Member of the reality-based community of progressive (not anonymous) Massachusetts blogs
I find it interesting, this disconnect between the strong opinions of the blogs and a number of the public (if my facebook feed is any indication), and Councilors (and councilor-to-be Belanger, who has not acquitted himself well in my opinion…I’m sad to be right about him) about panhandling.
Dick sums it up pretty nicely - he understands the impulse to push these people into the shadows (or into other parts of the city) but that doesn’t solve any problems nor does it show a blink of compassion for people who might, actually, be down on their luck, and for whom a $50 fine might be insurmountable punishment. The Capt has a new post against the ordinance as well, and remembers how the Council also voted to push out the visible homeless camps - which if the first hand accounts of many folks are true, merely served to push these people deeper and keeps them further from the help that was being offered to them prior. I personally know of a hidden camp of some sort near my house, though I don’t know if it’s currently occupied.
Kad has his say already, twice. He is a downtown resident and customer, and also quite on the other side of the aisle from me politically, so it’s not like we’re all in some sort of echo chamber. Kad and I have had some doozies of disagreements at times.
New bloggers Aurora and Chris already aired their opinions as well (previously linked). So, to count - a long-time townie, myself, a downtown resident, brand new residents - all of us see this ordinance for what it really is.
And what is that? Knee-jerk governing.
This is the same sort of impulse that passed the homeless camp ordinance for which every person involved patted themselves on the back. See? We cleared those camps and solved the problems! Case closed! Except they are not solved. This same impulse passed the breed-specific pit bull ordinance, which subsequently got overruled by a state law banning breed-specific rules, thank goodness. You see this in the perennial “pedophiles in the library!” or “spend down the free cash on more cops because, public safety!” issues that come up.
Mr. Lynne walked by while I was writing this post. He works in Boston, taking the commuter rail in and walking to work from North Station. He walks through the Common and the Public Garden, among other places. He remarked, I probably walk by more panhandlers in one morning than these guys ever see in Lowell. And yet Boston is a pretty prosperous place to which people flock, and patronize their businesses.
Governing by optics, governing by outrage machine, or whatever you want to call it, is one of the worst sorts of governing that exists. Because it takes a serious problem, and proposes bad solutions, or non-solutions, or damaging solutions, in the name of expediency or convenience. This panhandling ordinance is also the worst kind of scapegoating. Let’s face it - our downtown businesses are often struggling. Whether it’s the lack of easy parking, the economy, the general struggles of any downtown, the fact everything closes at 5pm and no one is open on Sundays except restaurants, a lack of disposable income by many of the people who live downtown (elderly and affordable housing), or what have you, we’ve seen a lot of businesses shuttered, or moving, and empty storefronts are a little too common.
But clearing out panhandling won’t fix your lackluster business, Mr. Belanger.
Of course, aggressiveness or harassment by a panhandler is another thing all together - and I would think that existing rules probably prohibit anyone from such aggression (hence why we have the legal term “harassment”). Why we need a special rule for downtown banning it all together - other than as a knee-jerk reaction to a much larger problem of homelessness and addiction and the general, inescapable fact that we’re a city, dammit! - is beyond me.
The current gentrify-du-jour being a no-panhandling ordinance on tonight’s Council agenda, it’s no surprise some bloggers around here are writing about it.
Downtown resident/consumer kad has quite an equitable point of view: fine, cleaning stuff up is great, and we all want successful downtown businesses but…
i think, if anybody’s asking me, the problem is first in perceiving these people as something, like bathroom waste, in need of “clean up”. we often ridicule other people for believing that “their shit don’t stink”, and, i think, here in lowell, we’ve got more than a few people who want to lay in a lifetime supply of febreeze and renuzits and just keep clouding the air with a bunch of sociological perfume in complete denial that we have a significant population of people who are challenged to “make it” in any way, shape or form recognizable to us in our centrally-heated, indoor plumbed luxury accommodations.
