Issues

Availability

It’s important that residents know who their Ward Councilor is.  It should be easy to reach your Councilor and, when contacted, your Councilor should get back to you in a timely fashion.  As far
 as I’m concerned, that respectful interaction is the most essential role that Councilors play.

riversideCity Councilors are representatives of the people.  For city government to work well it is essential that they maintain a close relationship with the people they represent.  Councilors should welcome diverse perspectives on topics of import and be open to a change of mind when people provide compelling arguments.  They should feel an obligation to provide the reasoned and factual basis
for their votes.

City Councilors should also assist their constituents in obtaining assistance or information about the operation of city government.  They should serve as a conduit for the two-way exchange of information between local government and residents.  On the one hand, Councilors should provide pertinent information to constituents and, on the other hand, they should stand ready to assist people who may have a problem.

If elected, I will be easy to reach.  I will be at the Riverside Café (260 Merrimac Street) on Saturday mornings at 10:00am.  Drop by to talk politics, talk sports, give me your opinion on city issues or just drop by and enjoy a cup of coffee.

My telephone number is 978-701-3819

My email address is: tontar44@comcast.net

My Facebook page is: Charlie Tontar

My web page is: charlietontar.com

Parks

Newburyport’s parks and recreational areas are among the city’s prime assets.  They provide a

"The Volunteer" Atkinson Common photo credit David T. Crowley

“The Volunteer”
Atkinson Common
photo credit David T. Crowley

welcome respite from the bustle of city life and a place where our children can be, well, children.  Unfortunately, until very recently, they have been the neglected stepchildren of our political and fiscal reality.

Fortunately, many volunteers have stepped forward in an effort to preserve our open spaces.  As a member of the Belleville Improvement Society, I have witnessed up-close what it takes to restore and maintain Atkinson Common.  The city is extremely fortunate to have citizens with the vision, stamina and drive of Beverly McBurnie and other members of the Society.  The recent Tablet Day event rededicating the Civil War Memorial showcased Atkinson Common and the extensive effort undertaken over the past decade.

But, more needs to be done.  I worked with the National Park Service to create Groundwork Trust USA, a network of not-for-profit corporations dedicated to the sustained regeneration of our physical environment.  The first Trust was created in Lawrence, Massachusetts and there are now twenty trusts located nation-wide.   Newburyport’s recent creation of a not-for-profit foundation dedicated to raising private funds for park improvements is a step in the right direction and is consistent with the mission of the Groundwork Trusts.  This effort deserves to be supported.

As a former youth soccer coach, I am well aware of the challenges of finding suitable space to hold practices.  The City should work actively to assist all youth sports in creating quality fields. I remember the time our field (donated by a business in an industrial park) had been turned into a pond replete with ducks after a heavy rain.

I will be an advocate for the City’s parks and open spaces.

Preservation

I signed the petition in support of the Local Historic District, had a sign on my lawn andhistoric attended the forum on the creation of a local district.  Unfortunately, the debate became acrimonious and compromise became impossible.  From my perspective, the inability to work out a compromise on this issue represents one of the major failures of the current City Council.

My family moved to Newburyport because of the proximity to the ocean and the wonderful downtown that encourages community.  We also moved here because of the rich and varied architectural diversity of the city.  It’s a beautiful place to live and we feel privileged.  Our goal as a community should
 be to preserve this diversity without creating impossible constraints on homeowners.

As an owner of an approximately 260-year-old colonial, I am well aware of the challenges of maintaining, renovating and preserving an antique home.  I am also well aware of the unique benefits that come from living in such a structure.  One develops an appreciation for the extraordinary craftsmanship in their construction and an understanding that we are not only owners of these houses but also their caretakers.  My personal goal has always been to leave our house better for future occupants.  This is also a goal I would hope is shared for all our historic homes.

I will support any kind of reasonable compromise.  For example, we could create an historic district focused on the downtown area along with smaller districts where residents wish to establish them.  We could provide city assistance for individuals who wished to place an historic deed restriction on their 
homes.  In addition, I support extending the demolition delay from 12 months to 24 months.  I suspect that once districts are established on a limited basis more people will come to understand their benefits.

Education

I have been an educator my entire adult life.  My wife is a retired Professor of Linguistics at the University of Massachusetts, Boston and my son is a high school math teacher.  I value education and will bring this perspective to all decisions before the City Council.

While realizing that the School Committee has primary oversight over the school system and that the City Council votes to approve the school budget through the budget process, I believe it is important that all elected officials dedicate themselves to assuring that Newburyport’s public schools excel.   Simply put, I believe Newburyport should strive to have the best school system in the Commonwealth.

