Lowell City Council Meeting: December 15, 2015

Vote to cancel council meetings of December 22 and December 29, 2015.

Report on how to change the City Charter. Councilor Belanger asks about raising the number of signatures needed to qualify for a ballot position. City Solicitor Christine O’Connor says the same process occurs no matter what type of change you make. City Manager says to make a narrow change, like raising the nomination signatures, the easiest way to do it would be through a home rule petition in the legislature. Both houses of the legislature would have to pass it and the governor would have to sign it. Something more complicated should have a charter commission. Councilor Mercier suggests that in the new year, councilors might file a home rule petition to increase the number of signatures from 50 to 150 and increasing the number of candidates requiring a preliminary to 24. Councilor Kennedy believes that the state constitution requires anything that changes the charter regarding the mode of electing requires a charter commission. The Solicitor says she’ll look more closely at that although there has been a number of home rule petitions (forego preliminary elections, change voting age, impose then remove term limits) in the past.

Substance Abuse subcommittee report by chair Corey Belanger. Meeting was well-attended, he says. During October, Lowell was averaging nearly 5 overdoses per day but in November, it was down to 3.2 per day; all hope the downward trend continues. Lowell Police and Fire are investigating the Gloucester program that makes greater effort to connect users with longer term treatment. They will have a pilot program for Lowell in January. Lowell High will also have a pilot program that strengthens the curriculum on this issue. Councilor Leahy asks why the superintendent of schools wasn’t there tonight. Councilor Belanger says he was invited but doesn’t know why he didn’t attend.

Councilor Martin motion to name an appropriate square in the city of James Sweeney, recipient of Navy Cross.

Councilor Mercier motion to review parking behind Central Plaza.

Councilor Samaras motion to review LRTA shuttle bus routes in Pawtucketville. The neighbors there are concerned the buses are improvising routes to save time.

Councilor Samaras motion to count the number of double telephone poles in Pawtucketville.

Councilor Samaras motion to look at sidewalks on Mansur St and Belmont Ave.

Remarks on departing councilor, Bill Martin

Rita Mercier says they’ve been together for many years, he’s done an outstanding job and she has enjoyed serving with him. Although she never before admitted it, she often followed his rational on many votes and voted similarly.

Jim Milinazzo says he’s also enjoyed serving with Bill Martin. He’s appreciated his guidance through the years. He’s very thoughtful and articulate. He often served as the voice of reason in the council chambers.

Dan Rourke says congratulations and thanks. Bill Martin set a good example for Rourke and other freshman councilors.

Bill Samaras echoes comments by Rourke about being a new councilor and being assisted by Martin’s example. He also thanks Martin for his service on the school committee as mayor when Samaras was LHS Headmaster, says he was always there for high school students.

Corey Belanger also thanks Bill Martin for his public service and for being the voice of reason on the council. Says “maybe I’ll be like that someday.” Also says Martin would be on the council for as long as he wanted to be.

Ed Kennedy says the four years they served together was a privilege. Says he was one of the best he’s served with. Says the next city council will be the first one since at least the 1950s when there has been no attorney on the council. Hope he decides to come back in the future.

John Leahy says thanks and asks “are you planning another run?” (Martin replies “charter commission”).

Mayor Elliott says “we served together for many years and tackled many issues during those years.” Also cites prior service by Martin on Conservation Commission. Says Martin brought passion and intellect to the council.

Councilor Martin says if he had known that’s how they all felt, maybe he would have stayed. Says he’s not going anywhere. Says he’s not retiring. Will stay in the city, practicing law, volunteering his time. He just won’t be in the council chambers every Tuesday. He expresses his gratitude to the people of Lowell. We all say it’s “a privilege to serve” and it sometimes sounds trite and overused, but it is a humbling experience to be elected to office and it is a very rewarding experience. Is grateful to all who voted for him through the years and all those who he’s served with. Says on a legislative group like the council, you can’t do anything yourself. You have to build coalitions and get things done. Would like to think the city is a better place now than when he first arrived on the city council. He says the city has made strides in many areas of government. Says Lowell’s government is in very good shape, especially public safety and the basic functions of government. Says that’s one of the reasons he’s so proud of Lowell and will continue to live here. Says we have to keep trying to create more economic opportunity for our citizens who were hit particularly hard by the last recession. Giving your children a better life than you had is a fundamental part of the American dream and we try to do that in Lowell. We have to be very proud of our public schools. Our teachers do a great job every day. If people take advantage of the educational opportunities in Lowell they will improve their lives. Speaks of his family. One set of his grandparents died before he was born. The other set ran a variety store. His parents did better than that and their son became mayor. He says Lowell is a place where you can have a successful life. Thanks his wife Martha and his children and his siblings. Says you can’t win an election without the help of your family and friends. Ends by again thanking all who have voted for him through the years and wishes his colleagues well, telling them they do important work. The work of the city council on Tuesday nights and behind the scenes makes people’s lives better. Says he’s enjoyed his service and reminds them that he’ll still be around. [applause].

Rita Mercier next addresses Rodney Elliott by telling him how enjoyable he’s made the past two years as the city’s mayor. Says he’s treated it as the people’s chamber. She says she was never so proud as she was when she accompanied him to Cambodia to represent the city. She says for two years he’s showed up at every event which is very important and that it will be very hard for his successor to do the same.

Councilor Milinazzo also commends Elliott for the job he’s done as mayor. Highlights Elliott’s efforts after the Branch Street fire when he became the face of the community. Says he did an outstanding job running the meetings. Councilor Rourke thanks Elliott for his outstanding service as mayor. Councilor Samaras observes that Elliott not only showed up at every event but always had something meaningful to say at these events. Councilor Belanger remembers endorsing Elliott for mayor at the very start of his first council campaign. Says he admired him for being the fiscal watchdog and for always speaking out on his convictions. Says future mayors will be measured by how well they meet the standard set by Elliott. Councilor Kennedy says he’s known Elliott since Elliott was a teenager. Says Elliott made everyone proud during the past two years. He’s happy they will continue serving on the council for the next two years. Councilor Leahy thanks Elliott, says he represented himself and the city well. Councilor Martin says until you have served as mayor you really don’t know how much it involves. It’s an everyday job and Elliott did a very good job of it, devoting more time to it than almost any other person has in the job.

Elliott says he was humbled two years ago to be elected mayor. Can’t believe how quickly the two years has gone by. Not a day went by that I didn’t put my full effort into the job. He’s grateful to the council for allowing him to serve as mayor. We accomplished much as a team. This is one of the hardest working councils he’s been part of, particularly with subcommittees. Mentions hard times like the fire and the worst winter in history. But there were also many good times; new businesses, landmark anniversaries. Thanks the Lowell Sun for its support and Mr. Campanini for his editorial endorsement. He says the mayor’s office has done great work in handling citizen concerns. Commends Celine Gettings who he hired as his mayoral assistant. He thanks her (she’s present in the council chambers). Thanks all city employees, particularly Mike Geary, the city clerk and his staff. Thanks the city manager. Singles out Rita Mercier for praise. Thanks his family, especially his wife Laurie.

Council adjourns at 8:13 pm.

One Response to Lowell City Council Meeting: December 15, 2015

  1. Szifra Birke says:

    I always appreciated Bill Martin’s integrity and straightforwardness. Thank you for a job well done, Bill. Glad the city will be able to seek out your counsel.