Lowell Week in Review: November 2, 2014

Election Day

Tuesday is the state election.  Here’s a rundown of what will appear on our ballots here in Lowell:

US Senate – Democrat Ed Markey, who was elected Senator in a special election in the spring of 2013 to fill the vacancy created when John Kerry became Secretary of State, seeks election to a full six year term.  He is being challenged by Republican Brian Herr.

Governor and Lieutenant Governor (they run as a team) – Democrats Martha Coakley and Steve Kerrigan vs Republicans Charlie Baker and Karyn Polito.  I’m with Coakley.  Here’s what I wrote about her last week:

It was in 1986 that I first met Martha Coakley.  I was new to the practice of law and encountered her in the Lowell District Court.  Through the years we opposed each other in at least half a dozen cases.  She was a superb lawyer, but more than any other assistant district attorney I ever dealt with, her goal in every case was to reach a fair result.  That made a great impression on me and it has caused me to support her in her subsequent runs for elected office including this one for governor.

More recently, Coakley showed real leadership during the foreclosure crisis when Lowell and other cities were plagued by countless foreclosed houses that were abandoned by their owners and the foreclosing lenders and that became magnets for crime in the neighborhood.  The big banks that ended up owning but not caring for these properties were ignoring the pleas of neighbors and municipal officials, but then the Attorney General’s Office got involved and the big banks started paying attention.  It was still a bad situation in Lowell but without Coakley’s involvement it would have been a lot worse.

There are also three “independent” (properly called unenrolled) candidates for governor, each with his own lieutenant governor nominee.  They are Evan Falchuk (with Angus Jennings for LG), Jeffrey McCormick (with Tracy Post for LG), and Scott Lively (with Shelly Saunders for LG).  Right after the primary election, the Boston Globe offered a concise guide to all five gubernatorial candidates if you’re interested in seeing a photo or brief biography.

Attorney General – Democratic Maura Healey vs Republican John Miller.  I was an early supporter of Maura Healey who faced Warren Tolman in the primary election.  She was one of Martha Coakley’s top deputies in the Attorney General’s office and I worked closely with her in finding ways to minimize the negative impact of the foreclosure crisis on Lowell and other cities.  Once she got into this race, I learned that even though she is only 5’4” tall, she was a basketball star at Hampton, NH in high school, at Harvard in college, and that she played several years of women’s professional basketball in Europe.  She ran a terrific campaign in the primary, defeating Tolman in 348 out of 351 of the Commonwealth’s communities.

Treasurer – Democrat Deb Goldberg faces Republican Mike Heffernan to fill the seat vacated when Steve Grossman ran for governor.  Goldberg defeated Andover’s Barry Finegold and Wayland’s Tom Conroy in the primary.  Also on the ballot is Ian Jackson, the Green-Rainbow Party candidate

Secretary of State – Incumbent William Galvin, a Democrat who has held the office for 20 years, is being challenged by Republican David D’Arcangelo.  My office, the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds, has fallen under Galvin’s superintendency since 1997 so I have had a front-row seat in how he runs his office for the past 17 years.  He has done a superb job, particularly with the use of technology and advancing citizen access to public records.  Back when the internet was becoming readily available to everyone, we faced an important decision: would digital land records be made freely available to everyone or would they be restricted to those willing to pay for them?  Galvin chose the former, a decision that has greatly benefited countless individuals and businesses throughout Massachusetts.  Also on the ballot will be Danny Factor, a Green-Rainbow party candidate

State Auditor – Incumbent Suzanne Bump is being challenged by Republican Patricia St. Aubin.  I’ve spoken with Bump a half dozen times since she’s been auditor.  Each time she quizzes me closely about how my office operates and how we use technology to increase efficiency.  She has a passion for making government work better.  Also on the ballot is M.K. Merelice, the Green-Rainbow Party candidate.

Congress – Incumbent Niki Tsongas is being challenged by Republican Ann Wofford.  Tsongas, who was elected to Congress in 2007 when Marty Meehan resigned to become Chancellor of UMass Lowell, has been an extremely effective member of Congress during times when Congress as a whole has been largely ineffective.  Tsongas has done much to support the people and businesses in her district and has been a leader at promoting the well-being of women in the military and of all veterans once they leave military service.

