Lowell Round-Up: August 3, 2018

Mimi Parseghian reviews this week in Lowell politics:

Lowell Round-Up: August 3, 2018

By Mimi Parseghian

With the City taking a break to celebrate and host the Folk Festival, it was relatively quiet week for local politics.  But that was not the case on Beacon Hill, where the legislature finally passed the FY 2019 Budget.

Of major interest to Lowell is the failure of the Legislature to reach a compromise and revamp the 25-year old education funding formula for Chapter 70 moneys.

According to critics of the current formula, it has failed to keep up with rising costs.  One of the Boston Globe articles on the budget states “The biggest disagreement centered on increased funding for low-income students and English-language learners. The Senate fully embraced the increases, while the House sought a delay in order to further analyze those costs.”

I would think the sooner the formula is revised the better off the City of Lowell will be.  The City of Brockton had already successfully sued the State, they are working with the City of Worcester and other municipalities discussing another lawsuit.  I am not sure if Lowell has been approached.

If the School Department was planning based on a change in the formula, they will need to quickly revise their budget and decide what to cut.

Meanwhile, we will wait until January when the Legislature is back in session to see if this critical issue will be resolved.

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Speaking of the State Legislature, Congressional candidate and State Senator Barbara L’Italien “has shepherded some $16 million into various bills for the city of Lowell.” The final State Budget is not yet on line.  It will be posted once Governor Charlie Baker goes through his vetoes and the legislature overrides.

In his July 30th article in the Boston Globe, Matt Stout wrote “Earlier this month, L’Italien helped tuck another $4.5 million in Lowell-specific earmarks into a $2 billion environmental bond bill, including $1.25 million for environmental testing and potential cleanup costs for the site of a new high school and $2.2 million for a new park along the Merrimack River.”

I hope the $2.2 million earmark is not removed. Lowell could certainly use a new park or refurbished park along the Merrimack.  In addition to all the festivals and gatherings, the current park serves as a respite from the summer heat for many families who live in crowded housing.  It is a great place to walk, run, and bike.  The path really needs to be widened. I hope I am not counting our money before we received it.

Needless to say, there was rumbling of the political nature of L’Italien’s action but I am always amused when a politician is accused of political activity.

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The City Council Ad-Hoc Elections Sub-Committee has held 8 meetings so far. Starting on May 23rd, the Committee has held public meetings throughout the City. The listening tour has taken the Sub-Committee to various neighborhoods: The Acre (Senior Center); Lower Highlands (CMAA); Pawtucketville (Wang School); Belvidere (Sullivan School); South Lowell (Butler School); and Centralville (Robinson School).

The minutes posted on the City website indicate that not only were the Sub-Committee members in attendance but also other Council members.  The Sub-Committee was appointed to give the Council an opportunity to discuss and study our current election system in light of the lawsuit that has been filed against the City and its at large voting system for municipal elections

The City Council went into Executive Session a couple of weeks ago to discuss the lawsuit.  Is it time for the public discussion to begin and decide how we want to proceed?  Having attended a couple of these gatherings, it is my observation that the sentiment of the majority of these Councilors is to come up with a formula that will give some kind of neighborhood representation.  If the Council agrees to go forward, it will take some time to make the necessary changes to our Charter.

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