Elizabeth Warren in Lowell

Senator-elect Warren in Lowell. Photo by John Boutselis

Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren visited Hookslide Kelly’s in Lowell last night to thank the supporters who helped propel her to an eight point victory statewide (54% to 46%) and an even bigger win in Lowell (59% to 41%). Lynne at Left in Lowell recorded Warren’s remarks and has the video available here. Besides expressing her gratitude to everyone, Warren spoke substantively on the need for filibuster reform, observing that since the Democrats took control of the Senate in 2006, Republicans have used the filibuster more than 320 times to delay votes while during the entire Eisenhower administration, the filibuster was used only once. (The proposed reform would not eliminate the filibuster; it would only require Senators seeking to use it to actually speak continuously on the floor of the Senate which is how most of us thought the filibuster was supposed to work in the first place). The window to change the filibuster rule is a small one: only on the first vote of a new Senate term can the rules be changed by majority vote. (Warren’s position on this issue and on several others are laid out in a story in today’s Globe).

When Warren finished speaking from the podium, she set up at the side of the stage and allowed a reception line to form. Everyone who wanted to was able to shake her hand, pose for a picture, and offer her words of encouragement or advice. She was in no hurry to leave.

Before Elizabeth Warren took to the podium, she mentioned to a view well-wishers that Lowell will always be a special place for her. It was here that she received her first official endorsement in this race (from Congresswoman Niki Tsongas) and it was here that one of the most memorable (for her) events of the campaign took place – the big, boisterous pre-election rally at Arthur Ramalho’s West End Gym. With those connections, and with the deep Lowell roots of her State Director, Roger Lau, our new Senator will be no stranger to this city.

Help “Catie’s Closet”

Catie Bisson was a 2008 graduate of Lowell High School who succumbed to a chronic heart ailment in 2010 while a sophomore at Bridgewater State College. I got to know Catie a bit while she was at Lowell High: She and my son Andrew were both in the band and I spent a lot of time chaperoning band events. Whatever her medical condition, Catie didn’t let it keep her from fully participating.

Like so many others who pass through the Lowell Public Schools, Catie became acutely aware of the poverty and difficult living conditions that were the daily reality faced by so many of her classmates. She shared her observations and her determination to do something to help with her family who, after Catie’s passing, established “Catie’s Closet”, a charitable organization with the mission of providing students with fundamental necessities (i.e., clothing and related items) so they’re better prepared to focus on education. In the beginning, Catie’s Closet was an actual closet at Lowell High but it has now spread to six schools in Lowell and three in Hudson, New Hampshire. Catie’s Closet has an informative website but to save time, just send your check in any amount to Catie’s Closet, 149 Pleasant Street, Dracut, MA 01826.

Ann-Marie Bisson, Catie’s mom and the driving force behind Catie’s Closet (and the assistant vice president for financial education at Lowell’s Jeanne d’Arc Credit Union) recently sent the following update on Catie’s Closet:

Dear Friends & Supporters of Catie’s Closet,

During this holiday season, we would like to express our most sincere appreciation for your generous support of Catie’s Closet throughout the year. We have experienced tremendous growth this year and now have 9 closets in Lowell and Hudson, NH. Over 500 students and their families have been the recipients of clothing, shoes, toiletries and bus passes.

In November, our new website, expertly crafted by Sublimagery, was launched!
If you haven’t checked it out, pop over to www.catiescloset.org

Our current needs are $25 gift cards to either Market Basket or Target. We have 110 extremely needy students at Lowell High School who would greatly apprecaite a nice holiday dinner and maybe a few gifts. All donations made by December 14th will be used to help fund this initiative.
We are also in great need of winter coats, hats, gloves/mittens and hoodies.

Save the date! Our 2nd Annual Gala Event will be held on March 23, 2013 at the Andover Country Club.
Sponsorship opportunities are available! Check out our website in January for specific information.

In closing, I’d like to share these comments with you from our school social workers:

“The boy who got the sweat pants was so happy. You would have thought he got a million dollars!”

“I just wanted to write you a quick email to say thank you from all of us for establishing Catie’s Closet at the Laura Lee. The first student that utilized the closet was so excited and grateful for the stuff he was given. He was most excited about the sneakers, body wash and deodorant.”
He said, “I love how that smells!”

“A student was brought to me because he really needed shoes. I brought him to the closet, but explained it was new and we didn’t have shoes yet. There was one pair of sneakers in the closet and they were a perfect fit. Ah, Karma!”

Wishing you all a joyous holiday!
Anne-Marie Bisson & the “elves” at Catie’s Closet

“The Social Cliff” by John Edward

PLEASE READ this very important column on the consequences of income inequality. It’s by 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.

The fiscal cliff is approaching fast. Everyone knows it is coming but still no compromise. If we go over the cliff, it will compromise the short-term health of our economy.

Meanwhile, our country is heading toward a more dangerous cliff. Not everyone is aware how excessive inequality has become. Income inequality in the United States is now at levels last seen just before the Great Depression.

Extreme inequality could send us over a social cliff. The long-term health of our economy is in jeopardy.

Researchers are making a compelling case that excessive inequality weakens economic growth. Last year the International Monetary Fund (IMF) issued a report titled Inequality and Unsustainable Growth: Two Sides of the Same Coin. The report concludes that inequality is “a significant hazard to growth sustainability.”

Inequality is not just a problem facing the poor, and the shrinking middle class. The economic growth that enriched the top 1 percent over the past three decades is in peril.

Nobel Prize in Economics recipient Joseph Stiglitz reports on the growing consensus in The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future. He asserts “The bottom line, though, that higher inequality is associated with lower growth – controlling for all other relevant factors – has been verified by looking at a range of countries and looking over longer periods of time.”

Opponents of raising taxes on the wealthy try to stake the claim that slightly higher tax rates will discourage investment. There is a striking lack of evidence to support that position. The evidence is that excessive inequality is the real disincentive to investment and work. Continue reading