Left In Lowell

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January 16, 2014

Bad Old Days Redux

by at 12:57 pm.

Oh, no wonder the Rourkite-Belangeresque-Tippah wing of the City Council wanted to tie Bernie Lynch’s hands and prevent him from adding any Boards and Commissions appointments! Because Lynch would never appoint Robert McMahon back to the recent opening at the LHA - having declined to renew McMahon years ago. Robert McMahon, for those who don’t recall, also had a failed bid for City Council the year that Kazanjian and Lenzi won. He is very tied in with that whole GOB crew, and their supposed ethics (or lack thereof).

When I said these guys wanted their buddies back in power, was I lying? Two weeks into the new Council session and McMahon’s name is already being floated around for an appointment to a board he was, let’s say, quietly booted off by virtue of his term expiring nice and quick after the Cox admin left.

New verse, same as the first…

December 8, 2013

What Is a Source, Among Friends?

by at 2:08 pm.

The ol’ paper blog - it ain’t what it used to be. (Or maybe, it’s more of what it used to be? When was the last time the Sun’s editor and cub reporter had any integrity, anyway? Five years? More?)

In the so-called Lowell Sun Column today, was this little tidbit. “Several sources have told The Column the LHA leadership has discussed proposing to Lynch that he appoint local blogger Jack Mitchell…”

Dick already brought this up, and I’ll link to him, if you want the link to the “Column,” he has it. Dick also posts this email exchange Jack and Lyle had, which Jack posted on Facebook.

LYLE: Hi Jack, I hope all is well. Have you applied for appointment to the Lowell Housing Authority board? Have any LHA employees reached out to you to encourage you to apply for a position on the LHA board? Thanks for your time.

JACK: Lyle, I’ll answer, if you tell me if you are applying to be the next Mayor’s Aide.

LYLE: Ha, that’s an easy question. No, I am not. I look forward to your answers.

JACK: No & No. I’ve discussed the topic of the LHA and the positions on the Commission with several Lowellians over the course of many months, intermittently. But, not directly about a pending position opening or recently. Give my best to Rodney, next time you guys have lunch. Thank you in advance.

The Column has long been a place where regular rules for truthful reporting have been suspended. The sort of sloppy work that would you kicked the hell out of journalism school are practiced regularly, there. In a real legitimate article, one’s “several sources” have to be corroborated. The sources themselves have to be credible, to begin with. A random or unexamined “They” from “That’s what they say!” is not acceptable. But in the Column, it’s all you need. Especially if it can be used to attack people you hate with a source of heat so strong you could power the whole of US for 20 years. Now, who were their sources? Obviously I don’t know for sure. But since the Sun plays this game, so can I, but with more to back myself up.

First, I wonder about their “several.” You remember how Dick Cheney’s office leaked information about WMD, then later on a Sunday news program, quoted that article to gain legitimacy for his war? “Several sources” for a rumor, like as not, come from a single source. A real reporter tries to ferret out if this is the case. If three people tell you something, but those three people got their information from one single person, that is not several sources - it’s one source. As a reporter, one should be tracing down the rumor mill to its source, and then talk to that source and assess the legitimacy from there.

Secondarily, the quality of the source matters. Obviously Lynch and his people don’t spread rumors like this, and in fact Lynch stated what inquiries he’d gotten for the position outright. Jack flat out said, no, this isn’t the case. Unless you have proof of them lying…well. And the Column itself says the LHA director declined to say anything on the matter. So, who is the source? Some disgruntled someone in City Hall who saw Jack there, maybe paying a bill or whatever, and assumed he must have met with Lynch, and that meeting had to have been about the LHA? Maybe even something more tenuous than that? Maybe made up from nothing? Who can say. But I can tell you this - it’s not someone in the position to know. It can’t really be anyone who isn’t using a whole lot of assumption and conjecture, or who isn’t flat out lying. The job of a real reporter is to find that out first, before writing something that borders on libel. (They skirt this by the metaphorical use of “that’s what they say, anyway!” but it’s window dressing, to say it nicely. Or what do they call that skim coat on a tank of sewage? Yeah, that.)

