Left In Lowell

Member of the reality-based community of progressive (not anonymous) Massachusetts blogs

2013 Candidate Questionnaire Responses!

January 23, 2014

Backpedal Fast Enough?

by at 6:26 pm.

Well, I have to say, I won the Blowup of the Week bet with my only too obvious pick of City Manager appointments. I thought because it was so obvious, it was likely the blowup would not be about appointments, but some heretofore overlooked item on the agenda. Alas, this City Council can’t even surprise us in its stupidest moments.

First, I’d like to make a WTF? comment on taking the executive session for discussing Lynch’s potential extension out of order. I know Rourke/Golden is new to things, but his colleagues ought to know better. Here’s all the way that it was a poor move: the viewers at home were trying to watch a meeting, and BOOM! an hour and a half or thereabouts went silent. (Actually, not precisely silent. There was music for a time, and then the mic went live for a bit which was really fun. I think the LTC folk thought something was about to happen, then it didn’t, so eventually they went back to the music.) So you hosed the viewer at home, who wanted to see the public portion of the meeting. Most people, who are not masochistic like some of us are, probably gave up and turned on Jeopardy or whatever it is the average demo of Council meetings watch when Council isn’t on. A big win for democracy!

Then, you also screwed LTC. Now the replay of the meeting has to include an hour and a half of dead space. Since they provide “gavel to gavel coverage” they can’t just edit this part out. Thanks for that.

But the worst is that all the people still hanging around for motions or considerations that would have normally been quite early in the meeting had to sit around the chamber, waiting. I’m thinking particularly of the aforementioned appointments. They couldn’t go out for burgers because no one knew how long the executive session would go, so they were stuck. These Councilors constantly “suspend the rules” to allow some person about whom a future motion affects, is speaking on, etc. But hey, let’s not think about those people, we’re leaving them sitting there so we can beat them up later on. *rolls eyes*

Moving on to the BotW, it was a complex dance of rules-bending, misapplication of rules, outright attempts to violate long-known rules, and of course, beating people up. So in trying to tell this story, I’m going to resort to video clips - which include some commentary. This is a long post, but it was a weird night, even for this Council.

So, note that the first appointment comes up, Dr. Julia Hans for the Green Building Commission. Rita jumps right in - not to discuss the appointment before her, but to form a brand new motion about hogtying Manager appointments…a motion which is not on the agenda…a big, and basic prohibition under the laws governing the City Council. Mercier’s been on the council a couple decades, so why does she think this will work this time? Because Elliott’s as clueless as she is? Oh, wait, he is. And as always, they ask the lawyer last.

The second hilarious thing about this is that Rita is a flipflopper. Literally. She was against this before she was for it.

Lowell City Councilor Kevin Broderick’s request that City Manager John Cox refrain from making any more board appointments before his resignation becomes official July 31 appears directly tied to two high-profile vacancies.
THE PRO-COX councilors — Caulfield, Armand Mercier and Rita Mercier — were sputtering mad at Broderick’s motion, particularly Caulfield and Rita Mercier, who likened it to an attempt “to slap the manager’s face.”

I guess one person’s slap is the same person’s “lame duck.” Remember, Cox was known for political appointments, and the reason for his ouster besides his terrible financial stewardship was that the ZBA and Planning Board, in particular, were “fix is in” boards for connected developers, and other boards weren’t much better. If Rita has such a concern that Lynch will do this, she should say so. Otherwise…

(PS - is she reading her remarks off a paper - like she always does? I don’t think she’s supposed to do that.)

Commentary does accompany the videos.

Kennedy then asks, can we know how important the ZBA and Planning Board appointments might be to quorum? (If a quorum isn’t at a meeting, no votes can take place, wasting developers’ - and developers’ lawyers’ - time.) Baacke responds by saying that some items require a supermajority and this can be hard to get without a full complement of members and alternates. Remember, we’re still technically on the item for appointing Dr. Hans to the Green Building Commission, which doesn’t even need Council approval.

After more Rita ranting (might make a best-of clip later), Rourke jumps in with his “disappointment” that Lynch dared to bring appointments. Remember, Rourke dropped his motion the previous week which proposed cuffing the manager from doing this. This “disappointment” is one thing you must remember…or nothing that follows will seem wondrous. (Sorry, Muppet Christmas Carol reference.)

