Lowell City Council Meeting: December 9, 2014

Report by Cultural and Arts Subcommittee

Presentation for the city’s submission to the Bloomberg Art Challenge earlier this evening by Susan Halter from COOL. The theme will be Lowell as an art laboratory where “art will come alive in February 2015.” Recommends council endorse proposal and submission to the competition.

Report of Transportation Subcommittee

Heard presentation earlier tonight from DPD on Fr. Morissette bike lanes and biking in general. Most useful thing at the subcommittee meeting the screening of a bike safety video created by the Boston Police called “Shifting Gears”. The subcommittee members and other councilors in attendance all commented that they learned much about existing law. (The video may be viewed online here). The subcommittee voted 2-1 to endorse DPD’s recommendation to retain the bike lanes but to reduce them in size and paint them green which is the universal color for bike lanes.


By Councilor Rourke requesting the Lowell Water Intake Station (which is scheduled to be renovated soon) be named for the late Tom Golden Sr. Speaking in support were Gerry Dunn, Erik Gitschier.
By Councilor Mercier that city go on record as supporting divestment in fossil fuels. She yields to registered speakers:
Jay Mason says the environmental group 350MA of Lowell is there to support this motion. It’s consistent with Lowell’s leadership in sustainable planning. He talks about climate change and its effects. Cites fossil fuel use as a prime cause of global warming. Says this group has been working on this for two years. Says statewide the movement is gaining momentum as more cities divest from fossil fuel companies.

Kevin Dillon says there are many reasons why divestment is a good idea but state reps are concerned about economic problems caused by divestment. Dillon cites the research of his environmental science professor at UMass Amherst as providing strong evidence that investment in non-fossil fuels is a good investment.

Peter Lovette, pastor of Christ Church United, says this supports Judeo-Christian teachings about stewardship of natural resources. Cites how US military recognizes national security consequences of climate change and urges reduction in fossil fuel usage.

Derek Pilat says this motion will show the city’s commitment to avoiding arrangements with fossil fuel purveyors. It also sets the example for other communities to follow and helps strengthen Lowell’s reputation as a leader in creating green communities.

Christina Rohrbacher feels strongly about this. Lowell has a unique opportunity to be at the forefront of the divestment movement. Highlights levels of smog in northeast. Says divestment is consistent with Sustainable Lowell 2025 Plan and will keep that plan on track.

Councilor Mercier commends the speakers on their remarks. She says the resolution was included in the council packet that was delivered on Friday. She then explains what are fossil fuels and the concept of divestment. While City Hall says there’s no investment by the city in fossil fuel companies, she says this message must be sent to the entities that invest our retirement board funds.

Councilor Martin thanks the speakers but says he’s not going to support this resolution. The city doesn’t have such investments; our retirement funds are being invested by the state pension funds and are not under control of the city. Says the city is doing its part for sustainability in other ways. Says this is a completely symbolic vote. It could be controversial so I don’t think we should get involved in a controversial national debate at the city council letter. I said the same thing when we were asked to support the non-renewal of the Patriot Act. This has potential to invite controversy into this chamber. I don’t think making these symbolic votes that just generate controversy aren’t useful.

Councilor Mercier calls for a roll call.

Councilor Rourke says he’d like to see what the city does invest in.

Councilor Samaras says he’d like a substitute motion to get a report on the financial ramifications of this. He concurs with what the speakers said but he’d like to see a planned approach to this. He lacks information about the investments.

Councilor Kennedy says he’s heard jokes about Cambridge that it’s the only city in America that has its own foreign policy and that’s because Cambridge takes up issues that have nothing to do with city government. He concurs with Councilor Martin. He doesn’t want groups coming every week on national issues. But he says this issue has local consequences and says the people who came here tonight see that there is momentum with other communities joining in on this so maybe we should take a position on this. But if you have a resolution like this it ought to be unanimous. So I think it would be wise to wait for a report on more information. Also, if we support this we should make it clear that this is an exception to our policy of not getting involved in national issues. Would like a resolution reviewed by the Law Department to vote on, too.

Councilor Mercier says we say we want renewable energy for the good of the city so why shouldn’t we be supporting this too.

Councilor Kennedy says Mercier makes a good point and so that’s why this issue should be an exception. The city has taken a position on energy policy already in other ways.

Councilor Samaras says Councilor Mercier made good points but he think it would be wise to get more information rather than just pass this tonight and be done with it. He’d like the report to show how Lowell might provide further leadership on this issue.

Councilor Mercier says it’s hypocritical to say we won’t support this if it costs us money in our investments.

Martin responds that it’s hypocritical to champion this motion and then drive home in a car powered by fossil fuels to a house heated by fossil fuels. Nevertheless says he’ll support substitute info for more information.

Council votes unanimously for the substitute motion.

Councilor Samaras requests DPD develop a plan to redevelop land at Cabot and Merrimack St, the former location of Jeanne d’Arc Credit Union. In his remarks, Samras says he’d like the report to address the entire Merrimack Street corridor from City Hall to University Crossing. This area presents great potential and so we should have a specific plan.

Councilor Kennedy says this is an excellent motion. Anything that can better connect downtown with the University’s developments at the old St Joseph’s Hospital. Supported unanimously (with Milizazzo voting present).

Councilor Kennedy & Councilor Leahy joint motion for a report on current vacancy rates in downtown. Both Councilor Leahy and Belanger say the council should be getting periodic reports on what’s going on downtown. Belanger says we should differentiate between first floor vacancies and upper floor vacancies. Says the latter is different because of the absence of elevators in some buildings.

Meeting adjourns: 8:05 pm

One Response to Lowell City Council Meeting: December 9, 2014

  1. Brian says:

    Jeff Speck already put together a good plan for Upper Merrimack St. to ignite development. It involves creating cross streets between Merrimack and Moody. As of now the block is too long between Colburn Street(the library) and Cabot Street. Long blocks aren’t useful for mobility, become undesirable, and induce blight.

    Dr An Wang isn’t walking through the door to save Lowell and we can’t over rely on UML.

    Why council members aren’t referring to Speck’s report on a weekly basis dumbfounds me.

    See page 92