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Lowell Week in Review: May 28, 2017

Lowell High School 1922 building

New Lowell High School

The new Lowell High School selection process is hurtling towards its June 13, 2017 conclusion. Next Friday’s City Council agenda packet will contain all the cost estimates, reports, and LHS-related motion responses that remain outstanding. On Tuesday, June 6, at the regular city council meeting, the City Manager and the architects/consultants will make a presentation to councilors.

Two things are scheduled to occur on Thursday, June 8. At 10 am, the city’s School Building Committee will meet in the city council chambers to vote on its site/option recommendation. Then at 6:30 pm, also in the council chambers, councilors will host a public forum which will involve presentations and citizen input.

There will be two other public forums prior to the final vote. The first will be Saturday, June 10, at 10 am at the Lowell High Irish Auditorium; the second on Monday, June 12, at 6:30 pm at the Lowell Senior Center.

Then on Tuesday, June 13, 2017, the council will take its final vote on the various options. Procedurally, I’m not sure how that vote will be done. In most council votes, a single item is presented to councilors who vote either yes or no with the side receiving five votes prevailing (although some matters require a two-thirds vote of six councilors). But other times, as when a mayor or city manager is selected, councilors choose from multiple options, casting their votes by naming their preferred choice. This method makes it tougher to get to the needed five votes since there are multiple options for councilors to choose. I believe this will be the method used for casting the votes for the high school with councilors stating their choice of option when called upon.

An interesting procedural twist involves Option 3 which requires the taking of the so-called “dentist office” on Arcand Drive by eminent domain to expand the footprint of the existing downtown site. Unlike most council matters which require five votes to prevail, taking property by eminent domain requires a two-thirds vote of the councilors, meaning six councilors must support it. But while taking the property would require six votes, I believe choosing that option, Option 3, would still take only five votes. That leaves the possibility that Option 3 could become the preferred option of the council by just a bare five vote majority but then would require a sixth councilor – one who had voted for another option – to then support the eminent domain taking to make it work. Otherwise there would be a stalemate that would prevent that option from going forward.

A similar situation occurred way back in 1970 when Jim Sullivan was selected to be Lowell City Manager on a five to four vote of the city council. Sullivan received the votes of Mayor Richard Howe and Councilors John Mahoney, Paul Tsongas, Brendan Fleming, and Armand LeMay. City Auditor Leo Morris received the votes of Councilors Philip Shea, Samuel Pollard, Ellen Sampson, and Leo Farley. But Sullivan had set as a pre-condition of taking the job an increase in the salary (to $25,000 per year plus the use of a city car). Raising the salary required six votes. Had the four who voted for Morris also opposed increasing the pay of the city manager, Sullivan may not have taken the job. However, Phil Shea, even though he had supported another candidate for city manager, chose not to use a procedural maneuver to frustrate the will of the majority and added the necessary sixth vote for the pay increase, and Sullivan became city manager.

Perhaps history could repeat itself on June 13, 2017, with Option 3 prevailing by five votes, with one of the four councilors who preferred another option then joining in at a later time to provide the sixth vote needed for the eminent domain taking.

In any case, councilors might want to get some procedural clarification on this prior to June 13. I think my interpretation that Option 3 would only need five votes to prevail is correct, but it’s not up to me.

FY18 City Budget

Lost amidst all the Lowell High talk is the Fiscal Year 2018 budget for the city of Lowell which will be voted on by the council with a public hearing this coming Tuesday night. The budget proposed by City Manager Murphy is $349,925,167. Councilors can accept the budget as presented or reduce it, but they cannot increase it. A letter from Manager Murphy to Councilors that accompanies the budget points out that this is the fourth budget of the Murphy Administration and that it continues to support the three pillars Murphy identified when he took office as critical to the success of the city: Public safety, education, and economic development.

Regarding public safety, the letter points out that the police department will maintain its current strength of 250 officers and that safety-related investments like a swipe card access system will be made to the current police station. The fire department will maintain 213 fire fighters, and will also purchase two new vehicles as well as new safety gear for fire fighters.

