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Atkins, a Kennedy, & the Cops

The campaign to succeed U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas in the Third Congressional District next year has gone from start to overdrive in no time. Lately, poking around in a pile of old journals at home, I found this account of a political moment in Lowell in 1992, during another hot race. I’m sure a lot of our readers have memories of Congressional contests from the past. Maybe people would be willing to share stories. My first experience was in 1972, when I was 18, volunteering for John Kerry in a wild primary election with a crowd of candidates, similar to this campaign. I’ll write about that campaign another time.—PM

Atkins, a Kennedy, & the Cops: Lowell Politics (9/11/92)

A woman I don’t know calls to inform me that Congressman Joe Kennedy will be at the JFK Civic Center in downtown Lowell at 6 p.m. to endorse his congressional colleague Chet Atkins of Concord, Mass., who is running to save his political life in the Fifth Congressional District. After considering that some local people may not like me to show my support for Chet, I decide to go and stand up for the guy since he’s been right where I’ve expected him to be on most votes in the House of Representatives and he had delivered, the code word for bringing federal money back home, delivered big-time on matters I believe are important to the place I call home. I put on clean bluejeans and a fresh shirt and drive downtown.

Arriving early, I drive by after seeing only two people on the plaza steps, but on the second pass see a few more, plus by now I’ve decided I don’t care if there are only a few of us. I recognize an artist I know and Dave the photographer from the newspaper. Once there I talk to people, and the crowd grows to about 50, a respectable number. Now here comes Chet and his wife, Cory. He’s typically low-key and wanders in from the side, chatting with folks. Joe Kennedy is spotted getting out of his car with one aide, the driver. From 30 yards away, I see the tan—the Kennedy tan, the very-important-people-tan. He looks fabulous in a dark blue suit with a white shirt and light blue tie. The son of Robert F. Kennedy, my age—my age—bigger than me, more striking facial features, the short curly gold hair. He gives us the big smile, flashing his big Kennedy teeth, and shakes hands with every person he can reach.

We move inside to a spot where there is one microphone on a stand in front of a painting of President Kennedy (this is the John F. Kennedy Civic Center, police headquarters and the city’s planning office) with several views of JFK and a plaque with text about the building. The reporters set up, and an older man introduces Joe, who talks about Chet, about America, about problems, about the need to return Chet to Congress because he can do the best job for people in the district. “He can bring home the bacon and stand up to special interests.”

Chet’s Democratic primary opponent is 36-year-old Marty Meehan of Lowell, who has been around local politics since his First Communion. Marty reveres the Kennedys, especially Bobby Kennedy. How odd is this? The crowd offers long and warm applause as Joe endorses Chet and urges us to work hard in the last days before the primary election. Chet says a few words of thanks, praises Joe, and wraps it up quickly—a fast move, no speech, just get the endorsement and the photo of Kennedy with arms around Chet and Cory.

People turn to leave, and suddenly there’s a noise, a police siren, a whistle, a commotion. Two, three cops rush past us with guns drawn, running down the stairs at the police station and across the plaza, past the bronze Italian-American memorial sculpture. Two cruisers, lights flashing, zoom down the street. Everyone stops, looking, then we move across the plaza toward the street. Joe Kennedy stands with my artist-friend to have his picture taken. Word filters through the crowd about what happened. A guy escaped from the lock-up at the police station. Guns and cops and a Kennedy. Strange. Disturbing. All over in five minutes.

The cops who had been running with guns out calmly walk back. Did they get the prisoner? I don’t know. Joe waves goodbye from a dark station wagon. Chet is saying so long to his staff members. Cory is in her car, heading to another campaign event. Three days until the primary. Marty is hitting Chet hard with radio and TV ads. Two years ago, in the general election Chet won Lowell by two votes.

