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City Council Preview: August 14, 2018

Mimi Parseghian previews tonight’s Lowell City Council meeting:

After a three-week hiatus, the Lowell City Council is meeting again. The agenda, once again, is lengthy.  This week’s preview is focusing on the Motion Response (11) and the new Motions (15).  There are many other aspects to the agenda which will be covered, if warranted, in the recap of the meeting

MOTION RESPONSES

  1. Motion (5.22.18) Councilor R. Mercier Request the City Manager have proper department install Security Cameras on 1st Street. As well as address issues of lighting, excess rash, beer bottles and drug paraphernalia.

Response: Prepared by Superintendent of Police, Jonathan Webb. “The Police Department has installed a security camera in the area of concern. The camera is capable of being monitored by police personnel and records incidents for future reference. Area patrol officers have been instructed to monitor the area and report observations of dumping, etc.”

  1. Motion (7.10.18) Councilor D. Conway “Request the City Manager work with Lowell Police Department on the installation of surveillance cameras in high narcotics trafficking/usage areas throughout the city. Several surveillance.”

Response: Prepared by Superintendent of Police, Jonathan Webb “Several surveillance cameras have been installed at various locations around the city. The cameras are linked to the network that covers the police station and the JFK Plaza area. Areas covered throughout the city include schools, parks, high crime areas, and congested downtown areas. … The police department has the ability to change camera locations as needed in order to respond to changing criminal activity. This includes moving cameras to monitor suspected drug activity.”

  1. Motion (6.26.18) Councilor V. Nuon and Mayor B. Samaras : Request the City Manager provide an update regarding staffing at the Police Precincts in the City, particularly during nights and weekends.

Response Prepared by Superintendent of Police, Jonathan Webb. The City currently maintains 3 off-site office space: 21 Salem Street in the Acre; 399 Bridge Street in Centraville; 657 Middlesex Street in the Highlands. Both the Centralville Precinct and the Highlands Precinct are staffed by a Captain and two Lieutenants who supervise the activities of 12 police officers working out of each precinct on community policing projects. These officers perform these functions 16 hours per day, 7 days per week. In addition, all of the Police Department remote locations are used 24 hours per day by other patrol and supervisory personnel. Other locations include reporting writing locations at the Rogers School on Highland Street, both campuses of Lowell General Hospital, and the Downes Parking Facility on John Street. Additional office space is used as needed at the Acre Precinct office at 591 Broadway Street.”

  1. Motion (2.13.18) Councilor R. Elliott: “Request City Manager contact Department of Mental Health and State House Delegation regarding closing of the Mental Health Center in Lowell. Please see the attached letter which describes the current status of the Solomon Mental Health Center within the City.”

Response: “…Current status of the Solomon Mental Health Center within the City. Bournewood Health System has been licensed by the Commonwealth’s Executive Office of HHS Department of Mental Health Systems to operate at the center. Bournewood Health Systems will be providing 15 bed adult impatient psychiatric unit; 15 bed inpatient psychiatric unit for persons with co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders; 12 bed adolescent unit; adult partial hospital program; adolescent partial hospital program and intensive outpatient program.”

  1. Motion (7.24.18) by Councilor E. Kennedy Request City Manager Assemble a three man Subcommittee consisting of construction professionals who currently sit on the Lowell High School Building Committee for the purpose of acting as a liaison between Lowell High School Building Committee and the Lowell High School Building consultants.

Response prepared by City Manager Eileen Donoghue: “As per the recommendation of Perkins Eastman, the city is establishing a working group that will assist with moving the Lowell High School project forward before bringing issues to the School Building Committee and City Council. The group will meet on average of one to two times per month, informally to discuss and narrow down ideas and approaches prior to formal presentations to the SBC and City Council.”

  1. Motion (4.10.18) Councilor K. Cirillo request City Manager instruct the Department Of Planning And Development to compile an updated inventory of vacant upper story downtown office/business spaces, including how long they have been vacant.