He also has a second post. As for my own opinion on the panhandling ordinance, I’m rather of a mind with kad - I sympathize with the downtown businesses and residents, but I worry that we’re shuffling the less fortunate out of our way so we don’t have to see them, and be uncomfortable. And the idea of fining a homeless person $50 for panhandling - whether he buys food, or booze with his proceeds - is patently stupid. Good luck collecting, or making your point. These are already people who are outside of the system and marginalized.
Chris at Learning Lowell is also on the subject of panhandling.
Aurora and I discussed it, and she summarized our opinions thusly:I have a couple of concerns about it. I’m worried about a lack of commitment to outreach about the law and alternative options to panhandlers, creating a larger gulf between police (and social services) and the homeless population, and logistics of paying the fine. I’m also not sure what happens if the perpetrator cannot or will not pay a fine. Is this going to get people thrown in jail? Finally, I worry it will just “push” the problem to other areas of the City without addressing root issues.
A little bit older now, but I haven’t linked to it yet was Dick Howe’s “The ‘Cambodian vote’ in the 2013 city election”. In it, he looks at the numbers and tries to see how last Tuesday’s results for the Cambodian Council candidates happened:
My first theory was that the number of active Cambodian voters may be a fixed number that with the 2011 turnout of 9,946 was sufficient to win a seat but proved insufficient when the 2013 turnout rose to 11,581. Looking at the ward by ward performance by both Nuon and Pech in both 2011 and 2013 disproved that theory. Both made substantial gains in wards that have the most Cambodian voters (Wards 2, 3, 4, and 7). However, that same comparison shows that both Nuon and Pech, but especially Nuon, lost a substantial number of votes from 2011 to 2013 in the wards that have the fewest Cambodian voters (Wards 1, 6, and 9 – both also lost ground in Ward 8 which has a substantial Cambodian population but has other issues that will be a subject of a future post).
There are some great comments there, too.
Dick also has his always-valuable Week in Review. And of course, there are a ton of other posts from this last week on his blog on culture, history, and the arts.
Greg has a quick, but interesting post about the oft-ignored School Committee race. He says, “There will be time later on for more analysis, but for now this may suggest there is a “Challenger Bump” enjoyed by School Committee candidates, followed by a time of great vulnerability (first re-election attempt).”
Finally, there is an awesome Jen Myers post on her Room 50 blog about the recent visit of former, first female President of Ireland, Mary McAleese. Jen always brings events to life with her photography.
(AtB is a designation I just made up, short for Around the Blogs. I’ve made a new category for it as well.)
Some great post-election blog posts you don’t want to miss, if you haven’t seen them. Let’s start with the blogfather, shall we?
Election by the numbers: Dick is posting a series looking at the precinct by precinct turnout. He starts with the post, “Election day gold, silver and bronze“.
This post looks at which candidates finished first, second or third in each of the city’s 33 precincts. The first entry (“1-1″) identifies the ward and precinct. That’s followed by the last name of the candidate who finished first along with that candidate’s vote total within the precinct. The same information is repeated for the second and third place finishers. At the end of each line, the name of the polling place for that precinct is listed. At the very end of the post, I’ll summarize the results:
He also has posted a second in the series, “Precinct by precinct turnout: 2011 v 2013.”
In the 2011 city election, just 9946 people voted. In the 2013 election, that number rose 16% to 11581, an increase of 1635 voters. The following table shows where those additional votes came from
The numbers by precinct and percent increase are quite interesting.
We also have some musings on turnout and winning from kad barma (with some strong words):
inevitably, those who backed losers and are coincidentally frustrated by the identities of the winners are agonizing over the low turnout and teasing themselves with dreams of the fruits of an engaged populace, but it would be worthwhile for such folks to remember that bigger sample sizes tend merely to dial in the sigmas
Greg at the New Englander uses a lot of mathy terms and stuff to look at the results:
There were 71,502 total votes cast in yesterday’s City Council election. With 11,581 unique voters doing the casting, that means the average person voted for 6.17 candidates.
Assume a bell-shaped, normal distribution. Imagine you could insert a candidate into the race with completely random traits, name recognition, likability, etc.
He then goes on to look at the statistical
changes chances of surpassing the various candidates.
