– Lowell Politics and History

Granite State results for real – finally by Marjorie Arons-Barron

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

Remember when it seemed fairly certain that voters in November would have to choose between Clinton and Bush dynasties?  Over the last nine months, voter anger and dissatisfaction have laid waste to that aura of inevitability on both sides of the aisle.

Among the big winners Tuesday night were the pollsters. Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders went into New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary with double digit leads over their closest challengers in their respective parties. And that’s the way they emerged. The record-breaking turnout even boosted the winners’ margins.

Going in, the cliff-hanging questions were which Republican challenger would come in second, and by how much could Hillary Clinton whittle down Sanders lead to get a positive message out of New Hampshire as she moved on to South Carolina.

The answers: John Kasich and not at all.  Sanders won in all groups, even among women, except those over 65 and those with annual incomes over $200,000.  He can expect to find more resistance elsewhere in the country, but there’s something to be said for momentum.

And Trump’s supporters proved that they could also go to the polls and be Trump voters. ( Could it be that losing NH Senate candidate Scott  Brown’s statewide GOTV organization made the difference?)

The GOP field is now down two. Chris Christie, mimicking Rudy Giuliani  as a presidential candidate (most everything said was subject, verb and 9/11.)  has gone back to New Jersey.  The irony is that it was Christie’s withering critique of Marco Rubio at last Saturday night’s debate that contributed to his fifth place finish in New Hampshire. Now the question is: where will Christie’s supporters go? to Kasich? Bush? Rubio? With all the surprises of this year’s campaign season, they could even go to second place Ted Cruz, who cleverly managed expectations and is now moving into his sweet spot of Southern primaries.

General election logic might dictate that Republican “establishment” money should coalesce around Kasich, who is nearly out of cash, with an eye to eventually pairing him with a chastened and much  improved Marco Rubio as the party’s best combo for winning the White House.  But Jeb Bush is still amply funded and seems well enough heeled to go another round or two to see if he can gain traction. So, it looks as if the GOP will still be a multi-candidate race, meaning Trump can continue to do well against a fragmented opposition. And, I fear, Ted Cruz is going to have his numbers grow.

Will the Democratic Party end up running a self-proclaimed Democratic socialist in November?  Will Biden supporters entice their man to save the party from a wounded Clinton? Could it really be Trump versus Sanders?  Will Michael Bloomberg get into the race? And if he did, could he effectively throw the ultimate decision into the Republican controlled House of Representatives? Are we having fun yet?

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Thoughts on New Hampshire Primary

My ability to predict the outcome of elections is as bad as my ability to predict football games. Here’s what I wrote this past Sunday morning:

As for tonight’s [Super Bowl] game, I pick the Panthers. Since I’m making predictions, on Tuesday in New Hampshire, I think Donald Trump will just barely hang on and win the Republican primary, but I also think Hillary Clinton will overtake Bernie Sanders and will win on the Democratic side.

How’d I do?

Super Bowl 50: Denver Broncos 24, Carolina Panthers 10. I thought the Panther’s explosive offense and the mobility of quarterback Cam Newton would overwhelm the Bronco’s defense. I was wrong. The Bronco’s defense was just as effective against Carolina as it was against New England two weeks ago. The outcome of this game did put the Patriot’s loss to the Broncos (Denver 20, New England 18) in a much better perspective for New England.

As for politics, here are the final results percentage-wise for the New Hampshire primary:

Republicans —– %
Trump – 35.1
Kasich – 15.9
Cruz – 11.6
Bush – 11.1
Rubio – 10.6
Christie – 7.5
Fiorina – 4.2
Carson – 2.3

Democrats —- %
Sanders – 60.0
Clinton – 38.4

I didn’t put a lot of faith in the polls, however, they turned out to be quite accurate. I had memories of 2008 when it looked like Barack Obama’s momentum from Iowa would put him on top in New Hampshire, but Hillary Clinton pulled out a victory. I thought the same thing might happen this year despite Sanders being from a neighboring state (and despite the polls).

