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Left In Lowell » City Council

Left In Lowell

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May 18, 2016

Failure Is As Failure Does

by at 9:57 am.

Elliott is a big giant failure. So much a failure, I can’t emphasize enough how much he fell short of accomplishing his end goal. It’s an epitome, the very dictionary definition of a Big Fat Failure.

As you probably know from local social media (link is to the Twitter hashtag I was using) and Dick’s excellent summary of last night’s Council meeting, Rodney’s lurnch into the murky waters of conservative claptrap resulted in (what was it, an hour plus?) of speakers against him. Besides the three anti’s - two of them being a married couple, god I feel for their kids if they turn out GLBTQ - speaker after speaker passionately, and some rather dispassionately, told stories either of their own or those of friends and family, and rattled off a LOT of stats as well. In fact, the speakers made their case so well that if these speeches didn’t penetrate the thick skull of Elliott, nothing ever, ever will.

The speeches and the emails obviously did have the effect of educating every other member of the Council, which makes this sordid business so worthwhile.

What came of the whole spectacle was the exact polar opposite of his intent. He wanted the Council to be on the record (a meaningless gesture, which makes this all the more aggravating) opposing the state’s public accommodations bill. Instead, a substitute motion supporting the bill was passed 8-1, meaning his meaningless gesture of bigotry was turned into a more meaningful gesture of solidarity with transgendered people and their right to live their lives like everyone else. And, on top of that, invigorated an entire community of passionate folks to oppose him. That’s failing on a massive scale. That’s attempting to climb the Matterhorn, and instead falling into the Grand Canyon.

Rodney is not a CrookAnd of course, he was super defensive about all the negative attention (hero in his own mind, recall, and I said it right here folks), in his tirade, after the speakers had their say. Rod IS NOT A BIGOT, and you’re mean to say so, he tells us - because the easiest thing for an authoritarian follower to do is to claim “victimhood” when his odious views, impervious to the facts and logic levied at him, are rebuffed so forcefully. It’s not his views that are odious and completely misinformed…you are. About him, at least.

You, dear GLBTQ supporters, have besmirched his good name. He’s not evil, he’s just concerned for the wimmins. I note he doesn’t seem inclined to put forth a motion excluding Catholic priests from public restrooms, even though young boys are far more at actual risk with them - and we have stats to prove that - than any cisgendered female or girl in a women’s bathroom with a trans women (or, the mythological creepy guy dressed in heels pretending to be trans so he can gain access - like we can’t tell the difference). So right alongside my utter disgust at his using terms like “pedophile” and “molester” and “rapists” next to the term transgendered (but oh no, he doesn’t mean to imply trans people are perverts, no), I also want to scream at how freaking patriarchal his views are. Fuck off. I as a woman do NOT NEED someone like Big Strong Elliott to protect me. As several of the speakers, bravely talking about their own assaults, also told him point blank. His male hero knight complex is completely misapplied…at best.

At some point I’m hoping to go into more detail point by point about how wrong Elliott’s arguments were, since rebuttal from actually knowledgeable people was impossible once the councilors get to speak. The crowd was so frustrated with his poor reasoning, it was a source of a bit very natural angry heckling, which rightfully was rebuffed by Mayor Kennedy, but as Rod went on and on and on I could sympathize with the crowd, as I felt the urge to throw something wet and rotten at his head myself. Too bad my garden isn’t in tomato season yet.

…I kid! Well mostly. The thought does have a nice, cathartic quality in my imagination. SPLAT!

But anyway, he will never admit to being anything but a victim. What he really is a victim to, of course, is poor reasoning, to accepting nonfactual sources and believing every word of them, and some of the worst logic known to mankind. And he is a victim of failure. Never forget that.

As to the community, which came together in a great show of awesomeness and love in defense of human beings with human aspirations to be as boring and mundane and unremarkable as the rest of us…

…well done.

May 17, 2016

The Banality of Hate

by at 12:23 pm.

Everyone believes, truly believes, that they are the hero of their own story.

