Member of the reality-based community of progressive (not anonymous) Massachusetts blogs
Here are some next-day observations I have about yesterday’s election results.
We did see increased turnout. 11,581 is still a pathetic number of registered voters (20.6%) voting to select our local government. I’m not satisfied. Obviously not just on who got elected to Council, but also just on the fact that less than 30% (which is also not a non-pathetic number) are the deciders on who serves on our Council and school committees.
Name recognition, funding, and city connections still win elections. I note that the only first-time candidates who make it on the council (besides Franky who worked hard during what was a huge change election, and Murphy who basically knocked more doors than humanly possible) are longtime city names, generally townies. I think this is bound to change, as the very old demographic which are the “strong city voters” are…well, old. This is going to continue to put downward pressure on turnout, which is a big problem. If we get to the point of 4-6,000 voters turning out in local elections, that will be very disappointing, of course. But that older townie demo consistently pushes the big connected names onto the Council. (I know Rourke worked hard, but did he have the campaign apparatus that Derek did? I tend to doubt it. The hardest-working candidates aren’t always the one to win, if they don’t have those deep personal connections to the strong city voter.)
Newcomers who are “blowins” (as in, no long standing familial and friend connections in Lowell among the strong, older, city voters) did pretty spectacular considering. In particular, Derek should be toutin’ proud of his 12th place finish, precisely 350 votes behind 9th place. If he runs again, with the same vim and vigor and as a seasoned campaigner, he not only makes the Council, he probably gets up higher in the ranks. A strong 12th place can mean a 5th or 6th placement the second time around.
I am heartbroken for the Cambodian community. I hope they, and the engaged younger southeast Asian voters people like Van Pech bring to the table, use this loss to make themselves stronger. Don’t give up. You are a huge demographic in this city, and you are part of this city’s future. A good way to bring this about is to do some voter education and registration in the meantime, before the next election season starts, and keep running candidates!
The same can be said of the younger (what the pundits term “new Lowell”) voters and candidates who back people like Stacie Hargis and Derek Mitchell. Don’t give up, get active! You are the future. The past is just making a last gasp right now, but it can’t sustain itself much longer.
We seem to wave back and forth every single election. The 2005 election which elected Ramirez and ousted Cox. Then the Kaz/Lenzi 2007 Empire Strikes Back election. Then ousting them in favor of Murphy and Descoteaux in 2009. Then a reprieve (I guess Kaz really pissed people off in the previous Council) in 2011. Now we’re seeing The Empire Strikes Back Part II with the Dailey-backed (I cant’t wait to get my hands on the finance reports) Belanger and Rourke. That means in two years we’re due for a flip again - here’s hoping professional city management can survive til then.
Speaking of professional city management, this new Council is not guaranteed going to get rid of Lynch. There are only four definite no’s on a new contract. The rest are all lean-yes (Rita Mercier and John Leahy), or definite yes. They need to hear from constituents that Lynch is doing the job the city wants. Don’t be shy on calling them over the next year (contract is up in August).
Also speaking of contract/no contract, it’s plain to me that voters (who are not attentive to the blogs or other outlets) do not vote based on the core values of city management. On the one hand, it’s plain that the people of Lowell really like Lynch a lot. They’re happy with the direction of the city. They’d be pretty pissed, I think, if the Council gets rid of him. On the other hand, ink-master Elliot gets to rank #2 (the ink, I’m convinced, is why he gets to #2). Voters have not connected the basic issues at stake in these elections - frankly, because the Sun doesn’t want them to, and fails to educate them on this. The voter demo that shows up still gets the paper. This is only going to last so long, as the younger voters (people under age 50) are a whole different animal, but for now, we’re stuck with the awful paper blog of record and its agenda.
