Lowell Week in Review: November 19, 2017

City Election Follow-Up

Last Tuesday’s city council meeting was pretty sedate, with barely a mention of the Lowell High project. That seems to reflect the will of most people in the city. This past election was like a Micky Ward v Arturo Gatti fight: the winners and the losers were both left battered and need time to recover.

This coming Tuesday night’s meeting will likely repeat the mellowness of last week. There is only one motion on the agenda, and there is a vote to cancel upcoming council meetings on November 28, December 19, and December 26. That would leave only two more meetings of this council: December 5 and December 12. (Although there’s only one motion on the agenda for Tuesday, there are some important motion responses so please check back on Monday for Mimi Parseghian’s city council preview).

While looking at the calendar, I recalled the inauguration day for the new council and school committee is usually the first Monday in January. In 2018, that will be January 1, a holiday. My recollection is that the last time that happened, the inauguration ceremonies were moved to Tuesday, January 2. I expect that to be the case this time, too.

Inauguration Day, whichever date it falls on, will also be the day the council elects the next mayor of Lowell. More councils than you might imagine have had their unity shattered on the first day in office by the Mayor’s election. Hopefully that won’t happen again this year.

Then looking ahead even further, the Massachusetts School Building Authority’s first meeting in 2018 is on February 14. Presumably the new city council will revisit last June’s vote on the location of a new Lowell High School shortly after inauguration day, however, an entirely new submittal to the MSBA will require a considerable amount of work, so the city might not be ready to go the MSBA until its next meeting, which would be in April. One lesson that should have been learned from this past year is that rushing submittals only creates more problems down the road.

School Committee Election

Although most people seem ready to move on from the city election, last Sunday I promised to review the school committee results. Here they are, showing order of finish, candidate name, incumbency and number of votes received.

  1. Jackie Doherty (I) – 6360
  2. Robert Hoey (I) – 6030
  3. Connie Martin (I) – 6024
  4. Dominik Lay – 5637
  5. Andy Descoteaux (I) – 5107
  6. Gerry Nutter – 4799
  7. Dennis Mercier – 4709
  8. Noelle Creegan – 4670
  9. Timothy Blake – 4501
  10. Dan Shanahan – 4374

The ten candidates presented the same downtown vs Cawley symmetry as was seen on the city council ballot with Jackie Doherty, Robert Hoey, Connie Martin, Dominik Lay and Gerry Nutter supporting a downtown high school, and Andy Descoteaux, Dennis Mercier, Noelle Creegan, Timothy Blake and Dan Shanahan supporting the Cawley site. All five downtown supporters were elected. The sixth seat was filled by Cawley-supporting incumbent, Andy Descoteaux. This is a net gain for the downtown supporters since the current school committee had four in favor of downtown (Doherty, Hoey, Martin and Steve Gendron, who did not seek reelection) vs two for Cawley (Descoteaux and Robert Gignac, who ran for the city council).

If we look at the outcome in each of the 33 precincts, we find that seven precincts had a 5 to 1 downtown majority; nine precincts favored 4 downtown candidates to 2 Cawley candidates; eight precincts had a 3 to 3 tie; eight more had 4 Cawley supporters to 2 downtown supporters; and one precinct had 5 Cawley supporters to a single downtown supporter.

The top six finishers in the five precincts in which more than 70% voted YES on the referendum were:

Ward 1, Prec 2 – 74% yes/26% no – Martin – Hoey – Doherty – Nutter – Lay – Creegan
Ward 1, Prec 3 – 77% yes/23% no – Martin – Doherty – Hoey – Lay – Nutter – Creegan
Ward 2, Prec 3 – 73% yes/27% no – Doherty – Martin – Lay – Hoey – Mercier – Descoteaux
Ward 7, Prec 2 – 81% yes/19% no – Lay – Doherty – Martin – Hoey – Descoteaux – Nutter
Ward 10, Prec 3 – 72% yes/28% no – Doherty – Martin – Hoey – Lay – Nutter – Mercier

The top six finishers in the four precincts in which a majority voted against the ballot question were:

Ward 5, Prec 1 – 49% yes/51% no – Mercier – Descoteaux – Doherty – Blake – Hoey – Creegan
Ward 6, Prec 3 – 46% yes/54% no – Descoteaux – Mercier – Shanahan – Creegan – Hoey – Blake
Ward 8, Prec 3 – 49% yes/51% no – Creegan – Descoteaux – Doherty – Blake – Hoey – Shanahan
Ward 9, Prec 3 – 49% yes/51% no – Shanahan – Hoey – Descoteaux – Nutter – Creegan – Mercier

As for who finished first in which precincts:

