The Next Step on and about the Waterside ~
Seeking common ground on the use of the waterfront lots
|Commencing revisions to the Comity.org website during the transition from old style (Julian) calendar year termed "The Year of Reckoning" (March 25, 2005 - March 24, 2006) to the "The Year of Common Ground" (March 25, 2006 - March 24, 2007) ~ insight was offered about the process and progress to seek "common ground" on the use of the waterfront lots. Towards this end, parties were encouraged to participate in the "unending conversation" at the Virtual Wolfe Tavern, then "e-stablished" on the now retired Newburyport.com website's PHP bulletin board.|
Retracing those "next steps" taken in the last quarter of "The Year of Reckoning" ~ during the transition of administrations after the biennial elections and directly after the inauguration of the Moak adminstration's first term of office. This webpage was created as the 2006 NRA survey was pursued and refined in the summer of the new style calendar year 2005 ~ before the election season through to when the results were made public nearly a year later. The record subsequently
follows the Mayor's new waterfront task force which first met
on June 28, 2006. (Timelines for the survey results were July; the
Mayor expected a position paper to be generated by early September, although that report was delayed until later in the fall.)
NRA Survey. Mailed out to residents with the 2006 city census (in early March) ~ the NRA survey solicited public opinions about preferred use of the two NRA waterfront lots (with three options from mostly park, a balance of park and parking, and all parking). The survey also screened for general demographics (ward and length of residency) and whether there is support to construct a downtown parking garage (and where). The overleaf provides extensive background information, and also encouraged that additional comments be added. (View the NRA survey in pdf format.)
The survey solicited the public's opinion on the use of the NRA lots by indicating preference for:
Additionally, the NRA survey posed questions such as how many times household members are downtown (selecting only one response, ranging from daily to once a month or less) --- plus asked the (typical) reason [e.g., work, municipal activity, shopping and dining experiences, entertainment or visiting the boardwalk (checking all that apply)].
There were also traffic and parking oriented questions focusing on the means of arriving downtown, and if you drive, the preferred site for parking. The first side of the survey was replete with various questions, some regarding demographics such as ward and length of time which you have lived in Newburyport --- plus a general yes/no question phrased: "If it did not add to the Newburyport taxpayers bill, would you like to see a parking garage somewhere in the downtown?" and a question about "Where would you like to see it built?"
The reverse side offered a chance to add comments, and provided background and additional information. The background provided a synopsis of the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority which was created in the early 1960s, plus mentioned that over the past 10 years, parking committee(s) have been established by mayoral appointment (focusing on paid downtown parking, including a garage); provided detail on parking analyses and stresseed that no matter which plan is finally implemented "the NRA remained committed to providing space for the Rail Trail, access to the boardwalk along Ferry Wharf Way (an historic way through the East lot) and the Visitors Center."
NRA encouraged the public to contribute commentary and clarification
(of your selected survey option) --- adding that, after compilation
of the results, the results and addenda will be archived in the librarys
archival room. The survey was to be returned with your census form
(which households will receive by mail in early March) --- with both
census forms and surveys mailed or delivered to the City Clerks
Office in City Hall, 60 Pleasant Street in a timely fashion.
Recent History. These will be the next big (tandem) steps to take in the last stretch of a very long haul --- for it is now over a generation (of 30 years) since the "Measure of Change" documentary in 1975. The reader may take measure of this with review of the news articles archived at this link within which chronicles how we arrived where we are at the point when the easternmost and westernmost "historic wayes to the Waterside" were rededicated in May 2003. Let us recap more recent history since then:
Note that the February 18, 2005 post by Dragonfly at the Virtual Wolfe Tavern mentions the appointment of Erford Fowler to the (single state-appointed seat on the) NRA, replacing Laura Rowe. Erford, of course, also sits as ward 4 city councilor.
At his suggestion, his fellow councilors considered a referendum question on the November 2005 ballot. The city council weighed in with the NRA and decided that a referendum would be a more productive approach. The NRA was reassured that the survey could be included in the 2006 city census by the then City Clerk John Moak, who later campaigned for mayor and won with 60 percent of the vote. (It is no secret that the Mayor believes that in part, his position to develop landscaped parking on the waterfront brought him that support, and that he feels strongly that people want the waterfront resolved.)