In education, the city will again exceed the minimum state requirement for net school spending, and $1.35mil will be spent on roof repairs to school buildings. The letter also calls the new Lowell High School “a signature project of [the Murphy] administration.”

As for economic development, a designer has been selected for the 900-space parking garage in the Hamilton Canal District and “negotiations [are] underway with multiple parties with interest in the district.”

The Murphy letter also lists some fiscal challenges facing the city including “State assessments beyond the control of the city” (i.e., charter school assessments) and fixed costs that continue to rise despite the city workforce “being as lean as it has ever been.” To offset these increases, the tax levy will rise 1.5 percent, however, Murphy warns that in future years, more significant increases will be needed to help pay for the new high school.

Upcoming City Council Meeting

Other than the public hearing on the budget, the city council has a relatively light agenda this coming Tuesday. There is a motion response that brushes aside last week’s request by Councilor Leahy that the Hamilton Canal District be considered as a site for a new Lowell High School by listing all of the state and federal funding and grants that have already been committed to the HCD for the purpose of economic development. Presumably the council will accept this report with minimum comment. As for council motions, there are just four of them:

  1. Elliott/C. Leary/C. Samaras – Req. City Council vote to appoint Ad Hoc subcommittee to discuss process of amending City Charter to review and consider adopting a district/at-large council representation form of government and then to make recommendations to the full City Council.
  2. Samaras – Req. City Mgr. have proper department restripe the road lanes on Industrial Avenue and at merge of Thorndike Street and Gorham Street.
  3. Milinazzo – Req. City Mgr. update the City Council on the status of restriping Nesmith Street.
  4. Leahy – Req. City Mgr. be prepared for all responses to inquiries regarding Lowell High School Project at the scheduled presentation meeting before the Council.

Charter Change

That first motion for this Tuesday, by Councilors Elliott, Leary and Samaras, requests that a subcommittee be formed to make recommendations on possible changes to the city’s charter regarding the method of electing city councilors. This motion was presumably prompted by a lawsuit filed two weeks ago by city residents from the Latino and Asian communities that alleges that the current method of electing councilors and school committee members in which all are chosen at-large in a citywide vote, violates the federal Voting Rights Act.

I used to be of the opinion that minority voters could elect members from their respective groups if they just voted in larger numbers. However, my opinion has changed over time, and I have come to believe that the lack of success of minority candidates in citywide elections itself suppresses turnout among those groups. Consequently, I believe that a mixture of at large and district councilors and school committee members, the system in place in almost every other city in Massachusetts, would work best for Lowell.

Changing the current system is a different matter. City councilors sincerely believe that they already represent all residents, and to a large extent they do, but to remain in office, they have to be most responsive, either consciously or subconsciously, to the 10,000 people who vote in city elections. Since those 10,000 voters are not evenly spread among the city’s neighborhoods, or among the many demographic groups (age, race, class, etc.) that reflect all of the 105,000 people living in the city, the system is not truly representative of all residents.

That same dynamic makes it unlikely that any change would occur through the ballot box. The 10,000 people who regularly vote in city elections hold a disproportionately high level of influence on city government. Why would they choose to dilute that influence?

That would leave as options for changing the charter a court-imposed order or settlement, or perhaps a council vote that led to a home rule petition in the legislature.

In any case, I anticipate that this motion will pass, however, I don’t expect much to be done with it until later in the summer, after the June 13, 2017 vote on the future location of Lowell High School. Beyond the work of this subcommittee, the issue of the form our city government takes should also be a big issue in the upcoming city election this fall.

Local Author Book Fair Tonight

Pollard Memorial Library, 401 Merrimack St, Lowell

Tonight from 6 to 8 pm at the Pollard Memorial Library is the Local Author Book Fair. I will be there with all three of my books for sale, including Lowell Municipal Elections: 1965-2015.

