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Left In Lowell » Blog Archive » John Leahy’s Gambit

Left In Lowell

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September 28, 2013

John Leahy’s Gambit

by at 12:23 pm.

The Saturday Cheerleader spelled it out, plain as day:

I think the future of the city manager continuing in Lowell will now become a centerpiece of the city election.

His contract will expire next August. Some of the incumbents and strong challengers have not made it clear on where they stand on retaining Lynch.

I don’t think that issue can be ignored in the election campaign.

Hiring and firing a city manager is the biggest responsibility of a city councilor.

Of course, Kendall Wallace is keenly aware of Tuesday’s Preliminary results, not to mention Chris Scott’s framing of where candidates stand on Bernie Lynch’s management of Lowell.

Tuesday’s vote wasn’t a good result for City Manager Bernie Lynch. If indeed those nine hold, Lynch either will not get a new contract or fighting for one won’t be worth it. In the no-contract column will likely be Mercier, Elliott, Kennedy, Leahy and Rourke. In the yes column will be Martin, Milinazzo, Samaras and Lorrey. Lynch’s contract expires in August.

This morning, former School Committee member, City Councilor and current candidate for re-election, John Leahy, opted to call into WCAP’s Saturday Morning Live and respond to the alignment framed in the Column Blog, cited above.

Leahy, rolled the dice. Will it come up snake eyes in November?

It is stressing all the wisdom that John Leahy can muster to find a way forward on the looming question, re: extending the CM’s contract. Leahy is not alone, on this. Hard core door knockers like Marty Lorrey will tell you flat out, “If you run against the Manager, you lose.” Recently, at a public event, Dan Rourke, another dedicated knocker, echoed Lorrey’s assertion. Lowellian’s are satisfied with the outcomes of this Administration. (Note- Re: Running against the CM. Freddy Doyle is a bomb thrower, who’s only in this race to perpetrate character assassinations. He does not intend to win, just smear. As for C.Elliott; this fella has assumed that there are enough ‘Bernie Bashers’ out there, to carry the day. Elliott carries the water of a bitter element in Lowell. His gambit is another matter all together. Voter turnout will make or break Elliot. Every vote over 11,500 will lend to Elliott losing a council seat.)

John Leahy, wishing to actually win a seat, this time, waffled on Warren Shaw’s show. Meekly mumbling about being happy with what he is seeing from Bernie Lynch, but also being dedicated to overlooking the manager, as we move forward.

But, then, and I’ve heard Leahy mutter this before, Leahy slapped down the notion of signing a new contract for Bernie Lynch because Leahy is opposed to the notion of contracts. He shoved forward the concept of an ‘at will employee.’

Leahy is blowing smoke up your ass. How does it feel?

School Committee OKs most of ‘12 budget, The Sun (6/16/11)

Lang signed a five-year contract with a starting salary of $118,963 and 3 percent salary increases each year. He will also be eligible for 2 percent merit increases if he receives successful performance evaluations.

Hmmm. How could that be?

Note: I can’t find a link to these 6/15/11 meeting minutes. They used to be publicly available.

Now, one contract does not a habit make. And we all know, politicians flip-flop when they are over a barrel. And, Bernie is a big barrel. Shady Lowell wants Bernie GONE. So, I’ll give you Leahy’s crumb trail.

Lowell City Council to negotiate with embattled auditor, The Sun (9/25/12)
Leahy, who has only been on the council since earlier this month, said he voted against contract negotiations because he is not a supporter of contracts.


Lowell school administrators’ raises came with perks, The Sun (7/18/08)
The new agreements call for salaries to increase to $118,963 for Franco; Jay Lang , assistant superintendent of finance and operations; Susan Mulligan, assistant superintendent of personnel and recruitment; and Ann Murphy, assistant superintendent of student support services.

The raises translate into a 9.8 percent increase for Murphy, who was previously making $108,308; a 7.2 percent pay hike for Franco and Lang , who were both earning $111,010; and a 1 percent increase for Mulligan, who had been making $117,785.

The contracts were ratified by a 4-3 vote Wednesday night with Leary, Mayor Edward “Bud” Caulfield and Dave Conway in opposition, citing the tight fiscal crunch the district and city are facing. The School Department eliminated 49.5 positions in this fiscal year’s budget.


