Crimes Stats show “Quality of Life” Crimes down – Shootings /Homicide about the same

In early August we heard the the Police report that City of Lowell Sees 23% Drop in Quality of Life Crimes.

What is a “Quality of Life” Crime? theft from motor vehicles (46% decrease), robbery (27% decrease), and vandalisms (59% decrease).

Those are all good signs but many wondered about the shootings and after the tragic events of last week, the homicide rate. So I waited until I could get the answers,

Being fair I looked at the time time frame as the reduction on quality of life crimes. Year to year between 2013 / 2014 during the first six months, it appears that actual shootings where a victim has been shot and murders are pretty much the same with 2013 having 1 more murder and 2014 1 more shooting in that 6 month date range.

YEAR Time Period Homicides
2013 (1/1/13-6/30/13) 2 (knife/shaken baby)
2014 (1/1/14-6/30/14) 1 (knife)

Year Time Period Shootings(actual victim shot)
2013 (1/1/13-6/30/13) 4
2014 (1/1/14-6/30/14) 5

Now I didn’t ask for the number of “reported” shots or in how many instances casing were found,because to me we had an increase in fireworks this tear and sometimes it is hard for callers to distinguish so I just asked the Lowell Police for these actual numbers.

Maybe once a quarter, I will ask for a comparison but I think overall the City seems to be on the right track in making Lowell a better, safer place.

Congratulations to the entire dept. for the work involved in the apprehension of the suspect in the Callahan brothers murder. I’m sure many officers went above and beyond in the amount of time they used (off the clock) in tracking this guy down. I’ve seen that kind of determination before from this department and the citizens of Lowell should be proud of their officers and staff.

Posted in Politics | Leave a comment

Plenty of questions to go around on Bond Issue

Robert Healy_opt

Don’t let the Headlines , Bond error leaves Lowell large ‘free cash’ deficit , quotes and biased coverage fool you, there is plenty of questions and finger-pointing to go around regarding the Bond Issue or lack of issuing of bonds.

There is no denying the inactions of Treasurer Elizabeth Craveiro. She screwed up but where was her boss and did Lowell have a system in place that Healy either didn’t know , understand or miss?

Where was the “Acting CFO”? You would think that a man with the Experience of Bob Healy who according to Manager Murphy was looking at the existing and next years budget when he came aboard April 16th would have caught the fact between April and the end of the Fiscal in June that the City had debt they hadn’t bonded. Did he purposely ignore that? Did he “miss it” and if he did, how comfortable should this Council be with his budget figures and projections?

It is my understanding that by statute the treasurer has the authority to borrow. In any community with a CFO or finance director (who by,either supervises the treasurer or in smaller cities can be the treasurer himself) oversees the process even though the treasurer signs the borrowing documents.

In Lowell, the CFO was the person who coordinated all the borrowing activity, including determining how much should be borrowed and when. I am told he actually maintained a running “dashboard” of current capital projects in an excel spreadsheet

The object is to cover cash deficits in capital funds by June 30. The sheet has The note (and/or bond, depending on term) column of what was planned to borrow. Some deficits in the enterprise funds are covered by state revolving loan funds (SRF) and don’t actually need to be covered as long as you request the funds from the state by the end of the year. I am told that the Data Analysis knew of this sheet and how it was used.

The question is, did the Acting , now consultant CFO know about it and if NOT why not? and why didn’t he react to the apparent appearance of debt?

Surely he did not let this slide for political reasons so the Manager could justify replacing the Treasurer? What are the odds ANY City Councilor will ask Mr. Healy that next Tuesday?

In the Organizational Chart, doesn’t the Treasurer report directly to the CFO? Will any City Councilor ask this Manager why Mr.Healy or for that matter the Data Analysis didn’t notice that we had unfunded debt because we didn’t issue bonds? They claimed that they were looking at last years budget and Murphy touted the fact he put a “hiring and spending” embargo in place. So why and how did this get missed by the Treasurer and her Boss the highly paid acting, well respected CFO?

Funny you would think the SUN would be asking these questions..but wait, this gives Campy and Lyle to the chance to once again prove by point about their biased toward the Lynch Administration and again they don’t disappoint. No mention that Healy has been tied at the hip with Murphy since he started in April and missed something as simple has the non issuing of bonds to cover debt.

