope that Mayor Holaday will embrace an open waterfront. The most compelling reason is that it is disrespectful — to coin the mayor’s phrase — to the people of the city to develop the waterfront against their wishes. Voters have a long-standing preference for an open waterfront, most recently expressed in the primary. Yes, the mayor won the primary, but the majority of voters expressed their anti-development sentiment by supporting her opponents.

Her mayoral opponents have been uniformly against development because when they walk the wards, they are listening to overwhelming and strident opposition. People simply don’t buy it when the NRA portrays the waterfront as blighted — Detroit is blighted.

When the mayor ran for office she opposed development and I voted for her twice. Many of us feel betrayed in that she reversed her position on the key issue that will shape the future of our city. Recently, she understandably said that once in the mayor’s office, you may gain a new perspective. However, we have to trust that our elected officials will abide by their campaign promises.

To her credit, the mayor has had the vision to realize that private luxury condominiums on public land is just plain obnoxious and unacceptable to the people of Newburyport. And, she now stands shoulder-to-shoulder with us in realizing it is wacky to have an underground garage that is destined to become a swimming pool. She can still stand up to the spectre of having mall-type retail shops on the waterfront that will risk our city’s signature retail environment, and the character of the downtown.

The open waterfront is a major attraction — not worth sacrificing for elusive revenue promises. The nation could make a dent in the deficit by selling national parks for malls, but who would propose that for our most treasured land? Newburyport’s tax base will be best served by leaving our beautiful waterfront open for all to enjoy.

Mayor Holaday may win and have her way with development, but sadly these buildings will be forever a monument to disrespect — this will be her legacy. The disrespect is even more insidious because she would have to rely on the politically insulated NRA to shove development down our throats. I voted for the mayor, and I believe she is better than that.

If the mayor embraces an open waterfront, she will be able to govern without having the waterfront monkey on her back. More importantly, she will have the deep gratitude of a city that she did not stick to this ill-conceived idea that has ripped this city apart like no other and could be a divisive issue for years to come.

A mayoral perspective that comes from better angels might be: “I like waterfront development and I could make it happen, but it is not really worth the level of acrimony it has brought to my city, and the permanent damage it will do to an amazing city.” We hope that Mayor Holaday embraces an open waterfront because she loves this city and respects its people, and we hope she does so before election day.

Bruce Skud