Lowell Round-Up: May 25, 2018

Mimi Parseghian shares her observations on past week in Lowell politics:

By now most of us have read about the disturbance last week in City Council chambers which prevented the Environmental and Flood Issues Sub-Committee from meeting.  The aftermath of the public discussion focused solely on the protestors and their tactics.  Now that the City Council has decided to review their Rules and make any necessary adjustment, without infringing right of speech in any way, we should move on to discussing the topic at hand: the National Grid project.

The Sun newspaper invited National Grid to make a presentation to the staff. The article, published by the newspaper on May 21st was a recap of the marketing presentation  (Lowell $30 million Lowell Area Gas Modernization Project) prepared by National Grid.  At first glance, the proposal sounds reasonable: “Going from a 6-inch pipe to a 12-inch pipe is just to accommodate the best available safety technology.”  But what is missing are the questions from informed residents: those who have been studying and following the issue. The people and their representatives need to scrutinize this project and determine if this is in our best interest.  The Environmental and Flood Issues Sub-Committee meeting has not been yet rescheduled.

I was not surprised that the Sun invited National Grid, their editorial on the disturbance was titled “Lowell suffers a big, black eye.” I appreciate creative hyperbole but not faux outrage.


Speaking of the Sun, its parent company, Digital First Media newspaper group recently was the subject of a couple of blog posts by Dan Kennedy. (here and here) Kennedy was focusing on Alden Global Capital, the edge-fund that owns these newspapers that include the Denver Post, Sentinel & Enterprise in Fitchburg, and now the Boston Herald.

Dan writes that the staff at the Denver Post had an insurrection against the hedge-fund ownership.  They published a front page editorial called “News Matters: Colorado should demand the newspaper it deserves” and in one of their commentaries denounced “Alden Global Capital as ‘vulture capitalist’.”  Alden Global Capital also closed the offices of the Sentinel and they now have a “virtual newsroom.”
And what does Dan suggest is the solution to all these woes: local ownership.


Wednesday night I attended the Public Meeting: Election Lawsuit Listening Session conducted by the Ad-Hoc Sub-Committee on Elections Laws (Councilors V. Nuon, Chair; E. Kennedy and J. Leahy) and coordinated by the Working Cities Lowell Initiative and the Coalition for a Better Acre.  The meeting was held at the Lowell Senior Center and was attended by about 30 people.

Also present were City Councilor R. Mercier, City Clerk Mike Geary and Director of Elections, Eda Matchak.

Most of those in attendance seemed to be in favor of making some kind of change in the governmental structure; not changing from Plan E but creating some type of district representation or District and At-Large representation within Plan E (meaning still have a City Manager and a mayor elected by councilors).

The Committee made it clear that they are on a “listening” tour to hear the various opinions.  This is the second public meeting I have attended on the subject.  I can say that those who attend are committed to understanding the issue and its possible solution.  I just wish more people would get involved.  There is another scheduled meeting on May 30th which will take place at the Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association (CMAA), 465 School Street.  It will start at 6:30 p.m.


At last week’s meeting, the Council discussed the condition of a property on Clark Road.  The topic was taken under “suspension of the rules” and it lasted almost 30 minutes.  One of the points made is that the house should have been boarded up for safety reasons.  However, there are a number of boarded houses in the City and I am not sure what the time limit is on leaving a building in that condition. I always feel bad when I drive by a home in such a condition, especially when the neighbors keep their property clean, safe and in good condition.


As Lowell is drafting its ordinance banning certain types of plastic bags, this month’s National Geographic Magazine has a cover story titled “We depend on plastic. Now we are drowning in it.”  It is part of this edition’s focus on Plant or Plastic.  Reading some of the articles and looking at the pictures left me frightened for the planet’s future.  Merely banning plastic bags is not going to do it.  But it is a positive first step.


Once again, history was made this week at City Hall. Not only we had a woman City Manager seating at the Administration Table but we also had a woman Assistant City Manager sitting by her side.  Diane Tradd, Department of Planning and Development/Assistant Manager joined City Manager Eileen Donoghue.