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Left In Lowell » School Committee

Left In Lowell

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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?

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.

April 16, 2014

Game of Postpones

by at 10:39 am.

Who here is a fan of the HBO series, Game of Thrones? The world of the books/series revolves around the utter instability and chaos, war, and madness that is brought about by Westeros’ sudden and not-quite-accidental regime change. King Baratheon might not have been the smartest or the best king ever, but his demise heralds the end of the relative peace of the Seven Kingdoms, with his queen’s non-Baratheon bastard children vying with other contenders for the Iron Throne, and the whole countryside erupting in war. Other families take advantage of the chaos to carve out and reclaim their little kingdoms which had been absorbed long ago. Still others just like to party by judicious use of castration and torture, mostly for fun.

Well, folks, take away the castration and violence (but not the drinking) and you have Lowell city politics right now.

Every decision made in the last seven years by past City Councils and the former CM is up for grabs, apparently. No matter how stringent the public involvement in deciding on plans for various projects in the city, be that the very preliminary, not-our-goddamned-decision high school reno or rebuild, or the much-lauded plans for the historic South Common, or any Master Plan element of bike paths or city street realignment or other projects already in the works.

I wouldn’t be surprised at this point if this City Council wanted a redo on the Appleton Mill artist lofts or the Early garage. I mean, hey, we could tear down or repurpose those things and hand them over to your buddies, right?

Supposedly, we have high level experts on the Council now on economic development. What I want to know, is how running a dive bar makes one qualified to build a high school? Or decide that street parking should have less turnover by not enforcing the meters? To me, every word that comes out of Corey Belanger’s mouth showcases a total and absolute lack of understanding of economic development and municipal management. Far be it for experts to have an opinion; Corey is on the job now, so Lowell is gonna make a turnaround. A renaissance. All of the downtown vacancies will be filled by the time his first term is over!

Or, wait. Businesses - small ones, and large ones - like stability when they make their business decisions. They like to know that the plans that were carefully made by transparent and open means, by a crew of amazing (now mostly fled) Planning and Development officials, will be carried out in a timely fashion. It’s no big secret that a lot of plans in Lowell were on hold during the Cox era and were put back on the front burner by the Lynch administration. Now, we’re going to reverse years worth of planning, public participation, and decision making because Corey Belanger wasn’t fucking paying attention during all of that?

Plans can change. Don’t get me wrong. We should be flexible. And I do not have a horse in the very silly race about the high school staying in or moving from downtown. There are merits on both sides. However, my understanding of the process as outlined by a state agency called Massachusetts School Building Authority is that they are the entity that gets to weigh all the factors. What the local idiots on Council can do, by waffling, is take us off the shortlist, which we cannot afford. The high school is in need of either rebuilding or renovating, soon. And “soon” is relative, since getting on the MSBA’s short list means it’ll still take years to go through final decision making. And oh yeah, they, not us, make that final determination about renovation vs. building a new building elsewhere. Based - GASP! - NOT on whatever private developer wants to build something (god knows what, they have yet to say) on the existing high school site, BUT…based on what is best for the students and their education.

I know, shocking.

So who wins in this Game of Postpones? Well, not the students, if Corey Belanger gets his way as an apparently honorary member of the School Committee and of the MSBA. PS - apparently, Mistah Mayah also has an extremely short memory, since all of this planning and participation and discussion happened while he was a City Councilor. So, either he’s dumb and doesn’t remember, or he never really paid any attention to what was going on in the city for the last seven years. Neither explanation is encouraging.

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…)

February 25, 2014

BotW: Take Two, But Later

by at 12:45 pm.

Sorry for the late post. This meeting snuck up on me! Well, not really, but…

Any picks from last week are carrying over to this week for agenda items which are from last week’s cancelled meeting. I’ve marked them in red. Any other item is still up for grabs! One guess per person, one per each item, and the less likely the item appears to be blowup material, the bigger the prize. Cthuhlu is safely out of my house and in joe from lowell’s hands, so I can stop watching my back, and I’m working on the next prize.

Here is the agenda as it stands for tonight (red items are already taken):

1.1 Citations - Jack Trottier and Paul Sickinger, Seniors at Tyngsboro High School, for their community service work in collaboration with the Lowell Fire Department to collect winter coats for the homeless and those in need. 

Citation - Arnaldo and Carmen Silva in recognition of new business, Sao Miquel Restaurant.

2.1 Minutes of City Council Meeting February 11th, for acceptance.

3.1 Communication – Paid vacation and sick leave from 1/1/2010 – 2/12/2014. 

Communication - Paid vacation and sick leave email request. (original motion) 

Communication - FY 2014 Audit.

