, Gloucester, MA

January 12, 2013

Letter: I-4 C-2 losses just latest lost opportunity

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor:

The Jan. 8, 2013, City Council packet is quite remarkable in containing around $1 million in (seemingly) casual throw-away losses of public funds at a time when we are told about debt burdens and sizable new bills to pay.

Certain folks within the administration seem to neither serve the community nor even the mayor very well when this thinking is offered up to her and us as “best policies” to be signed off on “pronto.” The following is one multi-layered example of what ails our Port-Economy from within; we are losing ground as a community on broader-scale policies ... :

When Community/Harbor Development proposes to the mayor and council that I-4, C-2 be put up for sale at 45 cents to the dollar, selling for $680,000 when we paid $1.5 million in public funding. That’s a loss of $820,000.

When, after many years of position and tenure, Community/Harbor Development offers no examples of the necessary heavy-lifting of exploring and weaving together multiple sources of support from within and without this community toward boosting the port’s fortunes, by using this sole publicly-owned property on the Inner Harbor as a potent piece of community infrastructure to become the badly-needed Ocean-Centric Innovation-Incubator to change the atmosphere of decline toward where Gloucester should be in the 21st century.

When, across many years now — instead of leading unambiguously in ocean-centric innovation for the fishing, tourism, or other commercial fleets — that choke hold on the harbor against any such innovation has us bleeding our jobs and tax-base as a Gulf of Maine hub port until this port economy is indeed brought to its knees.

When these “policies” are “outsourcing” jobs before these community-development specialists ever demonstrated that they can bring them here to begin with.

When looking “prettier” here and there by spending big public bucks on that nice HarborWalk is more important to those “specialists” than producing 21st century jobs and tax base.

We are losing ground on smaller-scale examples of failed policies as well:

When that department showed no interest in taking over the Navy boat project as the long-overdue city launch despite the city’s $75,000 share in the $170,000 grant. That office actually refusing the craft, while Mayor Carolyn Kirk to this day cannot ferry the governor or lieutenant governor or the Seaport Advisory Council around the harbor on a Gloucester-built craft to show what the accomplishments and challenges are on this waterfront. In stark contrast, a very engaged partner in the project, the state’s Division of Marine Fisheries, thus got to claim the boat for well below $30,000 to serve as a research craft.

When, without that boat under city flag, the Waterways Board now proposes to buy such a launch to service the Inner and Outer Harbor at a cost to the public of $150,000 — an actual cost of now $225,000, in light of the $75,000 share in the Navy project without then taking over that boat.

So in this one night, a few decisions by a few public employees add up to either $970,000 — or $1,045,000 — in losses for our city. Gone. No returns, No jobs created. No smart ocean-centric interests attracted. How many other opportunities have been casually discarded?

Then we are told that “nobody wants to come here without a 55 percent discount on I-4, C-2?”

No matter how many “maritime economy summits” may be called by those good folks, not following through on a broad range of solid professional advice and opportunities to boost this port and our tax base since at least “Gloucester 2000” — whether offered for free or bought for 6-digit costs to the city — refusal to do so is the stark and destructive opposite of “community development.”