Friday, March 9, 2012

Forgotten Photo Friday, The Fort

The purpose of SMU is to give folks a place to stop by for a few seconds each day and maybe they can forget their troubles if only for a few moments. Forgive me on this Friday as I diverge from normal activates and just let it all hang out. This Friday, I’m taking a rare step into philosophy with some forgotten photos.

Birdseye plant, Fort Square 8-16-2008 6-43-45 PM

The Game
There is a lot of buzz going on in our community. Some people would call it a war, I call it a game. A game has teams, barriers, a playing field, freedoms goals and barriers. A war is a game, an extremely aberrated game, but a game no less.

Fort Square 8-2-2008 7-34-38 AMThe playing field is The Fort. The teams are those that want to develop the Birdseye building and those that want to develop the Birdseye building. “What?” you may ask. Yes, you read correctly. Those that want to develop the Birdseye building and those that want to develop the Birdseye building.

And then there are the spectators, the sheep and the lemmings.

In a game, you have to some kind of difference, red shirts against the blue shirts. The teams comprise of those that want to put in a hotel on the Fort and those that would like to bring in an entity that would be more suitable to the culture of Gloucester such as a research institution or something that would build on Gloucester’s heritage.

An outsider looking out.
Long time readers will know that I grew up in Vermont, moved to LA, spent a good chunk of my live in Colorado, a small chunk of my life in Oak Ridge, Tennessee and now I’m in Gloucester.

I’ve seen these games played across the country, some with success, and some with disastrous results either for the community, the environment or in the displacement of the population.

If you read the paper and/or read the blogs, you will be subjected to a lot of rhetoric. Those that oppose the hotel are “obstructionists” and those that support the hotel are “citizens for positive change”. On the other side they would say that this developer is a this, that developer is a that. My philosophy in life allows me to push assistance to people that are in more powerful positions without feeling threatened myself. Thus I do not have a problem supporting anyone who I feel is acting responsibly.

Rhetoric. I’ve lived in a lot of different regions of this country and I’ve seen it all before. The strategy is to dehumanize the opposition.

The people that oppose the hotel have legitimate reasons for doing so. They are the business owners on the Fort that run marine industrial businesses. I’ve listened to them and like it or not, they have legitimate concerns. They too love their businesses, THEY PROVIDE JOBS AND PAY TAXES, too. They realize that their business have an aesthetic that may not be harmonious with a big business hotel and they do not have the deep pockets to defend themselves when their gurry, trucks, dumpsters that are part of their business interfere with the aesthetics of a Johnny-come-lately hotel.

I’ve seen it all before. It’s a game played in every school yard. It the game called, “You’re crazy.” The game is simple, if someone doesn’t agree with you, you just call them crazy. I see this game being played as anonymous comments are left on blogs and on the Gloucester Times. They do not have the intestinal fortitude to put their identity on their comments think it is okay defame or commit libel behind a shield of anonymity. Thus we have an indication of the decadence of our society.

This hotel is being touted as the panacea for Gloucester’s problems. It’s going to produce 100 jobs, it going to solve crime and our children are going to be smarter. It’s going to fill our restaurants.  The hotel will be near where there was a hotel before. (Well, that hotel couldn’t make a go of it, but shhh…). Actually, it was a resort hotel located where The Tavern is. As an outsider I haven’t been able to figure The Tavern out. It has a sign outside that says its professional building and it seems to have an event space. I’ve only seen one or two functions there since I’ve lived here and the parking lot is always empty.

Why not a hotel?
When I interviewed for my job in Gloucester, I was put up in a hotel down in Danvers. A regional hotel will be good for the area. But a hotel with 100 staff? Just how many beds need to be filled on a continuing basis to keep 100 people employed? And what is going to happen when this is not accomplished and the jobs go away for 9 months out of the year when the hotel is empty? Or are these claims just rhetorical?

Boats, Fort Square-5On Ocean Research
Everyone in Gloucester knows that Gloucester Harbor is a unique, deep water port. The Birdseye building doesn’t have access to this by pier or dock as it is on a beach. A marine research institution is not a bad idea as it has close proximity to slips and docks.

