Left In Lowell

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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!

December 15, 2012

Journalists Are Hard To Come By, These Days

by at 10:28 am.

Sometimes the world makes you heartsick.

Eighteen children murdered
Posted by Police Line on December 15th, 2012

That’s what I read about earlier today, and then I looked up, and there sat my 4-month-old daughter staring at me.

When she saw me looking back at her she smiled. That’s the thing; kids have no idea about all the things that we do.

I grabbed Charlotte and carried her around the house a bit, holding her extra tight against my chest.

And then Chris Scott called and asked if I would interrupt my vacation and go to Connecticut to help The Sun’s parent company, Digital First Media, cover the shootings in Newtown, CT.

I believe in what I do. I believe the worst this world has to offer us has to be documented, thought about, reported graphically, and never ignored or forgotten.

I made sure it was okay with my family, I hugged Charlotte, kissed her, told her I loved her, and left.
-snip

The comments are closed. Please follow Rob Mills over at The Lowell Sun and share your thoughts with him. He can work with them better than most.

November 30, 2012

New Data Analyist…and Assistant HR Director

by at 10:04 am.

Since we heard the news that Michael Herbert was snatched away for a new job in Newton (”Director of Performance Management”…come on…is that some sort of promotion or something?) ;) we have been waiting with baited breath for who his replacement would be. (OK, I have been waiting with baited breath, as have data geeks across the city). Wait no longer! Via Jen Myers (Mayor Aide Extraordinaire), it’s Conor Baldwin:

Conor has been working in HR for the past 2+ years implementing the City’s MUNIS personnel data system and played a key role in our implementing our change of health insurance. Before coming to the HR Department he was employed by Action for Boston Community Development as a Mediation Specialist. He also worked in my office as an Intern during 2007/8 assisting with the initial start-up of the Stat program working with other Massachusetts communities in setting up the MassStat network, investigating software programs, and preparing preliminary performance measurements for department activities. He holds a BA from UMass Lowell in History and an MA from Umass Lowell in Regional Economic and Social Development. Conor was also a participant in the Lowell Plan Public Matters program.

But wait, there’s more! Familiar face and longtime Lynch Executive Assistant Donna McIntosh is moving into the Assistant HR Director position.

Donna, who has been the City Manager’s Executive Assistant for the past 5+ years brings 13+ years of municipal experience to this position. Prior to serving as the EA in Lowell she served in a similar position in Chelmsford. In these positions she handled a variety of responsibilities managing the flow of communication from the Manager’s office, assignment of tasks to City staff, interfacing with citizens and businesses, and special projects. Before assuming these positions Donna served for several years as a Personnel Specialist in the Town of Chelmsford managing all aspects of the human resource function including recruitment and hiring, administration of benefits, and support for labor negotiations. Donna holds a BA in English from UMass Amherst and is currently completing a Certificate Program in Local Government Leadership and Management from Suffolk University. She also participated in the Municipal Management Program through the UMass Boston Collins Center and was a participant in the Lowell Plan Public Matters Program

Congrats to both. Donna has been an excellent person to work with through the years…always responsive and polite. I don’t believe I’ve met Conor (though I have a horrid memory for names and faces, so if I have, I apologize) but I look forward to seeing what he can do. Geeks everywhere are counting on you!

November 25, 2012

Mea Culpa

by at 12:09 pm.

So I was wrong in my Lyle post last Wednesday. I am retracting part of my commentary made there.

Specifically, it wasn’t Elliot who Lyle was talking about as “other elected officials” who are upset at my comments on this blog (over, I presume, the course of seven whole years). It was the other one I could have predicted is unhappy with me, Councilor Rita Mercier. (Damn, and I though my video commentary clip of Elliot the other week was pretty clever. I’ll have to make more of a nuisance of myself.)

MERCIER SAID she was not surprised by Lupien’s posting.