Response: Prepared by Diane Tradd, Assistant City Manager and DPD Director assisted by her staff members Andrew Shapiro, Director of Economic Development and Maria Dickinson, Economic Development Officer. “Currently, the Downtown core has an upper floor commercial vacancy rate of approximately 19%. This rate is in line with, and in fact moderately better than recent market research performed by Colliers International (Greater Boston Market Viewpoint, Q2 2018). Colliers notes that through the 2nd quarter of this year the vacancy rate for the Route 495 North market was 22.3%.” A two-page report accompanied the response and it included “an inventory of properties located in the core of Downtown that have upper floor commercial/office uses. The table notes the total amount of square footage available in each respective building, the amount of available commercial upper floor space, and the amount of commercial upper floor space that is currently vacant (if applicable).”

  1. Motion Councilor K. Cirillo City Council requests the City Manager provide the City with a report regarding the Safety of the Smart Water Meters installed throughout the City.

Response: Prepared by Mark Young, Executive Director of Water.  The opening paragraph of the 15-page report reads “…The typical health concern regarding radio reading systems relates to potential health impacts from electromagnetic fields (EMF).  Numerous studies have been done on this technology and the electromagnetic frequency emitted from these meters is far below other commonly used devices such as cell phones, microwave ovens and televisions.”

  1. Motion (7.24.18) Councilor J. Leahy 18 Request City Manage inquire of the School Administration if they would be in need of any assistance during time of transition.”

Response: Prepared by City Manager E. Donoghue  “Over the course of the past several weeks, my Administration has been in constant contact with Acting Superintendent Jeannine Durkin to assist in any way possible to ensure a successful start to the 2018-2019 school year. My finance team has provided support regarding any questions that have been raised by the Acting Superintendent on the school budget, as well as helping the district select new finance officials by participating in the preliminary search committees both for a new Assistant Superintendent for Finance & Operations and for Assistant Business.”

  1. Motions (5.15.18) Councilor E. Kennedy in support of Senate Bill 2506 and State Foundation Budget.

Response: Prepared by City Solicitor Chris O’Connor  “I write in response to the request that the City join with Brockton and Worcester relative to the State Foundation Budget. While no suit has yet been filed, the city has been communicating with Worcester expressing our interest in any such eventual suit. We will continue to update the Council as to any developments in this matter.”

  1. Motion (7/24/18) Councilor J. Leahy request City Manager provide update to City Council regarding the Hamilton Canal Innovation District (HCID).

Response prepared by Diane N. Tradd, Assistant City Manager and DPD Director with assistance from her staff members, Clare Ricker, Chief Design Planner and Joe Giniewicz, Urban Renewal Project Manager.  The one page memo provides a good recap of what has been planned, implemented and projects waiting to be started.

  1. Motion (1.23.18) Councilor D. Conway request City Manager update the Council regarding the status of the “Crime Stoppers Hotline.”

Response prepared by City Solicitor Christine O’Connor. “Crime Stoppers is a private corporation, neither owned or controlled by the City. Pursuant to a records review of the Secretary of State’s Office, the last Annual Report was filed on November 1, 2012. According to the report, the last meeting of this organization was June 27, 2012.

M.G.L. c. 180, § 26A requires annual filings of such reports for all Massachusetts corporations, other than certain non-profits.  Based on the absence of annual filings, it appears that crime Stoppers of Lowell , Inc. is not currently in good standing as a Massachusetts corporation.

MOTIONS:                                            

