Editor’s note: Nine candidates are running for five open at-large seats on the Newburyport City Council. Today, we present a profile of Greg Earls.
Address: 25 Milk St.
Family: Married to Nancy Earls for 31 years. We have lived in the city for 18 years. Two sons, Luke and Elias, who graduated from Newburyport public schools. Nancy is the project director of the Newburyport Learning Enrichment Center and co-founder of Nourishing the North Shore. Luke is a first lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force; Elias is an animal trainer with the New England Aquarium.
Occupation: construction and carpentry teacher, YouthBuild Lawrence.
Education: bachelor of science in business from the University of Connecticut; certificate program from the Institute for Planning and Urban Studies, New York, N.Y.; master of architecture from the Southern California Institute of Architecture
Relevant experience in city government: Twelve years serving on City Council; Brown School PTO; Brown School Council; R.A. Nock PTO; Newburyport Skate Park Committee; Parking Garage Study Committee; South End Neighborhood Watch; License and Permit Committee past chair; Joint Education Committee past chair; Planning and Development Committee; Fruit Street Historical District Committee; Cable Advisory Committee.
Why are you running?
I am running for City Council to maintain the quality of life we enjoy in Newburyport while keeping it affordable for the residents who now live here.
What should be done about the central waterfront?
I have always advocated for an open waterfront and it is apparent now that most of the residents agree. There should be no private buildings and the bulk of the waterfront should be open park. A visitor’s center approximately the same size as the current one, and in the same location, would be beneficial to visitors. If there is anything to be built, they are small open-air structures so that there are places to sit. Some parking will remain and the lots would be constructed in a manner and material so as to allow functions, such as food truck weekends and special events, to take place on their surfaces. The park will be paid for by bonding against parking fees currently being collected.
What is the biggest issue for the city in the next two years?
Certainly one of the biggest issues is affordability. Already families are being pushed out due to ever-increasing taxes and water and sewer rates. This is the primary topic of discussion whenever I meet with residents. Having sat on the City Council for 12 years, the hard truth is there is not a lot of cuts to be made in the city budget. Borrowing is where we can look to slow the pace.
Perhaps the second biggest issue is development. Newburyport has become a very sought-after location. We must address infill, the parking garage, New England Development properties on Waterfront West, the MBTA properties and traffic circle. While many of these are opportunities, careful planning and cost containment of related infrastructure needs are paramount.
Do you have a special interest that you would address as a member of the council?
To begin with, sidewalks. The condition and deterioration of our streets and sidewalks permeate nearly any discussion of our city infrastructure. I believe we can address the condition of our sidewalks within two to three building seasons by implementing a “pay as you throw” municipal garbage plan. Such a plan would be more equitable than the current system where every household pays, no matter what the amount of waste, based on the value of their home through property taxes. A “pay as you throw” system would allow residents to control their costs and would encourage recycling. There are estimates that the system may save hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.
These savings would be able to pay for the bonding of sidewalk reconstruction. This would not only be a more fair method of charging for disposal but a plan that makes our sidewalks safe and usable. In addition, the annual budget line item of $300,000 that the city currently pays for sidewalk repair and replacement would be additional savings to the taxpayer when not needed for simple maintenance.
The second special interest is historic preservation. We must find a way to balance the architectural history and heritage of our city with personal property rights. We have made those steps in the Downtown Overlay District and I am determined to find common ground where our built environment is protected.