More Kerouac at UMass Lowell ~ February 19, 2013

Tuesday, February 19, 2013 7:00-9:00 PM
book coverJack Kerouac Reading & Discussion Series
The second of a five-part Jack Kerouac reading and discussion series led by Dr. Todd Tietchen of the UMass Lowell English Department.

The discussion is on “The Town and the City” parts 3 – 5.

location: UMass Lowell, South Campus, O’Leary Library Mezzanine, Lowell

phone: (978) 934-4581 web: email: cost: free
funded by Mass Humanities grant program

Tom Menino reborn-or so is seems by Marjorie Arons-Barron

The entry below is being cross posted from Marjorie Arons Barron own blog.

Mea culpa.  On December 4, this very blog expressed the sense that Boston Mayor Tom Menino should hang it up. Quit while he was ahead. Yield to diminished physical capacity and rest on his laurels.  Accept congratulations for all he has done for Boston and ride off, if not in the sunset, at least to enjoying his wife, kids and grandkids.  Last night’s performance by the mayor in his state of the city address turned that premature advice on its head.

MeninoThe formerly-ailing mayor strode into Faneuil Hall to a rousing welcome, using a cane but strong in his presentation, positive about his accomplishments and optimistic about the future.  It was all cemented with his humility and gratitude for the outpouring of good wishes from the people of Boston over the past several months.  “I’m just Tommy Menino from Hyde Park.” Not, as he put it, a person of fancy words. Thankful. Appreciative.  “You pulled me through.”

He then proceeded to highlight the manifold accomplishments of the city over several years: what’s happening in the neighborhoods, new housing, recreational facilities, school improvements, “a crane over Dudley,”  the Orchard Gardens success story, reduction in violent crime, 40,000 new library card holders.  On and on, with examples adding up to the assertion that the “state of our city is striking, sound and strong.”  And, despite what’s happening globally and in Washington, he reminded his audience that success is all about the efforts of the people of Boston.

The city’s longest serving mayor then carved out a vision for the future that appeared to leave no doubt that Tom Menino will run for reelection.  Half the residents of the city are women, he noted, and then announced a program to make Boston “the premier city for strong women.” He’ll create a women’s workforce council, work for pay equity for women, provide $1 million for day care centers, create a forum for better networking, and more.  He’ll also work with Harvard and MIT to bring free online courses to community centers to connect adults in the neighborhoods with the knowledge economy.  And he’ll continue his crusade against gun violence.  He also pledged even more development and more housing.

Menino remains a leader with a vision for the future and the power and dedication to realize it.  Coming full circle, he said he’d “never been more optimistic about our future,” and told the audience, “Just pull for each other as much as you pulled for me.”  The audience of several hundred lapped it up.  Indeed, it was hard not to be swept up in the celebration of his rehabilitation and reemergence.  And it was hard not to believe that he will go for another, sixth term as hizzoner, the mayah of Boston. The only remaining question is: if he is reelected, will his health be good enough to permit him to serve for four more years with the vigor he demonstrated Tuesday evening.

I welcome your comments in the section below.

Mill City Grows seed swap & pot luck supper

Growing up in Lowell, I always heard stories of my great grandfather using ashes from the coal furnace in the family home on Shaw Street to fertilize the backyard where he grew hundreds of pounds of potatoes each year. It is those stories, in part, that propel me outside each spring to dig and plant and water even though the end result never quite lives up to expectations. As I did more research about the history of Lowell, interviewing members of the different ethnic groups that make up the city, it soon became clear that a similar connection to agriculture is a thread that ties together everyone in Lowell. When immigrants first came to Lowell, be their starting point Laconia, Quebec, County Clare, Battabang, Liberia or any other of a hundred places around the globe, they all plunged into the city’s industrial economy for subsistence, but anytime a plot of ground, no matter how small, became available to them, they started growing things. No one called it gardening back then – gardening was for the wealthy. This was farming on a small scale. Certainly this agriculture helped supplement that family diet, but it also provided a cultural link to the lives they had left behind. As Lowell continues to evolve and change, one thing that can easily unite all residents, from those here for generations to those who arrived only recently, is urban agriculture. That’s why I’ve become so interested in Mill City Grows.

Mill City Grows was founded just last year by Francey Slater and Lydia Sisson. The organization’s mission is “To increase community access to healthy, fresh food through the development of urban food production and distribution networks.” They have done many things to promote urban agriculture in Lowell and they have great plans for 2013. In fact, the 2013 season kicked-off last night with a Seed Swap & Pot Luck Dinner event at the YWCA Acre Youth Center on Rock Street. I joined about 35 others in attendance to buy some seeds already on-hand, to order others from the many catalogs available, to share some food, and to talk about growing things in a city with people who were passionate about the topic.

