Left In Lowell

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November 23, 2012

The Requisite “Shop Local” Post

by at 12:27 pm.

I hope to god LiL readers are not out there in the mobs at big box stores fighting for the last blu-ray player on the shelf. Not only would I find standing in long lines frustrating, but I also find that the pushing back of “Black Friday” into what for me is a sacred family day, Thanksgiving, is appalling. I have a relative that had to report in to her job at midnight, dictating how long she could really stay at our gathering. We should draw some lines on days that everyone gets off…too few holidays are left where retail workers get a day off. Also, big box stores…yuck.

But if you are like me, and try to do as much of your gift shopping with local businesses first (there are some relatives who are impossible to shop for, so it’s not a strict rule but a stern guideline), Howl in Lowell has a really nice guide to locally owned Greater Lowell businesses where you can feel good about your purchases (note: there are some big box stores listed as well). Locally owned businesses keep almost twice as much money in the economy as big box stores, and while it’s not a guarantee, generally they treat their employees better. Especially when you compare them to WalMart or other similar big box stores.

Go check out that Howl link - there were businesses familiar to me, but a bunch I didn’t know about as well. Of course, tomorrow is the City of Lights parade so you can come down, enjoy the festivities, and get a bunch of gift shopping from local stores done all at the same time!

November 22, 2012

Happy TDay!

by at 7:55 am.

I just wanted to jump for a moment off the crazy train and express my gratitude for the fact that we live in this country, where we have free speech, where we have elected representative government, and how great it is to spend the day with a bounty of food, family, and lots and lots of fabulous wine from our locally owned markets.

I hope that even the people who hate my guts have a wonderful day with them and theirs, and they realize just how lucky we are in this city, this state, and this country. And that we remember those here in the US, and worldwide, who do not share in the bounty with us. May we be ever more compassionate in our thoughts and in our policies.

With that, let turkey-day commence! Have a great one!

Lyle, Lyle, Lyle…

by at 2:00 am.

I’ve folded all my napkins fancily on carefully placed plates on two eight foot tables in my dining room now, so I thought I would take a minute to relate another tale of woebegonery as pertains to the Saga Of Me Being Really Mean, By Jove.

As you know, my name got in the paper yesterday, via a report of Mary Jo Santoro and her spectacular miscalculation of trying to accuse me of threatening her. Sarah Favot wrote the piece, which I thought was pretty fair. It certainly didn’t make me flinch (and I flinch at being the center of attention on my own birthday, so there you go, another poke in the eye of the myth that This Is All About Me).

But it seems that the story, at least as it includes me, has been yanked from her apparently capable hands. (God, I hate to see another one bite the dust at the Sun. Any bets to how long she’ll stand it?) The torch has been passed, at least it appears, to Campi’s little shadow, Lyle Moran. I know this because he called me this afternoon (and I have heard that he called others as well). Out of a morbid curiosity I called him back. More on that in a sec - you’ll love it, it’s all about the sausage making, or in this case, amateurishly broadcasting your utter bias in a leading two-sentence “question.”

I do love being the Sun’s special case. It tickles me no end that Campi hasn’t lost his unhealthy obsession with “taking me down.” Like going after an unpaid blogger is all that hard. Wonder why they haven’t managed it yet? He must have been like a baby with his first successful poo, beside himself with glee, when this whole complaint thing came down. (The baby and poo thing is a euphemism. I don’t actually think Campanini wears diapers.)

Anyway, you might be awfully surprised to learn that I have very little interaction with Moran in general. I’ve heard from so many people just how amateur he acts, Jack likes to refer to the “cub reporter” after all. And I’ve read some of his drivel, articles with logical holes so large you can drive a train through them (so he really is learning a lot from his mentor). But personal experience? I barely exchange a word with the guy. (more…)

November 21, 2012

Political Hyperbolae

by at 4:44 pm.

