Lowell Week in Review: November 17, 2013
It seems that everyone is still recovering from the election. Usually at this time of the year all attention shifts to the selection of the next mayor. This year, as I discussed last week, Rodney Elliott immediately lined up commitments from a majority of councilors so he should be the city’s next mayor come inauguration day in January.
There is a lot of speculation out there since the election about the fate of City Manager Bernie Lynch. Few can envision the new council removing Bernie Lynch from City Hall; but few can see the new council offering him a contract, either. That will leave the ball in his court. Will he stay and try to work with the new council or will he act preemptively and find a position elsewhere? Paul Belley mischievously suggested that this council should give him a contract extension before the end of December but I doubt that would happen.
Here are some of the other issues from this week:
On Tuesday night the City Council passed an ordinance that bans panhandling in downtown Lowell. Violation brings a fine of $50. My report on the city council meeting captures much of what was said that evening. I understand why councilors voted for this ordinance, but I’m skeptical that it will be very effective and see it as a quest for an easy solution to a much more complicated problem. I laid out my views on this topic in a separate blog post.
Other bloggers have also written about this issue. Paul Belley is critical of this council for passing this ordinance and for earlier in the year dismembering the riverside campsites that served as the residences of some homeless individuals. Here’s some of what Paul wrote:
Yes some of them have substance abuse problems and mental illness but what we did was push them out of the way because it made us feel uncomfortable and it was an eyesore. Let me tell you there are plenty of eyesores in this city, just drive around. We need to have some compassion for the less fortunate .We will never eliminate it totally because life sometimes throws us a right hook and anyone of us can end up like them in a blink of an eye.
Lynne on Left in Lowell also wrote about panhandling as did Chris and Aurora on Learning Lowell and Kad Barma.
A motion by Rita Mercier raised questions about the practice of notifying city councilors about developments in lawsuits to which the city is a party. The City Manager, as chief executive, has the authority over such suits although the city council must appropriate the money to pay any judgments against the city. One thing everyone must keep in mind is that the legal system moves at a glacial pace, especially when a case is appealed. Another things is that juries and appellate courts are totally unpredictable so the only sure thing is a settlement. Trying or appealing cases is often a wise strategy, but both of those steps come with risks. I do think it wise for the city council to go into executive session periodically, perhaps twice each year, to review the status of pending lawsuits.
2014 State Election
Last Sunday more than a dozen candidates for statewide office journeyed to Lenzi’s in Dracut for the 25th annual Greater Lowell Area Democrats brunch and awards ceremony. Former Middlesex DA Gerry Leone was honored. Those in attendance and the office they seek were Ed Markey (current US Senator who will seek reelection in 2014); John Tierney (current Congressman who will seek reelection in 2014); Martha Coakley and Steve Grossman, both running for governor; Steve Kerrigan for Lt Governor; Secretary of State Bill Galvin who will be seeking reelection; Maura Healey and Warren Tolman for Attorney General; and Barry Finegold and Deb Goldberg for Treasurer. I wrote a detailed blog post about the event which served as the kick-off of the 2014 state election here in Greater Lowell
Richard P. Howe Bridge
The brand new Richard P. Howe Bridge (named for my father) will officially open this Tuesday, November 19, 2013, with a dedication ceremony at 10:30 am on the bridge. This is the replacement bridge for the University Ave/Textile/Memorial Bridge that is adjacent to it. I’ll do a separate blog post about it later today.
One Response to Lowell Week in Review: November 17, 2013
I understand from the business perspective the need to discourage panhandling. However, I do think this ordinance is a quick fix attempt to resolve a very complex problem in our society. Enforcement of it is fraught with many as yet, unanswered questions. The ordinance that passed is directed toward increasing the viability of downtown Lowell. This also adds to the narrative that only certain sections of the city receive the Council’s due diligence and adds to the disparity felt by many residents living in other sectors of the city. I know first hand from working in Lowell in days gone by how bad the panhandling situation can get. We actually had people who would arrive at 8:00am on bikes, lock them up and proceed to ask everyone coming in or out to give them money. They would stay from 8am to 6pm when we closed. This drove away customers and was difficult. Difficult till ED Davis took over as Police Chief and then, somehow he was able to deal with both the horrid gang situation and the panhandling situation. I believe we might look at how he achieved all the success he did in those difficult times. I also think we have other laws that would work to discourage the aggressiveness of some of these panhandlers. Panhandling is a problem. I just think foot patrolmen in the neighborhood are the answer to most of the problems plaguing the city. Seeing policeman on the corner is a deterrent to crime and discourages threats of many kinds. Let the neighborhood patrolman make a judgment, intervene where warranted and advise folks to move along because they are creating a nuisance, loitering or imposing a safety hazard. I believe most will comply with no need for further punishment thus, saving us court time or convictions that result in jail sentences that will cost the taxpayers far more than the S50.00 fines now, imposed by the ordinance.