Lowell Week in Review: October 29, 2017

Lowell High student speakers at Boston Book Festival

LHS at Boston Book Festival

Among the nearly one hundred author sessions at yesterday’s Boston Book Festival was one called Defining Diversity which is also the title of a book published last May by a class of Lowell High students. Taking the stage at 11:30 am in the Boston Public Library’s Orientation Room were recent LHS graduates Carla Duran, Jackson Kokeh, Onotse Omoyeni, Sam Ramsden and Stephane Silva; current student Monineth Hang; and Jessica Lander who taught their Seminar on American Diversity.

LHS contingent waiting for their session to begin

The hour-long session was moderated by Emmy Award-winning producer and director Teja Arboleda, who has also written several books about race and diversity. He did an excellent job of letting the students do the talking while guiding their remarks through the process of creating the book and on into areas of national importance. Along the way, much was said about the benefits of having gone to Lowell High School.

The six students, representing just one-quarter of the seminar’s 24 students, had the crowd of 80 riveted by their profound and insightful remarks. They explained that at the beginning of the course, the seminar featured students teaching students, but they quickly realized that to have meaningful discussions they needed a common understanding of some landmark federal statutes and Supreme Court decisions. Each student then took one or more topics, researched it and wrote about it. Those essays became the book.

As for how they selected the topics to write about, one student-author explained that he grew up in Liberia and come to the United States only four years ago. In Liberia, there was no racism; he only encountered it here in America. He said that Lowell High is a “really good school” and that “I really feel at home there.” But the past practice of separating school children by race in America perplexed him, so he choose to study and write about the US Supreme Court decision in Brown v Board of Education.

Another student said she had come from a country that only had one race, but here there are many races which was new to her. She started studying “unconscious bias” and quickly realized that she had her own unconscious biases which made her even more interested in and aware of the topic.

Other topics studied and written about by the students include the Violence Against Women Act of 1994; the concept of Privilege; the US Supreme Court case of Korematsu v US (the WWII internment case); the US Supreme Court case of Obergefell v Hodges which legalized same sex marriage across the US; and many others.

In response to a question about the biggest challenges of doing the book, students cited the never-ending editing process; the need for absolute accuracy since the book would be read by so many others; and the challenge to many of the immigrant-student-writers to use “the right language” when English was not their native language.

Some of the most exciting parts of the experience were: “With many of us being immigrants ourselves, realizing that we had a voice and that other people would hear that voice was a big thing.” And having a published book was also a big deal, especially for young people just about to graduate from high school (most are in college now; a few are still at LHS).

The session closed with a discussion about diversity. When asked if this book would be relevant to students in a school that lacked diversity, one of the LHS authors said it would for at least two reasons: One was that the book provides a common language that is needed for young people to discuss controversial issues in a respectful, informed way. “It will keep you from ‘othering’ the other person.” The other reason for the book’s relevance is that every group of people is diverse: they might all look the same but they have different experiences and personalities. One of the final student comments was “Diversity is innovation; it makes you think differently and makes you better at improving things.”

At a book festival that featured authors such as Geraldine Brooks, Ann Collette, Maureen Dowd, Adam Gopnik and Dennis Lehane, the kids from Kirk Street really stood out, and represented the city well.

Defining Diversity has been shared with schools in all 50 states. It’s available online from Harvard Book Store.

City Election News

The city election is just one week from this Tuesday. There has been a flurry of activity with candidate forums, political parties, sign-holding at major intersections and distribution of literature through the mail and by supporters roaming the neighborhoods. One thing all of those has in common is money. Looking at how much candidates have and how they spend it can provide some insight on what to expect in the closing days of the election.

The Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance provides much information about city council candidate finances – how much they’ve raised and from who; how much they’ve spent and on what – on the OCPF website. (School committee candidates report their campaign activity through the city clerk’s office and so their information is not on the OCPF website).

