Lowell Week in Review: September 17, 2017

Creaticity Festival

Congratulations to the Cultural Organization of Lowell (COOL) and all its partners and participants in the brand new Lowell Art & Maker Festival, aka Creaticity, which began yesterday on Market Street and continues today from noon until 6 pm. Fifty tents line both sides of Market Street, filled with artists and artisans who are offering their work for sale and informing the public about what they do. A stage set in the Market Mills park is home to a variety of musical and dramatic acts that provide entertainment throughout the day and a popup bookstore featuring Lowell books by Lowell authors is set in Gallery Z.

Market Street, looking towards Dutton

I’ll be offering two free walking tours this afternoon. The first, Innovation and Invention in Lowell, begins at 1 pm. The second, Lowell Public Art, begins at 3:45 pm. Both start at the COOL tent which is near the entrance to the Market Street parking garage.

Lowell Makes volunteer demonstrating welding equipment available to members

The genesis of Creaticity came from the city council about 18 months ago with a joint motion by Councilors Samaras and Belanger, and then a follow-up motion by then Mayor Elliott. Here’s what I reported on the council’s wish for a downtown arts festival in my March 24, 2015 council meeting notes:

Arts Subcommittee report on meeting held earlier tonight.  Met to discuss Mayor Elliott motion to coordinate an arts festival in downtown Lowell.  A number of artists attended and spoke.  Susan Halter did a presentation on a proposed Spring Fling to be held on May 16 that would combine a number of events such as Doors Open Lowell, a Mill City Grows event, etc.  Trying to leverage already planned events.  Also that day will be UMass Lowell commencement.  They hope to get more artists involved as a prelude to an independent Lowell Arts Festival to be held the following year.  The subcommittee will have a follow up meeting with members of the arts community to begin planning that Arts Festival.  They will still go forward with the event on May 16.

Then there was this from the May 12, 2015 council meeting:

Motion Responses: To plan a large outdoor art festival, Councilor Belanger asks if a definite date has been set.  Susan Halter (COOL Director) says there has been one meeting thus far, they’re looking at the fall of 2016.  Mayor Elliott says the intent of the motion was to close down streets and exhibit art.  Halter says the people on the committee want to include all the arts, not just painting/visual arts.  Asks whether it might be better to start with a more manageable scale the first year.  Councilors complement Halter on the report.  Samaras asks that Halter provide the council with a quarterly report on progress of this event.

If you didn’t make it to Creaticity yesterday, make your way down to Market Street today between noon and 6 pm and check it out.

2010 endorsement of Niki Tsongas by former mayors of Lowell

MA3 Update

When Niki Tsongas announced early last month that she would not seek reelection as Representative in Congress for the Third District, it set of a flurry of speculation about who would enter the race to succeed her. After a couple of “I’ve decided not to run” announcements (State Senator Jamie Eldridge on August 24 and Ellen Murphy Meehan on September 5), this week we had a couple of “I’ve formed an exploratory committee” announcements.

State Senator Barbara L’Italien launched her exploratory committee with an email on Thursday. Here is part of what she wrote:

This morning I officially launched an exploratory committee to look into a run for Congress to represent Massachusetts’ 3rd district. . . . I first entered public service to create a better life for working families like mine. As a parent of a child with Autism, I couldn’t accept the fact that our government didn’t provide health insurance and other essential services for people with disabilities. . . . My big announcement today creates the opportunity for me to test the water and determine if a campaign for Congress is something that I can really pursue.

That same day, Steve Kerrigan, who has run for a number of offices including, most recently, Lieutenant Governor in 2014 (with Martha Coakley for governor) and who, I believe, contemplated running for this same Congressional seat back in 2007, announced on Facebook that he was exploring a run in 2018. Here is some of what Kerrigan wrote:

Since Congresswoman Tsongas announced her decision not to run for reelection, I’ve been encouraged by many friends, colleagues, and supporters to consider carrying on her critical work by running to represent the Third District in Congress. . . . Over the coming weeks, I will take the chance to explore this opportunity and speak with individuals and families throughout our district about their hopes and concerns, and about what they want from their next representative in Congress.