Lowell committee picks Norfolk superintendent for top school job, The Sun (3/25/08)
On the first vote, the committee was spilt 4-2-1, with Jackie Doherty, Connie Martin, Jim Leary and Mayor Edward “Bud” Caulfield voting in support of Scott , Regina Faticanti and Dave Conway voting for Jack, and John Leahy voting “present.”

Leahy called for a new search, saying he was “not convinced that we have found the individual ready to take on the challenges of the Lowell schools.”

Caulfield urged his colleagues that once a selection is made, the committee as a whole must “embrace that person, get behind that person, circle the wagons and work with that person for the benefit of the children. Put your personal and political issues aside.”

Once it was clear that Scott had the four votes necessary to win the position, Faticanti, Conway and Leahy changed their votes to make the choice unanimous.


School board scolded for breaching closed session, The Sun (3/3/08)
The School Committee voted unanimously last night to approve a three-year contract for newly selected Superintendent of Schools Chris Augusta Scott .

Candidates sound off on superintendent, LHS move, The Sun (10/31/07)
Incumbents Connie Martin and John Leahy also said they would renew Baehr’s contract . Challengers Dennis Canney and David Conway said they are undecided.

If I interpret Leahy’s ‘path’ with a kind heart, I see a really nice guy trying make it through some tough, thought provoking choices.

If I’m a dick about it, I see a guy that is happy to vote for fat Admin contracts for some, like Jay Lang. (Do you remember when Leahy went on WCAP and asserted that Lang should be thrust onto the list of finalists for LPS Supt.. after the ‘blue ribbon committee’ cut him? The position currently held by Jean Franco. I can still hear Anthes, snorting “Who threw Jay Lang under the bus?”) YET, now that Leahy was dragged up to the City Council, he can’t quite wrap his head around the notion of giving the CM (or Auditor) a contract.

How the F&$K is THAT?!

Listen up. Leahy is a good guy. He bought me a beer once, so I kinda owe him. So, to be fair, Leahy is just parroting some bullshit a swindler like Ed Kennedy has pitched to him. As the campaign wears on, listen to the bullshit artists that “SUPPORT the Manager, BUT have grave doubts about providing a CONTRACT.”

This is a feeble dodge to avoid the blowback that Marty Lorrey sees out there while talking to voters.

This cohort of candidates are betting that you are either, stupid enough, or distracted enough, to miss that they will not keep Bernie Lynch on as City Manager. As far as I know, Lynch won’t stay on without a contract. (Large/Small/Long/Short?) I don’t know, what Lynch’s terms are.

The gambit that Leahy and his dodgy pals are betting on, is that you will swallow the line, “We WANT to keep Bernie! He is LEAVING based on his decision to not stay on without a contract.”

They will lather-rinse-repeat that line, aided and abetted by The Sun, until the 2015 election cycle. Assuming you let them. Get Out The Vote!

33 Responses to “John Leahy’s Gambit”

  1. Mimi Says:

    Timely post both by you and Kendall. I too am confused by CC Leahy’s comments. He clearly indicated that he does not know why people put him in the anti-Lynch group (i.e. blog of record and others). He did say that he did not believe in contracts but then went on to say something in support of professional management, thus contract.

    He really needs to clarify his position.

    I too think he is a decent man who wants to the right thing, although he never brought me a beer.

    By the way, i do not think that the majority of the preliminary’s top 9 will get rid of the manager but they will keep combating the administration, thus frustrating the CM and top level staff.

    Even Ed Kennedy knows that if you want to sit in the front seat with the driver, you have to have a car that goes the distance, gas to put in that car and mechanics to make sure that it runs when you want to drive.

  2. Lynne Says:

    And if you are against a contract, you are for getting rid of Bernie Lynch. Period, end of story. Sorry John L…

  3. spindlesister Says:

    He never bought me a beer either, but I have had the opportunity to meet with him during a door to door visit, and I have to admit that I was impressed. While some people have suggested that he is a lucky lackey, he struck me as genuinely interested in seeing progress. No, I didn’t ask him about the manager’s contract, I did enjoy the conversation at length, and definitely plan on voting for him.

