Left In Lowell

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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. (more…)

January 19, 2014

BotW: Council Agenda Preview for 01/21/14

by at 9:48 am.

I’m going to try to do this weekly, since I’ve sort of been doing this anyway. This is a post about the possible pitfalls and rants you might see pop up during city council. Every week, there’s at least one thing that becomes a controversial mud slinging festival, and you don’t always know what that will be. But we can take bets and give over-unders and then see how accurate we are! To that end, comments are welcome. If you accurately predict an unexpected Blowup of the Week (BotW), there might be something in it for you. (Yes, LiL is offering a real prize!)

The motions on this week’s council agenda are really light. By light, I mean, just one. One lonely little motion from City Councilors…what, were they all napping? On vacation? Or are they tired of stuff going kaboom? Who knows.

The one motion is from Belanger: “C. Belanger - Request the City Mgr. organize a meeting between Trinity Financial and the City Council to provide updates regarding the Hamilton Canal Project.”

It’s not a bad instinct, as I would like to know this too, but I have a sneaking suspicion this has already been discussed recently? Am I remembering wrong? Anyway, that project is such a long term development that periodic checkins are not a bad idea. Hopefully, this will not explode in our faces on Tuesday night, but be a nice polite request, which will at some future point be fulfilled, and then we’ll all dance on rainbows and eat ambrosia.

There is an executive session at the end regarding the CM staying on a little longer - regardless of Rita’s terrific hissy fit against it last week - but since it’ll be closed doors, if there are fireworks, we won’t see them. Also, there won’t be fireworks because we won’t be able to see them. (Camera rolling = opportunity for advancement don’tcha know?)

There are a number of “Votes from the City Manager” - and those can blow up at any time. I see nothing there particularly obvious, except for something that looks like it benefits Dave Daly anyway (so why would it become this week’s hot item, it’s not like we’re taking something FROM Dave), but here’s where you can win this game, if you point out something that does wind up being exploded past all reasonableness. One guess per person, please! Give others a chance! There’s a JAM plan change too, no idea what that constitutes, but that might be a likely candidate!

But no, my one guess for the week’s standout for Blowup of the Week would be under the CM’s portion…DUM DUM DUM…appointments! You know, those things that Rourke/Golden wanted to keep the City Manager from doing at all, but which was withdrawn in confusion after the previous blowup discussion about keeping the CM on through budget season (Kennedy jumped on board that train, smart man, and I think that deflated Rourke’s little game). Look for hay to be made about some or all of these board appointments, for the City Manager having the gall to DO HIS JOB and fill vacant seats before these boards have to stumble along for another couple of months, minimum, with vacancies.

Keep an especial eye on CC. Kennedy, because as someone reminded me, he made a stink about all these vacancies being open. If he lets these fairly innocuous appointments by without a peep, or with “hey thanks for filling these” he’ll be consistent. If he wants to discuss each one to death because, ‘Merica, that’ll be pretty hypocritical. I mean, seriously, it’s no wonder that Lynch has so much trouble filling board vacancies…from appointment approval through their tenure, they get twisted, tweaked, and then risk being in the Paper Blog of Record while seated. I can tell you, I’d be loathe to serve via a CM appointment personally, and there are boards I’d love to serve on someday. (Like, the Lowell Cultural Council. That’d be right up my ally! But no thanks.) Full disclosure: I’m on the LTC board, in case you didn’t know, for a two year term, as a member. I’m very pleased to be serving and excited to give back to LTC who has given a lot of support to me over the years for productions I’ve done, both for Left in Lowell and for Threads, the TV show. And oh yeah, I forgot to post the latest clip from the show, so I will later today! It’s with Adam Baacke, so totally relevant (accidentally so, I assure you, we booked him in December!)

Ahem, so back to my prediction for Tuesday - and I’ll be really pleased if I lose this game, sincerely I will:

Communication-Appoint Dr. Julia Hans (Green Building Commission) 2014 / 49
Communication-Appoint Salmira Mitchell (Pollard Memorial Board of Trustees) 2014 / 54
Communication-Appt Robert Malavich (Planning Board) 2014 / 57
Communication-Appt Michael J. Paglia (ZBA) 2014 / 59

Those four are being appointed. It’s my understanding that Malvich is an alternate being turned into a full member of the Planning Board, so that should be a shoe-in. (Should be, doesn’t mean will be…). I don’t know Dr. Hans, but it’s the Green Building Commission, this council could care less, and I’m sure she’s qualified. Paglia for the ZBA - Paglia is a known quantity in Lowell and so, if certain people have made up their minds not to like him already it could be dicey, but I don’t know where people are lined up on that one. And Salmira Mitchell is a lovely lady from Centralville, if you met her you’d fall in love with her…she the gardener behind public gardening at an entrance to Centralville, and CNAG leader/member. The sort of sweet person that Rita Mercier would probably like very much, and she’s very noncontroversial. She is married to Jack Mitchell, as the Column today insisted on pointing out, but please do not put this nice person who has done nothing but pleasant things for this city through the wringer. She is the exact sort of person we want serving on a board for the Pollard.