The following is from the Library’s press release about the event:

Local Author Book Fair

LOWELL—Support the local literary economy and get your summer reading directly from the source. On Thursday, May 25 from 6pm-8pm, the Pollard Memorial library will be hosting a Local Author Book Fair featuring local poetry, fiction and non-fiction sold by the authors themselves. Authors include: Dave Agans, Rick Conti, JF Dacey, Laura Fedolfi, Michael Hartigan, Richard Hollman, Richard Howe, Jr., Paul Marion, Sara Marks, Mill Pages, Steve O’Connor, Jim Peters, Dale T. Phillips, Jean Trounstine, and Ursula Wong. This event is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.

Author Biographies

Dave Agans, corrupted by Mad Magazine and Get Smart at an early age, began writing spy spoofs in the sixth grade. He has since written the musical comedy Hot Buttons, dozens of comic stage monologues, the popular, humorous technical book Debugging, and the conspiracy satire The Urban Legion. Dave can be recognized on New Hampshire golf courses by his flawed swing and on the roads by his AMUSED license plate.

Rick Conti has written a dozen screenplays, a handful of short stories, nine years of blog posts, and a hundred or so sketches, short films, and short plays, many of which he acted in. He has written two novels based on his screenplays: A Song in the Storm and A Slippery Land, both available at the Bookfair. Rick lives in Chelmsford. More his writing can be found at his blog: http://www.rickconti.me.

JF Dacey was born in Lowell in 1944 and is a lifelong resident.  His book, Take the Long Way Home, is a true-life chronicle of his experiences as an all-night taxicab driver in Lowell during 1979, and is available on amazon.com.  He is a published playwright whose scripts have been read and performed at various venues in and around downtown Lowell.  For many years, he has been a contributor of outspoken opinions to the Letters to the Editor page of The Lowell Sun.

Laura Fedolfi mixes Greek gods with everyday life in her series, Revealing Hannah. Books 1 & 2 are available with Book 3 to come in the fall. Hannah Summers finds her careful world unraveling as she learns that a graduation gift from the gods is both a blessing and a curse…
When Laura isn’t immersed in the crazy world of Greek gods, she works with Habitat for Humanity and is a founding member of the Society of Independent Publishers and Authors (SIPA.) She’s on social media at Facebook.com/RevealingHannah, Twitter @LauraFedolfi or www.revealinghannah.com and loves hearing from readers.

Michael Hartigan Award-winning author Michael Hartigan has explored and written about unique people, places and traditions around the world. His novel, Stone Angels, was awarded the 2015 Outstanding Writer Award. This gritty, fast-paced thriller drops readers into the mind of a young killer at war with a guilty conscience. Hartigan’s fiction work is also featured in the anthology, Shoreline, published in 2016. Hartigan is an accomplished travel writer, featured in USA Today, Arizona Republic, Northshore Magazine, Destinations Travel Magazine and more. He lives in Stoneham, MA and can be contacted at www.stoneangelsbook.com or Twitter @StoneAngelsBook.

Richard Hollman received his Ph.D. in Physics from Stanford University in 1983, and has worked in the electronics industry ever since. He began writing fiction quite recently, inspired by the fascinating history of Lowell, Massachusetts. This fascination has resulted in the science fiction trilogy A Lowell Story, comprised of the novels Release (Liberação), Survival (Sobrevivência), and Purpose (Propôsito) (available in both paperback and digital editions.  Richard also recently released Tagz, a collection of short stories.  A new science fiction novel Virus is in progress, for release in 2018. For more information, and news about upcoming releases, visit:   http://www.alowellstory.com

Richard Howe Jr. is the author of the recently published Lowell Municipal Elections: 1965-2015, which contains fifty years of city council, school committee, and regional school committee election results, along with stories of the selection of all city managers, mayors, and school superintendents during that period. He is also the author of Lowell: Images of Modern America and the co-author of Legendary Locals of Lowell, two photographic histories of Lowell. Howe is the founder of Lowell Walks and the creator of the richardhowe.com blog.