Without that little piece of the puzzle, it’s hard to get to the core of why people do hurtful, hateful things, such as bringing forth a motion against a trans protection bill as Councilor Rodney Elliott and Councilor Rita Mercier did for this week’s Council agenda.

Elliott, as far as I can tell, really believes (has been told to believe by FOX News types, he is nothing so much as a good little tax-cutting, anti-social-justice-warrior soldier) that legally protecting a trans woman’s rights to use the ladies’ room opens the door for perverts to go after his daughter. Literally, this is what he believes.

Never mind the facts - that a rapist or child molester usually knows their victim (96% of the time for child molesters, 82% for rapists) and those who engage in such horrible activity would, I expect, conclude that it would be utterly stupid to use a public restroom or locker room for their crime, where anyone can walk in at any time. (Basic damned logic.)

You will hear Elliott - a hero in his own mind, remember - protest, “I have nothing against trans people.” He’ll be hurt you even think he “hates” anyone. And he (probably) means it. But a real, deep empathy for what trans people are going through, right now, as a result of the North Carolina law, or Elliott and Mercier’s motion (you put your name on that Rita, more on that in a moment), never enters into the picture.

Education obviously is key to trying to reach some people who think like this, but my bets lie on such efforts to elucidate falling on deaf ears in Elliott’s case. He’s fully entrenched in his tribalistic fear brain. He’ll be defensive and try to justify his motion but he won’t see the straight line between such motions as his and North Carolina style laws, and stories about both trans and non-trans people being abused, assaulted, and attacked.

I’ve already been hearing stories of how this very motion has affected members of the trans community. I heard the term “panic attack.” Rodney, you are causing actual, real pain, to some of the most vulnerable folks of our community. Think on that for just one single moment. (Sigh. I know you really probably won’t. Not really.)

Now, on to the other cosponsor of the motion, who’s withdrawn her co-sponsorship…after the anger against it ratcheted up to fever pitch. (Who, who could have predicted?!)

I’ve watched the city council for quite some time, and have…well, shall we say, a storied history with Councilor Rita Mercier, who’s been on the Council a couple decades plus. Let’s just say if looks could kill, your humble blogger would be no more. Ceased to be. …an ex-blogger. Oh wait, I was an ex-blogger for a long while!

If there’s one thing I know for sure, Rita Mercier definitely believes wholeheartedly she is the hero in her own story. Always. And unremittingly. In fact, if something threatens to jar such a belief about herself, that’s when you hear her most twisty weasel words about her motivations. She was just gaging interest (bike lanes), she really wanted to meet a celebrity (Trump), she really thought “happy ending massages” were going on at Mill No 5, she only wanted to indicate she would second the motion on a sensitive topic by co-sponsoring this buggery of an anti-trans motion.

The kicker is, I think she really convinces herself of this revisionist motivation. I mean, she’s the hero! Heroes don’t hurt people or commit acts that harm the public. They certainly don’t invoke anger and revulsion on such a scale as has been happening the last several days in Lowell over the trans motion.

And she never learns her lesson. She won’t learn it this time. The lesson that, maybe just maybe, she ought to find out a little bit from someone knowledgeable on an issue before kicking a hornets nest. That she might benefit from having the least amount of intellectual curiosity in order to challenge her preconceived gut notions on a given topic. Or maybe just witnessing how things are going down in other places over the same issue (North Carolina is losing millions, maybe billions, in economic dollars). OR LISTENING TO THE CITY’S LAWYERS. (Sorry, I digress.)

Once you educate her (as she will be educated at the City Council meeting tonight), she can often be your biggest ally. After all, if you let her become the hero again, she is all for that. She learns about the amazing stuff happening at Mill No. 5. She finds out that bike lanes are actually something people want - passionately. Hey, she can about-face with the best of them. But don’t expect the education of Rita Mercier to be easy, to be simple, to be logical. It never will be. You will have to fight for every moment of clarity with this one. It’s a fight that exhausted me, as you can see from the date of the last time I posted.