Let’s not forget that this Treasurer wasn’t the first choice of either Manager Lynch or CFO Tom Moses. That man was Greg Labrecque and it was because of Manager Murphy’s so-called “little brother” that Mr. Labrecque left the City after one week. Councilor Elliot put his own ego/agenda over common sense and what was best for the City and had the nerve with a straight face to question the “friendship” between CFO Moses and the Mr. Labrecque. (Yet Elliot votes a full salary for an inexperienced Manager who has been HIS FRIEND for 30 years).

Maybe if the Council hadn’t allowed and participated in some instances, the character assignation of good experienced people, they all wouldn’t be out the door because of the atmosphere they created and this wouldn’t have happened.

The Council can claim some of the blame themselves for the protracted, embarrassment of a hiring process that was used when hiring a new Auditor after Chery Wright left. They should also ask the “Acting Auditor” why, during her time of filling in, she never noticed this?

Is this the first instance of the inexperienced Financial Team the City Council / Manager have put in place?

Posted in Politics | Leave a comment

Names in the Bubble for Tech School Committee

Curt

It didn’t take long for names to start popping up in the political bubble or people to express interest in filling the Greater Lowell Tech seat being vacated by Erik Gitschier who will be the new Executive Director of the Lowell Regional Water Utility.

The first two contenders:

Curtis LeMay – Curtis is a former city councilor, currently employed by Middlesex Sheriff Peter Koutoujian and is active in local democratic affairs.

Lee Gitschier – Is a graduate of the Greater Lowell Tech, he is employed by Verizon and comes from a very well known and respected family.

I’m sure we may hear of another name of two in the coming weeks.

***Guess WHO?***
A longtime Democratic Activist, current City board member who was a one time Registry of Deeds candidate may be interested in the Special Events Coordinator position here in Lowell. No need to post the name, let the Bubble guessers speculate among themselves.

Posted in Politics | 1 Comment

In Memorial – Eleanor Donahue

EL

I’ve stated on a couple occasions that I’m from a large family (11 kids) and how fortunate I have been to be welcomed and included in many other families throughout my life. One such family is the Donahue/Rourke/Manning family.

As a kid of 11/12 we hung around McPherson’s park /pool. My brothers and I got friendly with the Lifeguards because we spent the day there just like they did. One of Lifeguards was Jimmy Rourke.

Six or seven years later I met Jimmy again through my friend Fr. O’Malley (I was working at the Rectory at St. Michael’s) along with Jimmy’s beautiful wife Kathy. We renewed our friendship and it extended to Kathy , their kids (Sean, Katie,Ryan and Meghan) and Kathy’s family, including her mom El who co-owned Manning’s package store with her brother Jim Manning.

I went to work at Manning’s and became part of the clan. Many Sunday’s I got to be part of El’s Sunday Cook-Out / Clam Bake / Pool Party, whatever you wanted to call it. It was a collection of family and fiends who spent the day with our host El and her husband Bill, sons James and Michael,Cousins Jim and Pattie Manning, Uncle Jim Manning , Billy Manning, Bill Donahue and anyone else fortunate enough to to be invited. Good food, the SOX on the radio and lot’s of laughs and stories. El always made you feel welcome and at home. You were part of the family and you always felt that way.

Years after leaving Manning and having my own family, I’d run into EL at the Market or after church. There was always a hug and how’s the family question or I’d be getting home from work or headed out and she would be across the street visiting Jan and Bob Lekites her longtime friends and always a big wave and smile.

Today we say good-bye to EL at her wake but she leaves behind a legacy of a great family who have touched and loved so many. She was proud of her kids and even prouder of her grandkids and great-grandkids, a role I’m sure she cherished.

Love, thoughts and prayers go out to Kathy and Jim, James and his fiancée June. Mike and Amy, to Kathy and Jim’s kids,who I’ve watch grow into talented, caring, hard working and outstanding young men and women who have their own families, Sean, Ryan, Katie and Meghan and to all her great-grandkids and many friends. She is reunited with those who have gone ahead and will know doubt be looking down with love watching over you in the days and years ahead.

The last few lines in her Obituary sums it up nicely:

Eleanor lived her 92 years with faith, love, hard work, and dedication to what was in front of her. She will be missed but her presence will be felt by the generations she has left behind.

