Left In Lowell

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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.

January 20, 2014

Connections

by at 11:43 am.

People might be wondering why I can’t seem to type the name Rourke in City Council posts, without adding Golden as a suffix. Well, one reason is because of things like this: someone sent me this link as regards to Pay-to-Play…

If you don’t recall what Pay to Play was, it was the Probation Department scandal, as the link explains:

More than 250 employees of the Probation Department have personal connections to politicians and court officials, or gave at least $500 to state legislators since 2002, a Spotlight analysis has shown. On Thursday, Independent Counsel Paul F. Ware Jr. found that suspended Probation Commissioner John J. O’Brien systematically hired and promoted politically-backed job candidates, against whom job candidates without connections had little hope.

O’Brien was fired, and he and others from Probation now face charges including racketeering. With the trial still to come, it might be said that more explosive testimony might be forthcoming. Remember also, as an aside, that former Senator Panagiotakos announced in March 2010 he would not run for reelection to the state Senate, just ahead of being named in the report about Probation. I’m not saying there is definitely a link, but it does seem odd…especially an announcement so late in an election year, giving prospective candidates only 6 months to scramble a campaign together for the primaries in a large state Senate-wide district.

So anyway, back to the original link. If you do a search on that page for either Rourke or Golden, they each come up once on that page. On the same line.

SUPPORTER JOB SALARY DONATIONS TOP RECIPIENT
Daniel P. Rourke Assistant Chief Probation Officer, Concord District Court $67,355 $600 Rep. Thomas Golden ($600), D-Lowell

Now, I will let you infer what you want from this listing. However, one could posit that what we have here might be less pay to play…and more like nepotism. Take your pick as to which is worse. I mean, Rourke’s closeness to his cousin Golden is well known. I certainly believe that Rourke would give Golden $600 in legal campaign donations since 2002 because he wants his cousin to win elections (notwithstanding the lack of any competition, which I decry as I do not believe incumbents should automatically get reelected). And we could imagine that Golden might want to get his cousin Danny Rourke, his good friend and family member, a job at Probation because he likes his cousin and wants to give him a leg up in the world.

However, such a circumstance would also be as prohibited as pay-to-play. Alas, such conflicts of interest abound in Lowell, at the city level and all the way up…an atmosphere of permissiveness in putting personal loyalty above ethics that I have long written about - indeed, that I began this blog to combat.

One last item of note: Jack reported, and I have confirmed as well, that at a Rourke fundraiser, Golden stood up and introduced John Cox as “OUR City Manager!” I don’t make this stuff up!

January 8, 2014

Ask Yourself: Who Wins?

by at 10:15 am.

All right, we now know the shape of this new landscape, or at least its beginnings. But how did we get here? To a lot of people, the results of the last local election are inexplicable. So I’m here to explain things.

To do this - indulge me - we have to go back a little ways. For those who weren’t living here then (you nascent blow-ins!), this will be useful, for the rest of us, a trip down memory lane…

Our previous City Manager before Lynch, one John F. Cox, a man I have thankfully not had to mention much in the last several years, was a man selected for the position in 2000 based on his connections. He certainly wasn’t qualified - he was a disgraced former state Representative for a decade or so up until the early 90s, when he was slapped with infractions by the Ethics Commission for accepting lobbyist gifts, and he quietly decided not to run again after that. In 2000, the City Council in its wisdom decided that this was pedigree for managing the city, despite the fact…he’s a lawyer and lobbyist (yes, that too), not a muni manager. Not to mention, ethically challenged.

Cox’s tenure was rife with incompetence and graft. We found out about a lot after the fact, and he left a mess. I sincerely think he was just not up to the job. His budgets were a travesty (and left us in a hole we didn’t even know about until after he left). There was that missing money from the Stoklosa School build (we still don’t know who cashed that check for classrooms that were never built, do we?). He also was the sort of guy who hired friends who weren’t qualified for city jobs, gave choice raises (I saw a list of 7-10% raises he gave to people he had personal connections to as he walked out the door in 2006) and generally, buttered up the union rank and file (often with favorable contracts at the expense of our taxpayer dollar). They loved him.