  4. Eric J Says:

    I would pronounce any potential CM who agreed to work for a bunch of feckless politicians without a contract as having deplorable judgment and therefore unfit to hold the position!

  5. joe from Lowell Says:

    I seem to remember another candidate, two years ago, who also said he liked the manager but didn’t believe in contracts. Was it Murphy?

  6. Jack Says:

    How could that be, JfL? Murphy was a driver for the last set of UTL negotiations. Murphy f&$k$ng LOVES contracts.

  7. joe from Lowell Says:

    I can’t find it in the archives, but I’m remembering one of - I think it was Lynne’s - posts about a campaign questionnaire, and she said she couldn’t support one of the progressive candidates because he took that position. I just don’t remember which candidate it was.

  8. marcus vinicius Says:

    do you really think that kendall went to the reilly school
    to watch the process. PLEASE!!! he went to see how his
    candidate was doing–bill samares.

  9. Mimi Says:


    It was 4 years ago and it was not Murphy who did not support a contract for the CM; It was Ali.

  10. joe from Lowell Says:

    Thank you, Mimi!

  11. Mr. Lynne Says:

    The Ali discussion happens at the end of this post:


  12. Joe Says:

    Is there no middle ground on the city manager? There are two vocal groups right now. The lock him up for 5 years crowd. They seem to be turning this into a George bush your either with us or against debate. On the other side is the lynch haters. They want him gone no matter how much good he does. But are those really our choices? I have zero facts to back this up but from talking to people in the city there seems to be a similar feeling towards manager lynch. People think his fiscal leadership is great but his actuall leadership is subpar. Is there no compromise to be had here? Is it all or nothing?

  13. joe from Lowell Says:

    Capital-j Joe,

    I’m not sure what “actual leadership” means in your comment.

    His ability to get city workers fired up?

  14. Joe Says:

    I agree its a bit vague but I think a lot people understand what I mean. He is doing an awesome job with the city finances. Yet lots of people in Lowell simply do not like him. He has the personality of an accountant. That’s not a bad thing if your job is too work with numbers but his job is to work with both numbers and people. He has rubbed a lot of people the wrong way in this city. Does the great outweigh the not so great? It honestly might. I just think that the take it or leave it from both sides is bad for the city. Compromise isn’t a bad word.

  15. Lynne Says:

    The unions don’t love him because he sits ACROSS from the table and represents the taxpayers. So he tries to get the best deal he can for taxpayers, which means not giving every little bitty thing to the unions that they demand.

    Cox, on the other hand…

    Ergo, a vocal group in the city government rank and file hate him. I don’t give it much attention, because honestly, if he’s not upsetting the unions at least a little bit, Lynch isn’t doing his job that *I* as a taxpayer need him to do.

  16. Lynne Says:

    The “I’m for Cox” bumper sticker crew (aka “People for Lowell PAC” or the “we didn’t think this bumper sticker through did we?” folks) were largely made up of city union R&F (rank and file). They showed up in tee shirts (being for Cox) at meetings, did lit drops, the whole shebang. This was in 2006 when Cox was ousted (well, he left, having been told, leave or we’ll oust you, after George Ramirez won election on ousting Cox and made the fifth vote for doing so). The reaction of that created the Kazanjian/Lenzi campaign which shifted the balance of Council temporarily.

    So really, nothing Lynch could do short of handing the unions everything would change their minds - they, or at least a very vocal minority of them, already hated Lynch from day #1 because he wasn’t Cox.

    This has been another edition of Recent History We Wish We Could All Forget. Now, back to your regularly scheduled election…

  17. Jack Says:

    Ask the Union leadership about Lynch. They know times are tough. They wish to preserve jobs because a paycheck is better than an unemployment check. At some point, though, the Unions will want to recapture the wages they have forgone these last few bargaining sessions. Unions don’t give up compensation, they defer it.

    Lynch knows this like the back of his hand. He also has to cover the unfunded liabilities associated to fringe bennies. Do the active members care about that? While they lick their chops looking at the reserves and forget about carrying retirees?