During election season, candidates must file reports on money raised and spent every two weeks. The most recent report was due to OCPF on October 20. It covered the two week period from October 1 through October 15. For today, I’ve looked at that report and previous ones from 2017 for each council candidate. I’ve captured how much has been raised, how much has been spent up to October 15, and how much was left on hand as of October 15 (the last day of the most recent reporting period). Also listed is how the money has been spent so far. While I have not listed individual donor names, I have identified which candidates have taken contributions from Political Action Committees (PACs). The eighteen council candidates are listed in the order of finish in the preliminary election.

Ed Kennedy

3266 votes in preliminary (1st place)
2016 balance: $3,836
Raised in 2017: $13,682
Spent in 2017: $1,947
Balance on Oct 15: $14,821

Major expenses were signs and fund raising-related

PAC contributions to Ed Kennedy
Laborers International Union of North America – $100
Carpenters Union Local 111 – $250
Mass & North New England Laborers – $500

John Leahy

3262 votes in preliminary (2nd place)
2016 balance: $8
Raised in 2017: $13,060
Spent in 2017: $4,492
Balance on Oct 15: $8,576

Major expenses: $2000 to Lowell Sun; $1,250 to Khmer Post USA

PAC contributions to John Leahy
International Assoc of Fire Fighters Local 853 – $100

Bill Samaras

3254 votes in preliminary (3rd place)
2016 balance: $2,987
Raised in 2017: $10,040
Spent in 2017: $4,362
Balance on Oct 15: $8,665

Major expenses: $900 to Lowell Sun; $1000 for signs; $2000 for printing

PAC contributions to Bill Samaras – none

Vesna Nuon

3095 votes in preliminary (4th place)
2016 balance: $144
Raised in 2017: $10,761
Spent in 2017: $5,643
Balance on Oct 15: $4,370

Major expenses: $1500 to MassDems for voter database; $300 for Facebook ads; $100 printing

PAC contributions to Vesna Nuon – none

Rita Mercier

3073 votes in preliminary (5th place)
2016 balance: $6,724
Raised in 2017: $10,455
Spent in 2017: $7,872
Balance on Oct 15: $10,576

Major expenses: $2000 to Lowell Sun; $600 to WCAP; $1200 for signs and printing

PAC contributions to Rita Mercier:
International Assoc of Fire Fighters: $200

Jim Milinazzo

3057 votes in preliminary (6th place)
2016 balance: $2,234
Raised in 2017: $1,650
Spent in 2017: $1,750
Balance on Oct 15: $1,987

Major expenses: $1000 for signs

PAC contributions to Jim Milinazzo: none

Dave Conway

2834 votes in preliminary (7th place)
2016 balance: $1,621
Raised in 2017: $14,921
Spent in 2017: $9,063
Balance on Oct 15: $2,864

Major expenditures: $8000 for mailings

PAC contributions to Dave Conway: none

Rodney Elliott

2700 votes in preliminary (8th place)
2016 balance: $23,358
raised in 2017: $8,180
spent in 2017: $4,214
Balance on Oct 15: $27,224

Major expenditures: $600 to WCAP; $1000 for signs: $500 to Khmer Post USA

PAC contributions to Rodney Elliott
New England Laborers District Council: $500

Dan Rourke

2479 votes in preliminary (9th place)
2016 balance: $13,926
raised in 2017: $24,115
spent in 2017: $11,261
balance on Oct 15: $26,780

Major expenses: $5300 on printing; $1000 on signs; $670 to WCAP

PAC contributions to Dan Rourke
Laborers International Union of North America: $100
Asbestos Workers Local 6: $250
IBEW Local 2321: $200
Carpenters Local 111: $250
Mass Bricklayers: $500
USW Local 12012: $250
Merrimack Valley Building Trades: $500
Painters Allied Trades: $500
Pipefitters Local 537: $500

Jim Leary

2466 votes in preliminary (10th place)
2016 balance: $57
raised in 2017: $17,205
spent in 2017: $7,708
balance on Oct 15: $9,054

