Lowell Politics: January 17, 2019

Mimi Parseghian shares some observations on Lowell politics for this week:

I have just read that Councilor David Conway will be submitting a motion requesting a non-binding referendum on the election system.  According to the Sun article “The ballot question would ask voters whether they want to maintain Lowell’s at-large representation, or whether they want the city to develop a new election model.”  For discussion purposes only, let’s say that the “maintain the at-large representation” has more votes than a district representation.  What does this have to do with whether our voting system is fair and not discriminatory?  What does this have to do with violation of Federal Law? Are we going to ask those who benefit from the current system to determine how they want to proceed? I will be both disappointed and surprised if the majority of the Council votes in favor of this motion.

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Wednesday’s Boston Globe listed the states 100 top paid employees.  Ninety-eight of the top 100 are employed by the UMass Systems.  These 98 people’s compensation totals $37,000,000.  The salary/compensation ranges from $1,069,751 to $293,280. I do not know if they are overpaid, underpaid or if this is the average compensation for employees of the state college and university systems.  But I do know from my personal experience these past couple of years, how difficult it is for so many students to pay for their tuition and fees.  And then once they graduate, they are burden with long term loans to repay.  There is a disconnect here.

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Already a few individuals have announced their candidacy in this year’s City Council race.  There is a buzz that many others will enter not only the City Council race but also the School Committee election.  It is always beneficial for the City when a wide variety of candidates run for municipal office.  This is how new ideas and differing views are brought into the public discourse. This year’s election may be the last one with a citywide selection process. If that is the case, this year would be a good barometer to measure candidates’ strength in their own district. For some it could be a dry run for the 2021 election.  For those who are thinking of running, I will share a knowledgeable friend’s premise that you must enter the race by St. Patrick’s Day.  You have 3 months until Summer.  Then there is a break in the campaigning with a slight bump at Folk Festival time.  Then activities do not pick up until Labor Day; and then a couple of weeks until Preliminary Election.

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In Dick’s recap of Tuesday night’s Council meeting, he gave a detailed report on the marijuana moratorium motion. The majority of the Council agreed to allow the Administration to continue their efforts. Back in June, the City Council approved the ordinance establishing marijuana licensing. Subsequently in answering Council motion, Eric Slagle, Director of Development Services, gave the Council an update.  He reminded everyone that “the proposed businesses, both retail and cultivation/manufacturing, will all still need to go to the Planning Board for the appropriate approvals …” I can understand why some may have questions about the location of these facilities but this City has been extremely cautious while working to maximize the benefits from the business aspects of this industry.

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