Want to meet the mayor? Here's your chance
By Jill Oestreicher Gross/ newburyport@cnc.com
Friday, March 3, 2006

In an effort to increase his visibility with the public, Mayor John Moak has opened his City Hall office on certain Saturday mornings to hear Newburyporters' concerns and comments.

Moak said he particularly wanted to make himself available to those residents who work during the week and are unable to visit City Hall. Saturday hours allow him to be more accessible, he said.

"I'm trying to allow people to get here who can't get here in the middle of the week," Moak said at the first session last Saturday, dressed causally in a plaid shirt and corduroys. "I'm usually here on Saturdays anyway,"

In the first of three opportunities, Moak said he had close to 10 visitors. He greeted residents in the lobby of City Hall and met one-on-one with each individual or group at the round table in his office. Some residents wanted the privacy of a closed-door meeting, and the mayor obliged, saying residents should be able to feel a sense of privacy when talking with him.

Resident concerns ran the gamut, including education and finding a new school superintendent; the development of the city's open spaces; the city's planning and development office; possible locations for a city senior center; and the city's Web site.

One visitor made arrangements with the mayor to borrow a decades-old photograph hung at City Hall that pictured the resident's uncle, Arthur P. Welch, a Newburyport man who died during World War II.

Resident Dominique Dear visited the mayor with a laundry list of items to discuss, including improving the city's Web site.

"He's very open to communication," Dear said about Moak. She said she planned to attend future open hours.

Local Nick Hudner also stopped by the mayor's office, mostly to voice his support of Nick Cracknell, the city's planning director. He also spoke with the mayor about possible sites for the proposed senior center, including combining the center with the YWCA's planned expansion. Cushing Park is currently under review as a site for the center.

"We like to get involved," Hudner said about himself and his wife. "We're deep in politics."

In his discussions with residents, Moak said another way he planned to interact more with the public was to launch a mayoral newsletter in the fall. Topics would include information on protocols for leaf pickups, composting and snow emergencies, he said. He hoped to make the newsletter semi-yearly.

Moak thanked residents for visiting with him and said he appreciated hearing their concerns.

"It was a success this morning, as far as I'm concerned," he said.

The mayor will be available two other Saturdays, March 25 and April 29, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. He may announce future open hours during the fall months.
(This article replicated online with permission of the Newburyport Current.)
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