Left In Lowell

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March 19, 2014

WaPo Finds Lowell

by at 3:46 pm.

Nice little write up in the Lifestyle - Food section of the Washington Post website. I found it via Facebook. It serves up a taste of Little Cambodia!

Several locations are mentioned, which is really awesome. Let’s bring in the food adventurers! :)

LTC Public Input Meeting on Website

by at 1:34 pm.

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

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

Hope to see you there!!

March 18, 2014

I Forgot the Best!

by at 8:13 am.

I did have a video of Bernie’s so-called “impromptu” jokes at the end of the breakfast…I can’t believe I forgot to put it at the end. I was going to say, leave the best for last (to go with the worst for first) but instead, leave the best for the next day!

I must be half sleepwalking!

So without much more ado….heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere’s Bernie!

March 17, 2014

Yuks, and Yucks (Updated)

by at 1:29 pm.

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

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

It’s all on the flip: (more…)

March 13, 2014

Threads Episode With Bernie

by at 10:29 am.

Two days before Bernie Lynch rode off into the sunset, Threads (my LTC show) guest host Stacie Hargis moderated a roundtable interview with Bernie Lynch, along with Mimi Parseghian and Joe Smith, both active Lowell residents. The online version is in three parts; a retrospective look at Bernie’s tenure; a discussion about what Lowell might be facing in the near and middle-term future; and more general economic development issues. Here they are:

January 27, 2014

Rita Mercier’s True Motives

by at 8:40 pm.

You might recall that I posted a long, video-enriched post recently about last week’s meeting and the scuttling of one appointment, that of Salmira Mitchell, and the passage of the other two. At the time, Rita tried (via an illegal motion) to say she was for shutting down all appointments by the outgoing City Manager:

But then went on, after being told she couldn’t make a brand new motion, to propose tabling Mitchell’s appointment to the library board. That passed 5-4. Right afterwards, they passed the next two appointments, 9-0 and 8-1.

Now, given that Mercier stated on the floor that her reason for tabling/opposing appointments was general (the outgoing CM should not appoint) and then subsequently voting to allow the other two appointments requiring Council approval, the only conclusion that can be reached is what Dick Howe wrote - that this was the work of vindictive bullies. Because the very sweet and civic-minded Salmira is married to the sometimes-acerbic civic-minded blogger Jack Mitchell. (more…)

January 18, 2014

Budget, Smudgit

by at 12:31 pm.

So Jack put forth the notion that elements of the City Council could act like a strong mayor, and they could eyeball the provision that allows the mayor, and if not the mayor, the city council, to submit a budget to the state if the city manager cannot or will not. (Given that hiring a city manager is the damn job of the City Council in the first place, if they use this provision they should take 100% blame for getting into that situation.)

Reportedly, Warren Shaw took up the notion on his radio show today, stating that the council could do this budget because they have people like Rodney Elliot there, or something to that effect.

Let’s examine the clusterf**k that would be, shall we?

First, I’d love to hear from Groton on Elliott’s tenure there. I hear it was short. A couple of years is the timeframe I’ve heard. The job is in his official bio:

Prior to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, he served as the Administrative Assistant for the Town of Groton, Massachusetts, serving a three-member Board of Selectman. He was responsible for the operation and management of the Town’s $12 million budget.

Wonder if Elliott would be all right with us going to the folks in Groton and finding out just how he did there? The lowdown I hear generally is, not great. But, notwithstanding the somewhat speculative view on Groton, we have some track record here in Lowell to examine. Does anyone remember “across the board” Rodney? (Bold is mine.)

“If you voted for the budget, then you are responsible for the tax increase,” Elliott said, adding that he thinks further budget cuts should have been made.

He said, however, he did not have any suggestions for cuts.

Councilor Kevin Broderick said that simply saying that you didn’t vote for the budget and are therefore “off the hook,” is “not an option.”

During budget deliberations, Elliott suggested an across-the-board cut of 2.5 percent to every line item, which Broderick said is not feasible.

“We cannot just not pay 2.5 percent of our utility bills,” he said. “It doesn’t work. What are we going to do, not plow the streets?”

I can’t stress how much it disturbs me to think someone who has such a lack of fundamental knowledge of budgeting might come within 5 miles of the process. Before you even get to whether or not to cut, let’s review how local muni budgets actually work: a large portion of a city budget’s line items are not within the control of the city. How much we spend on schools has a minimum, for instance. Or our debt service for capital investments. So once you leave out all the non-discretionary items in the budget, a 2.5 reduction in total city funding turns into a much larger percent of the parts of the budget you can legally cut. Maybe police? Or fire? Plowing? I don’t know, because Elliott had no suggestions on where to cut.

