Left In Lowell

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May 30, 2012

Addicted To Taxes

by at 4:15 pm.

You may recognize the graph I took the liberty of modifying. I started with a graph from the City Manager’s Budget Proposal. (h/t Gerry Nutter) If you click through, you will see the original graph on Page 17.

I took the liberty of “painting in” lines that show the tenure of the past City Managers: Richard Johnson (1991-1995), Brian Martin (1995-1999), John Cox (1999-2006) & Bernard Lynch (2006-Present). The BLACK verticle lines approximate each change in the Manager’s position. The YELLOW verticle lines approximate 1 year after a change because I am assuming the previous City Manager crafted the budget his successor worked with. The dollar value is the amount the average single family household tax increased in Lowell (the BLUE line) over the tenure of each City Manager.

Note: The annual demarcations occur mid-year, as the budget does. I’m not sure exactly what months any of the City Manager changes occured. Likely, not at mid-year. I think Lynch came in August 2006.

Photobucket

Lastly, the dollar figures are interpolated from the graph. I doubt CM Lynch adjusted 1990’s dollars for inflation. Thus, not to pick on Richard Johnson, we should think that “$500″ is a little heavier in today’s dollars.

Anyways, we are a City with “Taxes on the Brain.” For some it is a fetish. Others, an addiction. For several, it is a hackneyed talking point, plodded out on Local Cable and the Blog of Record to make political hay for the first two groups. For most of us, it is just a pain in the ass that we accept as the necessary cost of having the best City in the Commonwealth.

Update below the (more…)

May 28, 2012

Word Choice

by at 12:23 pm.

Memorial Day is tough for politicans. No. I’m not seeking sympathy for them. This day is not for them. Though, in a republic, they are the prism through which our liberty shines. To honor those that have fallen for us, for us to have liberty, is to keep the politician in the corner of our eye. Those that have fallen and those that stand, serving, join a common purpose, the same cause.

So, in this context, I’d like to remind folks of the perilous tightrope your electeds walk this day. If we can set aside cynicism and partisanship for a moment, you should know that the VAST majority of politicians wish to serve. That sense of service compels them to revere and honor our fallen brothers and sisters. They who lead, must bow for a moment, and with us, pay tribute.

This is not easily done.

The natural instinct of a politician is self promotion. The forced switch to odd pronoun choices, like “they” and “we” will always flummox the glad hander. They can craft the rhetoric, but for some, there is no cornerstone within their character to bear the gravity of these words. Some are empty.

Few are full and I’d like to share with you one that has stood out to me today.

It just so happens that Tammy Duckworth is running for Congress in Illinois. Yet, her word choice today stands out. I get plenty of stuff across the intertubes, as I am sure many of you have. We stumble for words and often rely on a historical figure to reach for the stars we have in our minds, but cannot reach. I think Tammy found a way.
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May 25, 2012

Protect Employers Who Value Workers

by at 9:23 pm.

This popped up on Facebook, from Councilor Lorrey:

I will be on Warren Shaw’s radio show on WCAP at 7 am tomorrow. The discussion will center around my motion to have the proper department (law dept.) report on the feasibility of drafting a home rule petition to exclude out of state companies from being the successful bidder based solely on being the lowest bidder.

This topic was covered in the last City Council meeting (2:01:16).

I want to commend C.Lorrey for starting this converstation, locally. It would serve us well for it to find it’s way, through our delegation, to Beacon Hill. A quick Google of “resident bidder preference” & “reciprocity” will clearify any confusion that this doesn’t have a shot of passing in Boston. This sort of thing is growing across America, state by state.

Why?

Because some states value workers, thus “encouraging” the business community to invest in them. Other states, don’t.

If you own a business in a state that requires your employees to be professionally licensed, safety trained; insured for health, unemployment and disability, your cost of business will be higher than one that does not. If your state has good schools, homes with value, public safety services, taxes are higher. As the saying goes, good things don’t come cheap.