“She has a dirty trash mouth and that is wrong,” Mercier said. “No one should ever say somebody should be hung. I give Mary Jo credit for going to police and I hope she gets Lynne’s blog shut down so she stops trying to bully people in a nasty way.”

I find it rather telling that Rita wants to shut down free speech, just because it disagrees with her. Think about that for a moment. (more…)

November 21, 2012

Political Hyperbolae

by at 4:44 pm.

I’ve been literally running around in circles all day trying to finish prep for hosting of the Thanksgiving Day festivities. With a 24lb turkey to get into my Alton Brown brine (I even found candied ginger today, in my second MarketBasket in two days), a house to clean, and a lot of guests coming, it’s been hard to be online much. (PS: if you do not get your fresh turkey from Elm Turkey Farm you are missing something!)

But obviously there’s some to-do in the state of Lowell blogistan. So I am taking really precious time out of my day (vacuuming! washing floors! mashed sweet potatoes with cream, cardamom, and maple syrup yet to start!) to address it.

If you’ve read the online article from the Lowell Sun by reporter Sarah Favot (who has the GLTHS beat) you’ll know what I’m talking about. At issue is a comment I made on Jack’s post from November 18th. (I’m snipping out the irrelevant part at the beginning addressed to the Anonymous comments.)

I admit to not knowing (or having paid attention to) all the details of this crazy ass “harassment” stuff. But I smell bullshit. And if someone - a person in LEADERSHIP - calls wolf on harassment like this, I want her head on a platter. Women have it tough enough without assholes using it as a political tool, making a legitimate harassment claim harder to believe.

Seriously, if this is what I believe it to be, it’s absolutely disgusting, and totally unethical, and she should be hung for it.

Apparently, Mary Jo Santoro decided to construe this as some sort of personal, physical threat, and reportedly went to the Lowell PD, who referred her to the Tyngsboro PD, where she was supposedly heading to today to file a complaint.

First and foremost, and I do believe this is pretty plain within the context of my comment, of course I meant absolutely no personal physical threat to Ms. Santoro. Anyone who knows me – or heck, reads my blog, knows I’m about as physically threatening as the mice that make their way into my house in the cold fall weather that I insist upon trapping humanely so I can release them in a nice field away from human habitation. (This year it was a mom and her three half grown meese children.) But even if you don’t know me at all or have never read a word of my blog, the comment totally does not meet any standard of threat that can be reasonably argued. Specifically, the use of very common phrases to denote “accountability” like head on a platter or hung (usually elongated as “hung out to dry”) could hardly be argued to be actual threats of harm. They are hyperbole.

Furthermore, political hyperbole is protected first amendment free speech. To quote:

Consistent with judicial construction given to other federal threat statutes, § 875(c) applies only to “true threats” which are not protected by the First Amendment. This requirement was established by Watts v. United States, 394 U.S. 705 (1969) (per curiam), which held that a threat statute “must be interpreted with the commands of the First Amendment clearly in mind,” and therefore be construed only to reach a “true threat” and not “constitutionally protected speech.” Such protected speech includes “political hyperbole” or “vehement,” “caustic,” or “unpleasantly sharp attacks” that fall short of true threats.

When assessing whether a communication constitutes a true threat, context is important. Various factors must be considered, including the following: the reaction of the person who received the threat; the history and relationship between the defendant and the victim; whether the threat was communicated directly to the victim; and whether the threat was conditional. By properly assessing these factors at the investigative and charging stages of a case, federal prosecutors can avoid, minimize and overcome defense arguments to the trier of fact that the defendant was purely exercising free speech rights protected by the First Amendment.

My comment is very obviously political hyperbole. Which of course I engage in on a regular basis. It’s fun. It’s protected. It’s even cathartic, but that’s not why I do it. I do it to point out injustices, bad political actors, and misuse of the public trust, its funds, and the abuse of power in general.

In other words. Protected speech.