–Paul Marion, 1992

Lowell in World War One: Nov 19 to Nov 24, 1917

This is the 32nd 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:

November 19, 1917 – Monday –  Austro-Germans hurl heavy masses against Italian line. Turn railroads over to Wilson if crisis arises. The four railroad brotherhoods who have demanded increase wages have agreed to mediation but today’s announcement by the Railroad War Board eliminates the possibility of a strike by giving the president a free hand in running the railroads. Red Triangle fund here passes $120,000 mark. Commissioner may resign. Commissioner Frank Warnock, commenting on the school committee’s request for more money, said that if he had to ask for more money for his department, he would resign. The request by the school department was to buy more coal. While he acknowledges that the price of coal has risen sharply, Commissioner Warnock said the school department should learn to live within its means. City primaries tomorrow. The polls will open at 1 pm and close at 8 pm. Voters will nominate two candidates for mayor, four for commissioner and four for the school committee. Candidates for mayor are Andrew Barrett, William Carroll, James Casey, John Gilbride, Dr. Rodrigue Mignault, James O’Donnell, and Perry Thompson.

November 20, 1917 – Tuesday – US Destroyer sunk – 21 lives lost. Italy’s Armies holding firmly most vital point of Piave Line. Austro-Germans checked by heroic resistance of Italians. Americans and Germans again clash. Anglo-American War Council in London. City Council passes jitney ordinance. City primaries today.

November 21, 1917 – Wednesday – Great British victory; famous Hindenburg line broken. British spring surprise on Germans in Northern France, attacking on 30 mile front and breaking the Hindenburg Line to a depth of five miles. Anglo-American War Conference in London event of highest importance. School children were looking for sugar. Several hundred children of the public schools called at city hall this morning in an endeavor to get what they called “their share” of the carload of sugar that has been ordered by the mayor. Candidates selected for mayor, aldermen and school board. After a campaign that did not arouse great excitement or great enthusiasm, the nominations in Lowell yesterday brought out a comparatively light vote and placed on the ballot for the city election, December 11, the names of Dr. Rodrigue Mignault and Perry D Thompson, as candidates for mayor. Incumbent Mayor O’Donnell finished fourth and will not be on the general election ballot.

November 22, 1917 – Thursday – British Drive Goes On. Further progress by Byng’s victorious army toward Cambrai announced. Haig’s blow represents true strategy. Boston Publishers sued by Lowell man. The libel case of Robert J Thomas, superintendent of the Lowell Water Department, against New England Publishing Co, publishers of the Boston American, was opened before Justice King and jury at the civil session of the superior court at the courthouse on Gorham Street this morning. This is an action of tort in which Thomas claims that an article in the Sunday, January 14, 1917, Boston American was false, malicious and defamatory, and asks for $25,000 in damages.

November 23, 1917 – Friday – British consolidate gains and prepare for another plunge toward Cambrai. Hearing in Thomas libel suit resumes today. Two soldiers arrested here sentenced. Daniel Hagan and Louis Welch, both members of the 303rd machine gun battalion at Camp Devens, were sentenced to six months at hard labor by a court martial for stealing a car in Lowell. State Commission wants sewers. The Massachusetts Homestead commission has started work on the erection of several houses on Hildreth street, Homestead road, and Richardson street, and has asked the city to expedite the laying of a sewer in those areas. Knife used in Adams Street assault. Frank Sobezak and Frank Laba were charged with assault and battery on John Patorzak last night. At a hearing in police court this morning, testimony was that the three had met in a barroom where Sobezak and Laba asked Patorzak to “set ‘em up.” He refused and his two companions took offense at his lack of sociability. The result was an assault with a knife and considerable excitement in the neighborhood until the police arrived. The defendants were found guilty and sentenced to six months in the house of correction.

