Lowell Week in Review: August 27, 2017

MSBA Defers Lowell High Decision

The Massachusetts School Building Authority’s Board of Directors took up the Lowell High School project on Wednesday. The relevant item on the agenda said “recommendation for preferred schematic design for the city of Attleboro, the city of Fall River, the town of Harvard, the city of Lowell, the city of Taunton, and the town of Tisbury.” When it got to the Lowell proposal, the board put on the brakes, telling the city representatives at the meeting to go back home “and resolve the internal strife that is going on.”

The board assured city officials that funding for the new school would not be put at risk due to the delay, and invited the city back to its next meeting on October 25, 2017 for the next Board of Directors meeting.

I don’t mean to be a pessimist, but the suggestion that our “internal strife” will be resolved by October 25, 2017, is laughable. The two sides are too far apart. The primary point of division is the future location of the school. It’s not like one side wants a $400 million project and the other only wants to spend $200 million. In that scenario, both sides might compromise on a $300 million option. But what’s the compromise in our case? Kittredge Park? That’s halfway between downtown and Cawley, but we’re not going to build the school there.

We haven’t yet reached the detailed design of the new school, but that doesn’t seem to be a major point of contention. While both sides quibble about which option is more expensive, they both agree that it’s OK to commit $350 million or more in total to this project regardless of its location with about half of it being paid by city tax payers. Is there some concession that Cawley supporters could make to win over, however grudgingly, downtown supporters and still build the school at Cawley? Conversely, is there some concession that downtown supporters could make to win over those who want Cawley, yet keep the school downtown? In either case, I doubt it.

The biggest reason there will not be a compromise by October 25 is that the city election is on November 7. People on both sides are confident that candidates that support their respective positions on the location of the high school will prevail, and that a super majority of either downtown or Cawley supporters will win seats on the city council and school committee.

If one side or the other does gain a clear victory on both the council and school committee on November 7, then perhaps the city will be able to report to the MSBA at its December 13, 2017 meeting that voters signaled their clear preference for one option, and that the city is ready to proceed.

City Election News

With the high school decision turning on its outcome, the importance of this fall’s city election to Lowell’s future is greatly enhanced. The final election for both council and school committee is on Tuesday, November 7, 2017. The preliminary election for the council, which will reduce the number of candidates from 23 to 18, will be held on Tuesday, September 26, 2017.

Earlier this week the election commission held a drawing to determine the ballot order in the preliminary election. For the November election, the ballot order is set by state law, with incumbents sorted alphabetically coming first and challengers sorted alphabetically following. But for the preliminary, position is determined by a random drawing of all candidates. Here’s the order of council candidates on the September 26 preliminary election ballot:

Jeffery S Wilson
David J Conway
Rita M Mercier
Daniel M Flynn
Jose W Negron
Rodney M Elliott
Karen Cirillo
Corey A Belanger
James L Milinazzo
Paul Ratha Yem
John J Leahy
Martin J Hogan
Robert W Merrill Jr
Edward J Kennedy Jr
Vesna Nuon
Daniel P Rourke
Pan So
James Jim Leary
Sokhary Chan Chau
Joseph P Boyle
Matthew E LeLacheur
William Bill Samaras
Robert Gignac

Congressional update

There were a couple of developments this week in the campaign to succeed Niki Tsongas as the Representative in Congress for the Third District of Massachusetts. The Lowell Sun’s Chris Scott reported that Daniel Arrigg Koh, chief of staff to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh had resigned that position and was moving back to his hometown of Andover to run for the Congressional seat. Then on Friday, State Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) took to Facebook to announce the he would not run for the Third Congressional District but instead would seek reelection to the state senate next fall.

Yesterday’s Lowell Walk on Mill Girls of Lowell

Lowell Walks 2017

Thanks to Tess Shatzer of Lowell National Historical Park for leading yesterday’s Lowell Walk on the mill girls of Lowell. Tess was ably assisted by some park colleagues portraying mill girl Emily Adams, male mill operative Andrew Warren, and mill executive Kirk Boott. The 105 people who took part in the tour learned why work in the mills was so attractive to New England farm girls, how these young women and their successors grew to resent the long hours and pay inequities they experienced, and how New England natives were gradually supplanted in the mills by waves of immigrant workers.

Yesterday’s tour was the final summertime Saturday morning walk of 2017. Here’s a quick review of this year’s offerings:

Jun 10 – Western Canal with Dick Howe – 150 walkers
Jun 17 – Abolitionism & Underground Railroad with Bob Forrant – 226 walkers
Jun 24 – Churches of Lowell with Dave McKean & Rosemary Noon – 111 walkers
Jul 8 – Lowell Poems & Poets with Paul Marion – 84 walkers
Jul 15 – Kerouac Downtown with Sean Thibodeau & Roger Brunelle – 96
Jul 22 – Lowell Fires with Jason Strunk – 98
Aug 5 – Urban Renewal with Chris Hayes & Aurora Erickson – 90
Aug 12 – Hamilton Canal District with Claire Ricker of DPD – 110
Aug 19 – Public Health with Sue Levine & Clare Gunther – 50
Aug 26 – Mill Girls of Lowell with Tess Shatzer of LNHP – 105

So our ten summertime walks totaled 1120 participants. For its third consecutive summer, Lowell Walks has brought an average of 100 people or more to downtown on summertime Saturday mornings. Planning for Lowell Walks 2018 has already begun.

In the meantime, there are plenty of upcoming historical and cultural events in Lowell in the coming weeks and months. Here’s a sampling:

Underground Railroad Walking Tour – UMass Lowell historian Bob Forrant will lead his Underground Railroad walking tour on Sunday, September 10, 2017, at 1 pm from Lowell National Park visitor center.

CREATICITY: The Lowell Art & Maker Festival will take place on Saturday, September 16 and Sunday, September 17, 2017, throughout downtown, running from noon to 6 pm each day. During this weekend, I will lead several free walking tours, all starting at Lowell National Historical Park’s visitor center at 246 Market Street.

On Saturday, September 16 at 1 pm, there will be a Lowell Public Art walk, and at 3:45 pm, there will be a Lowell Innovation and Invention walk.

On Sunday, September 17, the same two tours will be repeated, only their times will switch. The Innovation and Invention tour will begin at 1 pm and the Public Art tour will begin at 3:45 pm.

Lowell Cemetery Tours – This fall’s walking tours of historic Lowell Cemtery will be offered on Friday, September 22 at 1 pm and on Saturday, September 23 at 10 am. Both tours will begin at the Knapp Avenue entrance to the cemetery (77 Knapp Ave, Lowell), are free, and last about 90 minutes. The 2017 Lowell Cemetery Art Exhibition will also take place within the cemetery on Saturday, September 23, from 10 am until 1 pm.

Lowell Kinetic Sculpture Race – Hugely successful in its inaugural run last year, the Lowell Kinetic Sculpture Race returns to the city on Saturday, September 23, 2017. Check out the event’s website for more details about the various activities and venues that make up this great event.

School Is Back

Lowell public schools start classes this Tuesday. Adjust your morning commute time accordingly and proceed with caution. UMass Lowell students move back to the dorms next weekend and begin classes on Wednesday, September 6. Middlesex Community College begins the next day.

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