Ambulance contacts continue to be a thorny issue in the Merrimack Valley. Some area communities like Andover and my own in Tewksbury have 911 emergency ambulance services covered by the local fire department. Others like Chelmsford and Lowell use a private contractor. In recent years, the Lowell City Manager has negotiated a fee to be paid to the city. Not so in Lawrence where until a few days ago the city used a private, well-known area contractor. New Mayor Rivera has hired Lawrence General Hospital to provide ambulance services wanting to ”strengthen the hospital’s standing in the region” as it ramps up plans for a $72 million expansion and to end what he describes as the “impropriety’’ that hung over the service under the administration of former Mayor William Lantigua. One charge had ambulances being sent out of the country in a tit-for-tat Lantigua arrangement.
Rivera’s transition team recommended that the city would get quicker, better service and a financial benefit from allowing the city’s fire department to do the work. But Rivera has chosen a different path with Lawrence General. The new provider LGH will also not pay a fee to the city. Swirling through this action are recorded political contributions to both Lantigua and Rivera, political connections as a former state rep is hired as the ambulance provider’s lobbyist and the Mayor’s pledge that doing business with the city of Lawrence will be different than in the past.
Patriot Ambulance based in Chelmsford used to provide the ambulance service and owners have recently engaged the lobbying services of former State Rep David Torrisi. Of note ~ Rivera’s highly respected Chief of Staff is Lisa Torrisi – the new lobbyist’s sister.
Stay tuned - with “no comment” yet from Lawrence General, Patriot or Torrisi, there may be more to come.
Eagle-Tribune writer Keith Eddings lays out the story … read it here: http://www.eagletribune.com/local/x1387853195/Mayor-drops-Patriot-Ambulance-hires-Lawrence-General
Every morning as I prepare my Facebook weather comments, I open my front door, look around and get a feel for the conditions in my immediate neighborhood. This morning I had a clear view of the white wood clapboarded Baptist Church on the corner at Andover Street at the top of the hill in our North Tewksbury neighborhood. What I have known for forty-three years of living here as the Winthrop and Elsie Fitzgerald home has been completely razed. The home of weathered dark brown wood with an attached garage or small barn sat closely adjacent to the church – looking almost a part of the property.
For weeks now the inside has been gutted, picked clean of what was once the Jonas Clark home and historic property - built in 1820. The Tewksbury historic properties list of the Massachusetts Cultural Resources Inventory notes it was built in the Federal style and its usage as a “General Retail Store; Post Office; Single Family Dwelling House” and its location as “North Parish – North Tewksbury.” The church acquired the property a few years ago and while some rooms were used briefly for church business and perhaps for residential living, the home continued to deteriorate. While not quite an eyesore, it certainly became a shaky property. The current pastor and church board felt that the time had come for the home to come down.
The neighborhood continues to be a wonderful place to live even as many changes have come to these environs. Many more homes – many more recently in the mini-mansion style -have been built especially closer to River Road. Traffic levels are high as the street is a serious crossroad between River Road and Andover Street or what many know as Route 133. The commercialization of North Tewksbury has come gradually especially between North Street and the on-ramps to Route 495 – the Mobil station, Cracker Barrel, other eateries, hotels, and the office complexes. Plans and concept proposals are on the table for more changes. This past summer the gaming/SLOTS push for the beautiful Ames Pond Road area became a point where residents put their collective foot down and pushed back.
But whatever more comes to the area – the iconic church, the old red schoolhouse, the newer school, the gracious historic homes, the newer residences continue to be the focus of the neighborhood – all backed by the closeness to the Merrimack River, the connective way of River Road, the staid seminary and the bucolic feel of St. Mary’s Cemetery and even the rolling waves and ridges of the golf course. I’m keeping my eye out every morning checking for the weather conditions but ever mindful of what other conditions need checking as well. More coming on my North Tewksbury neighborhood!
An update ~ here is my view from a few houses down of the 20 Fiske Street ”Clark-Fitzgerald” home site at just before noon today. Debris removal and tree work is underway.
The air in the Merrimack Valley is electric with political static these days. Of note is the open window of opportunity for candidates looking for a spot on the September Democratic primary ballot. Since February 8th and through March 2nd, across the Valley and across the Commonwealth delegates seats for the June 13-14 Democratic Party convention are up for election. These delegates – as well as some ex-officos and some add-ons – will validate and endorse candidates for our Constitutional offices. Vigorous courting, soft reminders of past commitments, connecting to issues, mutual colleagues, family, friends even alums are part of the strategies of this political process. The Merrimack Valley continues to be a “hot spot” for the primary push. The caucuses that I attended in Tewksbury and the ward caucuses in Lowell and Lawrence were well-attended and boasted of old faces and new. They were the focus of most state-wide candidates as evidenced by the line-up waiting to speak at the Lowell High cafeteria last week, and the density of campaign workers knotted at the doors of the Tewksbury Library Community Room and the Lawrence Firefighter’s Hall “Relief-In” yesterday. Caucuses are a great opportunity to collect signatures – also a very critical part of the process! Delegate counts are being taken; campaigns are calculating percentages; pundits are prognosticating; columnists are critical, curious and whiney. Notwithstanding, the whacks of Glober Joan Venocchi and the quizzical frowns of other observers, the process – occasionally tweaked – works for Democrats and for this democratic political process. Any Democrat in good-standing can play!
