Left In Lowell

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

 
2013 Candidate Questionnaire Responses!
 

August 4, 2013

Copyright, Shcmockyright

by at 12:18 pm.

There’s professionalism, then there’s the Lowell Sun, which is on another plane of existence all together. The rules don’t apply to them, doncha know?

What rules would that be? Rules about stealing, of course!

On first glance, this photo looks like a great shot by a staff photographer.

(more…)

April 10, 2013

Take this survey, please! (Bumped)

by at 12:08 pm.

If you are one of those individuals that complaints about your cable television programming and if you are one of those that wants more local access television, you have an opportunity to have your voice heard and make a difference.

The City of Lowell is currently holding public hearings to discuss the renewal of the City cable contract with Comcast. As some of you are aware, through a fee assessed on our monthly bill, funds are directed to the City of Lowell. The first hearing took place on March 13th.The second and last public hearing will be held this April 10th . All cable subscribers and interested parties are invited to attend the hearings and share comments or suggestions about cable service.

These funds are disbursed to the public, education and government (PEG) channels which are operated by the Lowell Communications Corporation (LTC) and Lowell Educational Television (LET) . LTC operates channels 8, 95 and 99. The first two are community programming and the last one is government. And LET operates Channel 22.

The City of Lowell also receives funds for its intranet as well as other technical operations. And I believe that Greater Lowell Technical High School also receives some funds from this contract.

As part of the information gathering the City of Lowell IT Department and LTC have partnered to survey of Lowell residents and gather information that will help in drafting an agreement which is responsive to the public’s needs and desires. The answers provided in this survey will also assist LTC and LET to better serve the City with its programming and outreach.

Here is the link to the survey

I just finished taking it and I did in 2 minutes.

Oh, and did I mention that everyone who takes this survey is eligible to win a $50 Amazon gift card.

Update (by Jack):

April 10th - Speak Your Mind about Comcast service in Lowell

(more…)

February 22, 2013

Makin’ Stuff

by at 9:01 am.

You might have been sensing a theme rising in our small city community lately. It’s a theme that is spreading out across the country, but it has special significance to Lowell. Call it the DIY movement. Or self-sufficiency. Or making things.

There may at first glance not seem a specific link between groups like Mill City Grows, small local businesses like Sweet Lydia’s, and “makerspace” groups which are also becoming the buzz around here, but in effect, it’s about people in a community doing for themselves. Whether that’s sustainable gardening, using Kickstarter to raise enough funds to open your own sweets shop, or sharing incubator or machine space with others, it’s about innovating ways at the grassroots level to do for yourself, alongside a community of people, what cannot be accomplished alone.

It’s a movement that asks, what if we could feed ourselves with safe, locally grown food, even in the city? What if I could learn to machine my own parts? What if I could start a business in such a way that causes the community to have a stake with me?

That it’s happening so much in Lowell is a product of several things converging…first, the energy of new, young, professionals engaging in their community. Also, an emphasis on the new economy and innovative economic ideas by the city and its Planning Department, and the doubling of that by a University which is expanding by building such things as the Nerve Center. Lastly, Lowell’s unique history of industry and innovation creates a narrative that is a good foundation for a new wave of doers.

I’ll even admit to being infected myself. I might not be interested in a community garden space with one of Mill City Grow’s new gardens (after all, I do have a half decent backyard much closer to home) but I’ve been inspired by them to really up the ante this year in producing my own veggies. I’ve started collecting ideas on Pinterest and even am cataloging my own journey with DIY projects to make urban gardening easier and more productive (and woodchuck proof). I’ve always had an interest in planting since I was a kid, but now I mean business. (Well, not literally, since I won’t be selling anything, but I hope to have enough excess to give to family and friends, and even to make regular trips to the MV Food Bank). My goal is not to go pretty, but utilitarian, with sub-irrigated DIY buckets, towers, and some indoor growing (since I have this amazing, largely unused, southern-exposure windowed four-season room in my house going to waste).

Yeah, it’s getting that crazy. There’s just something in the air in Lowell these days. A doing thing. Stay tuned. (And our new show, Threads, will definitely be talking to some of Lowell’s new makers too!)

November 21, 2012

Political Hyperbolae

by at 4:44 pm.