There are many advantages to a city having an excellent public school system that extend beyond the benefits experienced by families that have students of school age.  It is the prime variable used by households to determine where they wish to live so it contributes importantly to the strength 
of the local housing market.  This eases the uncertainty of the market value of one’s home if one needs to sell to relocate because of work obligations or because one chooses to downsize in later years.  Quality schools contribute to the broader cultural life of the community.  They offer numerous amenities for residents through attendance at sporting events, art shows, concerts and plays.  Quality education is closely associated with lower crime rates and fewer youth related social problems.  We all benefit from better schools.

Fiscal Policy and Economic Development

Newburyport confronts the same fiscal challenges that all cities across the country face.  The mostly labor-intensive costs associated with the provision of public goods and services do not easily lend themselves to cost saving techniques utilized in the private sector.  Public sector jobs cannot be moved abroad and there are technological limits to the displacement of labor by capital equipment. If Newburyport hopes to maintain a quality public labor force it must pay compensation that is competitive in the market for public employees.

At the same time, revenue sources are constrained.  Property taxes have become a burden on many.  This is especially the case for seniors on limited incomes.

It is therefore imperative that the city practice fiscal responsibility.  It is also imperative that the city aggressively pursues opportunities to attract new business entities to the city and ensures that businesses in the city remain here.  Targeted smart economic growth consistent with the city’s character is a way to provide property tax relief for homeowners without reducing the quality of city services.

The Waterfront

There are three possible outcomes for the 4.2 acres of property owned by the NewburyportNRA Undevel Redevelopment Authority (NRA) as indicated in red on a map provided by Union Studio,the architectural and planning firm hired by the NRA.

Outcome 1    The Status Quo

The NRA owned dirt parking lots remain as they are with no enhancement of the existing Waterfront Park and Boardwalk area.

 

 

Outcome 2    The Newburyport Redevelopment Authority (NRA) ConceptNRA Concept

Significant level of development (three mixed-use buildings) could be major factor in making feasible transformation of NRA waterfront from gravel parking lots to attractive, vibrant area including expanded public open space.

For more information please see: http://newburyportra.blogspot.com/

 

 

Outcome 3    The Committee for an Open Waterfront (COW) ConceptCOW Pic

• Integrate our waterfront park with the Merrimack River and celebrate Newburyport’s maritime history

• Preserve and enhance our existing waterfront spaces and activities

• Create new spaces and opportunities for additional waterfront activities

• Design landscaped parking lots that are compartmentalized and allow flexible uses

• Create environmentally sensitive areas that require minimal maintenance and are storm proof

For more information please see:  http://nbptopenwaterfront.org/

 

My Position

1.  The least desirable outcome would be a continuation of the status quo.  The question as to the optimal use and design of the waterfront has been discussed since 1968 when the lots were originally taken and cleared.  Maintenance of the dirt lots constitutes a barrier to an enlarged and enhanced waterfront.

2.  Neither the COW nor the NRA concept has yet been articulated with a degree of specificity sufficient for a fully informed evaluation.  This is particularly the case with regard to the financial aspects of both concepts.

• The NRA concept is dependent upon the cost of construction and the price point the market would bear for sale or lease of the property.  In turn, these will largely determine the amount of funds available for the improvement and enlargement of the park.

• The COW concept, as far as I can tell, is dependent upon receiving funding through grants or private donations.

3.  Given the financial burden Newburyport residents are currently carrying to address the too long deferred capital depreciation of our public buildings (Library, Waterworks, High School, Middle School and the Bresnahan School), it is essential that the Waterfront not increase this burden.

4.  The difference between the two concepts for the Waterfront is a question of differing aesthetic sensibilities and assessments as to how best to link the boardwalk area to the downtown.  The NRA concept is one of an intimate park defined by ground-level commercial structures 
that would draw people to the boardwalk on a year-round basis.  The COW concept is one of an open area with flexible parking that could serve alternative seasonal functions and thereby 
draw people to the boardwalk.  As they say, taste is in the eye of the beholder.  Personally, I am attracted more to the NRA design concept.  I certainly understand how others would have 
a different perspective.

5.  It is important that all of us engaged in this important discussion on the most desirable design for the very heart of our community keep an open mind and treat each other with the utmost respect.  Staking out non-negotiable positions will likely result in a continuation of the status quo and be indicative of a community too fractured to envision a better future.