  1. Councilor J. Leahy: Request City Manager investigate the reasons for idling trains in The Lawrence Street area.
  2. Councilor J. Leahy: Request City Manager update Council regarding white building on Butler School grounds.
  3. Councilor J. Leahy: Request City Manager update Council regarding an appointment of a Neighborhood Service Coordinator for the City.
  4. Councilor J. Leahy/Councilor R Elliott: Request City Council endorse a rally to promote unity celebration in the community on August 28th at City Hall..
  5. Councilor R. Elliott: Request City Manager explore feasibility of creating a 15 minute parking space at 178 University Avenue for local business.
  6. City Councilor R. Mercier: Request Council support displaying a bust of George D. Kouloheras in the foyer of City Hall next to bust of Clement McDonough at no expense to the City .
  7. City Councilor R. Mercier: Request City Manager have DPD provide a detailed presentation, justifying how filling in the Lord Overpass will be an improvement to the traffic congestion problems in the area.
  8. City Councilor D. Conway: Request City Manager include with each motion response the work hours that it took to accomplish the task and further include an estimate of costs for each motion.
  9. City Councilor V. Nuon: Request City Manager schedule a public meeting with new Police Superintendent as soon as possible after the hiring.
  10. City Councilor V. Nuon: Request City formally support h.r. 5754 (Cambodian Democracy act of 2018) passed by the US House Of Representatives and condemn the fraudulent elections that took place in Cambodia on 7/29/18; further request the City send a letter of support to Sens. Warren and Markey for passage of senate #2412 (Cambodian Accountability & Return On Investment Act—CARI) encouraging the restoration of civil and political rights of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), media and civil society organizations, restoration of elected officials to their elected offices and release of all political prisoners.
  11. City Councilor J. Milinazzo: Request City Manager meet with the Director of the Middlesex Shelter and neighborhood representatives to discuss illegal activities taking City Councilor K. Cirillo: Request place outside and adjacent to the shelter.
  12. City Councilor J. Milinazzo: Request City Manager provide updated report regarding trash violations and fines collected to date.
  13. City Councilor K. Cirillo: Request City Manager have proper department install signage of updated parking rates replacing the old signage in the parking garages.
  14. City Councilor K. Cirillo: Request Environmental and Flood Issues Sub-Committee have the Lowell Sustainability Council present the Solarize Lowell program.
  15. City Councilor K. Cirillo: Request City Manager have proper department repair the perimeter fence at Eagle Park.

News media are not “enemies of the people” by Marjorie Arons-Barron

I ask you: do I look like an enemy of the people?  Given my 30+ years in journalism (including Boston Phoenix, WGBH-TV, WCVB-TV) and nearly a decade more as a blogger, Donald Trump would probably say yes. Journalism is certainly in my DNA. Which is why I’m so proud of what my local newspaper is doing. The Boston Globe is urging a national response to the President’s war against the free press, calling for editorials Thursday from press outlets across the political spectrum to decry the attacks. Right or left, those editorial boards know the importance of press freedom to a flourishing democracy.

More than a few of Thursday’s editorials will probably mention Thomas Jefferson, famous for saying, “The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”   Yes, even though I cringe when the press is sloppy and sharply criticize when it is occasionally malign. Without the free flow of information and a vigorous marketplace of ideas, we cannot have an informed electorate and a sustainable democracy.

Sadly, our Bully-In-Chief keeps dismissing the media as “fake, fake disgusting news,” referring, of course, to anything that challenges his alternate reality or the 4,229 lies that Trump has told from the beginning of his administration to August 1, as documented by the Washington Post.  What’s even more disturbing than the name calling is how the President is increasingly inciting his rally audiences to violence against the press.

Thankfully, we haven’t yet reached the point where journalists are being imprisoned or sentenced to death as they are in Iran, Mexico, Russia and Turkey (the leading jailer of journalists).  But, as with most Trump obsessions, with this increase of attacks on the news media, can the slippery slope be far off?

The journalists I know are hard-working and mission-driven. They certainly aren’t in it for the money or, for that matter, job security. They’re willing to do the tedious work of chasing down facts, scouring documents, making uncomfortable phone calls and sometimes coming up empty-handed, double and triple checking, all to get the story the public has a right to know.  Whether it’s a community paper identifying political payoffs to local officials awarding street paving contracts or a national outlet exposing wrong-doing at the highest levels of government, it is the print and electronic media who are our representatives holding powerful institutions and individuals accountable.

Do they make mistakes? Too often.  Do they overreach? Sometimes. Do they occasionally mix news and opinion?  The firewall isn’t as clear as it used to be or should be. But, as an editorial in The Guardian pointed out after the killing of five journalists in the Annapolis, MD Capital Gazette, the “real enmity lies not between the press and the people, but the free press (and people) and the powerful.”

