May 16, 2009 05:27 am
To the editor:
This is an open message to Michael David Rubin and his My View. (The Times, May 11).
I pass this along from a concerned citizen — for what I have to say is true and is appalling.
Mr. Rubin, whatever disagreement you have with Mayor Kirk and her community development director is between the parties; I will not go there. I also will not comment on Mayor Kirk’s Harbor Initiative. I’ve done enough commenting on well meaning, civic-minded harbor planning committees, dating back to the mid 1960s when I served on Mayor Donald Lowe’s Harbor Planning Committee.
About seven of us met for two years on a bi-weekly basis, and spent $10,000 of the city’s money on a professional feasibility study by consultants Metcalf & Eddy. The end result … nothing.
Out of curiosity, I recently attempted to obtain a copy of “our” study to no avail; it has vanished. I do know that, by the time it was published, two years had passed, administrations had changed, interest had waned, and apparently our Harbor Study Report went unrecognized, possibly placed into the round file.
In your “My View” piece, I take issue with your opinion that our harbor and its once primary revenue source, commercial fishing, may still return, not only stronger, but as a vital resource.
The persistent theme of turning Gloucester into a tourist-oriented economy repeats the old threat — destructive residential development of our waterfront. These same scare tactics were around 40 years ago when our Harbor Study Committee met.
Otto Frank, Anne Frank’s father, the only family member surviving the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam in World War II, on the dedication of the Anne Frank House in 1967, said this, “to build a future, you have to know the past.”
In 1949, when Gloucester’s 200 boats, 2,000 fishermen, and 2,500 wharf workers were landing and processing millions of pounds of edible fish daily, routinely breaking annual records of 300 million to 500 million pounds of redfish and whiting, you, Mr. Rubin, were 6 years old!
While everyone hopes for a fish comeback, I ask you, define “comeback.” Gloucester’s peak fish production was in 1949, ’50, ’51. It has gone downhill steadily since.
At the height of our highest fish production, when every pound of fish had to be filleted, packed and frozen, that entire task was accomplished on no more than 60 percent of the then-available wharfage. At least 40 percent of our waterfront wharfage real estate was unused!
Mr. Rubin, the above is all history, but it’s where Gloucester was in the late 1940s, when fishing was Gloucester’s primary revenue source. To infer that our waterfront will ever approach even 25 percent of that production is preposterous. To continue to hold out hope for any fishing fleet revival, warranting the reserving of additional wharfage and, or waterfront frontage, is ridiculous, plain and simple. It’s more, it’s downright fraudulent!
I can give you many reasons for the current dire state of Gloucester’s commercial fishing industry.
Along the periphery of our harbor from the Fort to East Gloucester, there are 79 strictly waterfront properties within the DPA (Designated Port Area). Official city records indicate these properties pay a total of $741,000 in real estate taxes. Our entire real estate tax revenues are $56.7 million.
Gloucester’s budget is $81 million, as recently submitted. Our waterfront is paying approximately 1-1âÑ2 percent of our actual total tax revenue!
In other words, approximately 98 percent of Gloucester’s real estate taxpayers are subsidizing your alleged “primary revenue source,” Gloucester harbor waterfront businesses. And you, my concerned citizen, continue to advocate for industrial-only expansion while prime water frontage lies fallow, in some cases over 40 years!
Mr. Rubin, the people of Gloucester deserve an income-producing Gloucester waterfront. Our children and grandchildren deserve better. Our Gloucester waterfront must step up to the plate and pay its fair share.
Our city councilors must address the larger need of our entire real estate taxpayer population and our city government must accept the reality that our once-dominant fishing industry, as we knew it, has changed forever.