On the Republican side, I thought the national media had anointed Marco Rubio to be the “serious” alternative to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, but that was before Rubio’s Saturday night debate melt-down. I don’t know if that will prove fatal to his candidacy, but I’m reading stories quoting unnamed associates of his saying things like “Marco is a great guy but he tends to freeze-up in times of crisis.” Not exactly the campaign slogan you want attached to you when seeking the presidency. Even though the pack of “establishment” Republican candidates would surely divide up the vote, I never imagined that Trump would remain 20 points ahead of the pack.

But even more astounding than Trump’s finish was that of Sanders. Someone once said that Americans like everything about socialism but the label. Or as I sometimes put it, a program that benefits me is good government; a program that benefits you is socialism. When did socialism (OK, “democratic socialism”) become acceptable in mainstream America? Could it be that the Republicans have so over-used the term during the Obama presidency that its negative connotations have dissipated? I certainly hope so. My political sentiments are more in line with Bernie Sanders’s philosophy of government than they are Hillary Clinton’s. But unlike so many liberals, I’d rather win than be right, so I will vote for Clinton. In a national campaign against any of the Republicans, I think she stands the best chance of winning which is most important to me. For all the enthusiasm of Sanders’ supporters, I don’t believe the socialism-slur is as dead as we like to think it is. The billions of dollars that corporate America and the country’s monied interests would spend in a general election to demonize Sanders and socialism would tip the election in favor of the Republican candidate, whoever that might be, which would be disastrous. Don’t get me wrong: I think Hillary Clinton will make a fine president and I have no hesitation supporting her, both for her policies and for her gender. (And as for gender, I think the negative treatment of women in America is one of the most under-reported and under-acknowledged stories in American history).

One thing that struck me about the “average voter” profiles various media outlets shared in the run up to the New Hampshire primary was how often those interviewed struggled to choose between Trump and Sanders as the recipient of their vote. Trump or Sanders? That’s not exactly a choice of ideological nuance, is it? The only thing those two have in common is their status as outsiders, as rogue candidates who are challenging the insiders of both parties. I’m not sure that Trump has espoused a coherent philosophy of government as much as he has held up a mirror to the fears and grievances of those who support him. And while Sanders has most assuredly laid out a clear philosophy of governance, I don’t believe many who voted for him have given that much thought. If they did and then embraced it, that’s wonderful – but I just don’t think so many New Hampshire residents shifted from condemning socialists to being socialists in the course of this election. In the cases of both Trump and Sanders, I see their victories as a protest against the prevailing ways of government regardless of party. Will that protest continue across the country? I hope so, but I also doubt it. But then again, I picked the Panthers to win the Super Bowl.

Lowell City Council Meeting: February 9, 2016

Update on Auditor selection process: Councilors have each submitted their top three choices from the resumes/applications, so the next step is to schedule interviews with the three top candidates. The three top candidates are Brian Perry, John Linnehan, and Sheila Rouix. Next Tuesday, the council will pick a future dates for interviews.

Report on the Hamilton Canal Parking garage timeline (which calls for the garage to be completed in late 2018). The start of the design process is dependent on the sale of lots to Watermark and Genesis since the proceeds of that sale will pay the cost of design. Manager Murphy states that Lowell’s State House delegation announced today that the Commonwealth has selected a general contractor for the construction of the Judicial Center (which is to be completed in spring 2019). Consequently, it is even more important that the garage construction stay on schedule. Councilor Elliott asks about the Lord Overpass. Manager Murphy says it is still in the design phase which will continue until 2017. Construction will take place in 2018.

Net School Spending: Manager Murphy reports that Lowell Public Schools will be funded beyond the minimum requirements of net school spending by more than $5mil. That’s partly due to an increased cash contribution by the city to the schools and also due to increased services for the schools from the city. Manager points out that the schools are in buildings owned by the city. The city pays for heat, electricity, maintenance, and also handles payroll, bill-paying, and other administrative tasks. The city gets credit for all of this towards net school spending. Manager Murphy emphasizes increased emphasis on repairs and maintenance of the schools by the city.

Vote to declare surplus the property at 25 Olney St. Passes.

Ordinance to amend city Veteran’s Commission ordinance. Referred to a public hearing.

