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Left In Lowell » MA politics

Left In Lowell

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

2013 Candidate Questionnaire Responses!

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…)

November 19, 2013

Piece of the Pie [Updated]

by at 4:51 pm.

Update: This has passed the Senate and heads for the state House! Cue the gloom and doom conservatives, or, if you are a realist, cue the celebrations for a stronger economy for all. This bill includes increases in the tipped worker minimum wage.

There’s a reason Massachusetts has a strong economy compared to much of the country. We care more about workers, we care about education, and we want to make sure everyone gets a piece of the growth pie, not just the wealthy.

Today, the state Senate debates raising the minimum wage (as well as considering an amendment to include tipped workers in the increase) and indexing it to inflation.

Here’s why this is a no-brainer:

The top income earners are doing really, really well. While nationwide, the unemployment rate stagnates, and wages adjusted for inflation have gone down over the decades, rich people are doing fabulously great. Many companies are seeing record profits, and the CEO-to-worker pay gap has never been wider. We’re at crazy pre-1929-crash levels. This article on BMG highlights the problem with our minimum wage.

Raising the minimum does not destroy an economy. In fact, in this country, in our years of greatest economic domination in the world, workers at the bottom could live, pay for food and shelter, and raise families. This is not true any more, even in MA, which has a higher minimum wage than the federal level.

Putting money into the hands of the people who have the most need to spend only helps the economy, by creating demand for more widgets, which in turn increases profit. It’s why Henry Ford paid his workers well - if they could afford his cars, he would sell more cars. We seem to have totally forgotten this simple economic principle post-Reagan.

The minimum wage will likely have zero effect on my personal household income. We’re not in the bottom 20th percentile. But a better economy and more demand, and in turn, more tax revenue and more money for our schools, services, and infrastructure, certainly does make us all stronger, from the 1% on downward.

Since the state Senate is debating this today, I strongly suggest you register your views with our state Senator Eileen Donoghue. PS - we’d be INSANE not to include the wages of tipped workers, who have been stuck at a disgusting $2.63 since 1999.

We’re better than that in this state. We’ve shown the world how to prosper - our economy is already better than most states, our unemployment lower, and our wages higher. Isn’t it time to make sure that a minimum wage and the closely-related low wages (which will also adjust themselves accordingly) are wages that don’t force families to starve or go on public assistance? Isn’t it time for the government to stop subsidizing WalMart and other big companies like them with our tax dollars and social safety net?

You can call Senator Donoghue at 617-722-1630. Now is your chance! Time once again for Massachusetts to lead the way!

November 12, 2013

Going Solar: A Massachusetts Journey

by at 9:11 am.

(What follows is a very long, comprehensive post filled to the brim with everything I’ve learned about going solar. Our installation is now feeding green energy into the grid, I obsess about cloudy days, and I’m looking forward to our new investment paying us back in both money, and in knowing we’re contributing a great deal towards a green future.)

The flurry of activity in and around my homestead during two days in the week of October 7th was very disturbing to my poor dogs, but exciting for us. After a journey of more than five years in researching and planning (more on that in a bit) the contractors we hired, NuWatt Energy Inc, were on our roof installing our 4.16kWh solar electric system. A system that, it is estimated, will be providing around 80% of our current electricity usage.

Why did it take us so long, and how did we finally decide on the path we did? The answer to that, I’m hoping, will give other people a shortcut to the knowledge we got the hard way, and give you several paths to solar for your own home or business if you think you’ve got the roof for it. (more…)

November 10, 2013

Voter Preregistration, DUH!

by at 11:03 am.

When it comes to voters’ rights, we have all heard that in many (often regressive) states, young people, women, and minorities are finding it harder to vote. Whether that’s because of voter ID laws so strict as to cause married women not to pass the legal muster (because they have changed their names, and because their state requires their maiden name on a license not a middle name, which they might have used to register to vote), or getting rid of laws intended to allow college students to vote in the state which they’re attending college, we all know - Republicans seem to side on making it harder to vote, under the guise of preventing practically non-existent voter fraud. And Republicans in states previously subject to the Voter Rights Act are proving why that Act was still so sadly, utterly relevant.

These efforts have attracted the attention of this amazing 12-year-old in North Carolina. Her immediate concern? The dissolution in NC of a voter preregistration law, which allowed high school students aged 16 and up to preregister to vote. Since your 16 and 17 year olds are still firmly in high school (hopefully), you can have voter drives and more impressive educational outreach while they are still young, increasing eventual participation at age 18 and beyond. (This is the argument behind the UTEC’s “Vote 17″ movement, to help form the habits of voting early in local elections to increase participation for a lifetime.)

Now that you’ve watched that, think about this: We don’t have youth voter preregistration in Massachusetts. Why not? We’re a progressive state that likes to talk about how great we are with enfranchising voters, but we’re not on the list of states that do this. (We can also talk about our lack of same-day registration, and some other voter enfranchisement laws we could pass to live up to our “progressive” moniker.)