State Senate – Democratic incumbent Eileen Donoghue is running unopposed.

16th Middlesex State Rep District – Democratic incumbent Tom Golden is running unopposed.

17th Middlesex State Rep District – Democratic incumbent Dave Nangle is running unopposed.

18th Middlesex State Rep District – Kevin Murphy held this seat from 1996 until he resigned earlier this year to become Lowell’s city manager.  There are two candidates seeking this seat: Rady Mom, a Democrat, and Fred Bahou, an unenrolled candidate.  Although both candidates have supporters throughout the district, Bahou’s base seems to be the upper Highlands while Mom’s is the lower Highlands and the Acre.  Whichever candidate succeeds in turning out his vote on Tuesday wins.  I’m supporting the Democratic nominee, Rady Mom.  I’ve known him for many years, have spoken with him often about policy issues, and have found that his position on a wide range of issues is closely aligned with my own.

Governor’s Council – Members of the Governor’s Council must run every two years in districts that exceed the size of a Congressional District.  Lowell’s representative on the Governor’s Council is Eileen Duff, a Democrat who was first elected in 2012.  She is being challenged by Republican Maura Ryan-Ciardello.

District Attorney – Marian Ryan, who was appointed by Governor Patrick to fill the unexpired term of Gerry Leone who resigned last year, is seeking election in her own right.  She is unopposed after defeating Clerk of Courts Michael Sullivan in the Democratic Primary.

Register of Probate – Democratic incumbent Tara DeCristofaro is being challenged by John Lambert.

There are also four referendum questions on the ballot.  Our economic affairs correspondent John Edward has written a column about each with his recommendation on how to vote for each one:

Question 1 – A YES VOTE would eliminate the requirement that the state’s gas tax be adjusted annually based on the Consumer Price Index.  John recommends voting NO on Question 1.  I agree. 

Question 2 – A YES VOTE would expand the state’s beverage container deposit law to require deposits on containers for all non-alcoholic, non-carbonated drinks with certain exceptions, increases the handling fees, and makes other changes to the law.  John recommends voting YES on Question 2.  I agree.

Question 3 – A YES VOTE would prohibit casinos, any gaming establishment with slot machines, and wagering on simulcast greyhound races.  John recommends voting YES on Question 3.  I agree.

Question 4 – A YES VOTE would entitle employees in Massachusetts to earn and use sick time according to certain conditions.  John recommends voting YES on Question 4.  I agree. 

Check back here on Tuesday night for full election results and next Sunday for analysis and implications of the results.  In the meantime, if you’re interested in past election results, check out our new and improved ELECTIONS page.  We’ve completely redone it and while it continues to be a work in progress, there’s enough information there to be of interest right now.

Baystate Marathon Gains Fans

This past Tuesday’s city council meeting was dominated by an impressive group of marathon runners, most of them Lowell residents, who came to speak in opposition to Rita Mercier’s motion to change to course of the Baystate Marathon to reduce the number of bridges across the Merrimack that would be blocked by the runners.  When the meeting began, however, Rita explained that she really didn’t mean for that to happen; she only worded the motion that way to motivate all the runners to come to City Hall and speak about all the good things the marathon does for Lowell.  That way, she reasoned, all the complainers would see for themselves that their Sunday morning inconvenience was a small price to pay for having the race in Lowell.  The council eventually voted to have the city manager meet with the runners to find ways to better publicize the event for Lowell residents and also to seek ways to turn it into a weekend long festival.  (I posted a full report on the council meeting).

Ironically, on Thursday morning a construction crew inadvertently (and disastrously) punctured a 20 inch water main at VFW Highway and Bridge Street.  It was as if some higher authority declared “You want to see traffic tie ups; I’ll show you traffic tie ups” because traffic was a mess well into the evening.  Thanks to fast work by the Lowell Water Department, however, the rupture was repaired and traffic was back to normal by Friday morning.  As a bonus, the state Department of Transportation at the same time announced that work on the Rourke Bridge was complete and opened that bridge to two-way traffic immediately.

