Ray Boutin chosen for Greater Lowell Tech School Committee

Four candidates came forward to compete to replace Mike Lenzi on the Greater Lowell Technical High School Committee. They were Ray Boutin, Cliff Krieger, Dave Laferriere and Fru Nkimbeng. Each candidate gave a five minute opening statement, answered a handful of questions from the joint committee of the city council and school committee, and then had one minute to close. After a brief recess, the roll call went like this:

Rodney Elliott – Krieger
Ed Kennedy – Boutin
John Leahy – Boutin
Marty Lorrey – Boutin
Bill Martin – Boutin
Joe Mendonca -Krieger
Rita Mercier – Krieger
Patrick Murphy – Nkimbeng
Vesna Nuon – Krieger

Dave Conway – Boutin
Robert Gignac – Boutin
Jim Leary – Krieger
Connie Martin – Boutin
Kristin Ross-Sitcawich – Krieger
Kim Scott – Krieger

The result: seven each for Boutin and Krieger and one for Nkimbeng. That same result occurred on the second ballot. On the third ballot, Mayor Murphy changed his vote from Nkimbeng to Boutin, electing Boutin with eight votes to seven for Krieger. Boutin immediately sworn in by Clerk Michael Geary.

The Honorable Benjamin F. Butler Born On This Day ~ November 5, 1818

On this Day November 5, 1818 – Benjamin F. Butler – a lawyer and politician who represented Massachusetts in the United States House of Representatives and later served as the 33rd Governor of Massachusetts and served as a major general in the Union Army during the Civil War – was born in Deerfield, NH. He is buried in his wife’s family cemetery, behind the main Hildreth Cemetery in Lowell, Massachusetts.

In the heat and throes of this 2012 presidential election countdown, it is important to note that Ben Butler – among his other political experience – ran for President in 1884 as the nominee of both the Greenback and Anti-Monopoly parties polling  over 175,000 votes. Also of note – as we continue in this country to struggle with rights and roles – in his early days in politics Butler first attracted general attention through his vigorous campaign in Lowell advocating the passage of a law establishing a ten-hour day for laborers. As Governor of Massachusetts , Ben Butler appointed the first Irish-American judge and the first African-American Judge – George Lewis Ruffin. He also appointed the first woman to executive office – Clara Barton – to head the Massachusetts Reformatory for Women. Butler authored, along with Sen. Charles Sumner, the Civil Rights Act of 1875, signed into law by President Grant. This law, a final act of Reconstruction,  gave African American U.S. citizens the right to public accommodation such as hotels, restaurants, lodging, and public entertainment establishments.

Butler’s memorial at the Hildreth family cemetery in Lowell, Massachusetts.

The inscription on the tomb of Benjamin F. Butler reads:  “the true touchstone of civil liberty is not that all men are equal but that every man has the right to be the equal of every other man – if he can.”


Ballot Questions

Besides all the elective offices, there are three ballot questions that will be decided in Massachusetts tomorrow. I’ve made up my mind about two but am still struggling with the third.

Question One -”Availability of Motor Vehicle Repair Information” – Full info on this question from the Secretary of State’s website is here. Here’s what that site says in brief about the question:


A YES VOTE would enact the proposed law requiring motor vehicle manufacturers to allow vehicle owners and independent repair facilities in Massachusetts to have access to the same vehicle diagnostic and repair information made available to the manufacturers’ Massachusetts dealers and authorized repair facilities.

A NO VOTE would make no change in existing laws.

I plan to vote YES. The anti argument that this will increase the cost of new cars and will make existing cars more vulnerable to theft gave me pause, but I think giving all repair facilities access to information needed to repair vehicles increases consumer choice.

Question Three – “Medical Use of Marijuana”

Full info on this question from the Secretary of State’s website is here. Here’s what that site says in brief about the question:


A YES VOTE would enact the proposed law eliminating state criminal and civil penalties related to the medical use of marijuana, allowing patients meeting certain conditions to obtain marijuana produced and distributed by new state-regulated centers or, in specific hardship cases, to grow marijuana for their own use.

A NO VOTE would make no change in existing laws.

I plan to vote NO on this. As much as I’d like to ease the pain and discomfort of those suffering from disease, I have come to believe that marijuana is a gateway drug to abuse of more potent drugs, especially prescription pain medication. Because I believe abuse of prescription meds has reached epidemic levels in our city, making it more difficult, not easier, to obtain entry-level drugs is an important step.

Question Two – “Prescribing Medication to End Life” is the one I’m still struggling with. Full info on this question from the Secretary of State’s website is here. Here’s what that site says in about the consequences of this question along with the arguments presented for and against:


A YES VOTE would enact the proposed law allowing a physician licensed in Massachusetts to prescribe medication, at the request of a terminally-ill patient meeting certain conditions, to end that person’s life.

