Lowell Years in Review: 2007, 2008 & 2009

Since the birth of this website in March 2007, I have posted for each year (except 2010 for some reason) a Year in Review article that tried to capture the most important local events of that year. For the coming week, I will repost each of these annual reports with 2 or 3 years worth each day, all leading up to my 2021 Year in Review next Sunday.

2007 in Review

Marty Meehan resigns from Congress to become Chancellor of UMass Lowell.

Niki Tsongas wins Democratic primary in Congressional special election, defeating Eileen Donoghue, Jamie Eldridge, Barry Finegold and Jim Miceli. Tsongas then defeats Republican Jim Ogonowski in a surprisingly close special Congressional election.

Superintendent of Schools Karla Baehr opts out of a renewal of her contract to seek the state Commissioner of Education job.

Radio station WCAP (980 AM) is sold by longtime owner Maurice Cohen to Clark Smidt and Sam Poulten who vow to retain the station’s local focus.

Changes on the Lowell City Council as Alan Kazanjian and Mike Lenzi are elected to replace Eileen Donoghue and Joe Mendonca (who had replaced George Ramirez). The School Committee is shaken up as newcomer Dave Conway tops the ticket and Baehr-critic Regina Faticanti finishes a strong second while five term incumbent Kevin McHugh is defeated.

Cancer claimed the life of Paul Sullivan, who began his media career at WLLH as the host of Morning Magazine and who became a force in local and state politics as a Lowell Sun columnist and a talk show host on WBZ radio.

The collapse of the real estate market continued, with home sales down and foreclosures up and the resulting credit crisis threatening to bring down the entire economy.

A Boston Red Sox team filled with former Lowell Spinners Jonathan Papelbon, John Lester, Clay Buchholz, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brandon Moss, wins the World Series.


2008 in Review

The Lowell School Committee hired Dr. Chris Scott to succeed Dr. Karla Brooks Baehr as Superintendent of Schools.

The future of the Tsongas Arena and LeLacheur Park is murky, due to questions about who will own the arena and manage the baseball park.

Changes in local media as Sunrise ends at WUML, George Anthes leaves the air on WCAP but goes on cable TV with City Life and City Manager Bernie Lynch and Republican activist Cliff Krieger launch their own blogs.

The most controversial issues for the City Council were procedural: changing from weekly to biweekly meetings; a residency ordinance proposal that died a quick and quiet death; an initial defeat of the City Manager’s proposed reorganization of the Office of Cultural Affairs; and “text-gate.”

Elliott’s Hot Dog stand closed as did Cafe Aiello, a popular new coffee shop.

One of the most dangerous intersections in Massachusetts – Plain, Chelmsford, Powell – was reconfigured and the University Avenue Bridge was closed for emergency repairs.

Register of Probate John Buonomo was caught on tape allegedly taking cash from copying machines at the Cambridge Registry of Deeds Office and State Senator James Marzilli is facing charges arising from several incidents in Lowell.

The national election took much of our attention with Hillary Clinton winning the Massachusetts Democratic primary back in February but Barack Obama defeating John McCain in November.

Gasoline topped $4 per gallon earlier in the year but was only $1.65 by Christmas.

Foreclosures continued up while home sales and house values declined.

The Patriots lost in the Super Bowl but the Dracut Middies won, and the Celtics won the NBA championship for the first time in 20 years.


2009 in Review

Incumbents lost in all three local elected boards this November. On the City Council, Alan Kazanjian and Armand Mercier lost (and Mike Lenzi who did not run) were replaced by Franky Descoteaux, Joe Mendonca and Patrick Murphy.  On the School Committee, Regina Faticanti was replaced by Alison Lariba.  And on the Vocational School Committee, Mike Hayden was replaced by Fred Bahou.

A ballot referendum to change the method by which Lowell voters choose their city councilors called Choice Voting was defeated by a total of 6,841 against to 5,174 in favor.

The shattered economy forced substantial cuts to the city’s FY09 budget. Among many layoffs was Assistant to the City Manager Andy Sheehan.

Also due to fiscal constraints the school committee eliminated more than 120 jobs and moved the central office of the school department from the leased Bon Marche building to the city-owned Rogers School.

The University of Massachusetts Lowell became the owner of Tsongas Arena and the Doubletree Hotel.

In economic development news, the new Target store on Plain Street opened in October, the official ground-breaking for the Hamilton Canal development occurred in November and by Christmas, the Lowe’s on Chelmsford Street is rapidly taking shape. In addition, the new Jeanne d’Arc Credit Union headquarters opened, and a number of new stores, shops and markets opened in downtown.  And Elliot’s Hot Dog stand re-opened.

Senator Ted Kennedy died in August after an extended illness. Marty Meehan, Joe Kennedy, and Steve Lynch were rumored to be candidates but chose not to run. Those who did run in the Democratic primary were Martha Coakley, Mike Capuano, Steve Pagliuca and Alan Khazai.

In April, the first Massachusetts cases of the H1N1 flu appeared in two boys here in Lowell.

Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams and a large production company spent several weeks on location filming The Fighter, the story of Lowell boxer Micky Ward.

In March, Lowell issued cranberry-colored barrels and changed the way the city’s trash was collected.

In May, the city of Lowell and the Lowell Spinners entered into a new 10-year lease for Lelacheur Field.

A town hall meeting on health care reform in Chelmsford hosted by Niki Tsongas featured many opponents of such reforms and previewed emotional confrontations around the country throughout the summer and fall.

Old media continued to suffer with the Boston Globe being threatened with closure if its unions didn’t make major salary and benefit concessions (which they did). The Lowell Sun forced all employees to take furloughs in February, laid off some employees in April, raised the newsstand price of the daily paper from 50 to 75 cents, and removed The Column from its website in a move preparatory to charging for content delivered on its website.

The influence of new media continued to grow with a number of local candidates making YouTube and other social networking sites major components of their campaigns.  A number of new blogs such as Mr Mill City, Lowell Shallot, Lowell Handmade and Art is the Handmaid of Human Good all appeared on the scene.  An entirely web-based news site, ChelmsfordMassNews.com, was launched.  Twitter users keep the city apprised on breaking news by using the #Lowell tag.  In August, more than 50 people brought together by blogs and Facebook gathered at Elliot’s Hot Dogs to celebrate the re-opening of that Lowell institution.