Left In Lowell

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July 9, 2014

Marketing GENIUSES

by at 7:09 pm.

Lately the talk on City Council has been about marketing the city. Because, you know, we’ve never really done that before, ever. It’s not like an organization called COOL, or any other entity in the city, has ever done any sort of advertising, campaign rollout, or viral marketing.

Of course, a lot of this silliness comes from the mouth of one Corey Belanger, who, besides his customary 2,340 average uses of the phrase “quite frankly” on a given Tuesday night (followed closely by “I’d like to inform my colleagues” like they don’t know anything, which, granted, for many of them is true), has noticed that his poor dive bar downtown is quite empty. How do I know? I, and others I know personally, have walked by that place at prime time for bars and have witnessed it for ourselves.

You see, there must be something the city can do for Corey to help his business - why else would he be a Councilor? If it’s not the parking fee enforcement preventing patrons from his otherwise worthy establishment, it’s panhandlers, teenagers from the high school, the tagline being supposedly dropped (Lot to Like…) or any other number of bugaboos.

Right now (as of last night) he’s on an anti-affordable-housing kick, cuz, you know, there’s so few market rate apartments within stumbling distance from Wicked Major’s Pub or whatever the hell he’s calling it this month, except, of course, if you go around the corner to Fuse, Tremonte’s, Centro, El Potro, The Old Court, Cobblestones, Blue Taleh, etc etc and see how packed those places are. And they are, I know from experience…as a DINK couple again, Chris and I are enjoying spreading the wealth to many downtown establishments. We love downtown…parking fees, panhandlers, and affordable housing notwithstanding. But we don’t hit Major’s Wicked Empty Bar.

So how are we marketing the city and getting Lowell in the news? Is it for our upcoming Folk Fest, which I’ve been talking up to work colleagues and anyone else that will listen? Is it the art venues or the theatre? The great restaurants?

Oh no, no, and no again. It’s something MUCH grander! The City Council, in its utter idiocy, got Lowell in the news today for…wanting to go back to an enforced teenage curfew. Drawing attention in the meantime to some of the high profile shootings that have happened. A work colleague today, not prompted by anything, asked me, “What’s with that curfew thing in Lowell??”

Maybe this City Council is practicing the Reverse Psychology school of marketing…hoping that by getting all the negative stuff in the New England news market, people will think good things?

Let’s set aside for a moment that this curfew idea is a worthless, knee-jerk reaction to a problem that it will have nothing to do with solving. Let’s pretend that the shootings which have occurred are not mostly older 20- and 30-something ex-cons getting out of jail and causing trouble. Let’s imagine that Rita Mercier did NOT blanket accuse our kids of drug dealing on bikes (does that make our bike lanes “drug lanes”?).

Let us also ignore the fact, temporarily, that the SJC ruled that a good portion of the 1994 ordinance that is still on the books is unconstitutional. Despite Rita’s call to jail those hooligans, the only thing that can be enforced is a minor fine.

And the ugly anti-teenage rants from the old white people on the City Council are also besides the point…with real gems from the likes of Rita Mercier, Corey Belanger, and “mayor” Elliot, who can’t seem to relate to anyone under 55. And when I say it was ugly, I mean it. Flinch-worthy. It’s online and you should go watch. The curfew discussion starts just after 125 minutes, but if you want the full effect of stupid, please watch from 113 minutes to catch the affordable housing debacle, where any educated viewer will notice the plethora of misinformation.

No, what really makes this special is that, instead of talking about the imminent Folk Fest and other summer activities in Lowell, we once again have reinforced the notion that Lowell is a scary place not to visit, despite the general drop in crime rates. That it’s a place where irrelevant solutions to real problems are the only ones that the brain trust that is our Mayor and his cronies on City Council can come up with. That filling Corey Belanger’s bar is the main reason the Council exists.

Sure, the city has problems, and the shootings are not a good trend and we should be doing everything (that is USEful) to curb the violence…but seriously. Perception is reality, and the perception of Lowell just got a good rolled-up-newspaper whack on its wet nose. By our own “leaders,” no less, who are supposed to be in the position to do something about it, but who are tiptoeing like mice around the real issues. Scratch that, I like mice and hate to insult them like that.

This whole disgusting episode of “As the City Council Panders” doesn’t sound like good marketing to me. Though, I have only over 14 years experience in print and web marketing and design, so what do I know?

January 30, 2014

Valentine’s Gifts - Love Buzz at Mill No 5

by at 6:36 pm.

I had the pleasure of seeing Mill No 5 first hand recently and I’m a new fan. All I can say is…it’s a fun concept, and I hope they do awesome over there. They’re working on a farm-to-table cafe and small movie theatre/stage venue as well.