A great way to learn about Mill City Grows (besides visiting their website) is to watch their 2012 Annual Appeal video below. Check it out and get involved. Spring will be here before we know it.

“Threads” coming soon

I just noticed this promo for Threads, a new local news and current affairs program that is in production at LTC (Lowell Telecommunications). Hopefully it will be available on cable and online soon. I believe there’s an insatiable appetite for local news and discussion. Why else would so many people read blogs like this and others? Please watch the video now, and we’ll report back when the first episode of Threads is ready for launch.

Senate special election picking up steam

Now that John Kerry has been confirmed as Secretary of State by the Senate, the pace of activity in the special election campaign to fill that Senate seat will quickly become frenetic. The photos above and below are of our gathering last evening at the Pollard Memorial Library’s Community Room to talk about Congressman Ed Markey’s background and legislative record (I’m supporting Markey in this race). With the news yesterday that Congressman Steve Lynch of South Boston has reserved a union hall for tomorrow at 4 pm, presumably to announce his candidacy, there will be a contested primary on the Democratic side. That primary, as we have reported, will be on Tuesday, April 30 which is just 90 days away!

Lynch is a conservative Democrat, pro-life and a vote against the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) so for our more conservative neighbors here in Greater Lowell he will be an attractive candidate, much like Scott Brown. How the local Democrats who supported Brown last fall allocate their support between Lynch and Brown (assuming he runs; I believe he will) will be interesting to watch.

In my experience, one of the most valuable commodities in a campaign is time and for this election, there’s not going to be a lot of that so there’s no time to lose. The first major task of all of the campaigns will be gathering nomination signatures: you need 10,000 of them to get on the ballot. If you’d like to help out with the local Markey campaign, please send me an email (DickHoweJr[at] and please go to the Lowell for Ed Markey page on Facebook and “Like” us.

Joe Kennedy takes measured approach to government by Marjorie Arons-Barron

The entry below is being cross posted from Marjorie Arons-Barron’s own blog. You’ll find it here.

The scion of a multi-generational political dynasty, Massachusetts’ new fourth district congressman is youthful, charming, and unpretentious. He reflects an honest humility appropriate to someone who has been in Congress for just three weeks.  Speaking to this morning’s meeting of The New England Joe K to NEC   Council, Joe Kennedy also avoided liberal generalizations, emphasized the importance of public/private partnerships and showed a tendency to be data-driven in his evaluation of programs and ideas.

He knows that choices soon to be made about budget, size of government, cutting programs will define us. But he does not enter the debate as a ramrod ideologue, eschewing opportunities for relationship-building across the partisan divide.  Even while meeting new members of Congress with whom he disagrees on many if not most of the major issues, he has been encouraged to meet many interested in finding common ground, in issues from international human rights to curbing sexual assaults in the military.  Kennedy says a personal core value is creating economic opportunity for everyone, but it won’t be achieved unless business and government work together.

Kennedy helped activate this concept as a new college graduate, serving in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic. He helped create a business plan for rural locals earning a pittance from a non-productive relationship with a large tour company. The new plan, with seed money from US AID, led to local ownership, increased income, and proceeds available for a school bus, water pipes, a police station and footbridge over a river prone to flooding.

Such partnerships are important to Massachusetts’ high-knowledge economy,  40 percent of which revolves around health care, biotech, information technology, defense and advanced manufacturing. Massachusetts has attracted more investment capital in biotech, for example, than any other area of the country. Kennedy cited the yield in revenue and jobs but warned of the impact of Washington-based uncertainties on the flow of capital into these areas.  He called for a balanced, bipartisan plan to remove those uncertainties, and eventully promote investments that will yield economic growth.

Government can help with roads and bridges (e.g., South Coast rail), shoring up research (e.g., NIH, NSF) and education,   making the research and development tax credit permanent, strengthening state schools and community colleges, thus creating pathways to entry level jobs paying $50,000, filling the need for qualified mid level skilled workers.

The answer to the unprecedented problems facing the country, he says, does not lie in one-size-fits-all solutions or slogans like simply “more government” or “less government.”  He looks to data to see what works, what are the measurable outcomes, and what doesn’t work well enough to merit the investment.  He called for shifting from evaluating government by what we are spending to measuring the outputs in which that spending results.  Accountability practices matter.

Granted, the Congressman was speaking to a business group.  But his presentation portends a thoughtful, measured approach to government that can achieve good things by doing them well, possibly even raising the public’s opinion of Congress to something beyond the level of cockroaches, colonoscopies and head lice, which,  as he pointed out, is where it is today.