Paul Marion is the author of the new “Union River: Poems and Sketches,” a lyrical Americana address, as well as “Mill Power: The Origin and Impact of Lowell National Historical Park” (2014). He is the editor of Jack Kerouac’s early writings, “Atop an Underwood” (Viking/Penguin), which has been translated into Italian and French. He lives in Lowell.

Sara Marks is an author, knitter, Wikipedian, and librarian from Massachusetts. After over 10 years of participating in National Novel Writing Month, she is releasing her first novel, Modern Persuasion, with Illuminated Myth Publishing. When she isn’t writing, she is an academic librarian at University of Massachusetts Lowell.

Mill Pages is a local writing group made up of authors from the Merrimack Valley who participate in November’s National Novel Writing Month.  When they aren’t writing their novels, they work to produce an anthology magazine of their shorter works including short stories, poetry, and art work.  In the Fall of 2015 they released volume 1.  They are almost done with volume 2, which will be available this summer via Amazon in paper and ebook.

Steve O’Connor is a native of Lowell, Massachusetts, where much of his writing is set. He is the author of Smokestack Lightning, a collection of short stories, and two novels. The first, The Spy in the City of Books is historical fiction set in Lowell, and in WWII France, and is based in part on interviews with a former OSS operative who served in Occupied France. The second, The Witch at Rivermouth, has been described as “a cerebral mystery.” Pulitzer Prize-winning author Lucinda Franks called it, “rich, eerie, and intriguing.”

Jim Peters is the author of a book about the Lowell Motorboat Club “Lowell’s Best Kept Secret.”  The book is a history of motorboating on the Merrimack River.  It includes the trip of the first steamship on the river, the Merrimack, which went to Concord, NH and took on passengers for a trip further up the swollen river.  Over two hundred people got on barges which followed the steamship further upriver.  The book is a celebration of Lowell’s boating history with many interesting stories and pictures.  It shows the power of the falls in floods.

Dale T. Phillips has published 6 novels, over 60 short stories, 9 books of story collections, poetry, and non-fiction. He took writing seminars from Stephen King in college, has appeared on stage, television, and in an independent feature film, and competed on Jeopardy. He also co-wrote The Nine, a short political satire film. He’s traveled to all 50 states, Mexico, Canada, and through Europe.

Jean Trounstine is an activist, author, and professor at Middlesex Community College in Lowell, whose latest book is Boy With A Knife: A Story of Murder, Remorse, and a Prisoner’s Fight for Justice (IG Publishing 2016). It explores the true story of Karter Kane Reed and the injustice of sentencing juveniles to adult prisons. Trounstine worked at Framingham Women’s Prison for ten years where she directed eight plays with prisoners. Her highly-praised book about that work, Shakespeare Behind Bars: The Power of Drama in a Women’s Prison has been featured on NPR, The Connection, Here and Now, and in numerous print publications here and abroad.

Ursula Wong writes about strong women who struggle against impossible odds to achieve their dreams. Look for her award-winning debut novel, Purple Trees, and her WW II thriller, Amber Wolf, at fine online retailers and on her website at http://ursulawong.wordpress.com. She will also have for sale at the book fair Insanity Tales & Insanity Tales II

Lowell City Council Meeting: May 23, 2017

Meeting begins.

(Councilor Rourke and City Manager Murphy absent from meeting).