I’ve been literally running around in circles all day trying to finish prep for hosting of the Thanksgiving Day festivities. With a 24lb turkey to get into my Alton Brown brine (I even found candied ginger today, in my second MarketBasket in two days), a house to clean, and a lot of guests coming, it’s been hard to be online much. (PS: if you do not get your fresh turkey from Elm Turkey Farm you are missing something!)

But obviously there’s some to-do in the state of Lowell blogistan. So I am taking really precious time out of my day (vacuuming! washing floors! mashed sweet potatoes with cream, cardamom, and maple syrup yet to start!) to address it.

If you’ve read the online article from the Lowell Sun by reporter Sarah Favot (who has the GLTHS beat) you’ll know what I’m talking about. At issue is a comment I made on Jack’s post from November 18th. (I’m snipping out the irrelevant part at the beginning addressed to the Anonymous comments.)

I admit to not knowing (or having paid attention to) all the details of this crazy ass “harassment” stuff. But I smell bullshit. And if someone - a person in LEADERSHIP - calls wolf on harassment like this, I want her head on a platter. Women have it tough enough without assholes using it as a political tool, making a legitimate harassment claim harder to believe.

Seriously, if this is what I believe it to be, it’s absolutely disgusting, and totally unethical, and she should be hung for it.

Apparently, Mary Jo Santoro decided to construe this as some sort of personal, physical threat, and reportedly went to the Lowell PD, who referred her to the Tyngsboro PD, where she was supposedly heading to today to file a complaint.

First and foremost, and I do believe this is pretty plain within the context of my comment, of course I meant absolutely no personal physical threat to Ms. Santoro. Anyone who knows me – or heck, reads my blog, knows I’m about as physically threatening as the mice that make their way into my house in the cold fall weather that I insist upon trapping humanely so I can release them in a nice field away from human habitation. (This year it was a mom and her three half grown meese children.) But even if you don’t know me at all or have never read a word of my blog, the comment totally does not meet any standard of threat that can be reasonably argued. Specifically, the use of very common phrases to denote “accountability” like head on a platter or hung (usually elongated as “hung out to dry”) could hardly be argued to be actual threats of harm. They are hyperbole.

Furthermore, political hyperbole is protected first amendment free speech. To quote:

Consistent with judicial construction given to other federal threat statutes, § 875(c) applies only to “true threats” which are not protected by the First Amendment. This requirement was established by Watts v. United States, 394 U.S. 705 (1969) (per curiam), which held that a threat statute “must be interpreted with the commands of the First Amendment clearly in mind,” and therefore be construed only to reach a “true threat” and not “constitutionally protected speech.” Such protected speech includes “political hyperbole” or “vehement,” “caustic,” or “unpleasantly sharp attacks” that fall short of true threats.

When assessing whether a communication constitutes a true threat, context is important. Various factors must be considered, including the following: the reaction of the person who received the threat; the history and relationship between the defendant and the victim; whether the threat was communicated directly to the victim; and whether the threat was conditional. By properly assessing these factors at the investigative and charging stages of a case, federal prosecutors can avoid, minimize and overcome defense arguments to the trier of fact that the defendant was purely exercising free speech rights protected by the First Amendment.

My comment is very obviously political hyperbole. Which of course I engage in on a regular basis. It’s fun. It’s protected. It’s even cathartic, but that’s not why I do it. I do it to point out injustices, bad political actors, and misuse of the public trust, its funds, and the abuse of power in general.

In other words. Protected speech.

Also, consistent with that quote from www.justice.gov, is that Ms. Santoro and I have zero personal interaction. In fact, and I quote her from the Lowell Sun article online today, “But I wouldn’t know this woman if I saw her in a parking lot.” Pretty much proof positive that we have no personal relationship or history whatsoever.

Furthermore, the speech was delivered not personally, not even with any knowledge whether or not Ms. Santoro would ever read it, but on a blog. Publicly. Not in a personal phone call, email, or any other delivery system direct to Ms. Santoro. It’s probably the least “direct” a communication could ever get, frankly. Excepting the Lowell Rumor Mill™.

