Due to my ongoing Register of Deeds re-election campaign, I have been unable to cover the weekly Lowell City Council meetings as before. However, Mimi Parseghian has stepped up and shared her notes from this Tuesday’s council meeting. Here’s what Mimi wrote:
Tuesday night’s City Council meeting ended at 10:00 p.m. without the full agenda reviewed in detail. Action was taken on every item but not in the standard manner. Due to current Council rules, the meetings need to end at that time unless the full Council agrees to continue. If there is one objection, the meeting ends at the scheduled time.
The meeting began with Suspension of the Rules and that option which is available to the Council was used a number of times during the evening. This gives the Councilors the opportunity to move agenda items around to accommodate those in attendance who wish to address the Council on a particular topic.
On two occasions, agenda items were grouped and voted on as a unit. Nine Motion Responses, half of the ones on the agenda, were accepted as a group with the caveat that the motion maker could ask questions or make comments on the content of the response. The second highly uncommon procedure occurred at the end of the meeting as the clock was ticking. The Council agreed to take 9 Council motions as a cluster and vote to approve. There was no discussion, comments or questions. The other three motions that were on the agenda were discussed earlier by Suspending the Rules.
In spite of the truncated agenda, there were discussions of importance and profound effect for the planning of the City’s future.
As City Manager Eileen Donoghue noted, Council motions are responded to in writing and submitted at a future meeting. But due to the significance of Councilor Rita Mercier’s motion (“Requesting the City Manager provide a report regarding latest shooting in City; including the cause of the shooting, whether drug or gang related and preventive steps being done to resolve the violence”), Interim Police Superintendent Jon Webb was asked to attend and present a verbal report.
Supt Webb gave a detailed account of what has been occurring in the City lately. Yes, it is both drug related and gang related. There are two groups of “hardcore gang members” not in their late teens but mid-20s and even 30s who are fighting against each other. The series of shooting are retaliations. He described as “very troubling” that within a short amount of time after one incident, they are able to plan and execute the retaliation.
We were given date, time and place of all these events but the Acting Superintendent cautioned that a lot of information on tactics will not be divulged. To date, the Police Department has made arrests in 4 cases, confiscated 16 handguns, crack cocaine and ecstasy.
Webb also mentioned that not only the gang unit is working on solving these problems but also patrol officers, detectives, and police staff from other agencies. The District Attorney has brought the cases in front of a grand jury. Additionally, the Police Department’s command staff had a meeting with a number of non-profits, including UTEC, CMAA, and the CBA, to discuss the current situation and determine how they can be of assistance. A public meeting is to take place on Wednesday night at the Boys and Girls of Greater Lowell for the residents to hear and address this current surge in violence in their neighborhood.
Another motion that was taken out of turn was item 10.6 motion from Councilor R. Elliott and R. Mercier “Request City Council vote to prevent further permits from being issued for gas line work in the City.” A contingency of locked-out National Grid Gas workers were in attendance, and their union representative spoke on their behalf. In addition to being locked-out, now their healthcare has been taken away. None of the Councilors had any sympathy for National Grid and they voted to table all issues with the utility, however it was brought out during the course of the meeting that two Lowell projects, the high school heating system and the TIGER bridge repairs, would be negatively impacted by this decision. The Council agreed to go forward and accepted City Manager Donoghue’s suggestion that she informs them when their decision may affect a municipal plan.
And the third motion that was taken up earlier was Councilor K. Cirillo’s motion requesting that the “Environmental & Flood Issues Sub-Committee consider the feasibility of prohibiting the use/sale of plastic straws in Lowell and provide a report to full City Council in a timely manner.”
After a register speaker addressed the Council, there was a small debate between Councilor K. Cirillo and Councilor J. Leahy about the importance of such a motion when there are many other issues facing the City. The motion passed 7 – 2 with Councilor R. Elliott joining Leahy in voting against it. Prior to the end of the meeting, Councilor Elliott changed his vote. He indicated that his motion “Councilor R. Elliott request City Manager explore the possibility of installing solar tress in the City” was along the same vein and he did not think it was right that he should vote against Councilor Cirillo’s motion.
Agenda item 5.1L Lowell Telecommunications Corporation (LTC), our local access television operators, broadcasting from the Mayor’s Reception Room was also discussed at length. As I had written in the agenda review post, the motion response read in part: “In May a communication was provided to the City Council regarding the feasibility of procuring and installing the necessary equipment to allow for public meetings in the Mayor’s Reception Room (MRR) to be televised. The response included a preliminary estimate for purchase and installation of approximately $150,000, plus any costs associated from Lowell Telecommunications (LTC) staff time. It also included an upgrade of the City Council Chamber broadcast equipment”
But recently there has been some discussion with LTC and its Executive Director, Wendy Blom and the proposal was revisited. At the suggestion of Ms. Blom, the LTC Board decided to take $35,000 from their capital plan budget, not the City’s and apply it to this effort. Three portable robot operated cameras will be acquired to broadcast meetings and other public activities in the Mayor’s Reception Room (MRR). These cameras can also be transported to other locations. Because Municipal broadcast have only one channel, 99, some of these meetings will need to be filmed and then played when there is an available time slot. It was also indicated that the contract with the City will need to be revised for the free-lance camera operator that will be needed for the MRR events.
There were two presentations made during the meeting. The first was from the Project LEARN.
Councilor E. Kennedy, Chairperson of the Educational Partnership Sub-Committee invited the organization to make the presentation that was made at the July 19th Sub-Committee meeting to the full Council. As Michael Gallagher, Board member indicated, the goal of the organization is to transform Lowell into the standard for excellence in urban education.
He was followed to the forum by founding member Brian Martin, who gave an historical background of the Lowell Educational Alliance Resource Network (LEARN) was founded in 2013 by Lowell’s business to complement and supplement the public educational efforts of the City.
The presentation ended with Executive Director LZ Nunn’s Power Point review of the ProjectLEARN’s accomplishments. At the conclusion of Ms. Nunn’s talk, Councilor E. Kennedy made a motion that passed asking the City Manager to provide municipal support to the organization’s goals.
In my opinion, the most significant presentation was agenda 5.2 S) Collins Center Study — Organizational Study on Facilities Management. The Collins Center for Public Management is part of the U. Mass Boston’s McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies.
The Councilors received the 81-page report in their package this week but the primary author, Monica Lamboy, was in attendance last night and gave an excellent review of their findings. The entire Council praised and expressed gratitude for Ms. Lamboy’s report which had extensive data, evaluations and recommendations.
In his cover letter to City Manager Donoghue, CFO Conor Baldwin outlined the purpose of the study:
“Compile comprehensive organizational assessment of the current DPW Lands & Building Division; identify and recommend best practices and determine how to most effectively maintain city and school facilities. Recommendations will serve as blueprint by the Administration. Through the LowellSTAT process, the City Manager’s Office will work with DPW to review the feasibility of each and every recommendation with relentless follow-up and measure its relative success by analyzing performance data. … a separate, comprehensive facility assessment is underway to give the Lands & Buildings division a guide for preventative maintenance scheduling; a key component of managing the current stock of municipal buildings. Each of these matters will be monitored closely and reported back as updates become available.”
The Council voted to send the report to the Facilities Sub-Committee for further review and discussion.
If you would to view any portion of the meetings, you can stream it on demand on LTC’s website page dedicated to Council meetings or watch a replay on 99. The schedule for replays is Wednesday 2:30 p.m. and 11:00 p.m.; Friday 10:00 a.m.; and Saturday 8:00 p.m. This meeting will be replayed through Saturday, August 4th.