Left In Lowell

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

 
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November 4, 2013

It’s Hard To Take The Sun Seriously

by at 8:35 am.

The Sun has an editorial urging Lowellians to vote, tomorrow.
(I can’t find an active link)

While many regard the citywide election as a referendum on the city manager’s performance over the past two years, The Sun strongly believes Bernie Lynch, who has achieved financial success with his management team, is not the primary issue. Public safety, education, economic develop­ment, and taxes and fees are the major concerns.

Lowell needs city councilors who can push petty politics aside and make decisions based on equality and fairness to its 106,000 citizens, rather than analyzing how each vote affects the manager’s agenda. Too much weight has been given to the manager’s job security, rather than to the people’s hopes and dreams for a better Lowell.

Strong leadership and forward thinking will get Lowell to the next level of improved gover­nance from which all good things come, not coun­cilors looking over their shoulders protecting City Hall. Protect the citizens.

I find it striking that The Sun feels that the City Manager has his own agenda, yet dismisses the notion that the CM’s contract is an election issue. You’d think that IF a City Manager was inflicting a city with an agenda, that would be an issue. No? The way The Sun juxtaposes the sentence, “push petty politics aside and make decisions based on equality and fairness to its 106,000 citizens” … “rather than” … “analyzing how each vote affects the manager’s agenda,” it’s clear the CM’s “agenda” is contrary to “equality and fairness. ” I’d argue THAT is an issue!

Except, as LiL readers know, it is a conjured issue. It is conjured by the purveyor of political pornography, known as Jim Campanini.

Let me give you some context. Some of you may know, that the Greater Lowell Technical High School Committee deferred taking a vote, until today, on selecting the school’s next Superintendent.

While the Greater Lowell Technical High School Commit­tee plans to select a new superintendent tonight, new infor­mation has come for­ward in a finalist’s history that points to yet another alleged incident of domestic violence in his past.

Roger D. Forget Jr., a Bourne resident who serves as principal of Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical School, had a restraining order filed against him by his ex-wife on his teenage daughter’s behalf in December 2003, according to court records from Palmer District Court that came to The Sun in an anonymous package over the weekend. …

In the December 2012 court documents that School Committee member Ray Boutin provided to The Sun this year, Forget’s wife allegedly told police her husband had previous restraining orders filed against him when she filed her claim, which she eventually withdrew.

Forget in October declined to answer a reporter’s question about his wife’s statement, and also dodged School Committee member Erik Gitschier’s direct question on the subject in finalist interviews last Monday.

Certainly, if a Superintendent candidate has issues, as reported in the public records, that should be considered by the GLTHS SC. It’s unfortunate that such a concern got this far into the process. Those of us that are more cynical, like me, tend to think the process used by our elected, here at the GLTHS & other Lowell authorities, allows for sandbagging. Meaning, intentionally allowing flawed candidates through, so it looks like a wide net is cast, BUT in practice, we actually have few true options.

That said, let’s go back to Campanini playing the part of Larry Flynt.

The ‘cloak and dagger’ operations around Roger D. Forget Jr. has been swirling the bowl for weeks now. The bubble within the bubble, specific to GLTHS, has been chewing this up. Why NOW did The Sun provide this last dagger?

What it looks like to me, The Sun is not playing ‘journalist’ here. They are playing assassin. The story of Forget, appears on the very day that the GLTHS SC is supposed to vote. Coincidence? Of course, The Sun will claim that it only received this “anonymous package over the weekend.. .” But, let’s mull this over. The trouble around Forget has been bubbling for weeks, if not months. The Sun would know of such things. (Of course, The Sun cannot field enough decent reporters to ferret such things out, so maybe that is why they are reporting in such a kneejerk manner.)

I can’t argue against anyone that would point out my bias. I think that Jim Campanini is hurting Lowell and ruining our only local, daily newspaper. So, with that filter, think for yourself and wonder, is The Sun trying to alter the outcome of today’s selection by the GLTHS SC?

I think they are. And, I think they are doing it, as they pontificate of our election tomorrow. Ignore them, say I.

