September 25th, 2011
John Edward, a resident of Chelmsford who earned his master’s degree at UMass Lowell and who teaches economics at Bentley University and UMass Lowell, contributes the following column.
One reason I started writing columns was to respond to things I read in the newspapers. Informed people will come to different conclusions regarding public policy issues. However, we too frequently encounter misinformation in letters to the editor.
This column is dedicated to correcting misinformation. I surveyed letters published in the Lowell Sun during August 2011. Some people really do say the darndest things.
On August 16th a writer from Chelmsford joined many others in complaining about the federal deficit. He had a solution: “Duplication of jobs in Washington that could be eliminated . . . would probably make up half the deficit.”
The budget deficit in Washington is $1.6 trillion. Half of that would be $800 billion. What if there was so much duplication that we could get rid of half of federal jobs?
According to the United States Census Bureau, total Federal Government Civilian Employment was 2.8 million in 2009. If we fired 1.4 million public servants and assumed that would cut the payroll in half, we could eliminate $90 billion in spending per year. Even if we eliminated all federal jobs, including the 1.6 million serving in the uniformed military, we still do not get anywhere close to cutting the deficit in half. read more »
September 25th, 2011
The final tour of Lowell Cemetery for this fall occurred yesterday morning. Despite the abysmal forecast for this weekend, the 42 folks who joined us on Friday afternoon and the 30 present yesterday morning traversed the cemetery without a drop of rain interfering. For the three years that I’ve been conducting these tours, they have always commenced at the Knapp Avenue gate near Shedd Park. Because of the size of the cemetery, however, starting up front cuts out many interesting graves near that back of the cemetery. For that reason, and to give those who have already been on tours a reason to come back, in the spring of 2012, the tours will begin from the Lawrence Street gate (which is where Catherine Goodwin commenced most of her tours during the twenty years she conducted them). In the fall, we’ll return to the Knapp Avenue gate in what should become a regular rotation of starting points.
Besides the regular tours, I hope to add more segments of my YouTube-based “virtual tour” of the cemetery which already includes pieces on Augustin Thompson (the inventor of Moxie) and Horace Ebert (whose grave stone is a perfect replica of his living room easy chair). Finally, at the beginning of each tour, I invite participants to share their own knowledge with comments and questions. There’s not been a tour that I’ve done where someone hasn’t volunteered some fascinating bit of information that I then incorporate into future tours. I extend the same offer to all readers: If you know of some unique grave marker or interesting story about someone interred in Lowell Cemetery (or in any of the other cemeteries in the city – maybe we’ll give tours of the others someday), please share them either by leaving a comment or by emailing me at DickHoweJr[at]gmail.com.
September 25th, 2011
The Globe’s top political reporter, Glenn Johnson, who in another life covered Lowell City Hall for a local newspaper, wades into the Dracut Housing Authority controversy in this Sunday’s Globe. Johnson begins his article by citing the many benefits that Governor Patrick has garnered by assigning Lt Governor Tim Murray responsibility for overseeing relations between the administration and the Commonwealth’s 351 cities and towns. Despite all the good things that have emerged from that arrangement, Johnson cites the Dracut issue as a rare “hiccup.” While Governor Patrick disclaimed any knowledge of the matter, Lt Gov Murray (according to Johnson) “revealed an intimate understanding, speaking in granular detail about the appointment.” Many of the key Dracut players are mentioned.
I’ve avoided any comment on the Dracut Housing Authority issue and will continue to do so. Having spent a lifetime with a ringside seat to Lowell political dustups of this type, I know that such disputes always have deep roots and that the true causes and consequences are impossibly elusive to one who doesn’t know who stuck it to whom two decades ago because one thing we know for sure, people in politics have long memories. Still, I was fascinated to see this local issue pop-up in Glenn Johnson’s “must-read for all statewide political junkies” column in the Sunday Globe. I’m sure how he latched onto it is a fascinating story in itself.
September 25th, 2011
Photo courtesy of Maggie Holtzberg from blog.massfolkarts.org. See also Keepers of Tradition on the blogroll to the right.
Nine, count ‘em, nine color photos of details from Lowell’s multi-ethnic market scene grace page one of the Globe North section of today’s Boston Sunday Globe. The article by Taryn Plumb recounts a recent bus tour of ethnic markets organized by folklorist Maggie Holtzberg of Lowell National Historical Park. The well-attended bus tour and resulting publicity illustrate just how big a draw the city’s multi-cultural cuisine is. An authentic resource, these businesses are a key to deriving as much value as possible from the creative economy slice of the region’s economic pie. We can’t buy this kind of positive publicity with the money in the City’s marketing budget. Presented to the public in innovative ways, aspects of Lowell sell themselves to the media—which is a big plus.
At Cote’s Market the other day, I picked up a pint of beans, stuffed peppers, Chinese Pie, and a square of salmon puffed pastry that was warm from the oven. Owner Roger Levasseur said the tour and related buzz led to an immediate boost in activity at the long-standing Salem Street store that offers Franco-American specialities and a wide array of ready-to-heat comfort foods. “A couple of days later my big refrigerated case of prepared foods was practically wiped out by mid-afternoon,” he said. “All kinds of people had heard about us. It was great.”
Kudos to the small-business owners who keep these traditions alive, and kudos to Maggie Holtzberg and David Blackburn of the Park Service for their creative approach to designing public programs. Here’s an example of the challenge Lowell seeks to achieve in its presentation of cultural experiences. How can the experience had by the 35 people on the bus be offered to larger numbers of people without disrupting the operations of small distinctive businesses that are clearly an attraction? Residents can easily enough buy in the stores once they know about them. For visitors, do we point to these special places and encourage people to discover them on their own or should there be regular tours enhanced by the knowledge of folklorists and Park Rangers? How do you “organize” the experience and keep it genuine—steering clear of a packaged ”theme park” feeling? This is what’s different about managing a National Park in the middle of a living city. The Park Service on this tour showed how it is done.