After this, Milinazzo questions whether or not this is even relevant given that the Green Building Commission appointment is a communication, not subject to Council approval. Of course, Kennedy has to ask, if this is the case. Sigh. To Mercier, it doesn’t matter. She says she wants to bring up an illegal motion anyway. That’s when Milinazzo says, you can’t do that. Then Elliott is totally confused for a moment. Then he finally turns to the city solicitor. Watch:

This is not the first time the solicitor has to bring up this no-new-motions it-breaks-Open-Meeting-Law point. It seems like every other meeting this is questioned. No, the law didn’t change since the last time someone pooched the screw, guys, stop asking and start not doing the things you’re not supposed to do!! Elliott: “What in the Charter prohibits us from doing that?” Are you freaking KIDDING ME???

When the solicitor explains about the Open Meeting Law, Elliott then suggests Mercier’s motion might be more appropriate for the next item (an appointment requiring Council approval). Um…NO!

On voice vote the communication on Dr. Hans finally just gets accepted.

Anywhos…So after some other seemingly inconsequential items on the agenda, here’s where it gets good! Yes, this was all just appetizer to the main course.

Here you’ll see, after Salmira Mitchell’s appointment gets scuttled (tabled), on 5-4 vote - and I want you to note in the video who was a Yes to table - the next appointment comes up, and Milinazzo moves to approve…remember, the previous appointment was just moved and voted to table by Mercier. Now either Milinazzo got there first, or she was only interested in scuttling one appointment, the one married to a blogger, her comments to the contrary notwithstanding.

PS: Elliott kept butchering SalMIRa’s name…as I am pretty notorious for bad pronunciation of people’s names whom I don’t already know, and some I do, I won’t criticize too harshly, except, if I were a mayor, I think I would ask for people to tell me how to pronounce any names I might have trouble with. I don’t know how Elliot is getting his hard “i” there, either. If her name were Salmire-a maybe…

Next appointment comes up, Milinazzo moves to approve, then speaks (talking about Robert Malavich’s bonafides) which I’ll skip. Then it’s Belanger and I left the Manager’s answer in, and then I had to leave Kennedy’s weird little exchange with Lynch in there…

Now for the meat! The entree, the babyback ribs of the matter, so to speak! Pay close attention!

Now, there’s also a huge question as to whether or not tabling was an appropriate motion for anyone to make. If you’re just looking to kill an item on an agenda, Robert’s Rules state you should look to a procedure that requires a 2/3 vote. Bold mine:

Robert’s Rules of Order states that the use of the motion to “table” to kill a motion is improper because a majority vote should not be sufficient to permanently cut off debate on a main motion. Robert’s recommends that a member seeking to avoid a direct vote on a main motion while immediately cutting off debate instead make a motion that requires a two-third vote: Either an objection to consideration of the question (which is in order only before debate has begun and requires a two-thirds vote to block further consideration of the main motion) or a motion to postpone indefinitely (in order at any time, majority vote required) followed by an immediate motion to call the previous question (end debate and proceed to a vote on the motion), for which a two-thirds vote is required.

But hey, we can’t even get the longest serving Councilor currently in office to stop making basic Open Meeting Law gaffes, so…

It keeps going after this, you know. This was not the end of the madness!! Next you’ll see the second fastest flipflop ever seen in modern politics. (The fastest flip flop was Rita voting yes on the Malavich and Paglia appointments after stating she was not interested in any appointments going through and was willing to scuttle the lot of them with an illegal motion.)

OK, so that’s that. This was an exhausting post, and it’s highly unlikely I’ll do this with such detail EVERY week. However, with great video editing tools at my disposal expect at least Best-Of-Blowup-Of-The-Week videos!

One last thing of note: does anyone really think that people will continue to step forward to volunteer for this sort of crap to get on a board or commission? Lynch is putting these people an awkward position? Right. Sure.

21 Responses to “Backpedal Fast Enough?”

  1. Mr. Lynne Says:

    Belanger regarding Michael Paglia: “He’s a great kid…”

    How old is Belanger anyway, or is he the kind of guy that just calls all male strangers ’son’?