I welcome your comments in the section below.

Special election date set

With John Kerry expected to be confirmed as Secretary of State today and immediately resign his seat in the U.S. Senate, Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth Bill Galvin has recommended to the Governor that the following dates be set for the Special Election to fill the Senate vacancy:

Primary Election – Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Election – Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The first step for any candidate will be to collect 10,000 nomination signatures with the nomination papers becoming available by the end of this week. Throughout February as you go about your daily tasks, you will probably encounter volunteers with clipboards asking you to sign nomination papers. As someone who has collected thousands of signatures myself, please be generous about signing.

Congressman Ed Markey has already declared his intent to run and his fellow Democratic Congressman, Steve Lynch, is expected to announce his decision to run or not this Thursday. Should Lynch get into the race, there will be an intense primary campaign since that election is only 90 days away. On the other side, Scott Brown is the person most anticipated to run as a Republican, but the Brown camp has not telegraphed his intentions. Because of the small time window for gathering signatures, Brown or some other Republican will have to kick off a campaign very quickly.

I’ve already made it clear that I am supporting Ed Markey. If you feel similarly, or if you are just curious to learn more about Markey, his background and his record, please come to an informational session tonight at 7 pm at the Pollard Memorial Library at 401 Merrimack Street in Lowell. We’ll also review some of the key dates and activities in the coming election. Finally, if you like Markey and are on Facebook, please go to our Lowell for Ed Markey page and “Like” it.

‘The Beauty of a Nail’ by Matt Miller

This poem is from Matt Miller’s new prize-winning collection of poems called “Club Icarus,” published by the University of North Texas Press. Matt is a Lowell High School graduate who earned degrees at Yale University, where he also played varsity football, and Emerson College. He teaches English and coaches football at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. Matt will be at the 2nd Annual Lowell Writers and Publishers Winter Roundup at the Old Court Irish pub on Saturday, Feb. 23, 12.30 to 4 p.m., with copies of his book to sign and sell. This is his second book, following “Cameo Diner.” The critics are already saying that “Club Icarus” is stunning, tenacious, gritty, beautiful, down-to-earth, luminous, and visceral. If you cannot wait, you can order the book from here.– PM


The Beauty of a Nail


hangs on it being

unseen as when

it suspends a

painting or some

caught on camera

moment on a plain wall

or the way within

the wall it holds up

the house, the pipes,

the unrolled

insulation or even

when somewhat seen

as when it holds a man

up to martyrdom—

always it is the tool,

not the meaning.


—Matt Miller (c) 2013


Notre Dame to Represent Massachusetts in Nationals – “We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution” Contest

 Academy of Notre Dame in Tyngsboro, Massachusetts

As an alum of the Academy of Notre Dame in Tyngsboro, Class of 1960, I was pleased and very proud to get this e-mail from the President today. Congratulations to the students who participated and will take the banner for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to the national We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution competition.

January 28, 2013

Dear Alumnae,

I’m writing to share some great news!

On Saturday our high school girls traveled to Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government to compete in the state finals for the We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution Annual Contest.

Public and private schools from across the state competed in the contest with over eighteen judges grading students’ oral responses to a variety of questions. The contest measured depth of knowledge, poise under pressure,the ability to articulate ideas, and breadth of understanding. It is a very challenging contest for any student.

Our student team came away with first place and will be representing Massachusetts in the national finals to be held in the spring in Washington, D.C.

The Academy extends it hearty congratulations to all of the girls who worked so hard in preparation for the contest and to Mrs. Kristine Forsgard, the team moderator and Academy faculty member.  We are so proud of our students’ achievement and are looking forward to the finals! Please congratulate our team members when you see them.

Thank you for all of your support of the Academy and its students.

Best regards,

Joseph R. McCleary, Ph.D. President

An Update: Patrick Keely Designed Church Reopens

As a follow-up to my earlier post on a Patrick Keely-designed church that was saved – unlike Lowell’s St. Peter’s Church - here’s a link to a New York Times article about the re-opend St. Brigid’s Church in New York’s Lower East Side ~

History lived in that sacred space. Immigrant families found faith, foundation and solace within Keely’s inspired design.  As writer Frances Robles notes in her opening:

For more than 160 years, St. Brigid’s Roman Catholic Church has borne witness as transformation after transformation has cascaded through the Lower East Side.

A look at the restored interior of St. Brigid’s as Cardinal Dolan consecrates the altar:

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan consecrated and dedicated St. Brigid’s Roman Catholic Church, on Avenue B and Eighth Street, on Sunday. (Photo: Ruth Fremson/The New York Times