Our job, as consumers of news, has become more complicated at a time when social media (sadly, the main source of news for most people) have been expropriated by non-journalists who traffic in made-up stories and falsehoods. Think Pizzagate, the made-up story of Hillary Clinton running a pedophile ring in the basement of a pizza parlor.  Probably started by a Russian disinformation operative, advanced by self-serving far-right conspiracy promoters like Breitbart and Alex Jones, retweeted by gullible Hillary haters and eventually picked up by mainstream media, this totally fake story shows how important it is that we all work to sort the wheat from the chaff. But we can’t do it without the serious work of the mainstream news media.
We need to read multiple sources, and we need to be vigilant. And, whether you support or despise the President, please know that on this issue he is dead wrong. The media are not the enemy. They are one of our best friends and must continue to be free to do their job so we can have the information to do ours.

Lowell Week in Review: August 11, 2018

First Middlesex State Senate Race

One of the contested races to be decided by the September 4, 2018, state primary will be for the Democratic nominee for the First Middlesex State Senate seat. That office has been vacant since Eileen Donoghue resigned the seat after being elected Lowell’s city manager.

The First Middlesex Senate District consists of the city of Lowell and the towns of Dunstable, Groton, Pepperell, Tyngsborough and Westford.

The candidates for the Democratic nomination are:

John Drinkwater of Lowell

Rodney M. Elliott of Lowell

Edward J. Kennedy of Lowell

William F. Martin Jr. of Lowell

Terry Ryan of Westford

In the November 6, 2018, state election, the winner of the Democratic primary will face John A. MacDonald of Lowell who is unopposed in the Republican primary.

This coming Thursday, August 16, 2018, UMass Lowell and the Lowell Sun will sponsor a debate for the Democratic candidates for State Senate from 6 pm to 7 pm at University Crossing, 220 Pawtucket Street, Lowell. That debate will be immediately followed by a debate for the Democratic candidates for the 18th Middlesex State Representative seat. (Facebook event link).

To help put this election into historical context, here are the election results for the First Middlesex State Senate seat for the past forty years:

2016: Eileen Donoghue was unopposed in the primary and the general election.

2014: Eileen Donoghue was unopposed in the primary and the general election.

2012: Eileen Donoghue defeated James Buba, 40,752 to 15,125.

Eileen Donoghue, Steve Panagiotakos and Phil Shea in 2014.

2010: Steve Panagiotakos announced he would not seek reelection. In the Democratic Primary, Eileen Donoghue defeated Chris Doherty, 6,339 to 3,949. In the general election, Donoghue faced Republican James Buba and Unenrolled candidate Patrick O’Connor. Donoghue won with 25,549 to Buba’s 16,335 and O’Connor’s 4,158.

2008: Steve Panagiotakos was unopposed in the primary and the general election.

2006: Steve Panagiotakos was unopposed in the primary and defeated Republican Brooks Lyman in the general election, 32,403 to 10,314

2004: Steve Panagiotakos was unopposed in the primary and defeated Republican Brooks Lyman in the general election, 43,080 to 13,737.

2002: Steve Panagiotakos was unopposed in the primary and defeated Republican Brooks Lyman in the general election, 30,328 to 11,727.

2000: Steve Panagiotakos was unopposed in the primary and defeated Libertarian Peter Schoaff, 42,193 to 7,782.

1998: Steve Panagiotakos was unopposed in the primary and the general election.

1996: Incumbent Dan Leahy did not run for reelection. In the Democratic primary, Steve Panagiotakos defeated Matt Donahue, 8,836 to 4,043. In the general election, Panagiotakos defeated Republican Ken Dwyer, 35,909 to 12, 049.

1994: Incumbent Dan Leahy was unopposed in the primary and defeated Republican Michael Conway in the general election, 22,252 to 17,842.