And I do think that the most important core issue at stake in our elections lately is legitimately “contract or no contract.” In other words, are we hiring/keeping professional technocrats as City Managers or do we go back to hiring unqualified hack former politicians (often ones with ethics problems) who not only can’t do the job, but also use the position for personal and political gain for their friends? The whole worm turns on what attitude our city council has towards the city manager position. We all know what names are bandied about to replace Lynch every couple of years (state Rep. Murphy, former state Sen Panagiotakos, etc). Those people would be short-lived and disastrous for the city. Is Pangy a fairly smart dude? Sure. Is he qualified to run a freaking city? Hells NO. And his hack history isn’t that great either. (Frankly, our entire House delegation could leave tomorrow and I’d be super happy. Thank goodness we have Sen. Donoghue at least!)
The Mayor selection is a little stickier than the CM contract, in my opinion. I have some thoughts on that but prefer to leave the details to others. Those chips will have to fall where they fall. However, I will state one thing: Can you imagine super-negative Elliot as the Chair of the School Committee? I urge the next Council to seriously consider the damage someone like him can do on the most important job of Mayor, chairing the SC. Also, I don’t think we should reward such negative behavior with a mayorship. It sets a bad precedent. And the worse precedent that if you wait long enough, it becomes “your turn.” Bollocks.
My last thoughts are this: I’m taking serious consideration as to how we engage more voters in these elections. I’m tired of a tiny minority of this city (myself included) deciding for 100,000 people who should run their local government. It’s time for a non-partisan “League of Lowell Voters” to find ways to reach the non-city voter and get them engaged. Again, I have some ideas for that. Unfortunately because this blog is so “partisan” (not just in the liberal sense but in the supporting a certain type of candidate sense) that any effort I make will get a Gerry-Nutter-for-Election-Commission type welcome. I know I’ve made some enemies (fairly and legitimately - by truth telling!) but seriously, I’ve had it up to my eyeballs on the turnout issue. Anyone else feel the same way? If enough people are mad as hell and won’t take it any more, something could be accomplished.
The Sun has an editorial urging Lowellians to vote, tomorrow.
(I can’t find an active link)
While many regard the citywide election as a referendum on the city manager’s performance over the past two years, The Sun strongly believes Bernie Lynch, who has achieved financial success with his management team, is not the primary issue. Public safety, education, economic development, and taxes and fees are the major concerns.
Lowell needs city councilors who can push petty politics aside and make decisions based on equality and fairness to its 106,000 citizens, rather than analyzing how each vote affects the manager’s agenda. Too much weight has been given to the manager’s job security, rather than to the people’s hopes and dreams for a better Lowell.
Strong leadership and forward thinking will get Lowell to the next level of improved governance from which all good things come, not councilors looking over their shoulders protecting City Hall. Protect the citizens.
I find it striking that The Sun feels that the City Manager has his own agenda, yet dismisses the notion that the CM’s contract is an election issue. You’d think that IF a City Manager was inflicting a city with an agenda, that would be an issue. No? The way The Sun juxtaposes the sentence, “push petty politics aside and make decisions based on equality and fairness to its 106,000 citizens” … “rather than” … “analyzing how each vote affects the manager’s agenda,” it’s clear the CM’s “agenda” is contrary to “equality and fairness. ” I’d argue THAT is an issue!
Except, as LiL readers know, it is a conjured issue. It is conjured by the purveyor of political pornography, known as Jim Campanini.
Let me give you some context. Some of you may know, that the Greater Lowell Technical High School Committee deferred taking a vote, until today, on selecting the school’s next Superintendent.
While the Greater Lowell Technical High School Committee plans to select a new superintendent tonight, new information has come forward in a finalist’s history that points to yet another alleged incident of domestic violence in his past.
Roger D. Forget Jr., a Bourne resident who serves as principal of Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical School, had a restraining order filed against him by his ex-wife on his teenage daughter’s behalf in December 2003, according to court records from Palmer District Court that came to The Sun in an anonymous package over the weekend. …
In the December 2012 court documents that School Committee member Ray Boutin provided to The Sun this year, Forget’s wife allegedly told police her husband had previous restraining orders filed against him when she filed her claim, which she eventually withdrew.
