Left In Lowell

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July 10, 2014

UPDATED: Horrific Lowell Fire - Info On How To Help

by at 11:28 am.

I’d posted a Facebook thread on Lowell Live Feed this morning, and people have been filling in information about where and how to donate money, clothing, and other goods to the survivors of the fire which claimed seven lives, three of them children, on the corner of Branch St and Queen St in the early hours this morning. I wanted to put all of that into one post for people to refer to. Most of this has been gathered from Twitter where people were covering the press conference this morning.

A fund has been set up for monetary donations:
Branch Street Fire Victims Relief Fund
Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union
P.O. Box 1238
Lowell, MA 01853

UPDATE: The Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association has also set up a GoFundMe page.

Today, the Red Cross is collecting clothing and food donations for the victims at the Senior Center where they are staging their operations. However, that might be overwhelmed pretty quickly, so you can also wait until tomorrow and donate such things to the Wish Project, along with any other goods on their list, such as furniture, bedding, and home goods. I suspect home goods and clothing will be top of the list for needs in the short term. The Wish Project says: “Not sure if we can take it? We reserve the right of refusal, so please call at 978-441-9474 or email us at info@thewishproject.org to make sure it will be accepted.” So be sure to take a careful look at the list so as not to bring things they cannot take. The Wish Project address is 1A Foundry St. in Lowell.

UPDATE: The Wish Project has a web page specifically listing the needs of the Branch Street fire victims. Worth a look.

[UPDATE] FOOD ITEMS: The Wish Project has a way for you to donate food boxes to the recently-homeless fire victims. There is going to be a huge need for immediate food items that can be consumed without the use of a kitchen or fridge. Via the MV End Homelessness blog.

I am not sure where personal items can be donated, such as toothbrushes and other personal hygiene products, but I’ll update when I find out. Over 40 people were displaced with this fire so the demand will be great. [UPDATE]: see link to Wish Project’s web page listing immediate needs.

Also, there was mention of a fundraiser at the Buddhist temple on Cambridge this Sunday, with details TBA. I’ll update when I know more.

Add what you know in comments, please, and I’ll update.

May 23, 2014

CM Murphy Outmaneuvered On His Own Bill

by at 6:52 pm.

It’s like watching ping pong, only at one end of the table is the not very classy personality of Kevin Hayhurst (his facebook comments alone are enough to make you cringe, never mind the alleged assaults) and the other end is the city of Lowell.

So a temporary stay was issued today on the Hayhurst License Commission ruling by a superior court judge on a technicality. The problem? A bill got signed into law literally yesterday during the day, and the LC hearing was held after that, at night. That bill requires License Commissions to have five members, rendering our current-2-member LC not a quorum, and therefore its vote last night invalid.

Personally, I think the timing on this is fishy. Hayhurst’s lawyer had asked for a postponement on this hearing until yesterday…and right before the rescheduled hearing, on the same day, a bill gets signed into law which renders our 2-member License Commission a non-compliant board? Coincidences like that make me nervous.

But the real issue here is…I thought we were supposed to get a Beacon Hill insider when we hired Kevin Murphy? Someone who could sail in the seas of state laws and practices? Someone who would have seen this coming, especially since he is listed as the sponsor of this bill in the state House??

Even worse, this board went down to two members because Kevin Murphy’s own nephew had to step down since his uncle became the CM.

So let’s put this clearly: a board with KMurph’s own nephew predictably became a two person board when he took the City Manager job. He has failed thus far to appoint anyone to replace his nephew, which is bad enough by itself because two members could easily become one member, or someone might not be able to make a meeting due to an illness or something, and make the board a non-compliant board just as is. BUT! On top of that, a bill Kevin Murphy sponsored renders the two member board noncompliant. Clearly Murphy knew it had been passed, he might have had the fecking wherewithal to follow up on when it’d be signed.

I don’t think it’d be too much to ask for him to have addressed this in the five weeks he’s been at the helm of the city? Given that it was a predictable problem on BOTH fronts? It should have been one of the first things on his plate. He didn’t see that this might be a major issue facing the city? It’s not like he’s working solo - he’s foisting a ton of budgeting stuff onto temporary guru Healey, so…what the hell?? What is he waiting for? And if he, for some wackadoodle reason, had no way to make the appointment in the last few weeks, why didn’t he see the problem with the bill he sponsored in the House coming into effect and at least warn his Law Dept and License Commission, at the very least, so they could have postponed the entire meeting last night until such a time as they are compliant with the new law?