1992: The First Middlesex State Senate seat was up for grabs after Republican incumbent Nancy Achin Sullivan announced that she would not seek reelection.  Lowell’s Dan Leahy prevailed in a four candidate field, receiving 9612 votes to former State Senator Phil Shea’s 6401, Frank Gorman’s 4900 and Buddy Flynn’s 2430.  In the general election, Leahy defeated Republican Mary Burns, 35,932 to 22,726.  This was the last election that had Dracut as part of the First Middlesex District which consisted of Dracut, Dunstable, Groton, Lowell, Pepperell, Shirley and Tyngsborough.

1990: Republican Nancy Achin Sullivan defeated Democratic incumbent Paul Sheehy, 27,785 to 23, 208.

1988: Incumbent Paul Sheehy was unopposed in the primary and the general election.

1986: Incumbent Paul Sheehy was unopposed in the primary and the general election.

1984: Incumbent Phil Shea ran for Congress. In the Democratic Primary, Paul Sheehy defeated Gary Sullivan of Dracut and George Anthes of Lowell. Sheehy received 13,895 votes to Sullivan’s 9,295 and Anthes’s 3,873. In the general election, Sheehy defeated Republican Wayne Peters, 36,085 to 22,511.

1982: Incumbent Phil Shea was unopposed in the primary and the general election.

1980: Incumbent Phil Shea was unopposed in the primary and defeated Republican James Loughran of Lowell in the general election, 40,288 to 16,102. (Loughran had been selected by a caucus of the Republicans in the district to replace Republican primary nominee Nolia Boulanger who withdrew prior to the election).

1979: A special election was held in the fall of 1979 to fill the state senate seat after ten-year incumbent Joe Tully resigned upon being elected Lowell City Manager. Democrat Phil Shea was the only candidate in the primary and in the general election.

Congressional Forums

The Third Congressional District is another hotly contested race. I’ll review the history of that seat in a future blog post. For now, there are a couple of candidate forums in the area that you should consider attending:

Wednesday, August 15, 2018 from 5:30 pm to 7 pm at UTEC Catalyst Center, 17 Warren Street, Lowell. A youth-led candidate forum hosted by UTEC. (Link to Facebook event).

Monday, August 27, 2018 from 7 pm to 8:30 pm at Chelmsford High School Theater, 230 North Road, Chelmsford. Sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Chelmsford. (Link to Facebook event)

Plastic Bag Ban

The Eagle Tribune reports that the Haverhill city council voted 8 to 1 to make that city the 81st municipality in the Commonwealth to enact a ban on single-use plastic bags.

Open Space and Recreation Plan Meeting

This Monday, August 13, 2018, from 6 pm to 8 pm at the Lowell Senior Center, 276 Broadway St in Lowell, the Lowell Department of Planning and Development will host its third public meeting on the formulation of the city’s Open Space and Recreation Plan. Everyone is invited to attend. Residents are also invited to complete DPD’s online survey on open space and recreation in the city.

 Lowell Walks

Thanks to Liz Stewart of COOL for leading yesterday’s Lowell Walk on downtown art galleries.

The walk visited The Brush Art Gallery and Studios, the Arts League of Lowell, the Whistler House, the New England Quilt Museum, Ayer Lofts Art Gallery, UnchARTed, Gallery Z, and others.

Here’s the schedule of walks for the rest of the summer:

August 18, 2018 – Immigration History with Bob Forrant

August 25, 2018 – Hamilton Canal District with Claire Ricker

September 1, 2018 – Lowell in World War One with Richard Howe.

For those looking ahead, the Lowell Cemetery tours this fall will be Friday, September 28, 2018 at 1pm and Saturday, September 29, 2018 at 10am. Both tours will begin at the Knapp Avenue entrance to the cemetery.

Richard Howe Campaign Update

This week I was interviewed about the Registry of Deeds and my reelection campaign by Steve Brogan of Tyngsborough cable TV. Here’s a link to the 30-minute interview. Please watch and share with your friends and followers on social media.

You can also help by displaying a lawn sign in your yard or by making a contribution to the campaign. Donations in any amount are welcome.