Now, the comments will come in, “Oh, research institutions don’t pay taxes, they are a drain on the community, they buy up all the property”…listen, I’ve lived in no less than three university towns and one government research town. These towns ARE ALL PROSPEROUS. Done properly, research and educational institutions provide STABLE, long-term employment. They are less prone to the ups and downs of the economy. The people that work at these institutions live in the region, eat at the restaurants, buy gas, well you get the picture. They provide professional, administrative, service, skilled and unskilled jobs that are not seasonal or are not subject to swings on Wall Street.

“The Birdseye building is abandoned and falling apart.” Yes, this is true. It’s part of the game that a developer plays. It’s nothing to get excited about. I wouldn’t put money into a building I’m going to bulldoze, would you? Heck, this tactic can be so obvious that it is laughable. There was a chunk of wetland out side of Long Beach, California. It was classified as a wetland because it was in a flood plane and it got mud puddles when it rained. The developer ran harrows over the entire property a few months before the land was surveyed for environmental impact and proclaimed it to be a waste land.

The xenophobic Fort
“The people on the Fort resist outsiders.” That is just nonsense and is not founded on any basis of reality. My wife and I have been Outward Boundmade very welcome on the Fort. We’re not Italian, we’re not fishermen. We came in with Colorado plates.
The neighborhood on the Fort is made up of businessmen, machinists, engineers, technicians, health care providers, accountants, mothers, fathers, children, grandparents and people in the fishing industry too.

“The People on the Fort are waiting for the rebound of the fishing industry.” They know that the days of thousands of pounds of flakes drying in the sun are gone. No one believes that there will be the tonnage coming into Gloucester as before. They know that change is here. They want to be able to guide it along so that the people that have prosperous businesses on the Fort can continue as the present zoning allows and that they can continue to have a say in now their neighborhood is allowed to evolve.

I’ve seen all these tactics before. The hired guns to run the political spin, the puppets, the big money, the politicians with one eye on the pot and the other eye on the polls. Let’s not forget the “unbiased” media fanning the flames.

Ya’ know what?
Now, call me crazy but I think the Cruise Port is a good thing and I like the new Cape Ann Brewery.  The new fish landing business beside Lat 43 is doing what should be doing on our waterfront. Intershell has been a shot in the arm for the Fort. The Chamber of Commerce building is well utilized. I don’t hear any objections on the Fort regarding these businesses.

There’s been some revitalization of downtown. These are all good things. But I keep getting hung up on the rhetoric. Why is there so much smack talk? It makes me stop and wonder why there is so much spin. What is going on behind the scenes that there is a need for all of the name calling, the posturing and all the games?  Hmm…is it because the Fort is a tiny neighborhood and there are not that many votes and therefore easy to overrun?  If the good of the neighborhood was the real objective, then there would be no need for the bamboozlement.

Think for yourself
There isn’t one problem on this planet that cannot be solved with communication between the parties. Both sides are doing what they think is best. There isn’t a 100% right or 100% wrong in this game. 

Gloucester Sunset from Fort Square 7-14-2008 6-05-25 PM

I do not believe that the folks that want a hotel are 100% dead wrong. I do not believe the folks supporting current zoning are 100% right. You have to look at both sides of the issue.

When I look at both sides, when I cut through all the rhetoric, the analysis tells me that the greatest good for the greatest number of entities is to leave the zoning as is. And for [Saint] Pete’s, look at the facts and do your own thinking. I only hope that I have encouraged you to do so.


Richard said...

Well thought out and outstanding presentation. Great post. It's the same thing that is going on all over this country.

Sharon said...

Thanks for posting this. Hopefully more people will question the obvious and, like you said, think for themselves. Excellent post!

Angryjed said...

Couldn't have said it better myself! Steve you nailed it, and you prove that REAL people, whith honor, integrity and heat are welcomed with open arms 'down the fort'.

Amazing pic of the birdseye tower -Iconic.

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