January 3, 2006



Jim Vaiknoras/Staff photo

Acting city clerk Tricia Barker swears in Newburyport Mayor John Moak yesterday in inauguration ceremonies at City Hall

"Change ... is for me the catalyst permitting growth that serves the common good." - Mayor John Moak


Ceremony seats city's new mayor - Moak seeks 'balance' on issues that dogged past administrations

By Stephanie Chelf
Staff Writer

NEWBURYPORT — John Moak took the oath of office yesterday to become Newburyport's 66th mayor.

The former city clerk had presided over six previous inaugurations, but yesterday marked Moak's first time taking the stage as an elected official.

Moak said he would advance several key city projects and his administration will be defined by a theme of "resolution through balance."

"I cannot promise that, in two short years, my administration will bring all of the significant issues we face to a successful or to a universally popular resolution," Moak said. "I do promise, however, that those issues will be addressed in a forthright, open and positive manner."

Moak said his theme represents his commitment for developing a consensus on issues that have been mired in endless debate. Part of that process is accepting change and supporting growth.

"Change, while uncomfortable to some, is for me the catalyst permitting growth that serves the common good," said Moak, dressed in a pinstripe suit with a white dress shirt and red tie. "That Newburyport will continue to grow is inevitable, and our challenge is to manage that growth in a responsible and balanced manner."

Moak, 57, was elected Nov. 8 with 60 percent of the vote over Councilor-at-Large Donna Holaday. Outgoing Mayor Mary Anne Clancy did not seek re-election.

Several hundred residents, city employees and past and present city officials crowded the City Hall auditorium for the hourlong inauguration that welcomed Moak, the City Council and the School Committee into their new terms in office. Acting City Clerk Tricia Barker presided over the ceremony.

Moak discussed growth, open space preservation, building a senior center and waterfront development in his address. Moak said any continued discussion must include realistic approaches to financing and maintenance.

"The condition of this historic City Hall, our roads, sidewalks and many of our parks all exemplify our failure to make provisions for the funding that is essential to addressing our ongoing capital requirements," Moak said.

Moak said he supports building a senior center but urged those working on its development to consider how the city will finance and maintain a center instead of only focusing on possible locations.

The future of the waterfront will be addressed under Moak's administration, he said. Moak does not support building a downtown parking garage, a proposal advanced in Clancy's administration.

"I do believe it is possible and highly desirable to make accommodations for both parks and parking on the waterfront parcel," Moak said. He plans to work with the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority and others to develop a plan.

Moak said he would start a dialogue about Waterfront West, the eight-acre section between Route 1 and the Black Cow owned by Charles and Ann Lagasse and developer Stephen Karp. Development in that area could include a hotel and conference center, housing, retail and a parking structure.

Moving forward with addressing elementary school needs is also on Moak's agenda for the year. Moak, who as mayor serves as the chairman of the School Committee, said debate over school building needs must be brought to a close.

The School Committee must develop a plan within the next 12 months in order to be in line for state funding, Moak said.

"If we fail to meet that deadline, it may be years before the opportunity presents itself again," he said. "That prospect is unacceptable to this administration."

Improving and maintaining the city's public works is also one of Moak's goals, an issue he discussed frequently during the campaign.

"I intend to aggressively seek ways in which to save money within our operating budget so we can begin to pay for capital expenditures in cash, and importantly, in today's dollars," Moak said.

Moak has developed a Finance Advisory Committee to examine financial procedures, including the budget process.

"(The committee's) recommendations will serve as the foundation for creating a fiscal policy that will enable us to make informed and prudent decisions in the future," Moak said.


(This article replicated online with permission of the Newburyport Daily News, an Eagle Tribune Newspaper.)

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