Council takes motion out of order:

  1. Leary – Req. City Mgr. instruct Skanska/Perkins Eastman create a schematic design for Lowell High School Options 3 and 4 prior to the June 6th City Council meeting. Resident of Douglas Rd speaks. Recommends Option 3. Lowell High student speaks in favor of the motion. Also speaks in favor of keeping school downtown. Councilor Leary says there is so much information out there. Much of what is said and written is inaccurate. He thinks having a schematic design would help people envision what each option will actually look like. Says we have to tone down the nonsense and stop leading people in the wrong direction. Says people on Facebook aren’t changing opinions, they’re just inflaming the issue. He wants to use objective evidence to help make the decision. Councilor Leahy agrees with the motion. Asst City Manager McGovern says there will be a formal presentation to the council on June 6 which means councilors will get the information on June 2. Councilor Samaras supports this motion. He says at the start of this presentation, it was exciting, but he doesn’t know where it turned. Says it has become more divisive than the past presidential campaign. Says we owe it to the students to be adults and make this work, not to go at each other in anger. Says there is room for compromise and an integration of ideas. Councilor Milinazzo asks about the date of the public informational schedule. It is scheduled for June 8, a Thursday night, in the council chambers, that Saturday there will be another meeting and there may be yet another one before the June 13 council vote. Councilor Mercier asks that the council be provided with a list of the presentation dates. Motion passes.

Back to regular agenda . . .

Public hearings for Verizon pole installations.

Suspension of rules at request of Councilor Mercier so she can speak about Lowell Sun article about decision of Genesis Health Care to construct a new building in Dracut rather than in the Hamilton Canal District. She identifies the Genesis plan as a “signature opportunity” even if it was not a “signature building.” She criticizes the thinking that holds out for a major “signature” building on the Hamilton site. She asks for a report. Councilor Belanger says this is frustrating, says council had been told for a long time that everything was on track. Says it is frustrating that the council found out about this from the newspaper rather than from the city administration. Councilor Milinazzo asks that the report also include status of Watermark. Councilor Samaras says that Genesis kept changing its proposal. Would like a timeline of what was offered and when, and what was the final product. Councilor Elliott says everyone desires to make this an innovative district, but we have to be flexible so we don’t lose opportunities. Wants to know who made the decision not to proceed with Genesis in Hamilton Canal which opened the door for it going to Dracut.

Philip Shea appointed to Civic Stadium Commission. Approved by council.

