Lowell Week in Review: September 3, 2017

Lowell School Committee vs City of Lowell

The full name of the case is Lowell School Committee versus City of Lowell, by and through its City Manager and the Lowell City Council, Docket Number 1781CV02593. It was filed in Middlesex Superior Court on August 31, 2017, and was assigned to Hon. Garry V Inge in Courtroom 740, Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn. There is a hearing scheduled on Tuesday, September 12, 2017, at 2 pm, on the School Committee’s motion for a preliminary injunction. (This is all available on the Trial Court’s website).

Gerry Nutter has posted some of the relevant pages of the School Committee’s complaint on his website. It seems that the dispute comes down to one line: “State law requires the School Committee to approve any site for a school building and construction plans for a school building.” The School Committee contends that it must approve the new high school before it can be presented to the Massachusetts School Building Authority, and the city contends it is the City Council that makes that decision without regard to the School Committee. In this legal action, the School Committee requests that the judge declare that state law does require School Committee approval, and then order the City Manager and the City Council to not represent to the MSBA that a final site has been selected until the School Committee approves it.

This dispute seems to be a question of law rather than a question of fact. In other words, the parties can probably agree on the relevant facts; the dispute is over how the law is applied to those facts. Deciding that is up to the judge. On September 12, the parties will most likely submit written briefs arguing why the law supports their respective positions, and will present oral arguments during which the judge may ask questions of the lawyers.

It is unlikely that the judge will make a decision on September 12. Most likely, he will “take the matter under advisement” and send the parties on their way, leaving him time to digest the briefs, do his own research, and eventually write his decision. That could come by the end of the week, or by the end of the month, or by . . .who knows, but undoubtedly the judge will understand the relative urgency of this case (I say relative because everyone who has a case before him feels it is urgent) and issue his decision as soon as possible.

Of course, that would just be a decision on the motion for the preliminary injunction and not a decision on the merits of the case. According to the “tracking order” on the Trial Court’s website, that – meaning a trial and its outcome – must come by August 31, 2020 (although it most likely would be sooner than that).

Lowell’s Urban Revival isn’t letting up

“The Urban Revival is Over”

Richard Florida is an urban theorist who burst on the national scene with the publication of his 2002 book, The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community, and Everyday Life. The book argued that creativity is increasingly important in modern society, and that creativity best occurs in cities.

Influenced by Florida and other like-minded theorists, urban planners in Lowell (and throughout the United States) embraced the “creative economy” concept and for years made it the centerpiece of the city’s economic development strategy, even publishing a manifesto, On the Cultural Road: Strategies for the Creative Economy in Lowell, that laid out how these theories were being implemented in Lowell.

Now it seems that Richard Florida has changed his mind about cities. In an Op-Ed published in Friday’s New York Times, “The Urban Revival is Over,” Florida warns that the new age of the city “might be giving way to a great urban stall-out.” He cites three main reasons for this: An up-tick in violent crime, soaring housing costs, and the anti-urban mood in Washington which deprives cities of investments in infrastructure, affordable housing, and job training and upgrading. While the tone of Florida’s piece is pessimistic, he still seems to believe in cities, for he closes by saying that a reversal of the trends in urban revival “would be a disaster for all of us.”

So what does this mean for Lowell? I actually see it as an opportunity. The problems Florida cites with rising violent crime and soaring real estate prices are mostly big city phenomenon. Murder rates are rising in Chicago and Baltimore; and no one who isn’t a millionaire can afford to live in San Francisco. While Boston’s crime rate seems stable, its housing costs are not. And that presents an opportunity for Lowell. Just as soaring housing prices in the early 2000s drove artists from Charlestown and South Boston to Lowell, so might today’s sky-high real estate prices throughout Greater Boston convince more people who work there to consider living in Lowell. We can offer many of the urban living amenities of the big city without the high cost, and North Station is just 50 minutes away by commuter rail.

This would not require a new strategy for Lowell, or even a modification of our existing strategy (if we’d only pursue the implementation of that more vigorously, but that’s a story for another day). Everything we are or should be doing to embrace UMass Lowell, MCC, and our “college town” features, also serve to attract people of all ages and skills who are interested in urban living. So it is a prime opportunity to build on Lowell’s successes and plans for the future . . . except all of the political oxygen in the city is being sucked up by the high school debate (see above) and not much else seems to be getting done.

2001 Lowell City Council. Rita Mercier (front left) finished 1st, Eileen Donoghue (front center) finished 2nd.

Women in Local Politics

Recently I posted the content of a 1973 re-election pamphlet from Lowell City Councilor Gail Dunfey (The hacks want their city back . . .) which prompted a commenter to ask which women have served on the Lowell City Council. I responded – from memory – Rita Mercier, Eileen Donoghue, Franky Descoteaux, Laurie Machado, Kathy Kelley, Gail Dunfey and Ellen Sampson.