November 3, 2013

Learning Lowell - A Busy New Blog

by at 10:30 am.

Lynne introduced LiL to Learning Lowell.

Suffice to say, they have been chugging, steadily along.

City Manager contracts across MA
Several counselors and candidates have expressed a belief that contracts for executive officers in a city are inappropriate. Mr. Leahy mentioned that he believed contracts were appropriate for school executive leadership, but not for city managers. I was curious, and did a quick internet search.

Sun Debate: Taxes, Inspections, Elections, and LHA
This is the second post about the Sun debate. The first is here.

Sun Debate: City Manager, School, and Safety
The Sun Debate was about a week ago, but I’ve just finished watching the third at http://www.lowellsun.com/todaysheadlines/ci_24385207/crime-takes-center-stage-round-1-lowell-city. I’ve seen a few folks comment on the Sun’s follow-up articles, but the videos give much more context. The same pool of questions were used in each debate, although moderators sometimes didn’t address every question or varied the phrasing. This will be the first of two parts recording the questions and our reactions. The second is here.

“What do you want in a police chief?” asks the City Manager
Last Thursday, City Manager Lynch, CFO Tom Moses, Solicitor Christine O’Conner, HR Director Mary Callery, and Executive Assistant Lynda Clark held the public listening session to discuss attributes the public desires in a new Police Superintendent. Unfortunately, this session competed with both the first of the three Sun Candidate Forums and a Red Sox World Series game–something the City Manager apologized for. It perhaps contributed to the slim turnout of about half a dozen. This meant Aurora and I composed a third of the focus group! A streetworker from UTEC, a reporter from the Sun, a fellow from the Senior Center actually just there to get photos, and a long-term resident rounded out the group. I’ll try to summarize what was discussed, but I’m largely working from memory.

Please consider putting Learning Lowell into your blog routine.

October 27, 2013

Learning Lowell

by at 11:16 am.

When one door closes, another one opens. To the embarrassment of riches that is the Lowell blogosphere (it’s turning into a thing here!) we welcome to our blogroll newcomers at Learning Lowell.

With several posts already examining the local election - musings from grow-ins trying to learn the ropes (amazing, to see brand new residents get so deep into local politics so quickly!) - it promises to be a great new addition to the conversation. (And yes, we’re sorry, we’re probably guilty of “assum[ing they] already know the decades of history these people have.” And yes, “for a town with such a history of new groups moving in, sometimes it isn’t the most accessible.” I agree - though, of course, putting all the long history of context in every politics post is really difficult. I’m always available by email, comment, or coffee to answer any question you guys might have on any post we do here! :)

So, put them on your list of blogs on your regular reading list!

October 24, 2013

Rourke is “Anti …. Contract.” Bah!

by at 2:48 pm.

Dan Rourke doesn’t say much, but when he does …

As for the talk about being anti-administration, Rourke said: “Where does that come from anyway?”
He then answered his own question: it’s because he opposes contracts fo city managers.
“Hey, I’ve only met Bernie Lynch one or two times, but I think he is doing a good job on the finances, and that is one of the most important things a city manager does. Just because I am anti-contract doesn’t mean I am anti-manager. I have no preconceived notions. I’m hoping I have a chance to work with him.”

I was wondering where John Leahy got his talking points from.

Whatever brain trust is stuffing Leahy and Rourke (Tipa is that you?!) better start burning the midnight oil. Not only do these folks vote for municipal Union contracts like they are going out of style, they won’t say SHIT when we are talking about giving contracts to School Dept higher ups? Or, the Top Cop? Will they argue to put the Superintendent of Police back in the Civil Service? Meaning, protected under the Union book.

How is it, with a straight face, a guy like Rourke can say he thinks a City Manager should be an ‘at will’ employee, when City Councilors cannot be recalled? Won’t @dannyballgame be given a 2 year contract, via election? How’s that?

We are stuck with a City Councillor for 2 years; no if, ands or buts. However, giving a City Manager a two year contract, that can be revoked on any Tuesday night; is somehow taboo?

Utter bullshit.

October 20, 2013

A Blogger’s Sin

by at 1:11 pm.

