Photo by Tony Sampas
Photo by Tony Sampas
The hot topic nationally and locally is the issue of sequestration – its reach and fall-out. Many pundits and editorial writers have weighed-in on its perceived realities and the politics swirling around the issue. The Executive Director of Community Teamwork – Karen Frederick and CTI’s Director of Planning – Cheryl Amey have their very experienced views in today’s Lowell Sun as a rebuttal to the recent Sun editorial suggesting “barely a ripple” locally. With their permission we have it here for our readers:
A few weeks ago the Lowell Sun printed an editorial, “Sequestration Foolishness,” which suggested that there is barely a ripple of an impact on any Massachusetts resident. The implication was that sequestration doesn’t matter and that there will be no impact on Lowell.
That’s not the case.
Last week Congress passed legislation to protect air traffic controllers from furloughs resulting from the sequester. News reports of the impact of flight delays on the economy propelled Congress into action. What is lost on Congress is that the sequester’s impact on families and on communities like Lowell also impacts the economy. The last thing our country needs right now is anything that will further weaken our economic recovery and yet that is exactly the impact the sequester will have.
As a result of the sequester, in Massachusetts –
- 500 children will lose child care assistance. Parents of young children need child care in order to obtain and retain a job, which makes child care key to the economy. The fact is – working parents need child care.
- 1,100 fewer children will be served by Head Start, the federal pre-school program designed to give low income children a chance to start school ready to succeed – more on par with their wealthier counterparts, which affects their future performance in school and increases the likelihood they will graduate from high school (and hopefully go to college).
- 26,970 adults will no longer receive job search assistance. If we are going to strengthen the economy in our state, then those who have the hardest time finding a job need some help so that they can contribute to our communities, pay taxes, and become self-sufficient
- 2,940 fewer children will receive vaccines to combat illnesses and to promote healthy development.
- 160 fewer disabled children will receive assistance when our state loses $13.4 million in education aid for disabled children.
- Meals for the elderly will be cut by $535,000
- 500 fewer battered women will receive assistance as they try to escape from situations involving domestic violence.
- Juvenile justice grant funding will be cut by $300,000, which translates to fewer police in our communities.
When cuts are allocated throughout the state, the impact may be diffuse but, for those who are directly affected, the cuts will be great. For communities like Lowell, the impact translates to fewer parents employed who will pay taxes and purchase goods and services in the community. For children, the loss of child care or inability to participate in Head Start may have a life-long impact. Fewer seniors who receive fuel assistance or food may endanger their health and well-being. In addition, the these cuts all have an impact on small businesses—fuel delivered and meals prepared all represent jobs for others who do not directly receive assistance. Grocers and vendors who supply services like fuel are part of our local economy.
The sequester does matter. While we may not know at this time the exact impact on Lowell, by the time we do know it, it will be too late. The damage will be done. Community Teamwork Inc. (CTI) seeks to assist low-income people to become self-sufficient and to alleviate the effects of poverty. As an economic engine within the community, our goal is strengthen the economy in Lowell by strengthening families and small businesses. We have an array of programs funded by the federal government that at their core help individuals to work and contribute to our local economy and help small businesses grow. Demand for services far exceeds the resources we have. The sequester may not be visible, but the impact will be clear. Fewer parents who can get the child care they need to work, less money in the pockets of small business including local oil dealers and grocers, and layoffs in one of our community’s largest employers all undercut Lowell’s ability to grow the area’s economy.
It is up to us to let Congress know – if they can protect air traffic controllers from furloughs, then they can help those who are most vulnerable among us. And, in doing so, they will promote an economic development strategy that communities like Lowell need to survive and to prosper.
Karen Frederick, Executive Director
Cheryl Amey, PhD, Chief Planning Officer
Community Teamwork, Inc. Community Teamwork, Inc.
(For full disclosure ~ I am a member of the Community Teamwork, Inc. Board of Directors. I have served as the representative from the Town of Tewksbury since 1992. My tenure includes serving four terms as the President.)
Last night I was the guest speaker at the 25th Annual Meeting of the Merrimack Valley Housing Partnership which was held at the Whistler House. It was a great night with fine food from La Boniche, poetry from Free Verse, and some impressive statistics on the many success stories of graduates of the Partnership’s first time home buyer training program. I spoke about several topics related to real estate and the registry of deeds. Following is what I had to say about the state of the real estate market in Lowell today. I’ll post the remainder of my remarks, in several parts, in the coming days.
Every week I read or hear a new report about the rapidly improving real estate market. From my seat at the registry of deeds, I just don’t see it. There are sales – the number of deeds recorded from January to April 2013 is up 17% over the number recorded during the same period in 2012 – but the overall volume of sales remains depressed. The type of sales that are occurring also provide evidence of a troubled market.
In April 2013, there were 78 properties sold in Lowell for full consideration (nearly half of all deeds recorded are transfers between related parties in which no money – “consideration” – changes hands). I was curious to discover how much the person selling the property had paid for it in the first place, but the more relevant query soon became the circumstances under which the seller first obtained the property. For instance, 36% of those selling in April had owned the property for more than 20 years. There were cases of longtime home owners essentially cashing in on the accumulated equity of their homes and either downsizing or moving elsewhere.