I’ve been literally running around in circles all day trying to finish prep for hosting of the Thanksgiving Day festivities. With a 24lb turkey to get into my Alton Brown brine (I even found candied ginger today, in my second MarketBasket in two days), a house to clean, and a lot of guests coming, it’s been hard to be online much. (PS: if you do not get your fresh turkey from Elm Turkey Farm you are missing something!)

But obviously there’s some to-do in the state of Lowell blogistan. So I am taking really precious time out of my day (vacuuming! washing floors! mashed sweet potatoes with cream, cardamom, and maple syrup yet to start!) to address it.

If you’ve read the online article from the Lowell Sun by reporter Sarah Favot (who has the GLTHS beat) you’ll know what I’m talking about. At issue is a comment I made on Jack’s post from November 18th. (I’m snipping out the irrelevant part at the beginning addressed to the Anonymous comments.)

I admit to not knowing (or having paid attention to) all the details of this crazy ass “harassment” stuff. But I smell bullshit. And if someone - a person in LEADERSHIP - calls wolf on harassment like this, I want her head on a platter. Women have it tough enough without assholes using it as a political tool, making a legitimate harassment claim harder to believe.

Seriously, if this is what I believe it to be, it’s absolutely disgusting, and totally unethical, and she should be hung for it.

Apparently, Mary Jo Santoro decided to construe this as some sort of personal, physical threat, and reportedly went to the Lowell PD, who referred her to the Tyngsboro PD, where she was supposedly heading to today to file a complaint.

First and foremost, and I do believe this is pretty plain within the context of my comment, of course I meant absolutely no personal physical threat to Ms. Santoro. Anyone who knows me – or heck, reads my blog, knows I’m about as physically threatening as the mice that make their way into my house in the cold fall weather that I insist upon trapping humanely so I can release them in a nice field away from human habitation. (This year it was a mom and her three half grown meese children.) But even if you don’t know me at all or have never read a word of my blog, the comment totally does not meet any standard of threat that can be reasonably argued. Specifically, the use of very common phrases to denote “accountability” like head on a platter or hung (usually elongated as “hung out to dry”) could hardly be argued to be actual threats of harm. They are hyperbole.

Furthermore, political hyperbole is protected first amendment free speech. To quote:

Consistent with judicial construction given to other federal threat statutes, § 875(c) applies only to “true threats” which are not protected by the First Amendment. This requirement was established by Watts v. United States, 394 U.S. 705 (1969) (per curiam), which held that a threat statute “must be interpreted with the commands of the First Amendment clearly in mind,” and therefore be construed only to reach a “true threat” and not “constitutionally protected speech.” Such protected speech includes “political hyperbole” or “vehement,” “caustic,” or “unpleasantly sharp attacks” that fall short of true threats.

When assessing whether a communication constitutes a true threat, context is important. Various factors must be considered, including the following: the reaction of the person who received the threat; the history and relationship between the defendant and the victim; whether the threat was communicated directly to the victim; and whether the threat was conditional. By properly assessing these factors at the investigative and charging stages of a case, federal prosecutors can avoid, minimize and overcome defense arguments to the trier of fact that the defendant was purely exercising free speech rights protected by the First Amendment.

My comment is very obviously political hyperbole. Which of course I engage in on a regular basis. It’s fun. It’s protected. It’s even cathartic, but that’s not why I do it. I do it to point out injustices, bad political actors, and misuse of the public trust, its funds, and the abuse of power in general.

In other words. Protected speech.

Also, consistent with that quote from www.justice.gov, is that Ms. Santoro and I have zero personal interaction. In fact, and I quote her from the Lowell Sun article online today, “But I wouldn’t know this woman if I saw her in a parking lot.” Pretty much proof positive that we have no personal relationship or history whatsoever.

Furthermore, the speech was delivered not personally, not even with any knowledge whether or not Ms. Santoro would ever read it, but on a blog. Publicly. Not in a personal phone call, email, or any other delivery system direct to Ms. Santoro. It’s probably the least “direct” a communication could ever get, frankly. Excepting the Lowell Rumor Mill™.