Bottom line: Kevin Murphy left his License Commissioners and Law Dept high and dry due to his neglecting the appointments he needs to be making. Now another hearing will have to be held once the Commission is more fully seated, wasting the prep time that both the LC and law dept very obviously engaged in ahead of last night.

And make no mistake, I think Kayhurst only got a temporary reprieve. The guy’s got two criminal cases pending against him as far as I know, and it’s obvious his people do NOT run a tight ship out there, given the ridiculous things they said in front of the Commission last night. But god, this makes the city look bad. Hayhurst is crowing all over facebook (and some of his supporters or employees or whatever are saying that people talking about the suspension can “go fucking die”). Murphy better fix this, fast. You just had your glitch for this mission. Now it’s time to do your job.

May 22, 2014

Hayhurst Hit With Big Penalties

by at 8:34 pm.

So, if you did not watch the License Commission tonight, you missed an entertaining meeting. The ever-shrinking License Commission was holding a hearing on the license of Finn’s Pub downtown, because Kevin Hayhurst allegedly assaulted a patron (who wound up in the ER with a fractured nose). Allegedly this is the second time this has happened in the last year or so…

Former Commission member Ray Weicker (whom I would never hire as attorney, he was terrible) was there on behalf of Hayhurst. The testimony included character assassination by proxy (Weicker repeatedly attacked the victim’s stepfather, calling him a felon and stating that the stepson was following in his footsteps), and accusations of blackmail (which never, it appears, made it to a police report, strangely…) where Hayhurst claims the young man and his stepfather tried to extort $20,000 from him to not press charges. Hayhurst had a whole couch-and-water story about how he wasn’t even there. Apparently, written testimony and police interviews with the witnesses who are not employees of Hayhurst state otherwise. They didn’t make it to the meeting though (due to work commitments etc). Weicker tried to pretend that this meant their testimony was not useable because he couldn’t cross examine said persons. I think he missed the part where this wasn’t a court of law?

Anywho, super fun. And you won’t really see this in the Sun since I hear that the media table was empty tonight. Luckily, LTC will have it archived soon and you can see it yourself, because it really is worth the viewing. Just think - all your shows are wrapping up their seasons…you need something good to watch!

So the kicker is the penalties imposed. My understanding is that it’s rare that a long suspension is enacted. I suppose that makes sense, since even losing a week’s worth of revenue is pretty devastating.

Finn’s Pub got a full 30 days. What’s more, Brian’s Ivy Hall is also closed…because the License Commission also removed Kevin Hayhurst as Manager of Record of both bars, and you can’t run a liquor establishment without one. In order to reopen, Brian’s Ivy Hall needs to bring another Manager of Record for approval to the License Commission. That means a minimum of a three weeks since the LC doesn’t meet again until June 12th. That’s if they can find someone willing to put their name to the responsibility…

Thirdly, the LC put in its motion to suspend Hayhurst from managing both places, that he be removed as a corporate officer in the companies. This was after they wanted to force him to divest from both companies but the assistant city attorney’s opinion was rendered that that was not within the LC’s purview.

There is still criminal charges pending against Hayhurst, so his penalties might not be over with…but I think we can safely say that there’s a good chance one or both of these places might be gone in the next year or so. Good riddance, as they are the some of big offenders of attracting unwanted types to our downtown late into the night.

March 10, 2014

Not So Much Leaks, As Pawtucket Falls in Spring

by at 4:04 pm.

I hope most of Lowell is as disgusted as I am about the City Manager search name leaks. First, a number of names went public before the Councilors even put in their votes for finalists. Elliott, who was a consummate leaker in the 2006 round of resumes, supposedly had nothing to do with these. I have my suspicions - it likely was a city councilor - but it’s totally speculation. Those names appear to have been leaked to Chris Scott of the Sun.

That type of leak is completely damaging to those candidates, who had an expectation of privacy in applying for our City Manager position. It damages their current positions for their employers to know they were seeking to go elsewhere; and all for naught if they do not make the finalist list. It’s like 10 year olds are freaking running the show. I can’t even express how frustrating this process has become. No professionals in their right minds will apply to Lowell’s other positions or future CM/Auditor or whatever searches. Never mind that this whole damn game has been up to Christian Hill in shenanigans to begin with, with the “fix” gossip by the Sun and some of WCAP’s commentators.