Candidates had just geared up for the (biennial) mayoral (primary) campaign which typically begins in earnest after Labor Day --- when the NRA sent the City Council the following communication, which would appear on the September 12, 2005 city council meetings agenda. It was received and filed on a motion by Councilor Gillis, seconded by Councilor Donna Holaday, herself a candidate for mayor --- and recorded by the then City Clerk John Moak.
Apparently, as a conscious decision (or an oversight of their responsibilities for oversight and insight) the city council chose not to participate in the generation of the survey --- and for more than five months, with virtually no input from city council and a lame duck mayor --- the NRA revamped and revised drafts of the survey content without the input solicited from the city council.
[Interestingly, the campaigns between the two successful primary candidates, John Moak and Donna Holaday, would be differentiated on this very issue: the balance of park and parking on the NRA waterfront property and whether to build a parking garage. (With Holaday advocating for mostly parking and building a garage on Titcomb Street, and Moak advocating that based upon his canvassing of the community, the best solution is to surface the lots for parking, then consider a longer-term solution.)]
Note that during this timeframe, the inter-dependent downtown parking study and parking garage proposal were released (in August) and at a later point in time --- after the garage proposal was sanitized then euthanized --- the NRA refined their own parking analysis to indicate that they could proceed without a garage because the ultimate number of parking on the waterfront lots rarely exceeded 200 - 215 vehicles.
After the inauguration, Mayor Moak attended the special NRA meeting held on January 4, and expressed dissatisfaction with the earlier draft survey. Based upon that input, the survey was revised and approved by the NRA at their regularly scheduled meeting on January 24, 2006, and sent to the printers. Out of courtesy, a copy of the approved survey was sent to city council with the following letter:
Upon receipt of the survey and cover letter as a communications item on the January 26, 2006 city council agenda, the city council first voted to receive and file --- until Councilor Fowler interjected that this should be sent to the General Government and Planning Committees. In doing so, this could ostensibly prevent the survey from being mailed out with the census. Ward 3 Council James Shanley remarked that he would like to see a more complete survey which would include an option for mixed-use development. [Note that Councilor Shanley ran for re-election based upon the position that he preferred mayoral candidate Holadays plan (for a waterfront park with most parking removed to a downtown garage) to candidate Moak (which would be to develop an attractive park-like parking area on the two waterfront lots).]
Actually, this input was all a little late in the process, because the NRA survey was already printed. So with a little scrambling and egg on their collective faces, the city council rescinded at the next council meeting --- with the motion to take the matter out of committee unanimously approved --- which essentially released the NRA survey for inclusion in the city census which was to be mailed out to Newburyport households in early March. This is where you, as a member of the Waterside body politic, step in --- or step up to be counted. And as you read this in the early-July timeframe --- the surveys are still being tallied. And the mayor hopes to rally support for a compromise and consensus on the waterfront.
A related article entitled To park or not to park published in the January 17, 2006 issue of the Newburyport Current provides additional information can be found at this link within. A more recent article in June 20, 2006 edition of the Daily News reports about the Mayor's new task force (link within). Read more about the history of the waterfront at this link within which provides hyperlinks to related media coverage on the waterfront archived on the Comity.org Web site ~ including coverage of the "fast track" task force (link within).
Look for more information to be forwarded in a Motion of Comity. As Jefferson said, "Information is the currency of democracy." Don't sell yourself (or your community) short.
Upon reading the questions submitted to council, the wording only reinforced concerns made by the other NRA members. No one used the word duplicitous when describing the ballot referendums wording, but most considered it misleading, including a reference to public funds (in context of a simple yes/no question regarding construction of a garage).
His second question asked the public if they would like to see the City and NRA work on a plan to create permanent parking for a minimum of 450 cars while at the same time expanding the park. There was no mention as to how this would be funded or accomplished in the same space (since it is counter-intuitive to suggest the City could both expand the park and provide parking, although the term "landscaped parking lot" attempted to come to terms with that dilemma).
Plus, as worded, the two questions suggested that building a parking garage in downtown Newburyport will require public funds while a parking lot the central waterfront will not. The then Chairperson of the NRA Mary Lou Supple articulated to council that:
 Although no one could duck that question of that election --- for each mayoral candidate based their campaigns on their vision for the central waterfront, and the local press pressed ward and at-large candidates for their preference between Donnas or Johns envisioning of the downtown parking and a garage.