Another 22% of the April sales were by lenders who had obtained the property through foreclosure. Because a lender is in the business of lending and not owning real estate (the term REO comes from – “real estate owned” by a lender), these sales tend to be at a discount to facilitate faster sales. This is good for the buyer of the property but not good for other owners in the vicinity whose values might be driven down by such REO sales.
The remaining properties that sold in April – 42% of the total – had been purchased by the seller within the past 20 years. What was striking about this group was that in a slight majority of the cases, the April sales price was less than the amount borrowed on the outstanding mortgage on the property. Because so much of the early payments on a mortgage goes towards interest and not principal, it’s unlikely that many of these sellers had paid down their mortgage sufficiently to move the principal amount beneath the current sales price. Nor is it likely that the sellers had cash on hand to make up the difference at the time of sale. This leads to the conclusion that many of these were short sales.
In a typical sale, the lawyer for the buyer contacts the entity that holds the seller’s mortgage and ascertains how much money it will take to pay off that mortgage. At the closing, the buyer’s lawyer will send a check in that amount to the seller’s lender and the lender will send a discharge of mortgage which releases that lien on the property. Whatever money is left over after paying off the mortgage goes to the seller. When the amount to be obtained at the sale is insufficient to pay off the existing mortgage, the sale usually falls through. In some cases, however, when the lender becomes convinced that the fair market value of the property is less than the amount owed and that the current owner is on the road to foreclosure, the lender decides to cut its losses and agrees to release the mortgage upon payment of some amount less than the outstanding balance (the borrower/owner might still be on the hook for some or all of the balance, but at least the lien on the house is released). This is called a short sale and the evidence suggests that a good portion of our current arms-lengths sales do fall into this category.
It is undoubtedly a good time to sell. Because so many people remain underwater on their mortgages, many houses that could go on the market must remain on the sidelines. With interest rates so low, would-be buyers are anxious to purchase. This is why houses that do go up for sale move quickly, often for the asking price or more. But not enough houses are going on the market and too many would-be buyers are trapped in their current homes by existing mortgage balances. There is no quick fix to this predicament. The full recovery of the housing market will be a long slog that is largely dependent on the state of our overall economy. The better that does, the quicker the housing market will revive.
Read about the well-deserved tribute for filmmaker John Antonelli, who grew up in Greater Lowell (Tewksbury to be exact) and went on to notable success in the world of film. Fitchburg State University will recognize him at its Commencement with an honorary degree.
Kerouac Park tour group; web photo courtesy of marieharris.com
Kerouac birthplace tour group; web photo courtesy of richardhowe.com
Lowell Celebrates Kerouac! experts on great American writer Jack Kerouac’s youth in Lowell and his Lowell novels will lead a monthly series of tours that portray him from cradle to grave, including his many family homes, churches, schools, library, the French-Canadian neighborhoods where he grew up, and the landmarks of the city that he loved. Through visiting the significant Kerouac sites, attendees will learn of the lifelong influence of Lowell on shaping his remarkable body of work as seen in his novels, poems, journals, and letters.
Stephen Edington, author of two Kerouac-related books, “The Beat Face of God” and “Kerouac’s Nashua Connection,” will lead the May 4 tour, “Cradle to Grave: Jack Kerouac’s Lowell.” The car caravan tour will meet and start at the Kerouac exhibit in the Lowell National Historical Park Visitor Center at 10 a.m. and will last approximately 2-1/2 hours.
Roger Brunelle, noted historian and interpreter of Jack Kerouac’s life in Lowell, will lead the May 18 tour, “Kerouac’s Downtown Lowell,” also starting at 10 a.m. Roger is known for his in depth presentation of important Kerouac sites, combined with linguistic analysis of Kerouac’s writing style influenced by his French-Canadian origins and the French language he grew up speaking at home. Readings in French as well as English are common and dramatic in Roger’s tours. Meet at Kerouac Commemorative at Bridge and French Streets.
Kerouac tours on the first and third Saturdays at 10 a.m. are being planned for each month from May through October. Details on the future tours will be announced later. Tours cost $10 per person in a donated fee. Reservations for the first two tours are recommended and may be made by calling LCK president Mike Wurm at c.978-501-1021.
LCK, an all volunteer organization, is dedicated to honoring, celebrating, and interpreting the life and spirit of Jack Kerouac, who wrote so eloquently about his hometown of Lowell while gaining great global fame as a major novelist and poet of 20th century America. Visit www.lowellcelebrateskerouac.org for more information on the organization and the larger Kerouac events being sponsored in Lowell every March and October.
For more information, call Mike Wurm at c.978-501-1021.
Free public event
Reserve a free ticket to this event: www.artsleagueoflowell.org/programs
This program is supported in part by a grant from the Lowell Cultural Council, a local agency which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.
