NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

November 13, 2013

Historic preservation was the real winner

This fall’s election wasn’t just a good showing for preservation in Newburyport, it was a resounding victory.

On Nov. 7 The Daily News concluded that “Almost all the incumbents were returned, almost all of the avowed conservative candidates lost, and the open waterfront wasn’t the decisive issue.” I’d go further.

I’ve maintained all along that the waterfront became a proxy to attempt to defeat certain candidates and provide a smokescreen to try to elect others. Unbridled development, infill and lack of historic preservation were really at stake, even if not openly debated.

Dick Sullivan lost comfortably. One argument floated post-preliminary was that a majority voted “against” the mayor and “for” the waterfront. November’s result shows either a major swing away from that position or that it wasn’t the issue at all. I argue the latter.

Another way to see the preliminary is that only a third of voters backed a candidate who opposed historic preservation. Both mayoral outcomes make perfect sense when seen through that lens and so do the results across other races.

Allison Heartquist won decisively in Ward 1.

Robert Cronin squeaked by in Ward 3, escaping criticism over LHD. Leslie Eckholdt worked tirelessly but had no opportunity to press preservation. Had that happened, the result might have been different. He must at least be chastened.

In Ward 4 anti-preservationist Tom Jones was soundly defeated by an issue-reasonable opponent.

Tom O’Brien edged out “Blank” 681 to 317, echoing the Ward 1 totals.

The two top at-large finishers were tarred by opponents for pro-LHD stances and feathered with being against “openness” yet were returned resoundingly.

Ari Herzog finished last among the incumbents, arguably because of waffling on preservation.

Pro-preservationists voted for him hoping he’d be persuadable; “no” voters made a parallel choice and he was supported to an exaggerated extent.

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