I break all this down not to defend Jack - he can do that himself, and honestly, this is such a shoddy attack that it’s hardly worth the paper it’s printed on. I do this to point out the larger problems with this kind of “journalism” which isn’t journalism. We’ve all known for a long time how compromised, journalistically, the Lowell Sun actually is. And how shoddy the reporting even in legitimate news articles - which the Column isn’t. The Sun is slouching to irrelevance, and they know it, and they figure to bolster the gravy train for their buds on their way down. And Campy does seem to love to pretend he’s playing in the big leagues.

Ahead of the rumored demise of its print edition (I read the rumor on Facebook! It’s sourced! See what I did there?), the Lowell Sun is desperately trying to stay in the game - not the news game, no, that’s hard work. But the political game, where they relentlessly and factlessly attack the City Manager. They smell blood in the water with this latest election, you see. They also can count the votes (they were the ones to publish them after all) and see that the CM might actually survive this Council with a new contract, so muddying the water now is their only hope. Turn some of the “lean yes” Councilors to consider “no” on a new contract. The Blog of Record has long since lost its main “raison d’etre”…reporting the news…not creating it.


On another note, we wanted to thank a longtime best friend of the blog, Michael Hayden, for his concern on our short absence. This was sent to me by a third party:

Wow could we be so lucky as to have the Queen of Mean and her liberal blog gone a way or is this just a tactic to get her buddy Liberal know it all Jack Mitchell a board position ( LHA ) what ever the reason I for one am very glad they are gone All they ever did was spread super liberal ideas and call everyone who did not agree with them stupid See ya

Who knew that such loving and concerned citizens of our fair city would be so upset at our short hiatus? I mean, I can’t even have a very busy holiday (both preparing for and recuperating from), alongside a vicious and ongoing stiff neck which makes prolonged typing quite unpleasant, coupled with a few slow news weeks, without such notable expressions of dismay? Not to mention other projects I’ve been working on? It warms the cockles of my heart, this holiday season, to know we have such dear friends looking out for us.

Cheers, folks, we’re not going anywhere. Notwithstanding the aneurism that might give Mr. Hayden.

PS: that other project I mentioned? I really ought to post more of the YouTube segments here, but I forget. Here’s our recent segment from the LTC show “Threads” where we went to the Brush Art Gallery - unfortunately, you need to put up with me as interviewer, normally I am behind the camera, which I much prefer!

September 10, 2013

Out of Order!

by at 6:42 pm.

It’s hard to find the words for the stupid going on right in front of me as I watch tonight’s City Council meeting. CC. Rodney Elliot has yet again decided the laws of the Commonwealth do not apply to him.

He tried to get a suspension of the rules over the report released (I think, yesterday) regarding a negative federal audit of the LHA. This is, of course, long after the Friday deadline to get things on the City Council agenda.

Smelling some juicy poo that he could fling at any number of his enemies (the Mayor, the Lynch administration, whoever), Elliot decided that open meeting laws in no way trump his need to scream like a tiny tiny child over the issue. When an item is not able to get on the agenda, you can, in a time sensitive situation, suspend rules to discuss something not on the agenda. This is particularly supposed to be reserved for things with real deadlines. This method is not supposed to be abused for bringing up breaking news before half the city or Councilors have a chance to even see it (never mind the LHA Board which meets this week and has had no time to properly address it).

Let’s examine the reasons behind not popping impromptu items up in a meeting. They revolve around the open meeting laws and giving residents and Councilors alike enough time to review said issue, a heads-up, if you will. Agendas get published in a timely manner ahead of a public meeting for a reason - it’s not just an exercise in paperwork. This is self-evident reasoning, as well as codified in actual state freaking LAW.

After the Chair (Mayor Murphy) ruled that the motion to suspend the rules was illegal on the merits, Elliot just did not shut up. He did his usual YOU DISGUST ME SIR routine, and the Mayor appealed to the city solicitor, who said the Chair ruled, and that was the ruling. Elliot challenged the Chair’s ability to rule on the issue! Um, did you miss the part where he’s the Chair? And then, the crowning crescendo of utter audacity, Elliot calls, “Roll call!” In the same tone you hear the Chair say roll call. Not in a tone demanding a roll call. Not in a tone asking for a roll call. Calling FOR a roll call. Which. Is. Not. His. Job.