This coming Saturday, May 11, 2013, I will speak about Company K of the Sixth Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment as part of Chelmsford Civil War Day at the Chelmsford Center for the Arts, 1A North Road in Chelmsford (the former town hall). While contemplating the controversial step of instituting a national draft during the summer of 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued a call for 300,000 volunteers to serve a term of 9 months. The Old Sixth, a Lowell-based militia regiment that had disbanded after its 90 days service at the start of the war – service that included the riot in Baltimore and the first deaths from hostile fire in the war – was revived in answer to this call for troops. Many of the veterans of the Sixth had enlisted in other units and so there was an immediate push for new recruits. There was also a need for an entirely new company since the original Sixth was smaller than wartime regiments. A new Company K was created to fill this void, recruiting its members from Greater Lowell towns such as Chelmsford, Dracut and Tewksbury. The regiment left Lowell in early September 1862 and was deployed to southeastern Virginia near Norfolk where it saw limited action but sustained losses due to disease and hostile action. It returned to Lowell in June 1863 at the completion of its term of service.
On Saturday, I will discuss this 1862 mobilization of the Sixth Regiment – how the soldiers were recruited, what their daily lives were like, and the particulars of the skirmishes and battles in which they were involved – and place it in the larger context of the history of the Sixth Regiment and of the Civil War. Please try to join us.
UPDATE: The talk is at 10 am this Saturday (May 11) at the Chelmsford Center for the Arts at 1A North Road, right in Chelmsford Center.
The entry below is being cross posted from Marjorie Arons-Barron own blog.
It wasn’t enough to decimate the core of what was Al Qaeda in 2001. The landscape in certain hospitable countries like Yemen and Syria is now dotted with Al Qaeda offshoots and affiliates. And, for the last eight years, the home-grown variety has been particularly vexing. The Sunday morning talk shows were full of attempts to learn from the Boston bombings: how to deal with self-radicalized individuals like the Tsarnaevs.
Nidal Malik Hasan seems a case in point. He was the shooter in the mass murder at Ft. Hood in Texas in 2009, a psychiatrist, of all things, who had been in touch with Anwar al-Awlaki, based in Yemen. Apparently Hasan’s colleagues were aware of his increasingly radical thinking and isolated behavior but did nothing.
A recent article in The National Journal documents how clues were missed in the case of the Tsarnaevs. Starting in 2012, Tamarlan Tsarnaev was reportedly given to angry outbursts during his imam’s sermons and, on at least one occasion, was asked to leave the mosque because of his disruption. This report was confirmed by Reuters. By contrast, a press release from the Islamic Society of Boston says that, “In their visits they never exhibited any violent sentiments or behaviour. Otherwise, they would have been immediately reported to the FBI.”
FBI monitoring can’t do the job alone. Clearly the moderate Muslim community has a role to play, and, according to a study quoted in the same National Journal article, more than a quarter of disrupted plots by would-be Muslim terrorists were exposed by members of Muslim-American communities. This is a hard time for the Muslim community, and the interfaith community in Boston has reached out to the concerned Muslims who make up the majority.
Calls have increased for better cooperation between federal authorities and Muslim-Americans, some of whom have asked for training in dealing with these situations. There a lot we must learn from Britain’s Prevent program, developed in the wake of the London bombings in July 2005. To be sure, there have been questions raised about violations of civil liberties, but designing and implementing multilayered community programs, which include concerns about ideological violence as a component but are not the exclusive focus, could ameliorate allegations of profiling, strengthen community ties and foster proactive protection.
Over the weekend, we began to learn about an Obama administration program developed two years ago to strength relationships among federal agencies and community organizations, a plan that to this day still apparently exists largely on paper and is virtually unfunded.
The challenge is to resist the temptation to generalize and stereotype and, on the other hand, to be careful of the political correctness that would prevent an early warning system from becoming effective. This time around, our early warning systems failed at the federal agency level, which failed to monitor Tamerlan Tsarnaev and dropped him from its watch list, and at the community level, where no one spoke out about the increasingly radical behavior of this dangerous terrorist in our midst.
Today’s New York Times reports that Al Qaeda propagandists are encouraging more “homemade” terrorists. What will be the reason next time for our failure to intercept the plot?
I welcome your comments in the section below.
It’s National Historic Preservation Month! In Lowell historic preservation is celebrated from May 16-18 beginning with a reception and preservation awards ceremony on May 16 http://www.richardhowe.com/2013/05/02/save-the-date-a-celebration-of-community-preservation-may-16-2013/ followed by the opportunity to peek inside some very special buildings on May 17-18. “Doors Open Lowell” offers an insider’s look into the preservation of many of Lowell’s magnificent historic buildings. It’s a free annual event held during National Preservation Month to celebrate Lowell’s architectural heritage and urban living and culture. Together these have made Lowell a creative and exciting place to live and work. The 2013 schedule has been posted on the web site here http://www.doorsopenlowell.org/buildings-1. There will be a special program guide printed in the Wednesday May 15 edition of the Lowell Sun. Take a look at the schedule and plan to visit and tours these special places!