Now that I’ve said that, I’ve probably doomed her. Sorry, Salmira…

OK, you’ve got the link to the Council agenda for Tuesday, what are your guesses? Remember, these are for real stakes - one guess per person!! First person to guess on an item will be the winner if that item is Blowup of the Week!

January 14, 2014

Tonight, Tonight, Tonight - Ooooh.

by at 9:46 am.

Genesis. Is there anything that band didn’t write?

Anywho, today is Tuesday. Which means, another knockdown meeting at Council, I’m sure. It’s like a weekly Old Faithful. You always know there’s gonna be something entertaining yet frustrating to watch. And remember, we have some veddy veddy interesting motions on the agenda by councilors to be discussed.

BUT - and this is important! - starting at 5:30pm there will be a Special Meeting to “establish a procedure for the selection/hiring of the next city manager and auditor.” This is the beginning of one of THE most important processes in Lowell, the hiring of a City Manager.

Eyeballs are essential. This is the place to engage. If we care about the future of this city, we need to pay careful and special attention to every step of the way. It wouldn’t be remiss if you had the time, to actually plant your physical self in a chair in the Chambers.

Let the games begin, I guess.

January 10, 2014

Rita Demonstrates the Need for the Establishment Clause

by at 11:17 pm.

As we all know by now, besides the other big shoe that dropped Tuesday night at City Council, there was also a travesty of Constitutional proportions, where one religion got to spend nearly an hour proselytizing on the Council floor during our city government meeting.

For those who watched, it was a special treat, as citizen speakers preached about Christianity (including some very, er, interesting takes on history, Star Wars, and immaculate conception) during our governmental meeting. I won’t go into those speakers any further, but if you really want to clench your teeth through the rambling, utterly incomprehensible arguments, I included a full video cut of the “manger debate,” from suspension of the rules to roll call, at the end of this post.

The winner of the night, however, had to be Councilor Rita Mercier. I’ve taken the liberty to slice together some of the more interesting parts from her apparently-prepared speech. There can be no clearer example of why our Founders went out of their way to keep religion out of the Constitution.

If the purpose of constitutional separation of church and state is to not elevate any one religion or sect over any other (or over nonreligion)…in other words, to essentially remain neutral, last Tuesday’s meeting failed that test entirely, and not just because of the now-non-denominational Christian prayer that is recited by the Mayor at the beginning of every meeting. A person who knew nothing about our country or our city, after watching that meeting, would be left with the impression of a specific religion is elevated here, above all others.

Speaking of our “nondenominational” prayer, this video below is of the recitation of such at the beginning of the same Council meeting last Tuesday. And of course, this prayer, heavy with the mention of a deity, replaced the Catholic Lord’s Prayer the Council used to recite at every meeting for decades. I wrote about this back in 2006 when an interfaith group requested the Council change the Lord’s Prayer to something more equitable (provided you still thought some sort of prayer was a good idea). What we ended up with in 2007 was what you see in the video below - a monotheistic, rather Christian-ish prayer to God. (So, not good for Hindus, most Buddhists, atheists…) I have no doubt that this might be the next lawsuit, given how much attention this manger debate might draw to our city over the Establishment clause.

And finally, I’ve put the full manger debate (all 40 minutes of it) up on YouTube for your convenience (or torment, perhaps eternal), including the aforementioned citizens who were…really enthused about Jesus.

Edit: If you have not yet had the pleasure, I recommend reading through Dick Howe’s excellent synopsis, and also his post on the reactions of a class of UML students who were there that night.

January 8, 2014

Ask Yourself: Who Wins?

by at 10:15 am.

All right, we now know the shape of this new landscape, or at least its beginnings. But how did we get here? To a lot of people, the results of the last local election are inexplicable. So I’m here to explain things.

To do this - indulge me - we have to go back a little ways. For those who weren’t living here then (you nascent blow-ins!), this will be useful, for the rest of us, a trip down memory lane…

Our previous City Manager before Lynch, one John F. Cox, a man I have thankfully not had to mention much in the last several years, was a man selected for the position in 2000 based on his connections. He certainly wasn’t qualified - he was a disgraced former state Representative for a decade or so up until the early 90s, when he was slapped with infractions by the Ethics Commission for accepting lobbyist gifts, and he quietly decided not to run again after that. In 2000, the City Council in its wisdom decided that this was pedigree for managing the city, despite the fact…he’s a lawyer and lobbyist (yes, that too), not a muni manager. Not to mention, ethically challenged.