The Tewksbury Public Library and the Friends of the Tewksbury Library bring yet another author of note to the Library as part of an ongoing series. This Thursday February 20, 2014 – best selling romantic suspense author Suzanne Brockmann will discuss her latest book “Do or Die” – part of her Reluctant Heroes series - and take question from the audience. Seating is limited and registration is required! Of note: Suzanne Brockmann - a graduate of Boston University - lives outside of Boston with her husband and children. More details on the events below…
It’s our biggest author visit in a decade, since Jodi Picoult! This Thursday, February 20 at 7pm, enjoy an evening with Suzanne Brockman, one of the country’s leading romantic suspense writers, as she discusses her latest novel, Do or Die. Q&A and book selling/signing will follow the talk. Refreshments will be served. Sponsored by the Friends of the Tewksbury Public Library. Limited to 100 seats. Reserve your seat by calling 978-640-4490 x 205, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or registering HERE.
Suzanne Brockmann is the New York Times bestselling author of 53 novels. Since her explosion onto the publishing scene twenty years ago, Suz is now widely recognized as one of the leading voices in romantic suspense. Her work has earned her repeated appearances on the USA Today and New York Times bestseller lists, as well as numerous awards, including Romance Writers of America’s #1 Favorite Book of the Year (three years running), two RITA Awards, and many Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Awards.
Reminder ~ the next GLAD Meeting this coming SATURDAY!
The next regular breakfast meeting of Greater Lowell Area Democrats (GLAD ) will be this coming Saturday February 15, 2014 at 8:00 AM SHARP! back in our usual location in the Independence Grill at the Radisson Hotel Rte. 110 in Chelmsford.
Please join us at this meeting of area Democrats.
AGENDA: The regular agenda will include: the report of the Chair; the financial report; the delegate caucuses update; report of the By-Laws committee; candidate updates for the 2014 Constitutional and other races; activities of Democratic State Committee; 2014 nominating convention updates and other topics on the minds of GLAD members, associates and guests.
No particular candidates are expected at this meeting – most are attending the town/ward caucuses. There will be five candidates at the March 15 GLAD meeting.
*Note: The Lowell Democratic ward caucuses are scheduled for 11am this Saturday at the Lowell high School cafeteria – the GLAD meeting will begin on time so members may get to Lowell!
Elected officials, candidates and their representatives are welcome to join us! Please advise the Chair.
There is an historical record of the Blizzard of 1978. Mass Moments does a good job recalling the wintry chaos of the storm and its aftermath in the Commonwealth. http://www.massmoments.org/moment.cfm?mid=45. But we who weathered that storm have our own personal recollections and family stories.
I remember the Blizzard of ’78 as a challenge to dig out and feel reconnected to the world around us. The snow reached the house window sills. The boys – Billy and Teddy - were 7 and 9 and they join in the shoveling although they really enjoyed more the flopping atop huge snow mounds. A kind neighbor, a hearty guy, a Mass Electric lineman – the late Charlie Gerrard – along with his snow blower worked from the end of the driveway and then miraculously the driveway and the cars were clear. The thought of my Mother’s homemade fish chowder lured us into Lowell – we walked down the middle of Andover Street from the Baptist Church atop the hill in North Tewksbury to Burnham Road. No cars, no sounds – just the beauty of nature and a bit of huffing and puffing along the way. The boys ended up staying with Nana and Papa through the weekend watching the city’s front end loader pile the snow into mountains at the end of their driveway. They later climbed up and slid down as only little boys can do! My brother Bill – defying the Dukakis driving ban – ran us back up the hill to North Tewksbury in Ag’s mustang. Bill was finally able to get to the hospital and the office. We never lost our power – which was a blessing as I learned in later years when the power did fail. One lasting effect of the blizzard was our decison to give up our breezeway and add another stall to the garage – a decision we’ve never regretted. For me 1978 was a memorable year but not just for the blizzard. That summer brought a congresssional campaign that I joined and my life was then set on a different course.
Here are some personal photos from the Blizzard of ’78. The first two are of our driveway and home on Fiske Street- the second of Burnham Road at my parents home in Lowell.
After a summer of citizen turmoil surrounding the SLOTS/NO SLOTS
issue, it’s surprising that only one seat on the April 5th Tewksbury town election ballot (at least for now) will have challengers – and that’s for the open seat on the Planning Board. At the August Town Meeting - passage of the article would have allowed Penn National Gaming to establish a Category 2 gaming establishment on Ames Pond Drive – off Route 133 in North Tewksbury. This article was unanimously recommended by the Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee. But the Planning Board recommendation came on a 3-2 vote. Incumbent Vinny Spada who voted no - isn’t running for reelection. NO SLOTS activist Vinny Fratalia is a Planning Board candidate.
