The Globe’s Tale of Two Cities article

The Boston Globe yesterday in “A tale of two cities, and both of them are Lowell,” examined the competing views of what Lowell should look like moving into the future. The in-depth article, with quotes from former Mayor Bud Caulfield to recent Lowell High graduate Elmer Martinez, and many in between, declared the city to be at a crossroads with minority residents soon to be the majority.

Appropriately, the story fixes on whether the city council is truly representative of all who live in the city with those in the story from the minority community saying it is not. It quotes Daniel Uk, one of the plaintiffs in the pending federal lawsuit that alleges the city’s method of electing city councilors violates the federal Voting Rights Act, as saying “We don’t seem to have a voice on the City Council and whenever we try to express concerns that are relevant and specific to our communities, it seems we are brushed off and sort of neglected.”

(On a related note, the council’s Ad Hoc Charter Review/Voting District Representation Subcommittee, according to its chair, Council Jim Leary, will next meet on Wednesday, September 20, 2017 at the Lowell Senior Center, presumably in the evening, but not yet sure of the time).

One comment I’ve heard locally is that the story never once mentioned the Lowell High issue. That omission was not accidental because the same reporter who wrote yesterday’s story, Catie Edmondson, also covered the June 21, 2017 marathon Lowell City Council meeting that made the fateful 5 to 4 vote in favor of the Cawley Stadium site (see “After vote to move high school, Lowell faces lingering divisions”).

As brutal as the high school fight has been and continues to be, the Globe seemed to recognize that it is just another battle in this ongoing fight about what Lowell wants to be. It’s better that this article focused on the city’s big picture rather than getting bogged down in the high school fight. Too bad more people in the city fail to adopt this same attitude.

Overall, I thought this was a great article that raised many issues that should be more deeply explored by all who live in Lowell. But the article does seem to draw a sharp divide between a city focused on affordable housing and social service programs, and one focused on attracting affluent, established citizens as the key to future economic growth.

Everyone wants economic growth. The question is how best to achieve it in an equitable and inclusive manner. Politicians often say, correctly, that small businesses are the engine that drive the local economy. I suspect that if you check with the city’s Department of Planning and Development, a majority of the new businesses started in Lowell over the past decade were founded by immigrants or those descended from recent immigrants. Helping new arrivals get settled, educated and started fuels future growth; it’s just a hard, complicated thing to do, but that’s not a reason to not try. Unfortunately, too many in Lowell aren’t willing to take on that complex task. Instead, they see the path to Lowell’s economic success as one lined by a fence that keeps out immigrants and poor people. That kind of thinking is short-sighted, unjust, and ignores our history.

6 Responses to The Globe’s Tale of Two Cities article

  1. Ellen Donohoe says:

    I totally agree with you. Lowell has never been afraid of working and has a long term tradition of welcoming folks from all over and people from many different backgrounds. Catering to a certain segment of the city would be short sighted and would not uphold Lowell’s traditional values.

  2. Joe Boyle says:

    Just right, Mr. Howe!

    The smart, hard-working, resilient, entrepreneurial people in Lowell’s immigrant communities may have just arrived and found themselves at the bottom of the ladder, but they are climbing, and they are pulling this city up along with them.

    We need a leadership that understands that.

  3. Sue Frechette says:

    In the early 1900s, Lowell had a high percentage of immigrants. Many worked in the mills and added greatly to this city. This is who we have always been and embracing our past to me is the best way forward. I find it ironic that many of the more established ethnic groups sometimes struggle to embrace these new groups.

  4. Marty Lorrey says:

    The tale of two cities may be due to the loss of entry level jobs in Lowell over the past forty years. We always hear my parents or grandparents came and made their start in the mills. Well, those jobs are gone and today’s immigrants face a larger hill to climb due to the lack of entry level jobs, education or job training. The role of many anti poverty agencies have grown due to this very problem. What wasn’t mentioned in the article was the struggle of many long established families due to the the same loss of jobs or the need to re train or educate to meet the needs of today’s jobs. The struggle may be due more to competition for the services. Although many new businesses have been developed by immigrants as well as those who have lost their jobs not everyone can start or run a new business. Personally I think with agencies such as the cities manpower office, the two local colleges and the anti poverty agencies such as the C B A and CTI the area has survived the issue better than other areas. Politically the city has always had a divide but with the different political groups vying for control no one seems to have had a long term hold on the city. The gains have always been achieved by political activism, money and the role of the media. The key to political gains has always been at least I believe in immersing into the political playing field.

  5. Lowell Guy says:

    I care deeply for the poor and usually side with them, such as the downtown LHS vote. However, Lowell is going the wrong way. Can you believe that all of the kids in Lowell are on free lunch? And i’m willing to bet you that a huge portion of the kids got iphones and galaxy s phones, while their parents are driving nice cars. The system is just messed up! Too many people in Lowell are just leeching off the system.

    Bring on new residents who are more educated and want to live here. I want UML students to make Lowell their home. I’ve been through the lowell system and i’m sick of it. I work hard, go to school, get a degree, and buy things I can only afford and save money, while all these “poor” people are living the life! They dress nice and drive nice cars..better than middle class people. It’s time to stop the nonsense!