A NO VOTE would make no change in existing laws.


As provided by law, the 150-word arguments are written by proponents and opponents of each question, and reflect their opinions. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts does not endorse these arguments, and does not certify the truth or accuracy of any statement made in these arguments. The names of the individuals and organizations who wrote each argument, and any written comments by others about each argument, are on file in the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth.

IN FAVOR: When my father was diagnosed with brain cancer, he had little time left. As his final days neared, he chose to use the Death with Dignity law in his home state of Oregon. The Massachusetts version, like those in other states, will allow mentally competent adults with no chance to survive their illness to take life-ending medication prescribed by a physician.

My dad knew he wanted to die in the comfort of his own home; competent and aware instead of detached and sedated; on his own terms instead of those of a fatal disease that had already taken too much.

My dad was already dying, but because of this law, he could say goodbye to those he loved, with dignity and grace in my mother’s arms.

I urge you to vote “Yes” because, while this choice isn’t for everyone, everyone has the right to this choice.

Authored by:
Heather Clish, Reading, MA
Dignity 2012
14 Mica Lane, Suite 210
Wellesley, MA 02481

AGAINST: Question 2 restricts patients’ choices and control by enabling suicide as a substitute for quality health care. Question 2 is poorly written, confusing and lacks even the most basic safeguards. Patients would not be required to see a psychiatrist before obtaining the lethal drug. Many patients with a treatable form of depression could get a life-ending prescription, rather than effective psychological care. Also, the proposal lacks any public safety oversight after the fatal drug is obtained.

Question 2 does not require a consultation for palliative care, a compassionate form of care that eliminates pain and maximizes quality of life for the terminally ill. And, eligibility is based on a six-month life expectancy. Doctors agree these estimates are often wrong. Individuals can outlive their prognosis by months or even years. Massachusetts should improve access to quality health care for terminally ill patients, not access to suicide. Vote no on Question 2.

Authored by:
The Committee Against Physician Assisted Suicide
One Beacon Street, Suite 1320
Boston, MA 02108

How life ends is a vitally important topic but I think we as a society have avoided a rational conversation on that topic. Any venture into that area in public discourse gets hijacked with politically motivated chants of “death panels” and “rationing.” Without having such a public discussion, I don’t think it’s appropriate to change the existing law yet so I’m leaning towards voting NO on this one. But I do sympathize with the arguments in favor which is why I have not yet finalized my opinion on this one.

Half-n-Half, Still

A while back I wrote about the perplexing “half-n-half” character of the American electorate. On Morning Joe today the hosts ran through the polls in battleground states and nationwide, showing a virtual tie between the President and his challenger. This, after two years of the Republicans making a case against the President on the campaign circuit and following about five months of the final choice in front of us: Pres Obama and Gov Romney. Each candidate was able to amass outrageous amounts of money. Each one in turn brought together on occasion tens of thousands of followers in rallies. The political contest brought to light wildly unacceptable conditions for voters in some states. It is unAmerican to be forced to wait five hours to vote by bureaucrats who are charged with making the election system function in a rational way. Free speech allowed at times for stunning accusations and despicable charges, which is totally American in form and content. Politics has never been clean. Ask Jefferson. Ask Adams. We can live with that. The citizen’s job is to sort through the muck and smoke to find a believable explanation of what is going on and where your candidate wants to take you. I remain baffled, however, by the way the numbers break down. It all seems so improbable in a nation of more than 300 million people. How can the subset of voters hear and see one thing in Alabama and a quite different thing in California? How does our extreme pluralism fall into 50-50 splits in state after state? It’s not like I know what somebody in Idaho is doing, and am taking the opposite side just to be contrary. This is how the jelly beans spill out on the floor, red to one side, blue to the other, pretty much in equal amounts.

I heard one analyst with Chris Matthews say last night that whichever side loses will “be aggrieved.” In a winner-take-all system as we have, the loser has to swallow hard. It’s not like one group gets the Presidency and the other group gets the Vice Presidency. The designers of our political system worried a lot about minority rights and the potential tyranny of the majority, but the election system gives complete domination to the person who earns 50.1 percent. Even more bizarre, someone tomorrow could win the popular vote and lose the electoral college vote. We’ve seen it before. Add that to the toxic cocktail that may be on the table Wednesday at 12:01 a.m. Think about what a cleansing effect a 70 percent result for one candidate would have. I had not seen a positive figure in that range for ages, until last week when President Obama’s approval rating for his handling of Hurricane Sandy was reported in the media. It think the number was about 68 percent in one poll. What a relief to see some agreement. The old quart bottle of Half-n-Half got smashed on the sidewalk.