Chris of the excellent new blog Learning Lowell has an election wrap up post with some observations, “End of an (Election) Season.”
Secondly, buried in a Sun story with more on-the-street interviews is one voter’s perspective that his friends don’t vote because they don’t know who to vote for–there’s no (D) or (R) next to their name. This is something that I haven’t experienced before, as every city I’ve lived in has had partisan elections.
So go check ‘em out. It’s getting harder and harder to keep up with all the blogging in Lowell (even with the loss of Nutter). I like to say an embarrassment of riches. I’ve seen a lot of political bloggers come and go in the state of Massachusetts (we used to be a tight-knit set, meeting occasionally and doing stuff together!) and we lost a lot of them over the years, but in Lowell, most of the bloggers have stuck around. Either we’re a dedicated crew, or maybe just gluttons for punishment. I think this only bodes well for Lowell’s future!
Derek Mitchell, who as mentioned in my previous post came within 350 votes of a Council seat, a notable accomplishment for a new candidate, gave a speech at Fuse Bistro last night after the returns were in.
I watched Derek run his campaign, from his kickoff to last night, watched various speeches, and witnessed Derek learning to be a really great candidate in a very short timeframe. That is not an easy task. (Speaking in front of crowds by itself is not an easy task!) He was good last night, and what he said was potent and energizing. His campaign volunteers were enthusiastic to the end and I know we’ll be seeing them around too.
I am looking forward to great things from him. I really, really hope he runs again. Here is an excerpt his campaign posted from his speech last night.
Here are some next-day observations I have about yesterday’s election results.
We did see increased turnout. 11,581 is still a pathetic number of registered voters (20.6%) voting to select our local government. I’m not satisfied. Obviously not just on who got elected to Council, but also just on the fact that less than 30% (which is also not a non-pathetic number) are the deciders on who serves on our Council and school committees.
Name recognition, funding, and city connections still win elections. I note that the only first-time candidates who make it on the council (besides Franky who worked hard during what was a huge change election, and Murphy who basically knocked more doors than humanly possible) are longtime city names, generally townies. I think this is bound to change, as the very old demographic which are the “strong city voters” are…well, old. This is going to continue to put downward pressure on turnout, which is a big problem. If we get to the point of 4-6,000 voters turning out in local elections, that will be very disappointing, of course. But that older townie demo consistently pushes the big connected names onto the Council. (I know Rourke worked hard, but did he have the campaign apparatus that Derek did? I tend to doubt it. The hardest-working candidates aren’t always the one to win, if they don’t have those deep personal connections to the strong city voter.)
Newcomers who are “blowins” (as in, no long standing familial and friend connections in Lowell among the strong, older, city voters) did pretty spectacular considering. In particular, Derek should be toutin’ proud of his 12th place finish, precisely 350 votes behind 9th place. If he runs again, with the same vim and vigor and as a seasoned campaigner, he not only makes the Council, he probably gets up higher in the ranks. A strong 12th place can mean a 5th or 6th placement the second time around.
I am heartbroken for the Cambodian community. I hope they, and the engaged younger southeast Asian voters people like Van Pech bring to the table, use this loss to make themselves stronger. Don’t give up. You are a huge demographic in this city, and you are part of this city’s future. A good way to bring this about is to do some voter education and registration in the meantime, before the next election season starts, and keep running candidates!
The same can be said of the younger (what the pundits term “new Lowell”) voters and candidates who back people like Stacie Hargis and Derek Mitchell. Don’t give up, get active! You are the future. The past is just making a last gasp right now, but it can’t sustain itself much longer.
We seem to wave back and forth every single election. The 2005 election which elected Ramirez and ousted Cox. Then the Kaz/Lenzi 2007 Empire Strikes Back election. Then ousting them in favor of Murphy and Descoteaux in 2009. Then a reprieve (I guess Kaz really pissed people off in the previous Council) in 2011. Now we’re seeing The Empire Strikes Back Part II with the Dailey-backed (I cant’t wait to get my hands on the finance reports) Belanger and Rourke. That means in two years we’re due for a flip again - here’s hoping professional city management can survive til then.