Thou shall not impede The Sun’s meddling in local affairs.

In the role of “activist newspaper,” The Sun is legend.

In the wait-your-turn political culture of Lowell and nearby Lawrence, Kerry was a carpetbagger trying to cherrypick a seat in Congress.

In the general election campaign, Kerry was lashed relentlessly by The Sun, which questioned his patriotism, his loyalty to the district, and his financial backers. He blew a huge lead and lost to the Republican nominee, Paul W. Cronin, a former state representative who had served on Morse’s staff.

Suddenly, the fast track to political glory vanished beneath the feet of the war hero turned war protester. …
-snip

(more…)

October 15, 2013

Win for Free Speech

by at 7:40 pm.

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” — Evelyn Beatrice Hall, writing about Voltaire.

A lot of people know Gerry Nutter and I don’t often agree. A lot of people would say we have a lot in common - though I will say, our styles are quite different as is the thought behind that style. Sometimes, I feel that Gerry has tried to make connections that he had no evidence for; I do try to stay within the realm of what I know and connecting dots that actually are connected.

However, in being hated by the likes of a Rita Mercier or a Rodney Elliot, I suppose, we have a great deal in common. (Of course, for Rodney, smacking Gerry around at tonight’s Council meeting really isn’t about Gerry, is it?) I think Mercier voted for Gerry more to shut up his blog than for her obvious personal affection for him. (She can, after all, pick up the phone and talk to him. She never bothers for me! Because she knows it won’t do much good. My opinion is formed by what she says on the floor and how she votes, not by her liking or not liking me…and boy does she not like me!)

Anyway, besides no votes from ranty Elliot and Councilor Ed “Ditto” Kennedy, Gerry’s nomination for Elections Commission passed. So, congrats, Gerry, do a great job and show them that you don’t have to have zero public opinion in order to have the ability to care about an impartial and fair elections process. Lest we forget, the Elections Commission isn’t actually nonpartial - this is why there’s two Dems and two Republicans! *sigh* But, despite Elliot’s silly reading some words of Gerry in his worst rhetoric on the floor of the Council, none of them could shake the fact that Gerry does have integrity and he does care about this city. Good luck!

October 11, 2013

CM Lynch: “11 new patrolmen coming”

by at 4:10 pm.

In a diary, down blog, CM Lynch responds to considerations/perceptions of LiL commenters. I’ve pulled the Manager’s comment, out & up, to give it broader presentation. Of course, in a stand alone fashion, it is a bit out of context. So, if you’d like, please click HERE to get the full scope.

Suffice to say, the CM’s remarks are engaged in the topics currently floating in the Bubble, as the City election approaches, Nov. 5th. #GOTV

Staying out of all of the other back and forth that I shouldn’t be involved with….to Joe’s points which I think are legitimate. First the quick one, I’m not aware of anyone in the professional municipal management world that has moved into the world of finance (e.g. Wall Street) though I am aware of a couple that went to a rating agencies but that was more for their knowledge of municipal finance as they were Treasurers. Career Managers pretty much stay till retirement and/or go into consulting, teaching, interim work, or doing government relations. On the issue of how big should reserves be…the standard is between 5-10%, though some communities go beyond. I’d like Lowell to get a bit higher than our current level but certainly not at the expense of services that are required. A more pressing issue is our OPEB liability, retiree health insurance. We just put $8 million aside for this but we still have an unfunded liability of about $500 million. We really should be on a funding schedule for that or we’re simply passing the burden of payment onto future taxpayers. Unlike capital debt which should be paid overtime as future taxpayers use the facility retiree benefits are paid out now, or in the near future. Its the biggest ticking time bomb for most governmental entities.