    This is what political leadership gets you. Click Here

  18. Joe Says:

    I understand the animosity between lynch and the unions and city workers. I’m talking about the average citizen. The person who works 50 hours a week and doesn’t have time to follow city politics as closely as others. The city managers list of accomplishments is very impressive. If it was based just on that then he would have a new contract sitting on his desk. But the reality is a bit different. There is a noticeable group of ordinary people in this city that just do not like him. I would compare it to having a boss that is good at his job but is a jerk. People pick up on things like that. At the end of the day(or election) I think people will be forced to back him. But that doesn’t mean they have to like it.

  19. Mr. Lynne Says:

    Where does one notice these ‘noticeable people’? Is there polling data?

  20. Joe Says:

    Do you need polling data to know that somebody is a bit of a jerk? I’ve lived in this city my entire life and I am lucky enough to know many of my fellow citizens. I have yet to meet a non partisan that loves manager lynch. He is no JFK. He is no Tip O’neill. As a matter of fact he is a bit prick’ish. You can have success without being so abrasive. If what I am saying is a shock to you then you might be a bit out of touch with this city. If I was a candidate and given the choice of a 5 year contract or to have him leave I would give him a 5 year contract. Asking anti lynch voters to say something good about him is impossible. Asking pro lynch people to say anything bad appears to be the same.

  21. Jack Says:

    I find Lynch is a funny prick, not “prick’ish.” His whole team, from Baacke, Moses and Marchand, etc., are personable and jovial. Well, Adam is sorta a Vulcan, but I catch his drift. We cool. #justthefactsma’am

    I think the Lynch you get is based on what you put in. If you’re clamoring about how Wally Bayliss got stiffed, and that whole “Back to the Future”- Cox worship, that persists like the Whooping Cough, then maybe he is a bit cold.

    Several versions of a recent candidate fundraiser, had a state rep introducing Cox as “OUR CM!” The room reportedly erupted.

    I guess I’ll never know.

  22. Mr. Lynne Says:

    “Do you need polling data to know that somebody is a bit of a jerk? ”

    No, you need polling data to know that “people in this city … just do not like him.”

    There’s so many meme generating (spinning) going on in this city you’ll have to forgive me to be skeptical of ‘noticeable stuff’ that I don’t, in fact, notice. Most people don’t actually follow municipal government that closely and as such most Lowellians probably couldn’t name him, never mind spot him in a crowd.

  23. Mr. Lynne Says:

    I need something more than vague assertions. So many people peddle vague assertions all the way up to the local paper blog that it makes it almost ok to assume any assertion is vapor unless the explicit evidence is shown.

  24. joe from Lowell Says:

    Thanks for the response, Joe.

    He has the personality of an accountant. That’s not a bad thing if your job is too work with numbers but his job is to work with both numbers and people.

    We so totally have different expectations. I don’t want the CM to be Dear Leader. I want him to make sure the street lights work and the sewage flows the right way.

    JFK? Love? You’re talking about a politician, and changing the role of the CM from Head Politician to Head City Hall Employee is the point, at least for me.

    The politician-CMs keep getting indicted, and hiding letters from the Department of Revenue, and stuff like that.

    I like Lowell’s politicians, but they should go kiss babies and hold campaign signs and score us some transportation money on Beacon Hill.

  25. ax41 Says:

    It might be possible to draw some sense of the public mood from the recent election which was billed in certain circles as a referendum om the City Manager.
    Twelve people ran in The Preliminary who had also run in the 2011 City General.
    Six of them were portrayed as anti - Lynch : Mercier , Elliott,Kennedy, Mendonca ,Leahy ,and F. Doyle.They had pulled 21,738 votes in 2011 and 14,583 this year.
    Five are characterized as pro-lynch :Lorrey, Martin,Nuon ,Milinazzo,and Pech .They had 11,352 last week and 16,274 in 2011.
    I do not know where to place Mr.Belanger in this divide.