And remember…Elliott made a lot of political hay over public safety issue last campaign season. So, which officer slots would he cut, I wonder? Does he think that’ll help public safety?

I don’t think it takes a genius to see the disaster Elliott and his ilk would make of our city budget. Think of how few City Councilors this term actually have the ability needed to make those huge line-by-line budget decisions! Nor should they have to. Which is not only an argument against Warren’s Shaw’s ridiculous assertion today on the radio, but also, against a strong mayor/Plan A charter in general.

January 12, 2014

And What a Review…

by at 10:36 am.

Dick Howe has his normal review of last week up on his blog. What a week… It never rains but it pours, eh?

From Dick:

There is now a theory making the rounds that the reason some councilors were so adamantly opposed to the executive session was because they feared that the manager would be able to win over some wavering councilors to support a contract extension in the less scrutinized and more deniable secret session. By forcing the debate to stay public, the wavering councilors would be less likely to jump ship. Whether that is true or not, it seems quite clear that Lynch planned to resign whether or not there was an executive session.

I’m with him, here. What I also find disingenuous about the “I’m for transparency, no really! why are you laughing?” crew on the Council forcing this discussion in open session is, employment and personnel issues for everyone else in the entirety of city government have to be in executive session.

Your employee came to you and asked you, can we please have a private moment to discuss my personnel issue? And they said, no, do it in open session. Think about this for a moment. Imagine you went into your boss’s office, and asked if you could discuss an issue you have around your employment. And your boss said, hold on a moment, and opened the door, and invited all your coworkers into the room, and then said, “go ahead, tell me what you need to tell me.” Yeah, that’s basically what the Council did. They forget that Lynch is their employee. This affords them oversight, yes, but it also means they should treat him with respect, as well.

The City Council basically acted like the ultimate Pointy Haired Boss.

With some of Lynch’s biggest critics now saying he has a “moral obligation” to stay and with the council taking up a motion on Tuesday to strip him of some of his powers from now until his departure, it would seem to make it easy for him to say “no thanks” to the request to stay. But he might.

If he does, it’ll be a pretty big sacrifice on his part. He could live, stress-free, from March 10th on, or stay on and slog through some of the hardest jobs of a CM’s year (the budget process, but with no CFO, even worse), which means, more battles on the Council floor, more time for the Sun to smack him around, more time for key employees to move on because of the uncertainty of who will be the top boss after Lynch leaves. I’d be looking at employment elsewhere if I were working for the city!

Stacie Hargis, a council candidate last year, announced that she would be leaving the Merrimack Valley Small Business Center to become an Assistant Professor of Business at Middlesex Community College.

Congrats, Stacie! I’m sure you will be a stellar professor, you have the gift of sharing ideas and opening minds in abundance.

Well, that’s that. Time to pick up the proverbial pieces and fix this mess we’re in. It’s totally fixable…if we can hire a professional with experience to helm city government rather than a politician. There is hope on that score, but we need to pressure the Council to refrain from making up their mind prior to receiving resumes and hearing interviews.

Edit: I forgot to mention, I’m following Jack’s lead, and shutting off comments here so you can go comment on the original post.

January 11, 2014

Blogorama!

by at 4:22 pm.

I was going to write this post a while back, but I was still on my hiatus, and then the rabbit pellets hit the proverbial fan in rapid succession this last week with all the breaking news about the city admin, and I never got to it.

So I would like to backtrack and say GUESS WHAT? JACK GOT HIS OWN BLOG! You can find him here, with quite a few posts under his belt. This latest one you do need to read, though, about three motions which will be on Tuesday night’s agenda:

If the Council has faith in Lynch to deliver a budget, why the handcuffs in other areas of the executive’s domain? The Council can’t have half way faith in the person running things, any more than they can cherry pick which parts of the CMR & MGL they think are convenient for their petty political agenda.

I can’t stress enough how newcomers Belanger and Rourke have been disappointingly predictable. And I think we all know who’s tying whose shoes.

December 8, 2013

What Is a Source, Among Friends?

by at 2:08 pm.

The ol’ paper blog - it ain’t what it used to be. (Or maybe, it’s more of what it used to be? When was the last time the Sun’s editor and cub reporter had any integrity, anyway? Five years? More?)

In the so-called Lowell Sun Column today, was this little tidbit. “Several sources have told The Column the LHA leadership has discussed proposing to Lynch that he appoint local blogger Jack Mitchell…”

Dick already brought this up, and I’ll link to him, if you want the link to the “Column,” he has it. Dick also posts this email exchange Jack and Lyle had, which Jack posted on Facebook.

LYLE: Hi Jack, I hope all is well. Have you applied for appointment to the Lowell Housing Authority board? Have any LHA employees reached out to you to encourage you to apply for a position on the LHA board? Thanks for your time.

