Left In Lowell

Member of the reality-based community of progressive (not anonymous) Massachusetts blogs

 
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May 17, 2014

Only the Retired, or EPA Employees Need Run?

by at 8:29 am.

Let’s face it. The Lowell Sun isn’t everywhere covering everything like it used to. We’re lucky when it can muster up the interest in a License Commission meeting. It barely covers the City Council meetings (really, we only hear whatever Cub Reporter Lyle wants us to hear about, usually something that makes his BFF Elliott look good). Which is why richardhowe.com’s week in review and city council notes are so very crucial to our civic life here in the city.

So, that’s why Kendall’s Saturday Chat kind of chapped my hide. (No link as yet.)

I know people who serve in public office have busy lives, but I was also surprised that only one member of the School Committee attended the Honors Night at the high school and only one attended a teachers appreciation dinner that same night. Committeeman Dave Conway was the only one who made an appearance at both events.

Excuse me? I happen to know personally that my friends on the School Committee, besides working at real jobs and raising some great kids who are still in the public school system, talk all the time about school-related events they attend. I kind of marvel at their energy to do all of that in a single week, frankly. In between girl scouts and dance lessons and a million other things. I’d burn out real fast. Instead of insulting them for not attending the effing FEW events the Sun bothers to show up at, maybe you could ask them what they have attended? I think Mr. Wallace would be amazed at how active and involved they are.

And the other members of the SC that I know less well are also pillars of the community, who are involved in many other things besides their full time jobs and personal lives and their SC duties. Since when do you have to be retired and without other demands on your time, like Dave Conway is, to be an effective school committee elected (or City Council for that matter)?

Maybe some members of the SC aren’t retired, or EPA employees with a seemingly endless supply of vacation (seriously…has anyone FOIA’ed to find out exactly how many hours “full time” EPA employee Rodney Elliott is actually working? Since it’s our taxpayer dollar, I’d like to know), or able to get a PT $55K job via connections at the county sheriff’s office. But some of them have more than one full time job as parent, employee, and as SC member. How many jobs do you think they should have before they catch a break, Kendall? Just askin.

I mean, you know, most of the SC members couldn’t get that sweet weekend 16-hour-a-week $15/hr photojournalist job the Sun was advertising that most recent grad with zero experience would probably sneer at…they don’t have much experience with filling columns with drivel and sideways insults and they don’t steal photos for profit.

And people wonder why no one wants to run for local office any more. Gee, it’s such a mystery.

March 19, 2014

LTC Public Input Meeting on Website

by at 1:34 pm.

LTC is going to be doing its website over this year, and we’re (I say we because I’m on the board and helping them) hosting a public input meeting tonight at 7pm at LTC. Everyone is invited to come - whether you are a member, producer, or just a member of the public who wants to contribute to the bettering of the services offered by LTC’s website!

You can RSVP on Facebook here, or by going through LTC’s website, and if you can’t make it, please take a quick moment to note you can’t make it and fill out the survey.

Hope to see you there!!

Sacred Golden Cows

by at 7:19 am.

I’ve long held the opinion that the so-called Greater Merrimack Valley Convention and Visitor’s Bureau is a somewhat useless, taxpayer-sucking organization. I’ve gotten to that place by talking a lot to very smart people who are in the position to know better than me.

This is no knock on marketing, of course. Hey, I’m in the web and graphic design business after all. I know marketing works. And we need to develop great events, and market them, bringing people in from outside the city to spend money. Changing a decades-long perception about Lowell is no small feat, and I think we ought to spend some minor amount of money on it; the economic benefits of that are clear. I just do not see that there has been even a dollar of economic activity for every dollar spent on the CVB (in other words, not even sure if we’re breaking even). I think it’s a big waste of money. Could the CVB be a resource? Sure, if it were well run, it might be. But it’s not. I don’t see a return for the city from all the taxpayer dollars spent on that organization. It is, however, run by a well-connected person who has friends on City Council.

Now, I don’t know if the restauranteurs that Jack quotes from old articles about the CVB and the local option meals tax revenue are merely short-sighted, or if they are alyoop-ing the CVB for other reasons, but regardless, I wanted to bring this up because we all know the City Council will not have the debate about whether or not the CVB is actually a good, dollar-for-dollar investment for the city. I mean, when the CVB posts a Facebook photo of the Tyngsboro bridge with the line, “Good morning Lowell!” you have to question the validity of the entire operation. Also, they’ve been part and parcel of the gravy train that was Winterfest; with that fundraising money flowing through the CVB as the “fiscal agent,” they get matching funds from the state.

