The third and final portion called the Face Off Round. One incumbent and one challenger are paired up. Each is asked a question. Each responds to one and rebuts the other:
Face Off Round
Mendonca & Hargis. Questions: Many downtown streets are inaccessible or poorly accessible to people with disabilities; what should be done? Mendonca: People have brought it to his attention. It should be examined everywhere. It effects not just wheelchairs but everybody. Hargis: Must do an assessment of all public access areas. ADA requires it but it also might be cost prohibitive for businesses to comply. Question 2: Hargis: What tactics to oppose car and house breaks? Public safety must be top priority. More police for short term response but long term response requires entire community to be involved. Keep up communications but invest in education. Mendonca: Lowell statistics show no real increase in crime. There is great awareness of the crime that’s being committed but that’s partly because the police are sharing more info. Overtime for police allows more strategic focus of resources.
Leahy & Belanger: Non-profits employ many in Lowell. How would you help nonprofits succeed? Leahy: Better communications. Help them spread word about what they do thru community. Belanger: Nonprofits are in business of helping people in need so we should support. They provide advantages so we should give them resources even though they don’t pay taxes. The city has taken steps to inspect rental properties. What do you think? Belanger: I think automatic inspection is a good idea. They don’t like it now but it helps landlords in the long run. It’s especially important in problem neighborhoods. Leahy: Three year inspections are great. We need to get out and walk the neighborhoods. Without that, you don’t see what is going on.
Mercier & Pech: How would you enforce the ordinance that requires snow to be shoveled from sidewalks. Mercier: City has a knack of passing ordinances but they’re no good if they’re not enforced. We should enforce that ordinance. Pech: Residents and community must be pro-active and take care of the sidewalks. If people know the benefits of doing it they will do it. I think fines just breed mistrust. If you had to target one area of city government to improve, which one would you? Pech: Community engagement. Lots of people don’t feel connected to the community. Mercier: I’d revamp the police department, get them out of the cruiser and get them into the streets and let the kids know who the police officer is. The old way worked better.
Martin & Rourke: Lowell has faced death from party drugs, how best to fight drug abuse? Martin: Education and enforcement. Parents and other adults were largely unaware of this threat. Kids don’t realize recreational drugs could be deadly. Rourke: I’m a probation officer in Lawrence. This is a problem everywhere. Afterschool problems would be a big help. Two amazing higher ed resources, how better work with them? Rourke: I’m a grad of UML. We should embrace them. Take college students and involve them in afterschool and mentoring programs. Martin: Lowell is blessed to have both UML and MCC. We should keep our students aware of all that the two schools offer. That’s the most important thing for us to do. We should capitalize on economic development opportunities that the schools spin off.
Kennedy and Mitchell: As a councilor, how would you define your relationship with the city staff? Kennedy: as a partner and an overseer. We should all work together for the betterment of the city. Mitchell: This form of government makes a lot of sense. Every team has different players with different roles. Professional management is important but city councilors in close touch with citizens are very important. Sometimes elected officials can’t make tough long term calls that the professional manager can. That’s why I support a contract for the manager. If budget was cut substantially, how would you react? Mitchell: Pay cuts at the leadership level but also empower citizens and get them involved to be stakeholders in the community. That allows us to maintain services. Kennedy: I assume of budget is cut to bone all non-essential employees would already be gone so the only option would be to raise taxes. That’s why I promote economic development, so we can broaden the tax base.
Lorrey & Samaras: There are a lot of ordinances in Lowell. What would you do to make it easier for residents to understand the rules? Lorrey: Few of them affect day to day life of residents. Recently we started ticketing those who park on sidewalks. People should realize that’s wrong. I think councilors should help get the word out. Samaras: Ordinances are created because of need but it might not be done in an organized way. Over the years we have so many ordinances, people have lost track. We should do an assessment of all ordinances that are out there and keep the ones that are still important. There have been several changes proposed for Lowell government. How do you feel about the current system? Samaras: I believe in a strong city manager. A city the size of Lowell needs a top manager. It’s proven to be successful. Our city is financially strong. We’re ready to build a new police station, a fire station, maybe a high school. Lorrey: I’m very happy with Plan E. It’s called “professional management” but I think anyone who has held office could do the job. As for the council, I like running at-large. It forces councilors to get out and see the needs of everyone not just the one you represent if there were district councilors.
Elliott and Milinazzo: Would you be opposed to a medical marijuana facility in Lowell? Elliott: I would oppose it. I made a motion which passed to put a moratorium on medical marijuana but it was repealed. We have to know more about it before allowing it. Milinazzo: I agree with councilor Elliott. We have issues that need to be addressed but we have Tewksbury State Hospital and Lowell Community Health. We need more data before saying yes. We’ve made great strides against gang violence. What would you do to make city safer? Milinazzo: Keep good communications with neighborhoods. Community policing is important. UTEC and like agencies are important as is public education. Elliott: Two prong approach of youth activities which I think the city does an incredible job with its volunteers in almost every spots to get to kids before they get into gangs. Second, the police strategy is to go after gang leaders which helps extinguish the problem.
Nuon and Gitschier: What would you do to make city council meetings more civil? Nuon: You have to agree to disagree. We disagree on many things. Sometimes the discussion heats up because the speakers are passionate about the issue. On the whole, the council is cordial and we get a lot of things done. Gitschier: I would elect me to the council. You need different opinions so government doesn’t have to run smoothly all the time. Lowell is a city of immigrants. How would you help immigrant entrepreneurs? We need to understand their culture and inform them of the rules and expectations. Lowell is a welcoming community. Nuon: Lowell is a very inviting community. To make immigrants feel welcome, government at all levels should be reflective of the community.