Now, to say a few words of what I should really be writing about in this post.

To all the members of our community who are trans, those whose experiences of alienation, hurt, and grief I can’t even fathom. To everyone Rita and Rodney have hurt this week, to those who suffer fear of attack at any moment in any public place, who’ve have a hard, hard journey towards living their true selves. To those who are still trying to figure out how to live their true selves.

To quote Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, we see you. We stand with you. The people who are signing up to speak tonight, to show up and stand up, to wear your colors, we see you. I cannot hope that even this thunderous response from the community will in any way make up for the pain, the suffering that ignorance and othering has caused you. Or alleviate the fear you feel, every day. I hope that in some way, it helps just a little. Brings you a bit of happiness and love. Keeps you from falling too deeply into isolation and dispair. Whatever you do, do not let the Ritas and Rodneys and North Carolinas win. We love you. We embrace you. Even if you feel you cannot stand out yourselves tonight, for whatever reason, we will hold you up as best as we know how. Please…let us know how.

Peace, my friends.

December 27, 2014

Blinded by the Lack of Vision…

by at 11:36 pm.

So we’re into one year of this miserable City Council’s tenure now, and obviously I’ve been pretty quiet. But I have been quietly observing in the time since we lost City Manager Bernie Lynch and I have some very deep general impressions of the current administration and the so-called part-time weak Mayor.

One reason I went quiet, I think, is that eventually I would have sounded like a broken record. Complaining about the outrages and stupidity inflicted on us by the new olde guard would have gotten really tiresome quickly, even for me. I felt like I’ve been here before - watching crony hires and Councilors spitballing crazy motions with little actual consequence. I was weary, I’d seen it all before, and you do get ground down after a while.

But something I really have observed - besides a dislike of hard work by our new City Manager, who declared afternoons off for golf and who seems enjoy throwing his department heads under the bus - is the total, deafening lack of big vision with these people. There are no Patrick Murphys, or Bernie Lynches, and there are definitely no Paul Tsongas’s in the bunch.

Here’s some of the highlights of the last year:

- Trying to reduce or get rid of bike lanes. (Until outrage from the community stopped that cold, prompting Rita to tell us a little white lie about how she was “just trying to see if people cared.” Yeah, right.)
- Attempts to officially reduce the number of hours of paid meter parking downtown (which was inflicted on us by a downtown business Councilor, who should want more parking turnover, not less).
- Going after panhandlers. But just in downtown, of course, or more specifically, outside a certain Councilor’s empty dive bar. It has to be empty for a reason right? Patrons must be getting scared away by poor people asking for money! (Funny how Fuse doesn’t have this problem…they’re always packed…)
- Hiring a political City Manager with no managing experience, who then turned around and spent more money to hire a retired real City Manager, and who on several occasions managed to miss important fiscal deadlines (passing the buck notwithstanding). And if you don’t think KMurph doesn’t have a three-year-to-the-day pension-boosting expiration date on him, I have a bridge to sell you over the Merrimack…
- Going after Trinity Financial in an attempt to create a financial coup in rumored favor of some other developers. Trinity Financial has one of the best reputations in the state for urban development, so naturally, you want to get rid of them. Who needs long term thinking or commitment in Lowell for heaven’s sake??
- Trying to reroute the Bay State Marathon, because some people called. You know. Those people, the ones Rita listens to.
- Wanting to make public any surveillance of city employees out on disability, which would ensure that the surveillance is useless in trying to catch fraud against the city. Also, ignoring privacy and personnel laws to do it.
- Asking the state to let Lowell dissolve the need for a Chapter 17 stabilization fund because in the spring, Lowell used $2M from it to patch a deficit in Net School Spending and now Lowell’s new administration doesn’t want to have to pay it back any more.
- Asking the School Committee to develop a STEM curriculum for Lowell High School. Because you know, the School Committee is totally ignoring the schools…and needs the interference of the City Council.
- Snow removal. Always snow removal. This despite the fact Lowell has what amounts to a pretty well-oiled machine operation at this point, along with lots of new equipment from the last few years of capital investment.
- A city manager that doesn’t often bother to interview people for important positions, for job postings that often stay up a week or two at most. It’s hard work, administratin’. Just go with someone you know and that works, right?
- A motion that the ordinance against riding on the sidewalk should include the ability for police to seize skateboards - and bikes, Rita adds in. Over the objections of the police chief.
- Put Christmas lights on smokestacks. (Which are mostly private property as I recall…)
- Putting a stop to people stealing from Bud Caufield’s house. Because if it happened to Bud, it must be an ever increasing problem. Forget deploying police resources based on statistics! Bud got robbed dammit!!
- Gutless and powerless complaints against “newcomers [immigrant kids] in our schools” because they are expensive. Forget state and federal laws about education, we can ignore those…and this classic transcript from Belanger which astounded everyone.
- Violating Robert’s Rules and rules regarding what subcommittees can do, to spring big news on the rest of the Council about a failure to borrow monies on time via a subcommittee report:

Mayor Elliott begins to give a report on the finance subcommittee meeting of August 19, saying “if there are no objections I’ll give the report from here.” Councilor Martin says “I object” so Leahy takes the chair. Mayor proceeds with report from the floor. Auditor reported that former city treasurer had failed to borrow several million in funds for ongoing projects. There were deficits in various funds due to this. Consequently, there will be a negative free cash figure until the city can borrow the money on September 12 at which time there will be a large surplus of free cash. Also discussed was the operating deficit at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium. Regarding that, the manager will try to renegotiate portions of the management contract.

Councilor Martin says he appreciates the remedial measures by Mr. Healy and Baldwin but he doesn’t think the meeting was properly called, that it was called in violation of our rules and that’s so the council and the public has notice of what we will discuss. I saw the notice of this meeting; it was vague; I thought it was a mistake. I now think the notice was intentionally vague and that’s because the chairman knew they were not properly done without first going to the council. When I confronted the mayor about this he went to the newspaper and told some lies about what I said and I don’t appreciate that. It’s troubling to me that the person responsible for enforcing the rules (the mayor) violated those rules. Also would like in the future that information conveyed to the mayor be forwarded to all councilors which wasn’t done in this case. All matters that are to go to subcommittees must first come to the council. There was no emergency. It’s important that the entire council learn about something because that’s how the public learns about it.

Councilor Kennedy says to the Auditor that at the next meeting we’ll be two months into the fiscal year. I’ve asked for a bi-weekly report on how we’re doing. Auditor says she’ll send it out.

Mayor Elliott says he conducts business in an open forum. I’m not going to get bogged down in Robert’s Rules. We talked about closing the books for FY14 and we’re going to close that with a deficit because of this. It’s more important to me that we get things done rather than be nitpicky about things.

Councilor Mercier says earlier in this meeting Leahy moved to suspend the rules the mayor could have said it wasn’t on the agenda but he allowed it. Then you made a motion under suspension. That’s a double violation of the rules. I could have objected to it but I thought it was a good motion. Councilor Martin could have objected to that but he didn’t. Maybe there’s a meeting that shouldn’t be called for; well stay home. I keep quiet about the rules violations because I want the people to hear about it whether we’re in violation of the rules or not.

Councilor Martin: If the purpose of the meeting was to keep the public informed the purpose of the meeting should have been published ahead of time. I didn’t know about the purpose of the meeting until an hour beforehand.

Mayor Elliott: Councilor Martin just wants to slough off the importance of that meeting and get into a personality issue because he has a problem with me. That’s sad. We’re elected to do a job. The bottom line is there was a problem and I brought it forward. I’m not going to stick my head in the sand and wait for Councilor Martin to be ready.