Also, consistent with that quote from www.justice.gov, is that Ms. Santoro and I have zero personal interaction. In fact, and I quote her from the Lowell Sun article online today, “But I wouldn’t know this woman if I saw her in a parking lot.” Pretty much proof positive that we have no personal relationship or history whatsoever.

Furthermore, the speech was delivered not personally, not even with any knowledge whether or not Ms. Santoro would ever read it, but on a blog. Publicly. Not in a personal phone call, email, or any other delivery system direct to Ms. Santoro. It’s probably the least “direct” a communication could ever get, frankly. Excepting the Lowell Rumor Mill™.

Another point in the quoted legal paragraph above is whether the threat was conditional. As in, “if x happens, then y.” If a statement is conditional, it does not meet the standard of threat. Let me quote my own comment again, this time with italics where the conditionals exist:

I admit to not knowing (or having paid attention to) all the details of this crazy ass “harassment” stuff. But I smell bullshit. And if someone - a person in LEADERSHIP - calls wolf on harassment like this, I want her head on a platter. Women have it tough enough without assholes using it as a political tool, making a legitimate harassment claim harder to believe.

Seriously, if this is what I believe it to be, it’s absolutely disgusting, and totally unethical, and she should be hung for it.

Lots of ifs there. I didn’t directly state that Santoro is falsifying her harassment case against Eric Gitschier. I stated that if that was the case, I would be very angry about it and, in hyperbolic phraseology, would want her held accountable for such an act. Furthermore, I support that view with a very compelling reason – that of the plight of a real woman in a real harassment/bias situation in a real workplace whose case may be undermined by any falsified harassment claim someone in such a high profile position makes.

Such protected speech includes “political hyperbole” or “vehement,” “caustic,” or “unpleasantly sharp attacks” that fall short of true threats.

Was I unpleasantly sharp? Caustic? Vehement? Sure. Was it a threat under these conditions outlined? Absolutely not. This falls so far below the level of threat, that it honestly is a waste – of taxpayer dollars – to “investigate.”

I will not in this post question her motives for this action. I’m sure you can come to your own conclusions. I only hope, for all our sakes, that she is not doing this to suppress free speech or thwart legitimate questions or criticism about her tenure as a public servant who works directly for the Greater Lowell Technical High School Committee, whom we, as voters, taxpayers, and citizens, elected to represent us.

I can also assure you, my free speech will not be impinged. I will continue to ask the tough questions, and yes, sometimes my language is colorful. I write sarcastically at times. I use political hyperbole. This should come as no surprise to anyone, considering I’ve been here since 2005 doing the same thing and writing the same way as I always have.

I’m not going anywhere. Lowell, you’re stuck with me.

October 16, 2012

Tremors Open Thread

by at 6:17 pm.

OK, anyone feel that? I did.

Did the earth move for you? I was at my fridge (yeah, my initial reaction was get the hell away from it!). Of course, it seemed minor, but what did you experience? Freaked my dogs right the heck out.

Update: USGS is saying it was a 4.5 4.0 magnitude, 6km SSW of Lake Arrowhead, Maine.

July 23, 2012

A Note From Jen Myers

by at 9:49 pm.

With permission, I lifted this note for those of you that don’t use Facebook.

