Friday Starts the Weekend…at least for me blogging! To those who have quit smoking…God Bless…I now understand your pain a little better. Not hopping on the computer and blogging after reading the SUN or watching the Council meeting or writing a quick post at 5:00 AM when I first get up and not doing it at 9:30 pm after I’m home and settled in is a lot harder than I thought it would be. Who knew I’d miss it this much?
In the City Council Packet that the SUN COULD have accessed Monday for a Tuesday or Wednesday story was this update about the LHA. Oh I forgot there is a little good news here so the Publisher and Editor don’t want that reported:
As recommended in Interim Implementation Report, Development Services, working with LHA, initiated the safety inspections of the 51 units currently lacking electrical sign offs. The purpose of the safety inspections was to enhance the assurance of immediate safety for the occupants of the units while arrangements are made to conduct full rough and final inspections of the units. The non-invasive inspection tests for grounding and shock hazards at the receptacles and service panels, and involves inspecting all fixtures and equipment that can be viewed without demolition for code compliant installation.
As of Thursday January 5th , 32 units have been checked for electrical safety and passed. In 15 of the units, minor deficiencies were identified pertaining mostly to bonding and grounding at the panel. These deficiencies were corrected immediately and re-inspections were conducted confirming the remedies. The remaining 19 units are scheduled to be inspected today, January 6th the results of which will be included in the next interim report.
I think Mayor Murphy made a HUGE mistake in the selection of the City Council sub-committee Public Safety Chair – Regardless of his background in Public Safety.
Councilor Noun is not held in high regards by most of the proud men and women of the LPD especially after his case and settlement against the LPD and the officer.I do give the Mayor credit for standing up for his beliefs and his appointment. After the Sun Column BLOG posted an item about his appointments the Mayor responded.
On Councilor Noun he said:”Councilor Noun’s background in public safety issues in his twenty-plus year career and his work in the community will be important to inform the work ahead of us. He campaigned on actual ideas that he wanted to pursue, particularly addressing youth violence with satellite after-school programs, and I expect that he will be able to work with many groups and leaders to achieve those.”
While I understand his reasons, I still disagree with his choice. I think the Mayor put himself in a position to be accused of trading favors and appointing Noun in exchange for Noun’s vote for the mayoral spot. In light of the police settlement Noun is not a uniting figure and this appointment will not sit well with most in the Lowell Police Dept.
Congrats to Supt. Lavalle and the entire Lowell Police Dept. on the dropping crime rate in Lowell. According to ACE Crime beat Reporter Rob Mills preliminary stats show most major crimes are down in the city.
Councilor Noun still hasn’t submitted revised reports to the Office of Campaign and Finance and from what I have also been told has ignored letters from that office sent in October and November in regards to this matter. Why do I think if this were Patrick Murphy or Kevin Broderick we would be seeing front page Sun stories?
I also thought it looked like petty political payback to NOT have Councilor Elliott continue to serve as the Chair of the Finance Committee. I may not agree with Rodney on MOST things but he has been a steady voice for the taxpayer. Again, I thought that the appearances of political payback should be avoided especially if the Mayor is trying to say he wants to work together with everyone.
Mayor Murphy however did point out some very legitimate reasons for NOT appointing Councilor Elliot Chair. Again in response to the Column Blog he stated
“As I said before, the subcommittees are new and no one has been replaced, but in the twelve preceding years, the former Chair presided over a time of declining bond ratings and at a time when the city was added to the Department of Revenue’s watchlist. He has suggested that bond ratings don’t matter, made motions that confirm that belief, and has shown a poor understanding of performance-based budgeting. He voted against the Ameresco contract and LowellStat initiative, both of which will realize substantial long-term savings while improving our operations. So the decision was a policy one, not personal. To be worthwhile, experience is not just about time served, but how wisely time is spent.
I have no issue with Councilor Elliot asking questions but have to wonder why he seems to be accepting the word of disgruntled former employee’s over the City Manager?
It appears we are watching a breakdown by Councilor Elliot that is comparable to Capt. Queeg (The Caine Mutiny with H Bogart, great classic old film). The Councilor is beginning to show signs of paranoia towards the Manager There were the rumors that he was blaming the City Manager for NOT getting the Mayor’s position.
Now he is quoted in the Sun Column Blog has saying “Murphy’s decision to end his 12-year run as finance chair was “personal” and likely made at City Manager Bernie Lynch’s request.” Like Commander Queeg, Rodney is seeing a conspiracy in everything. I’m starting to worry that if he gets a flat tire he will accuse the Manager of putting nails on the road.