Talk about brain-dead simple things we could do to help young voters get excited to vote. Why, why does Massachusetts not have this sort of law in place? According to this Globe article, it was proposed this year (and in a past session as well, passing the House). It appears that a final bill about voting out of the Joint Committee on Election Laws excludes preregistration. Why our House can pass such a common sense law but it gets stripped out when the Senate gets involved is beyond me.

This would be a great issue on which UTEC could to use its considerable experience with Vote 17…and if they could get youth orgs in other cities and towns on board, imagine what they could do for the 2014 session! We need to lobby our own state Senator Eileen Donoghue to work on this issue on behalf of the future voters of our state!

(Some relevant history on pre-reg bills in the MA legislature: “Why take baby steps for election modernization when we need a giant leap?”, about the Joint Committee on Election laws’ final voting bill in Sept in which “…conspicuously missing are provisions to require post election audits and pre-registration for 16 year olds, two reforms passed by the full House in 2011-2012″…

and “SCOTUS may be rolling back voting rights, but…” about this summer’s lobbying efforts for voting rights, including preregistration.)

November 7, 2013

AtB: Post Election Edition

by at 12:37 pm.

(AtB is a designation I just made up, short for Around the Blogs. I’ve made a new category for it as well.)

Some great post-election blog posts you don’t want to miss, if you haven’t seen them. Let’s start with the blogfather, shall we?

Election by the numbers: Dick is posting a series looking at the precinct by precinct turnout. He starts with the post, “Election day gold, silver and bronze“.

This post looks at which candidates finished first, second or third in each of the city’s 33 precincts. The first entry (“1-1″) identifies the ward and precinct. That’s followed by the last name of the candidate who finished first along with that candidate’s vote total within the precinct. The same information is repeated for the second and third place finishers. At the end of each line, the name of the polling place for that precinct is listed. At the very end of the post, I’ll summarize the results:

He also has posted a second in the series, “Precinct by precinct turnout: 2011 v 2013.”

In the 2011 city election, just 9946 people voted. In the 2013 election, that number rose 16% to 11581, an increase of 1635 voters. The following table shows where those additional votes came from

The numbers by precinct and percent increase are quite interesting.

We also have some musings on turnout and winning from kad barma (with some strong words):

inevitably, those who backed losers and are coincidentally frustrated by the identities of the winners are agonizing over the low turnout and teasing themselves with dreams of the fruits of an engaged populace, but it would be worthwhile for such folks to remember that bigger sample sizes tend merely to dial in the sigmas

Greg at the New Englander uses a lot of mathy terms and stuff to look at the results:

There were 71,502 total votes cast in yesterday’s City Council election. With 11,581 unique voters doing the casting, that means the average person voted for 6.17 candidates.

Assume a bell-shaped, normal distribution. Imagine you could insert a candidate into the race with completely random traits, name recognition, likability, etc.

He then goes on to look at the statistical changes chances of surpassing the various candidates.

Chris of the excellent new blog Learning Lowell has an election wrap up post with some observations, “End of an (Election) Season.”

Secondly, buried in a Sun story with more on-the-street interviews is one voter’s perspective that his friends don’t vote because they don’t know who to vote for–there’s no (D) or (R) next to their name. This is something that I haven’t experienced before, as every city I’ve lived in has had partisan elections.

So go check ‘em out. It’s getting harder and harder to keep up with all the blogging in Lowell (even with the loss of Nutter). I like to say an embarrassment of riches. I’ve seen a lot of political bloggers come and go in the state of Massachusetts (we used to be a tight-knit set, meeting occasionally and doing stuff together!) and we lost a lot of them over the years, but in Lowell, most of the bloggers have stuck around. Either we’re a dedicated crew, or maybe just gluttons for punishment. I think this only bodes well for Lowell’s future!

October 13, 2013

Double the Vote!

by at 9:55 am.

 photo 1382938_519984554759260_1508289411_n_zps52e89aac.jpg

“Sometimes I question my belief that reporting on all the crime will move the city forward, but man that’s awfully low turnout in the areas with the most crime… What’s the best way for a reporter to show that voting can help fight crime just as much as calling police?”– Rob Mills (Lowell Sun Police Reporter) on Jack’s facebook 10.12.13.

I am one of those that believes that more people participate in local elections the better chances we have in addressing social and economic issues that impact our City. If only a small minority votes and selects the leadership, the elected officials are primarily responsible to those who elected them.

How we can come up with solutions to crime, dirty streets, economic development challenges, quality schools, and housing code violations when a few evaluate the situation and make decisions for the rest?

Yes, I guess I am one of those that believes that not only I must exercise my civic duty but I must help my neighbor learn to exercise hers. I cannot do it by myself, I do need my village.

I know I a preaching to the choir here on LiL but I am committed to talking municipal election with 5 people who I know did not vote and convince them that understanding the issues, learning about the candidates and voting on November 5th will empower them and improve their quality of life.

I hope some of you join me in this effort and let’s Double the Vote.

October 6, 2013

Back To The Future?

by at 10:25 am.

Gerry Nutter laid it out, by the numbers. (I’ll provide graphs, below the fold.)