This weekend (Saturday) from noon to 7pm, they’re doing one of their Little Bazaar events called Love Buzz. They’ve been sharing info about vendors for a couple of weeks, but this video really showcases the sort of stuff that’ll be available. Guys n gals with valentines to buy for, this is your chance!

If you haven’t checked out one of Lowell’s hot new art venues - where you can buy vinyl records, have a photo shoot, or buy any number of things - this weekend would be a great time to go! I promise you, it’s like nothing else in Lowell!

Love Buzz Facebook Event Page
Mill No 5 Facebook page

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 3, 2013

Govt Shutdown and Lowell Open Studios

by at 10:49 am.

Lowell Open Studios is this weekend (Oct 5 & 6, 11am to 5pm both days). But the outlook is not rosy for all its venues.

The Brush Gallery has been closed due to the government shutdown. The Brush has a coop agreement with the National Parks Service, and therefore, if the government shuts down, The Brush (along with the Mogan Center and other venues with similar agreements) has to close its doors. And the National Parks lot is also closed, which means the downtown venues of Open Studios are all going to be affected. (And with that, also, the businesses downtown where visitors to LOS might eat and shop.)

I talked with Eileen, the director of the Brush and a friend of mine, about the situation. Since the doors are closed, the Brush will not be charging any of its tenant artists while this shutdown is in place. These artists not only show their work here but DO their work here, so closing the Bursh is especially frustrating for them. And the loss of the rent is thousands of dollars a month of lost revenue for the Brush, not to mention lost sales for the artists, lost exposure for the venue (right during the beginning of the big season for sales) and probably a substantial loss of donations, since often people who visit the Brush leave small donations.

The artist community has opened its arms to Brush artists for Open Studios weekend, and you will find a number of its artists at the nearby Gates Block Studios at 307 Market St, on the third floor. Please visit them there!

A number of Brush members have expressed gratitude for the generosity of the wider artist community for coming to their rescue for LOS. Of course, for the long haul, Brush artists are going to lose a lot of exposure and sales if the shutdown is not resolved soon.

To that end, I’d like you to keep the Brush artists in especial mind this fall and winter, as you start shopping for gifts for the holidays. Once they are open again, please consider stopping by, whether that’s for an opening for a show - they are supposed to have a new show opening in November, should the shutdown be resolved by then, called “In Cold Blood” - which is about lizards and amphibians, not murder! Or else visit them during their regular hours (once they are open) just because. Find something you love and buy it.

Also, if you are able, please consider a donation of any size to offset the loss of revenues for The Brush. Winter is coming and they will have to pay for their heat and light, and those bills are not cheap. The loss of the rental and other revenue will affect their operations budget. You can donate here online.

And let’s hope the shutdown will be resolved very soon, before it hurts more people.

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.

July 27, 2013

Folk Fest First Night

by at 8:02 am.

I grabbed some video on my phone and spliced it together in case you missed the first night of the Folk Festival. This is what I could get before my phone got tired. :)

May 18, 2013

“Lowell … where real things go down”

by at 12:22 pm.

I’ve known Dee Tension, going on 20 years. I always enjoy his perspective, especially when he delivers one of his ‘man on the street’ reports.

This entry comes from Dee’s Facebook page. Click in, if you have a FB account and read the words of a man who ‘keeps it real.’ - Jack

Ah Umass Lowell Graduation. The day when downtown is flooded by terrified parents who think campus is the only safe place in town. They’re lost but won’t ask for directions. They look at their maps and phones afraid someone is going to stab them so they can’t concentrate which causes people who’ve been married for 30 years to start yelling at each other.

“It’s says go left Walter”.

“No it doesn’t Claire. I think i know how to use GPS thank you”.

I ask “are you lost?” and moms clutch their purses and husbands put their arms around their wives. They park at the first garage they see and then reluctantly walk through downtown waiting for the promised land that is The Tsongas Arena Center Coliseum. They finally see it in the distance and literally say out loud “Oh thank God”.

Quit insulting my town you sheltered numbskulls. No one is going to mug you. Don’t you know we give the crackheads and gangs Saturday mornings off? Believe me I feel much more afraid when I accidentally wander into Westford and can’t find a drive through restaurant or when I go to Concord and my bottle of water is illegal or Wellesely where the cops ask me what my purpose is for being in Wellesly and I answer “where’s the nearest liquor store” which gets me “escorted” to the town line.

Lowell is a real place where real things go down. Things like museums and restaurants and a production of Glengarry Glenross. Oh by the way your crappy kid flipped me off and pissed on my front steps in last week’s pub crawl.

So take a deep breath, enjoy your stay, have a bite to eat at Cobblestones or La Boniche and enjoy your sons and daughters as they celebrate their very significant achievement. It’s sonny and warm and you will always remember how pretty Lowell was on this day.

Also don’t leave your purse, GPS or brief case in your car.

March 9, 2013

Coming Soon: “Threads” Episode Two!

by at 4:25 pm.