Walking is Key to Reviving Cities

Over the past couple of Sundays I’ve returned to the issue of making Dutton/Thorndike Street more walkable so when yesterday’s news feed presented a story on the importance of walkability to urban revival, I took notice.  Here’s the key line from the story:

The desire to live within walking distance of restaurants, bars, theaters and parks has revitalized once-withering downtowns, according to demographers and real estate experts.

Here’s why walking is so important:

A 2013 poll by the Urban Land Institute helps illustrate why.  Millennials – who along with empty-nesters are leading the movement back to cities large and small — place a premium on walkability and distance to work and school. The survey of 1,200 adults also found a shift in taste across all generations, with more than half saying they would prefer to live near a mix of shops, restaurants and offices.

Please check out the full Washington Post story and expect more on making Lowell more walkable in the weeks to come.


6 Responses to Lowell Week in Review: November 2, 2014

  1. Joe says:

    The one question that I have yet to hear anyone ask in the 18th district contest is the most basic question. Who will do more for Lowell? Election rhetoric aside,what will Fred Bahou be able to achieve? It’s not a 50/50 type situation in the mass house where an independent could be a king maker. It’s the complete opposite. He will be an outcast to the democrats and to the small number of republicans. How is Fred Bahou ever going to get a bill through the ways and means committee? Fred Bahou could have the greatest idea ever yet it will have zero chance of ever seeing the light of day. It might appear that Rady Mom will be the one that gets swallowed up by beacon hill but in reality he will do much more for Lowell. It’s not perfect,it’s just reality.

  2. Brian says:

    Thanks for keeping the focus on walkability. Whether you’re 8 or 80 you should feel comfortable walking downtown. That simply isn’t the case in much of Lowell. If we can somehow make Dutton St and Arcand drive more walkable the area west of the library could be a much more productive place.

    Jeff Speck has some good ideas in the Evolution Plan on this topic. He thinks we should create 2 new streets to connect Merrimack to Moody St. Right now the block is too long and this makes pedestrians uncomfortable.
    see page 92

    With UML’s expansion at the western tip of Merrimack St. already underway a few bold moves could help make Merrimack St walkable and productive throughout. The Smith Baker Center may even get another life.

  3. Fred Bahou says:

    The constituents of Lowell deserve a spokesman who will be able to interact, articulate and develop a shared vision for the greater community. I am best qualified to represent the community in this shared vision, and already have extensive ties to State Reps and Senators in both parties. The gridlock in Washington clearly shows us limitations in restricted party policies that are not cohesive and interactive. As an independent, I will reach across the aisle to Democrats, Republicans and all undeclared voters to develop the coalitions needed to address issues relevant to our community. Backwards-thinking comments like Joe’s create boundaries, not the unified visions we need to move forward.

    Vote Fred Bahou for Lowell Rep who best represents our community.

  4. Brian says:

    Found some interesting stuff about biking and a pedestrian point-of-view on the UML Connector. Seems like people are getting hit and dying on a daily basis.

    The bicycle lanes, Murphy agreed, were also inadequate for the requirement pushed forth by the university. “We have come up with a new plan for bike lanes,” he said. “We will roll that out in November.”


    Freshman perspective: UMass Lowell after seven weeks

    The first day of classes was fine, but walking to them was a hassle, and crossing the streets was my main source of frustration. I wasn’t born and raised in a city, but I do know pedestrians shouldn’t walk across the street if cars have the green left arrow. Knowing that, I resisted peer pressure and patiently waited for the walk signal, obliterating the whole “I’m not a freshman” act. After about a week, I lost my patience. I’m now seven weeks in, and jaywalking has become one of my areas of expertise.

  5. Paul Early says:

    Brian, I am bit sympathetic with the freshman you mention here. I might get frustrated and start jaywalking as well. They should remove the walk button and just provide walk lights, but the walk signal needs to be a fair amount of the whole sequence in order to discourage walking against the left arrows or perhaps even remove some of left hand turns there, but provide good turning options further down the road, e.g. to Salem or Moody Streets. I do agree with Jeff Speck, that walk buttons make pedestrians feel like second class citizens, at least this pedestrian.

  6. Joe Smith says:

    I would think with the downriver sidewalk open on the Howe Bridge there should be a lot less pedestrian congestion at the Pawtucket street. But those heading for University Crossing still have a “crossing” nightmare.