Lowell Week in Review: April 27, 2014

Blogging is a bit like exercising – you take a week off and it’s hard to start up again, but once you resume, you remember why you enjoy doing it so much. Here’s my take on Lowell politics for the past week:

18th Middlesex District candidates

With Kevin Murphy comfortably settling in to the City Manager’s office, attention should shift to the now-vacant 18th Middlesex District in the state’s House of Representatives. Chris Scott had a couple of blog posts (the first is HERE, the second HERE) about the candidates who have emerged thus far. At various events around the city over the past week I’ve crossed paths with Jim Leary, Ratha-Paul Yem and Dave Ouellette who are all actively campaigning for the seat. I also signed nominations papers for Rady Mom who is also a candidate.

This coming Tuesday at 5 pm is the deadline for candidates to submit their nomination signatures to the city’s Election Office for certification (non-party candidates – meaning “unenrolled” – have until July 29 to do that). The Election Office then has until May 20 to certify the signatures. The candidates must then pick up the certified signature sheets from the Election Office in Lowell and transport them to the Secretary of State’s Election’s Office on the 17th floor of One Ashburton Place in Boston. This must be done by 5 pm on May 27, 2014. Only after filing at least 150 certified signatures there, along with a receipt from the state ethics commission showing that the candidate has filed a statement of financial interest form with the commission, may the candidate be deemed “on the ballot” for the fall election.

The 150 certified signature requirement is not onerous in the scheme of things – statewide candidates need 10,000 – but it can be tricky. If the candidate is a Democrat, only voters registered as Democrats or Unenrolleds may sign that candidate’s papers. Also tricky in this race is the only signatures that will count are of voters who live within that state representative district. So the signature of a voter registered at an Andover Street address, for instance, won’t count.

By checking with the Lowell Election Office at 5 pm Tuesday night, we should have at least an idea of the Democratic and Republican candidates who will be in the race although it won’t be until May 27 at the Secretary of State’s Office that we know the final field for sure. And the unenrolled deadline for filing with the Secretary of State isn’t until August 26 since there is no unenrolled primary – all unenrolled candidates who submit sufficient signatures will appear on the final ballot in November.

Another way to track candidates in the race is by checking the website of the state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance. Before receiving or spending a penny on the campaign, a candidate for state representative must create a campaign committee with OCPF. Thus far, only two candidates have done this. The first was Michael Sheehan who created his committee back on March 19, 2014. Sheehan listed Benjamin Quickmire as both the chair of his committee and his campaign treasurer. The other candidate to create a committee was Brian Donovan who did so on April 14, 2014. Donovan lists Philip Nangle as his campaign committee chair and Anne Sepe as his treasurer.

One procedural footnote that may be of interest: Whoever wins this race in November should be immediately seated as our state representative due to the vacancy and will not have to wait until January to be sworn in. I’m not sure how important seniority is in the Massachusetts House, but this will give the new representative from the 18th Middlesex a time in service boost over others elected this year.

Statewide Candidates in Lowell

Full disclosure: in this year’s state election, I’m supporting the following candidates in contested races: Martha Coakley for Governor; Maura Healey for Attorney General; and Barry Finegold for Treasurer (I’m still undecided on Lt Governor). Healey had a “meet and greet” event for delegates at the Blue Shamrock on Thursday night. During her remarks, she expressed her firm opposition to casino gambling in Massachusetts. When Healey finished talking about curbing the unfairness of the student loan process, a big cheer went up from the business side of the bar – it turns out the bar tenders were all current college students burdened with such loans. Martha Coakley has a fund raiser scheduled for this Monday at La Boniche that’s hosted by Eileen Donoghue, Steve Panagiotakos, Michael Gallagher and Bill Martin. Barry Finegold has an event on Thursday night at 6pm at Garcia Brogans. Although she’s not a statewide candidate, Niki Tsongas had a well-attended fund raiser this past Thursday evening at Michael Gallagher’s law office.

City Council meeting

I’ve missed the past two city council meetings due to out of state travel so I was ready to pound out pages of text this past Tuesday night. With Councilors Leahy and Samaras both absent, however, the meeting lasted only 33 minutes and had not controversies. I can’t say I was disappointed.  I did do a blog post on the meeting, however brief that it was.

Innovation Hub

Governor Patrick came to Lowell on Thursday to announce the forthcoming UMass Lowell Innovation Hub in the 110 Canal St. building. Paul Marion wrote a post about the event and the strategic implications of it for Lowell and the University.

Neighborhood business districts

After giving a tour of the Highlands to a couple of students in the Public Matters program yesterday, it occurred to me that the amount of attention City Government pays to businesses in downtown Lowell is grossly out of proportion to the number of businesses in the rest of the city. I wrote that we’d all be better off if city government paid more attention to neighborhood business districts (although someone has already commented that the reason the neighborhood districts are doing as well as they are is because of the city’s lack of attention).

South Common

The proponents of moving Lowell High to the South Common seem to strive to make up in the paucity of their numbers with the volume of their advocacy. In response, Paul Marion wrote a post about the “South Common improvement plan” which will revitalize the common as public green space. I don’t think eliminating the South Common is a good idea, but I wrote a post saying it was premature to even consider that until the proponents of moving the high school come up with some tangible, evidence-based plan that shows what will take the place of the current high school on Kirk Street. Thus far, all we’ve heard is the urban planning equivalent of buying a lottery ticket for proposed developments on the parcels now occupied by Lowell High. It’s one thing to dream if you’re talking about vacant lots or buildings as was the case on Jackson Street. It’s quite another to want to replace a going concern – the downtown high school – with some vague hope that an unidentified developer with unidentified financing will suddenly swoop in and make all things right. As I said, the lottery ticket school of economic development.

Bike Lane picture

Finally, my Twitter feed was abuzz yesterday with news that the Lowell Sun had used a photograph taken by fellow blogger, Marianne G, without permission and without attribution – strike that, with incorrect attribution – the Sun identified the photo in both its online and print editions as a “Sun file photo” and thoughtfully offered us all the opportunity to purchase a print of the photo for a reasonable fee. Marianne wrote about the experience on her blog. Lynne had her own observations on Left in Lowell.  I don’t read the Sun regularly (I check the obits and follow the reporters on Twitter) so please let me know what kind of apology/explanation the paper’s leadership offers for this indiscretion.