But now with the assistance of Lowell Municipal Elections: 1965-2015, here’s a list of all women who ran for city council and school committee over the past 50 years. I’ve listed the names by election year, with their place-finished in parenthesis. Remember, nine make it onto the council and six onto the school committee:

1965 City Council
Ellen Sampson (12)
Jeanette Turcotte (17)

1965 School Committee
Helen Droney (6)
Katherine Martin (7)

1967 City Council
Ellen Sampson (7)

1967 – SC

1969 – cc
Ellen Sampson (2)

1969 – sc
Sally Regan (11)

1971 – cc
Ellen Sampson (1)
Gail Dunfey (5)

1971 – sc

1973 – cc
Gail Dunfey (11)
Ellen Sampson (12)

1973 – sc
Kathryn Stoklosa (2)
Patricia Molloy (5)
Angelike Georgalos (8)

1975 – cc
Anna Martin (16)

1975 – sc
Kathryn Stoklosa (1)
Patricia Molloy (2)
Virginia McCarthy (9)
Nellie Skaff (10)

1977 – cc
Kathryn Stoklosa (12)
Anna Martin (15)

1977 – sc
Nellie Skaff (9)

1979 – cc
Ann Welcome (15)

1979 – sc
Nellie Skaff (10)
Mary Taylor (11)

1981 – cc
Karen Carpenter (12)
Ann Welcome (15)

1981 – sc
Kathryn Stoklosa (1)

1983 – cc
Birdie Malbory (18)

1983 – sc
Kathy Kelley (1)
Kathryn Stoklosa (2)
Regina Faticanti (9)
Gladys Rodriquez (10)

1985 – cc
Kathy Kelley (7)
Ann Welcome (13)
Birdie Malbory (17)

1985 – sc
Kathryn Stoklosa (1)
Regina Faticanti (3)
Cynthia Chandler-Rheault (7)

1987 – cc
Kathy Kelley (10)
Dolores Beati (14)

1987 – sc
Kathleen Janas (2)
Kathryn Stoklosa (3)
Mary Anna Sullivan (4)
Regina Faticanti (6)
Cynthia Chandler-Rheault (9)

1989 – cc
Kathy Kelley (4)

1989 – sc
Mary Anna Sullivan (4)
Kathleen Janas (5)
Regina Faticanti (6)
Kathryn Stoklosa (7)
Mary Cullen (12)

1991 – cc
Kathy Kelley (3)

1991 – sc
Kathryn Stoklosa (4)
Regina Faticanti (6)
Cynthia Chandler-Rheault (8)

1993 – cc
Laurie Machado (1)
Kathy Kelley (13)
Eleanor Furtado Stout (14)

1993 – sc
Kathryn Stoklosa (5)
Regina Faticanti (6)

1995 – cc
Rita Mercier (6)
Casey Crane (11)

1995 – sc
Kathryn Stoklosa (3)
Regina Faticanti (4)

1997 – cc
Rita Mercier (1)
Eileen Donoghue (3)
Carol McCarthy (13)

1997 – sc
Kathryn Stoklosa (3)
Regina Faticanti (5)
Marianne Dowling Abcunas (10)
Jamie McInnis (12)

1999 – cc
Rita Mercier (1)
Eileen Donoghue (2)
Carol McCarthy (14)
Jessica Geoggroy (16)

1999 – sc
Regina Faticanti (2)
Connie Martin (4)

2001 – cc
Rita Mercier (1)
Eileen Donoghue (2)

2001 – sc
Connie Martin (2)
Regina Faticanti (3)

2003 – cc
Rita Mercier (1)
Eileen Donoghue (2)
Paulette Renault-Caragianes (12)

2003 – sc
Jackie Doherty (2)
Regina Faticanti (3)
Connie Martin (4)
Kim Judge (10)

2005 – cc
Rita Mercier (1)
Eileen Donoghue (2)
Kristin Ross-Sitcawich (13)

2005 – sc
Jackie Doherty (1)
Regina Faticanti (3)
Connie Martin (5)
Cecilia Okafor (9)

2007 – cc
Rita Mercier (1)
Jo-Ann Keegan (13)
Kristin Ross-Sitcawich (16)
Patricia Stratton (19)

2007 – sc
Regina Faticanti (2)
Jackie Doherty (4)
Connie Martin (6)

2009 – cc
Rita Mercier (1)
Franky Descoteaux (3)

2009 – sc
Jackie Doherty (3)
Alison Laraba (5)
Connie Martin (6)
Regina Faticanti (7)

2011 – cc
Rita Mercier (1)

2011 – sc
Kim Scott (1)
Kristin Ross-Sitcawich (2)
Connie Martin (6)
Jackie Doherty (7)
Alison Laraba (8)

2013 – cc
Rita Mercier (1)
Stacie Hargis (13)
Genevieve Doyle (18)

2013 – sc
Connie Martin (4)
Kim Scott (5)
Kristin Ross-Sitcawich (6)

2015 – cc
Rita Mercier (1)

2015 – sc
Jackie Doherty (2)
Connie Martin (3)

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