Wow. Today has been overwhelming, almost like being at my own funeral (in a good way, without being dead). Thank you all so much for your support, kind words and friendship. I am excited about this new adventure, wherever it takes me, but that doesn’t mean I will turn my back on where I have been. I have spent the last 12 years hanging around the Sun newsroom in a variety of roles from stringer to Valley Dispatch reporter, Tyngsboro/Pelham reporter, Billerica (which is da bomb) reporter, City Hall reporter and most recently Senior Writer. I have worked with amazingly talented people, too many to list here. The newsroom is a unique place full of unique people and completely inappropriate humor, which makes it fun and a great place to be every day. It is a place where I met some of my best friends and the best people I have ever known, with whom I know I will remain friends for life.
I have had the opportunity to fly over the city (and Fenway Park) in a helicopter, spend a day at Shriners’ Hospital with awesome Billerica firefighter Phil Tammaro who was himself treated there for burns as a child and now gives back to the hospital, cover the wedding of two dogs in Westford (one of who was dying of cancer), and have been allowed into countless homes and lives of people in the best and worst times of their lives.
In my time covering City Hall, I learned an enormous amount about municipal government, finance, and planning, from the best municipal administration in the game, filled with brilliant, talented, funny, real people at all levels. I learned a lot about how the city rolls from a bevy of dedicated City Councilors, including my energetic, visionary new boss.
I also learned a ton about education from three great superintendents, their talented support staff, and the committed and hard working School Committee members I have encountered in the 5 years I have spent covering the School Department.
Most importantly I have fallen in love. In love with the city my Great-Great-Great Grandfather Ferdinand Longtin came to from Quebec in 1876, seeking work in the mills. A city whose diversity, neighborhood leaders, culture, food, natural beauty, history and passion make it the most amazing city on Earth. That is why people come and why they don’t leave; why generations upon generations of families call Lowell home.
I am excited about this new job, in which I can use all of the skills I have honed over the years and build upon the relationships I have formed. It is a comfort to know I am going to work in a building where I already have many very good friends and in a city where I hope to make many more while helping the Mayor’s office better serve and effectively communicate to the residents. I have HUGE clown-sized shoes to fill. Greg Page has done a remarkable job in his brief time in the office and I only hope I can live up to the example he has set of professionalism, organization and graciousness.

Update: The outgoing aide, Greg Page, jots on his blog, The New Englander: …And Now, a Brief Pause for Jenuflection

Jen Myers Quits Sun, Now Aide to the Mayor

by at 7:50 am.

Buckle your seatbelt Dorothy, ’cause Kansas is going bye-bye!”

The next few days will be frantic in the bubble. I expect the Mayor to stand stoic, with that easy confidence he puts on so well. The frantic will come from Campi’s camp. They will not know whether to shit or go blind.

Alternate diary titles: Defection Perfection, The Juice is Loose, …

Update: PRESS RELEASE Patrick Murphy announces new Mayoral Aide in City Hall
(more…)

June 28, 2012

Open Thread: Mandate Edition

by at 10:46 am.

Update: “Those who have sought to demonize health reform need to put an end to their scare tactics. This needs to begin a new day, where the test is not what you can oppose but what you can propose.” - John Kerry

At a press conference held on March 6, 2006, Mitt Romney said he’s “very pleased with” the individual mandate.

(more…)

June 5, 2012

“Actionable Intelligence”

by at 6:19 pm.

Pardon me while I spike the ball. This is a (another) “Huah” moment. Ne Desit Virtus (”Let Valor Not Fail”)

Senior al-Qaeda leader Abu Yahya al-Libi was killed in a drone strike in Pakistan on Monday, US officials say.
Abu Yahya al-Libi, variously described as daring and charismatic, was becoming a familiar face to the jihadist movement through his appearances on the internet.

American counter-terror analysts have long argued that killing individual al-Qaeda leaders degrades the organisation by forcing the promotion of less experienced operatives. Drone strikes, they say, make al-Qaeda look vulnerable and undermine its global standing.

Behind the drone operations, of course, lies an unseen intelligence operation which fed US commanders knowledge of Libi’s whereabouts. We can’t know how that worked, but we can speculate that it involved the use of satellites and drones to track militants, listening stations to intercept their communications and agents on the ground to provide first-hand information.

The reach and apparent effectiveness of US intelligence in the region may well be as of much concern to al-Qaeda’s leadership as the death of their comrade.

Washington believes that following Osama Bin Laden’s death last year, Libi, an Islamic scholar from Libya, became al-Qaeda’s second-in-command after Egyptian-born Ayman al-Zawahiri.

If I’m gloating, it’s not as a soldier. It’s as an “Obama Democrat.”

Don’t be a chickenhawk! Vote Democrat in 2012.

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