4.1 National Grid/Verizon NE – Request pole location at 59 South Whipple St.

5.1 Communication Summary

Motion Responses

(A) Motion Response - ShotSpotter
(B) Motion Response - Properly mark parking spaces on Dublin Street as parking for COA employees only
(C) Motion Response - Update on redevelopment of the Rialto Building
(D) Motion Response - Kearney Square Bridge Update
(E) Motion Response - MSBA Claims


(F) Informational - MCC Flier - Lowell Crit Infrastr Forum of 2-24-14
(G) Informational - Resignation Letter
(H) Informational - Net School Spending

5.2 Communication-Accept Resignation of Troix Bettencourt (Hunger/Homeless Comm)
5.3 Communication - Mgr. Out of State Travel (1) DPD.

6.1 Vote-Authorize City Manager Execute Third Amendment to LDA with Trinity Hamilton Partnership
6.2 Vote-Transfer $2M from Chapter 17 account to School Dept

7.1 Ordinance-Quarterly Traffic (Feb)

8.1 Zoning SC 02-25-14.
8.2 Wire Insp. - National Grid - Electrical Main installation on Industrial Avenue and Stevens Street. 

9.1 Claims (3) claim for property damage.


10.1 C. Leahy – Req. Rules SC consider as a recommendation that the Mayor’s portrait be completed within the first 3 months of his or her inauguration.
10.2 C. Leahy - Req. City Mgr. provide update regarding the Methadone Clinic site on Steadman St.
10.3 C. Leahy/C. Samaras - Req. City Mgr. discuss plans to address the School Budget shortfall prior to his departure.
10.4 C. Leahy/M. Elliott - Req. City Mgr. have proper Dept. Heads (City and School) involved with snow removal meet with Municipal Facilities SC to discuss snow removal.
10.5 C. Kennedy – Req. City Council and City Mgr. discuss the letter dated January 31, 2014 from the Mass. Commission of Elementary and Secondary Education regarding School Budget shortfall.
10.6 C. Kennedy/C. Leahy – Req. Mayor create a City Council SC dedicated to working with merchants and property owners to enhance and improve the commercial environment in the Central Business District.
10.7 C. Kennedy - Req. City Mgr. instruct the DPW Commissioner create an improved plan for snow removal in the Central Business District.
10.8 C. Kennedy - Req. City Mgr. and Acting City Mgr. begin the process of hiring a CFO to continue to formulate the City Budget until a permanent CFO is hired.
10.9 C. Kennedy - Req. City Mgr. explain why the City Administration and the Health Dept. chose not to undertake an RFP process for the City ambulance contract.
10.1 C. Mercier - Req. City Mgr. have proper department install 2 signs (No Parking Here To Corner) at both corners of Roper St. and Rockingham St.
10.11 C. Mercier - Req. permission to discuss and question snow removal and parking issues on Roper St. and adress public safety issues.
10.12 M. Elliott – Req. City Council discuss setting up a joint Ad Hoc SC with City Council/School Committee to initiate discussion of high school and facility assessment report.
10.13 M. Elliott – Req. City Council discuss making Galligan Rd. a one way street.
10.14 M. Elliott - Req. City Council discuss public participation process for the location of the recycling center.
11.1 Executive Session to discuss and release minutes of Executive Session meeting on January 21, 2014 and any other minutes that should be designated to be made public from executive sessions.
11.2 Executive Session regarding litigation report, public discussion of which could have a detrimental effect on the City’s position.

February 20, 2014

A Lesson For Rodney On Reserves

by at 12:22 am.

I wanted to take a moment to teach our new Mayor some things he already ought to know about the city’s money reserves, about saving taxpayer dollars, and proper budgeting. Since he thinks he knows better than a professional city manager who has taken us from negative $4.5M in reserves to a cozy but not complete positive, and all of that negative drawdown of free cash and then some happened on Rodney’s watch during the Cox years, I figured maybe he just doesn’t really understand budgets. I mean, he claims to all the time, dubbing himself a fiscal watchdog, but every time he opens his mouth, he belies this supposed expertise.

I hope he finds this primer informative! I certainly look forward to his better understanding showing itself in future discussions. Click to read more: (more…)

February 19, 2014

Net School Bullshit

by at 8:14 pm.

I’m watching the School Committee meeting, where Conway had a motion about the net school spending deficit, and of course Rodney had to have his say, stepping off the podium to foam at the mouth (I’m only slightly exaggerating). In fact, he claims that all this money being socked away into the rainy day fund was overly excessive and we should have been putting money towards the schools!

He wants to claim this net school spending problem lies at the feet of the last Mayor and Bernie Lynch. Oh, how quickly we forget (bold mine):

UPDATED: 10/17/2011 10:31:02 AM EDT
The councilor said his proposal still leaves $500,000 for Lynch to spend on other pressing needs.

