Lowell Round-Up: June 29, 2018
Mimi Parseghian shares her observations on the past week in Lowell:
During this week’s City Council marathon meeting Public Hearing section, the issue of the replacement of a National Grid-owned gas line in the neighborhood was revisited. As we recall, about a month ago a Sub-Committee meeting was quickly adjourned when a group of individuals held a protest in City Council chambers.
This time the outcome was substantially different. Although Mayor Bill Samaras was strict with them, once we had an opportunity to listen to these opponents, their message was reasonable, well thought out and made sense to me. More importantly, the City Council agreed with one of the points they were trying to make —it is dangerous to give National Grid (gas) the license to proceed as long as the workers have been shut out.
It seems that the majority of the City Council was already prepared not to proceed as long as the union workers were not on the job. At the conclusion of the public hearing, a motion was made to support the National Grid workers and for safety reasons not proceed.
Some of the other questions raised by the opponents were why is there an increase of the pipe width and length; and where is the posting of the plans?
As mentioned, the Chair wanted to make sure that the decorum and rules of a public hearing were followed so he demanded that the two or three signs that were carried into Council Chambers be brought down since they were obstructing others views. When the sign carriers did not abide by his repeated instructions, he asked the police to intervene.
I am not sure what was said but the police were able to quietly convince the protesters to take their sign upstairs thus preventing any disruption.
The National Grid opponents (relatively young Lowellians) have a strong message. They are well informed and are good public speakers. They should not let their actions overshadow their views.
Last Saturday I participated in the Lowell Walks which featured an architectural and historical tour of the two most beautiful buildings in Lowell: the Library and City Hall.
Our guides were Sean Thibodeau, Coordinator of Community Events at Pollard Memorial Library, and Kim Zunino, President of the Lowell Historical Society. It was an entertaining and highly informative walk/lecture. I have been in both buildings many a times but never really paid attention to all the small details that make these two structures so unique.
For some reason, I was under the impression that the same architect designed both buildings. No, it was competing individuals that designed each building. Did you know that a room that mirrors today’s Council Chamber was located across the courtyard? Although the interior has undergone major renovation, you still can see the remnants of its original beauty. Did you know that there is a crawl space/tunnel that leads from City Hall to the Library?
If you read or hear of Sean and/or Kim are giving a public lecture, I strongly recommend that you attend. The Lowell School System may want to utilize their knowledge to educate the students on the rich history of those two Lowell buildings.
Driving around the Highlands, you will notice the number of political signs that adorn the lawns. That is understandable. In addition to the state wide elections, Lowell has the Congressional and State Senator race, this neighborhood has a competitive race for State Representative. At some point the law of diminishing returns will apply to those lawns that are adorned with so many signs. If you are following the races, you probably know who the players are and in whose direction you are leaning. If you are not yet engaged, name recognition will dominate but you still may not be sure who is running for which seat.
As the State’s new recreational cannabis law is launched, it seems that Lowell unlike many other municipalities has “its act together.” We are ready to process applications and submit them to the State board for approval. I think a lot of the credit should go to the Director of Development Services, Eric Slagle and his staff. Slagle is an attorney who previously served in the City’s Law Department. His experience and profession serves us well.
Last week the Lowell Sun published an article focusing on the waitlist at the Greater Lowell Technical High School (GLTHS). According to the data presented, YOG (year of graduation) 2019 had 88 students on the wait list; 2020 had 104; 2021 had 141 and 2022 has 172 with a caveat since they will not know until school begins how many students decided not to attend the school, therefore this number will be decreased.
According to the author and two GLTHS personnel, one of the three major factors for the increase is the Lowell High School construction. But the limited data does not support that contention; I say limited because we do not have a complete picture of how many Lowellians make up part of the figure.
If I did my math correctly, the increase from 2019 to 2020 was 18%; 2020 to 2021, 36%; and 2022 to 2022, 22%. I do not see a trend yet.
It is essential we know how many students and their parents will opt out of attending Lowell High School (LHS) during the construction period. But we need real data to do the analysis properly so we understand the significance of the numbers. We need to know what percentage of the eighth- graders who graduated from Lowell schools are moving on to Lowell High. That figure needs to be compared with those of the past few years.
The LHS construction was just one point advanced by the article, the other two in my opinion, are much more significant in understanding the nation-wide focus on increasing opportunities for vocational/technical training: “cutting-edge vocational technical education” and “strong internship program with experimental learning.” Now that is a discussion that we should have so that we can provide GLTHS with the tools necessary to provide all students with the education they want.