The thing that gets me, every time he pulls this crap, the thing that galls me, astounds me, and makes me want to punch my perfectly good walls until they resemble Swiss cheese, is that Elliot has been a Councilor for years. YEARS. It’s not like he does not know how Robert’s Rules work. It’s not like he’s a n00b in operating under the Commonwealth of Massachusetts General Laws governing municipal meetings, or has zero experience with Open Meeting laws.

He just. Doesn’t. Give a shit.

There’s more to this circus, including Kennedy dragging it back up later, and I will get you video. If you missed this tonight, you will want to watch it.

September 5, 2013

Photo Journey

by at 9:14 pm.

Dick Howe posted to Facebook this forum that he found which has an awesome trip through Lowell’s mill redevelopment, and it’s worth every minute you spend on it. It’s a great celebration of some of the accomplishments of the city. There are a lot of before and after pics.

August 26, 2013

Race and Integration in Lowell (Updated)

by at 4:11 pm.

A lot of different groups and people are making use of the map of race in America, based on the US 2010 census. Many are noticing that while we’re far less segregated than we were 50 years ago, too often, cities have clear and stark enclaves of single-race groups.

So how does Lowell fare? I decided to take a map of streets and voting precincts and try to match it up as best I could to a screenshot of the race map. (The result is pretty well lined up, but may not be exact.) Click the image to get a very large resolution - 3000 pixels - though the dots will be pixelized since I used a screenshot of the dot data (it still works to give you an idea of the makeup of the neighborhoods).

Map of racial census data in Lowell, Massachusetts

(more…)

May 7, 2013

Flexible Integrity on The City Council

by at 12:05 pm.

Tonight, as the Council contorts itself to defend the integrity of The Belvidere, please consider something. Who remembers this episode?
(bold mine)

LOWELL CITY COUNCIL
REGULAR MEETING
TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 25, 2012
CITY HALL, CITY COUNCIL CHAMBER
TIME 6:30 PM
-snip
GENERAL PUBLIC HEARINGS (Scheduled for 7PM)
.
.
9. Ordinance-Amend zoning (Westview Road)

I’m going to quickly paste in a bunch of info, so you can judge for yourself whether the City Council is plague by an integrity problem. Maybe, because of national politics, we have become immune to ‘flip-flopping?’
(more…)

August 20, 2012

Poverty is Big Business, Still

by at 1:36 pm.

Poverty is Big Business

Poverty is Big Business in Lowell

Today’s episode: State: LHA must release Sec. 8 list

LOWELL — The Secretary of State’s Public Records Division has determined the Lowell Housing Authority did not comply with the state’s public-records law when it denied The Sun’s request for a list of property owners with multiple Section 8 voucher tenants.

In an Aug. 8 letter to LHA Assistant Executive Director Mary Ann Maciejewski, the state’s supervisor of records, Shawn Williams, wrote that any responsive record identifying property owners with multiple Section 8 tenants is public record and must be provided to The Sun.

As of early April, there were nearly 1,250 tenants in the city with Section 8 housing vouchers from the LHA.
-snip

LHA provides tenant-based and project-based vouchers to those eligible for the Section 8 program.

Those with tenant-based vouchers can choose to live in any private housing unit that meets the requirement of the program. As of early April, the LHA provided 1,116 of those vouchers to participants.

Project-based Section 8 vouchers can only be used at designated properties. The LHA subsidized the rents of 120 project-based participants as of early April.

I’d like to see this list of landlords. How many live outside of Lowell? We spend a ton of energy griping about city officials that live outside of Lowell. Should we get a handle on “absentee landlords?” This list would help with that. Also, how often are the rental units inspected? By whom? Let’s protect those living in these units by ensuring that everything is on the up and up. Transparency will help. Disclose the list now.

March 5, 2012

Poverty is Big Business

by at 1:06 pm.

Had to bring this up because, y’know, I hate poor people and immigrants. Oh, throw in kittens while you’re at it. JACK HATES KITTENS!!!!!

LOWELL — In order to help fulfill its pledge to keep Westminster Village largely affordable housing, the new owner of the 432-unit apartment complex on Pawtucket Boulevard is offering cash incentives for some of the higher-income residents to move out.

Westminster Preservation, L.P., which was able to acquire and rehab the apartment complex with a $45 million loan from MassHousing last year, sent letters early last month to residents offering to pay them $5,000 in a one-time cash payment, plus $1,000 in moving expenses, if they leave Westminster by the end of March.

