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Left In Lowell » Blog Archive » Back To The Future?

Left In Lowell

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October 6, 2013

Back To The Future?

by at 10:25 am.

Gerry Nutter laid it out, by the numbers. (I’ll provide graphs, below the fold.)

Additionally, during those years that City Manager / Administration proposed and the City Council approved the use of about $17.87 million in one time money in Free Cash, nearly $6 million per year to sustain spending levels as opposed to making necessary cuts.All while being supported by the Editor at the SUN.

In October 2006 after removing that City Manager and with the appointment of a new CFO the City discovered that the budget that was now 1/3rd under way, was rife with miscalculations. Free cash to pay for services was estimated to be $3.5 million but in the end it was -$2.2 million, a difference of $5.7 million. Other local receipts were over estimated by about $2 million. The FY06 budget ran out of money for utility bills and they were moved into FY07 for payment making the already inadequate utility account doubly so

That is all fact, it supports and highlights the need for professional management along with a strong balanced council. Combined with the positive numbers I showed last week highlighting the upward direction the city is heading, why is this election being focused on stupid, petty garbage like OLD vs. New Lowell.

This week’s “The Column” opted to be cute by half with this treatment.

MONTHS AGO, outgoing Mayor Patrick Murphy held an event at The Old Court. Those who attended, including one veteran politician, observed that Murphy packed the room with young, exuberant 20-somethings whose apparent desire to get involved in politics signaled a “new Lowell,” an awakening of sorts.

I’ve heard the WCAP ‘infomercial’ try to lay the coining of this meme at the feet of Dick Howe, Jr. Of course, JMac only looks in the mirror, so he really won’t know where the phrasing comes from. Gerry Nutter puts it on an attention seeking local media, which includes us ‘big mouthed bloggers.’ I concur. The ‘new/old’ meme has been floating around for several years now. It spun off the chatter about ‘blow ins & grow ins,’ etc. It’s clear, from the way The Column above sidesteps it, that they didn’t do their homework. But, opted, rather, to parrot JMac’s empty headed contortion. JMac & Campi come up short. Funny, in my mind, was the word choice, ” veteran politician,” by Campi. Who hates Dick, Jr. only a little less than he hates Kendall Wallace, to the point Campi will only admit the existence of Dick’s Blog, if he absolutely has to.

Dick, btw, has given witness to Gerry Nutter’s framing of the corporate; desperate to survive, via, bargain basement fire sale journalistic ethics; local media:

In his Sunday Notes today, Gerry Nutter says that all the negativity about city government coming from the Sun and WCAP is designed to suppress voter turnout on November 5. I agree.


About those City Finance graphs:

From May 2012 - Addicted To Taxes

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.


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.

The past practices, prior to Lynch & Moses, did not serve Lowell well.

From May 2013 - Fiscal “Watch Dog” Left a Mess to Clean Up

On a recent episode of City Life, both George Anthes and John McDonough were fluffing C.Elliott’s bona fides as the ’so called’ fiscal watch dog. Not even trying to keep from laughing, openly, I asserted that Elliott completely missed the boat when City Manager John Cox ran the City’s fiscal ship AGROUND. Ever the defenders of ’shady Lowell,’ my hosts stated that what I knew of those days, I knew only from what City Manager Lynch wanted me to see. Yes, the graphs above are prepared and provided by the current City administration. I take some faith in them, mostly for two reasons: 1) the data is publicly available and any one including fomer CM Cox’s stellar treasurer/auditor duo could, if they dared, present an alternate view. 2) The former admin hasn’t said shit to challenge the data presented by Lynch. (They aren’t shy, y’know!)

But, I do have, what is called “3rd Party Validation,” in the form of a January 3, 2006 letter from the Dept. of Revenue. These folks are, kinda, fiscal watch dogs. They caught what C.Elliott missed completely.

 photo 2006FiscalMess_zps38830a71.jpg

Rumor has it, this letter was stashed away and hidden from the Council. Ultimately, it all came to a head. And, the rest, they say, is legend.

It’s not that former CM Cox doesn’t TALK shit, he does. He just can’t back it up with facts. So, he snorts this sort of thing:
From February 2012- Cox Pops Up

LYNCH TOUTED the city’s $2.1 million surplus from the end of last fiscal year this week, noting in a Jan. 27 memo to councilors “a vast improvement over our condition in 2006″ when the city had a negative $2.2 million in free cash. Lynch typically uses the numbers to point out how he believes he has helped strengthen city finances after the departure of City Manager John Cox.

“The easiest thing to do is for a city manager is to come in and blame the past administration for any mistakes,” Cox said. “Enough is enough. This guy needs to grow up and take responsibility for what he has done in the last 5 1/2 years.”

Cox also pointed out that when Lynch criticizes the prior administration for using surpluses to prevent steep tax increases, Lynch is putting down four current councilors who had to approve the move: Elliott, Mercier, Kevin Broderick and Bill Martin.

Cox ended with a suggestion for Lynch: “Being manager is a tough job. If you don’t like it, leave.”

I know. I know. I’m picking on John Cox, A-gain. No doubt I’ll get the hairy eyeball from Rita, Kennedy and Danny Ballgame. That said, maybe the ‘Rod Squad’ will have my back, on this? No?

