Left In Lowell

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January 13, 2014

Sting Operation for Plan E Government?

by at 11:55 am.

What a difference an election makes. What a difference a week makes. We’re headed in to our first Council meeting where everyone knows the City Manager is handing in his resignation; so now comes the fallout. And that might not be what the was intended by Plan E’s opponents, as we’ll see in a moment.

Jack has an overview of three motions on this week’s agenda of interest to the ongoing saga of what we face now - winding down the Lynch era, the hiring of his replacement, and replacing other outgoing top staff. One is a request for him to consider staying a little longer, at least through budget season, by CC Milinazzo. This is, on its face, a practical acknowledgement of the tight space Lowell is in, with no CFO (and with Lynch leaving, his disinclination to hire one right before heading out, a view shared by his detractors, for their own reasons) and an Auditor retiring, a little stability at the top for the complex and delicate job of managing the budget process might go a long way. It also gives the Council more time to collect resumes and consider a replacement. Of course, Elliott has shown himself to be chomping at the bit to hurry the hiring process along. I leave it to you, dear reader, to wonder why that might be. I’ll start you off: a rush job could equal a bag job?

Another motion on the docket, however, seeks to tie the outgoing Manager’s hands, by newcomer Dan Rourke. “Request the City Mgr. not enter into any contracts or extend any contracts and not to make any appointments or re-appointments to any Boards or Commissions.”

One wonders if Rourke has a problem with the city unions who have not yet had their contracts finished and signed? Is he implying they should wait potentially months for the process of hiring a new CM to play out? Anyways…

I think it’s reasonable to expect an outgoing CM not to make any huge changes on his way out the door. You know, like the last-minute 10% raises Cox gave his high-level buddies after he was told to leave but before he was officially gone? However, as some have said on social media, if you’re going to literally tie the hands of the City Manager by demanding, or at least requesting (I’m not sure it’s legal under Plan E to strip the CM of powers he has by statute) he not perform the bulk of his job, he should leave this very minute. The CM enters into contracts on a regular basis. Some are big, like the union contracts, which also require Council approval, and some are just every day minutia to keep the city running. If he’s not allowed to manage those, he should just be permitted to stop showing up to work tomorrow, and we can pay him to stay home for two months.

Moreover, I don’t think Lynch is the kind of guy who’s going to upend the whole operation (well, more than it already is with all the top staff moving on) and make sweeping changes or policy decisions on his way out the door. He’s going to wrap his tenure up with the intent of passing on a trim, neat operation for as smooth a transition as possible. A little trust, please? He’s got us this far.

As to appointments to boards commissions, or reappointments…please. Do you really believe that Lynch is going to stack the appointments (most of which, again, require Council approval anyway) with crony picks on his way out? That’s the way the Cox types operate. This has never been Lynch’s manner. This utter nonsense, this psychological projection by some in the city, of their own basest personality traits, onto Lynch, who has never displayed these traits, is starting to wear thin. All right, it was thin to begin with, now it’s rubbing on bone. I really wish those elements of Lowell would engage in a little self-reflection and see them the way the rest of us see them when they do these things.

I doubt Rourke came up with this motion on his own, by the way. It plays awfully well into the hands of the likes of the JMac, Dave Daly, or Vieira types. Raise your hand if you don’t think cousin Tippah had a hand in it? Daly, by the way, is president of an ambulance company with a longtime eye on the contract Trinity EMS currently has with the city of Lowell. The ambulance contract, like a few others, are completely the decision of the City Manager, with no interference allowed by the City Council. There is real money at stake here, this isn’t all about petty revenge.

Then there is the confirmed report that Elliot crashed the weekly department head meeting, making everyone uncomfortable. In at least the last decade, no mayor or councilor has done this. Mayor’s aids sometimes attend, presumably on specific issues or needs. I don’t know, but I can guess Elliott showed up with no polite notice to the CM or any dept heads. It’s a little like if you sold your house, and the new owners show up unannounced the day you’re hauling your stuff out, and start measuring for curtains and painting samples swatches on the living room wall. Sure, notice isn’t some sort of legal requirement. But it certainly announces, “I believe THIS is MY turf now!” It violates, at a minimum, the spirit of a Plan E form of government. And it’s just rude.

But I also believe, calculated. It’s no hidden secret that Elliott is a Plan A strong mayor supporter - preferably, I presume, with himself playing the role of strong mayor. He thinks oversight is equal to verbally beating the crap out of the people you oversee, even if you already have the answer you asked for, if past City Council meetings are any indication. So why would he operate in a weak mayor structure any differently? He’s trying to prove that a strong mayor does things. Like act like a City Manager. Even if legally, he can’t. Pound on chest. Repeat.

This, and the attempt to weaken the CM position temporarily by Rourke’s motion, and a host of other little actions and speeches from these folks, are all geared towards pushing Plan A. They beat the drum of “direct democracy! Voters should choose the person who runs the city!” when trying to outmaneuver the counter argument that Plan E works because your professional hire has muni management education and experience. They can’t come out and say, “we’re against professional city government!” or worse, “we want to hire our friends!” so they say, “From Lowell For Lowell” as if someone who lives elsewhere will never be able to be qualified enough to take the reigns. Notwithstanding their brilliance, high levels of education, or years of muni management experience.

I think though this will backfire. No, scratch that, I think it already is. There’s already a lot of pushback - not just on blogs, though the blogs are pretty much universally panning the current state of affairs, from blogfather Richard Howe to longtime born and bred Cap’n Paul Belley. But also on Facebook, Youtube (OK I’ll admit some culpability for that), Twitter, and, I’m guessing, by phone and by snail mail as well. People liked the direction the city has taken. They liked Lynch’s tenure, and they want more of the same.

I have long said that, despite the opposition projecting their own personality faults onto me, I have never been about supporting Bernie Lynch. I have been about supporting the hiring and retaining of professional, experienced, fair and honest City Managers. Full stop. I am easy to please, really I am. Hire another professional. Here’s a quick hint: you are unlikely to find such a candidate residing currently in Lowell. The number of people with experience like Bernie had when he was hired is very small. The pool is limited. You might even want to consider someone who lives far away (outside of practical driving distance) - then they’ll have to move here to take the job, right? Lowell has a lot to offer a transplant, even a City Manager. They’ll WANT to move here. That was the whole point of professional city government in the first place! To make Lowell a better place to live and work.

So overextend away on the whole Plan A thing. The more the better. Because the more they politicize the situation we’re in, the more they prove the downfalls of a Plan A strong mayor government, no?

January 10, 2014

Notoriety!

by at 9:03 pm.

Well, thanks to the 40 minute debate and Council vote to put baby Jesus back on our civic lawn, so to speak, Lowell’s city council meeting has now reached a nationally read atheist blog. I said on Tuesday night that all CC. Mercier was going to do was bring attention to the unconstitutionality of all the religion in our city meetings and at city hall - resulting in more of a chance to waste our taxpayer dollars on fighting that lawsuit (and others - official council prayer, anyone?) she wanted to have us pay for (and lose).

“Were we afraid of being sued?” Mercier said. “Because if we were, this is one lawsuit I would have no objection to fight all the way.”

Famous last words of elected officials spending other people’s money. She should ask the Dover school board how that attitude worked out for them.

And I will also say that while Rita said “let them all come!” talking about menorahs and such, do you really think she’ll have such an equitable reaction if something like this is placed next to the manger next year? Because this public hissy fit over religion on our Council floor, like the inevitable lawsuit, makes it more likely someone will ask to do it.

Now, Ed Brayton merely found the news the Lowell Sun posted. What kind of reaction will the secular humanist community have to the actual rantings of the several people over the course of the discussion, do you think? Oh wait. I’m editing that video as we speak.

Rita just landed us in a heap of trouble. *shakes head*

April 24, 2013

C. Kennedy: Leader or Campaigner?

by at 10:54 pm.

Greg Page coined the phrase, Home Run Derby.

After a recent Council meeting in which there were a series of emotional speeches preceding what would clearly be a 9-0 vote, I was searching for a term for these sorts of things, and settled on “Home Run Derby.” Why?

Because everyone can get up, take their cuts for the fence in Barry Bonds-ahead-of-the-count-and-nothing-to-lose fashion, while the pitches are coming in straight to the wheelhouse and no one is playing defense.

Last night’s City Council meeting met the criteria for a ‘Home Run Derby’ and then some. Unfortunately, we need a new phrase for the ‘and then some.’ What do we call it, or should call it, when a Councilor jumps in front of a moving band wagon, in the hopes of taking credit for the soon to come achievement.

Let’s focus, now, because this is EXACTLY what C.Kennedy is doing with the motion he directed at the License Commission. (more…)

February 15, 2012

Hey Virginia State House, Stick It Up Your Own &%@^

by at 8:36 pm.

A bunch of dried up old male assholes in Virginia are passing a law that mandates transvaginal ultrasounds for women before getting an abortion:

The ultrasound legislation would constitute an unprecedented government mandate to insert vaginal ultrasonic probes into women as part of a state-ordered effort to dissuade them from terminating pregnancies, legislative opponents noted.

“We’re talking about inside a woman’s body,” Del. Charnielle Herring, a Democrat, said in an emotional floor speech. “This is the first time, if we pass this bill, that we will be dictating a medical procedure to a physician.”

PhotobucketTell you what, Virginia State House (and Senate and Governor if it passes and is signed): why don’t you take this probe, lube it up nice and good (this’ll be cold for a moment), and stick it up your own most intimate orifice?

So you literally want to tell a doctor what procedure they must use on a woman? And for what? “Informed consent” my ass. Of course, everyone knows that this is a lie and it’s about controlling women, but just to spell it out, do you think women are dumb? That they are not informed about what the end result of not terminating a pregnancy is? Oh, gee, it ends with having a baby. You really must think us wee widdle women are idiots.

Except we know one thing: the instant the government mandated you get a stick up your ass or else face lifelong, dire consequences (which bringing a child to term is, for better or worse), you’d be howling and screaming about the violation of your right to privacy and to make up your own mind on the advice of your doctor about what medical procedures are necessary or needed in your own personal case.

But probing a woman with an invasive ultrasound that isn’t even medically necessary in most cases where a woman chooses to have an abortion, hey that’s not a bridge too far for you. This bill makes no sense whatsoever on its supposed merits, unless of course you believe that the poor little woman with a medical probe sticking out of her vagina, upon seeing the fetus wiggling on the screen, will so fall in love with the little tiny heartbeat and fingernails that they suddenly change their minds and hey! you’ve saved a tiny human life that houses a soul (according to YOU) from some sort of gruesome murder.

Except that is not your choice to make, or influence. You’re not only hypocritical in passing this bill that you would not ever pass about male patients, you are tormentors. Bullies. You are misogynists of the most vile kind. I have worse names for you, but I think I have made my point.

Get out of my vagina, and the vaginae of the rest of America’s women. You are not fit to govern, nevermind tell me and my doctor what procedures are or are not necessary.

January 22, 2009

This Just In: Conventional Village Wisdom Wrong; also Pope Catholic

by at 12:28 pm.

(cross posted at BlueMassGroup)
One sure sign that the village is about to ignore reality is when it asserts anything about the desires of Americans. As Greenwald pointed out today:

One of the most common and most corrosive aspects of our political discourse is the endless assertions — based on nothing — about what “Americans believe. It is exceedingly conventional wisdom that Americans generally view the world through the prism of Jack Bauer and therefore want our government to torture, want Guantanamo kept opened, and do not want suspected Terrorists to be tried in civilian courts inside the U.S. It is even more commonly asserted that Americans do not want, and even further, would never tolerate, criminal investigations into the various crimes of Bush officials.”

Turns out that there is polling on these questions, and the American people seem to have missed the memo from the village about what they are supposed to believe. Of course the polling is phrased to try and push them toward village conformity, but alas the village is doomed to be disapointed (that is if they really cared if their claims about American opinion had any basis in truth).

Greenwald has the details but here are some hits:

By a wide margin — 58-40% — Americans say that torture should never be used, no matter the circumstances.

Moreover, a majority of Americans (53-42%) favor the closing of Guantanamo,…

a majority of Americans (50-47%) believe that the Obama administration should investigate whether the Bush administration’s treatment of detainees was illegal.

Americans would have opposed (52-42%) the issuance of pardons by Bush to those “who carried out his administration’s policy on the treatment of terrorism suspects.”

I guess it turns out that Americans get, unlike Fox, that Jack Bauer is as advertised… entertaining fiction. Of course the village will no doubt go on misunderestimating American opinion. They will claim insight into ‘conventional wisdom’ and assert that these majority views are actually only the opinion of the far left.

One can hope now that those who dismissed anyone that was ‘reality based’ are out of office, real reality might begin permeate the consciousness (and conscience) of the village.

September 3, 2008

The United States of America, or the State of “Norsefire”?

by at 8:28 pm.

{Cross posted on BMG and Dailykos (please recommend on each site if you can). This is by far the most important story in America this week.}

Buried deep, deep under the seriously unvetted veep choice of John McCain, under Gustav, and under the formless, content-free speechmaking at the Republican convention, is the real scary story of the week - the scene outside of the RNC convention in St. Paul.

By all accounts, fascism is here, and it is us. The scenes just from that one Greenwald post alone should cause you great worry for our democracy. (more…)

June 20, 2008

Tsongas Votes Against Telco Giveaway

by at 10:17 pm.

Kudos to Rep. Niki Tsongas, who told us in the campaign that she wouldn’t capitulate to giving telecom companies immunity from their part in breaking the law and trampling our constitutional rights. She is in the list of 129 good souls who voted nay. Unfortunately, it still passed in the House. I beg the Senate to do everything, including filibustering our own Democrats if necessary, to stop this entire bill from going forward. This includes immunity for telcos, but also some of the other dangerous provisions.

And no, Senator Obama, “doing your best” to just strip immunity from the bill doesn’t cut it. Find someone on your staff to read the bill carefully, because it appears there’s a lot not to like about it (not that anyone read it thoroughly, having less than a day to review it). If your colleagues filibuster it, support that. Anything less isn’t leadership.

April 21, 2008

Bush Propaganda: It Was Worse Than We Thought

by at 12:27 pm.

Everyone online is talking about this new NY Times report on the way the Bush administration used thinly veiled bribery to get retired military officers out on the airwaves to support Bush policies. It’s as big a news story as it sounds.

To the public, these men are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as “military analysts” whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world.

Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found.

The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.

In other words, those who took full advantage of the industrial military complex’s revolving door for outgoing military personnel. People who had every financial reason to support going to war and staying there, as their companies or clients were, and are, raking in millions.

This is the embodiment of what Eisenhower warned about.

[Retired military a]nalysts have been wooed in hundreds of private briefings with senior military leaders, including officials with significant influence over contracting and budget matters, records show. They have been taken on tours of Iraq and given access to classified intelligence. They have been briefed by officials from the White House, State Department and Justice Department, including Mr. Cheney, Alberto R. Gonzales and Stephen J. Hadley.

In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated. Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access.

A few expressed regret for participating in what they regarded as an effort to dupe the American public with propaganda dressed as independent military analysis.

The article is pages long, and is something every American should read. Why now? Because the information has finally come to light:

Five years into the Iraq war, most details of the architecture and execution of the Pentagon’s campaign have never been disclosed. But The Times successfully sued the Defense Department to gain access to 8,000 pages of e-mail messages, transcripts and records describing years of private briefings, trips to Iraq and Guantánamo and an extensive Pentagon talking points operation.

The documents released by the Pentagon do not show any quid pro quo between commentary and contracts. But some analysts said they had used the special access as a marketing and networking opportunity or as a window into future business possibilities.

Disgusting. Those are your kids, sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, cousins…your tax dollars…and your country, your media, which have been used, abused, and cynically manipulated for years.

Many also shared with Mr. Bush’s national security team a belief that pessimistic war coverage broke the nation’s will to win in Vietnam, and there was a mutual resolve not to let that happen with this war.

The free press won’t suit us, because they might report things that make people unhappy, so we’ll just stop that little nagging inherent right of all Americans dead cold.

It goes on. Read it.

March 10, 2008

Think They Wouldn’t? They Did

by at 1:50 pm.

Information is a precious and precarious commodity these days. Many “trusted” companies you do business with are selling their data on you to other companies. Junk mail and spam attack you at all angles, scams abound, and the universe is getting smaller and smaller.

Conservatives and liberals alike ought to be very, very frightened of our Big Brother culture. Because Big Brother is doing it…again:

Siobhan Gorman of The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that the National Security Agency has assembled what some intelligence officials admit is a driftnet for domestic and foreign communications.

Here’s the way the whole thing works, according to Gorman: into the NSA’s massive database goes data collected by the Justice Department, Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Treasury. This information includes data about email (recipient and sender address, subject, time sent), internet searches (sites visited and searches conducted), phone calls (incoming and outgoing numbers, length of call, location), financial information (wire transfers, credit-card use, information about bank accounts), and information from the DHS about airline passengers.
[…]
Gorman describes the NSA’s effort (elements of which have been reported before) as basically a resurrection of the Pentagon’s Total Information Awareness program, which of course was de-funded by Congress once the details became public.

OK, so the NSA figured out that naming a program Total Information Awareness sounded really Orwellian. So they changed the name and kept doing it - even after Congress said “No!”. Can someone tell me just where the due process is? Hello? Do we even have a Bill of Rights anymore?

And how important do you think it is to keep telecom immunity out of the FISA bill now?

February 12, 2008

The FISA Shame Is Ours, Too

by at 9:15 pm.

So utterly disappointing to me.

Harry Reid should be made to step down. This was a terrible travesty of bad leadership. I can no longer support a man, one of the prominent leaders of my party, who would allow this administration, or anyone, to illegally and unconstitutionally spy on Americans without due process.

Why are we even a Democracy? It’s hard to see what our way back would be from this level of capitulation to fascism and corporate protectionism. It’s a sad day, the sort that might have caused our founding fathers to decide that this great experiment would be doomed, had they predicted it.

Let’s hope our House of Representatives stands firm on their version of the bill, against the Senate version, in conference committee. To that end, please call and plead with Rep. Niki Tsongas. (202) 225-3411 in DC or (978) 459-0101 at the Lowell office. Better yet, visit her office in person at 11 Kearney Square. You can also sign this petition at firedoglake, which will be sent to the House.

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