Here’s a letter from former Mayor Patrick Murphy to the current members of the city council. The subject is his mayoral portrait. He gave me permission to post the letter here.
I understand that you will consider tonight Councilor Mercier’s request that the “City Council Rules SC establish guidelines as to what the Mayoral portrait should consist of,” and that this is in direct response to my portrait. I understand, too, that the paper has asked: “Why is Lowell Mayor Murphy turning his back in portrait?” I suppose that it should come as no surprise that what I perceive as forward progress is deemed to be backward by the likes of the paper and its political favorites. I had sought to do a lot of things differently, and that has been difficult for some to accept.
If a portrait of me is to be displayed, this is how I would want it: outdoors, in the streets, walking in the community, where the work gets done, with the people who joined me in the journey and kept me going with the work that I loved, in the midst of the neighborhood where my family had first come to live in Lowell. The picture captures us in Cat’s Alley, a little known alleyway–unknown for a while even to the city that owns it–that had become an overgrown dumping ground. For much of the last year, right up until the last week, I had been working with the administration to clear and clean the stretch from Crosby Street to Lawrence Street that will eventually connect to the Concord River Greenway. I hope that some of the children playing in Back Central today come to find it one of those special places you remember years later, as my father laughingly remembers it now. And maybe on a classroom trip to City Hall, one of those kids looks at the photograph, and can see herself in it.
That my face is not shown should be seen as an improvement. Plenty of people (including those who object to this portrait) would view it that way. But enough. If a picture is worth a thousand words, I should not need to add so many to it. The fate of my portrait had been the least of my concerns as mayor; it should not even be one of the City Council’s. I have done my best to leave more worthwhile things behind. With the challenges ahead–in selecting a new Auditor and Manager, following the existing rules, and addressing the many issues that this city faces–I suggest that any attention paid to this item on the agenda would mean that you, in fact, are looking in the wrong direction.