Cox’s tenure was rife with incompetence and graft. We found out about a lot after the fact, and he left a mess. I sincerely think he was just not up to the job. His budgets were a travesty (and left us in a hole we didn’t even know about until after he left). There was that missing money from the Stoklosa School build (we still don’t know who cashed that check for classrooms that were never built, do we?). He also was the sort of guy who hired friends who weren’t qualified for city jobs, gave choice raises (I saw a list of 7-10% raises he gave to people he had personal connections to as he walked out the door in 2006) and generally, buttered up the union rank and file (often with favorable contracts at the expense of our taxpayer dollar). They loved him.

After the election of George Ramirez in 2005, a man who ran on ousting Cox, a new majority was formed (including a new Mayor Bill Martin, Kevin Broderick, and then-Councilor Eileen Donoghue). They quietly told Cox to leave or they’d vote him out. I don’t know what they were hoping, but I got a hold of the news, and I wasn’t interested in having Mr. Cox go quietly into that good night. Oh no, I wanted an accounting of his tenure, and people had a right to know. The Sun leadership (*ahemCampyahem*) got really mad at me - they knew the information and were sitting on it. Cox was informed this on a Friday afternoon right before a planned two week vacation, maybe to give him time to contemplate, I don’t know. It was early in the new Council’s term, and that could have been coincidence.

While Cox was out of town, a PAC formed. They called themselves the People for Lowell PAC. It really was the People for John Cox PAC, though, and there were a lot of city union folks involved. They started the unfortunately named “I’m for Cox” campaign (read the phrase aloud if you don’t get the unfortunate part) with bumper stickers, flyers, and big signs in some business windows. It was, essentially, a political-style campaign to “save” what is supposed to be a technocratic position.

Hence you can see the union connection here.

Cox decides to resign, effective (if I recall) June 2006, and the hunt is on for a replacement. When Bernie Lynch was interviewed and hired in the summer of 2006, he brought to light things Cox had literally been hiding. Like two audit request letters from the state Department of Revenue. The DoR was uneasy about the state of Lowell’s finances, lack of free cash (turns out, it was in the negative). Lynch also began to slowly turn over and clean out the worst of the graft hires in city government. This of course angered a certain segment of the union folks, because they little liked being held accountable for their jobs, which had been pretty cushy up til then. (You should hear the stories I’ve heard. Seriously. It’s bad.)

There are a lot of great city employees - and a lot of them like working for Lynch - but also a lot of grumbling, which turned to hatred over the last 7 years. Lynch shunted Cox’s assistant City Manager TJ McCarthy sideways, to head the DPW in what appeared on paper not to be a demotion, but really was. (McCarthy eventually moved on.) McCarthy’s city worker buddies were riled about that one. I’m sure they feel he was mistreated. Lynch then elevated Baacke, a city planner dept head, to Assistant CM, and more recently, put the inspectional services (another bad actor in the city) into Baacke’s care. Of course, it was to “streamline” the services - but really, we all know, it was to clean up its act. Anger and hate do not begin to describe what some people who work for the city feel about Bernie.

Let me explain this another way. I once had a teenage acquaintance whose mother wanted badly to be friends with her daughter. Partly to make up for the harshness of the other parent, which is understandable. At 16, this girl got the old family car, with its gas, registration, and repairs all paid for by her mother. Her mother found out later, that this girl was getting into drinking. She never took the car keys away - not as punishment, not even for the girl’s own safety. It’s not that this mom wanted bad consequences for her kid. It’s just that she was incapable of saying no to her, because she wanted her daughter as her friend. Never mind that she was going down an irresponsible path that did lead her into far worse places later on.

Cox is the non-disciplining mother. Lynch is the guy who finally took the keys away from the irresponsible. And like petulant teenagers in a rage, they hated him for it.

There have been attempts ever since to oust Lynch. In 2007, the next election, Cox allies Kazanjian and Lenzi ran and won - with union muster, and money…lots of it. If I remember, Kazanjian spent over $70,000, the most anyone has ever spent by far for a Council election here. Lenzi wasn’t far behind at around $40-50,000. The usual for a first time candidate is less than $10,000 generally!