November 24, 1917 – Saturday – British advance on six mile front. Further gains for Gen. Byng’s forces against German lines west of Cambrai. Russian Ambassador ignores Bolsheviki.  Ambassador Bakhmeteff formally notified the state department that the embassy does not recognize the authority of the extremists now in control of the foreign office at Petrograd. Honors for Lowell Men at Plattsburg. Three Lowell men were commissioned as army officers after excelling at the reserve officers training camp at Plattsburg. Lorne Lee Cupples was commissioned as a captain in the Ordnance branch. Cupples is well known in Lowell, being the former superintendent of the Whitall Manufacturing company. He came to Lowell in 1899 from Newport, NH. He is married and lives at 116 Grove Street. D. Redmond Kearney is the son of John Kearney of 142 Third street. He is 28 years old. His brother Paul is also in the course at Plattsburg. Another brother, Frank, is a private stationed at Camp Devens. Stephen Kearney, the city engineer, is another brother as is Dr. Joseph P. Kearney. Lt. Kearney is a graduate of Lowell High and was employed in the office of Amasa Pratt, the lumber dealer and most recently worked for Newton Manufacturing Company. 1LT Rousseau Haynes received his education in Dorchester. After graduating from high school there, he came to Lowell and worked for F E Nelson Co as the manager of the graphaphone department. He recently married Miss Alice Schick. They live at 28 Warwick street.

Lowell City Council Meeting: November 21, 2017

Mayor Kennedy introduces city councilor-elect Karen Cirillo who has been attending most council meetings this year.

Motion responses (see Mimi Parseghian city council meeting preview post): No discussion on Rte 38/Kittredge Park update.

Regarding chemical road treatments in the winter, trucks have sophisticated devices that control the mixture of materials to be laid on the roads.

Response on snow plow contracts referred to neighborhood subcommittee.

Regarding using one way traffic on various river bridges during peak traffic times, the city met with Mass DOT which felt the negative consequences of doing that would outweigh any benefit from doing it. The city did adjust the light cycles on O’Donnell bridge to attempt to reduce backups on Pawtucket Street.

There is some discussion about the one-year delay in the bridge repairs on the VFW Highway due to the discovery of contaminated soil. There will be an additional delay for at least another year. Councilors are critical of Mass DOT not doing adequate environmental testing prior to starting the project. There is no money in the state budget to remediate this. Councils direct the city manager to discuss this with city’s statehouse delegation to try to expedite funding of this.

Regarding the Rourke Bridge, the report says that it such a major project that it will require substantial funding from the state and federal government. Councilor Belanger is frustrated that elected officials from neighboring communities are not assisting the city in lobbying for money for a replacement bridge since many of the residents of these other communities use this bridge too. Manager Murphy says that the city has requested the necessary funds so it’s a matter of lobbying for it. Councilor Leary points out that even if the Rourke Bridge is improved to carry more traffic, the backups would just get pushed further out to Drum Hill which would become a bottle neck if more traffic came over the bridge. One thing that makes this time-sensitive is that in 2013 there was a feasibility study done. That has to be followed by an environmental study. If there is too much time between the first study and the second study, the first study will have to be redone (and repaid for) because it will have become outdated. This creates a greater sense of urgency to avoid paying for the same study twice. Councilor Elliott suggests the city might hold up the new Market Basket in Pawtucketville until funding for the new bridge is forthcoming from the state as a way of getting the state’s attention.

Vote to authorize Minimum Residential Factor. Referred to Public Hearing on Dec 5, 2017.

Vote to cancel city council meetings on Nov 28, Dec 19, and Dec 26, 2017.

Motion by Councilor Mercier: Req. City Mgr. investigate whether UMass-Lowell would consider putting a university police officer at the Howe Bridge on the Pawtucket Street side to control traffic from 4:30 PM until 6:30 PM while school is in session. Councilor Mercier invites Matt LeLacheur up to speak. He says while campaigning for the city council, he heard from people about the good and the bad of UMass Lowell. He says the traffic there presents a safety issue for students crossing the street while also frustrating drivers. He says the UMass Lowell police station is in University Crossing which is right next to the bridge, so it is an opportunity for the University to strengthen its partnership with the city.

December 5 from 4 to 6 pm will be the Holiday Open House at City Hall. The public is invited.

Meeting adjourns at 7:42 pm

City Council Preview: Nov 21, 2017 meeting

Mimi Parseghian looks at the agenda for this coming Tuesday’s Lowell City Council meeting, which begins at 6:30 pm and will be televised live on LTC channel 99 and streamed live on LTC’s website. And if you can’t attend the meeting in person, or watch it live, check back here tomorrow night right after the meeting when I’ll post my City Council meeting notes. From Mimi . . .

