An overflow crowd of downtown residents, bar owners, community leaders and ordinary citizens descended on Lowell City Hall this evening for the special city council meeting on the alcohol-related problems plaguing downtown Lowell. The meeting opened with a presentation and recommendation from Police Superintendent Ken Lavallee. Next came a long period of public participation. Next, License Commission members Brian Akashian and Ray Weicker spoke about some of the challenges that they have faced on this issue. After that, each city councilor spoke. Throughout the night I posted updates on Twitter which I republish below in chronological order:
Overflow crowd at special city council meeting on downtown Lowell violence
Lowell Police Chief just finished presentation. Citizen participation just began at 7 pm
LPD recommends no admittance after 1am, entertainment stop at 1am, only 1 drink served at time, video cameras of entrances.
Citizens still speaking
LPD Sgt Tom Fleming, head of superior ofc union, says Sat at Fortunatos one of most dangerous situations he’s seen in 31 years
Sgt Fleming says most important step is to stop serving, admittance, music, everything well before closing time
Lowell License Commission seems to be blaming Police Dept for not bringing enough complaints to the Commission in 2011
CC Rita Mercier says thugs “tweeting” their chaos is part of the problem. Twitter has officially arrived in Lowell
Procedural questions. CC Broderick suggests sending package to public safety subcmte to return with recommendation for entire CC
CC Elliott calls for a vote tonight to ratify Supt’s recommendations and draft regulations with CM Lynch returning specific items to CC
CC Kennedy says with so many people there for so long we should take the vote tonight
CCs Martin and Mendonca caution everyone that 88 bars in Lowell & only a few problems. All will be effected by changes. CC Nuon agrees
Mayor Murphy suggests “general endorsement” of recommendations but wait to enact specific regs considering all said tonite
Now CCs moving more cautiously on adopting things. It’s complicated
Motion to move the question passes unanimously
CC Elliott moves endorse PD recommendations & that CM return with detailed regs – passes unanimously
CC adjourns at 10 pm
In the end, the council voted unanimously to endorse the recommendations put forth by Supt Lavallee and to have City Manager Lynch return with detailed amendments and additions to existing ordinances and regulations to enact those recommendations. It was clear that the council wanted to act rapidly in response to this situation, but it was equally evident that broad citywide regulations will have an adverse impact on establishments that haven’t been part of the problem. While that might be the case in the end, many councilors were concerned about rushing into specific things tonight that would have many unintended consequences.
While tonight was an interesting and important meeting, there was some evidence that not everyone in city government is on the same page in how to react to this, so I suspect that any feelings that much was accomplished tonight will be short-lived. Hopefully everyone who was there tonight will continue to pay attention until specific steps are taken and the problem begins to ease.