Lowell in World War One: July 22, 1918 to July 26, 1918

Still getting caught up on my weekly Lowell in World War One posts. This is the 63rd 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:

July 22, 1918 – Monday – Fresh victories for Americans. Defeated Germans fleeing to escape allied “nutcracker.” Huns are virtually trapped along the Marne River. City Hall news – Commissioner Warnock has plan for municipal heating and lighting plant. It will be in the basement of city hall and will provide lighting for city hall, Memorial building, the high school and the Green grammar school. War Movies on the South Common. Hot? Yep, wish I could get cooled off. Well here’s a chance. There are going to be free moving pictures of the great war shown on the South common this evening, just as it gets dark and begins to cool off. The films, secured from the bureau of commercial economics in Washington, will be on the Highland Street slope of the common.

July 23, 1918 – Tuesday – Americans and French cross the Marne over a front of twelve miles. Victorious allies hurl back German reserves and sweep on along the entire battle front. To end strikes. Declaring that “the epidemic of strikes in Massachusetts must cease at once,” Charles Wood of the state board of conciliation and arbitration today issued an ultimatum to employers and employees concerned in labor disputes around the state that if they don’t reach an agreement within 24 hours, the board would intervene to ensure the continued production of necessary war materials. Loading Cartridges. Representatives of US Cartridge Co and the US Army Ordnance Department petitioned the city for permission to begin loading cartridges on the top two floors of the Bigelow Hartford Plant on Market Street. The company promised to maintain not more than 200 pounds of smokeless powder on hand at any one time, and that would be stored in a fireproof building. Lowell hero’s grave. A photograph showing the place in France where Oliver M Chadwick, the Lowell aviator who died in the French service on August 14, 1916, has been buried was received today by Mayor Perry Thompson from a French soldier who forwarded it to the city with a request that it be given to the aviator’s folks. The mayor will forward the photo to Austin K Chadwick, the young aviator’s father.

July 24, 1918 – Wednesday – Hun losses to date 180,000, allies continue to advance. Big assignment of Lowell men leaves for Camp Devens today. Largest individual quota of local men for National Army begins training with a send-off by a record breaking crowd at the train station.

July 25, 1918 – Thursday – Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria and his army trapped by great advance by British. Franco-Americans push on. Pershing announces further progress for Yankees. Off for camp. Local companies of the State Guard went to Framingham today for the state guard’s first encampment. Companies C, G and K, the Lowell units of the 16th regiment of the state guard, assembled at the armory this morning then marched to the Middlesex street depot where they boarded a train for the five day encampment. Housing plan. Federal officials to discuss local housing problem with city council. Government has secured land on which 80 houses can be built and want to arrange for sewer connections and other city services. Call Lowell doctors of draft age. All who have been classified by their exemption boards as fit and eligible for special service will be inducted into the national service on August 11 and will entrain for Fort Slocum, New York, on that day.

July 26, 1918 – Friday – Allies rapidly closing in on Crown Prince’s forces. Pershing reports enemy still fleeing before American forces. Four more Lowell boys make the supreme sacrifice. Corporate Josephy H Worthy and Privates Francis M McOsker, Philip Chalifoux, and Arthur R McOsker, all members of the 101st regiment, were in today’s list of casualties from “over there.” All were members of Company M of the Old Ninth, now the 101st regiment, with the exception of Francis McOsker, who was with the headquarters company of the 101st. Corporal Worthy was a brother of Mrs. Martin Brick of 50 Bartlett St. Worthy enlisted in Company M at the outbreak of the trouble with Mexico several years ago and served on the border at that time. Francis McOsker, son of John McOsker of 13 Andrews street, graduated from Lowell High in 1916. Before joining the National Guard and leaving for France, he was employed at the United States Cartridge Company.  Arthur McOsker, 23, was the son of Mr and Mrs George McOsker of 17 Liberty street. He also served with Company M on the Mexican border. Philip Chalifoux, 18, was the son of Mr and Mrs Harmidas Chalifoux, 25 Lafayette st. He enlisted in Company M last June. More houses. Work on first group of houses for war workers will seen begin on the tract of land in Belvidere surrounded by Rogers, Perry and Alton streets, High street extension and Park avenue. The houses range from one to four family, and will accommodate a total of 82 families.

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