Left In Lowell

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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.

November 16, 2013

Blogs Pan Panhandling Ordinance

by at 10:00 am.

I find it interesting, this disconnect between the strong opinions of the blogs and a number of the public (if my facebook feed is any indication), and Councilors (and councilor-to-be Belanger, who has not acquitted himself well in my opinion…I’m sad to be right about him) about panhandling.

Dick sums it up pretty nicely - he understands the impulse to push these people into the shadows (or into other parts of the city) but that doesn’t solve any problems nor does it show a blink of compassion for people who might, actually, be down on their luck, and for whom a $50 fine might be insurmountable punishment. The Capt has a new post against the ordinance as well, and remembers how the Council also voted to push out the visible homeless camps - which if the first hand accounts of many folks are true, merely served to push these people deeper and keeps them further from the help that was being offered to them prior. I personally know of a hidden camp of some sort near my house, though I don’t know if it’s currently occupied.

Kad has his say already, twice. He is a downtown resident and customer, and also quite on the other side of the aisle from me politically, so it’s not like we’re all in some sort of echo chamber. Kad and I have had some doozies of disagreements at times. :)

New bloggers Aurora and Chris already aired their opinions as well (previously linked). So, to count - a long-time townie, myself, a downtown resident, brand new residents - all of us see this ordinance for what it really is.

And what is that? Knee-jerk governing.

This is the same sort of impulse that passed the homeless camp ordinance for which every person involved patted themselves on the back. See? We cleared those camps and solved the problems! Case closed! Except they are not solved. This same impulse passed the breed-specific pit bull ordinance, which subsequently got overruled by a state law banning breed-specific rules, thank goodness. You see this in the perennial “pedophiles in the library!” or “spend down the free cash on more cops because, public safety!” issues that come up.

Mr. Lynne walked by while I was writing this post. He works in Boston, taking the commuter rail in and walking to work from North Station. He walks through the Common and the Public Garden, among other places. He remarked, I probably walk by more panhandlers in one morning than these guys ever see in Lowell. And yet Boston is a pretty prosperous place to which people flock, and patronize their businesses.

Governing by optics, governing by outrage machine, or whatever you want to call it, is one of the worst sorts of governing that exists. Because it takes a serious problem, and proposes bad solutions, or non-solutions, or damaging solutions, in the name of expediency or convenience. This panhandling ordinance is also the worst kind of scapegoating. Let’s face it - our downtown businesses are often struggling. Whether it’s the lack of easy parking, the economy, the general struggles of any downtown, the fact everything closes at 5pm and no one is open on Sundays except restaurants, a lack of disposable income by many of the people who live downtown (elderly and affordable housing), or what have you, we’ve seen a lot of businesses shuttered, or moving, and empty storefronts are a little too common.

But clearing out panhandling won’t fix your lackluster business, Mr. Belanger.

Of course, aggressiveness or harassment by a panhandler is another thing all together - and I would think that existing rules probably prohibit anyone from such aggression (hence why we have the legal term “harassment”). Why we need a special rule for downtown banning it all together - other than as a knee-jerk reaction to a much larger problem of homelessness and addiction and the general, inescapable fact that we’re a city, dammit! - is beyond me.

November 12, 2013

AtB: Handling Pans

by at 3:19 pm.

The current gentrify-du-jour being a no-panhandling ordinance on tonight’s Council agenda, it’s no surprise some bloggers around here are writing about it.

Downtown resident/consumer kad has quite an equitable point of view: fine, cleaning stuff up is great, and we all want successful downtown businesses but

i think, if anybody’s asking me, the problem is first in perceiving these people as something, like bathroom waste, in need of “clean up”. we often ridicule other people for believing that “their shit don’t stink”, and, i think, here in lowell, we’ve got more than a few people who want to lay in a lifetime supply of febreeze and renuzits and just keep clouding the air with a bunch of sociological perfume in complete denial that we have a significant population of people who are challenged to “make it” in any way, shape or form recognizable to us in our centrally-heated, indoor plumbed luxury accommodations.

He also has a second post. As for my own opinion on the panhandling ordinance, I’m rather of a mind with kad - I sympathize with the downtown businesses and residents, but I worry that we’re shuffling the less fortunate out of our way so we don’t have to see them, and be uncomfortable. And the idea of fining a homeless person $50 for panhandling - whether he buys food, or booze with his proceeds - is patently stupid. Good luck collecting, or making your point. These are already people who are outside of the system and marginalized.

Chris at Learning Lowell is also on the subject of panhandling.

Aurora and I discussed it, and she summarized our opinions thusly:

I have a couple of concerns about it. I’m worried about a lack of commitment to outreach about the law and alternative options to panhandlers, creating a larger gulf between police (and social services) and the homeless population, and logistics of paying the fine. I’m also not sure what happens if the perpetrator cannot or will not pay a fine. Is this going to get people thrown in jail? Finally, I worry it will just “push” the problem to other areas of the City without addressing root issues.

A little bit older now, but I haven’t linked to it yet was Dick Howe’s “The ‘Cambodian vote’ in the 2013 city election”. In it, he looks at the numbers and tries to see how last Tuesday’s results for the Cambodian Council candidates happened:

My first theory was that the number of active Cambodian voters may be a fixed number that with the 2011 turnout of 9,946 was sufficient to win a seat but proved insufficient when the 2013 turnout rose to 11,581. Looking at the ward by ward performance by both Nuon and Pech in both 2011 and 2013 disproved that theory. Both made substantial gains in wards that have the most Cambodian voters (Wards 2, 3, 4, and 7). However, that same comparison shows that both Nuon and Pech, but especially Nuon, lost a substantial number of votes from 2011 to 2013 in the wards that have the fewest Cambodian voters (Wards 1, 6, and 9 – both also lost ground in Ward 8 which has a substantial Cambodian population but has other issues that will be a subject of a future post).

There are some great comments there, too.

Dick also has his always-valuable Week in Review. And of course, there are a ton of other posts from this last week on his blog on culture, history, and the arts.

Greg has a quick, but interesting post about the oft-ignored School Committee race. He says, “There will be time later on for more analysis, but for now this may suggest there is a “Challenger Bump” enjoyed by School Committee candidates, followed by a time of great vulnerability (first re-election attempt).”

Finally, there is an awesome Jen Myers post on her Room 50 blog about the recent visit of former, first female President of Ireland, Mary McAleese. Jen always brings events to life with her photography.

November 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!

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