- Harassing the legitimate operations of the methadone clinic. Seemingly on the complaints of one connected Dave Daly. Who is suing the city. But for some reason heavily involved in reelection campaigns of sitting mayors.
- Pushing hard to dictate that the School Department move its administration offices downtown (to bolster spending in dive bars, presumably) then complaining when they take a retail space for their needs in serving parents and students.
- Voting to support Artie T, a nice sentiment but it is inappropriate for a sitting political body to weigh in on a private business’ affairs. Also, a useless waste of time, with a lot of political grandstanding and puffery. (Note: I was with the workers who wanted ATD back; I just think this was a waste of time for the Council.)
- Demanding judges enforce state gun law and minimum sentences because this totally is something within the jurisdiction of the City Council. (That was sarcasm.)
- Requesting report on ratio of low income vs market rate housing in downtown, ostensibly to start a discussion on stopping more affordable housing. Too many poor people downtown means not enough patrons for the wicked fake irish bars there.
- Putting a youth curfew ordinance back into place despite the Supreme Court striking much of these things down. Infamous comment from Rita about eleven year old kids at night on bikes running drugs.
- Citations. Citations. Citations. I think it had to be some sort of record of them this last year.
- Banning fireworks which are already illegal. Requesting a special police task force to enforce it. Of course, this is already done, says the police chief. And, IMHO this was a totally ineffective exercise, because last summer was just as bad as the previous. So, another we-did-something-see waste of time.
- A discussion to attract a hotel to downtown Lowell. Because the last one did so well, it had to be bought out by a nonprofit University…Oh, and can Dave Daly develop it? He wants to develop it! (Then, why can’t he just DO that without help, if it’s such a great idea? What does he want, for the City to guarantee a certain number of bookings and to pay him for them if they don’t materialize?)
- Moving the high school out of downtown to…somewhere. Because this is also totally in the jurisdiction of the City Council. You know, that School Building Authority has nothing much to say about it…ruining South Common by putting the high school there seems like a good idea, maybe?
- Way more money to market the city’s dive bars — I mean, its businesses. Well specifically its downtown businesses. Because the city doesn’t do any of that. Ever.
- Constant. Discussions. About. Mayoral. Portraits. ‘Nuff said.
- Torpedoing appointments for boards and commissions just for being married to people Rita Mercier doesn’t like. (This sort of shenanigans stopped when Bernie left and with the hiring of KMurph, of course, because KMurph would never appoint someone associated with one of those mean, mean bloggers.)
- Illegal fundraising from the floor for restoration of religious statuary. Insisting on moving the manger back to city property - but if the “Jewish people think a menorah is part of their tradition” they were welcome to have one on city property too. Nothing yet on whether atheists or Satanists would be given the same courtesy, as it hasn’t been tested…yet.

Not listed here are the many petty or small things this Council passed, that can be somewhat useful, albeit again, lacking large vision. This is just the stuff I remember or found in notes and blog posts that demonstrate the sort of bogged-down-in-minutia and useless, ineffective leadership that we’ve come to expect from this session of our City Council.

In all my trolling through the notes and posts of this past year, I didn’t really find anything to wow me, that jumped out at me as vision. There are some initiatives that are going along as planned, like taking the next step in designing a trolley system, but these predate the current Council and administration, so I don’t consider them as Big Vision items that this Council can take credit for. All I know is that we got about what I expected, with some really unintentionally hilarious memes along the way. Kids on bikes dealing drugs, and newcomers in our schools…oh my! Stop those panhandlers and bring in the captive audience of the School Dept to save our downtown businesses!

Anyway, depressing. You can’t really wonder why I decided my personal life (like my new job, commute, and my family) were deemed a little more important in the last year. However, we’re heading into 2015, and it will be a local election cycle…so, the stakes, they are higher now, and I am a taxpayer here, after all. I can’t promise anything, except that with the Christmas season over and with less need to make handmade holiday gifts on my train commute, I just might decide to do a little more typing.

December 23, 2014

LiL Christmas Column

by at 12:55 pm.

Full disclosure – in light of the Sun’s relinquishing of their Christmas Column crown, I asked a number of people for their ideas on what to give local notable folks for Christmas this year. This is what they came up with. A few are mine. If they are horrible and nasty, I claim nothing. Thanks to contributors Ken, Len, Barry, Denny, and Grinch! Couldn’t have done it without you.

