Lowell Year in Review: 2014

On this final weekend of 2014, here are my top ten Lowell political events of the year (in no particular order).  They are followed by some other noteworthy public occurrences during this past year.  So here they are:

Top Ten Lowell Political Events of 2014

At its inaugural ceremony in January, the new city council unanimously selected Rodney Elliott to be the new Mayor of Lowell.  The new council consisted of reelected incumbents Elliott, Rita Mercier, Ed Kennedy, Bill Martin and John Leahy and newcomers Dan Rourke, Bill Samaras, Jim Milinazzo and Corey Belanger.  (Prior council incumbents Marty Lorrey, Joe Mendonca and Vesna Nuon had failed to win reelection and Patrick Murphy did not run).

At the first city council meeting of the new council term, City Manager Bernie Lynch announces that he will leave the city manager’s post when his contract expires in March.  For most, this was a bolt from the blue surprise.

Kevin Murphy, who had served as a state representative since 1997, was selected to replace Lynch as the new Lowell City Manager.

Rady Mom was elected to replace Murphy as the representative for the 18th Middlesex District.

Superintendent of Schools Jean Franco announced that she would not seek a new contract and would retire at the end of the 2014-2015 academic year making her the third consecutive superintendent to leave under similar circumstances (the other two being Karla Brooks Baehr and Chris Augusta Scott).

Branch Street fire in July

An early morning fire on July 10 at a multifamily apartment building on Branch Street left seven people dead and brought the community together in mourning for their loss.

An attempt by the board of Market Basket to oust Arthur T. Demoulas from the office of president of the company sparked a walkout by employees and a boycott by customers that lasted for weeks until the parties agreed to resolve the dispute by selling the entire company to Arthur T.

Violence continued to plague some of Lowell’s neighborhoods, especially in the first half of the year, despite more resources being devoted to the police department.

The Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association celebrated its 30th (not “25th” as originally posted) anniversary in Lowell.

A lightning bolt that struck and fatally damaged the brick smokestack at the Thorndike Factory Outlet (formerly the Hood Medicine Company) brought to the surface a simmering discontent with the city’s Historic Board and prompted a vigorous response from advocates of historic preservation.

Those are my top ten Lowell political events of 2014 but here are some other notable developments during the past year:

In January, workers at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium discovered a Civil War battle flag that was encased in a frame that memorialized Solon Perkins, a young soldier from Lowell killed in action during the Civil War.

In April, students from the UMass Lowell Honors Program organized and hosted the first TEDx Lowell event at UTEC.

In May, Governor Patrick came to Lowell to proclaim Asian American Heritage Month and Bill Nye the Science Guy was the commencement speaker at UMass Lowell.

In July, Cross Point sold for $100 million.

In August, two-way traffic returned to downtown Lowell.  (It has generally been well-received and was not as disruptive as some had predicted).

In September, UMass Lowell and Queen’s University Belfast co-sponsored an Irish-American History Conference at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center.  Also in September, University Crossing held its grand opening as did Café UTEC.  The American Textile History Museum and LTC premiered their Lowell: Place of Invention video that will be featured at the Smithsonian in the summer of 2015.

In October, Jeff Speck returned to speak at the Lowell Plan Breakfast about the progress of his “Evolution Plan” for Lowell.  Also in October, Governor Patrick delivered $15 million for the redoing of the Lord Overpass and Mill Power, a new Lowell history by Paul Marion, was launched with several readings in the city.

In November, the Kirk Street Clock alongside Lowell High School was rededicated thanks to the efforts of LHS Headmaster Brian Martin.

In December, the 2nd annual Lowell Social Media Conference was held at LTC and La Boniche, a fixture of the downtown dining orbit since 1988, served its last meal.

At various times, voices were raised in the City Council chambers about a Christmas crèche, panhandlers, snow removal, bicyclists and marathoners.

In the fall and early winter, several pedestrians were struck and killed by motor vehicles providing poignant examples of the need to pay more attention to pedestrian safety in the city.

When Erik Gitschier was hired to be the new Lowell Water Department Superintendent, Curtis LeMay was selected to replace him on the Greater Lowell Vocational High School school board.

Maura Healey at Lowell High School in February

Maura Healey at LHS in February

The state election saw Republican Charlie Baker defeat Democrat Martha Coakley for governor (although Coakley won Lowell) and also saw two exciting new Democrats win office – Maura Healey who was elected state Attorney General and Seth Moulten who defeated Democrat John Tierney and then Republican Richard Tisei for the Congressional district that includes Tewksbury and Billerica.

Notable political figures who passed in 2014 included Paul Sheehy, Bill Taupier and Arthur L. Eno, Jr.

2 Responses to Lowell Year in Review: 2014

  1. gpage80 says:

    A 2014 memory: Mike Geary’s pinch-hit home run at the St. Patrick’s Day breakfast back in March. In the Manager’s role, he held his own w/Baker, Coakley, and everybody else up on the stage. He had that go-to line about the ‘tony suburb of Lowell’ and then had some ad libbed material that topped it.

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