The old saying in politics is that nobody comes away from the tabled full. That was the case last night at City Council meeting. A series of orders, resolutions and transfers, all waterfront related were addressed.
First and foremost, the Harbormaster/transient boater facility bonding authorization was unanimously approved and the city via the Harbormaster/Harbor Commission enterprise account (read no tax dollars, just boat user fees) now can go out and bids can be solicited. A packed Council Chamber and a resulting large number of residents spoke on this and other issues. No one spoke against the facility and many persons and entities spoke in favor of the HM measure emphasizing how this will truly make Newburyport a boating destination. The inclusion of public restrooms was a reoccurring theme.
The Council also voted on a resolution requesting the NRA to vote to disband. The resolution, a non-binding “position statement” co-sponsored by me (with Councillors Herzog and Giunta), failed 7-4. President O’Brien also voted in favor. I am disappointed to be on the short side of that vote especially after receiving so much feedback from around Ward 3 and city in general. My reasoning behind this non-binding resolution is simple; since this is such a long and tedious process that once it is completed on the city side, which might take several years, it then moves to Boston and through the state government process for further consideration. To disband there is still a three year waiting period after the Commonwealth takes their final action; this information was provided by Planning Director Andy Port. This is why I felt and still feel the Council needed to get the ball rolling now.
On a better note the Cameron/Vogel order as well as my order regarding a roadmap for how disbanding the NRA should start was sent to committee with a strict timeline for the presentation of findings before the November 3 election. I personally will be pushing to release the findings in early October so residents can have time to digest the report and associated issues. This will certainly entail time and effort in a short window but needs to happen. All in all although there were some tense moments, the Council did the right thing and finally I hope there is some traction on this issue.
It is likely that both orders will be combined in some shape or form. It appears likely the Council President will appoint five Councillors and be inclusive of stakeholders like the Waterfront Trust, NRA, and Harbor Commission. I am hoping this working group will include a member of COW, Friends of the Waterfront, local citizens and business stakeholders. Those decisions are not up to me and I will continue to advocate for an open and objective forum with all-around inclusiveness as this moves forward.
Finally you may have heard that I am again running for the Ward 3 Council seat and am unopposed. I am thankful and grateful to represent such as diverse and wonderful group of people. While each day brings with it challenges it also reminds me of how lucky I am and we all are to live in such a wonderful City.