City Council Review: 1st Quarter 2018

There was no Lowell City Council meeting last night, so no council meeting notes. Instead, Mimi Parseghian reviews the Council’s performance during the first quarter of 2018. Here is her analysis:

While the City Council regular meeting is taking a spring vacation break, I thought I would quickly review the past 4 months of this Council and the transition to a new Administration.

Although they are facing two major issues, (the High School and the change in City Manager) I would not say that they have allowed those topics to monopolize the agenda, discussions and decisions. I am only referring to the topics discussed. I am not referring to the tone and atmosphere of the meetings; those continue to be testy and confrontational at times.

But let’s first review the issues discussed.  The Council has had 13 regular meeting this year.  One was cancelled in mid-March due to the major snow storm that hit our City.   They also have had 8 Sub-Committee meetings, which is close to last year’s 10 Sub-Committee meetings for the same period.

During those 13 regular meetings, they have introduced and entertained 97 motions. I assigned every motion a category.  My analysis is a general reflection of the subject areas that the City Council focused on these past 4 months:

  • Information/Clarification of Policies/Actions – 22
  • Parking, Parks, Paving – 18
  • Constituent Services – 12
  • Adjust/Introduce New Policy – 12
  • Lowell High School – 11
  • Administrative/Legal/Financial – 11
  • Information/Clarification of Activities in City – 7
  • Snow, Ice cleanup – 4

The motion areas are well balanced but in the future they will need to be evaluated to determine their full impact.

This Council, which was elected as a result of a contentious campaign, began the year with a 5-4 vote for the position of Mayor. If there were ramifications from that split vote, they certainly have not surfaced publicly.

The election of Councilor Karen Cirillo and Councilor Vesna Nuon has brought some new and different ideas to the Council floor.  It remains to be seen how much traction they will have.

The transition from one City Manager to another has gone as smoothly as the City has seen in many years, which should be extremely helpful to the remaining work of the City Council.  Former City Manager Kevin Murphy deserves credit for not creating with his departure a divisive atmosphere.

I liked that he had the various department staff provide the responses to the City Council motions and they were in attendance at the City Council meeting to answer any questions.  The dynamics will change with the new City Manager but with her extensive experience, the Council and City business will not miss a beat.

Going forward for the rest of the year, the Council will be concentrating on the High School but they also need to focus on two other major issues in the City. The first is to make sure that the Hamilton Canal revitalization moves forward.  It would be disappointing if they do what their predecessors did and change the plan as we go along.  I think City Manager Donoghue’s Administration will be the fourth one to deal with the Hamilton Canal.

The second and for me the more important is the lawsuit which asserts the City’s municipal elections system is discriminatory. The Council will need to decide how we should proceed.  There is a sub-committee established to discuss this topic but they have not yet met.  So far, the topic has not been discussed on the Council floor in an open meeting so it is difficult to determine what course the Council wants to pursue.

The atmosphere in the City Council will change not only because we have a new City Manager but her appointment has created an opening of the State Senate seat. As it has been announced, we have two sitting City Councilors (E. Kennedy and R. Elliott) running for that seat.  I hope that they and their fellow Councilors do not take the campaign to the Council floor. I sensed that was happening at the last meeting.

Next week the City Council returns from their mini-vacation along with the posts of the agenda preview and the recap of the meeting.