Subcommittee Report from Zoning: Met today to discuss revising definition of a dwelling in zoning code (motivated by a structure that resembles a house trailer qualifies as a house). Subcommittee will continue working to clarify distinction between trailers and prefabricated homes. Inspectional Services Department will provide subcommittee with additional information.

Public Hearing – Amend ordinance to ban replica firearms. Police Supt Taylor speaks in favor of this, explaining that police officers are unable to quickly distinguish between real and replica firearms (which increases chances of someone getting killed). Says it will promote safety of citizens and of officers. Mentions the Tamir Rice shooting in Cleveland last year. Wants to avoid something like that in Lowell. Jeff Peirson speaks in opposition to this. Says he’s really concerned about this ordinance. He says he does not approve of toy guns. He does own several handguns. He says that is his decision and he shouldn’t tell people what they can and can’t do with their kids. He asks whether criminals in the city will comply with this ordinance. Says this would give police “complete discretion” to confiscate any firearm in this category with no due process. Says definitions in ordinance are vague. Says he has spent 25 years writing manuals for software. Says this is the most vaguely worded document he’s ever read. Complains of definition of “replica.” Says in Massachusetts it is legal to own a “replica firearm” that actually fires. He’s referring to colonial-era muskets – he’s dressed as a revolutionary war soldier of which he is in a re-enactor group. Says if his comrades were in a parade in Lowell the police could seize their muskets. He then goes in to the history of the U.S. Constitution and asks if this taking of personal property is the way we honor them. He reminds everyone of the “negative” publicity the city received for “violations” of the 2nd Amendment in the name of “public safety.” He says throughout history, “public safety” has often been used for nefarious reasons. Dan Gannon speaks in opposition to this. Says for a city council that has repeatedly said it doesn’t know anything about firearms, it’s striking that this is the second firearms-related matter before the council recently. He then lectures the councilors on their ignorance of state and federal firearms law. Says this is another case of “we can do whatever we want.” Says the President of the U.S. can’t do whatever he wants but this council thinks it can. He says people in Lowell are worried about being robbed on the street. They’re worried about cop-killers from foreign countries walking around our streets. Quotes “an Attleboro Democrat” who told this group you get the government you deserve and it sounds like Lowell needs a new city council. Randy Bretton opposes this. Says he doesn’t understand what the council is trying to do. He says the council has already trampled on the 2nd amendment rights; now the council is trampling on individual property rights. He says there has been no incidents of kids with replica guns being killed. He says criminals will do whatever they want. Says criminals put shotguns inside squirt guns. Also mentions that woman are now buying pink guns which might be mistaken for toy guns. Said this is just window-dressing and urges them to do something useful. Says we should teach kids that “all life matters” and that robbing someone of $10 is not the way to make money. Teach the kids respect of the law. And to politely stop if a police officer tells you too. Asks the council if it really wants more bad national publicity for the city because of gun rules. Says his group is investigation a recall election in the city. When city councilors “turn a blind eye” to state and federal law. He threatens the council with “all the good contacts I’ve made in the national press.” Armand Hebert says he doesn’t own a gun. Says he “thinks we’re getting out of hand.” Says police should be able to distinguish replica guns when carried by kids and if it’s a criminal carrying a replica gun then he deserves to be shot. Says all this talk about guns is dragging the city down. Says the city should be enforcing other ordinances to help people who don’t have jobs instead of spending time on this. Says in New Hampshire, it’s easy to get a gun. Doesn’t see why we can’t be like that. Phil ____ says if this ordinance goes through, we will decimate revolutionary war and civil war reenactors. It will shut down the Lowell High ROTC program. It will shut down theaters where replica firearms are used. They wouldn’t be able to film the sequel to the Fighter because the police officer actors wouldn’t be able to use replica guns. How about those who play paintball? Or people who collect antique toy guns? Cliff Krieger says this is feel good legislation that won’t be effective. That leads to more laws and people having less respect for the law.