To be eligible, residents’ income had to be above 60 percent of the area median income.
-snip

One of the stipulations of the MassHousing loan was that 412 of the 432 apartments remain affordable to low-income persons. The owner pledged to keep the other 20 units market rate.
To help meet that low-income requirement, the owner secured a 20-year renewal and extension of the Section 8 housing-assistance payment contract at the property from HUD. The federal agency provides funding for Section 8 tenants — who are low-income, elderly and disabled — to live in privately owned facilities.

Lowell is treading water this way. Maybe we would go under without it?

September 28, 2010

Reminder: Info Session Tonight on HCD Artist Rentals

by at 3:14 pm.

Just a reminder, that if you missed your chance to come find out more about renting at the new Appleton live-work affordable rental housing for artists, there’s another info session tonight, 6:30 - 8 pm, at the 119 Gallery, 119 Chelmsford Street, Lowell. From the PDF flyer:

Come to snack, sip and learn about 130 new, loft-style rental apartments designed for those who create art and those who appreciate it. Meet the people who want to help you make the Appleton Mills your next home. Find out about the Preference for Artists and how you could be moving into the building when it is completed next spring.

Can’t attend? Visit LiveAppletonMills.com or call 978.458.0588

December 22, 2009

Perhaps, Signs of Optimism

by at 12:43 pm.

The news is reporting that MA home sales last month were up incredibly from last November, by a whopping 59% for single family homes. Of course, November 2008 was a terrible month for home sales, but that is still a very good trend. This is in addition to the encouraging, though fragile news that the state’s revenues are also on the rise, beyond previous gloomy projections.

The conservatives have attempted to label the stimulus efforts of the last year as more than fruitless - they state it has been a huge waste of taxpayer money. For instance, they constantly cite their favorite sets of numbers with regards to the Cash for Clunkers program - that each “clunker” cost far too much to be useful as a stimulus.

But here’s what I know. I know a family member of mine who works in the auto parts industry went from a dismal reduction in hours a year ago, to working full time again in the last few months. I know his company is now working on electric car technology, partly due to a bigger emphasis on green transportation and getting ourselves rid of “clunkers.” I know that my own brother proudly purchased his first home to take advantage of the first-time buyers program last summer, one more notch in the stabilization of home prices. He has a good steady job and was a perfect candidate for someone who just needed a little incentive take the plunge to being a home owner.

I also know that I myself have expanded my business as a direct result of stimulus money which is going to a program intending to help people gain the skills necessary to become more financially responsible. My business is doing so well I have less time for blogging. :)

I know there’s construction going on around the state and I know that the Hamilton Canal District’s Appleton artist live-work rentals had their groundbreaking and is keeping people employed for 18 months. I know that MA’s unemployment numbers are looking better every month, and I know that our schools have dodged a huge bullet when it comes to losing budget in the last year, thanks largely to the priorities of our Governor.

Maybe today’s just a glass half full day because my Christmas shopping is done and mostly wrapped and we’re headed for a three day weekend and I get to watch my excited nieces unwrap gifts, but I’m feeling that 2010 is definitely looking up, and I think that the policies enacted to deal with the Main Street worries, such as the stimulus bill and the incentive programs, did what they were supposed to do. Could they have been more efficient? Sure. For instance, we wasted a 1/3 of the stimulus in pointless tax breaks for special interests and big business. It’s well known* that you do not get back the same economic activity from tax cuts as you do direct spending.

But overall, I think we’re in better shape than we could have been, and averted a worse economic crisis. Now we need to fix what was broken, namely, the regulation of industries in which greed played and still plays such a powerful roll. We need to go back to having a firewall between lending activity and investing, among other things.

I’m not optimistic about health care reform (in that I think that the Senate bill subsides for Big Insurance are just going to become tomorrow’s boondoggle) but at least restricting the ability of insurers to deny you care for a preexisting condition or kicking you off care is a good step (we do that in MA by the way). We need fast action on carbon reduction, and though Copenhagen was a tough nut I hope people are not done fighting for it. If we can build these three pillars - economic reform, heath care reform, and environmental reform - we will have gone a long way towards transforming our country to thrive for the next 9 decades of this century.

* Known except to those who cannot let facts get in the way of their theory binkie called “trickle down.”

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