BTW Councilor Elliot may have been a little overboard in his attack on the Manager Tuesday Night BUT if the Manager were truly the smartest politician in the room (B Taupier has called him that) he would in the Manager’s response to Council motion in the coming weeks reflect on this whole series of events and respond to Councilor Elliot’s motion about not informing the Council.
By stating he takes full responsibility for the series of miscommunication between the LHA, Building Commissioner and Inspectional Service’s and that in hindsight getting all parties together in one room to hammer things out and get all on the same page should have been done when the issue arose a 2nd or 3rd time. While at no time did he force anyone to sign any permits or not do Inspections has COO of the City all responsibility rest with him and in hindsight regrets not bringing this issue up to the council, especially when he brought forth the $25,000 fee settlement with LHA.
It might go a long way in defusing some hostility and show that the Manager does take responsibility and ownership of issues. Communication has been an issue between the Manager and some past councilors and it appears to be an area the Manager needs to continue to improve on.
If you didn’t catch the Greater Lowell School Committee meeting new member Erik Gitschier came out with multiple motions in his first meeting: GLTMeetingPackage011212
Can’t figure out the Dracut School Committee, before Christmas they knew they had a potential shortfall, Dr. Mike supplied numbers and spoke about them on Saturday Morning Live and Dr. Stacey Scott admitted to a reporter he WAS considering layoffs and there was a shortfall yet the Committee doesn’t want to bring in an outside Auditor and Dr. Scott DIDN”T have ALL the numbers and information to present AFTER the outcry BEFORE Christmas? And people think the past Lowell City Council let Bernie blindly lead! This committee is dragging out a problem and the longer it goes the bigger the shortfall grows.
Not a great week for DHA Chairman Ken Martin, the Lawrence Eagle Tribune has the story on Methuen State Rep. Linda Campbell is preparing a bill that would stop Housing Directors from holding multiple positions as Housing Authority Directors. Also Attorney Debbie DeWitt has announced she will be challenging Martin for his Dracut Housing Authority seat. You know his close relationship with the former embattled Chelsea Housing Authority Director Michael McLaughlin and his collecting two salaries will be brought up during the upcoming election along with his handling of the Executive Director’s contract.
John MacDonald the former City Council candidate has been on WCAP and City Life over the past week talking about his Letter to the Editor and the possibility that Lowell could support a Charter Change. I asked City Councilor Bill Martin who was Chair of the City Council Rules Sub-Committee last term about a charter review committee that was formed back then and about his view of the Plan E form of Gov’t. Here is his reply
Last year the council subcommittee met to consider some changes to the way the city elects city councilors. We rejected one proposal to change the ballot order, and we voted to approve another proposal to allow 17 year olds to vote. Other issues were referred to a study group, or task force, consisting of 1 member from each neighborhood group.
Neighborhood groups were selected since most of the interest in the changes being proposed was being generated from members of neighborhood groups. The study group was going to meet, solicit testimony, consider proposals, and report its findings back to the city council rules subcommittee. The city clerk sent notices requesting each neighborhood group appoint 1 member to the study group. Some appointed a member right away but many did not. I kept in touch with the city clerk periodically, and I think a second notice requesting appointments was sent, but I don’t remember this for sure. In any event, I don’t think every neighborhood group appointed a member to the study group, and I am not aware that it ever met. The city clerk resigned, and then there were bigger issues for the interim clerks to address than to chase down neighborhood groups for their appointments.
The action the council took in appointing the study group to form, meet and report back is still valid. The group is free to form and meet and report any findings back to the council, but I don’t know if they will do so. I also am no longer the chair of the rules subcommittee, so if the group does have proposals it wants the council to consider the new chair will be the one to schedule the necessary meeting(s) to review those proposals.
As to any talk of further reviewing/changing Lowell’s charter, I have been very consistent in my public and private statements about supporting plan E as it currently exists in Lowell. I have stated this when asked both publicly and privately and I have replied this way in various questionnaires I have completed over the years for interested groups that have provided them. When I chaired the subcommittee last year to consider election changes, I said I would keep an open mind and give any proposals to change the charter a fair hearing, and I did so.
WE recommended one change and rejected another. I am not, however, going to lead the charge to change plan E as it exists in Lowell. I have observed how local government works in other cities in Massachusetts, primarily when I was Mayor but also at other times, and I think Lowell’s form of government works better than the others I have observed in other cities.
If residents are going to propose changes to Lowell’s charter, I will continue to give those changes a fair hearing, but I for now I am not a proponent of changing the charter because I think Lowell’s government works better than the other forms I have observed.
Boy did that feel good….I’ll see you again tomorrow!