Left In Lowell

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January 10, 2013

An Observation on the Last City Council Meeting

by at 1:02 pm.

Much has been said recently of the most recent city council meeting on January 8th. (Video here. It’s long and tortuous in many places - brace yourself.) I had been alerted to it by those watching it or attending it live when they expressed frustration on Facebook. There’s a lot that could be gotten into on this meeting, but I don’t have all day so I’d like to focus on one thing in particular - the petulance of councilor Elliot.

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January 7, 2013

Lobbying Against Board Appointments

by at 5:20 pm.

Just in case you have not noticed, I truly believe that a diverse membership on our Boards, Commissions, Advisory committees, appointed by the City Manager, is key to encouraging civic participation.

I think the recent appointments by the City Manager follow that spirit. I am referring to the following:

Clifford Krieger (License Communication.)
Crystal Arnott (Animal Advisory Committee).
Samkhann C. Khoeun (Lowell Housing Authority)

Patrick McCartin ( Elections Commission)
Leo L. Cloutier ( Board of Trustees of the LMA)
Patricia Noreau ( Board of Trustees of the Library)

First and foremost, we as a community are truly blessed to have talented, dedicated citizens willing to serve. We should be grateful that these people have come forward. The last three were already approved by the City Council, the first three are on the agenda for tomorrow night.

Last Friday, when the name of the first three were announced, immediately there was a controversy stirred by individuals involved with the Pawtucket Citizens Council (PCC). I say individuals rather than the group because I am not sure when and how this group met to begin the campaign against the appointment of Samkhann C. Khoeun for the Lowell Housing Authority board. I believe the PCC regular schedule meeting is tonight. Also, let’s remember that this is a self-appointed group.

Gerry has a number of posts on the issue, and I would suggest that you quickly read those posts, including one today on a letter that was sent to the City Councilors. I fully understand and agree that all development projects need to follow the conservation, planning and zoning laws. But to oppose the appointment of an individual because he is involved with a project you do not want, is bringing a whole new dimension to the criteria required to be on a board.

I look forward to hearing the discussion and watching the vote tomorrow night. If the City Council votes for what is best for the City, they will have no problems explaining their decision and most reasonable voters will understand. If they vote to appease a special interest group, I think they will feel its impact this fall.

January 6, 2013

Special Notice

by at 4:34 pm.

I’ve been told that the people who really call the shots in Lowell don’t run for City Council or School Committee because they are too busy moving the ball.

Maybe you don’t know these folks, but Kendall Wallace sure does:

What would we have done without people like George Behrakis, Elkin McCallum, the Demoulas family, Gil Campbell, Jack Reilly, Gerry Wallace, John Chemaly, George Duncan, Mark Cochran, Jack O’Connor, Jock Pearson, Norm Deschene and Dick Donahue?

I’m sure this list is shy, but where else should we look? Let’s start here.

January 5, 2013

Thoughts on the Senate Special Election

by at 11:35 am.

I know, I know, can’t we at least enjoy a few days off between major statewide elections, right? But too bad. Dems, are you ready? I think I am.

The sort-of crowning of Rep. Ed Markey has irked not a few grassroots types, I’m sure. Personally, I’d like a half-decent primary too, it does some good things, like increase the scope of the debate, but especially, gets the grassroots woken up and organized early enough to do some good - since a special election has such a short timeframe. One would hope that the engine that elected Elizabeth Warren (like, perhaps, Elizabeth herself) comes forth to inspire us to pick up the work again, once we’ve gone through the primary (hint, hint, Senator Warren!). And I’m always looking to repeat the MA-05 special election primary to replace Meehan, which is my gold standard for a great, feisty, interesting primary, but which lacks the circular firing squad we sometimes see (*coughChrisDohertycough*).

I’ll be honest, there are probably candidates I could love more than Ed Markey, just on the grassroots-outsider-tough fighter sort of feel. But. But. I love Ed Markey’s environmental record, and his roughing up of the oil companies, especially BP after the horrific oil spill. I feel like everyone else sort of have given them a pass, though given the ferocity of their continuing feel-good marketing campaign I think they still feel damaged (good. and you aren’t convincing ME). He has fought hard to try and get a carbon tax on oil/coal/gas, one key component holding renewable energy back (since it has to compete with a giant, subsidized, established industry).

If there is a more important issue than our economy and the flagrancy of the financial sector which Elizabeth Warren has spent so long fighting against, it’s the environment. Specifically, global climate change. Every decade has been warmer than the last, and we’re no longer talking about trying to avoid the tipping point. We’re talking about just how far past the tipping point we’re going to go. This is disaster. This is destruction of our entire human civilization. And without addressing both the inevitable (now) outcomes of climate change, and finding a way SOON to cease making it worse, the financial meltdown is gonna look like a boom economy compared to where we will end up.