I would have hoped that people would see that the administration is willing to spend money and take other steps to make for a better community….which career managers are also judged on. We’ve built reserves back to a good level and held the line on taxes but also invested in infrastructure (I think at this point over $170 million), increased spending on schools, increased spending on maintenance, expanded recreation programs to pre-2000 levels, leveraged resources for social service and cultural programs, become more supportive of community and organizational diversity, and I could go on about the administration’s achievements. Which, by the way, are the results of great work by department heads and employees. AND, we have invested in public safety, both fire and police. We’ve added resources to both. We never laid off uniformed personnel and in fact after the crunch of the recession started adding positions back into departments. We’re currently reviewing all of the information on this and hope to have a full report out within the next week which explains this. Some civilian grant funded positions have gone away but even there we are working to reinstate with other grants or city funds. These positions allow our police department to be more effective and keep patrol officers on the street. Finally, on the much debated use of OT, the philosophy we have used is to use added overtime resources to target officers into certain areas at specified times for maximum effectiveness. This notion of “smart policing” is being adopted in numerous communities that have recognized that a single officer only provides limited coverage during high activity times while that same level of funds buys coverage many times over meaning more officers on the street. That said, there is a place for added staff in a a carefully planned and managed manner to insure we get the best people not just more people. For instance, we have 11 new patrolmen coming on within the next month.

In the end, we need to recognize the perceptions of the community regarding safety but we shouldn’t fan it. We do need to look at the numbers to see how we’re doing and how we should be using our resources and developing our strategies. On the numbers we have made great progress in knocking back crime over the past several years. But, lower isn’t as good as none, which is what we need to strive for. Plus, we see trends that need our attention now rather than waiting for the problems to become less manageable…and, the police are working at that with their use of resources and strategies, and with their requests to me for added resources and supportive policies.

Thanks for letting me weigh in…..

October 10, 2013

Welcome To Coxville with Mayor “Punk” Elliott

by at 5:20 pm.

Do you know where we are going, if we follow Councilor “Punk” Elliott’s path (keep taxes artificially low, blow through the reserves) to fiscal sanity?

Been there! Done that!

Next?!

#purgethepunk

There’s A Hole In The Blog

by at 3:57 pm.

The cub reporter heard a leak - CM Lynch intends on appointing local blogger, Gerry Nutter, to the vacancy on the Elections Commission.

I know Gerry well enough to know, he’ll do a great job, if he is confirmed by the City Council. Oh, and he will!

Why? Because Gerry will swear off blogging, if he goes to the EC. So, there is no way the CC will NOT confirm his appointment.

So, get those screen grabs, now. Or, find a link to the WaybackMachine.

What about the gig with Warren Shaw, Gerry? You gonna twiddle your thumbs when politics come up?

Insurrection in the Council Chamber

by at 7:19 am.

After last Tuesday’s debacle at the Safety Subcommittee Meeting, I’ve heard a variety of responses to C.Elliott’s demeanor. Which, in my opinion, was nothing less than blatant contempt for the ‘People’s Work.’ Those that safeguard Elliott, trying to buffer his insolence for his duty to act as a steward for our City, should be scolded, publicly.

I will not be a party to it. Hence, this diary is intended to simply call a spade a spade:


PUNK!

 photo 2cfb85ed-e805-47d0-9c72-ad4809c11a4a_zps092384c8.jpg

C.Elliott is in favor of changing Lowell’s Charter, the Charter he took an oath to uphold in his tenure, from Plan E (Appointed City Manager) to Plan A (Strong Mayor.) That isn’t a problem, so much. Elliott is entitled to his opinion, which he states freely and candidly when he runs for election. Good on him, on that limited note.

What Elliott is NOT at liberty to do, is subvert our governance, our routine, community business, by acting in a buffoonish, Fred Doyle-esque manner! He is NOT entitled to the opportunity to degrade the public trust in our means of governing.

We do not need what Sun parroting candidates like to term “rubber stamps.” We don’t need ‘pro-Lynch stamps.’ Nor, do we need ‘anti-Lynch stamps.’ C.Elliott is an embarrassing heap of insurrection. Jilted by his peers, by not being elected Mayor. Thus, bitter and poisonous to what happens in the sanctum of democracy that we call the Council Chambers.

On November 5th, fellow Lowellians, let’s “PURGE THE PUNK!

Update: h/t djglowell Important & pertinent stuff over on WCAP.

The Issue of Safety Lynch vs. Elliot

This morning we had on both City Manager Bernie Lynch and Council Member Rodney Elliot to discuss the issue of safety.

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