Lowell Week in Review: October 20, 2013

With just two weeks to go before the election it is the appointment of Gerry Nutter to the city’s Election Commission that is dominating local news. I just did a separate post that sets out my thoughts on this issue and right after the vote on Tuesday night, I published a full account of who said what. This subject is the only Lowell item covered in today’s Lowell Sun political column other than a brief piece on the police superintendent selection process. Mimi has already posted a response to the Sun column, calling out its authors for their repeated use of unidentified “prominent Lowellians” to launch their attack-of-the-week. The Sun has written multiple stories and an editorial criticizing Gerry and those who voted for him. Gerry sent a letter to the editor reply to the editorial but it hasn’t been published in the paper thus far.

Last week some in the media were portraying the “discovery” that electronic messages from constituents to councilors via the city’s webpage were automatically sent to the city manager’s office as the local equivalent of Edwin Snowden’s revelation that the National Security Agency was tracking the cell phones and emails of all Americans. The manufactured controversy about the city’s messaging system fizzled Tuesday night. It turns out the councilors so value the city manager’s office getting a head start on fulfilling constituent requests (and thereby making the councilors look good) that the council even rejected a modification that would eliminate the automatic city manager copy and instead have the sender affirmatively select to send such a copy. Fearing that not many constituents would check such a box and that action would be delayed until the councilors themselves forwarded such messages to the manager’s office, the council decided to keep the system as is and just add an “opt out” button that would permit the sender to affirmatively prevent the manager from receiving a copy. My Tuesday night report on the City Council meeting contains a full account of the email discussion.

The Highlands Neighborhood group held a meeting Monday night. Nancy Greene attended the meeting and sent a full report which I’ve posted on the site. One of our goals here at richardhowe.com is to increase the coverage we provide for all portions of the Lowell community. If anyone who attends or participates in a community event is willing to share the news with others, just send a quick summary of what took place by email to me at DickHoweJr@gmail.com and I’ll do the rest.

In the coming week . . .

An Opiate Awareness Week event will be held at the Lowell Community Health Center (161 Jackson Street) on Monday October 21 at 3:30 p.m. Opiates range from heroin to strong prescription painkillers. They are devastating our community and deserve more attention than they receive. Those expected to speak at Monday’s event include: Mayor Patrick Murphy, City Manager Bernie Lynch, School Committee member Robert Gignac, a representative of the Lowell Police Department and State Rep. Tom Golden.

City Manager listening session on qualities that should be possessed by next superintendent of Lowell Police Department at the Lowell Senior Center, 276 Broadway Street, on Thursday, October 24 at 6:00PM. Everyone is invited.

Lowell Sun city council candidate debate will take place on Thursday, October 24, 2013 at the Lowell High School Little Theater. The first debate will begin at 6 p.m., the second at 7:10 p.m. and the third at 8:20 p.m. Doors will open at 5:15 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Here are the motions on the agenda for the October 22, 2013 city council meeting:

Councilor Lorrey: Request City Manager have the proper department develop recreation programs for individuals who fall under the ADA guidelines.

Councilor Kennedy: Request Law Department prepare proper vote to accept Section 16A of Massachusetts General Laws chapter 51.

Councilor Elliott: Request City Auditor provide a report on overtime use in the Police Department.

Councilor Elliott: Request City Manager provide an update on non-emergency fire signals.

Also, the Finance Subcommittee (Joe Mendonca (chair), Rodney Elliott, and Bill Martin) will meet at 5:30 pm on October 22, 2013 in the Council Chamber.

Councilor Kennedy’s motion deserves fuller explanation. MGL c.51, s.16A deals with Election Commissions. Adopting this law would require the appointment of future Election Commissioners to be

. . . made from a list to be submitted by the town committee of the political party from the members of which the position is to be filled, containing the names of three enrolled members of such party resident in the town, selected by a majority vote at a duly called meeting, at which a quorum is present, of such committee . . .

I think adopting this policy is a step down the wrong path. I can’t speak for the Republican City Committee but I know that the Democratic City Committee has been on life support for at least a decade. Why the handful of holdovers still involved in it should have such a disproportionate say in the selection of those who will run our elections doesn’t make much sense. And that doesn’t even address the fact that a majority of the registered voters in the city are unenrolled. As of the 2012 state election, Lowell had 54,683 registered voters. Of that number, 27,551 were unenrolled, 21,926 were Democrats, and 4,816 were Republicans. This law looks back to a time when political parties were integral parts of the local political scene. Endorsing this approach would be a step backwards. The Election Commission as now constituted is doing a fine job. Why try to mess it up?

2 Responses to Lowell Week in Review: October 20, 2013

  1. Lynne says:

    “The Election Commission as now constituted is doing a fine job. Why try to mess it up?”

    Because then they can keep the Gerry issue alive for another week. Otherwise, the Outrage Machine would have to come up with something new, and dang, that’s hard work.

  2. Nancy P says:

    Don’t you have to apply by sending a letter and resume to the City Manager to be considered for a board position? Why would a political party suggest names for a board? Would they contact individuals and ask them to apply? If the criteria for being a member of a particular board is publicized, the applicants would know what the criteria is and be able to respond without being “selected” by a party. I could see going to a party and asking them for help getting the word out about an opening but the party should not be suggesting individuals to the City Manager.