Elections & Results
See historic Lowell election results and candidate biographies.
A great new exhibit on all the logos, signs, seals and other images using for branding Lowell through the years will open tomorrow at the Mogan Cultural Center at 40 French Street from 3 to 5 pm.
Digital previews of the exhibit reveal that it will present a lesson in Lowell’s history with examples from government, business, sports, culture and entertainment.
A number of the logos have been affixed to t-shirts and coffee mugs which are for sale online.
The exhibit will be available for viewing through the spring and summer at the Mogan Cultural Center which is open daily from 1:30 pm to 5 p.m.
This is the 49th weekly installment of my Lowell in World War One series which commemorates the centennial of the entry of the United States into World War One. Here are the headlines from one hundred years ago this week:
March 18, 1918 – Monday – Massachusetts troops in action at Chemin des Dames. The identification of the units involved has been prohibited by the censor, but all belong to a division composed exclusively of New England units. Three alarm fire in lumber district. Cady and Sons Box shop on Western Ave gutted. Railroad bridge threatened. It was only through quick work by fireman and others from the Boston & Maine railroad that the railroad bridge over the Western Canal was saved from destruction. Miss Emily Skilton, field secretary of the Florence Crittenton league, is now a member of the police department. She took the oath of office this morning at city hall. Miss Skilton’s duties include visiting the dance halls and moving picture houses in the city and keeping in close touch with the young women who frequent them. Lowell observed St. Patrick’s Day in a quiet yet worthy manner yesterday.
March 19, 1918 – Tuesday – Americans bombard German towns. Yankee gunners also dropped projectiles on German trenches. Mass troops bear brunt of bombardment at Chemin des Dames. Signs daylight savings bill. The daylight savings bill was signed today by President Wilson. It puts all clocks forward an hour on the last Sunday in March and turns them back again the last Sunday in October.
March 20, 1918 – Wednesday – Yankees attack enemy with gas shells. Secretary of War Baker under fire in France. German occupation of Petrograd near. Germans drop mustard gas. A German airplane flew over American sector last night and this morning and dropped rubber balls 18 inches in diameter filled with liquified mustard gas. This is the first time that an airplane has been employed to deliver gas in this fashion. The effect of the gas was not serious but American troops were infuriated by what they termed “dirty warfare.” Military cross for Yankees. Pershing approves awarding of new medals to three Americans. The new military crosses were awarded for “extraordinary heroism in connection with operations against an armed enemy.” Lowell High School baseball question. If LHS students do not sell at least 200 season tickets for high school baseball between now and April 5 there will be no baseball this year. That was the ultimatum from principal Herbert Bixby. Owing to the fact that the semi-professional teams in Lowell have been shot to pieces by the war, it is likely that the high school team may attract more fans this year.
March 21, 1918 – Thursday – Over 11 million tons of ships lost in war. Secret British Admiralty figures on the submarine losses made public. Yanks in hand-to-hand battle at Luneville. The American troops conducted a raid into German trenches and penetrated the enemy line for some distance. Screw thread bill reported favorably. The House committee on coinage, weights and measures today ordered a favorable report on the Tilson bill to standardize screw threads and screw tolerance which is a bill of great importance to all manufactures, especially plants that deal with munitions and other metal work.
March 22, 1918 – Friday – British halt big German drive. First stage of great offensive on Western front scored as a German failure. Kaiser directs German attack. British line bends but not broken. Infantry battle still raging. Two priests executed in Brussels after being charged with espionage. Corporal Alfred Renaud dies in France. Son of Mr and Mrs Olivier Renaud of 15 Howard street, he died of pneumonia while serving with the aviation corps. He was very popular in Lowell, having been one of the founders of the Garde Sacre-Coeur, a semi military organization of Notre Dame de Lourdes parish. He was also prominent in the St Joseph’s college alumni association.
Asst CM Conor Baldwin introduces James Doneson, new leader of Department of Public Works.
Mayor Samaras next introduces the three finalists for the position of city manager: Eileen Donoghue of Lowell; Linda Milsap of North Carolina; and James White of Marshfield, Mass. Councilors set 5pm next Tuesday night interviewing the candidates. Each interview will last 45 minutes and will hopefully make the final vote that evening which is March 27, 2018.
Councilor Mercier asks how everyone can sit there with a straight face “and go through this charade.” This is a waste of time. Why should we keep deceiving the public? The only requirement we have is to advertise which we have done. She says we’re wasting everyone’s time and the taxpayer’s money. Says she will not be involved in this charade. She says she’s being perfectly honest and wishes others would be honest.
Councilor Leahy says he would be fine with not doing interviews.
Councilor Nuon says the process needs to be open and it is essential that these interviews take place as soon as possible. Tuesday is fine. He says it’s not a done deal.
Councilor Kennedy corrects the record that Senator Tully was not elected unanimously (as Mercier said in her remarks). Kennedy recalls it was 6 to 3 or 7 to 2. Kennedy says not interviewing people short-changes them. People expect that. The only reason everyone thinks Senator Donoghue is assured of the job is because of the Lowell Sun and the radio station. He doesn’t believe everyone on the council has made up his mind. He says people expect us to go through the process. This time there were only 10 applicants, but we did advertise for only an abbreviated time. But the process is important. We owe it to the voters to interview the candidates and let them make their case.
Councilor Cirillo says she likens things to construction which is her field. She says when a general contractor is looking for subcontractors, you try to get as many quotes as possible. This is like that. You want to hear many view. Sometimes you don’t take the person everyone expects. There is so much more to this than just a resume. She feels the process is important. She wishes we had more applicants, but this is the process. The next step in the process is to interview them.
Councilor Conway says just selecting someone who is seen to be popular sets a bad precedent. What would doing that say about the city of Lowell? Any other job that comes open, people who might apply see that we cancelled the interview in this case, those future applicants won’t take us seriously. Cancelling the interviews is very disrespectful to the voters.
Councilor Leahy says there were only 10 applicants this time. None of them mentioned any of the issues facing the city today. Some didn’t put much effort into their applications. I think it’s OK to make adjustments. We have a strong qualified candidate from the city. Talks about the importance of getting the high school construction underway. Says he could go either way but he’s not disrespecting the process.
Mayor Samaras says he always has been a process person. We established a process and it’s important to stick with it. Quite often when someone interviews for a job, they don’t get hired for that job but might be a good fit for another job that opens at a later time.
Councilor Mercier says the public is looking for honesty. She says she’s speaking for a lot of people who feel that way.
Roll call regarding interviews next Tuesday at 5 pm: Eight yes, one no (Councilor Mercier).
Councilor Elliott makes a that next Tuesday at the regular council meeting there be an agenda item under Mayor’s Business to elect a City Manager. Passes 9 to 0.
Councilor Kennedy moves that the council name the City Clerk to be the acting City Manager between Kevin Murphy’s retirement and the taking office of the new city manager. Passes 9 to 0.
Communication – “FY17 Audit”. Referred to Finance Subcommittee for further discussion. The Auditor does explain that the outside audit firm provided three different reports that are delivered to the council tonight. Their reports show the city making progress in its financial practices. This is of great use to bond and rating agencies. Councilor Mercier asks about the school department reverting $500,000 then $800,000 in federal grant money in the past two years. Mayor Samaras says the council will receive more information about that.
Informational – “FY17 Schedule A”. Placed on file.
GENERAL PUBLIC HEARINGS
Colonial Gas d/b/a National Grid request license for storage of flammables (19,600 gals. 50/50 water/glycol Cl. IIIB; AST) at 333 School Street. Approved.
Misc. – CH LH CrossPoint Owners, LLC request license for additional storage of flammables (7,500 gals. AST Fuel Oil #2/Diesel II) at 900 Chelmsford Street. Approved.
Ordinance-Create one new grant position Resource Room Navigator and establish salary in the Career Center of Lowell. Approved.
Ordinance-Create one Systems and Project Specialist position and establish salary in the Police Dept. Chief Taylor explains this was formerly done by a police officer who recently retired. By making this a civilian position, the city will be able to put a new police officer on the street while hiring someone with specific technical training for these types of tasks. Approved
UTILITY PUBLIC HEARING
National Grid – Request installation of heavy duty handhole and electric conduit in front of 43 Market Street. Approved.
COMMUNICATIONS FROM CITY MANAGER
- A) Abandoned Properties. There are 238 problem properties of which 80 are abandoned. Most are owned by lenders. Councilor Elliott asks how you make these properties productive? Eric Slagle says one was is through receivership. Another way is to demolish the property and sell the land. City Solicitor explains how the city formerly handled these cases. There are several different ways that lead to demolition. Council has long discussion about whether the city can do the receivership program using city resources only (whereas Attorney General’s office is doing 20 properties in Centralville only). Councilor Kennedy asks for a report on what it would take for the city to pursue receivership in other neighborhoods using city resources only. Councilors are focusing on a house on Clark Road that had serious fire damage more than a year ago. The city has withheld active measures because there is a dispute between the homeowner and his insurer. Councilors think the city should be more aggressive on this property.
- B) Policy for Take Home Vehicles. Some police officers have to respond directly to events such as K-9 officers, those assigned to a regional SWAT team, also detectives and supervisors.
- C) Parking Rate Signage
- D) Branch and Middlesex Business Corridor
- E) Downtown Coordinator
- F) Street Acceptance
- G) Municipal Bond/ Note Sale
- H) 2017 Management Letter
Communication – City Manager request Out of State Travel (2) LPD; (1) HHS.
Presentation – Lowell National Historic Park (Laurel Racine, Chief Cultural Resources) – Branding Lowell Exhibit. Exhibit opening at Mogan Center on Saturday, March 24 at 3pm. Public is invited. Exhibit explores use of seals, logos and brands in Lowell through its history. Mark Van Der Hyde who researched and designed most of the panels shows slides of some of the logos.
VOTES FROM THE CITY MANAGER
Vote-Authorize City Manager Ex. Easement with National Grid 16 Franklin Street.
Vote-Appprove the exemption of Brady Finn from MGL c. 268A, s.20
Vote-Auth CM Ex. License Agreement with United Dental Inc for overhanging sign at 131 Merrimack Street
Vote-Transfer 163,510.00 to cover FY18 Fire Dept.
ORDINANCES FROM THE CITY MANAGER
Ordinance-Create new position and salary Lowell Community Opioid Outreach Program (Co-op) Supervisor in the HHS Dept.
Ordinance-Amend c.266 re Parking rates and fines
REPORTS (SUB/COMMITTEE, IF ANY)
Arts and Culture SC March 20, 2018. Chair Karen Cirillo reports on the meeting. Henri Marchand appeared before the subcommittee and listed the things he has worked on. Also heard from Rich Bolton of COOL who talked about the phone app they’re working on for walking tours of the city. He’s going to work with Lowell Walks to build up to 50 different walking tours around Lowell.
Claim – (2) Property Damage.
Misc. – Broadway Street Holdings, Inc. request license for storage of flammables (2,000 gals. Ultra-Low Sulfur Diesel #2; AST) at 706 Broadway Street.
Misc. – Vijoy Abraham on behalf of Shannon Stallworth request installation of (1) handicap parking sign at 33 Read Street.
CITY COUNCIL – MOTIONS
- Cirillo – Req. Arts and Culture SC work in conjunction with the cultural commission to promote public art in and around the City.
- Cirillo – Req. City Mgr. provide a report regarding rejuvenation of the Tour de Lowell; report to include information from prior races in the City. Councilor Cirillo talked about how the Tour de Lowell used to work. It was very popular. Councilor Kennedy says this is the kind of thing that would fit into the festivals that he and other councilors have advocated for the city.
- Cirillo – Req. City Mgr. provide a report regarding spring tree and flower plantings in the City; report to include schedule of plantings, number of plantings and area of plantings.
- Cirillo – Req. City Mgr. provide an update report regarding National Grid’s gas pipeline project for a new 12 inch line to replace current 6 inch line which will run through Chelmsford, Lowell and Tewksbury. Registered speakers – Marissa Shea says she supports this motion. She opposes the pipeline but whatever your position on it, there is much more information needed. National Grid says this is needed for future growth of gas usage but speaker says the city and the state are on a path to renewable energy, so why is this needed now? Next speaker is Monica Lundberg
- Conway – Req. City Mgr. have proper City officials make a presentation to the Substance Abuse SC relative to steps being taken to combat the opiate epidemic. Councilor Kennedy says former Councilor Belanger and Councilor Mercier co-chair the Mayor’s Substance Abuse Task Force and he suggests they make this presentation.
- Conway – Req. City Mgr. have Law Dept. provide a report regarding when the names of applicants for positions in the City can be properly disclosed to public.
- Elliott – Req. City Mgr. explore feasibility of providing 15 minute parking space at 56 Branch Street.
- Elliott – Req. City Mgr. explore feasibility of providing a loading zone parking space located at 32 Branch Street.
- Kennedy – Req. Zoning SC consider amending the current parking regulations for boarding homes and make recommendation to City Council. Councilor Kennedy explains this and the other motion are related. They ask to look at current regulations in zoning codes about boarding and lodging houses. He believes there are many properties that are operating as boarding houses when they are not licensed to do so. Regarding parking requirements, he believes circumstances have changed since that time when these were enacted.
- Kennedy – Req. Zoning SC review and consider amendments to the zoning code; specifically for definitions for “boarding houses” and “family” in Art. II and the Table of Uses in Art. I.
- Samaras – Req. City Council set up a joint meeting of the Public Safety SC with the Student Services SC of the School Committee to discuss safety in our schools. Mayor explains the school committee is responsible for school safety but the city is responsible for the police and fire departments and the buildings. Reports from the shooting in Florida suggest the plan there was inadequate. He would like the city council subcommittee and school committee to meet. He adds that he understands the school department has done a professional safety session but does not want to disclose weaknesses in a public session. City Solicitor says it would be appropriate to review this in executive session and she will contact the school department about scheduling a meeting. Councilor Kennedy says this motion is helpful because it will cause the council and school committee to work together. It should also provide some comfort to parents. Councilor Conway says he will support this but says several weeks ago he tried to reactivate the old safety task force, so that was passed but he is confused why this is needed if that’s already going to be done. Mayor Samaras responds that the safety task force was mostly focused on children who had and caused problems. But those meetings didn’t address things like advance planning for such events, especially the portion that would be held in executive session. Councilor Elliott asks for an update on whether school resource officers have changed their protocols in light of recent events around the country. Motion passes.
ADJOURNMENT: 9:25 pm.
Mimi Parseghian previews tomorrow’s Lowell City Council meeting.
Due to the cancellation of last week’s meeting, this week’s agenda of the Lowell City Council incorporates new items with those of last week.
The first order of business is the report from the City’s CPA firm, Powers & Sullivan. The FY ’18 Audit contains three documents: Financial Statements, Management Letter and the Report on Federal Awards.
In addition to the CPA’s report, there is a 22-page document approved by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue Division of Local Services. The report provides the revenue and expenditures for various fund types and classification by the City for fiscal year 2017 (July 1, 2016 – June 30, 2017). I found the document interesting and informative.
There are 5 items on the Public Hearing section of the agenda. Two are for utilities, one is for fuel storage and two are ordinances for the establishment of two new positions, one of which is grant funded.
The first one is from last week’s agenda. Abandoned Properties: This report was prepared by R. Eric Slagle, Director of Development Services in answer to a motion by City Councilor R. Elliott “Requesting the City Manager and Building Department Provide a Report Regarding All Abandoned Home in the City.”
According to the report, “the City does not maintain a list of such properties, as the status of a property can be difficult to determine from a simple visual inspection.” However, they do use two lists to focus on potential abandoned properties. The first is the Lowell Fire Department’s list of marked properties and the second is the list maintained by Development Services of registered properties under the Vacant/Foreclosure Ordinance. The list contains 238 properties but only 80 are vacant.
Policy for Take Home Vehicles: This is the response to the motion made at the first meeting this year by City Councilor R. Elliott that “Requested the City Manager Provide a Report Regarding the Policy of City Vehicles Being Taken Home, the number of Vehicles Issued to Employees and the Associated Costs.
The report, prepared by Assistant City Solicitor James F. Wellock, outlines that there are four categories to the use of City-owned vehicles: “fleet” are used per shift basis and not brought home; “assigned” are used by a particular person and not brought home; “on call”, the smallest group can use the vehicle not only for work but personal use. The fourth group,
City vehicles are used in four categories: fleet vehicles are assigned on a per shift basis and are not brought home; assigned vehicles are assigned to particular persons for use at work and are not brought home; a small group of vehicles are assigned to particular employees for use at work and to commute; last, a small group of employees who are always “on call” are permitted full use of a vehicle; and the fourth group has 27 cars that are used for work and they are also use for commuting to work. The report does not indicate who these people are. Fifteen of them are in the Police Department. It was difficult for me to determine exactly what the “associated cost” is.
Parking Rate Signage: This document, prepared by Parking Director Nicholas Navin, is in response to three similar motions that were all brought forth at the March 6th meeting. “The Parking Department has signs on display in all of the offices of our parking facilities informing patrons of the available monthly parking rates. In response to this request the department has installed additional signage in visible areas of pedestrian activity in each facility.” Also, the Parking Department will work with the Election/Census office to make sure that eligible residents are informed of discounted rates. The report includes images of the various parking payment signs.
Branch and Middlesex Business Corridor: This report was in response to City Councilor V. Nuon’s motion requesting the City Manager have Department of Planning and Development Organize a Business Group Representing Entities Along the Branch and Middlesex Street Business Corridor. The DPD will proceed to establish and organize a business group in the Lower Highlands area of the City and they use models similar to the efforts at Cupples Square and the Bridge Street corridor.
In response to a motion requesting to review the possibility of re-establishing the position of Downtown Coordinator, the DPD reported that they have assigned Tom Lamond as the Downtown business liaison in the Economic Development Office. The report also discussed the March 5th meeting with Downtown business and property owners. The information and the handouts that were presented at that meeting were also included in this response.
The first item is a carry-over from last week. Street Acceptance List: The three-page report prepared by Nicolás H. Bosonetto, City Engineer is informative and provides data that should be used to prepare a strategic plan regarding unaccepted streets. Unaccepted Streets are those who are open to public travel but not formally accepted by the City.
According to the report, the ‘City has 188 miles of accepted streets and 50 miles of unaccepted streets.” Given the current staff, it will take 50 years to accept all the unaccepted streets. The report contains the list of the streets (29) that the Engineering Department is working for acceptance. It also lists the streets (17) that were accepted.
The formula applied by the Commonwealth to distribute funding for street improvement (Chapter 90) focuses on three areas: 58.33% Accepted Road Miles, and 20.83% for population and 20.83% for the number of street work. Thus, the higher number of accepted streets, the more funds we can receive for the upkeep of the streets.
Municipal Bond/Note Sale: The City “received extremely competitive bids from bond and note underwriters.” The bond issued were for $20.2 million, 20-year general obligation state qualified bond issue (average net interest of 2.88%) and a $700,839 88-day Bond Anticipation Note (net interest cost of 1.55%.) The report includes a project list with the approximate amounts.
To explain the City’s reaction to the CPA’s Managerial Letter, City Manager Kevin Murphy reminded the Council “that for the sixth year in a row, the management letter contains no ‘material weaknesses’ reported by the outside auditors” and the City’s credit rating of AA-. The document also contains the CFO’s action plan for the recommendations made in the Managerial Letter.
Laurel Racine of the Lowell National Historical Park, joined by UML’s Senior Archivist Tony Sampas and Volunteer co-curator Mark Van Der Hyde will make a short presentation on the upcoming Lowell Branding Exhibit. This presentation was postponed from last week.
There are 11 motions on this week’s agenda. Nine (9) of them are from last week’s postponed meeting.
Councilor K. Cirillo: Request Arts and Culture Sub Committee work in conjunction with the Cultural Commission to promote public art in and around the City.
Councilor K. Cirillo: Request City Manager provide a report regarding rejuvenation of the Tour de Lowell; report to include information from prior races in the City.
Councilor K. Cirillo: Request City Manager provide a report regarding Spring tree and flower plantings in the city; report to include schedule of plantings, number of plantings and area of plantings.
Councilor R. Elliott: Request City Manager explore feasibility of providing 15 minute parking space at 56 Branch Street.
Councilor R. Elliott: Request City Manager feasibility of providing a loading Zone Parking space located at 32 Branch Street.
Councilor D. Conway: Request City Manager have proper City officials make a presentation to the substance abuse Sub-Committee relative to steps being taken to combat the opiate epidemic.
Councilor E. Kennedy: Request Zoning Sub-Committee consider amending the current parking regulations for boarding homes and make recommendation to City Council.
Councilor E. Kennedy: Request Zoning Sub-Committee review and consider amendments to the Zoning Code; specifically for definitions for “boarding houses” and “family” in Article II and the table of uses in Article I.
Mayor B. Samaras: Request City Council set up a joint meeting of the Public Safety Sub-Committee with the student services Sub-Committee of the School Committee to discuss safety in our schools.
The following are the two new motions:
Councilor K. Cirillo: Request City Manager provide an update report regarding National Grid’s gas pipeline project for a new 12 inch line to replace current 6 inch line which will run through Chelmsford, Lowell and Tewksbury.
Councilor D. Conway: Request City Manager have Law Department provide a report regarding when the names of applicants for positions in the City can be properly disclosed to public.