  26. Joe Says:

    It may appear that I am an anti lynch person but I promise you I am not. He has done a good job. Not even Rodney Elliot could deny that. Well maybe just him. But my bigger point is that I hate the black and white opinions coming from both sides. Yes or no, choose one!! There are very few issues that are just straight up yes or no. War, civil rights and gay rights are three big ones. Besides that I think that there should be a middle and room for debate and compromise. It’s healthy

  27. Mr. Lynne Says:

    I wouldn’t portray Mendonca as anti-Lynch in any way. Leahy is, as I read him, neutral on the matter. I suspect on a pro-professionalism council he’d be pro Lynch and on a crony council he’d be for however the wind blows. He does a decent job but doesn’t stick his neck out.

    Joe, wasn’t implying that your anti-lynch. Just pointing out that allegations about what the ‘mood’ is are often colored by one’s limited sphere of contacts (and the sun). As such, I’ll take ‘people don’t like the guy’ for the grain of salt that anecdata are worth.

    The middle room for debate would be to like the guy if he’s doing a good job and not like the guy if he isn’t. That stance is ’spun’ as ‘pro Lynch’, but it really isn’t - it’s pro results.

  28. tryin' Says:

    I view the anti-Lynch crowd as predominantly anti-Union. It seems even more plausible if you consider Elliot is the de facto head of the group. The contracts with Cox were not significantly different in terms of cost of living raises than Lynch’s have been. Yes Cox wasn’t taking anything away, but he wasn’t giving away the store either. When the economy was sailing right along there wasn’t exactly the public sentiment/outrage or attention for a lot of the reforms that have since taken place, primarily at the state legislative level. I don’t recall any annual raise being greater than three percent for anyone on the city side under either manager. There weren’t raises that high every year either, even a few zeroes mixed in. Take a look at some of the contracts in Boston over the same time period for comparison sake. There had to be givebacks from most unions under threat of layoff with both managers. Were there layoffs with Lynch? Yes, but they really should and could have been much worse. Only a fool doesn’t realize this. Both managers dealt with downturns in the economy. Whose choices were generally better for the city?

    Yes the healthcare issue was big, but ultimately it was approved by the unions because the council votes were already lined up to ram it down everyone’s throats. Some councilors quietly told union heads they didn’t want to have to take that public vote, but they were going to if push came to shove. At least Lynch was willing to come to the table when he really didn’t have to give up anything under the new law, except to help a few councilors (who want it both ways) to save face.

    I will say one thing. When you deal with Lynch, the city’s finances are no secret. If a union does their homework they stand to be much better negotiators. Further, If you play ball at the bargaining table with Lynch, it is reasonable and everyone gets the same treatment. Overall, as both a city union worker and taxpaying homeowner, I’d keep Lynch and that will have a large impact on my choices for city council.

    My take is that this like the anecdotal evidence vs data driven crowds. The world is already going in one direction, some people just haven’t figured it out yet.

  29. Kathy Says:

    I just hope Lowell keeps going in that data-driven direction. My worry is that the city will move backwards by electing people who favor the old ways - nepotism, favoritism, even corruption.

    If a city council is elected that doesn’t support professional management for Lowell, I believe Lynch and a lot of the administration will end up leaving. That means we will end up with a political city manager again, someone who will make political hires, and our fiscal stability will end up lost. This would mean lost dollars for taxpayers, higher interest rates on bonds the city takes out, lower property values, etc.

    I really believe that this is a crucial city election and we need a huge turnout to keep the positive momentum the city now has.

  30. Jen Myers Says:

    Hey Joe,
    I don’t know what kind of accountants you hang with, but if you are trying to say Bernie Lynch is boring or has no personality, you don’t know Bernie Lynch. And — the job isn’t about personality or being loved; it’s about getting the job done, which he has. In spades.

  31. George DeLuca Says:

    Bernie has an exceptional personality … very sociable and likeable. That’s my vote.

  32. Jade Says:

    I concur with Ms. Myers and Mr. DeLuca. In my brief interaction with Manager Lynch, I found him to be very professional, engaging, and affable. He’s a no-nonsense, consummate professional who is very resourceful and highly respected.

  33. joe from Lowell Says:

    I’ve found the manager to be likable and engaging as well.

    I didn’t mention that above, because I really don’t care. I wonder, does the Director of the Water Department need to affable, too?

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