If work is bid out to companies that live in states that have lower median incomes, don’t value their workers and generally coerce worker to race to the bottom against other workers; then cost for the project is lower. The project cost is depressed on the backs of the workers and their qualilty of life.

Currently, companies from states like KY & TN are sending crews to build small ,private retail projects. These crews will spend over a year living in a hotel. IN A HOTEL and it is still cheaper. We have crews coming in from NH. The “NH Advantage” is a disadvantage to local firms. What should we do?

We should not mimic those states that seek to devalue labor. We do NOT want to race to the bottom. Let’s listen to what C.Lorrey and others have to offer on this issue.

May 24, 2012

Wink, Wink. Nudge, Nud… Whoa! Wait a Sec!

by at 10:52 am.

The Blog of Record has little compunction about what it suggests. Selling “news” is to dabble in political pornography. It’s the nature of the dead tree beast. I can’t say that I can recall many forrays with our sainted city elders, but you can never know for sure.

Someone pointed out the very precarious choice of words by the up ‘n coming Enterprise Editor Christopher Scott:

Steve Panagiotakos, the former chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee from Lowell who resigned two years ago, is back in the State House in a major way, lobbying on behalf of health insurers on one of the most closely watched and heavily lobbied pieces of legislation to be proposed this session.

Update: The Blog of Record now reads: “… the former chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee from Lowell who didn’t seek re-election in 2010, is back in the State House …. “

It was suggested to me that the young Mr. Scott was playing off of rumors around the former State Senator’s rather surprising decision to not seek re-election. We know Pangi did NOT resign. The word suggests disgrace. Especially, in these parts. Especially, in the bee line between Lowell and Beacon Hill.

I was asked about the phrasing. I did not know. I’ve heard things. But, anyone who bobbles in the bubble knows, you should believe none of what you hear and half of what you see.

That’s why it’s odd to see it in print.

Open Thread: City Council 052212

by at 7:02 am.

As we head into the budget season, we are going to see more clearly what the tact and demeanor of our Councilors are. Simply, are they serious about governing? Or, are they focused on political brinksmanship?

Item #5 (6:27 - 52:51) Please spend the time watching this. I have my own thoughts, but would like to hear yours. We have a city to tend to. We do? Don’t we?

Feel free to comment on anything that you find noteworthy. This is an Open Thread.
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May 23, 2012

C.Elliott’s Race To The Bottom

by at 2:34 pm.

As Lynne reminds us: How Quickly We Forget

Councilor Elliott’s fiscal “acumen” leads us this way:

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How Quickly We Forget

by at 10:32 am.

Not so long ago, in a galaxy right here at home, Lowell had the Massachusetts Department of Revenue breathing down its neck, had gobbled up all its free cash and then some, and had what was effectively a structural deficit. When City Manager Lynch was hired, we were treading water near a very dangerous whirlpool. These budgets were the brainchild of the previous CM and rubberstamped by previous Councils - likely because the budgets were so obfuscated it was hard to tell what you were voting for.

That’s what makes Councilor Rodney Elliot’s comments at the meeting this week that Lynch is “addicted to taxes” so utterly ridiculous. Far from showcasing himself as the fiscal watchdog, Elliot seems to just be fiscally forgetful - and completely blind.

Let’s remember that the property tax increases of the last few years, while not zero, were NOT increased as high as they could have been (the levy limit, and beyond) like so many other struggling communities. Let’s also recall that the mere annual costs of doing business, and delivering the same level of service, go up, not down, and that the level of local aid has been - to say the least - a little rough, despite the state holding the line as best they could. Let’s also take a look at the charts that show the slow closing of the structural deficit, to a point where a negative balance in our free cash account has gone to a pretty impressive positive. Let’s also not forget that our cost of borrowing money has gone down because our fiscal house was put in order, with ratings increases for muni bonds saving us an awful lot of money.

All that could not have been accomplished by ZERO tax increases. Empty rhetoric notwithstanding.