Lori Trahan

Then yesterday morning, Lori Trahan, a Lowell-native, Westford resident, and former Congressman Marty Meehan chief of staff, launched a page on the CrowdPac website. Here is how the candidate introduces herself there:

Lori Trahan is a proven, dynamic leader with deep roots in the 3rd Congressional District who will bring a fresh, results-oriented approach to Capitol Hill.  She has spent much of her career as an executive, an entrepreneur and business consultant, building successful companies and bringing practical solutions to complex problems.

Previously, Daniel Koh, chief of staff to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, announced an exploratory committee. Here’s some of what Koh wrote on his website about why he’s running:

I’m exploring a run for Congress because I believe deeply in the power of the American Dream – and that dream is under attack. . . . If my great-grandparents tried to immigrate to the United States today from their home country of Syria (now Lebanon), they would have been stopped at the border. Instead, they came to Lawrence, over one hundred years ago – and although they didn’t have much, they worked hard, invested in their community, and gave a better life to my grandfather. He went on to serve in the US military and build a medical practice – Arrigg Eye & Ear Associates – that still serves patients in the Merrimack Valley today, with my mom, Dr. Claudia Arrigg, and her two brothers. My father’s parents immigrated from Korea and represent a similar American success story. . . . I come from city government, where we put aside partisan politics to get things done — because they are the right things to do. It’s time to send a new generation to DC with fresh ideas, energy, and an unrelenting belief in the American Dream.

There are several others who would be strong candidates who are also thinking about joining the race. Once a candidate launches some kind of online presence, I’ll mention it here. Also, our focus is admittedly skewed towards the Democratic side of the race, however, we’ll try to keep up with developments on the Republican side, too. Thus far, Rick Green, a Republican from Pepperell and the founder of Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance announced earlier this month that he is launching an exploratory committee for the Third District campaign.

Lowell City Council Update

There is no agenda online for this coming Tuesday, so I assume the City Council is still on its summer schedule with no meeting this week. The next council meeting will be Tuesday, September 26, which also happens to be Preliminary Election Day.

One motion that will be on the agenda that evening is one by Mayor Kennedy requesting that the city manager and the Division of Planning and Development “meet with adjoining Greater Lowell communities to discuss the potential for responding to the Amazon Request for Proposal” (this per a press release from the mayor’s office earlier this week).

Here’s what Amazon itself says about this project:

Amazon HQ2 will be Amazon’s second headquarters in North America. We expect to invest over $5 billion in construction and grow this second headquarters to include as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs – it will be a full equal to our current campus in Seattle. In addition to Amazon’s direct hiring and investment, construction and ongoing operation of Amazon HQ2 is expected to create tens of thousands of additional jobs and tens of billions of dollars in additional investment in the surrounding community.

The Globe reported yesterday that the city of Boston will submit a proposal centered on the 161-acre Suffolk Downs property. A random web search yields hundreds of articles speculating which cities are best positioned to win such a bid. A story in the Chicago Tribune put Chicago, Austin, Boston, Denver, New York City, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto in the top tier of candidates.

Despite the high-level competition, Lowell should still submit a bid, even if it is a longshot. Crafting such a proposal would be a great exercise, and might help focus minds on the big picture of where the city is headed and what it should aspire to be.

Charter Change

Although the full council will not meet this week, its Ad Hoc Charter Review Committee will meet this Wednesday, September 20, 2017, at 6 pm at the Lowell Senior Center, 276 Broadway. Council Leary is the chair of the committee and Councilors Leahy and Samaras are members, but it’s likely many other councilors will also be present. The selection of venue – the Senior Center – seems designed to promote public participation, so please try to make it to this very important meeting.

Ayer Lion at Lowell Cemetery

Lowell Cemetery Tours

This fall’s Lowell Cemetery tour will take place next week. The same tour will be offered twice: on Friday, September 22, 2017 at 1 pm, and on Saturday, September 23, 2017 at 10 am. Both tours begin at the Knapp Avenue entrance which is next to Shedd Park. The tours are free and last about 90 minutes. The Saturday tour will coincide with the Cemetery’s Annual Art Exhibition. Works submitted in this contest will be on display from 10 am until 1 pm.

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