For Rita Mercier – valium for her long flight to Cambodia, and snow on the manger for Christmas Eve.

Bill Martin – a return to his Sacred Heart roots.

Rodney Elliott – A stone wall to block any FOIA requests about how much vacation time he actually took at the EPA this last year, versus what he had banked.

Bill Samaras – A higher than 10th place finish in the next election, and some natural memory supplements so he can remember names.

John Leahy – a chance to redo his vote for mayor.

Corey Belanger – some actual, breathing patrons for his wicked shitty bah. More softball questions from the administration to ask the administration. Five golden vests.

Ed Kennedy – Quarters for the copier machine and the pay phone at Cappy’s.

Dan Rourke – A ticket to get off the “Tipa” train and to become a real boy.

Jim Milinazzo – Vanilla.

Kevin Murphy – What can you get a guy who will be receiving 80% of $180K for the rest of his life?

Mike McGovern – A lawnmower so he can maintain his own lawn.

Celene Gettings – Penmenship award for the hundreds of citations she’s written, and a one-year discount on ribbon from Michael’s.

Mike Geary – A starring role in a new reality TV show called, “The Mayor Whisperer.”

Conor Baldwin – An abacus and some tea leaves for when Bob Healy retires for real.

Jim Leary – A majority vote.

Steve Gendron – An introduction to the “young turk” Steve Gendron.

Dave Conway – Two tin cans and a string connected to Paul Georges, and the next mayor’s aide appointment.

Kim Scott – Fair hiring practices in the School Dept and beyond.

Connie Martin – BOGO for life

Kristin Ross-Sitcawich – To not be reappointed to the Housing Authority board. What a headache!

Dave Nangle – An E-ZPass for his commute between Seabrook NH and Beacon Hill.

Rady Mom – A crash course in finance from Tom Moses.

Golden – A conductor’s hat for the Tipa train.

WCAP Salvation Army Fund – Donations that don’t come from a politician’s campaign account.

Dave Daly – Immunity from any scrutiny by the Ethics Commission for being a chair of the Mayah’s reelection campaign while simultaneously suing the city over the methadone clinic.

Ray Boutin – Some time in a hot attic, a lifelong membership in Pi Lambda Phi, and a first class ticket on the Tipa train.

Bob Gignac - A few more jobs squeezed out of the tight budget at LHS for his friends.

Dick Howe – The banning of the term “blogfather.”

Gerry Nutter – Spell check, a pair of blockquotes, an editor, and lifetime membership to the Kool Kids club.

JMac and the Bear – Some relevancy.

WCAP – For the Lowell Five to forgive Sam’s debt so the signal doesn’t go down.

Anthes & McDonough – Separate checks and free refills on soda.

Ted Panos – A real Facebook account under his own name so he can stop trolling as his family business.

Campanini and Kendall Wallace – For Kendall to finally purchase the Sun so Campi can retire with the Wine Goddess and John Cox. For Kendall – for his bid to buy the Sun, as much leeway from a lending institution as Sam Poulton’s had.

The Sun Staff – Institutional memory so they can write next year’s Christmas Column.

July 25, 2014

Petulance Is Not Leadership

by at 6:18 am.

I know I’m just getting to this and it’s Friday, and I haven’t blogged much lately, and everything I want to write will make me sound like a broken record…because we have that kind of City Council…but I wanted to highlight one of the many violations of logic that our Council seems hell bent on committing.

This past Tuesday, one agenda item - a vote from the CM’s portion of the agenda, ” Vote-Authorize School Dept proceed under MGL c.30B for the lease of property for School Administration Offices” - provoked a long commentary from Belanger that defied sanity. Never mind that he’s in direct conflict of interest on this matter, since he’s hoping that maybe the relocated school dept employees eat in his ethnically-confused dive bar. But his hypocrisy was breathtaking. He was complaining (during a long, repetitive rant) because the school dept is also going to take one of the empty storefronts for their year-round parent interfacing office.