Motions

  1. Mercier – Req. City Mgr. provide report regarding poll results from downtown business survey concerning Lowell High School. Citizen speakers: Molly Sheehy says she supports Downtown Option 3. Councilor Mercier says Councilor Belanger has previously asked that a survey of downtown businesses be conducted, but she has not yet seen the results. Suggests asking the Chamber of Commerce to conduct the survey. Councilor Belanger says it he had made the motion along with Councilor Samaras. He does say in his opinion, having the high school downtown has a minimum impact on the downtown economy, but he would like to have the survey done anyway. Councilor Leary says he and Councilor Samaras have previously made a motion asking what would take the place of the high school if it leaves downtown; he would like to have that information, too.
  2. Mercier – Req. City Mgr. provide full detailed report regarding renovation work to Lowell High School in 1997; including spending breakdown of $40 Million on which buildings and what was repaired.
  3. Leahy – Req. City Mgr. have Verizon/National Grid/Comcast representatives meet with City Council in Council Chamber to discuss double poles, hanging wires and all around appearance of their equipment in the City.
  4. Leahy – Req. City Mgr. provide report from Traffic Engineer regarding intersection of Dutton and Market Streets concerning pedestrian crossing.
  5. Leahy – Req. City Mgr. explore possibility of locating the new high school in the Hamilton Canal District. City resident and retired LHS teacher Helen Littlefield speaks in favor of downtown location ofr LHS. Says she favors Option 3 but this might be an acceptable compromise. Noelle Creegan addresses creation of division in the city. Says she initially became involved because she wanted transparency. She criticizes Mayor Kennedy for comment he made on City Life today that comments on Facebook create division. Agrees with that, but says the Mayor made several erroneous comments. Says his speculation that Cawley would require eminent domain taking for Milan’s Pizza. Says this was just a fear tactic. Councilor Leahy says it’s “not my motion.” Says this subject has been discussed before around the city and he just wanted to bring it to the table. He says that the high school siting decision is deeply dividing the city. He knows that it’s time to make a decision, but he says “we have to make sure we get this right.” Councilor Belanger commends Councilor Leahy for his thinking on this. He regrets the divisiveness this has caused and thinks looking for a compromise is great. But he has been one of the foremost advocates of the Hamilton Canal District. The council has made it clear it wants HCD to be an innovation district. But he says he sees no harm in having the administration look at this, but he doesn’t think it’s going to work out. Cites the acceptance by the city of a recent MassWorks grant for job creation. This wouldn’t fit that. Councilor Milinazzo says he’s not questioning the spirit of the motion, but he’s not going to support it. Says we have a process in place and we should follow it. He says the council has refused to second guess the school building committee on the elimination of the South Common as a site, it would be inconsistent now to add a brand new site to the process. Councilor Mercier says she will support the motion but she has many question about it. Councilor Leary says he will support the motion to get the information, but he would not support the high school going there because he is still very bullish on the Hamilton Canal District. Councilor Samaras says it has been a very divisive issue but he hopes tonight will be a turning point. Councilor Elliott says he cannot support this motion, both because it departs from the established set of procedures, but also because the Hamilton Canal District has been underway for more than ten years so it makes no sense to throw that away just because this is a divisive issue. Mayor Kennedy says he will support the motion in the spirit of compromise, but he cannot envision a scenario where the high school would be placed there. He asks Councilor Leahy to clarify that he just wants a report from the city manager on this and not from the architects. Councilor Leahy says that’s up to the city manager (who is not present tonight). Councilors recognize the dilemma that getting a real assessment of this would require opening up the process and costing significant money (which they don’t want to do), but that a report simply from the city manager would not be a true assessment. Motion passes six to two (Milinazzo & Elliott voting no).
  6. Leary – Req. City Mgr. review potential grant opportunities in order to upgrade the Christian Hill Reservoir (“The Rez”) grounds in order to make the area a passive park; similar to other Lowell passive parks such as Tyler Park.
  7. Leary/C. Elliott – Req. City Mgr. contact Lowell General Hospital (Circle Health) for the purpose of negotiating a PILOT agreement between the City of Lowell and Lowell General Hospital.
  8. Belanger/C. Samaras – Req. City Mgr. have Inspectional Services inspect property at 53 Third Street for code violations.
  9. Belanger/C. Samaras – Req. City Mgr. have proper department work with landlord of the building housing Ray Robinson Restaurant to eliminate graffiti on the site.
  10. Samaras/C. Belanger – Req. City Mgr. have proper department repair the sidewalk at 478 Middlesex Street in front of Sizzling Kitchen.
  11. Samaras/C. Belanger – Req. City Mgr. have proper department repaint the crosswalks on Bridge Street from Third Street to the Robinson School.
  12. Belanger – Req. City Mgr. provide a report regarding asbestos remediation, including costs, on the 1922 building as part of the Lowell High School project. Councilor Belanger says that last week when he was told the cost of remediating the asbestos was only $1.1 million he has been skeptical of that and believes it would be much greater. He wants confirmation that the remediation estimate is accurate.
  13. Kennedy – Req. City Mgr. instruct Traffic Engineer to analyze the feasibility of making Perry Street one-way.

Meeting adjourns at 8:58 pm

Impeachment, the 25th Amendment or neither? by Marjorie Arons-Barron

The entry below is being cross posted from Marjorie Arons-Barron’s own blog.

It’s too early to talk seriously about Presidential impeachment. Increasing reports about apparent obstruction of  justice or enrichment of  Donald Trump’s own and  family businesses in violation of the emoluments clause are still at the fact-gathering stage, especially now that former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been named Special Counsel to investigate all things Russian. Building a case for impeachment could take a long time.

That prompts us to reflect on the applicability of the 25th Amendment, which permits the removal of a President for the “inability to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” The case seems simple. As NY Times columnist Ross Douthat  put it, Donald Trump is sadly deficient in the basic elements of fitness: “a reasonable level of intellectual curiosity, a certain seriousness of purpose, a basic level of managerial competence, a decent attention span, a functional moral compass, a measure of restraint and self-control.” Add to that a possible clear and present threat to national security, and it would be a relief were the 25th Amendment a clear way out.