    And wow, I didn’t catch this when I watched it live but boy did Rourke’s body language get squirmy when he moved to reconsider the appointment.

    Note also when the Rodney asserts that there’s no taking the motion off the table you can hear Rita in the background saying “… there’s no discussion…”, as if she knows.

    I think the Rule 22 issue about when things can come back from being tabled, the rule is intended to keep motions that have been tabled from staying tabled (from meeting to meeting) in perpetuity. One bit not caught on these videos is that they could have taken it off the table and Milinazzo both tried to do it and knew it was within the rules to do so. Unfortunately ignorance reigned.

  2. Gail Says:

    The inmates are running the asylum.

  3. Eleanor Rigby Says:

    Unfortunately the jobs will not go unfilled. Look for the return of the GOB appointments with this new majority. Elections have consequences and until incumbents are held to task during a campaign nothing is going to change.

  4. Frances McDougall Says:

    WOW. I did watch the meeting now that I found the site for the broadcast. This, however Lynne, is magical. The work you put into this “critique” is fabulous. The insertions of text over the video is genius. Watching the stumbling and bumbling of the mayor and Rourke is like a skit on SNL. Giving a gavel to someone who clearly is in way over his head is tragic. The person who started this whole fiasco sits quietly while her comrades flail about trying to pretend they are big boys now at the head table. Where is this all heading? Best review of a public session I have ever seen.

  5. Lynne Says:

    I think that’s one of the big lessons here Fran - “in over his head.” It’s one of those cases…be careful what you wish for…you might get it. Unfortunately it doesn’t just affect one person. His rulings were horrible.

  6. Lynne Says:

    Just to add, this is a guy who thinks he can be a strong mayor?? He can’t even be a good weak mayor.

    Perhaps this is just growing pains, and he’ll learn the ropes, but I’m not holding my breath. Bud never learned how to run the meetings properly, either. And Elliott’s subcommittee picks are also terrible. He ignored the expertise people have, and instead used his “this person is my friend, this person is not my friend” as a baseline of who would serve where. Like it’s 7th grade.

  7. Eleanor Rigby Says:

    BTW, Great video editing job with this issue!

  8. Realistic Joe Says:

    In all honesty I’m getting bored defending rourke on this site. One last defense and then I’m going away for a month. Rourke obviously does not want the city manager to make appointments on the way out the door. That’s another argument for another day. Mercier files the motion to table what appeared to be all the appointments. Nothing strange about this. Rourke stated earlier that all three were good candidates but it was more of a bigger picture issue and not an opinion on the three of them as individuals. Then they start voting on the other two? It made no sense to me watching and most likely made no sense to half of the council. Now it is no longer a big picture issue. Now they are voting on the individuals. When he realizes what has happened with Mrs Mitchell he tries to remedy the injustice. He clearly states that she is a great person and what has happened is unfair. His motion to “untable” was legal and should have gone to a vote. Instead of doing this the mayor and others make a mistake and do not allow the vote. Rourke then asks the city manager to put her name in next weeks agenda(obviously so that he can vote to approve her ). Jack Mitchell has not been kind to rourke. There are clearly others on the council that were intent on getting some payback. To claim that rourke was one of these people is a lie.

  9. Lynne Says:

    Thanks ER, I’m glad people appreciate it, it was a lot of work! Both mentally taxing due to the content and time consuming!! :)

    I have a couple ideas for other short vids…I am getting used to Premiere CC now, watch out. :)

  10. Publius Says:

    I agree that the executive session should not have been in the middle of the council session. It would have been better if it had been before or after the main meeting. But there may be a rule that prevents that since it may have to be part of the council session.

  11. Lynne Says:

    Cry me a river, “R”J.

    There IS something wrong with it. Read/watch the post. If the City Councilors think Lynch is going to make bad choices (like Cox would have) going out the door that would be a defense. But leaving boards and commission dysfunctional for no reason? Indefensible. In fact, I would wager a lot of money this has a lot to do with McMahan wanting back in on the LHA board, and you can follow the money on that one. This isn’t even Rourke’s idea, another wager I’d make.

    Rourke wouldn’t know a bigger picture if it bit him on the you know where.