Major expenses: $2000 for signs; $3300 for printing

PAC contributions to Jim Leary
Mass & Northern New England Laborers District Council: $500
International Assoc of Fire Fighters Local 853: $200

Corey Belanger

2262 votes in preliminary (11th place)
2016 balance: $4,941
raised in 2017: $5,360
spent in 2017: $9,669
balance on Oct 15: $4,917

Major expenditures: $5000 for printing; $515 to WCAP; $825 to Lowell Sun; $1000 to Khmer Post

PAC contributions to Corey Belanger: none

Karen Cirillo

2224 votes in preliminary (12th place)
2016 balance: new account
raised in 2017: $2,712
spent in 2017: $942
balance on Oct 15: $625

Major expenditures: $400 on signs; $500 on printing

No PAC contributions to Karen Cirillo

Matthew LeLacheur

2150 votes in preliminary (13th place)
2016 balance: new account
raised in 2017: $6,929
spent in 2017: $4,279
balance on Oct 15: $2,167

Major expenditures: $3500 on printing; $348 to WCAP

No PAC contributions to Matthew LeLacheur

Daniel Finn

2140 votes in preliminary (14th place)
2016 balance: new account
raised in 2017: $11,220
spent in 2017: $7,423
balance on Oct 15: $3,797

Major expenditures: $1000 on printing; $2000 on signs

No PAC contributions to Daniel Finn

Sokhary Chau

2115 votes in preliminary (15th place)
2016 balance: new account
raised in 2017:
spent in 2017: $18,139
balance on Oct 15: $3,593

Major expenditures: $5000 for signs; $1411 to Lowell Sun; $700 on Facebook ads

PAC contributions to Sokhary Chau
National Assoc of Government Employees R1-207: $500
National Assoc of Government Employees R1-292: $500
MA & Northern NE Laborers District Council: $500
National Assoc of Government Employees: $500

Martin Hogan

1822 votes in preliminary (16th place)
2016 balance: $145
raised in 2017: $3,500
spent in 2017: $1,993
balance on Oct 15: $348

Major expenditures: $800 on printing; $283 to WCAP; $150 for webpage

No PAC contributions to Martin Hogan

Joe Boyle

1758 votes in preliminary (17th place)
2016 balance: new account
raised in 2017: $1020
spent in 2017: $812
balance on Oct 15: $1702

Major expenditures: $800 on signs

No PAC contributions to Joe Boyle

Robert Gignac

1746 votes in preliminary (18th place)
2016 balance: new account
raised in 2017: $18,556
spent in 2017: $7,767
balance on Oct 15: $10,789

Major expenditures: $3100 on printing; $1400 to Lowell Sun; $500 to WCAP

PAC contributions to Robert Gignac
Carpenters Local 111: $250
International Assoc of Fire Fighters local 853: $100
Mass Bricklayers: $250

The next two week report is due just before the election, so this will probably be the last info we’ll have on city council campaign finance until after the election which is Tuesday, November 7, 2017.

City Council Meeting

The City Council cancelled its meeting for this coming Tuesday night due to a light agenda (and it being Halloween).

2 Responses to Lowell Week in Review: October 29, 2017

  1. Robert Forrant says:

    Do you know if any of the city councilors who seem to lack the understanding of diversity and why it matters have read the book by the LHS students? Maybe the students could offer a seminar for our city’s elected leaders!

    This is one of the best stories ever.

  2. Joel Walsh says:

    I’m so proud of our students.

    Unfortunately, in Lowell we have one city councilor who actually told a newspaper reporter that she could ignore “the ethnic people” (her words) because they supposedly don’t vote in large numbers or lobby the city government. We have at least one other councilor who supported the current president of the United States in his campaign for president, and several others who are beholden to wealthy construction and real estate interests.

    I need to think of these young people to have any hope for our city.

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