, Gloucester, MA

September 7, 2013

Letter: Long Beach issues lack transparency, accountability

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor:

What do the town of Rockport, and the Gloucester Daily Times have in common?

It’s a rhetorical question. It is my opinion that there is no practical relationship when it comes to performing a needed journalistic function. Town government activities seem rarely covered, or, if they are, the news hits the paper well after the event.

Examining the copy for Sept. 5 amplifies my concerns. Rockport makes Page 1, above the fold with a recurring story about Long Beach and a lease agreement. As a resident taxpayer and voter, I reviewed the minutes of Annual Town Meeting and, as clear as clear can be, the peoples’ assembly rubber-stamped the Politburo’s request to allow the governing committee to proceed without arbitration to enter a new lease agreement with the beach renters. Done!

And it was done after much jabber-jabber that produced absolutely no comfort for the core residents of this town.

Now, we are told that the Board of Selectmen board will allow a noted town activist to present three non-binding resolutions for this coming meeting. What’s the purpose? Expend valuable time? Give the noted activist an opportunity to fulminate and satisfy a desire to prove that Town Meeting, like all the world, is a stage? Utter nonsense.

Had the Times had coverage at the select board meeting where “concerns and facts about Long Beach” was on the agenda, the reading public might have had some inkling of what policies were under review/consideration. Yet on the date of the meeting, Times Editor Lamont editorialized about the need for genuine concern for this subject, and, coincidentally, my last opinion piece appeared the same day urging people to attend.

Of course, hypocritically, I didn’t attend the meeting because I considered the prospect a waste of time. Didn’t Annual Town Meeting settle this score?

Then our governing body belatedly made notification that, first, a meeting would be conducted on such and such a date — and no agenda or meeting source appeared on the meeting announcement. Subsequently, an addition agenda appeared on the town website, with reference to a first notification, that the date set for a public forum concerning Long Beach Leases. Note that you had to get online to be aware of this action.

Then, the select board publishes a formal, legal notice of intent to have a public hearing on this same subject. All this crap focused on the originally announced date, and the day of official publication appeared, was the day prior to the hearing.

Of course, I didn’t attend, since obviously the meeting was for the primary benefit of the Long Beach lease holder. Times coverage was present, and the correspondent was effusive in relating the opinion of those in meeting attendance. The attendants quoted, all beach residents, presented a perplexity over what they heard. Those quoted seemed to say what they heard of the forum cum public hearing wasn’t what they heard of the earlier board meeting — about which the voting public heard nothing.

Then, Dr. Plotkin emerged with two very explicit, common sense letters to the editor (the Times, Monday, Sept. 2, Wednesday, Sept. 4). The letters are informative. A long-term lease in this specific matter is not good business.

But hasn’t the barn door been locked after the horse was stolen? And, it’s my contention that the horse has been shot. Hasn’t the town conceded that the select board can do as it sees fit in the development of a lease? Without any accountability for this action accruing to the board?

Is all this indicative of governmental transparency? With me, this doesn’t pass the smell test.

In Friday’s Times (Sept. 6), there is a letter from the selectmen’s chair setting up what appears to be another run at discovering if further discussion on Long Beach Leases is required. The timing is excellent, since lease holders must be notified of Town intent by Oct. 1.

If I were to make an educated guess, I would suggest the letter was written in consult with Kopelman and Page, and I further submit this entity will be the only one that makes money from this deal. And I won’t resent that, so long as the lease K&P writes includes escalator clauses; appropriate “hold harmless” clauses, and inserts positive time-lines for re-opening the lease at any time should economic issues or, God help us, a force of nature produces a genuine calamity and the feds get involved.

I appreciate that the renters only enjoy these residents for a short period each year. Yet, whatever else these homes may be called, living on the shore, or the coast, is still a luxury.

And I would remind the renters that Rockport’s core group of residents are senior citizens — and yes, many of us deal with fixed income.