    “Remedy the injustice” - you mean, HIS OWN injustice? Gimme a break. There’s a really good reason Golden would have for directing Rourke to change his mind, if indeed that happened…it’s called Ann Marie Page, a good woman and a force of nature in Centralville and a really good friend of the Mitchells’. Just sayin’.

    Publius - Executive sessions have always been at the end of meetings, at least as far as I can remember in recent times. This at least is best for viewers at home watching the meeting.

  12. Lynne Says:

    I’ll also repeat my husband’s observation - watch Rourke’s body language closely in the “move to reconsider” moment. Very telling.

  13. Realistic Joe Says:

    I watched it just like you did. It sure as hell looked like he thought he was voting to table ALL appointments. When he realized what was happening he tried to do the right thing for Mrs Mitchell. This without a doubt angered both Mercier and Elliot. It looked to me like he was doing the right thing. But I guess I was wrong. I didn’t know that there was a woman in centerville calling golden and telling him to tell rourke to reverse course. What a joke

  14. Lynne Says:

    How could you possibly think that was for tabling ALL appointments? And why would you then vote FOR the rest of the appointments, if you wanted to table all appointments? None of this adds up. Also, it means he’s really either not paying attention to the meeting, because *I* knew what was going on and I wasn’t even in the room, as did ALL his colleagues, so if he wasn’t paying attention - that’s bad. If he was too…well, not able to understand what was going on, that’s even worse. On any of these explanations, he’s indefensible.

    He’s also a flipflopper and totally inconsistent. Way to start off his term.

  15. Mr. Lynne Says:

    Seriously? You figure he didn’t realize his mistake until the end of the meeting? They voted on the other people right away after the tabled motion, and he doesn’t speak up then, which is strange if he’s thinking that these were also tabled. I don’t think it went down in his head that way or he would have spoke up as soon as the motions he thought were tabled were brought up.

  16. Christopher Says:

    Tabling a motion is supposed to be used when the intent is to take it from the table soon thereafter, usually the same meeting. It is intended as a quick way to move something aside while something more pressing is taken up, say a guest speaker who has time limitations.

    I wonder about quorum though. It is generally a majority of the seats that are filled as opposed to a majority of available seats, precisely so lack of membership will not prevent the body from conducting its business. Is that not the case here?

  17. Lynne Says:

    Thanks Christopher, yeah, I’m getting that impression from various sources.

    Tabling should NOT be used to kill a motion. That is basically Robert’s Rules. But hey, rules shmules…

  18. Lowell Mill Gal Says:

    Christopher, re quorum, that works for most things but for, say, the ZBA, the rules are that for a Board that’s made up of 5 members, a special permit has to be approved by four votes - regardless of how many people are in the room that day. So if one person is absent and there is no alternate, then it has to be unanimous…and if two people are absent (or if the discussion goes on for more than one meeting and one person misses each meeting), then they can’t even vote.

  19. joe from Lowell Says:

    I’m not sure it’s a very good idea to put a Taliban in charge of library books. ZING!

    As for the review-board appointments: there’s also something called “constructive approval,” by which a project gets approved, whether they board likes it or not, if they don’t act in a statutory time frame (for example, if there aren’t enough members present to take a vote). Not only does leaving boards without enough members potentially screw applicants, but the city as well.

  20. Publius Says:

    You wrote: Tabling should NOT be used to kill a motion. That is basically Robert’s Rules. But hey, rules shmules…

    Tabling a motion is a time honored technique of killing a motion even though it is said to violate the spirit if Robert’s Rules. I am sure that if I was about to be appointed City Manager you would not hesitate to use the rule to prevent that from happening.

  21. Lynne Says:

    Sure, you go on believing that.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>

[powered by WordPress.]

If you are not on Twitter and want to follow our feed on Facebook, click "Like" for our FB page.
BadgermillCity logo


Recent Posts




January 2014
« Dec   Feb »


Email us!

(replace spaces, ['s, symbols)
Lynne | Mimi

Lowell Area Bloggers/Forums

Lowell Politics

Mass Bloggers

Politics Online

The Arts in Lowell

Trad Local Media

40 queries. 1.040 seconds