Forget in October declined to answer a reporter’s question about his wife’s statement, and also dodged School Committee member Erik Gitschier’s direct question on the subject in finalist interviews last Monday.
Certainly, if a Superintendent candidate has issues, as reported in the public records, that should be considered by the GLTHS SC. It’s unfortunate that such a concern got this far into the process. Those of us that are more cynical, like me, tend to think the process used by our elected, here at the GLTHS & other Lowell authorities, allows for sandbagging. Meaning, intentionally allowing flawed candidates through, so it looks like a wide net is cast, BUT in practice, we actually have few true options.
That said, let’s go back to Campanini playing the part of Larry Flynt.
The ‘cloak and dagger’ operations around Roger D. Forget Jr. has been swirling the bowl for weeks now. The bubble within the bubble, specific to GLTHS, has been chewing this up. Why NOW did The Sun provide this last dagger?
What it looks like to me, The Sun is not playing ‘journalist’ here. They are playing assassin. The story of Forget, appears on the very day that the GLTHS SC is supposed to vote. Coincidence? Of course, The Sun will claim that it only received this “anonymous package over the weekend.. .” But, let’s mull this over. The trouble around Forget has been bubbling for weeks, if not months. The Sun would know of such things. (Of course, The Sun cannot field enough decent reporters to ferret such things out, so maybe that is why they are reporting in such a kneejerk manner.)
I can’t argue against anyone that would point out my bias. I think that Jim Campanini is hurting Lowell and ruining our only local, daily newspaper. So, with that filter, think for yourself and wonder, is The Sun trying to alter the outcome of today’s selection by the GLTHS SC?
I think they are. And, I think they are doing it, as they pontificate of our election tomorrow. Ignore them, say I.
Thou shall not impede The Sun’s meddling in local affairs.
In the role of “activist newspaper,” The Sun is legend.
In the wait-your-turn political culture of Lowell and nearby Lawrence, Kerry was a carpetbagger trying to cherrypick a seat in Congress.
In the general election campaign, Kerry was lashed relentlessly by The Sun, which questioned his patriotism, his loyalty to the district, and his financial backers. He blew a huge lead and lost to the Republican nominee, Paul W. Cronin, a former state representative who had served on Morse’s staff.
Suddenly, the fast track to political glory vanished beneath the feet of the war hero turned war protester. …
A flurry of comments have popped up on Lynne’s post about Matt Vieira, down blog. The crux of the retorts are about an argument over whether #JMatt (Vieira) deleted an earlier Facebook incarnation of himself. The rumoured Facebook page was very overwrought with scurrilous, tea bagger frenzied remarks about liberals, including the POTUS.
We at LiL are accused of being “lunatics” and are said to be making this stuff up because we want to damage Matt Vieira’s candidacy.
1) Come October, there is a slim chance this diary will be relevant.
2) Vieira is the Prince of self-inflicted political gaffes.
3) The whole “deleted Facebook page” thing has been around since, at least, March 2013.
The latest “buzz” for a new challenger is Matt Vieira a young man who has worked on some local campaigns and has been involved with the Best Buddy and Cancer charities. Like a lot of young people, Matt has posted some strongly opinionated items on Facebook that in hindsight I’m sure he regrets and he deleted his old page and began a new one. However, things aren’t gone because they have been deleted and those that support the City Manager style instead of strong Mayor will no doubt bring those posting back. It is up to Matt to show the maturity to deal with his past while not letting it become a distraction.
Apparently, as Gerry Nutter predicted, Vieira was so acerbic, someone took note and grabbed some screen shots. Here’s a sample of what was passed around.
Patrick Murphy shared a statement on RichardHowe.com which everyone ought to read. I’ll pull a few quotes, but go read the whole thing (I’ve bolded some things I really liked):
So much energy is wasted each week on what is least important to the people we represent. I am not without fault. I am responsible for my own words. At a kickoff event for Van Pech the other week, I spoke of Van’s vote on the Zoning Board to allow a methadone clinic its special permit as the “lone vote that sought to do the right thing.” While I do believe that he reached the right conclusion—a belief that even the Sun’s May 28th editorial acknowledges—it should not be inferred that all the votes in opposition had knowingly done the wrong thing. I do not and did not think that the Zoning Board had acted improperly as a whole, but when one member receives a substantial campaign contribution ($250) from an opponent of the special permit only days before he is to rule on the matter, that gives the appearance of a conflict.
