Councilor Mendonca chairing the meeting. Mayor Murphy absent.
Early part of meeting features a discussion of early investigation of wisdom of installing $1mil in new sidewalks on Douglas Road. (Ed. Note: Seriousness of discussion reflects the fact that that neighborhood will produce so many votes in upcoming city council election).
Next is a resolution supporting the plan by private individuals to fund a renovation of the city council chambers. After some discussion, it passes unanimously.
Councilor Martin gives a report on the Public Safety Subcommittee meeting earlier this evening. (See separate post). Discussion sort of drifts around. Now ends up at complaints of aggressive panhandling. City Solicitor says weight of court decisions find panhandling is protected speech under First Amendment. Solicitor says the city is exploring aggressive use of need for permits or licenses for any financial transaction (including asking for money, it seems) as well as limited exclusionary zones near ATMs and banks. Subcommittee report accepted as a report of progress.
Motion by Bill Martin that the City Manager forward to council the presentation given by the manager and his staff at the Lowell Plan breakfast. Motion passes with some discussion.
Several motions about handicapped parking spaces and miscellaneous signage for various purposes.
Councilor Mercier makes a motion that the city manager and the council meet with businesses in the city to listen to their concerns about what the city should be doing to help them. “What is hurting their businesses? Is it panhandlers.” Then she says she wants to know from downtown business owners if there’s a “financial component” to having Lowell High students in downtown? “Do the students financially assist the businesses or are they a detriment?” Councilor Lorrey wants to “look at the location of our park benches” saying that they can become part of the problem with “large groups of people hanging around.” Councilor Kennedy says there are many people who live downtown and there are many students but they’re either working or going to school at the same time as downtown stores are open. He suggests downtown businesses consider opening at night when residents and students would be able to patronize these businesses. Councilor Leahy says if businesses do a better job of sweeping the sidewalks in front of their businesses, the city’s street sweepers can be employed elsewhere. The motion passes unanimously.
Councilor Elliott motion on procedure for handling emails sent to city councilors on city website. He says that he recently learned that the city manager gets a blind cc of all emails to councilors. Says he’s concerned that it’s an invasion of privacy of the senders of the emails. Elliott says he always understood the emails to be a confidential communication. The City Manager says he investigated it and the procedure was set up in 2005 (i.e., before Lynch was city manager). He says he does think it’s a good idea because many of the emails are requests for services and so if the city departments can get a head start on the problems it’s generally a good thing. He does say that the city manager’s office gets a cc of council emails but it doesn’t come to him. He says whatever the council wants is fine with him. (Ed. Note: All emails to anyone at city hall, councilor or otherwise, are public records that are public documents so they are not confidential). Chairman Mendonca asks Councilor Elliott if he wants to change the policy. He says he will file another motion on the topic. Councilor Kennedy says he has not problem with the manager receiving a copy but believes the senders should be made aware that is what is happening. Councilor Mercier says she didn’t know anything about what the “cc” is. Says if the sender wants something done, she wants the administration to start working on it right away.
Councilor Elliott motion for update on certification of City Code Inspectors.
[had to step away for a moment. When I returned, the meeting was over]