Additionally, during those years that City Manager / Administration proposed and the City Council approved the use of about $17.87 million in one time money in Free Cash, nearly $6 million per year to sustain spending levels as opposed to making necessary cuts.All while being supported by the Editor at the SUN.

In October 2006 after removing that City Manager and with the appointment of a new CFO the City discovered that the budget that was now 1/3rd under way, was rife with miscalculations. Free cash to pay for services was estimated to be $3.5 million but in the end it was -$2.2 million, a difference of $5.7 million. Other local receipts were over estimated by about $2 million. The FY06 budget ran out of money for utility bills and they were moved into FY07 for payment making the already inadequate utility account doubly so

That is all fact, it supports and highlights the need for professional management along with a strong balanced council. Combined with the positive numbers I showed last week highlighting the upward direction the city is heading, why is this election being focused on stupid, petty garbage like OLD vs. New Lowell.

This week’s “The Column” opted to be cute by half with this treatment.

MONTHS AGO, outgoing Mayor Patrick Murphy held an event at The Old Court. Those who attended, including one veteran politician, observed that Murphy packed the room with young, exuberant 20-somethings whose apparent desire to get involved in politics signaled a “new Lowell,” an awakening of sorts.

I’ve heard the WCAP ‘infomercial’ try to lay the coining of this meme at the feet of Dick Howe, Jr. Of course, JMac only looks in the mirror, so he really won’t know where the phrasing comes from. Gerry Nutter puts it on an attention seeking local media, which includes us ‘big mouthed bloggers.’ I concur. The ‘new/old’ meme has been floating around for several years now. It spun off the chatter about ‘blow ins & grow ins,’ etc. It’s clear, from the way The Column above sidesteps it, that they didn’t do their homework. But, opted, rather, to parrot JMac’s empty headed contortion. JMac & Campi come up short. Funny, in my mind, was the word choice, ” veteran politician,” by Campi. Who hates Dick, Jr. only a little less than he hates Kendall Wallace, to the point Campi will only admit the existence of Dick’s Blog, if he absolutely has to.

Dick, btw, has given witness to Gerry Nutter’s framing of the corporate; desperate to survive, via, bargain basement fire sale journalistic ethics; local media:

In his Sunday Notes today, Gerry Nutter says that all the negativity about city government coming from the Sun and WCAP is designed to suppress voter turnout on November 5. I agree.


About those City Finance graphs:

September 18, 2013

Reminder Council Candidates: Questionnaire Deadline Tomorrow

by at 7:04 pm.

I’ve gotten a number of returns on questionnaires, but I just wanted to remind candidates you have until 5pm tomorrow (Thursday) night to pass them in! You can download the Excel or Word files here.

It’s a good opportunity to tell voters where you stand so take advantage!

September 17, 2013

My take on the LHA Audit

by at 12:09 pm.

My firm contracts with many public agencies at every level of government. I typically am involved in the cost estimate portion of proposals. In that capacity I deal (somewhat tangentially) with some of the details in contracting with those agencies. In particular, we often have to make sure our proposed estimates are in specified formats and with assumptions outlined by the client. In addition to that we often have to take into consideration any requirements that will likely be needed for reporting along with any invoicing if we win the job. From this perspective, I have endeavored to comment here and there on blogs and in Facebook to add to the context of discussions there regarding the HUD audit of the LHA. Lynne asked if I could add to the discussion in a LiL post. In truth, there has been a lot intelligent commentary (and not so intelligent) so far and I was hoping this blog post wouldn’t ultimately be necessary. However, looking at the “emergency” meeting called for tonight and the constant flacking of the story by the sun, I think some further reasoned and non-hyperbolic reflection might be warranted.


August 30, 2013

Adult Temper Tantrums

by at 11:22 am.

I missed this a few days ago.

When do you know a politico has the maturity of a five year old and zero sense of humor about themselves? When they go on social media tempter tantrums of course!

Former Senator and professional political office shopper Scott Brown went on what Jessica Van Sack over at the Herald described as a Twitter blocking bender, again raising some serious doubts about his temperament. Hashtag #blockedbyscotto was born.

It all started once again with Brown posting something odd on Twitter.

— Scott P. Brown (@ScottBrownMA) August 26, 2013

Which prompted Ben Jacobs a reporter for the Daily Beast to reply:

I just met you and this is crazy. Here’s my number. So call me “@ScottBrownMA: Maybe”
— Ben Jacobs (@Bencjacobs) August 26, 2013

Brown then blocked Jacobs from his public campaign account.

But Brown didn’t stop there, he then started a blocking spree that included Adam Reilly and David Bernstein amongst many others. Seems that anyone who responded to Brown’s Maybe tweet got blocked.

The people getting blocked are mostly reporters in Massachusetts. You can check out the #blockedbyscotto fun yourself (including my late-to-the-game comment about the flap). When you’re blocked, you can’t even “follow” that person on Twitter any more.

So you can either assume he’s done running for anything, or at least anything in MA, and doesn’t care about burning his bridges and acting like a child, or else, some child really did get a hold of his Twitter account. Either way, a real class move. *shakes head*

By the way, this is the guy Councilor Rita Mercier thought was a better choice for Senator. Let’s not forget that!

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