Report on Lowell City Council meeting of September 10, 2013

I watched tonight’s Lowell City Council meeting so that you didn’t have to. Here’s what I saw:

Meeting begins; all present. Citations, etc.

Councilor Mendonca motion, refer Senior Center funding issue to Finance Subcommittee.

Councilor Nuon refers Cupples Square issue to Economic Development Subcommittee.

Councilor Elliott asks to suspend the rules to talk about the Lowell Housing Authority Report. The mayor says it’s out of order. Councilor Lorrey says he read the report and it was “scathing.” The mayor cuts him off saying there’s nothing on the agenda about this. Rita Mercier seconds the motion to suspend the rules but the mayor says he ruled the motion was out of order. The city solicitor advises that the mayor has the authority to rule a motion out of order and that is the final ruling. Now the mayor and Councilor Elliott are talking over each other.

Moving on, Councilor Martin moves to accept the communication from the city manager and place it on file.

Public hearing time. The retirement board has requested that the stipend paid to the city treasurer for work she does on behalf of the retirement board be increased. The proposal passes 8 to 1.

Shortly thereafter, Council Kennedy gains the floor and states that he attempted to gain the floor prior to the public hearing. Going back to the suspension of the rules attempt, he asks the solicitor if she has an opinion as to whether the council could rightly take up this issue under a suspension of the rules. He asks for an immediate opinion. The solicitor cites a ruling of the Attorney General that all items to be discussed must be on the agenda. She says there is a limited exception in emergency cases. When pressed by Kennedy, she says the mayor’s ruling that the motion to suspend the rules would likely be upheld as a proper ruling by the Attorney General. Elliott and the mayor resume their debate. The mayor invites Councilor Elliott to appeal. He does. Now there’s a procedural discussion.

Kennedy says there is no reason to take this up immediately; that it would be preferable to allow the LHA commissioners to meet on it which occurs tomorrow night. Councilor Nuon and then Councilor Lorrey agree with Councilor Kennedy. The motion to appeal the mayor’s ruling fails 1 for (Elliott) and 8 against.

Finance Subcommittee report by Councilor Mendonca. Met last week with 3 items on the agenda. First dealt with Combined Sewer Overflow. Got more information. Then viewed presentation on $22.8 mil upgrade to water treatment plant and the $40 mil upgrade to waste water treatment. Water will not need rate increase but sewer will. It’s possible that water rate will be reduced when sewer is increased so since they are billed together there would be not net increase. Recommendation is that the two bond issues ($22.8mil and $40mil be referred to public hearings).

Motions for this meeting (number indicates agenda item number):

21. Marty Lorrey – Request City Manager (hereafter “RCM”) have Law Dept issue an opinion of the policy of the combined City Council and School committee selecting a board member for an open Greater Lowell Technical High School Committee seat. Resolution: Referred to city solicitor for a report.

22. Marty Lorrey – RCM have Police Dept and Health Dept develop a policy regarding so called “club drugs” (such as “molly”). Discussion: Councilor Lorrey explains he wants to be sure that the police are prepared for this. Resolution: Referred to city manager.

23. Marty Lorrey – Request City Council adopt a policy of a moment of silence for all Lowell residents who have passed away the prior week. Discussion: As he goes door-to-door, people ask Councilor Lorrey about getting names of decedents mentioned at meetings. Suggests that the health department might provide list of those who died during the week. Resolution: Councilor Kennedy moves it be referred to Rules Subcommittee.

24. Rita Mercier – RCM provide a report from proper department on when it is permissible to call 911 and provide a review of the 911 recording of Tuesday, September 3, 2013 at 11:45 PM. Discussion. Councilor Mercier says a constituent told a story about seeing a person puncturing tires, calling 911 and then being rebuffed by the person on the phone, being told to “call the other number.” (the perpetrator was later arrested and apparently slashed 12 tires). Resolution: The city manager says he did a preliminary investigation; that it was described to him a bit differently; that what the councilor describes is quite different, so he’ll go back and review the transcript. Will also provide the policy on 911 calls to the councilor.

25. Patrick Murphy – RCM in addition to implementing Adopt-a-lot program, mark properties as city-owned with signage, information, links to website with plans, and space for input from local residents.

26. Patrick Murphy – RCM report on the status of city-owned stone building on the Stoklosa School campus and abandoned block building on the Butler and Shaughnessy School campus.

27. Patrick Murphy – RCM develop work plan with the Flats neighborhood to clear Cat’s Alley and reclaim stretch of city-owned land along wet bank of Hale’s Brook on Chambers Street for construction of residential bike and pedestrian path, and eventual Lawrence Street crossing to Concord River Greenway.

28. Patrick Murphy – RCM develop outreach plan with Lowell Community Health Center and other relevant partners to help residents become aware and take advantage of upcoming Affordable Care Act Health Insurance Marketplace.

29. Patrick Murphy – RCM report on implementation of rental inspection ordinance to date.

I missed the full discussion of the preceding five motions but from what I could see they were fairly non-controversial and were all either passed or referred to the appropriate subcommittees.

EXECUTIVE SESSION – Executive session regarding pending litigation relative to the ZBA’s decision in the Habit Opco application (methadone clinic), public discussion of which could have a detrimental effect on the City’s position. Council voted unanimously to go into Executive Session.

2 Responses to Report on Lowell City Council meeting of September 10, 2013

  1. George DeLuca says:

    Good report, Dick … I was at the meeting. The discussion about when to call 911 was interesting. Which number do you call if you’re witnessing a crime in progress?

    I was disappointed about the confrontation between Councilor’s Elliott and Murphy, although the Mayor held his own and the outcome speaks for itself.

    The Council eventually found consensus, that the report was just issued and perhaps it would be better to wait until the LHA Board has had a chance to weigh in.

    I went to the LHA Board meeting last night, and can confirm that waiting was the correct call. There was consensus at that meeting to let the “independent cost analysis” recommended in the HUD audit take its course. Chairman Zaim recommended this over the “ready, shoot, aim” approach that the Sun seems to be advocating. I thought the Sun was suppose to report the news, not control it.

    At any rate, Chairman Zaim suggested the LHA take a good portion of the next 6 months allowed to complete the analysis, and roll out the necessary reforms in the process. This makes the most sense to me, regardless of Kristin Ross Sitwich’ eagerness to bring up the termination clause of the ED contract.

    Hope this doesn’t turn into a quagmire by candidates needing votes. The Sun will be happy to oblige if it does. The people of Lowell deserve better.

    My blog covers the issues up until last night’s LHA meeting.