Lowell City Council Meeting: October 28, 2014

Motion by Councilor Mercier requesting City Manager request organizers of Baystate Marathon to alter the course of the race next year so that all of the bridges in the city aren’t shut down.  Councilor Mercier says

I filed this motion for no other reason to create better harmony between the city and the organizers of this event.  In no way do I intend to stop this event nor reroute it.  I know the benefits the city receives by them being here.  I know that this city offers the best course because it is flat and it serves as a good qualifier.  Because of this it separates Lowell from other communities.  Therefore this race defines Lowell.  I know that in the past we have asked this organization for better signage and Baystate complied and put out more electronic signs.  I know that there have been articles written in national magazines about Baystate, and that Lowell is always a part of the story.  Through this motion I am asking the city manager to meet with Baystate officials to see if the city and Baystate can come up with a more comprehensive plan in place for moving traffic along.

I know people are trying but when four of the bridges are closed, but I’m not being the bearer of bad news here.  I know that people can get upset when they’re waiting in traffic.  I’ve had people tell me that they were late for work but I don’t think they are here tonight to say that.  I know there are times when people like to complain because they want things to happen faster, at the snap of a finger but that can’t possibly happen.

I know there are a large number of people here this evening.  I know that my friend Deb Belanger and Andy St Onge tried for many years to bring this event here and they succeeded.  I, being a friend, certainly don’t want to stop that.  I do want people to come up to the podium and tell the people who are complaining what benefits there are derived from this because I know there are plenty.

Even though the race is on a Sunday, some people still have to go to their jobs and they were detained.  I made this motion for that specific reason alone.  If we could create better harmony for everyone, this motion aims to do that.  If we could come up with a better traffic control plan in place, that’s all I’m asking for.  So maybe I should amend the motion to say that we sit down and speak about a better traffic control plan.

Citizens speaking on the motion:

Glenn Stewart, race director for Baystate Marathon: Appreciates support just stated by Councilor Mercier.  We understand frustrations of those stuck in traffic.  We try to reach out in advance to the community. Baystate has been in Lowell for 25 years.  The vision of having the race downtown was the vision of Andy St Onge as a way of bringing people into downtown.  We have succeeded in that vision.  Thousands of runners, their families and friends come to Lowell each October.  Says CVB calculates Lowell gets $400,000 direct benefit from this event.  Talks about all the things the organizers do for Lowell, especially young people, throughout the year.  As for the race, they do limit the number of runners to try to minimize traffic problems.  They put up many signs around the city the week before the race.

Jeffrey Clark of Middle St reiterated earlier comments.  Doesn’t agree with the motion as written but thinks anything that would improve traffic flow would be good.

Several other people speak in support of the race.  The director of amenities for the race goes through all the money spent directly with Lowell vendors.  Says changing the route will negatively affect the race.  Lives in Lowell and it’s the running community that keeps her here.  Deb Belanger from Convention and Visitors Bureau which has been involved in Baystate for past 12 years ever since it came to downtown.  Baystate has some of the best organizers I’ve ever worked with.  Says she’s glad Councilor Mercier is willing to reword her motion and says we should look for ways to embrace this event.

After the public has finished speaking, Councilor Mercier says that she has quite a knack for wording a motion that will draw a crowd.  People watching at home would have never known about the woncerful impact this event has on Lowell.  Amends the motion to have the race organizers meet with the city manager to discuss parking flow.

Councilor Samaras requests the Mayor bring the organizers back some night and give them a citation for all they do for the city.  Councilor Belanger personally thanks the organizers for what they do to enhance Lowell through this event.  We have a lot of great events.  Unfortunately, some of our residents are inconvenienced but that’s something we have to live with.  Councilor Martin commends them for showing passion for the race but also for the city.  Motion amended and matter referred to City Manager to meet with organizers to find ways to improve traffic flow.

Motion Responses

Representatives for National Grid and Verizon have been summoned to answer Councilor Leahy’s questions about double telephone poles.  Councilors commend both utilities on reducing the number of double poles.  Councilor Kennedy asks how much lower the number will go.  Utility reps say for a city the size of Lowell the current number of 80 or so is about where it will always be.  [momentary silence from the council after that comment].

Regarding making smokestacks into illuminated Christmas trees.  Will meet with owners of smokestacks and invite them to do the same thing.  Will try to get some done this year.

Subcommittee Reports

CC Leahy reports on Neighborhood Subcommittee meeting from earlier tonight.  Received a report on problem properties that have been closed down recently.  Also discussed crime, especially rise in number of break-ins and trying to improve police response to those kinds of crime.  Councilor Milinazzo presses the city manager to get a detailed report from the police chief on what the councilor characterizes as “pretty outrageous behavior on the part of a detective.”  Councilor Belanger says he knows the person who complained and knows her to be very credible.  What she said was very disturbing.  He says we have all this data and we don’t seem to be getting our money’s worth.  Thinks if there’s a pattern of break-ins, the neighbors should be notified quickly of that pattern.  Looks forward to CM’s response.  Councilor Mercier suggests doing a reverse 911 to notify neighbors.

Council Motions

CC Milinazzo requests report on number of police calls to group homes for violations of curfew.  If kids break curfews at these contracted group homes, it’s Lowell Police that are enforcing their curfews so it might be a misallocation of city resources.  CM Murphy says the one group home on Nesmith St has had 235 calls to the police.  He’s meeting with someone from the state next week to try to get to the bottom of it.

CC Belanger to have city inspect West Sixth St fire state roof (which leaks).  Says he understands this is in the process of being fixed so we should be all set.

CC Kennedy requests asking School Committee to develop a STEM curriculum for Lowell High School.  (Science, technology, engineering and math).  Says parents are looking for this type of training when selecting schools.  Some may say that Lowell High has something similar but it’s not called STEM.  Maybe it’s a branding thing.  Anything we can do to make LHS more desirable is a good thing and will also have a positive effect on residential property values.

CC Rourke request city manager submit an application for the Bloomberg Public Art Challenge which is a contest for urban areas to qualify for up to $2mil over a two year period.  Lowell has a growing artist community but it also has a long tradition of public art.  Anything that helps bring people together in this kind of partnership is a good thing.  There will be many benefits to promoting public art in Lowell.  CM Murphy says he spoke with Paul Marion at UMass Lowell who is willing to take a leadership role.  Mayor Elliot had already contacted Susan Halter who has some ideas.

Meeting adjourns

2 Responses to Lowell City Council Meeting: October 28, 2014

  1. Joe says:

    I enjoyed this weeks council meeting. To see all those runners standing and speaking in unison was great. Democracy in action is a beatiful thing. I also love the public art/ mural idea. It’s the complete opposite of the simple minded “we need a walmart” type of politics. Lowell is going to have to get creative to get where we need to go so ideas like this are much more important then they might appear. Also great choice by manager Murphy. It’s political season but when the dust clears there are always a small core of people in the city that will put politics aside for the good of the city. Paul Marion(and Richard Howe) would cut off their left ear for the city and as a resident I would like to say thanks.

  2. Linda says:

    Organizers have to realize Pawtucketville is besieged every time a race, regatta or festival is held along the river. Cars are parked on both sides of narrow streets and residents can’t get in or out of their own driveways. I doubt emergency vehicles could navigate my neighborhood on those days. Visitors think nothing of blocking driveways or mailboxes. We have put up with bridge closings that turn a quick errand into a frustrating hour spent in traffic.
    There has to be a concerted effort made by the city and event organizers so the residents of Pawtucketville can enjoy their day, too.