Lowell City Council Meeting: October 14, 2014

Presentation by Lowell National Park Superintendent Celeste Bernardo and Paul Marion, author of Mill Power, a new book about the creation and legacy of the Lowell National Park.  Each councilor has been presented a copy of the book.  Since 1978 Lowell has received $275 million just from the Department of the Interior because of the park.  Paul Marion thanks council for greeting them here tonight and thanks the National Park for asking him to write the book.  We now have the story.  The book is dedicated “to everyone who helped.”  The book covers 1966 to 2013 so it’s almost ripped from the headlines.  Paul says there would have been no national park if city government had not done its part.  Reads an excerpt from the book.  Councilor Martin thanks Paul, says he’s always viewed him as the unofficial poet laureate of Lowell.  Supt Bernardo says the book is available for sale at the NPS visitor center.  Also said there’s a book launch tomorrow night at the NPS VC from 5 pm until 7pm.  The public is invited.

Downtown Redevelopment Subcommittee reports on meeting earlier this night.  There was a proposal to establish a business improvement district downtown.  Subcommittee will meet on this topic again in January when more information is available.

Motion by Councilor Mercier to have traffic island on Central Street at Jackson Street to be named in honor of the Robinson Family that ran Ray Robinson’s Sandwich Shop at the corner of Central and Jackson.

Motion by Councilor Mercier to repair broken sewer pipe on Charles Street that has caused a cave-in of road.

Motion by Councilor Belanger to explore adding parking spaces to the east side of Shattuck Street.  Says he continues to hear good things about two way traffic but Shattuck Street didn’t work out as two way.  Says the street is wide enough to accommodate parking on both sides.

Motion by Councilor Kennedy requesting report from DPD on development objectives of JAM Plan (I’m paraphrasing here).  Cites City Manager’s downtown summit at which someone said we need jobs for people.  Kennedy says JAM area has best potential for job creation.  Says this is exclusive of Hamilton Canal District.  Says because of proximity to Lowell Connector and train station, it’s easy to get to.  Industrial development in that location would help businesses downtown.  Says the JAM plan has been around for 25 years.  Thinks we should reevaluate where it’s going and if it needs redirection.

Motion by Mayor Elliott and Councilor Leahy requesting City Manager find funds to hire more police officers without raising the tax levy.  Leahy says objective is to put more uniformed police on the street. Asks to look at use of civilians in positions now filled by officers to allow more officers on streets.  Says we have a surge of small petty crimes and a lot of serious things with shootings and break-ins.  It’s a serious matter.  We should look at making sacrifices now.  We need more handcuffs on criminals.  To do this we need more police on the streets.

Councilor Belanger says it’s a great motion that’s absolutely necessary.  We rose taxes; we put on five officers.  It’s clearly not enough.  We have to achieve this number of officers or as close to it as possible.  I’m a very high profile person at supermarkets, coffee shops.  This is all we hear.  It’s time for drastic measures.  We’re doing all we can and we don’t seem to be getting anywhere.  We have to look at waste too.  Are we getting our money’s worth from law enforcement?  Are there too many data analysts behind desks?  I appreciate data but if there are too many behind desks we have to look at that.  The officers don’t hear it; we’re the ones who hear it.

Councilor Samaras asks City Manager about the 260 officers we had when Ed Davis was chief, says the city was a better place when there were that many officers on the street.  I know Federal grants are given when you have problems but are taken away when things get better.  The public is concerned and we need more officers on the street.  I’d like to see what you can do within the budget.  I see very little waste in the city.  Everybody is frustrated.  Recommends “two man” cars and patrols to keep police safe.

City Manager Murphy says we have an excellent grant writer.  We hope to get a grant soon that will add 4 officers very soon.

Councilor Kennedy says since we’re already a quarter of a way through the budget he’s not optimistic that we’ll find the money.  But I agree that everyone is pretty frustrated with the number of police officers we have.  Even though we voted to add five, the net number we have is less than when we made that vote.  Cites “matrix report” that said different deployment plans would increase number of officers available for patrol.

Mayor Elliott says everything has been said.  We all share the frustration.  I don’t think this is an easy motion to comply with.  But 260 was the number of officers.  Back then there were state and federal grants.  All the technology in the world is OK and we’ve made progress but the petty crimes and gun crimes continue so what else can we do.  There’s no substitute for foot patrols.  We have to make this further commitment to public safety.  As for where to find the funds, I see job postings being made regularly.  They may have to take a back seat.

Councilor Rourke says he appreciates the motion.  Says he knows the chief when hired went through assignments to maximize people on the street.

Motion passes.

Motion by Mayor Elliott requesting report on the process for changing the method of selecting a member of Greater Lowell Vocational High School when a vacancy occurs.  Motion passes.

Executive Session re pending litigation.  Council will adjourn from the executive session.  At 7:34 p.m.

2 Responses to Lowell City Council Meeting: October 14, 2014

  1. Brian says:

    How is that Shattuck St can’t fit two way traffic but can fit on-street parking on both sides of the street? It’s a good compromise but C Belanger seems to be practicing selective enlightenment when it comes to Jeff Specks recommendations.

    Why hasn’t a councilor made a motion to explore making Warren St two-way?

    Yes-Targeting life-science companies in the HCD is great(wasn’t the focus on nano-tech 5-10 years ago?)

    And-More important than the types of companies we target is the way the buildings, streets, and public spaces are laid out. Downtowns are best experienced on foot. There should be zero surface parking lots in the HCD and there should be zero wide 4-lane streets in the HCD. ALL buildings should be constructed to “front” the street for safety, walkability, and aesthetics but also to capture the most value(tax revenue) for the city.

    Think about the old Sun building compared to River Place towers. You can build around the old Sun building(and they did) but River Place towers is essentially on an island and inhibits neighboring development, thus forgoing tax revenue for the city.

    The council,, manager, UML, Senator Tsongas, etc need to understand this to ensure the success of the HCD. We can’t compromise because some company wants to locate there but requires surface parking lots for their suburban employees or visitors. A short term win isn’t worth making the HCD undesirable and less valuable in the long run.

  2. Joe says:

    I love the mural idea. It’s relatively inexpensive and it gives people a reason to park and walk around downtown. The number one issue facing downtown busnisses is foot traffic. Forget about some grand idea that politicians love to talk about but in reality have zero chance of happening. Lowell needs a series of small ideas that pieced together over time become more important than one big unrealistic idea.