Now, today, the six finalists were leaked on Twitter by the Cub Reporter. I won’t link, you can find it yourself if you want, but of course, Murphy and Ramirez are on the list, as well as four more. (Does it really matter who they are? Do we honestly think they were included because there will be a genuine and honest debate about the best candidate for CM?)

Given that the Cub is involved in the second round of leaking, I would put money on his joined-at-the-hip giggle partner Rodney Elliott. He might not have leaked the first round, but I’d bet money on him not protesting his innocence in this second round. I swear to god, these two are like a married couple. I was at Lynch’s final meeting, and had to make a phone call, so I went far around the corners so as not to bother anyone, and as I was walking back, who passes by me but Rodney and Lyle like they were going off to make out in a corner. Not joking, that’s what it reminded me of.

Rita Mercier, on the radio earlier today, was pretty hot under the collar, understandably. Question is, did all the candidate finalists get notification before the cubbie got his gossip? I think it’d be a good thing if someone like Rita asked that question.

What a hoax this whole thing has been. No good outcome can come from such an unprofessional set of circumstances. This City Council is as bad as was predicted. I was hoping that the naysayers were wrong, that this wouldn’t be as bad as we thought, but…it’s worse.

BotW will be different this week, but I will post about that in a bit.

January 14, 2014

Council Votes Against Narrow Candidate Pool!

by at 6:28 pm.

I’m watching the City Council Special Meeting to discuss and decide on the process for hiring a new City Manager. One item that popped up was worrisome. Kennedy brought forth the notion to “be up front” in the advertisement for the position and state there would be no contract. He made a motion for this in the meeting.

As you know, a lot hinges on this question, so this test was pivotal.

The usual suspects lined up on either side - Kennedy, Rourke, Belanger, and Elliot (presumably, he didn’t speak on this because he’s the chair) for putting this language in the ad, and Bill Samaras, Bill Martin, and Milinazzo against doing this, as it would “limit the pool of candidates” willing to apply. They brought up the fact that the pool of qualified candidates is already small enough as it is, and they also made the point they think a contract is a good idea.

The arguments on the other side were awful. One that needs addressing is, someone (Rourke? Or Belanger? - ed’s note: it was Rourke, as Dick’s notes show) tried to make the point that since the current Manager was leaving before the end of his contract, it’s obvious that the contract did no good for Lowell. How wrong they are.

I made this point before, but let’s reiterate: without a contract obligating Lynch to give 60 days notice, he could have left yesterday. Now, Lynch is a good professional and probably wouldn’t do this, but if he had no contract, he could have. Or, he could have given less notice; a month, or two weeks - almost as bad. Suffice it to say, with no CFO, with the assistant CM leaving in February, and budget season coming up rapidly, this would have totally hosed the city. So yeah, the contract actually saved our collective asses, even if you just count that one thing.

Also, just about every other city and town has a contract for their top administrator. (Someone made the point that in a strong mayor system, you essentially have a contract in that a mayor serves at least until the next election, unless in the rare case they resign mid-term.) Of course, Rita talked about Dracut and a [former] long term manager there, but let’s face it - Lowell is a whole different animal. Given the publicity around the CM position and Lowell’s history, and the nastiness that has permeated the entire last election and its aftermath (including last week’s meeting), and Elliott’s apparent willingness to violate at least the spirit of Plan E, Lowell is skating on thin ice. We’re already going to have trouble attracting the best and brightest applicants with a good solid resume.

So, it was with baited breath we awaited the two in the middle to speak. First, it was Rita, who quickly made the point that she didn’t want to limit the pool of candidates by using such language in the advertisement. Angels sang and light came down from the heavens. Thank you, Rita Mercier!

Leahy didn’t speak until nearly the end, but he reiterated Rita’s point of view. More angels and light! Thank you, John Leahy!

So the motion went down, 5-4. This doesn’t mean we’re in the clear - we have yet to see how many great applicants apply, and who gets to be in the final five for public interview, after all. It doesn’t mean that a contract will be offered, as it should be for the right candidate. But it does mean that a majority of this Council does not want to signal to the CM job market that they are unwilling to be above board and reasonable.

I would like to thank Rita Mercier and John Leahy again for their vote. It seems minor but it’s not. I think if you feel the same way, you should call them and thank them.

Update: Dick has his notes up about the Special Meeting already. That’s right, the bloggers are on the job!

January 7, 2014

Lynch Resigning

by at 8:49 pm.