Councilor Patrick Murphy has filed a motion requesting Lynch consider the city’s adopted strategic and fiscal management goals for property-tax relief, as well as net school spending, minimum reserves and snow-and-ice removal budgeting when deciding how to use the additional local aid.

Murphy said it is difficult to determine the exact amount of funding that should go toward limiting the increase in property taxes before the city determines its other financial needs, but he believes tax relief should be a “significant part” of any plan Lynch devises for using the local-aid money.

Putting money toward snow-and-ice budgeting will reduce the size of the snow-and-ice deficit for the next budget cycle, and placing some of the funding in the city’s reserves would boost the city’s long-term fiscal health, he said.

“One thing listed as a way to boost our bond rating was putting aside some reserves,” Murphy said.

Councilor Rodney Elliott, chairman of the council’s finance subcommittee, last week said he would like Lynch to put all $1.5 million toward reducing the planned tax increase because taxpayers are struggling to pay their bills. Elliott was the lone councilor to vote against the budget because of the tax increases it included.

Lynch told The Sun last week he would like to use “several hundred thousand dollars” to reduce the planned tax hike, but he is reluctant to use all of the new state funding for tax relief because of the one-time nature of the funds and other needs in the city.


The council voted last week to approve Elliott’s motion asking Lynch to develop a plan to put potential savings from any health-care agreement he works out with the city’s unions toward reducing property taxes.

Lynch said he is negotiating with city unions and hopes to reach a health-care agreement with them by mid-December to reduce the city’s health-care spending next fiscal year.

That negotiation with city unions on health care produced the savings that was looked for. I have yet to find the article where Rodney complains about putting that money into tax breaks, and not towards net school spending.

February 17, 2014

BotW: Zombie Portrait Edition

by at 10:17 am.

So the first prize is done, and the winner from last week has picked her prize out so I will be starting on it forthwith, but, there’s a chance to win every week! If you made it through last week’s marathon Council meeting…well, you are a trooper. Hopefully you had the cool beverage of your choice to keep you company.

We have some weird ones this week - the mayoral portrait issue is back, in an unfathomable motion to require that the mayor’s portrait be completed within the first three months of a term. Huh?

Of course, the school budget thing is back. We’ll be hearing about this for weeks. Apparently, some people think it’s Bernie’s “audit letter” which is patently absurd, but then again, absurd is the name of the game…funny, these asshats were never so concerned about some *decades* of past school net funding shortfalls. I’d be surprised at the hypocrisy but, who’m I kidding?

So, same rules as always. One guess per person, one person per item, and the more obscure or surprising the Blowup is the bigger the prize. Discuss!

1.1 Citations - Jack Trottier and Paul Sickinger, Seniors at Tyngsboro High School, for their community service work in collaboration with the Lowell Fire Department to collect winter coats for the homeless and those in need.

2.1 Minutes of City Council Meeting February 11th, for acceptance.

3.1 Communication – Paid vacation and sick leave from 1/1/2010 – 2/12/2014.

4.1 National Grid/Verizon NE – Request pole location at 59 South Whipple St.

5.1 Communication Summary 

Motion Responses 

(A) Motion Response - ShotSpotter 


(B) Informational - MCC Flier - Lowell Crit Infrastr Forum of 2-24-14 
(C) Informational - Resignation Letter 

5.2 Communication-Accept Resignation of Troix Bettencourt (Hunger/Homeless Comm)

6.1 Economic Development SC 02-18-14.
6.2 Wire Insp. - National Grid - Electrical Main installation on Industrial Avenue and Stevens Street. 

7.1 Claims (1) claim for property damage.

8.1 C. Leahy – Req. Rules SC consider as a recommendation that the Mayor’s portrait be completed within the first 3 months of his or her inauguration.
8.2 C. Kennedy – Req. City Council and City Mgr. discuss the letter dated January 31, 2014 from the Mass. Commission of Elementary and Secondary Education regarding School Budget shortfall.
8.3 C. Kennedy/C. Leahy – Req. Mayor create a City Council SC dedicated to working with merchants and property owners to enhance and improve the commercial environment in the Central Business District.
8.4 M. Elliott – Req. City Council discuss setting up a joint Ad Hoc SC with City Council/School Committee to initiate discussion of high school and facility assessment report.
8.5 M. Elliott – Req. City Council discuss making Galligan Rd. a one way street.

9.1 Executive Session to discuss and release minutes of Executive Session meeting on January 21, 2014 and any other minutes that should be designated to be made public from executive sessions.
9.2 Executive Session regarding litigation report, public discussion of which could have a detrimental effect on the City’s position.
10 Time for meeting to stand adjourned.

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