JACK: Lyle, I’ll answer, if you tell me if you are applying to be the next Mayor’s Aide.

LYLE: Ha, that’s an easy question. No, I am not. I look forward to your answers.

JACK: No & No. I’ve discussed the topic of the LHA and the positions on the Commission with several Lowellians over the course of many months, intermittently. But, not directly about a pending position opening or recently. Give my best to Rodney, next time you guys have lunch. Thank you in advance.

The Column has long been a place where regular rules for truthful reporting have been suspended. The sort of sloppy work that would you kicked the hell out of journalism school are practiced regularly, there. In a real legitimate article, one’s “several sources” have to be corroborated. The sources themselves have to be credible, to begin with. A random or unexamined “They” from “That’s what they say!” is not acceptable. But in the Column, it’s all you need. Especially if it can be used to attack people you hate with a source of heat so strong you could power the whole of US for 20 years. Now, who were their sources? Obviously I don’t know for sure. But since the Sun plays this game, so can I, but with more to back myself up.

First, I wonder about their “several.” You remember how Dick Cheney’s office leaked information about WMD, then later on a Sunday news program, quoted that article to gain legitimacy for his war? “Several sources” for a rumor, like as not, come from a single source. A real reporter tries to ferret out if this is the case. If three people tell you something, but those three people got their information from one single person, that is not several sources - it’s one source. As a reporter, one should be tracing down the rumor mill to its source, and then talk to that source and assess the legitimacy from there.

Secondarily, the quality of the source matters. Obviously Lynch and his people don’t spread rumors like this, and in fact Lynch stated what inquiries he’d gotten for the position outright. Jack flat out said, no, this isn’t the case. Unless you have proof of them lying…well. And the Column itself says the LHA director declined to say anything on the matter. So, who is the source? Some disgruntled someone in City Hall who saw Jack there, maybe paying a bill or whatever, and assumed he must have met with Lynch, and that meeting had to have been about the LHA? Maybe even something more tenuous than that? Maybe made up from nothing? Who can say. But I can tell you this - it’s not someone in the position to know. It can’t really be anyone who isn’t using a whole lot of assumption and conjecture, or who isn’t flat out lying. The job of a real reporter is to find that out first, before writing something that borders on libel. (They skirt this by the metaphorical use of “that’s what they say, anyway!” but it’s window dressing, to say it nicely. Or what do they call that skim coat on a tank of sewage? Yeah, that.)

I break all this down not to defend Jack - he can do that himself, and honestly, this is such a shoddy attack that it’s hardly worth the paper it’s printed on. I do this to point out the larger problems with this kind of “journalism” which isn’t journalism. We’ve all known for a long time how compromised, journalistically, the Lowell Sun actually is. And how shoddy the reporting even in legitimate news articles - which the Column isn’t. The Sun is slouching to irrelevance, and they know it, and they figure to bolster the gravy train for their buds on their way down. And Campy does seem to love to pretend he’s playing in the big leagues.

Ahead of the rumored demise of its print edition (I read the rumor on Facebook! It’s sourced! See what I did there?), the Lowell Sun is desperately trying to stay in the game - not the news game, no, that’s hard work. But the political game, where they relentlessly and factlessly attack the City Manager. They smell blood in the water with this latest election, you see. They also can count the votes (they were the ones to publish them after all) and see that the CM might actually survive this Council with a new contract, so muddying the water now is their only hope. Turn some of the “lean yes” Councilors to consider “no” on a new contract. The Blog of Record has long since lost its main “raison d’etre”…reporting the news…not creating it.


On another note, we wanted to thank a longtime best friend of the blog, Michael Hayden, for his concern on our short absence. This was sent to me by a third party:

Wow could we be so lucky as to have the Queen of Mean and her liberal blog gone a way or is this just a tactic to get her buddy Liberal know it all Jack Mitchell a board position ( LHA ) what ever the reason I for one am very glad they are gone All they ever did was spread super liberal ideas and call everyone who did not agree with them stupid See ya

Who knew that such loving and concerned citizens of our fair city would be so upset at our short hiatus? I mean, I can’t even have a very busy holiday (both preparing for and recuperating from), alongside a vicious and ongoing stiff neck which makes prolonged typing quite unpleasant, coupled with a few slow news weeks, without such notable expressions of dismay? Not to mention other projects I’ve been working on? It warms the cockles of my heart, this holiday season, to know we have such dear friends looking out for us.

Cheers, folks, we’re not going anywhere. Notwithstanding the aneurism that might give Mr. Hayden.

PS: that other project I mentioned? I really ought to post more of the YouTube segments here, but I forget. Here’s our recent segment from the LTC show “Threads” where we went to the Brush Art Gallery - unfortunately, you need to put up with me as interviewer, normally I am behind the camera, which I much prefer!

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