Elliot is ridiculous and his math is sketchy. He constantly pretends he gives a crap about budgets but really, he’s just knee-jerk-reflexively anti-tax no matter the circumstance. That sort of leadership we could live without. I’d say we’re in damn good shape if Lynch is easing off the rather moderate tax increases of the last 5 years. Our budgets are clearer and better defined, and our free cash is once again where it should be. We here in Lowell are set up for a bright future, and if all Elliot can say is “I’ll believe it when I see it” because Lynch’s budget numbers cause him to sputter to come up with a way to be negative, well, he was on the Council back in the bad old days of structural deficits and I don’t remember him being quite so hard hitting back then.

I for one am glad our property taxes have been responsibly managed, that the city keeps on finding ways to become as efficient as possible, and that this year, the property tax increase will be minuscule. But let’s face it, a few tens of dollars extra per quarter for solving our budgetary near-crisis was a small price to pay for sitting pretty in the catbird seat right now. Unlike some people, I have a longer memory and can appreciate where we’re going by looking at where we’ve been before.

Kudos to the city administration for all the hard work - I know it’s a thankless job, but some of us at least understand what you’ve accomplished.

May 22, 2012

Proposed Vatt Khmer Temple - Breathtaking

by at 2:56 pm.

Artist’s rendition:

VattKhmerLowell

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The Trouble With Catholics

by at 11:02 am.

Not too long ago, I saw a short clip on City Life that made me wonder: Imagine If Muslims Made An Ad Like This One? Now, my friend George Anthes took exception to me making this point. He felt that it was more than appropriate for Catholics to assert their mores & values, as they headed into the polling booths to cast a ballot. In one regard, I fully agree. The point where I slip off is when politicians take the “will of the People,” as a mandate to codify dogma. It is perfectly fine for any politician/elected official to be “informed” by their faith, but it is another thing altogether to govern by it. The Constitution, dear readers, is very clear on this point.

In light of nitwits like former GOP presidential hopefuls, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, it wasn’t much of a stretch for me to be attuned to the consequences of impasssioned charlatans in the White House. Thus, I flipped the context of the video clip around, wondering if red blooded, apple pie eating, baseball watching, “Sarah Palin - real Americans” could sit quitely by, if Muslims asserted their faith in a similar fashion? You make the call.

Lately I have been tossing around this phrase: “You can’t rationalize a person out of an opinion, they did not arrive at in a rational way.” And this, I feel, is the trouble with Catholics. Well most, anyways.
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May 20, 2012

Trying to correct misinformation!

by at 7:09 pm.

The Sunday Sun’s Column has another piece on the potential open seat in the Greater Lowell Technical High School Committee. Since current School Committeeman Mike Lenzi has purchased a house in Dracut, it would be reasonable to assume he will move into that home and vacate the Lowell seat on that Board. (I cannot link to the Column yet; it is not on their website).

In their recap the Sun repeats in inaccurate statement about Cliff Krieger, one of the individuals who is interested in the position. The Sun writes “He [Cliff] said he would be honored to serve until the election and will not run.”

This is the second time the Sun has written that statement about Cliff. He did try to correct the record on his blog post of May 8th, “It is a chance to service the community and the GLTHS is a very important part of our system for raising children and producing good citizens.  I don’t recall saying that if appointed I wouldn’t run for an additional term.” 

It may not be a major issue, but I see more and more inaccurate statements being presented and facts. Not only are these comments not corrected but they are often repeated so many times that they become the “truth.” Also, I think it is important that Cliff’s sentiment are not misrepresented.

And as far as the process is concerned, I think lobbying should be encouraged. I would hope that anyone who is interested has already directly contacted the 15 individuals (School Commitee and City Council) who will vote to fill the vacancy. And in turn, I would think the SC and CC would discuss the position with the three remaining Lowell members of the GLTHS, not to ask them who to vote for but to ask them about the position itself. It is encouraging to see so many individuals interested in the position.

So all eyes are now on Mr. Lenzi. He has not stated when he will move but I hope he will do the right thing and make sure there is a timely and smooth transition.

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