Councilor Elliott thanks everyone who spoke. Says he filed the motion and he supports the proposed ordinance. Says we have a problem with illegal guns in this city. He doesn’t want police officers to be put into life-and-death decisions because of true replica guns. This is not about toys. Many cities across the country are adopting that. This is a public safety issue whether we want to hear it or not. Says this doesn’t deal with sanctioned events like parades. Asks city solicitor to clarify that. City Solicitor explains that Boston and many other places are similar to this. This only applies to “public spaces” so it wouldn’t impede performances. Councilor Elliott denies that the council is trying to impede gun owner rights. Solicitor explains that any gun seized can be retrieved after a 24-hour waiting period. Solicitor also explains that a real firearm for which you’d have to be licensed would not be covered by this (by that, I think she means something that actually fires is not considered a “replica” by this ordinance; it would be an actual working weapon, even if it was made in 2016 to resemble a musket from 1775). Councilor Mercier says “the other side makes valid points.” Says she saw on the internet a pink-colored rifle that was a real gun. She thinks the ordinance is “a bit vague.” Asks if we would be confiscating guns from re-enactors in a parade. Solicitor says owner of the pink gun would have to be properly licensed. Same thing with re-enactor if the gun fires. If it does not fire, there are ways to make it easily identifiable, such as putting an orange plug in the muzzle. Councilor Mercier says she has not sympathy for people who commit crimes with toy guns. Councilor Elliott moves to approve. Seconded by Councilor Belanger. Councilor Leary asks about the reenactor, says if he has a license to carry the gun, this ordinance doesn’t apply? Solicitor says that is correct. Clarifies that if you want to have a pink “actual gun” this ordinance doesn’t effect that (correct, because you would need a gun license for that). Councilor Elliott asks Police Chief how many gun permits issued in the city? 6000. How many gun-related incidents occurred in the city last year? Will have to get that data. Elliott’s point is that council should be doing everything it can to help police officers. Councilor Leahy says he’s not sure about this. Says “it’s a bit vague” and won’t vote for it tonight. City Manager responds to “disparaging remarks from Attleboro Rep Paul Heroux” who made the disparaging remarks about the Lowell City Council. He says this council is far superior to Paul Heroux.

Ordinance passes, 7 voted yes (Milinazzo, Rourke, Samaras, Belanger, Elliott, Kennedy, and Leary); 2 voted no (Leahy and Mercier)

Report of Economic Development Subcommittee – Presentation from John Power of Farley White Interests. SC (subcommittee) thanked him for the Christmas lights on the Wannalancit smokestack. Power said 20 years ago when he was the leasing agent for Cross Point, he learned that Lowell was a special place. He says over the past five years, it has gotten easier for him to “sell” Lowell. He cited the Lowell Plan which is being copied by other cities around the country. His company owns more than 1 million square feet including Wannalancit, Cross River Center, and other buildings. He said UMass Lowell is a great resources. He said too often we view the city in a negative light but Power said visitors see the city in a much better light. He praised the city for its form of government and its transportation infrastructure. He said we should do a better job of sharing that story outside the city.

Motion by Councilors Belanger and Samaras asking for a report on status of state-owned Mack Building on Shattuck Street.

Motion by Councilor Belanger for manager to work with LRTA to implement “multi-modal transportation” like Zip Cars or Bike Rentals which would give visitors mobility options when traveling to Lowell by train.

Motion by Councilors Leary and Leahy that Manager contact telecommunications companies to brief the council on their plans for Lowell in 2016.

Meeting adjourns at 8:11 pm.

New Canalway Vitality Project: Planning Meeting #1

Next Initiative for Lowell/Canalway Vitality
Community Planning Meeting #1
Thursday, Feb. 11, 5.30 to 7 pm
UMass Lowell Innovation Hub
110 Canal Street, 3rd floor
Lowell (near Appleton Mills and Mill No. 5)
Parking at meters nearby or at Early Garage on Jackson St., two blocks away
The purpose of the first meeting of working groups is to bring together the volunteer planners to start developing ideas for ways and means to make the Lowell canal system a more active public- and private-sector resource. Community planners will form groups organized around Culture, Economic Development, and Tourism. Participants will begin to develop a base-line of knowledge and information about the canal system as it relates to their particular area. Through two 90-minute workshops (Feb. and March) and a two-hour planning workshop in April, group members will identify a preliminary set of short-, medium-, and long-term action items that will be incorporated as text and graphics into a report to be released in October 2016. For more information, contact
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