Lowell Year in Review: 2022
Here are ten events, local and national, that were significant in Lowell politics in 2022:
The first City Council and School Committee elected under the newly adopted hybrid system of local government took office in January. Three councilors were elected city-wide, and eight were elected from neighborhood districts (one per district). On the School Committee, two members were elected city-wide, and four were elected from neighborhood districts (one per district with two council districts combined to create one School Committee district). This new system was the result of a settlement of a lawsuit brought against the city by minority residents on the grounds that the city’s all at large method of electing councilors and School Committee members diluted the vote of minority communities in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act.
On inauguration day, the City Council elected Sokhary Chau to be mayor. He was the first mayor of Cambodian descent in the city’s history.
Early in its term, the City Council rejected City Manager Eileen Donoghue’s request for a one year extension of her contract so her tenure as City Manager came to end.
The City Council elected State Representative Tom Golden to succeed Eileen Donoghue as City Manager.
Former Mayor and City Councilor Rodney Elliott was elected to succeed Golden in the 16th Middlesex Representative District. Elliott defeated Zoe Dzineku in the Democratic Primary and Republican Karla Miller in the General Election.
In November, the voters of Massachusetts elected Attorney General Maura Healy to be the next Governor of the Commonwealth. Healy is the first woman and the first lesbian to be elected to that office. (Lieutenant Governor Jane Swift became Governor when Paul Cellucci resigned to become US Ambassador to Canada, but she was not elected to the office).
Also in November, voters elected women to four of the five other Constitutional offices in the Commonwealth. The winners were Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll; Attorney General Andrea Campbell; State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg; and State Auditor Diana DiZoglio. Secretary of State William Galvin was also reelected. He will be the sole male Constitutional officer this term.
Nationwide, Democratic candidates confounded pundits and history by outperforming expectations in the midterm Congressional elections with the Democrats winning or already holding 51 seats in the US Senate and, although the Democrats lost their slim majority in the House, the number of seats lost by Democrats was far fewer than expected.
Residents of Lowell, like people in the rest of the country, were hit hard economically in 2022 by high inflation, especially for gasoline and housing. The Federal Reserve’s effort to curtail inflation by raising interest rates will also harm residents in the short run by making home mortgages, car loans, and credit card purchases more expensive.
The city of Lowell benefited fiscally from large infusions of pandemic-related aid payments, however, by the end of the calendar year the council had to deal with runaway overtime spending by the Fire Department and a substantial deficit in the Parking Enterprise Fund. Despite extensive council discussions of both issues, no clear solution to either was identified which ensures that they will persists as fiscal challenges in 2023 and beyond.
Each year since launching richardhowe.com in 2007, I’ve written a year in review column (except for 2010 which was omitted for some reason). Last December, I reposted these year-end summaries on the website with two or three years combined in each blog post. Below are links to the installments of this series: