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Mimi Parseghian previews tomorrow night’s Lowell City Council meeting:
This week’s City Council meeting agenda features the First Reading of a major vote of the City Council: A Loan Order/Land Acquisition Bond to borrow $2,600,000 to pay costs to acquire, by purchase, eminent domain or otherwise, the following property [75 Arcand Drive, Lowell, MA] to serve as the site of the new High School, and for the payment of any other costs incidental and related thereto.”
The motion should pass and a date should be set for the final vote, which will require a 2/3rd majority. That should not be an issue since in the past municipal election 7 of the Councilors ran as a pro-downtown Lowell High School construction.
The first order of business after approving the minutes is a General Public Hearing on an Ordinance Amending Chapter 266 Vehicles and Traffic. The ordinance makes significant changes to traffic schemes and parking rules for streets throughout the City. The report is 12 pages and there are major changes coming to parking on Bridge Street.
COMMUNICATIONS FROM CITY MANAGER
Status of Marijuana Licenses: Motion (August 28, 2018) by City Councilor Rodney Elliott Request City Manager Provide an Update Regarding Status on the Implementation of Marijuana License. If I read the response prepared by R. Eric Slagle, Director of Development Services correctly, it indicates that “Patriot Care has proceeded through the state process with the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) to obtain their state license for retail operations, and obtained a provisional license from the CCC on September 6, 2018.” Patriot Care is located around the corner from where I live and for many years they have operated a medical cannabis distribution center. We have not had a single problem. According to the City, there will be four other dispensaries as well as numerous cultivation/manufacturing facilities.
Branch Street: Motion (3/27/18) by Councilor Vesna Nuon Request the City Manager review pedestrian safety along Branch Street business corridor is signage will improve safety in the area. Response prepared by Diane Tradd, Assistant City Manager/Department of Planning and Development.
The response suggests both short term and long term solution. The latter would cost about $30,000 and would consist of crosswalk painting; sign inventory and adjustment; add signage in advance of crosswalks; add a flashing beacon/light at the intersection with Middlesex Street.
Increase in Charter School Cap: The response to Councilor Kennedy’s motion (6/12/18) was prepared by Paul Schlichtman, Coordinator of Research, Testing and Assessment. “Request Superintendent of schools provide the City Council with a report explaining why the Lowell School District is subject to an increase in the Charter School Cap relative to MGL CH. 71 Sect. 89 paragraphs 2 and 3.”
The 4-page response is detailed and has a great deal of figures and data. The information will need to be further explained so that we can all understand what financial impact the Charter Schools will have on ours school spending.
Voting Process and Functions of Municipal Government: Motion (6/12/18) by Councilor E. Kennedy “Request Superintendent of Schools and the School Committee consider establishing a mini course to be part of the curriculum for Lowell High School Seniors and Adult Education Students that would cover the voting process in Lowell and the functions of municipal government.”
Response was submitted by Acting School Superintendent Jeanine Durkin. It is a 7-page report that prepared by Robert DeLossa, Academic Chair, Social Studies Department, Lowell High School and Elizabeth McKiernan, Director of the Abisi Adult Education Center. The report outlines the civics curriculum is in Lowell’s School System.
Reliability of Electrical Infrastructure: Motion (6/36/18) by Councilor J. Leahy Request City Manager Have National Grid Identify Trouble Spots Concerning Electricity Throughout the City and Their Plan to Remedy Them.” The response was prepared by Christine Clancy, P.E., City Engineer and Jim Donison, P.E., DPW Commissioner.
“Factoring in the reality of 13 significant storms in Massachusetts during the winter of 2017/2018, National Grid reported that the majority of Lowell is performing well and in line with our reliability standards… Capital Investment Program, totaling approximately $50M, involves significant investment by National Grid and coordination with the City of Lowell and is designed to improve asset condition and enhance service reliability for National Grid customers… National Grid conducts tree pruning throughout the year in an effort to maintain a minimum of 10’ clearance around National Grid’s main electrical distribution infrastructure. It should be noted that vegetation that is within close proximity to overhead services between the main and buildings, and on private property, shall be maintained and trimmed as necessary by the property owner and not by National Grid.”
15 minute parking space at 178 University Ave (Revised): Response prepared by Diane N. Tradd, Assistant City Manager/DPD Director to Motion (8/14/180 by Councilor R. Elliott “request the City Manager explore the feasibility of creating a 15 minute parking space at 178 University Avenue for local business.” The Transportation Engineer conducted a field visit to the above mentioned location. Campus Express Take Out is located at 176 and 178 University Avenue. The business owner previously requested a 30-minute parking space at 176 University Avenue via a Citizen Signage request. A 60-day trial for the 30 minute parking space was approved by the City Council on July 24, 2018 and the sign has been installed in front of the business. Once the 60-day trial period has concluded, the City will contact the business to determine if a 15-minute is preferred.”
Pawtucket Street: Response prepared by Diane N. Tradd, Assistant City Manager/DPD Director to Motion (9/12/17) by Councilor E. Kennedy Request the City manager instruct the Traffic Engineer to provide recommendations aimed at increasing the safety of the crosswalk on Pawtucket Street between Arlington Street and Fanning Street.” The 4-page response includes graphics, pictures and various options for the City Council to consider.
VOTES FROM THE CITY MANAGER
Authorize City Manager execute permanent easement between City and Mass Electric off YMCA Drive — Bus Parking Easement Area.
Chapter 70 Supplemental Appropriation of $1,149,211 to Lowell School Department.
Transfer $136,400 in Police Department to cover costs for training for this Fiscal Year.
Transfer $60,000 for Maintenance, Repair and Overtime to Cemetery Department.
CITY COUNCIL MOTIONS
Councilor R. Mercier request City Manager establish a process to enable individuals the ability to donate a bench to the City in honor of friends or loved ones.
Councilor R. Mercier request City Manager have proper department install commemorative inscribed bench at Shedd Park in memory of Craig Maxfield.
Councilor R. Mercier /Councilor R. Elliott request City Manager have Superintendent of Police provide opinion and report regarding costs for scheduling two mounted police patrols in downtown when Lowell High School goes in and out of session during school year.
Councilor D. Conway request City Manager Emergency Management Team provide an updated report regarding their practices and procedures to the City Council.
.Councilor K. Cirillo request City Manager work with the LPD to implement procedures to better keep our crossing guards and children safe.
Councilor K. Cirillo request City Manager have proper department provide a report to the City Council as to installation of, “no turn on red” signs at all intersections of Boylston Street and Rogers Street.
Councilor K. Cirillo request City Manager have proper department provide a report regarding ways of making Boylston Street more bicycle pedestrian friendly.
Councilor K. Cirillo request City Manager have proper department provide a report regarding installation of 15 MPH signs near all Lowell Schools.
Councilor K. Cirillo request City Manager have proper department assess the amount of accumulated waste in the Jackson Street area since the new installation of the waste receptacles.
Councilor J. Milinazzo request City Manager prepare a report on who is responsible for the upkeep of the grounds at all of our school buildings; including staffing levels by shift.
Councilor V. Nuon request City Manager prepare review and or update any ordinances regarding parking of commercial vehicles on city streets and in neighborhoods.
Councilor E. Kennedy request City Manager re-organize the way in which the City addresses the deferred maintenance of school buildings in order to improve productivity and efficiency.
Councilor E. Kennedy/Councilor K. Cirillo request City Manager develop an action plan aimed at eliminating the deferred maintenance in all of the schools throughout the City and that the City Manager seek funding from the MSBA in order to implement the Action Plan.
Kinetic Sculpture Race
For the third year in a row, yesterday’s Lowell Kinetic Sculpture Race was a big success. A kinetic sculpture is an all-terrain, human-powered art sculpture engineered to race over roads, water, mud and sand. The race kicked off shortly after 10:30 am on Market Street with 11 kinetic sculpture vehicles accompanied by dozens of bicyclists carrying pit crews and supporters.
The route took them over the cobblestones of Middle Street, a short distance on Bridge Street to French Street, then up to the Tsongas Center to traverse the mud pit. The racers continued on Father Morissette Boulevard and across the Howe Bridge and through Pawtucketville to Lowell Heritage State Park where they entered the water to prove their buoyancy. From there, it was back to downtown and the finish line.
Lowell Cemetery Tours
The fall tours of Lowell Cemetery take place this week:
Friday, September 28, 2018, at 1 pm
Saturday, September 29, 2018 at 10 am
Both tours begin at the cemetery’s Knapp Avenue entrance (77 Knapp Ave) which is next to Shedd Park. The tours last 90 minutes and involve a moderate amount of walking. The tours change from year-to-year although the Friday and Saturday tours will cover the same course and subjects. They are free and take place rain or shine. The Saturday tour also coincides with the Cemetery’s annual art exhibit.
Solarize Lowell Party & Presentation
Tomorrow night from 5pm until 8pm at Warp and Weft, 197 Market Street, Solarize Lowell is hosting an event to introduce interested residents to its Lowell clean energy program. From the event’s Facebook page:
Solarize Plus Lowell is a program formed through a partnership between state agency MassCEC, the City of Lowell, and volunteers geared towards Lowell residents interested in solar and/or heat pumps. By using collective buying power and volunteer effort to drive down the price, ReVision Energy is the trusted installer for the best quality product possible. Lowell Residents can install solar and/or heat pumps in the most cost-effective and quality-driven way and help speed up Lowell’s transition to renewable energy.
ReVision Energy’s installation team will make a presentation beginning at 6 pm.
Western Canal Cleanup
Next Saturday, September 29, 2018 from 9am until noon, there will be a community cleanup of the Western Canal starting at Ecumenical Plaza, which spans the canal between St. Patricks and Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox churches. The event is sponsored by Canal Water Cleaners, Lowell Parks and Conservation Trust, Coalition for a Better Acre. Everyone is invited to attend and participate in the cleanup.
New Photo Exhibit at Boott Mills
Last Tuesday was the opening of a new photo exhibit in the Reflections Room of the Boott Cotton Mills Museum. “Lowell’s Urbanscape: A Legacy of Newcomers” features 14 black and white photographs by Jen Bauer, chair of MCC’s Department of Communications, and Jeff Caplan of Black Ant Photography. The pictures feature places around the city that are central to the lives of the many immigrants who have come here throughout the city’s existence. The exhibit is sponsored by the Humanities Center at Middlesex Community College and is hosted by Lowell National Historical Park. The exhibit will remain up for the next twelve months, so you have plenty of time to see it.
Democratic Campaign Rally
Led by U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren and featuring gubernatorial nominee Jay Gonzalez, Democrats from across the Merrimack Valley gathered at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center on Friday night for a big campaign rally.
Warren fired up the crowd with enthusiastic predictions that Democrats will win control of both houses of Congress on November 6 and will change the direction of the country. Gonzalez took aim at Governor Charlie Baker, criticizing him for his management of the MBTA and saying that Baker benefits from the comparison to Trump. But as Gonzalez then said, “Not being crazy is not good enough for Massachusetts.”
Both Warren and Gonzalez criticized Baker for his endorsement of Geoff Diehl, who is Warren’s Republican opponent this year and who was also the co-chair of the Trump campaign in Massachusetts. (Diehl and some supporters held a brief event outside the ICC before Warren arrived).
Warren and Gonzalez both spoke in support of the National Grid workers who have been locked out by the company (many of whom were in attendance last night) and also supported the Yes on Question 1 (minimum staffing for nurses) advocates who were in attendance.
Also speaking at the rally were Lieutenant Governor nominee Quentin Palfrey, State Senator Barbara L’Italien who spoke on behalf of Congressional nominee Lori Trahan, State Senate nominee Ed Kennedy and State Representative Rady Mom. As the Democratic nominee for Register of Deeds, I opened the program by welcoming everyone to Lowell and introducing the other elected officials who were present.
Richard Howe for Register of Deeds
On Monday, October 1, 2018, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center, there will be a reception to support my re-election campaign for Register of Deeds. Donations are appreciated but not required. All are welcome to attend.
Welcoming Week Lowell
Congratulations to the organizers of the first-ever Welcoming Week Lowell which kicked off Friday night with a parade of flags that originated at different points around downtown and converged on the front steps of City Hall for a celebration of the city’s immigrant heritage.
Events continued yesterday with a potluck picnic on the South Common and today with an Immigrant History Walk to be led by UMass Lowell Professor Bob Forrant (beginning at National Park Visitor Center, 246 Market Street, at 10 am today).
For a full schedule of Welcoming Week Lowell events, check out the group’s Facebook page.
Dinner in the Park with LTC
Another great event took place on Thursday night in Kerouac Park. Lowell Telecommunications Corporation hosted “Dinner in the Park,” an LTC fund raiser that featured food from Warp and Weft, Koshari Mama, Lowell Burger Co., Sizzling Kitchen, and Sub Zero Nitrogen Ice Cream along with beer and wine from local breweries and distributors and live jazz by the Luna Collective. All this took place under an open-sided tent set on the grassy rectangle of Kerouac Park. It was a great use of that Park which sometimes seems isolated from the rest of downtown.
With 51 days to go until the election, the recount in the Third Congressional District Democratic Primary continues. Thus far, Lori Trahan has reportedly added a handful of votes to her lead. As I wrote last week, if both campaigns monitor the recount with equal diligence, it is unlikely that the result will change and she will be the nominee.
The wildcard is Lowell, however, which will hand count its votes today. That’s because of the disproportionately large number of blank votes cast in the Congressional race in the city. Much of the commentary has stressed how unlikely it is that so many people opted not to vote in the heavily contested Congressional race.
But I believe the bulk of those blank Congressional votes were cast in the precincts that make up the 18th Middlesex State Representative district. That’s where incumbent Rady Mom was challenged by Jim Leary, Sam Meas and Rithy Uong. I know that all four candidates worked very hard to turn out the voters who live in this district, many of whom may not have been the “dependable voters” (i.e., those who vote regularly) who were the target of all the Congressional campaigns. For that reason, I do find it plausible that the ballots were indeed left blank for the Congressional race. Still, it’s fortunate that there will be a hand recount to confirm that.
I also know that when I voted that day at Ward 8, Precinct 3 which is part of the 18th Middlesex District, the vote counting machine that you normally feed your ballot into was not working. The police officer on duty at the ballot box instructed me to instead slip my ballot into a slot in the side of the ballot box. That left me wondering how the votes in that ballot box were counted, when, and by whom. And I voted at 7:20 am, shortly after the polls first opened, so it wasn’t like the machine wore out from overuse that day. That’s not the first time I have encountered a inoperable machine at that precinct. Regardless of the outcome of the recount, the reliability of the city’s voting machines is something the council should take up in the coming year.
Gas Explosions and Hurricanes
Even though Hurricane Florence was many hundreds of miles away and no direct threat to New England, the intense news coverage of the storm as it neared the Carolina coast got me thinking about the power of nature. I assume I was not alone in that. The remnant of the storm is expected to reach us Tuesday in the form of heavy rain.
Then on Thursday afternoon, news broke of dozens of gas explosions and fires not far from here in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover. The cause was natural gas, but what caused the explosions and fires has still not been ascertained, nor have many residents who were evacuated been allowed back into their homes. We have harnessed the explosiveness and flammability of natural gas to heat our homes and water and cook our food. We expect it not to cause our houses to blow up. When it does, we deserve a full explanation.
This coming Saturday, September 15, 2018, at 3 pm, I will present a program on “How to Research the History of Your House.” The event is sponsored by the Tyngsborough-Dunstable Historical Society and will be held at the Little Red Schoolhouse which is at 198 Kendall Road (Rte 113) in Dunstable which is not far from the Route 3 and the Tyngsborough Dunstable line.
In my talk, I will explain how Registry of Deeds records are organized and how to access them on the free registry website, www.lowelldeeds.com. I will also show how to track the ownership history of your house back through time and offer some helpful hints on learning about those who have preceded you in your home.
The event is free and open to the public.