Lay (9) 3-2, 3-3, 4-1, 4-2, 4-3, 7-1, 7-2, 7-3, 9-1
Doherty: (7) 1-1, 2-1, 2-2, 2-3, 5-2, 8-1, 10-3
Descoteaux (6) 3-1, 5-3, 6-2, 6-3, 8-2, 11-1
Martin: (3) 1-2, 1-3, 10-1
Hoey (3) 10-2, 11-2, 11-3
Shanahan (2) 9-2, 9-3
Mercier (2) 5-1, 6-1
Creegan (1) 8-3

The top five seats on the school committee (Doherty, Hoey, Martin, Lay and Descoteaux) were apparent soon after the polls closed on election night. As individual precincts came in, the fight for sixth place between Gerry Nutter and Dennis Mercier provided most of the drama on the school committee side. Nutter ended up winning by 90 votes. This is one place where the pro-downtown Ward 1 vote was decisive.

Ward 1, Precincts 2 and 3 both vote at the Reilly School and are the two largest precincts in the city in terms of registered voters and turnout. In the two of them combined, Gerry Nutter received 1417 votes to Dennis Mercier’s 595. That’s a margin of victory for Nutter in those two precincts of 822 votes. Nutter only defeated Mercier for the final school committee seat by 90 votes, so those two big Belvidere precincts game him a much-needed cushion.

That same spread existed between Gerry and the three other losing candidates. Gerry beat Noelle Creegan in 1-2 & 1-3 by 586 votes, but he only defeated her citywide by 129 votes. He beat Tim Blake in 1-2 & 1-3 by 641 votes, but defeated him citywide by 298. He beat Dan Shanahan in 1-2 & 1-3 by 809 votes, but beat him citywide by 425.

Niki Tsongas announcing her candidacy at Boott Mills, April 2007

Congressional Election Update

The list of candidates seeking to replace Niki Tsongas as the member of Congress for the Third Massachusetts District continues to grow. Now that the city election is over, next year’s state election will take center stage. The primary will be Tuesday, September 18, 2018, which seems far away, but time passes quickly in politics, so it will be here before we know it. Here are the candidates thus far. I expect there will be more.

Democrats

Abhijit “Beej” Das (CEO of Troca Hotels)

Steve Kerrigan (2014 Dem nominee for Lt Governor)

Dan Koh (former chief of staff to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh)

Juana Matias (State Representative from Lawrence)

Lori Trahan (former chief of staff to Marty Meehan)

Nadeem Mazen (Cambridge City Councilor)

Rufus Gifford (former ambassador to Denmark)

Barbara L’Italien (exploring run – State Senator for Andover, Lawrence, Tewksbury & Dracut)

Terry Ryan (chair of Westford School Committee)

Alexandra Chandler (former Navy intelligence analyst from Haverhill)

Patrick Littlefield (former VA official from Boxboro)

Republicans

Rick Green (Pepperell businessman; founder of Mass Fiscal Alliance)

Scott Gunderson (Groton businessman)

Also on the ballot in 2018 will be Elizabeth Warren. Although she is the Commonwealth’s senior US Senator, this will be her first reelection campaign. While I don’t expect her to face a challenge in the Democratic primary, there are already three Republicans seeking the opportunity to run against Warren in November. They are State Representative Geoff Diehl of Whitman, John Kingston of Winchester, and Beth Lindstrom of Groton.

There is no such thing as a safe seat in Congress, so Warren will undoubtedly wage a vigorous reelection campaign. To that end, she recently announced that her district director, Roger Lau, who is well-known, well-liked, and well-respected in Lowell and around the Commonwealth, has moved from her Senate office to her reelection campaign which he will manage.

Merrimack Canal at Lucy Larcom Park

Congratulations to Lowell Heritage Partnership

Congratulations to Lowell Heritage Partnership for winning a $100,000 grant from the Parker Foundation to help fund the on-going Lowell Waterways Vitality Project. This will be combined with private donations of $500,000 will be used to light up the Cox Bridge which carries Bridge Street across the Merrimack River. For more details about this project and the accomplishments of Lowell Heritage Partnership, check out Paul Marion’s recent blog post.

Women’s Works

On Thursday, November 30, 2017 from 3 to 7 pm, the UMass Lowell Center for Women & Work will host “Women’s Works: A Celebration of the Creativity of Women, a holiday art and craft fair. The event is part craft fair, part art show, part performance art, and part fundraiser for the Center for Women & Work. The event will be held at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center, 50 Warren Street, Lowell.

City of Lights

Next Saturday is the 29th annual City of Lights Holiday Parade which kicks off from Jackson Street at 4:30 pm. The parade route is Central to Merrimack to City Hall where the parade will end with the lighting of the exterior of City Hall. But the parade is only the capstone of an entire day of activities in downtown Lowell. Check out the City of Lights website for more details.

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