Wasn’t it this same city councilor who drove the push (I would say, unwisely tying the hands of the SD) to insist that the RFP for this relocation heavily favor a downtown location? Again, with the appearance of self interest, which I find blatant and gross (Franky D never did this crap when she was a Councilor). Wasn’t it he who, with his overly long speeches on the matter, made it clear that downtown was the only place acceptable to him?

Well he got his wish. The downtown location was chosen. Then on top of this, he’s been ranting about downtown vacancies (like this is a new thing) and closing businesses left and right? I get that we don’t want to fill dowtown with 100% nonprofit and government offices in its street level retail spaces. But for heaven’s sake, it’s not like a retail business trying to start downtown would find a dearth of spaces for rent.

I also find it ironic that, when it’s convenient or in his self interest, he’s fine with trying to find a way for the council to interfere with private business (the landlord, in this case). Oy.

Let’s Talk About Rules

Rules. Let’s pitch ‘em please. The number of times Rita suspended the rules for one reason or another on Tuesday night, it appears we don’t need them. And, can someone please, please tell me how it is the City Council can take a vote to support Arthur T Demoulas after a citizen petition in front of the council without an agenda item? I thought that was against the rules too. What should have happened (and correct me if I’m wrong please) is they should have put it on the agenda for two weeks from Tuesday. Do they think no one might want to speak on the issue given fair warning under Open Meeting Laws?

Now given the situation and its fluidity (the Market Basket board meets today) I suppose you could argue it was one of those “emergency responses” which is the end-around the OML. But was it? Was it really?

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?

May 23, 2014

CM Murphy Outmaneuvered On His Own Bill

by at 6:52 pm.

It’s like watching ping pong, only at one end of the table is the not very classy personality of Kevin Hayhurst (his facebook comments alone are enough to make you cringe, never mind the alleged assaults) and the other end is the city of Lowell.

So a temporary stay was issued today on the Hayhurst License Commission ruling by a superior court judge on a technicality. The problem? A bill got signed into law literally yesterday during the day, and the LC hearing was held after that, at night. That bill requires License Commissions to have five members, rendering our current-2-member LC not a quorum, and therefore its vote last night invalid.

Personally, I think the timing on this is fishy. Hayhurst’s lawyer had asked for a postponement on this hearing until yesterday…and right before the rescheduled hearing, on the same day, a bill gets signed into law which renders our 2-member License Commission a non-compliant board? Coincidences like that make me nervous.

But the real issue here is…I thought we were supposed to get a Beacon Hill insider when we hired Kevin Murphy? Someone who could sail in the seas of state laws and practices? Someone who would have seen this coming, especially since he is listed as the sponsor of this bill in the state House??

Even worse, this board went down to two members because Kevin Murphy’s own nephew had to step down since his uncle became the CM.

So let’s put this clearly: a board with KMurph’s own nephew predictably became a two person board when he took the City Manager job. He has failed thus far to appoint anyone to replace his nephew, which is bad enough by itself because two members could easily become one member, or someone might not be able to make a meeting due to an illness or something, and make the board a non-compliant board just as is. BUT! On top of that, a bill Kevin Murphy sponsored renders the two member board noncompliant. Clearly Murphy knew it had been passed, he might have had the fecking wherewithal to follow up on when it’d be signed.

I don’t think it’d be too much to ask for him to have addressed this in the five weeks he’s been at the helm of the city? Given that it was a predictable problem on BOTH fronts? It should have been one of the first things on his plate. He didn’t see that this might be a major issue facing the city? It’s not like he’s working solo - he’s foisting a ton of budgeting stuff onto temporary guru Healey, so…what the hell?? What is he waiting for? And if he, for some wackadoodle reason, had no way to make the appointment in the last few weeks, why didn’t he see the problem with the bill he sponsored in the House coming into effect and at least warn his Law Dept and License Commission, at the very least, so they could have postponed the entire meeting last night until such a time as they are compliant with the new law?

