Notes from UTL candidates debate

While I video recorded the opening and closing statements of all the candidates at the United Teachers of Lowell candidates forum last night (see previous posts for council candidates and school committee coming maybe tomorrow night), the candidates were also asked questions of varying relevance by a panel. I didn’t video record that part, but did take a few notes. With their answers limited to 30 or 60 seconds, candidate replies were necessarily brief. Here are the ones I found important enough to write down:

Paul Belley said that two things he would do to promote economic development would be to focus on the Tanner Street area and to urge downtown businesses to bend their products towards the interests of the many students who are there every day. Ed Kennedy opposes the proposed “Living Waters” homeless operation for Kirk Street, saying it was a bad idea that was “counterproductive to everything else going on downtown.” John MacDonald agreed, saying he would vote against the facility and that it should be moved elsewhere in the city. Marty Lorrey said that the two most pressing neighborhood needs were to improve public safety and to improve the “deplorable” infrastructure by which he meant streets and sidewalks in need of repair. When asked about the situation in the City Clerk’s office, Ed Kennedy said that he didn’t like the way it was handled, adding “it amazes me that the city council wasn’t on top of that.”

Marty Lorrey supports the prevailing wage law, saying that if you weaken that, you weaken the middle class. John MacDonald favors a residency requirement for city employees, saying that we should take care of Lowell people first but that he would give a three year grace period for new hires to move into the city. Fred Doyle believes that all resumes of applicants for city positions should be made public. Ed Kennedy does not support “plan design” for health insurance. When asked about the departure of former Superintendent of Schools Chris Scott, John Leahy (currently a school committee member) said “She walked away; that was her choice.”

When asked why he was running for council now, Armand Mercier replied “Because I can” and added that he can bring common sense to the council. Rita Mercier said that her biggest accomplishment was seeing the Senior Center constructed. Jim Milinazzo acknowledged that citizens are unhappy that their taxes have gone up and that we should try to expand the commercial tax base to take pressure of residential tax payers, but he also said we “get a lot of bang for our buck” when it comes to city expenditures. Patrick Murphy supports “clawback” provisions in city contracts but added the best way to address that kind of issue is to hire companies that don’t need it. Van Pech feels that public safety in the neighborhoods is good overall but understands that there are pockets in the city where that is not the case.

Regarding the on-going turbulence in the Inspectional Services area, Bill Martin said part of that was the city manager’s fault and part was the council’s fault, but he emphasized that it’s a work in progress and that it’s much improved from where it was five or more years ago. Joe Mendonca concurred with some of that but said he sometimes gets frustrated that reforms cannot be implemented faster. When asked how former Asst City Solicitor Brian Leahey came to be Acting City Clerk, Mayor Milinazzo said “he volunteered through the city solicitor’s office” and then added that the council has received 125 resumes for the Clerk’s position. When asked about economic development, Patrick Murphy said there is great potential in the businesses that are already here and that they should not be neglected. On another question, Murphy said that the city’s Data Analyst has been responsible for $1.5 million in savings and new revenue.

My apologies to candidates whose remarks I’ve neglected to post, but for a variety of reasons, your answers never made it into my notes.