Another point in the quoted legal paragraph above is whether the threat was conditional. As in, “if x happens, then y.” If a statement is conditional, it does not meet the standard of threat. Let me quote my own comment again, this time with italics where the conditionals exist:

I admit to not knowing (or having paid attention to) all the details of this crazy ass “harassment” stuff. But I smell bullshit. And if someone - a person in LEADERSHIP - calls wolf on harassment like this, I want her head on a platter. Women have it tough enough without assholes using it as a political tool, making a legitimate harassment claim harder to believe.

Seriously, if this is what I believe it to be, it’s absolutely disgusting, and totally unethical, and she should be hung for it.

Lots of ifs there. I didn’t directly state that Santoro is falsifying her harassment case against Eric Gitschier. I stated that if that was the case, I would be very angry about it and, in hyperbolic phraseology, would want her held accountable for such an act. Furthermore, I support that view with a very compelling reason – that of the plight of a real woman in a real harassment/bias situation in a real workplace whose case may be undermined by any falsified harassment claim someone in such a high profile position makes.

Such protected speech includes “political hyperbole” or “vehement,” “caustic,” or “unpleasantly sharp attacks” that fall short of true threats.

Was I unpleasantly sharp? Caustic? Vehement? Sure. Was it a threat under these conditions outlined? Absolutely not. This falls so far below the level of threat, that it honestly is a waste – of taxpayer dollars – to “investigate.”

I will not in this post question her motives for this action. I’m sure you can come to your own conclusions. I only hope, for all our sakes, that she is not doing this to suppress free speech or thwart legitimate questions or criticism about her tenure as a public servant who works directly for the Greater Lowell Technical High School Committee, whom we, as voters, taxpayers, and citizens, elected to represent us.

I can also assure you, my free speech will not be impinged. I will continue to ask the tough questions, and yes, sometimes my language is colorful. I write sarcastically at times. I use political hyperbole. This should come as no surprise to anyone, considering I’ve been here since 2005 doing the same thing and writing the same way as I always have.

I’m not going anywhere. Lowell, you’re stuck with me.

November 20, 2012

Mary Jo Has Got To Go! - Payback’s a Snit

by at 12:47 pm.

While Gerry Nutter is taking the cautious route, others are more forthright in claiming that Supt. Mary Jo Santoro’s claims of “gender harrassment” are not genuine.

I, by training, am very ‘process oriented.’ Thus, I tend to favor Nutter’s suggested approach. However, I have noted that Santoro’s claim, gives her a legal action timeline that directly overlays on top of the period in which her potential new contract negotiations would play out. However, if I was to just play along with the more blunt voices out there in the bubble, I would point this out.

Santoro ‘tried to walk the tightrope’ on GL Tech probe disclosure
1/21/12 - Evan Lips,
“I tried to walk the tightrope regarding the right to privacy and the people’s need to know,” Santoro said in an interview at the school Wednesday. “I probably would have encouraged individuals on the School Committee to more aggressively speak to the chairman (Mike Lenzi).”

Santoro said she was advised by legal counsel to only disclose the information to Lenzi.

Not once did Santoro refer to the employee by name, citing laws governing personnel records. She acknowledged that the circumstances made it appear to the public that the school was purposely hiding the employee’s identity, but added that she would treat “any other employee in this building with the same respect.”

“The people who spent the last six months getting a name published may very possibly have ruined her life,” Santoro said. “Whoever you got that name from, I hope that person doesn’t have to deal with a liability problem.
(bold mine)

(more…)

November 18, 2012

Mary Jo Has Got To Go! - Cassin’s Kingdom

by at 8:09 pm.

Folks, we have a problem out at GLTHS, only we can fix. The way this will happen is if you understand the problem and how it came to be. If I can convince you that my perspective is the most correct, then YOU must act. This problem stems from a failure of elected government, so only you, as a collective force of engaged citizens, can solve it. If you don’t, the problem will persist.

My plan is to write a series of diaries that will lay it all bare. If you are persuaded by my argument, then I’m asking you to call or write as many of the GLTHS School Committee members, as you see fit. Their contact info is here. Of the committee, there are currently two members that need to hear from us the most, Ray Boutin (Lowell) and Paul Morin (Dracut).