Bottom line: Kevin Murphy left his License Commissioners and Law Dept high and dry due to his neglecting the appointments he needs to be making. Now another hearing will have to be held once the Commission is more fully seated, wasting the prep time that both the LC and law dept very obviously engaged in ahead of last night.

And make no mistake, I think Kayhurst only got a temporary reprieve. The guy’s got two criminal cases pending against him as far as I know, and it’s obvious his people do NOT run a tight ship out there, given the ridiculous things they said in front of the Commission last night. But god, this makes the city look bad. Hayhurst is crowing all over facebook (and some of his supporters or employees or whatever are saying that people talking about the suspension can “go fucking die”). Murphy better fix this, fast. You just had your glitch for this mission. Now it’s time to do your job.

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.

May 4, 2014

On Free Speech and Serving the City

by at 7:42 am.

As of last week, former blogger Gerry Nutter had resigned his Election Commission post. In his letter, which he sent out to bloggers as well, he cites work and health concerns as the reason. The Lowell Sun Column (you can go find the link if you really want to read it) decided it warranted a mention (it probably did) and then went on to infer that the real reason might be that some Councilors were working behind the scenes to oust him, going to the new City Manager with complaints.

While Gerry and I don’t always agree on everything, I do believe him. One thing you can’t accuse Gerry of is deliberate dishonesty. I had an email conversation with him when he sent out the news, and he really does think he cannot give the Commission justice due to his other obligations to his health and job.

As to whether, prior to the resignation, certain city councilors did go to the City Manager in a coincidental, but not related bid to get him to resign or fire him, maybe they did. Maybe they just say they did. I don’t know. However, the two are explicitly unrelated, and as Gerry notes on Facebook, no one came to him with any issues, and he did have actual free speech rights to say what he thought about sitting City Councilors even as an Election Commissioner.

Now, for the record, I actually think that the Election Commission is one place where even if you can say something about elected officials or candidates, you probably shouldn’t. The appearance of neutrality and impartiality is important for those who oversee our democratic elections. You all know that I certainly sympathize with Gerry’s frustrations about this Council! But maybe discretion would have been the better part of valor…not because the City Councilors deserve to remain uncriticized, but because of a higher goal of preserving and protecting our elections.

However, some of these same councilors have made hay over members of boards other than Elections Commission saying things on Facebook or elsewhere. It’s like they want to shut up as many critics as possible, and it’s the ones which they have official say over that are the targets they can reach. Can’t shut up the bloggers? Well at least shut up people who are serving, volunteering their own time and effort, on Lowell boards and commissions!

I have an idea for how you can avoid such criticisms in the future…stop pursuing positions and issues which are blatantly ridiculous!

By the way, I suspect that the councilors in question will be much more unhappy with a Gerry Nutter totally unleashed to say what he really thinks about them. Just sayin’.

April 30, 2014

Gold Gold Comedy Gold…And, Rules? What Rules?

by at 12:13 am.

Part the First: Digging for Gold

So a Council meeting happened tonight. With so much chocolatey goodness I hardly know where to start! If you want an accurate, but straightforward and boring recap of the meeting, Dick’s already got his notes up. I’m not calling Dick boring, his write up is great, and so useful. But. BUT.

In cycling, you move your pedals forward for anything to happen. But, sometimes when you’re bored, and you don’t need to push yourself for a bit, you might flip your pedals the other way - while coasting down a hill, say. It makes this pleasant empty clicky-whizzing sound. But the Council’s backpedaling tonight was a sight to behold! I could almost see the furious weightless reverse motion of pedals moving through space and time but affecting so little. Breathtaking. Unchained. Glorious! Like going backwards on your bike pedals and realizing that actually, you’re producing sunshine and ice cream and puppies by the motion!

In an effort to showcase my on-the-spot razor wit, this post will be punctuated with my live tweets at various points, which will help illustrate the pure singing joy the evening brought me. Plus, I’m lazy. Many of the tweets will be out of sequence as I try to make some sort of salient narrative. Follow me after the clicky bit: (more…)

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