After the election of George Ramirez in 2005, a man who ran on ousting Cox, a new majority was formed (including a new Mayor Bill Martin, Kevin Broderick, and then-Councilor Eileen Donoghue). They quietly told Cox to leave or they’d vote him out. I don’t know what they were hoping, but I got a hold of the news, and I wasn’t interested in having Mr. Cox go quietly into that good night. Oh no, I wanted an accounting of his tenure, and people had a right to know. The Sun leadership (*ahemCampyahem*) got really mad at me - they knew the information and were sitting on it. Cox was informed this on a Friday afternoon right before a planned two week vacation, maybe to give him time to contemplate, I don’t know. It was early in the new Council’s term, and that could have been coincidence.

While Cox was out of town, a PAC formed. They called themselves the People for Lowell PAC. It really was the People for John Cox PAC, though, and there were a lot of city union folks involved. They started the unfortunately named “I’m for Cox” campaign (read the phrase aloud if you don’t get the unfortunate part) with bumper stickers, flyers, and big signs in some business windows. It was, essentially, a political-style campaign to “save” what is supposed to be a technocratic position.

Hence you can see the union connection here.

Cox decides to resign, effective (if I recall) June 2006, and the hunt is on for a replacement. When Bernie Lynch was interviewed and hired in the summer of 2006, he brought to light things Cox had literally been hiding. Like two audit request letters from the state Department of Revenue. The DoR was uneasy about the state of Lowell’s finances, lack of free cash (turns out, it was in the negative). Lynch also began to slowly turn over and clean out the worst of the graft hires in city government. This of course angered a certain segment of the union folks, because they little liked being held accountable for their jobs, which had been pretty cushy up til then. (You should hear the stories I’ve heard. Seriously. It’s bad.)

There are a lot of great city employees - and a lot of them like working for Lynch - but also a lot of grumbling, which turned to hatred over the last 7 years. Lynch shunted Cox’s assistant City Manager TJ McCarthy sideways, to head the DPW in what appeared on paper not to be a demotion, but really was. (McCarthy eventually moved on.) McCarthy’s city worker buddies were riled about that one. I’m sure they feel he was mistreated. Lynch then elevated Baacke, a city planner dept head, to Assistant CM, and more recently, put the inspectional services (another bad actor in the city) into Baacke’s care. Of course, it was to “streamline” the services - but really, we all know, it was to clean up its act. Anger and hate do not begin to describe what some people who work for the city feel about Bernie.

Let me explain this another way. I once had a teenage acquaintance whose mother wanted badly to be friends with her daughter. Partly to make up for the harshness of the other parent, which is understandable. At 16, this girl got the old family car, with its gas, registration, and repairs all paid for by her mother. Her mother found out later, that this girl was getting into drinking. She never took the car keys away - not as punishment, not even for the girl’s own safety. It’s not that this mom wanted bad consequences for her kid. It’s just that she was incapable of saying no to her, because she wanted her daughter as her friend. Never mind that she was going down an irresponsible path that did lead her into far worse places later on.

Cox is the non-disciplining mother. Lynch is the guy who finally took the keys away from the irresponsible. And like petulant teenagers in a rage, they hated him for it.

There have been attempts ever since to oust Lynch. In 2007, the next election, Cox allies Kazanjian and Lenzi ran and won - with union muster, and money…lots of it. If I remember, Kazanjian spent over $70,000, the most anyone has ever spent by far for a Council election here. Lenzi wasn’t far behind at around $40-50,000. The usual for a first time candidate is less than $10,000 generally!