This week’s City Council’s agenda is light on Council motions but heavy on Administration answers to motions.

Motion Responses from the Administration to City Council Motion:

Route 38 Improvements Along Kittredge Park: Bids for the MassDot $4.5 million project will be advertised in June 2018. So far the design plans have been finalized. They include the widening of Nesmith St. from Andover to East Merrimack Streets; and traffic signal improvement to a number of intersection on 38.  The City is responsible for the Right of Way acquisitions.

Chemical Road Treatments and Costs: The City “continues to research the latest technology to pre-treat roads as a cost savings measure. However, the utilization of liquid materials and chemicals require significant capital investment to provide questionable return on investment.” As far as costs are concerned, here are the expenses of Salt for the past few years: $1.1M in FY17; $400k in FY16; $750k in FY15, and $720k in FY14.

Snow Plow Contractors: This was a motion by CC Jim Leary which required the City Manager to Provide a Report Regarding The Number Of Contractors Used To Treat Roads Before, During And After Storms; Report Should Include Use Of GPS/GIS Technology, The Amount Of Product Each Contractor Vehicle Applies On The Roads, The Costs Associated With The Implementation And Recommendations For Saving Costs. I am not sure if the one-page reply answers all of Councilor Leary’s questions but the City’s snow/sanding contractor [nearly 100] costs over the past few years were $1.4M in FY17, $650k in FY16, $2.3M in FY15, $775k in FY14 and $1.2M in FY13.

One-way Traffic on Howe, Ouellette and Rourke Bridges During Peak Hours: This motion received a direct and complete answer: “Alternating traffic directions on the Howe, Ouellette, and Rourke Bridges would entail significant logistical and financial costs while not alleviating traffic congestion and it is therefore not recommended.”

Stop Sign at Intersection of Liberty and Smith Streets: This motion, just like the previous had a unambiguous answer: “In response to a petition in May of this year it was determined that the intersection of Powell Street and Liberty Street was a much more dangerous intersection and had a higher volume of traffic than the intersection of Liberty Street and Smith Streets… In order to resolve the traffic safety issues while maintaining traffic flow, the Transportation Engineer installed a four-way stop sign at Powell Street and Liberty Street intersection and removed them from the Smith Street intersection since it was not warranted.”

Needle Pick-up Update: The Administration is currently in discussion with the City’s laborers’ unions to “formally adopt a needle pick up program.” DPD has already “purchased the ‘response kits’ with the relevant and necessary equipment to be used for the safety pick up and dispose of needles found while performing [their] tasks… The responsive team will include representatives from Inspectional Services, Solid Waste & Recycling, and Trinity Ambulance, who currently handle needle calls.”

318 Andover Street (Status): “This past week, the Street Division of the DPW dispatched a crew to clean the lot… Costs incurred as part of the cleanup were forwarded to be attached to the lien on the property.”

Mass DOT VFW Highway Project Soil Contamination Delay: The replacement of the bridges that carry the VFW Highway over Beaver brook will be delayed for at least a year due to the discovery of contaminated soil. There is no danger to the community since the “impacted soil is not accessible and is currently protected by fences and locked gates.

Rourke Bridge Update: This response from the Administration was not for one motion but four passed by the City Council in the past few months. The City Manager provided the one-page reply from the State. The memorandum reiterated what we all knew and provided nothing new. The replacement of the bridge is considered a major infrastructure project that will require a commitment of state and federal funding.

There are two informational documents in this week information package.  One is from the Lowell Police Department.  It is the four-page August National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) report. Crime in August 2017 saw a 7% decrease compared to August 2016. Overall crime has decreased 28% since 2012.

The other report lists all of the member of Boards and Commissions and their current appointment status.

The only City Council motion is from City Councilor Rita Mercier: “Request City Manager to investigate whether UMass-Lowell would consider putting a University Police Officer at the Howe Bridge on the Pawtucket Street side to control traffic from 4:30 – 6:30 p.m. while school is in session.”  As someone who gets caught once a week in that traffic, I am not sure what percentage are cars from the school and how much is caused by commuter traffic going through the City.

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Lord Overpass update

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