Exactly four years ago tomorrow, Jim Campanini wrote to my brother, “The city is very divided politically—like it has been for awhile—and I don’t see any change in the near future. Maybe Patrick can reverse a bad trend: lack of leadership. But I don’t see it happening without Patrick raising money and gaining name recognition throughout the city. Older voters don’t read the Internet.” In other words, you need to buy ink in the paper to win.
The Sun wants to swing away at “hypocrisy” and campaign finance “issues” which really amount to a clerical error not listing that the few donations made to my campaigns were, as the Sun has often reported during the campaigns, made by myself. It is a situation rarely seen by the Office of Campaign and Political Finance, which quickly considered the issue resolved with a few clicks on the computer. But here again is another distraction from the real and larger question of money in politics: Why should individuals with business before the city, be allowed to contribute to candidates and incumbents who might be in a position to influence decisions affecting their business? Does it not cease to be “political speech” when an individual spreads thousands of dollars around to more candidates than could possibly win? Does that not make it even slightly less likely that the public interest will win out over private interests? These are the questions that my proposed “Pay-to-Play” Ordinance sought to answer, that many of my colleagues thought unnecessary, that the newspaper—the original “pay-to-play” organization—did not want answered.
A critical editorial (is there any other kind?) or perhaps a chat some time ago actually warned about the paper being able to “buy ink by the barrel.” The underlying suggestion, I assume, is that there is nothing intrinsically truthful about the ink in the paper; that ink is but a commodity to be bought and traded by the barrel, in lieu of the truth if need be; that it matters not what is being written, but how much you can afford to pay for people to read it.
The whole thing leads in gently with an anecdote about Hale’s Brook and ends with hope for the future. The tone of it is firm and intelligent, a bit conciliatory, and full of his direct and honest perspective. The thing you cannot ever accuse Patrick Murphy of is not being direct and honest. The “barrels of ink” notwithstanding.
There is this .. other .. blog in Lowell. Not quite a blog. Not quite a monologue. Monoblog?
i came across a recent sun “the column” opinion piece regarding the possibility of a $40,000 preliminary city council election, about which the expressed opinion was that $40,000 is a lot of money to spend, and wouldn’t it be great if we wouldn’t have to spend it.
because 50 people with an agenda can get a heck of a lot done here in this city if they would only be given the opportunity to do it.
and that’s worth $40,000 out of our hundreds of millions spent here every year administering our city government.
unless, of course, you own a newspaper and wish everyone but your guy(s) would go away.
i’m down with that.
I’ve been hoping that Erik Gitschier & Ray Boutin could lead the dysfunctional GLTHS School Committee through the troubled waters of selecting their next Supt.
It seems I’m a bit of a naïve optimist:
(h/t Julia Malakie)
Note: Boutin loses his cool, no argument. But, please keep in mind, Gitschier has a way of getting under your skin. He takes pride in it.
Maybe, it is supposed to be about the kids? That is, at least, a cute campaign slogan. But, it is also about the admin, staff & teachers that live out there for 20+ years. They matter, in my mind, as much as the kids. Also, it is about the school committee. But, in a different way.
Maybe, it is my military background? I spent about 3 years in Arlington National Cemetery, performing honor duty for fallen soldiers. I say that to say, I believe in the sanctity of institutions, oaths & ceremony. I believe that the School Committee is a body that deserves respect by earning respect.
To be blunt, I favour Paul Schlictman in this kerfuffle. Though, after reading the slimy hit jobs that the Lowell Sun has slammed Dave Norkiewicz with, I’ve lost my appetite to pull for Paul. He’s got some friends that are the worst kind to have. They are not above pulling the same kind of stunts that Chris Scott wants to assign to Gitschier & Fallon. When we get to the point of kettles finger pointing at each other’s blackness, it is time for me to step back.
We are dealing with damaged goods, all around. But, none are more damaged than the reputation of the GLTHS SC. After a fairly decent approach to culling through candidates, one that was noted favourably by those watching; this silly, petty, ego driven clan members have pissed their good names away.
Unfortunately, they are the best we are gonna get out there. Who really cares what the hell happens out there in the woods? How else could Mike Hayden get re-elected, repeatedly? Oddly, they aren’t paying the high salaries in monopoly money. They can still invent jobs like ‘public relations’ or whatever title Mike McGovern has. They can still hire in an incestuous manner that would make a West Virginia moonshiner tip his jug.
Ultimately, they are completely fucked out there. They know it. We know it. And, on it goes. Unabashed.
Moneyball! C.Leahy is not considered by many that I talk with, as having much of a chance to keep his seat. But, he crushed the fundraising effort in the last reporting increment. Reporting $7,190 in 2 weeks. That’s nothing to sneeze at.
Now, just to keep from damaging himself with self-inflicted wounds in the Council Chamber. #rodneyformayor
I really, really like Councilor Leahy’s motion, tonight.
Unfortunately, it seems that Leahy is trying to draw just a ‘wee bit’ too much attention to the issue. Thus, to himself. By going to the biased Blog of Record, a ‘pay per view’ newspaper, Leahy has opened himself up to criticism he could have easily avoided. He turned a positive into a negative.
Worst still. The Sun can’t effectively deliver the goods. Look at this screen grab:
THAT .. is what you see when you click into the online version of the story. You’ve got to realize, in Youtube, the maker of the video has control of the image that appears on the screen, prior to activating the video. Does the cub reporter not know that? Or, just didn’t bother?
If a Councilor, Leahy or any other, is going to try to strum the Blog of Record to play their tune. They should take care that the Editors ensure it is done well. When you’re on the bubble, you can’t afford dumb mistakes.
FERC had a brainfart.
The cub reporter quickly blurted out the bits his Editor want to float:
“We find that the proposed pneumatic crest gate system can be installed without unacceptably altering the dam or adversely affecting the park and historic districts,” FERC wrote in its ruling. “The crest gate system will also provide important benefits to recreation, fish passage, dam and worker safety, and project generation, and will help alleviate upstream backwater and flooding effects to the maximum extent possible.”
Of course, there are little gems stashed in the “Order Amending License.” (h/t Corey Sciuto)
47. The licensees’ proposal to install an inflatable crest gate system has an estimated capital cost of $5,980,000. This capital cost results in an average, annualized cost of $956,000. We estimate that the annual cost to operate the system would be minimal.
48. Operation of an inflatable crest gate system instead of flashboards could enable the project to generate more power, because the gates could be reinflated relatively soon after high flows. In contrast, the flashboards would be washed out for an estimated three months. The licensees estimate that project operation with the inflatable crest gates would result in an increase in annual generation of approximately 8,000 megwatt hours (MWh). Using a regional estimated alternative energy value of $38.74/MWh, as determined from the Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Outlook for 2012, this additional generation would be valued at $310,000 annually. Therefore, the net cost of the licensee’s proposed action, including total capital costs and generation benefits, would be approximately $646,000 annually.
49. Although our analysis shows that the cost of installing the crest gates would exceed the value of the increased generation, it is the applicant who must decide whether to accept this license amendment and any financial risk that entails.
There is a lot to digest. Please give it a go, then chime in here.
PS. We are about to find out, if the Dept. of Interior folks are willing to take it to the next level. The Dept. of the Interior(Parks) has a brand new Secretary and Energy(FERC) is due to get a new Secretary. So, leadership may come from the locals until Obama’s Cabinet members can find their way around. This matter may be determined by which Department has better insulated its ‘Legal Eagles’ from sequestration. :v\
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