Speaking of professional city management, this new Council is not guaranteed going to get rid of Lynch. There are only four definite no’s on a new contract. The rest are all lean-yes (Rita Mercier and John Leahy), or definite yes. They need to hear from constituents that Lynch is doing the job the city wants. Don’t be shy on calling them over the next year (contract is up in August).
Also speaking of contract/no contract, it’s plain to me that voters (who are not attentive to the blogs or other outlets) do not vote based on the core values of city management. On the one hand, it’s plain that the people of Lowell really like Lynch a lot. They’re happy with the direction of the city. They’d be pretty pissed, I think, if the Council gets rid of him. On the other hand, ink-master Elliot gets to rank #2 (the ink, I’m convinced, is why he gets to #2). Voters have not connected the basic issues at stake in these elections - frankly, because the Sun doesn’t want them to, and fails to educate them on this. The voter demo that shows up still gets the paper. This is only going to last so long, as the younger voters (people under age 50) are a whole different animal, but for now, we’re stuck with the awful paper blog of record and its agenda.
And I do think that the most important core issue at stake in our elections lately is legitimately “contract or no contract.” In other words, are we hiring/keeping professional technocrats as City Managers or do we go back to hiring unqualified hack former politicians (often ones with ethics problems) who not only can’t do the job, but also use the position for personal and political gain for their friends? The whole worm turns on what attitude our city council has towards the city manager position. We all know what names are bandied about to replace Lynch every couple of years (state Rep. Murphy, former state Sen Panagiotakos, etc). Those people would be short-lived and disastrous for the city. Is Pangy a fairly smart dude? Sure. Is he qualified to run a freaking city? Hells NO. And his hack history isn’t that great either. (Frankly, our entire House delegation could leave tomorrow and I’d be super happy. Thank goodness we have Sen. Donoghue at least!)
The Mayor selection is a little stickier than the CM contract, in my opinion. I have some thoughts on that but prefer to leave the details to others. Those chips will have to fall where they fall. However, I will state one thing: Can you imagine super-negative Elliot as the Chair of the School Committee? I urge the next Council to seriously consider the damage someone like him can do on the most important job of Mayor, chairing the SC. Also, I don’t think we should reward such negative behavior with a mayorship. It sets a bad precedent. And the worse precedent that if you wait long enough, it becomes “your turn.” Bollocks.
My last thoughts are this: I’m taking serious consideration as to how we engage more voters in these elections. I’m tired of a tiny minority of this city (myself included) deciding for 100,000 people who should run their local government. It’s time for a non-partisan “League of Lowell Voters” to find ways to reach the non-city voter and get them engaged. Again, I have some ideas for that. Unfortunately because this blog is so “partisan” (not just in the liberal sense but in the supporting a certain type of candidate sense) that any effort I make will get a Gerry-Nutter-for-Election-Commission type welcome. I know I’ve made some enemies (fairly and legitimately - by truth telling!) but seriously, I’ve had it up to my eyeballs on the turnout issue. Anyone else feel the same way? If enough people are mad as hell and won’t take it any more, something could be accomplished.
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:
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.
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.
Let it not be said that the local blogosphere didn’t do do its part to help the Pollard Memorial Library win in a contest for an energy-efficient lighting makeover from National Grid (valued around $15,000)!
So, go like this page (the Like button is on the top right) and then you’ll see the libraries show up. Select the Pollard. Then BE SURE TO SCROLL DOWN because there’s a form to fill out as well! I bet most people miss this, I did the first time. The form asks your email, address, etc but it’s not like National Grid doesn’t have that already. The contest voters have to be National Grid customers so this is probably for verification.
Then you’ll get a pop-up asking for an app named Poll to get permission (if you have never used Poll before). Normally I am really really loathe to use apps on Facebook, but this is about Lowell pride, and winning money for the Pollard, so even I said “OK.”
After you vote, the page will reload and you’ll be able to see where the contest stands. So far the Pollard is ahead, but I suspect very few people have voted, since this is a new contest and it goes all month. So go to it, Lowell! And spread the word.
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!
“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!
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