, Newburyport, MA

March 13, 2013

This is what COW is -- and isn't

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

Just to clarify a few issues brought up by Mike Early in his March 7 letter to the editor. The Committee for an Open Waterfront, Inc. does not refer to itself as the “silent majority” — that outdated and value-laden term has only been used by the pro-development folks to denigrate us. Indeed, we are definitely not silent — quite the opposite — as has been evidenced by the myriad of letters to the editor, our door-to-door distribution of COW’s blue flier, our standout on the bullnose, our attendance at every meeting of the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority and Newburyport Waterfront Trust, our meetings with the mayor and a host of other public, very vocal activities. Even Mr. Early himself refers to us as “loud.”

Secondly, we are hardly “a scant few out-of towners.” I am the chair of COW and I live in Newburyport, as do the preponderance of our members. We have a mailing list a mile long — comprised mostly of Newburyport residents. Our membership runs the gamut of society as a whole, of rich and poor and in-between. No “gated estates,” though, to my knowledge. However, this continued insistence that residents of Newbury and other localities are not welcome to participate in this discussion is way off the mark both legally and ethically. And to repeat once again an oft-stated truism, some of those Newbury residents also own property in Newbury-port, and pay taxes to the city.

Thirdly, COW is hardly a “secret society.” We have an easily-located website — type “Committee for an Open Waterfront” into Google and there we are — right at the top of the pile. Numerous yard signs throughout the community also contain the web address. Additionally, the website and all of our literature lists various contact people complete with phone numbers. Quite the opposite of “secret,” we are as open as we can possibly be. We welcome, indeed we invite, public participation.

And, yes, we are truly an “organization.” We have been registered with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as a nonprofit corporation since March 23, 1989. Thus the “Inc.” in our name. And more than a few of our current members have been with us since the beginning. We have a long history, and a history of success, in the community. We meet every two weeks, sometimes more often. Obviously we are both open and above-board.

Finally, the mayor, the NRA and now Mr. Early accuse COW of spreading “misinformation and downright falsehoods” and yet to this day no one has explicitly stated just what it is that is problematic about any of our assertions. COW proudly stands by everything that it has publicly stated.

Like Mr. Early, I, too, am often around town interacting with the public, but contrary to his experience mostly what I hear is near-unanimous support for COW. Maybe what one hears is dependent upon one’s expectations? I wonder which one of us is hearing the true reflection of the community. I bet it’s me.

Elizabeth G. Heath, President

The Committee for an Open Waterfront Inc.