So we didn’t make a huge fuss about this in January, and we should have, because the new show we’re doing on LTC, “Threads,” is a lot of hard work and we’re proud of it! In case you missed it on Facebook or elsewhere, Threads is a hyperlocal cable access TV show with great local hosts and even greater local guests! Everything current affairs, culture, history, arts, politics or government is fair game. The aim is to bring new voices and diverse points of view together for a one hour show once a month.

Today we wrapped our studio segments (with a couple more field pieces to come), where this month’s host Corey Sciuto interviewed Dick Howe about his new book, Legendary Locals of Lowell (Facebook page here), and Joy Mosenfelder, coordinator for the Coalition for a Better Acre’s new program, Merrimack Valley Time Exchange. They were both great topics and timely, with Dick’s book coming out on Monday, and the MV Time Exchange looking for new members for its pilot program…people willing to give an hour of their own talent to get an hour from another person with a skill they need.

To keep abreast, I recommend Liking our Facebook page, and if you missed our pilot episode, you can catch it in segments or as a full episode at our website LowellThreads.com. Our first episode focused on the Master Plan draft that the city held public meetings on in January.

If you are interested in seeing what it takes to do a show on cable access, have a great idea for a segment, or want to become part of the team, we have plenty to do and never enough hands to do it, so email us at producers [at] lowellthreads.com (copy and paste, replace spaces and [at] with @)!

February 28, 2013

Lowell’s Sequester

by at 4:11 pm.

Think the sequester doesn’t affect us? Think again.

Even the Lowell Sun knows better.

If automatic federal funding cuts go into effect Friday, Lowell National Historical Park officials expect they will have to cut about $415,000 from its budget, eliminating travel for employees and park funding for programs like the Lowell Folk Festival and the Tsongas Industrial History Center.

The National Park Service has asked individual parks to prepare to cut 5 percent from their budgets, but exactly what will happen when the automatic cuts, known as sequestration, go into effect still isn’t clear, said Celeste Bernardo, the Lowell park superintendent.

“The uncertainty is really difficult,” she said.

And I have news for the Republicans among us: The projected deficit has been cut pretty dramatically and it’s gone down already, without these draconian, stupid, self-inflicted and painful slashes to our important programs and services. And it is a LACK OF GROWTH that is killing our revenues and fueling huge deficits. The last thing you should be doing in a still-recovering economy is laying off teachers and fire fighters and reducing spending on projects like roads and bridges. All of those jobs are full of people who, when employed, SPEND MONEY and create economic activity. Guess what they do when they get laid off? They stop spending!

February 22, 2013

Makin’ Stuff

by at 9:01 am.

You might have been sensing a theme rising in our small city community lately. It’s a theme that is spreading out across the country, but it has special significance to Lowell. Call it the DIY movement. Or self-sufficiency. Or making things.

There may at first glance not seem a specific link between groups like Mill City Grows, small local businesses like Sweet Lydia’s, and “makerspace” groups which are also becoming the buzz around here, but in effect, it’s about people in a community doing for themselves. Whether that’s sustainable gardening, using Kickstarter to raise enough funds to open your own sweets shop, or sharing incubator or machine space with others, it’s about innovating ways at the grassroots level to do for yourself, alongside a community of people, what cannot be accomplished alone.

It’s a movement that asks, what if we could feed ourselves with safe, locally grown food, even in the city? What if I could learn to machine my own parts? What if I could start a business in such a way that causes the community to have a stake with me?

That it’s happening so much in Lowell is a product of several things converging…first, the energy of new, young, professionals engaging in their community. Also, an emphasis on the new economy and innovative economic ideas by the city and its Planning Department, and the doubling of that by a University which is expanding by building such things as the Nerve Center. Lastly, Lowell’s unique history of industry and innovation creates a narrative that is a good foundation for a new wave of doers.

I’ll even admit to being infected myself. I might not be interested in a community garden space with one of Mill City Grow’s new gardens (after all, I do have a half decent backyard much closer to home) but I’ve been inspired by them to really up the ante this year in producing my own veggies. I’ve started collecting ideas on Pinterest and even am cataloging my own journey with DIY projects to make urban gardening easier and more productive (and woodchuck proof). I’ve always had an interest in planting since I was a kid, but now I mean business. (Well, not literally, since I won’t be selling anything, but I hope to have enough excess to give to family and friends, and even to make regular trips to the MV Food Bank). My goal is not to go pretty, but utilitarian, with sub-irrigated DIY buckets, towers, and some indoor growing (since I have this amazing, largely unused, southern-exposure windowed four-season room in my house going to waste).

Yeah, it’s getting that crazy. There’s just something in the air in Lowell these days. A doing thing. Stay tuned. (And our new show, Threads, will definitely be talking to some of Lowell’s new makers too!)

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