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Left In Lowell » Volunteering

Left In Lowell

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July 12, 2014

More About What Fire Victims Need

by at 9:15 am.

I stopped by Wish Project yesterday (as did some others) and we’re hearing that what is really needed is clothing for slight-framed men - sized 30 or 32 pants. Of course, women’s and children’s clothing (infant to teen) also welcome, as well as toys, non-perishable food and household goods.

One thing I brought yesterday were cheap rubbermaid bins. Think about it: these families will get a lot of goods from the Wish Project and other organizations, but where will they store them? If you have extra bins kicking around, or want to buy them (I got a couple for $9 each at a local dept store) bring them, especially if they are solid colored (not clear plastic), with lids. This will help protect the privacy of the families as they use the bins to move their goods around.

Another thing I thought of…hangers. Lots of them will be needed, again, because these families will be set up in hotels, then in apartments, and given clothing they will need to hang. Bring hangers!

Eventually, and pretty soon at that, these families will need pots, pans, kitchen utensils and other cooking and kitchen implements. The Wish Project also mentioned they were in need of small kitchen appliances - toasters and coffee makers etc. If you have extra, working counter appliances in your home that are sitting in your basement doing nothing, bring them in!

And of course, right now Wish Project is asking for food items these displaced residents can eat without a fridge or stove, as they will be in hotels for now. The list from the Wish Project (PDF) is a good place to start. I just wandered the food isles looking for stuff kids would want to eat, microwavable meals, snacks, and drinks they could keep without refrigeration and packed my cart full of store-brand items.

If you could find microwavable rice I’m certain that would be much appreciated, given many of the victims are Cambodian and rice is a staple food, as mentioned in this article.

There will be a fundraiser on Sunday in the Glory Buddhist Temple on Cambridge Street at 5:30 p.m. The Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association also has a GoFundMe page for survivors, and you can also donate to the Branch Street Fire Victims Relief Fund, at any branch of the Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union, or send money to the bank at P.O. Box 1238, Lowell, MA 01853.

I’m certain the Wish Project, CTI or other organizations could use some help from volunteers, especially the Wish Project as a lot of donations are coming in and need to be sorted. I bet they’d be tickled if you brought them pizza and drinks today to help feed the volunteers that are there today. You can call them to see what they are in need of or to check if something you have is something they take: 978-441-9474.

Please pipe up in comments with any more news or information. Thanks!

January 23, 2014

Backpedal Fast Enough?

by at 6:26 pm.

Well, I have to say, I won the Blowup of the Week bet with my only too obvious pick of City Manager appointments. I thought because it was so obvious, it was likely the blowup would not be about appointments, but some heretofore overlooked item on the agenda. Alas, this City Council can’t even surprise us in its stupidest moments.

First, I’d like to make a WTF? comment on taking the executive session for discussing Lynch’s potential extension out of order. I know Rourke/Golden is new to things, but his colleagues ought to know better. Here’s all the way that it was a poor move: the viewers at home were trying to watch a meeting, and BOOM! an hour and a half or thereabouts went silent. (Actually, not precisely silent. There was music for a time, and then the mic went live for a bit which was really fun. I think the LTC folk thought something was about to happen, then it didn’t, so eventually they went back to the music.) So you hosed the viewer at home, who wanted to see the public portion of the meeting. Most people, who are not masochistic like some of us are, probably gave up and turned on Jeopardy or whatever it is the average demo of Council meetings watch when Council isn’t on. A big win for democracy!

Then, you also screwed LTC. Now the replay of the meeting has to include an hour and a half of dead space. Since they provide “gavel to gavel coverage” they can’t just edit this part out. Thanks for that.

But the worst is that all the people still hanging around for motions or considerations that would have normally been quite early in the meeting had to sit around the chamber, waiting. I’m thinking particularly of the aforementioned appointments. They couldn’t go out for burgers because no one knew how long the executive session would go, so they were stuck. These Councilors constantly “suspend the rules” to allow some person about whom a future motion affects, is speaking on, etc. But hey, let’s not think about those people, we’re leaving them sitting there so we can beat them up later on. *rolls eyes*

Moving on to the BotW, it was a complex dance of rules-bending, misapplication of rules, outright attempts to violate long-known rules, and of course, beating people up. So in trying to tell this story, I’m going to resort to video clips - which include some commentary. This is a long post, but it was a weird night, even for this Council. (more…)

January 19, 2014

BotW: Council Agenda Preview for 01/21/14

by at 9:48 am.

I’m going to try to do this weekly, since I’ve sort of been doing this anyway. This is a post about the possible pitfalls and rants you might see pop up during city council. Every week, there’s at least one thing that becomes a controversial mud slinging festival, and you don’t always know what that will be. But we can take bets and give over-unders and then see how accurate we are! To that end, comments are welcome. If you accurately predict an unexpected Blowup of the Week (BotW), there might be something in it for you. (Yes, LiL is offering a real prize!)

The motions on this week’s council agenda are really light. By light, I mean, just one. One lonely little motion from City Councilors…what, were they all napping? On vacation? Or are they tired of stuff going kaboom? Who knows.

The one motion is from Belanger: “C. Belanger - Request the City Mgr. organize a meeting between Trinity Financial and the City Council to provide updates regarding the Hamilton Canal Project.”

It’s not a bad instinct, as I would like to know this too, but I have a sneaking suspicion this has already been discussed recently? Am I remembering wrong? Anyway, that project is such a long term development that periodic checkins are not a bad idea. Hopefully, this will not explode in our faces on Tuesday night, but be a nice polite request, which will at some future point be fulfilled, and then we’ll all dance on rainbows and eat ambrosia.

There is an executive session at the end regarding the CM staying on a little longer - regardless of Rita’s terrific hissy fit against it last week - but since it’ll be closed doors, if there are fireworks, we won’t see them. Also, there won’t be fireworks because we won’t be able to see them. (Camera rolling = opportunity for advancement don’tcha know?)

There are a number of “Votes from the City Manager” - and those can blow up at any time. I see nothing there particularly obvious, except for something that looks like it benefits Dave Daly anyway (so why would it become this week’s hot item, it’s not like we’re taking something FROM Dave), but here’s where you can win this game, if you point out something that does wind up being exploded past all reasonableness. One guess per person, please! Give others a chance! There’s a JAM plan change too, no idea what that constitutes, but that might be a likely candidate!

But no, my one guess for the week’s standout for Blowup of the Week would be under the CM’s portion…DUM DUM DUM…appointments! You know, those things that Rourke/Golden wanted to keep the City Manager from doing at all, but which was withdrawn in confusion after the previous blowup discussion about keeping the CM on through budget season (Kennedy jumped on board that train, smart man, and I think that deflated Rourke’s little game). Look for hay to be made about some or all of these board appointments, for the City Manager having the gall to DO HIS JOB and fill vacant seats before these boards have to stumble along for another couple of months, minimum, with vacancies.

Keep an especial eye on CC. Kennedy, because as someone reminded me, he made a stink about all these vacancies being open. If he lets these fairly innocuous appointments by without a peep, or with “hey thanks for filling these” he’ll be consistent. If he wants to discuss each one to death because, ‘Merica, that’ll be pretty hypocritical. I mean, seriously, it’s no wonder that Lynch has so much trouble filling board vacancies…from appointment approval through their tenure, they get twisted, tweaked, and then risk being in the Paper Blog of Record while seated. I can tell you, I’d be loathe to serve via a CM appointment personally, and there are boards I’d love to serve on someday. (Like, the Lowell Cultural Council. That’d be right up my ally! But no thanks.) Full disclosure: I’m on the LTC board, in case you didn’t know, for a two year term, as a member. I’m very pleased to be serving and excited to give back to LTC who has given a lot of support to me over the years for productions I’ve done, both for Left in Lowell and for Threads, the TV show. And oh yeah, I forgot to post the latest clip from the show, so I will later today! It’s with Adam Baacke, so totally relevant (accidentally so, I assure you, we booked him in December!)

Ahem, so back to my prediction for Tuesday - and I’ll be really pleased if I lose this game, sincerely I will:

Communication-Appoint Dr. Julia Hans (Green Building Commission) 2014 / 49
Communication-Appoint Salmira Mitchell (Pollard Memorial Board of Trustees) 2014 / 54
Communication-Appt Robert Malavich (Planning Board) 2014 / 57
Communication-Appt Michael J. Paglia (ZBA) 2014 / 59

Those four are being appointed. It’s my understanding that Malvich is an alternate being turned into a full member of the Planning Board, so that should be a shoe-in. (Should be, doesn’t mean will be…). I don’t know Dr. Hans, but it’s the Green Building Commission, this council could care less, and I’m sure she’s qualified. Paglia for the ZBA - Paglia is a known quantity in Lowell and so, if certain people have made up their minds not to like him already it could be dicey, but I don’t know where people are lined up on that one. And Salmira Mitchell is a lovely lady from Centralville, if you met her you’d fall in love with her…she the gardener behind public gardening at an entrance to Centralville, and CNAG leader/member. The sort of sweet person that Rita Mercier would probably like very much, and she’s very noncontroversial. She is married to Jack Mitchell, as the Column today insisted on pointing out, but please do not put this nice person who has done nothing but pleasant things for this city through the wringer. She is the exact sort of person we want serving on a board for the Pollard.

Now that I’ve said that, I’ve probably doomed her. Sorry, Salmira…

OK, you’ve got the link to the Council agenda for Tuesday, what are your guesses? Remember, these are for real stakes - one guess per person!! First person to guess on an item will be the winner if that item is Blowup of the Week!

April 24, 2013

Remember The Senate Special Election?

by at 4:26 pm.

The Primary is one week from yesterday.

 photo MarkeyGOTVEvent_zpsb2d583de.jpg

A note from Ariela: This is the same night as the fund raiser for the bombing victims being held at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center. It is understood that at 6pm, many of the attendees will be walking over to the ICC for that event, as well. I hope to see you all soon.

November 8, 2012

Coordinated Campaigns

by at 12:28 pm.

On Monday I posted my ground-eye view of the state’s local Democratic campaign. Now, we’re through the other side and lots of people are examining what went right and, though you might not see it, anything that went wrong. (People love a success and cluck at a failure, after all.) After the Coakley disaster, the state Democratic party, headed up by John Walsh, did some serious soul searching. Since grassroots campaigning is Walsh’s stock in trade, I’m not sure that there was much he could have done during that January, 2010 special election, if the candidate wasn’t accepting advice. And certainly, Coakley, while a smart prosecutor and an OK stumper, was not the sort of candidate to inspire the grassroots to action in the middle of a cold month and a short lead time.

But examine it the party did anyway, and came up with the coordinated campaign idea. In 2010, the coordinated campaign reelected Deval Patrick to the Governorship in the middle of a pretty tough year for incumbents, and the “red wave” that swept the rest of the country largely passed us by, losing the Dems only some seats in the House and gaining them one in the state Senate. Even the gains for Republicans (15 to 30 state House seats) weren’t enough to disturb the Dem supermajority.

I worked on that campaign a bit in 2010, and there were some bugs to work out with the coordinated campaign. For instance, there was always tension between turning out voters for local races that might not vote for Patrick, and vice versa. Everyone worked together, but there was some grumbling. When the results of working together became apparent (fewer losses in MA, a reelection for Patrick despite the economy), I think those concerns were alleviated. The efficiency of shared resources overcame the peculiarities of local vs. statewide campaigns. (more…)

November 7, 2012

Lowell Went for Warren…Heavily (Updated)

by at 7:59 am.

According to the Boston.com results page, with all 33 precincts in Lowell reporting, the vote count was Warren: 19,678 to Brown: 13,905.

So much for all the face time he put in here, and the local “Democratic” endorsements he touted. Wonder if Rita is sweating it? There are a number of longtime supporters of hers that appear to be very angry with her. She hates it when people don’t like her…that has to be unpleasant.

This means the margin of support for Warren in Lowell was 58.7% to 41.6%. Yeah, you read that right. A huge difference of 5,773 votes.

Let me bask in that number for a few days on behalf of the amazing, wonderful, capable, hardworking campaign staff and the core set of volunteers that showed up to so many canvasses, phone banks, rallies, and visibilities. Compared to those folks, I’m just an occasional worker bee. Kudos to Andrew Howe and Ariela Gragg who ran the regional office. You deserve this margin of victory!! It’s all yours.

Update: From Fran on facebook, it looks like Chelmsford went for Obama, 9,906 to 9,534. A small margin of victory, but for Chelmsford, that is insane! Kudos to the Chelmsford crew! Also, I am guessing (someone wanna check?) that the 11,530 to 7,900 loss for Warren there was a smaller margin than the Coakley/Brown special election?

PS - Golnik couldn’t even win in Chelmsford, his 7,449 to Tsongas’ 11,413 is a pretty poor showing.

November 5, 2012

Ground Game: An At-Grade View

by at 10:35 am.
Friday’s Rally at Lowell’s West End Gym. Photo credit: Ariela Gragg, Lowell Field Organizer for the Elizabeth Warren campaign.

Yesterday, after a few hours canvassing, I wound down the day at the Warren campaign phone bank location, making calls to remind supporters to GOTV. Standard operating procedure of a grassroots campaign. I met a woman who had been there since 1pm, who had made an astounding 12 pages of phone calls that day. She told me this was her first time ever doing any campaign work of any sort for any candidate. “Really?” I asked her. She had actually gotten a phone call invitation to the rally with Elizabeth for last Friday (she would have been in that crowd of the above photo) and had attended, and promptly signed up to work GOTV. I was pretty astounded, but not surprised, by her committment.

I’ve met an awful lot of people who have never touched a campaign before in their lives during the weeks and months leading up to this weekend. Like another woman from Chelmsford, my canvassing partner yesterday afternoon, who was also a new face in election campaigning.

Elizabeth is the sort of candidate money can’t buy - both literally, but also figuratively. She’s intelligent and full of substance, inspiring, optimistic about what we can accomplish, and genuine. All protests from Republican ads to the contrary. And when people hear her speak, or have a chance to meet her, they can see it.

On the canvassing circuit, I’ve talked to a lot of undecided voters over the last few weeks. There are still a few out there even now. Something they cite a lot is their disgust at the parrying back and forth over the airwaves - they don’t know who to believe, and they are sick of being “spun” to. For my part, I’ve told the truth about the ads Brown has run against Warren - that they are very misleading, and many of them outright lies, using victims of asbestos and others to twist truth into unrecognizable falsehoods. There’s not a lot of time to go into details, but I tell them what I can of the background behind those ads. But I am beginning to believe that ads - all ads, from all candidates - should be banned from TV. They are not helping people make good decisions about candidates, they are only confusing, particularly when you throw third parties into the mix (which, thankfully, in our Senate race, don’t exist, thanks to the People’s Pledge).

Make the people hear from the candidates directly. Replay segments from debates in full. Networks need to stop making tons of cash off of our democracy - turning it into a demock-racy. Anyway, this is a tangent…

The fact remains, though, that Warren’s campaign is historic in more ways than just the possibility she might be the first female Senator from MA. I can feel it when I am volunteering, but it’s also evident in the numbers.

Her campaign officials say they expect to have 24,000 volunteers working for them on Tuesday roughly 10 in each of the state’s 2,174 precincts to get her supporters to the polls. That would be by far a record number in Massachusetts. In the days before the election, they expect to knock on one million doors and make two million phone calls.
It has 48 field offices and 74 paid field organizers, including several veterans of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. On Saturday alone, they made more than 370,000 phone calls and knocked on more than 123,000 doors…

Having been involved in the Democratic party apparatus since the Governor’s race in 2006, I can tell you that the Warren campaign is deeper and wider than any statewide campaign I’ve ever even imagined, let alone worked on. Couple to that the state Democratic party’s “Coordinated Campaign” where the party is working together with down-ticket races and pooling their resources, and the breadth and scope is enormous. Never before in all the grassroots I’ve worked has there been a thorough “poll checking” process, at least in this city (maybe it’s done commonly in Boston). Poll checking is when you have people at every polling place, checking supporters off a list as they vote, so that when you print canvass and phone lists for the afternoon and evening shifts, you’ve struck off all those already voted so you are not wasting your time. You need a LOT of bodies to enable poll checking, as well as implementing the right technology to get the information into the system as quickly as possible. That’s on top of the bodies you need at the phone and walking the streets, and the ones doing visibility and data entry and other jobs.

In the Times article linked above, the Brown campaign tries to turn sour grapes into wine:

At a Brown rally here on Sunday, former Gov. William F. Weld, a Republican, cast the race as a showdown between “man versus machine.” He said that just as a machine was working to get Ms. Warren elected, a machine would tell her how to vote. “The machine never rests,” he said.

If by machine you mean people like the woman I met last night, who had never once stepped foot into a campaign office in her long life, but did seven hours of phone banking in one day, or my new Chelmsford friend who, despite recently coming off a horrific injury, was walking the streets talking to voters for hours on a Sunday afternoon. If by telling Warren how to vote, you mean as constituents who are so motivated by their convictions and by the ability of this candidate, Elizabeth Warren, to fulfill their hopes and dreams that they would sacrifice hours and days of their personal time to volunteer for her, then yes, guilty. Guilty as hell.

Fired up, ready to go. THIS is how we should be electing people. Not with money and ads and robocalls. But with people power. I’m ready to get to work. Are you? Volunteers are still needed. Sign up here.

PS - Senator John Kerry will be at the Lowell office today at 5pm, 73 E Merrimack St, Lowell. That would be a good time to stop by and sign up for some hours tomorrow!

October 19, 2012

Buddy, Can You Spare a Dime?

by at 8:54 am.

The soup kitchen where veep nom Paul Ryan staged his faux cleanup photo op, against, it appears, the wishes and policy of said soup kitchen, is seeing backlash (it appears to be Republican in nature…for what, embarrassing Paul Ryan who used and abused the soup kitchen and got caught staging fake photos? ugh).

Generally, it appears this place has a policy against being a backdrop for ANY political event, and has said publicly that it was not authorized and even that the Ryan people “ramrodded their way” into the charity. Now they are facing abusive phone calls and FB messages:

Ryan supporters have now targeted Antal and his soup kitchen, Antal said, including making hundreds of angry phone calls. Some members of Antal’s volunteer staff have had to endure the barrage as well, he said. “The sad part is a lot of [the callers] want to hide behind anonymity,” he said, adding that if someone leaves their name and number he has tried to return their call. In addition to phone calls, people have posted a few choice words on the charity’s Facebook wall, including statements like “I hope you lose your tax [sic] emempt status,” Anyone who is thinking about donations to you should think twice” and “Shame on you Brian Antal!”

They are also stating that they are seeing a terrible drop off in donations, which affects how many people they can serve.

Look, this isn’t about politics. It’s about commonplace civility. These people, through no fault of their own, were used, apparently unauthorized, as a photo op for a candidate, and when they protested the misuse, are now suffering from backlash that will hurt only the very poor who rely on the soup kitchen. Personally, I wish we could do away with soup kitchens entirely and actually address poverty in this country. And to be clear, this is a faith-based organization, and normally I don’t give my money to such (my personal choice). However, in light of the effect this will have on extremely vulnerable people who are the clients of this soup kitchen, I’d ask that if you have a spare dollar or two (and only if you do), to please consider giving a small donation to this soup kitchen. You can do so by the following:

To make a donation to the Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society, money can be sent to P.O. Box 224, Youngstown, Ohio 44501. Donations also may be made online. Online donors should specify that their donations are for the Youngstown, Ohio, soup kitchen.

Let’s see if the internets can right a wrong being done in the name of politics.

September 29, 2012

Mill City Grows…Community

by at 7:19 pm.

Today I took my newly coiffed hair (some old friends didn’t recognize me, I don’t tend to post self-portraits on Facebook) and my min pin to the Mill City Grows Harvest Festival. Since its Back Central location isn’t far from where I live, it was hard to think of an excuse not to.

I’m really glad I did, because I was pretty amazed at what they’ve accomplished in its first year. Using the synergy in the City Manager’s neighborhood initiative as well as the know-how and talent of its founders, Mill City Grows took a blighted park area, where nightly criminal activity plagued police and residents alike, and turned it into a space where area residents - most without growing space of their own - could pay a reasonable $15 per plot to have a space to grow…well, whatever they want.

One comment from Assistant CM DPD head Adam Baacke, was to remark that what was amazing about the project was how much it created and grew a sense of community. (That’s paraphrased, he was way more eloquent.) It also is attractive to our many immigrant communities, who left home gardens and farms behind when they came to our city. Besides the garden plots, renewal of community use of the space, and elimination of the blight and hence most criminal activity, Mill City Grows has also brought in bright and colorful artwork ringing the inside of the secure fencing in the garden area. Many of the raised beds sported signs and decorations of their own.

Despite the morning mist and gray skies (though no rain fell at the festival itself), the turnout was high and the cheerfulness of the crowd was palpable. I was amazed to find a lot of the people involved in the project were friends of mine. Even though I’ve heard bits and pieces all summer about this project, it could be the best kept secret this last summer in Lowell.

What’s even better is MCG is going to bring this model and idea to other areas of the city - Centralville, the Acre, and the Lower Highlands - there being a scheduled vision session and site cleanup coming up on October 20th for the latter.

EDIT: more at Room 50! With better pictures. :D

Some pics I took today (also shared on Facebook and Twitter): (after the flip) (more…)

September 28, 2012

Support Niki at the Debate

by at 11:45 am.


Concord-Carlisle High School
500 Walden Street, Concord, MA 01742

Sunday, September 30th
12:3o PM Visibility
2:00PM Debate

This Sunday Niki will debate her opponent for the first time in 2012. Join us at 12:30PM for a stand-out to show support for Niki. Head inside at 2:00PM to watch the hour-long debate and ask a question.

Email liz@nikitsongas.com to let us know that you are attending. See you there!

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