Alas, they couldn’t get rid of Lynch. Partly because he was under contract and the terms took him past the next election. Partly because Lynch was actually quite popular outside of the disgruntled circles of city government. Lenzi, who literally accomplished nothing of note at all while a Councilor (go check his lack of motions! except the one which put the Council on an every other week schedule…governatin’ is hard work!), did not run again. Kazanjian lost, hoisted on the petard of his own scandals during his tenure as Councilor. (He failed to realize he’d get a lot more scrutiny as an elected official than he ever got on the Lowell Zoning Board.) In case you’re curious, Dick has a great post on 2009’s election.

In 2009 we got Franky Descoteaux, Joe Mendonca, and Patrick Murphy. A clear majority for professional city government and fact-based policy. Disgruntles called them a “rubber stamp” - as if Murphy was ever anyone’s rubber stamp. A lot got done with this crew. In 2011, we got the last crop of Councilors (well, Broderick won, but resigned mid term, so that brought in John Leahy). That brings us up to date.

So who are Corey Belanger and Dan Rourke? Belanger ran in 2011 and came in #14 of 17 candidates, not a stellar placing. But just over 200 votes behind #9, because - well, the vote totals are so darn tiny in local elections. Rourke was of course a first time candidate in 2013.

In 2013, Rourke placed #4, and Belanger a pretty safe #7. So what happened? Well, who do you think was motivated to get out the vote? Who do you think beat down the doors as hard, or harder, than the very hard work Stacie Hargis’ or Derek Mitchell’s campaigns did? The disgruntled city unions, of course.

This isn’t hearsay, I’ve talked to people who have first hand knowledge. When you have as tiny a percentage of the registered voters show up in local elections as Lowell does, a little anger goes a long way. A lot of anger changes everything. And while the rest of Lowell was very excited about Derek and Stacie, fresh faces who obviously have a great deal to offer, and the smarts to get it done, there is a segment of Lowell who hates Bernie so much they were motivated even more. I don’t like saying this, but positive emotions like hope and change don’t motivate like negative ones do. Heck, this blog was started in 2005 because of the abuses I’d seen in local government with John Cox at the helm, and I made no secret of this.

So who wins now that Bernie leaves? The disgruntled city union folks who feel like they would have gotten a way better deal with Cox had he stayed (of course, by now, we’d have been under state receivership like Springfield was), giving them and their relatives cush jobs and raises, than they got with the hard-nosed Lynch who treated his job - shock of shocks - as being the guy negotiating on behalf of citizens and taxpayers of Lowell. It wasn’t like Lynch gave nothing to the unions. He negotiated in good faith. But he didn’t give them enough. He changed their - gasp - plush health benefits to another plush benefit plan! And woe of woes, in a terrible downturn with Local Aid money frozen, he didn’t give them 3% annual raises!

Now, I’m a pro-union sort of gal. I believe in the right to organize, for workers to get their fair share. I think the decline in the American median wage has a lot to do with the loss of worker negotiation power, due to the decline of unions. But we can’t pretend unions aren’t bad actors from time to time. And when you have years of hiring abuses like we’ve seen at both the local and the state level (ask me about Panagiotakos and the pay-to-play scandal, sometime, I think we ought to be airing that out soon), the union becomes a protection racket like no other. I’ve often said that the Lowell GOB (Good Ol Boy for newbies) network in Lowell acts an awful lot like a mini mafia.

After all, there is a fine line between a union fighting for better wages and working conditions, and Jimmy Hoffa. And here endeth the tale.

November 5, 2013

Tales of Turnout

by at 1:00 pm.

First, I would like to draw your attention to the kind and inspirational thoughts of Paul Marion:

I am so encouraged by the many photos of campaign volunteers, especially so many younger people, that have been posted during this campaign season in Lowell, Mass. We don’t know what the results will be tonight after 8 pm, but I have to believe that our civic culture has been transfused with goodness in the past ten months. Individuals with the courage to put themselves forward as candidates help to renew the political system in each cycle. Those who volunteer to work in the campaigns, those who write checks to support the efforts, those who study the candidates’ records and policy positions, those who report on the process, and those who vote—all of the citizens who “engage” make our democracy stronger. When you vote today, look forward, look upward, look deeply into the community as you make your selections. Today, Election Day, we give the consent of the governed.

Second, a rally cry from #juicegirl

“In reality, there is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some Diehard’s vote,” David Foster Wallace.

Next, a report from the field:

Joe Says:
November 5th, 2013 at 12:20 pm e
Ward 7-1 in the acre had about 110 votes total in the prelim. They are already at 90. That’s a pleasant jump.

Here, is a comparison, Precinct by Precinct, of the very high turnout of 2009 to the very low turnout of 2011.

Lastly, some data for context. What does turnout look like, this century.

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.

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