The conservatives love to say, but the earth has fluctuated climate in the past. Yes. It has. Usually a lot more minor and a lot more slower, but it has cooled/warmed in a cycle going back to the dinosaurs. But also, giant empires have fallen because of much smaller climate change. (Hell, the dinosaurs died out due to climate change.) Picture a world in which half its population has to flee into other half’s populated areas to survive terrible weather extremes or the inability to grow crops where once crops flourished, or the masses who have always lived on the coast having to flee inland. Do you think we could take in a good portion of the Mexican population and keep our country intact? Do you think we can let half of Mexico’s population starve to death and keep our country intact? Can Canada double its population with environmental refugees from the US and remain a prosperous country? This is what we are facing if we don’t turn back now. I’m not exaggerating, that’s actually the middle-level scenario science models are displaying. The worst case is…you don’t want to know.

There are consequences in turning our planet’s climate back millions of years to much higher average temperatures. By burning the carbon locked in the earth at the time of dinosaurs, that’s exactly what we’re doing. Except instead of taking millions or tens of millions of years to do it, we’re doing it in a couple hundred. Trees can’t migrate in a decade or two. Populations of animals and, yes, people, can’t just pick up that quickly and rebalance the ecology in what amounts to seconds in the geological scale.

If Ed Markey becomes our standard bearer, either before the primary or after it, I think I’d be fine with that. In fact I’d be more than fine with it. I’d be pretty damn happy, and ready to get to work.

January 4, 2013

Color Me Surprised

by at 2:45 pm.

Friend of the blog (and good friend) Cliff Krieger has been nominated by CM Lynch for the License Commission, as Jen Myers writes at the official blog of the Mayor. You might recall, the License Commission had been under fire for sitting on its hands after the downtown rioting at the club at Fortunato’s and other violence and vandalism issues stemming from bars and clubs. Since then, both Bayliss and Weicker have resigned. (Not without a bit of a fuss.)

As Jen says, Cliff had been planning to run for the Lowell School Committee, and though I’m not sure what this does to those plans, you couldn’t get a better person to oversee a very sticky and previously controversial situation. Cliff will listen to the recommendations of the police chief, of residents, businesses…and of the club owners themselves, too, but in a proportional way. He is a conservative in the truest sense of that word - he wants our city to be welcoming, and remain so, for the many people who coexist downtown, like residents, consumers, and the non-club business owners who are the ones who find the aftermath of overserved drunkards at their doorstep on Monday mornings.

Contrary to (some) popular rumor, Cliff and I (and Jack, and whoever) are not all big giant conspirators with Lynch behind the scenes, and this took me by surprise, albeit a pleasant one. According to Jen, this spot had to go to a Republican, and I can’t think of a better person to help clean up the mess.

Also being appointed, to the LHA, is Samkhann Khoeun. I don’t know Samkhann, but Jen has more bio info at her blog post and he seems to be a community leader with some gravitas, and it’s great to see some diversity on our boards. Good luck to both!

January 1, 2013

New year but not so new issue!

by at 12:55 pm.

By now I may sound a bit repetitive but the City Council’s last motion for calendar year resonated with me and others.

City Councilor Ed Kennedy has been consistently presenting motions on the make-up of the various City Boards and Commissions. At the last meeting of this year he once again submitted a motion on that topic

C. Kennedy - Req. City Mgr. appoint or re-appoint members to following boards or commissions: Auditorium Comm., Library Bd. of Trustees, COOL Bd., Election Comm., Greater Lowell Workplace Investment Bd., Green Building Comm., License Comm., Lowell Civic Stadium Comm., Animal Advisory Comm., Scholarship Comm., and Taxi-Cab/Livery Comm.

C. Kennedy - Req. City Clerk provide a list of all Boards and Commissions along with expiration dates of members.

In the past CC Kennedy had stressed that he wanted the status of all hold over appointees to be resolved. He is referring to those who term is up but have not yet been re-appointed or replaced. And he also wanted to make sure that all vacancies were filled.

But at the last meeting, he raised an issue which I am in total agreement: bring greater diversity to these boards. To me the word diversity encompasses not only meant gender but ethnic, neighborhood, religious, socio-economic, age, professional backgrounds, experience, etc…

Here is a 7 minute video of the discussion during the CC meeting of December 18th:

As you can see and hear the City Manager is an agreement with CC Kennedy and his Administration has done a good job of bringing new faces and new views to these various Boards and Commissions.

I am not suggesting anyone should be replaced. On the contrary, we need seasoned, experienced members to mentor, provide institutional memory and make sure that the board follows its stated mission. We should all be appreciate of these individuals who volunteer their time to help this City prosper.

However, when there is an opening, we should throw a wide net and perhaps reach enthusiastic, emerging community activists. I am not also advocating appointing unqualified individuals. I am just suggesting that we can expand the demographic make-up a little bit.

How do you encourage talented, concerned individuals to get involved in civic affairs? How do you make them feel comfortable in wanting to apply? That is our challenge. Most people would consider it a great honor to serve their community in this voluntary capacity but the welcome mat has to be laid out not only by the Administration but by the City Council.

Here is the link to the page on the City’s web site which provides information on the boards, commissions and advisory boards.

CC R. Elliott suggested posting the openings on the web site. We can also use social media to advertise these openings. City Council members can become ambassadors and promote membership of the various boards and commissions. There are a lot of avenues available to us.

Perhaps the last motion of the year will be the first order of business for the CC, their Clerk and the Administration.

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