Another point in the quoted legal paragraph above is whether the threat was conditional. As in, “if x happens, then y.” If a statement is conditional, it does not meet the standard of threat. Let me quote my own comment again, this time with italics where the conditionals exist:

I admit to not knowing (or having paid attention to) all the details of this crazy ass “harassment” stuff. But I smell bullshit. And if someone - a person in LEADERSHIP - calls wolf on harassment like this, I want her head on a platter. Women have it tough enough without assholes using it as a political tool, making a legitimate harassment claim harder to believe.

Seriously, if this is what I believe it to be, it’s absolutely disgusting, and totally unethical, and she should be hung for it.

Lots of ifs there. I didn’t directly state that Santoro is falsifying her harassment case against Eric Gitschier. I stated that if that was the case, I would be very angry about it and, in hyperbolic phraseology, would want her held accountable for such an act. Furthermore, I support that view with a very compelling reason – that of the plight of a real woman in a real harassment/bias situation in a real workplace whose case may be undermined by any falsified harassment claim someone in such a high profile position makes.

Such protected speech includes “political hyperbole” or “vehement,” “caustic,” or “unpleasantly sharp attacks” that fall short of true threats.

Was I unpleasantly sharp? Caustic? Vehement? Sure. Was it a threat under these conditions outlined? Absolutely not. This falls so far below the level of threat, that it honestly is a waste – of taxpayer dollars – to “investigate.”

I will not in this post question her motives for this action. I’m sure you can come to your own conclusions. I only hope, for all our sakes, that she is not doing this to suppress free speech or thwart legitimate questions or criticism about her tenure as a public servant who works directly for the Greater Lowell Technical High School Committee, whom we, as voters, taxpayers, and citizens, elected to represent us.

I can also assure you, my free speech will not be impinged. I will continue to ask the tough questions, and yes, sometimes my language is colorful. I write sarcastically at times. I use political hyperbole. This should come as no surprise to anyone, considering I’ve been here since 2005 doing the same thing and writing the same way as I always have.

I’m not going anywhere. Lowell, you’re stuck with me.

October 25, 2012

Like Us On Facebook!

by at 2:29 pm.

Normally I don’t push too hard on Facebook likes, but sometimes I get in the mood. This is one of those moods. So, if you are a Facebook user and wanna catch our feed, it’s here.

I post lots of stuff on Facebook that I don’t get to here, tidbits that I find on subjects political, cultural, and community-based, most often very local. Some days I post more than others, but it’s never more than 3-5 items per day on average. Some of my tweets from @leftinlowell.com make it there as well, when I remember to check off the box to send them (I most often tweet from my phone). But often you’ll find stuff there that you’ll find no where else, like my most recent post on non-chemical agriculture, or sharing an article from Howl about the chicken movement in Lowell. Yes, chickens! If that intrigues you then go hit the LiL FB page. :)

I also try to remember (with varying success) to post a link when I create a new blog post here, so it can be convenient for knowing when LiL has new content. Jack and Mimi also have admin access to the FB page though they don’t use it very often (though, hint hint, feel free to).

If you find something of particular interest, you can always hit the share button on Facebook to publish something of ours into your own feed. We’re only as good as the community who spreads the word! And if you like our feed, then share our page with others!

Now, back to your regularly scheduled program. Whatever that was. ;)

October 23, 2012

New City Billpay Website

by at 7:45 pm.

It’s streamlined and easier to understand, unveiled at tonight’s meeting. It includes the ability to register, if you like, and get emails every time a new bill gets issued. Very useful. From the front page of the pay section:

The City of Lowell offers residents an easy and secure way to view, print and pay their real estate tax, personal property tax, motor vehicle tax and water bills online. We support electronic bill presentment (viewing) and payment because it is more convenient for residents and better for the environment.

Online Bill Payment, in partnership with Invoice Cloud, offers the following benefits:

  • No registration required
  • You have the option to pay immediately or schedule a payment
  • Get an emailed confirmation of payment or print a receipt
  • You may sign up for automatic payments
  • You may choose to “Go Paperless” to reduce clutter and help the environment
  • E-check is less than the cost of a stamp!

The following bills are available for online payment:

  • Real Estate Taxes
  • Personal Property Taxes
  • Water/Sewer/Refuse Utility Billing
  • Motor Vehicle Excise Taxes
  • Boat Excise Taxes
  • Parking Tickets

Visa, Mastercard, Discover and echeck are accepted. The convenience fee for echecks is only $.40, it’s $1-$3.95 for credit cards.