Now the latest election bulletin comes from incumbent Selectman Doug Sears… “I’ve been there, done that, and I haven’t been a moderator,” said Sears as he announced a run for Town Moderator – abandoning his re-election run for the BOS. Incumbent Moderator Keith Rauseo is calling it quits after one term and that could be the real election fallout from the “Slots” town meeting. Town election/rotation cycles are different from Lowell. Sears is the only BOS member up for election this year and a challenge was coming from Tufts University professor Bruce Paniliatis – who also worked against the SLOTS coming to Tewksbury. Whether the Moderator opening with no other candidates stepping up gave Sears an opportunity for a softer political landing is the question.
Funny, in my mind’s eye I can still see Doug Sears being escorted from a similar Town Meeting at the behest of the Town Moderator! It’s all about the rules…
Overnight, I heard the BBC report that Peter Seeger had died, a man whose life became absorbed in the music of our nation both as a singer of traditional songs and a composer of new works. I was lucky enough to hear him sing when I was a high school kid. He was attending an environmental conference at UMass Amherst in the summer of 1971. I was on campus as a participant in the Massachusetts Boys’ State gathering, representing Dracut with my fellow Dracut High student Dan Wyman. We had been nominated by the school principal and sponsored by the local Leo C. Roth Post of the American Legion. Young guys from across the state were brought together for several days to learn about citizenship and practice politics—we elected from ourselves state senators and executive officers, including a governor. One of the counselors was Larry Dicara of Boston, who went on to a prominent political career. Two among us were chosen to attend Boys’ Nation in Washington, D.C., the same program that had brought young Bill Clinton of Arkansas to the White House and the outstretched hand of President Kennedy (the famous photograph). At the time I didn’t realize how astounding it was that the American Legion sponsors had arranged for an impromptu concert for us by Pete Seeger, the legendary musician and high profile political activist (Civil Rights, anti-Vietnam War, ecology). Pete Seeger had been black-listed for years after being smeared by extremists in the Congress and media for his socialist and communist beliefs in the 1930s. But there he was singing for the next generation of voters in Amherst. We watched and listened and sang along with Pete Seeger in an old auditorium: “This Land is My Land,” “If I Had a Hammer,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” and more. That musical civics lesson has stayed with me as long as anything from Boys’ State.
Here’s the New York Times article about Seeger by Jon Pareles.
I’ve attended a few of Lura Smith’s events celebrating the life and legacy of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. but it’s been a while since I joined the members of the Merrimack Valley NAACP for their annual MLK breakfast. Rabbi Ira Korinow of Haverhill was the MC and he set the tone for the breakfast with these words of MLK – “anybody can serve.” Baptist minister Ronald Tucker invoked the image of MLK as “a drum major for peace.”
In Lowell this year, the group received greetings from State Senator Eileen Donoghue and words of praise for the legacy of ML King from Congresswoman Tsongas through staff member Denise Johnson. Music was provided by the Recorder Choir from the Third Baptist Church of Lawrence. These twelve young people each wearing a colorful stole marched in playing and swaying to “When the Saints Go Marching In” and later played and sang “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring” and “We Shall Overcome.” They were a delightful surprise!
The event featured Imperial Potentate Homer L. Buchanan of the Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order Nobles Mystic Shrine – a segment of the Masons – was their keynote speaker. The first non-clergyperson to have this role – Mr. Buchanan talked of the many slaves who contributed their knowledge, ideas, inventions, artistry – and even their lives to this country mentioning for example poet Phillis Wheatley, entrepreneur and philanthropist Madame C. J. Walker and the murdered civil rights activist Medgar Evers.
Later in the program under the direction of former MVNAACP president – the Rev. Roger Sawtelle – there was a moment of silence in honor of the men and women serving in the Armed Forces. He also announced the presentation of the Samuel S. Crayton Award for Community Service to longtime MVNAACP activist member Gloria P. Johnson. Two students from UML thanked MS Johnson for her time at UMass Lowell and especially for her many years of service as Director of Minority Student Affairs. Karen Frederick, Executive Director of Community Teamwork (CTI) thanked Gloria for her guidance, wisdom and service as a board member for CTI noting the appropriateness of the award given in the name of Sam Crayton and his legacy as a founding member of Community Teamwork nearly 50 years ago. Gloria was gracious and thankful in her acceptance recalling coming here to the Valley from NYC as an elementary school teacher and her transition into the world of UMass Lowell. She recalled her friends in “Black Genesis” – a group of professional black women organized to help the community. She is a wonderful woman – now in retirement – who serves as a role model for all in the community. Fellow CTI Board member Rita O’Brien Dee and I were proud to attend and lend our voices of thanks to Gloria for her service. Also honored was Val Hillery – given the Bennie Armstrong Award for Business & Community Betterment. Val is a well-known youth mentor and equal opportunity activist. Locals may have seen her working as a volunteer at the Lowell Folk Festival in the food booths.
Among the guests were former State Senator and now Methuen city councilor Jim Jajuga, Lowell School Committee member Kristin Ross-Sitcawich, Dem candidate for LT Gov. Jonathan Edwards, members of the clergy and ladies, gentlemen and young people from across the Merrimack Valley.