Alas, they couldn’t get rid of Lynch. Partly because he was under contract and the terms took him past the next election. Partly because Lynch was actually quite popular outside of the disgruntled circles of city government. Lenzi, who literally accomplished nothing of note at all while a Councilor (go check his lack of motions! except the one which put the Council on an every other week schedule…governatin’ is hard work!), did not run again. Kazanjian lost, hoisted on the petard of his own scandals during his tenure as Councilor. (He failed to realize he’d get a lot more scrutiny as an elected official than he ever got on the Lowell Zoning Board.) In case you’re curious, Dick has a great post on 2009’s election.

In 2009 we got Franky Descoteaux, Joe Mendonca, and Patrick Murphy. A clear majority for professional city government and fact-based policy. Disgruntles called them a “rubber stamp” - as if Murphy was ever anyone’s rubber stamp. A lot got done with this crew. In 2011, we got the last crop of Councilors (well, Broderick won, but resigned mid term, so that brought in John Leahy). That brings us up to date.

So who are Corey Belanger and Dan Rourke? Belanger ran in 2011 and came in #14 of 17 candidates, not a stellar placing. But just over 200 votes behind #9, because - well, the vote totals are so darn tiny in local elections. Rourke was of course a first time candidate in 2013.

In 2013, Rourke placed #4, and Belanger a pretty safe #7. So what happened? Well, who do you think was motivated to get out the vote? Who do you think beat down the doors as hard, or harder, than the very hard work Stacie Hargis’ or Derek Mitchell’s campaigns did? The disgruntled city unions, of course.

This isn’t hearsay, I’ve talked to people who have first hand knowledge. When you have as tiny a percentage of the registered voters show up in local elections as Lowell does, a little anger goes a long way. A lot of anger changes everything. And while the rest of Lowell was very excited about Derek and Stacie, fresh faces who obviously have a great deal to offer, and the smarts to get it done, there is a segment of Lowell who hates Bernie so much they were motivated even more. I don’t like saying this, but positive emotions like hope and change don’t motivate like negative ones do. Heck, this blog was started in 2005 because of the abuses I’d seen in local government with John Cox at the helm, and I made no secret of this.

So who wins now that Bernie leaves? The disgruntled city union folks who feel like they would have gotten a way better deal with Cox had he stayed (of course, by now, we’d have been under state receivership like Springfield was), giving them and their relatives cush jobs and raises, than they got with the hard-nosed Lynch who treated his job - shock of shocks - as being the guy negotiating on behalf of citizens and taxpayers of Lowell. It wasn’t like Lynch gave nothing to the unions. He negotiated in good faith. But he didn’t give them enough. He changed their - gasp - plush health benefits to another plush benefit plan! And woe of woes, in a terrible downturn with Local Aid money frozen, he didn’t give them 3% annual raises!

Now, I’m a pro-union sort of gal. I believe in the right to organize, for workers to get their fair share. I think the decline in the American median wage has a lot to do with the loss of worker negotiation power, due to the decline of unions. But we can’t pretend unions aren’t bad actors from time to time. And when you have years of hiring abuses like we’ve seen at both the local and the state level (ask me about Panagiotakos and the pay-to-play scandal, sometime, I think we ought to be airing that out soon), the union becomes a protection racket like no other. I’ve often said that the Lowell GOB (Good Ol Boy for newbies) network in Lowell acts an awful lot like a mini mafia.

After all, there is a fine line between a union fighting for better wages and working conditions, and Jimmy Hoffa. And here endeth the tale.

November 6, 2013

Perspective

by at 8:42 am.

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.

November 4, 2013

It’s Hard To Take The Sun Seriously

by at 8:35 am.

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.

October 20, 2013

A Blogger’s Sin

by at 1:11 pm.

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. …
-snip

(more…)

August 17, 2013

Come October, This Won’t Matter

by at 8:20 pm.

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.

Some points:
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.


(more…)

August 3, 2013

Statement from Mayor Murphy

by at 8:01 pm.

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.

July 11, 2013

defying etiquette

by at 5:51 pm.

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.

really?
-snip

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.

June 5, 2013

Young Bucks at GLTHS

by at 11:13 pm.

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.

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