After clicking around a bit, this appears to be a vast improvement over the previous system, so thumbs up.

It’s easier to do a search (at least for real estate taxes) as they explained tonight. Since real estate taxes are public info, all you need is any part of your name (though if it’s “John” you search for you’ll get a million results) or address, or bill # if you have it, and you can see your past and current bills. Other billpays need the bill# as a required search term.

October 18, 2012

Wherefor Art Thou Climate Change?

by at 9:45 am.

Whatever your political stripe, if you are an environmentalist you are probably disappointed in this year’s presidential and downticket races. Of course, it’s natural that the economy would be high up on the radar for the candidates, but for there to be zero talk about the environment, not to mention global climate change, the biggest national security risk of our time? It is, to make an understatement, utterly incomprehensible.

I am definitely going to watch this Frontline next Tuesday, “Climate of Doubt.” In it, they will examine the reasons why this topic has become persona non grata. Where once we as a nation were starting to agree that climate change was happening and that we needed to address it, there is doubt being raised by the extremely profitable industries that benefit from the status quo.



Watch Climate of Doubt on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

(more…)

October 14, 2012

Lowell2020

by at 10:35 am.

In case you missed it (it’s been passed around Facebook), George DeLuca has a new collaborative blog called Lowell2020. It’s been added to the Lowell blogroll. Says the blog about the collaborative: “Lowell2020 is a new collaborative in Lowell, MA. The Lowell2020 blog exists to seek out and clarify Lowell’s vision for the future.” It is also a new LTC program and WCAP radio segment.

George has already been busy over there with quite a number of posts, ranging from cultural and arts to political and technocratic (the latest is a technical look into the Ameresco contract).

The only thing I find confusing about the blog (and this is just a minor nitpick) is that there is no author listed on posts, and if these are collaborative and not a single-author blog, it’d be great to attach a name (or nickname) to contributions. Since it’s a wordpress.com blog I’m not sure if one can even change the WP template or not, but it might be a useful add.

Lowell has no shortage of community-minded individuals willing to put type to pixel and start a conversation, that’s for sure! Welcome to the blogosphere, Lowell2020! (Facebook page is here if you want to keep up with the latest.)

May 14, 2012

We’re Number Awesome!

by at 9:56 am.

In case you needed a reason to feel superior, here’s an article in Slate touting why Massachusetts is one of the best states to live and work in. Because by the numbers, we stack up really well. Even to the rest of the world.

Did you know that Massachusetts ranks lowest on traffic fatality rates (yeah, I know!)? That our kids are the best in the nation in math and reading in fourth and eighth grade tests. We rank fifth and ninth on reading and math worldwide. We have the lowest divorce rate in the country (despite all them gays that get to marry, it didn’t bring the end of marriage as we know it). Our unemployment is nearly 2 points below the national average, and the third highest in the world on worker productivity. We have some of the best technology stats out there.

We also “recently displaced California as the nation’s most energy-efficient state.” Take that, you West Coasters!

Of course, we’re not perfect, and there’s plenty to work on in government, business, and society as a whole, but you should be proud as hell to be a Bay Stater. I know I am.

April 20, 2012

The Olive Branch Before The Storm

by at 11:29 am.

Jen Myers has an exceptionally tidy write up on Dept. of Interior’s invitation to some of the interested parties to kibbutz, Re: Enel’s proposed bladder dam.

“The applicant’s new proposal attempts to respond to many of the expressed concerns of the NPS and indicates there may be more flexibility n the design than NPS had previously believed,” Tittler wrote. “We feel strongly, as we have stated in the past, that a meeting in person, among as many consulting parties as possible, is the only way in which to move toward any resolution.”

The goals of the meeting, Tittler states are: “To gain a full and shared understanding of the effects of the applicant’s new proposal on the Pawtucket Dam; to discuss methods to further reduce the impact of crest gate installation; to see whether some version of a crest gate system is acceptable to all parties can be arrived at.”

The Blog of Record is also kind enough to host the PDF version of the DOI letter on their server.

To me, this looks like “seconds” are being dispatched to define the terms prior to the duelists meeting on the “field of honour.” Without question, one rule is mutually agreed upon, the coming events will not be “a la outrance.”

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