The problem  is that the 25th Amendment requires the Vice President and a majority of Cabinet members to declare the President unable to discharge the duties of office and name the Vice President as Acting President. If, after they notify the House and Senate, the President fights the declaration, it must be followed by a two-thirds vote of both Houses of Congress. It’s hard to imagine Mike Pence (typically standing at press events standing behind the President nodding affirmatively like a bobble-head doll) ending his role as sycophant-in-chief. The same can be said of a majority of the toadies in the Cabinet (Betsy DeVos, Scott Pruitt, Rick Perry, Ben Carson, Jeff Sessions, Tom Price, Mick Mulvaney, Wilbur Ross, perhaps even National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster).

House and Senate leadership are also wimps. While many rank-and-file Republicans in potentially swing districts are anxious for their own skins, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said limply that he just wants a little less drama from the White House. House Speaker Paul Ryan, while appropriately saying we need all the facts, still says he has confidence in the President, despite Trump’s having shared intelligence with the Russians and having leaned on former FBI Director James Comey to let up on the investigation of “the Russian thing.”

So far most of Trump’s base is holding  strong. But one after another revelation, on an almost daily basis, has even many loyalists worried.  Trump famously said his people would stand by him even if he shot someone in broad daylight. What might tomorrow’s news bring?

In 1974,  when  Richard Nixon’s end was near, a majority of House Republicans still refused to support any of the Articles of Impeachment.  It will not be easy motivating the current brood  to do the right thing, unless they view it in their narrow self-interest and have a rationale for action.

Could medical issues provide cover,  giving Trump’s cabinet, members of Congress, (and their constituents)  a face-saving way to support 25th Amendment  action?  His 2016 medical disclosure was laughably incomplete. Might there now be some objective demonstration that he has  some  physical or mental disorder   making him unfit, indeed dangerous, to himself and the country? Their actions could then be seen as merciful, taking away the burdens of office  from an otherwise well-intentioned person who sincerely wanted to make America great again. Trump’s father suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease. Ronald Reagan apparently suffered with it during his time in office. There is no shame or blame attached to its sufferers, just sympathy and compassion. If illness were a real consideration, Trump himself would be free to return to his business interests, where his grandiosity, self-dealing, paranoia and limited intellect would find a more natural home.

The press has a long history of acquiescing to cover-ups of serious presidential health problems. Think Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy. Today, we decry such collusion as failure of professional responsibility and derogation of the public’s right to know. Reporters covering the White House know that they must report what they are hearing and able to verify. Digging into health issues, of course, flies in the face of legitimate concerns over the privacy of medical records.

The alt right (e.g., Alex Jones and Roger Stone)  recently produced a video claiming  talk about impeachment or activating the 25th Amendment to declare Trump unfit is all part of an establishment conspiracy to take down the unconventional person who is succeeding is breaking up the bad old way of doing this.

Notwithstanding the difficulties, columnists like the  NY Times’ Ross Douthat are feeding hopes about the 25th Amendment, based on Donald Trump’s patent inability to discharge the powers and duties of his office.  As he writes, “It is not squishy New York Times conservatives who regard the president as a child, an intellectual void, a hopeless case, a threat to national security; it is people who are self-selected loyalists, who supported him in the campaign, who daily go to work for him.”

But the reality is that the 25th Amendment leaves the President a lot of maneuvering room, including the ability quickly to fire “disloyal” cabinet members and replace them with more rubber-stamp types. By the time the political maneuvering and court challenges play out, the case for impeachment may be ripe. Plus, as the Wall St. Journal’s Brian Kait reminds, “because impeachment requires only a simple House majority, it is easier for the President to defeat a Section 4 action than to avoid impeachment.”

It’s of no little significance that Trump White House lawyers are reportedly researching impeachment procedures “out of an abundance of caution.”

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