, Gloucester, MA

March 16, 2013

Letter: Council must take control over Waterways Board

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor:

Editor Ray Lamont’s recent editorial regarding the Waterways Board (the Times, Feb. 21) took a giant step forward by taking a community leadership role, highlighting the lack of waterfront leadership and the need to streamline the process, suggesting all roads point to the City Council.

For starters, it called for dismantling the self-governing Waterways Board. Though I’m not in favor of dismantling the board, it should absolutely be overseen by the City Council.

The waterfront faces stifling fishing quotas, memories of container ships, unfriendly infrastructure, suffocating DPA regulations and most importantly, a lack of an applauded roadmap. The present City Council is the most pragmatic council in decades. However, in order to face problems head-on, the council must be the central repository of commercial and recreational waterfront information.

The impetus of the GDT’s editorial began with the announcement three members of the Waterways Board (representing recreational boating) resigned stating their frustration — including Phil Cusumano, who realized the enforced half-hour downtown tie-up bordered on the absurd.

Example: Try informing thousands of passengers aboard a cruise ship that they’re welcome to shop, dine, relax on beaches, witness the working-waterfront, visit the memorials and walk back to the launch within a half-hour — or be fined $100?

Subsequently, knowing the Waterways Board are the knights templars of waterfront public access and the Designated Port Area, Phil Cusumano thought outside the box and without displacing one commercial vessel, proposed a transient floating marina with launch off the state pier for resident and non-resident mariners to temporarily overnight or via the launch visit downtown during the day.

Phil recently resigned knowing his proposal was going to die a slow death within the Waterways Chambers. To be fair, due in part to start-up cost. However, now we’re back to “hope you have cash” half-hour tie-ups.

In response to the editorial the Chairman wrote, “So let’s set a few things straight.” Where he argues the Waterways Board is committed to accommodating visiting boaters and a cultural shift towards pro-action in the past 11 months due to the addition of four new board members. He then noted Mr. Lamont, prefers to lob bombs than to actually understand something so important to our community”

He obviously doesn’t read the GDT. Secondly, the four new members are the same members the city council recommended…whereupon the Waterways Board fought and were overruled.

Likewise, the Waterways Board has continually delayed the notion of a much needed launch-boat providing mariners access to downtown. Frustrated with the delays and lack of empathy for local commerce, the city council essentially mandated the purchase of a launch boat.

Unfortunately the proposed launch service necessary to allow access to the downtown corridor is doomed to fail without a significant increase in resident mooring traffic.

With exorbitant dock fees inhibiting families from buying a boat, the towns of Scituate, Salem, Beverly, Newburyport, New Bedford and others provide thousands of resident moorings and launch services. In doing so each town’s Marine Industrial and tax base improves linearly via increased purchases of boats, anchors, radars, fishing gear, GPS’s, sails, fuel, etc. Additionally, establishments such as Lone Gull, Destino’s, Liquor locker, Palazola’s, Fishermen’s Outfitters, Roses Marine, etc. would be positively impacted.

As Tony Montana said in “Scarface,” “It’s all about pawa (power).” The key to the harbors success is to have waterfront leaders leave their hubris at the door and create a micro and macroeconomics roadmap leading to the harbors rejuvenation and long lost respect. As to the Times editorial’s comments, it’s all semantics until we have a centralized body who owns the road map.

A pragmatic City Council garners the ability to network with the mayor, state lawmakers Tarr and Ferrante, Gov. Patrick and Sen. Warren. Without an attentive, proactive city council at the helm, no one — and I mean no one — is going to turn this neglected and aging harbor around. Lastly, the Waterways Board is not for the faint of heart. The time away from family and friends investigating legal compliances; Chapter 91, I-4, C-2, sailing programs, committees, moorings and much more represents a true commitment to the city. I don’t say that to be kind; it is just “setting the record straight.”