I suspect a lot of fallout from this announcement, but City Manager Bernie Lynch - who wanted to do this in closed session to tell the Councilors first, but was denied that because the same City Councilors who are at odds with transparency most of the time, tonight insisted on it - read his letter of resignation in open session on the floor, effective March 10th.

It was quite a bombshell for, well, pretty much everyone.

But…who can blame him? The hostile work environment - which as my husband put it, was telegraphed to us tonight - is not a pleasant thing to deal with week after week, and it was only going to get worse. No where else does an employee put up with as much abuse from his boss as Lynch has lived with, and it’s amazing he put up with it this long, frankly.

Let’s face it: this particular City Council really doesn’t deserve Lynch. Its majority doesn’t know what it has, is blind to reality, and frankly, I’m not that hopeful for a GOOD hiring process. After all, newcomer Belanger ran on “from Lowell, for Lowell.” That doesn’t bode well for a nationwide search for Lynch’s replacement, does it?

As for his legacy - which I hope is not undone with the next hire, it only takes a John Cox a few years to screw it all up - has been to put the city on amazing financial footing, to push forward many projects even in the midst of a recession and tight budgets, and professional, transparent city government the likes of which Lowell had not seen in a very long time.

So long Bernie, and thanks for all the fish…

Edit: for more on the meeting, Dick has his notes

November 24, 2013

Our Best to Councilor Leahy

by at 9:13 am.

Councilor Leahy apparently is recovering from a mild heart attack.

Our best to the Councilor in his recovery.

November 21, 2013

Going Nuclear

by at 12:10 pm.

Right now, after a few more tries at getting a judicial nominee through and being filibustered, Senator Reid is finally done with the obstructionism and is going nuclear on the filibuster for judicial nominees.

The current vacancy crisis of our judiciary is often unremarked by the media, but it has very big consequences for the justice system we all live under. Republicans want to claim Obama is too slow to nominate, but with them using the filibuster to block so many nominees - qualified, good nominations, we’re not talking about political hacks, and even the Republicans can’t always find a good objection other than it being something Obama initiated - our judicial system has been hampered for years.

The concept of “going nuclear” on the filibuster was, of course, invented by Republicans over the few filibusters of some very shady Bush nominees (people who were not qualified…remember, Bush at first wanted Harriet freaking Miers for the SCOTUS, and even his own party was like, wahhhhh?). But now the media is forgetting their history (shocker) and is saying this is a Democratic idea. Well, no, actually, thanks for playing.

But if this is the only way to fill our judicial vacancies and actually get the people’s work done, let’s do it. If and when Republicans become the majority, these rules will apply to Dems as a minority as well. Let each party own their own damn governing without a filibuster, if the rules are going to be abused in such a manner.

PS - why yes, I am streaming C-SPAN right now, if you must ask…

Update the vote to change the rules just passed. For all judicial nominees except SCOTUS, a simple majority will confirm them! Finally, a Senate that will (somewhat) function.

April 5, 2013

Two Mayor Murphy Memos in Four Days

by at 5:00 pm.

The first one you can read on gerrynutterlowell.com: Statement from Mayor Patrick Murphy

The second memo, as released: (more…)

February 6, 2013

Winterfest Postponed

by at 2:45 pm.

Due to, well, the proclivities of winter, Winterfest has officially been postponed two weeks by the City of Lowell.

LOWELL WINTERFEST IS HIBERNATING FOR TWO MORE WEEKS!

Pending Storm and Crowd Safety Force the City of Lowell and WinterFest Committee to Delay the Annual Celebration Until February 22 & 23

This year’s WinterFest is in brief HIBERNATION! Earlier today, February 6th, the WinterFest Committee made the difficult decision to postpone the 13th Annual Lowell WinterFest event due to an extreme winter weather advisory that calls for well over a foot of snow to fall in the immediate area over the next several days.

The WinterFest Committee is currently hard at work on logistics for this change in schedule, and encourages the public to visit Lowell.org and LowellWinterFest.org for program updates as they happen. As of today, all the major components of the event — the Microbrew Competition, the Soup Bowl Competition, Club Celsius Live Music Tent, and the National Human Dogsled Competition — are still taking place as planned.

For now, we hope you will save the NEW dates for the 13th Annual WinterFest and please plan on joining us in Lowell in TWO weeks!

The 13th Annual Lowell WinterFest
New Dates! Friday, February 22 & Saturday, February 23

Visit LowellWinterFest.org for event updates!

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