Let’s go back to Jan. 2010. From the Blog of Record:

“Superintendent James Cassin recently received an exceptional performance evaluation from the School Committee, yet there are ongoing issues of teachers working without certification, different standards enforced for different employees, bloated salaries and continuing allegations of nepotism and cronyism.”

(h/t Mimi) (more…)

November 13, 2012

Final Tanner District Meeting

by at 1:41 pm.

Got notice of the final of three Tanner St District public meetings, set for Nov 29th:

The City of Lowell and the Department of Planning and Development
invite you to a Community Workshop for the Tanner Street District Economic Development Plan
Thursday, November 29, 2012 | 6:00 PM
LRTA Building - 100 Hale Street

PLEASE COME TO REVIEW THE DRAFT PLAN FOR THE DISTRICT.
For more information about the upcoming workshop or the project, please contact:
Sarah Brown | 978 - 674 - 4252 x 1446 | SBrown@lowellma.gov
Craig Thomas | 978 - 674 - 4252 x 1445 | CThomas@lowellma.gov
Or visit the website at:
http://www.lowellma.gov/depts/dpd/TannerStreet/TSEDP

November 11, 2012

The Truth About Dave Nangle

by at 9:12 pm.

He pulled his lousy stunt off with flying colors. That is the truth!
(more…)

November 10, 2012

Talty Terrible?

by at 11:02 pm.

So, I’m poking around the intertubes and I find a Blue Mass Group blog critiquing the work of the various pollsters and their endeavors gauging public sentiment, re: Warren/Brown Senate race.

Guess who was figured as the worst at electoral prognostication. Yep. Our very own UMass Lowell’s Public Opinion Center.

UMass/Boston Herald: Brown +1. Worst of the lot, and using recent data, no less: 10/31-11/3. This poll skewed heavily Brown in September also, showing Brown up 4 when every other poll except Rasmussen’s tie showed Warren with a lead. I’m guessing there was a problem with their overall voter sample weighting, their “7-item turnout scale” likely voter methodology, or both.

I’m not much of a “poll troll,” meaning one who obsesses over the results and methodology employed. I will take a gander at poll aggregators like the now popular, Nate Silver. I figure the poll trends will account for error in methods and data “noise.” So, you won’t find me jumping to the defense or assault of UMass Lowell.

I do, for some strange reason, want this polling group to be the best around. If only because they hang their shingle in our hometown.

November 9, 2012

Rourke Bridge Meeting Report

by at 5:20 pm.

A post on Facebook by our frequent commenter, Joe S, about the public meeting on the Rourke Bridge, caught my attention, and I got permission to reprint it here. I’ve put it in with minor edits.

Rourke Bridge meeting was confined to the bridge only (area impact subject of next meeting). The team used models to project the need as of 2035 (hopefully well after bridge is built). Several options on location evaluated, one being to tear down the temp bridge and leave it at that (rejected). Build options were for locations and size.

The location options were a) at the present bridge, b) slightly upriver to connect to Old Ferry Road by crossing the river at an angle, c) downriver at an unspecified location and d) upriver in the North Chelmsford area to connect route 40.

For size, it was [proposed] 2-lane, 4-lane and 6-lane. The 2-lane is too small, the 6-lane is overkill and the 4-lane (likely selected) is good with plenty of margin. Much of the following discussion related to impact on the Pawtucketville neighborhood (concern that a better bridge would increase local traffic), and surprisingly some residents seemed to favor extending a highway through Pawtucketville (ugh!)… Although not concluded at the meeting, I suspect the eventual answer will be a 4-lane bridge with pilings (someone wanted none) basically in the same location as the temporary bridge.

Best case that would be [built] in about 5 years. In the meantime, upgrades to surrounding streets and intersections will be the subject of the next meeting.

He also added that “the plan is to have 5-ft bike lanes on each side” for you biking enthusiasts (lookin’ at you Marianne!).

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