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All right, due to good life stuff taking up space, I didn’t get a chance to post this yesterday or this morning. This time, for the Blowup of the Week game, I’m going to not guess. That way, there’s more of a chance of someone winning the prize. Here’s this week’s agenda document!
I’m going further stipulate, the more obvious your guess, the smaller the prize. So, if you pick something off the agenda that doesn’t seem as likely or obvious, if a Blowup happens, you’ll win bigger! What will you win, you ask? I shared this on Facebook last week, but posting images on FB is so much easier I got lazy on the post. But…the prize is this: an amigurumi of your choice. If you picked something obvious, it must be a simple amigurumi that I can do really fast. (See below). If you pick something which appears so uncontroversial that no one would EVER suspect it would become a Blowup of the Week, but it explodes into BotW-worthy, then you get something much more complex. I’m the final arbiter of the various levels, since I have to do the work.
So, meet Monty. He’s my little amigurumi cephalopod, and my personal mascot. He is, obviously, not up for a prize, but another mini octopus of your choice is possible (from a range of colors), or another animal whose construction is about that simple, if the BotW is one that was obvious. (Other than the eyes and embroidered mouth, I could do up one of these in about 1/2 an hour or less.)
Here’s the most complex amigurumi I’ve made, this one was for a friend of mine (you might recognize the character). This took took me a number of hours.
That at least gives you a range. I’m probably not offering Brian-Griffin-level crafting for this contest, but you can see what can be accomplished with a crochet needle and some yarn. I’ve done a number of other animals too.
That said, go check the agenda and make your guess! Has to be in by 6:30pm tomorrow (Tuesday)! One guess per person, and only one person can grab any one item. And you can email me a guess if you wish to remain even more anonymous (I’ll announce in comments if someone guesses a specific item and it’s no longer available.) I’ve cut and pasted the agenda in the second half of this post. (more…)
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.
Well, thanks to the 40 minute debate and Council vote to put baby Jesus back on our civic lawn, so to speak, Lowell’s city council meeting has now reached a nationally read atheist blog. I said on Tuesday night that all CC. Mercier was going to do was bring attention to the unconstitutionality of all the religion in our city meetings and at city hall - resulting in more of a chance to waste our taxpayer dollars on fighting that lawsuit (and others - official council prayer, anyone?) she wanted to have us pay for (and lose).
“Were we afraid of being sued?” Mercier said. “Because if we were, this is one lawsuit I would have no objection to fight all the way.”
Famous last words of elected officials spending other people’s money. She should ask the Dover school board how that attitude worked out for them.
And I will also say that while Rita said “let them all come!” talking about menorahs and such, do you really think she’ll have such an equitable reaction if something like this is placed next to the manger next year? Because this public hissy fit over religion on our Council floor, like the inevitable lawsuit, makes it more likely someone will ask to do it.
Now, Ed Brayton merely found the news the Lowell Sun posted. What kind of reaction will the secular humanist community have to the actual rantings of the several people over the course of the discussion, do you think? Oh wait. I’m editing that video as we speak.
Rita just landed us in a heap of trouble. *shakes head*
Jen Myers on Facebook just announced, Assistant CM and head of DPD Adam Baacke is leaving at the end of February to become the Director of Campus Planning at UMass Lowell.
This comes on the heels of the announcement that our City Auditor, Sheryl Wright, will retire, losing our CFO Tom Moses to Hudson, MA, and of course, Bernie Lynch announcing his 60-day notice.
All I can say is, we can’t possibly survive going forward without hiring a stellar, professional City Manager, because this team is leaving behind very, very big shoes to fill.
At least one politician is supposedly taking himself out of the running, which is encouraging. I think Panagiotakos staying out of it will encourage more actual professional managers with a background and education in municipal management than if Pangy put his resume in the mix. Because it’s obvious that he’d be a frontrunner if he did, and so who in their right mind would bother in that case? This is the problem with elected officials who seem to make up their minds before they have all the facts. It stifles all the good that can come when we keep an actual open mind. An open mind got us this team, headed by Bernie, who turned an impending fiscal disaster into what we have today - a good free cash account, and developers and business who are interested in developing and relocating here.
Best of luck, really and truly, to Adam, Sheryl, Tom, even though he’s already gone, and Bernie. A heartfelt thanks for all you’ve done here.
Update: And also, I am told Senior Planner Aaron Clause is also leaving. Best wishes to him as well.
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.
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.
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