It wasn’t ALWAYS that way:
From February 2012 - The Sun Framed Cox’s Legacy, Not Me (bold mine)

In a mostly off-the-record phone conversation Friday, the former manager said his administration believed its revenue estimates were accurate in the spring. He said he is not sure what has changed, or whether Lynch is using a different philosphy for counting the money than he did.
Cox also noted that he warned councilors about the city’s dwindling financial reserves many times and had included less “free cash” in this year’s budget than ever before.
“Nobody ever said we were rolling in dough,” he said.

Cox added that the state Department of Revenue official with whom he was working in January led his administration to believe the audit requirement — the subject of the unmentioned letter — was largely perfunctory.
ELLIOTT, THE self-avowed “fiscal watchdog,” has been barking loudly lately, particularly as it relates to Cox’s failure to alert councilors to the DOR’s concerns. Elliott argues the Cox administration “misled the public.”
He also contends he has always opposed Cox’s practice of dipping into budget surpluses to balance the budget and avoid tax hikes. Of course, that opposition never prevented him from voting on those transfers when asked.

Okay. So, the ‘Rod Squad’ won’t have my back. Who would?

I get more nervous by the day. When I hear, from a few disparate sources that John Cox was introduced at Dan Rourke’s recent fundraiser as “OUR City Manager” and that the room erupted with cynical glee, I tend to furrow my brow. Just how could Lowellian’s dismiss the calamity of the ‘bygone era.’

Part of it, you’ll hear echoed at Lowell’s Stammtisch:

Salmira and me being political tourists at The Owl Diner.

The Stammtisch will ramble about how Wally Bayliss got screwed over. Or, how Edward Finnegan’s widow would not get jilted by the retirement board. The calliope would loudly chime, “That would NEVER happen, if John Cox was City Manager!

But the truest, most honest answer for why Bernie Lynch is marked for ouster by “shady Lowell” is this graph:

This graph is dated. Some of these jobs may have been added back. I don’t have the current levels. I stick by my point, “Shady Lowell” looks at taxpayers money as a teat. They want the jobs, now.

Ya, see. There is a reason pols, like John Cox, et al, flourish. We need look no further than the recent dust up between Jay Lang & Dave Conway:
November 2012 - The Gall of Dave Conway

* The School Committee passed Conway’s motion requesting a report from the superintendent on hiring practices in the district for administrators, supervisors and districtwide positions.

He said teachers have approached him with concerns over the consistency and transparency when it comes to hiring. While some positions use a search committee and interviews are held in public, others are not, he said.

“I certainly can understand the frustration that some jobs are out in the open and some are not. I’d like to know why,” he said.

The reason we hear so much about “clans” & “tribes” in Lowell politics? One word - Jobs.

The reason why many of these elected are clinging to their office, for low pay? Three words - Fringe Benefits & Jobs.

The City is a large employer in Lowell. Add in The Sheriff’s Office, UMass Lowell, GLTHS & The Middlesex Community College and ‘Hackville’ starts to stick out like a sore thumb.

Bernie Lynch is a monkey wrench in the ‘Family Business.‘ As the economy recovers, the hacks want their City Hall back. Not, “Our City Hall.” THEIR City Hall.

Shady Lowell wants to cash in the reserves and hire their pals, “From Lowell. For Lowell.” That nefarious bullshit, they will rubber stamp until John Cox comes home.

4 Responses to “Back To The Future?”

  1. Lynne Says:

    RE the old/new Lowell thing…I’d like to clarify something on that. It might have (sort of) been a meme on this blog, but only because one had to have a name for the group of people who liked the way business used to get done in this city, ie personal loyalty being more important than what is fair or ethically right, and the term wasn’t “old Lowell” it was GOB (Good Ol’ Boys). And there are new Lowellians who obviously are all on board with that (JMac et all) and there are old Lowellians born and raised who are against it (Dick Howes Sr and Jr, etc)…so “old” and “new” as descriptors kind of suck, unless you mean “old way of doing business” and “newer fair ways of doing business” - but ethics and a technocratic, professional manner of running the city is NOT new - just new to Lowell, apparently.

    So when we’ve used the terms to “label” any of the debates about local politics…it’s in the context of HOW the city is run, and who for.

  2. Lynne Says:

    Anyone remember this?

    Defending the Board and Commission members making a big deal out of losing their ILLEGAL benefits? The way the GOB contingent were howling about it? Even though it was illegal to have given them those benefits?

    I actually knew a guy who was on a board at the time, at the time this was going on. He said to me, “hey, it was nice as a self-employed person to get these benefits and not pay for them myself, but if they’re illegal, they’re illegal, and I’ll deal.” Not so much certain of other Board and Commission members, as I recall.

    THAT is “old” and “new” Lowell as defined (though without those terms being used, much, since we’d coined GOB) in a nutshell.

  3. NedMillCity Says:

    Who’s the guy doing the awesome Goatee stroke in that picture, Jack? Is he electable? It looks like he has a plan.

  4. Jack Says:

    Hmmm …

    I think that is, either, Jim Leahy or John Leary. He looks like he is trying to formulate a plan to give his pal a generous, long term contract with automatic raises, without being bound to the pesky notion that contracts are part of the modern governing era.

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