My notes from tonight’s Lowell City Council meeting:
Resignation of Erik Gitschier from Greater Lowell Vocational School Committee – City Council trying to schedule a joint meeting with the Lowell School Committee to select his replacement. Special meeting on October 7, 2014 at 6:30 pm (council will begin its regular meeting, recess or adjourn, then begin the special joint meeting with the school committee to elect the vocational school member).
Authorization to execute amendment to management agreement with Global Spectrum for the Lowell Memorial Auditorium. Manager Murphy thanks the auditorium board of trustees, Global Spectrum, and Connor Baldwin and Bob Healy for negotiating this amendment. City is no longer responsible for any deficit (but will continue to pay a $200,000 per year stipend) but will retain the right to split any profits realized.
A number of miscellaneous items, important in their own rights but not engendering any discussion.
Bud Caulfield – I come here to discuss an issue that has been festering for years. Manager Murphy, you inherited this problem. This country founded on government of by and for the people but the inmates are running the asylum. Less than ½ of 1% of Lowell’s population is dictating havoc crime and hysteria to all the law abiding citizens. They have no respect for the citizens, the police or you. They do what they want because they figure no one is going to stop them. What possesses a man to stand in the middle of Powell St and fire a gun repeatedly. I’m happy that Bill Samaras is filing a motion to further penalize people who ride bikes on the sidewalks. One day I was downtown and almost was run down by a bike. When I finally caught up with the bike rider and pointed out the signs outlawing bikes on sidewalks, he hit me with a stream of obscenities.
On September 18, my wife and daughter left our home to do some errands at 11am. They returned at noon. The rear door was open. They called the police who arrived within 5 minutes. The police were outstanding. But the frustration that the police have is going into a home to see frustrated victims of break-ins. There were 7 break-ins that day. The criminals were four juveniles. They were caught later that day. There’s a broken window concept and if you don’t know what that is, Mayor Giuliani in NYC had to address out of control crime. He didn’t go after the mafia, he stopped people in Times Square from washing people’s windshields and demanding money. He cracked down on code violations, etc, and crime disappeared. We have numerous broken windows in our city. These properties are all boarded up: 484 Merrimack St in 2009, 16 Hampshire St in 2010 (lists a number of properties that are also boarded up). Those are the broken windows that breed crime. As long as the criminal can identify a neighborhood in which buildings are in poor condition there will be crime there.
There have been 5 public safety subcommittee meetings which is commendable but I’m dismayed that there has only been one neighborhood subcommittee meeting since January. You fight crime by going into the neighborhoods and finding out their concerns. We have numerous entrances into the city from suburbs. All the signs say welcome. There should be a sign after every entrance that says “Lowell has a zero tolerance for crime.” You have to let the criminal know that you’re not oblivious to them coming into the city to create crime and havoc. I met with the police chief today. I suggest you have him provide a weekly report on break-ins of houses and cars. He should also provide a weekly report from the Lowell District Court listing all convictions, dismissals, etc along with the name of the judge. I suggest you have a meeting with the judges. If they won’t meet, see the secretary of public safety. If he won’t see you, the governor has no trouble traveling all over the world so ask him to come here to meet.
In order to take our city back, it’s the people in the city who have to unite and be the eyes and ears of you and the police. The four individuals who robbed my home went to juvenile court today. What do you think is going to happen to them. In closing I request Mr Mayor you reinstitute the substance abuse subcommittee. Back in 1988 Mayor Howe appointed me to chair that committee and we did a lot of good work. It was bad in 1988 but it’s worse now. In 2010, Mr. Mayor, you were the mayor then, we had the first homicide in the nation that year when 8 people were shot on Grand Street. One of them died. I called for an emergency public safety subcommittee meeting. We had a Lt Colonel from the state police, the Lowell delegation; the secretary of public safety. The only ones who didn’t show were the judges from Lowell District Court. As a result of that meeting we got a $50,000 grant for the Lowell Police. Then there were 50 handguns stolen from a house in the Acre. State Rep Kevin Murphy filed and got passed a bill that tightens the requirements for storing that quantity of weapons.
In closing, every now and then I watch the council meetings. You can’t give a passionate, harsh speech about crime unless you’re going to do something about it on Wednesday morning. Criminals work 24/7. Ordinarily my wife would have been home alone watching the Price is Right. What if they had broken in and my wife had been home all alone.
Councilor Mercier says there’s no doubt the city is out of control with violence and a lack of respect. We’re doing all we can to mend the sore that society has inflicted on us. 50 years ago we lived in a different setting. It’s different today. Parents have to work two jobs to make ends meet. This leaves kids alone and vulnerable. Many children are on their own and have no love or respect so how do you expect it to show respect. The only way they get respect is by joining a gang or turning to drugs. They get addicted and end up robbing cars, houses and people to feed their addictions. Tells story of a neighbor who was rushed to the hospital and had his house robbed while he was away.
People are now asking this council to repair the damage of society through the years. Is it our fault that the laws are watered down before it gets to the judges. We’re doing what we can but we can’t solve the problem on our own. We need everyone in the city to help. My observations: people on drugs do not belong in jail; they need treatment. There should be more treatment centers. There should be better jobs. Stop saying there’s no room in jails because there is. Remember, perception is everything. When a kid is riding a bike on the sidewalk, confiscate the bike or the skateboard. Up the fine for jaywalking and enforce the laws. Suggests that the police act more promptly in collecting evidence of break-ins. We need more K-9s. These are a few suggestions. Perception is everything. We should have no tolerance. We need the public to be our ears and eyes. We need a summit meeting with everyone sitting down and taking responsibility. We need more detox centers. Society could care less. I made a motion some time ago to have a crossing sign on Rogers St. A car came by and knocked down the sign. A cruiser drove by and never reported it. We need one department to help another. We can’t have the attitude of leaving it for someone else.
Councilor Samaras moves to allow downtown business owners to use sandwich board signs for advertising. Says he’s a strong believer in historic preservation but he also advocates the economic success of our businesses. Richard Lockhart, chair of the historic board, says the board is working on a standard for sandwich boards. The board wants economic development too but we’d like some rules businesses can live within.
Councilor Kennedy moves to research benefits of creating a business improvement district. Mass Law allows a municipality to create a business improvement district.
Meeting adjourns at 8:14 pm