Keep in mind, that out of the 16 Convention and Visitor’s Bureaus in the state, Lowell is the only city or town to subsidize a CVB directly with money from its own city budget. This has been brought up before under Bernie Lynch, but I know a lot of City Councilors have notoriously short memories.

We have no marketing data to actually measure in any way what the dollar value the CVB brings the city for its contribution as far as I know. Metrics? Pshaw!

Of course, Rita et pals didn’t like the reductions in Bernie’s budgets for what the city gave to the CVB, so expect Lynch’s previous CVB budgetary reduction to a yearly $25K to to be reversed. Of course, Lynch wanted it eliminated but the hue and outcry of the friends of CVB head Deb Belanger was hot and furious - which is one way to be sure this is a GOB move and not a smart one. Bernie was no dummy about where to invest our taxpayer dollars, but the City Council certainly is.

Good money thrown after bad…”that’s a bad way to fly.”

March 17, 2014

Yuks, and Yucks (Updated)

by at 1:29 pm.

Well, I did it. I waded into the St. Patrick’s Day breakfast for the first time ever. I got to sit at the “citizen media group” table, the sign for which, according to seat mate and fellow blogger Greg Page (who was scoring the joke brackets a couple seats away), drew a lot of questions as people walked by.

I took the liberty of shooting a few videos and posting on YouTube. My camera angle was bad and so was my use of the camera, which I was still figuring out how to film video with. Apologies in advance. Luckily, there is an official Channel 22 taping coming eventually and I highly recommend catching that if you want better footage.

It’s all on the flip: (more…)

March 11, 2014

Learn to Code for Websites!

by at 10:26 am.

The 3-session class I teach at LTC, Intensive Web Design, is starting this Thursday, March 13, with sessions on subsequent Thursdays on the 20th and 27th. The class goes from 6:30-9:30 PM (the website says 6-9 but we always do 6:30 til 9:30 when LTC closes). We could use some more students for this session! Learn web coding from scratch, no previous web experience needed! Must have basic Mac skills.

We run through a lot of material - a class of this intensity would take up most of a semester at a university or community college. We can get through material faster because the class size is small. Fee for LTC members is $50 with $25 book fee, or $75 with $25 book fee for nonmembers. It is WELL worth the cost!

Here’s the class description:

INTENSIVE WEB DESIGN 1

This 3-session class is an intense, comprehensive HTML/CSS class for those who are really serious about web design. It is taught using DreamWeaver, but you will be able to create your website in other programs. (4 student minimum)

Date & Time: Thursday, March 13, 20, 27 - 6:00-9:00 PM [note - I typically start at 6:30 and end at 9:30pm]
Fee: $50 (non-member $75) plus $25 materials fee for textbook.
To sign up using PayPal, please visit http://ltc.org/content/current-class-schedule and pay the “Intermediate/Advanced workshop fee”
If you’d prefer to pay by cash or check, please email gpolites@ltc.org to reserve a spot.

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 12, 2013

AtB: Handling Pans

by at 3:19 pm.

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.

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.

August 27, 2013

Coffee Klatsch

by at 8:30 pm.

Kinda cool, just saw it in my inbox, and might be of interest to those who want to meet Stacie Hargis before the preliminary:

Stacie has been starting conversations with fellow Lowellians to hear about issues that are most important to them. Stacie would like to hear about issues that affect YOU, your friends, and loved ones while supporting locally owned small businesses. Stacie will be at different locations throughout the month of September and encourages you to come join in on the conversation about how we can grow our community wealth.

Join Stacie while she gets a coffee at 7:30-8:30 at:

  • Sowy’s Bakery, 474 Merrimack St. on September 4th
  • Donut Shack, 487 Westford St. on September 11th
  • Top Donut, 700 Aiken St. on September 18th

Update: I’ve made a correction above, Sowy’s Bakery is at 474 Merrimack St, NOT East Merrimack. I copied and pasted direct from the email, but someone else pointed this out to me (thanks!) so at least my post will be correct. :)

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