“Our power lies in our small daily choices one after another to create eternal ripples of a life well lived.”

Posted in Politics | Leave a comment

Sunday Notes August 17th 2014

That's what friends are for

That’s what friends are for

City Manager Murphy has decided that he will not offer Open and Transparent Gov’t with the Blessing and apparent Approval of the City Council and the Lowell Sun and is certainly giving potential City Council candidates a strong foundation to showcase the differences between “Professional” Management Versus Political Management and Open and Transparent Gov’t versus “The Golden Rule of Managing” (He who has the gold makes the rule).

He post Jobs that he already knows who he wants to fill for a max of 6 days (Get ready for another friend of Murph or City Councilor supporter to be named Special Event Coordinator) then states to the newspaper “It would have been a “charade” to conduct interviews!

He has filled two positions without ever posting the job: the City’s Community-Development Director position or the Data-Management Analyst.

When he does “announce” a hiring (by announce, he sends an email to the City Council then it’s a race among 2-3 Councilors to see who can inform the SUN/Teddy Panos first) but he NEVER releases the salaries when he makes the “announcement”.

The salaries for McGovern, Coughlin and Conley were not immediately available.

Their new salaries were not available as of late Wednesday afternoon.

Gitschier’s start date and salary were not available Friday afternoon.

The worse thing about the way Murphy is handling these appointments is that people like Gitschier, Baldwin and McGovern are all good qualified people who get branded hacks because Murph insist on acting like a politician instead of a Manager.

5 weeks after presenting the City Budget, he creates and hires a 3rd Asst. City Manager without the approval of the City Councilors (at least at an open meeting in view of the public) and not a peep from any City Councilor, many who ran stating they would challenge the Manager and push to represent all the people. If I were considering a run for Council I’d use these Councilors own words and in-actions against them:

Mayor Elliot ran for re-election stating: I do my homework, am prepared for meetings, and I’m not a rubber stamp,” said Elliott. “That’s how I’m going to proceed with my ninth term, if reelected, to continue to make our city government more open and more transparent, reminding everyone our city manager works for us, not the other way around.

Rita Mercier in her campaign profile in the Sun stated “We can’t sweep things under the rug and say everything is fine and put our heads in the sand,” said Mercier

Ed Kennedy: It’s up to residents to decide, he said, between a council that will sit back and rubber-stamp the city manager’s initiatives or one “that is going to be engaged, is going to challenge the city manager, ask questions and push on economic development, public safety and lower taxes.”

Bill Martin: “I have a proven record of making tough decisions that are in the best interest of the city even though they are not politically popular.”

This Council has been a rubber stamp, haven’t challenged this Manager on the way/length he post jobs, promotes without posting or adding a 3Rd Asst. and has stuck their heads in the sand on all of his appointments and have asked no questions about why the need for a 3rd Asst. Manager, Remember what Councilor Elliot said when the voted to cut the Asst. to the City Manager’s position?

“I didn’t really know what he did until tonight.” “We have more challenges ahead,” he added. “We are going to have to make more cuts, whether they are in personnel or otherwise.” YET it is okay after supporting 5 weeks earlier a budget that included the largest tax hike in 7 years a 3RD ASST. CITY Manager position that was not in the budget.

Really Councilor Martin? You and former Jim Milinazzo have been noticeably silent while most of this has been going on. It looks as if you two are 100% supportive of all of the “politically popular” moves by this Manager.

You two are were viewed by many as being pro-professional management and transparent gov’t but your inaction’s have spoken volumes. You either are afraid of the Dave Daly/JMAC political group who set their sights and defeated other councilors or you are content to go along to get along and get at least 1 or 2 of your supporters into city jobs.

No City Councilor has dared mention with a straight face the words Transparency and Open Gov’t since a City Manager’s search was first announced and this Manager hired.

The SUN hasn’t written much about Murphy’s style either. Not unexpectedly since Campy and O’Neil had personal grudges against the former Manager and the “reporter” assigned to “objectively cover” the City Council isthisclose to many councilors.(see photo above)

Maybe if/when the SUN is sold and a new management team takes over, the SUN will return to at least somewhat fair coverage. City Hall reporters like Chris Scott, Mike LeFluer and Jen Myers at least wrote facts and all the facts and left the editorializing to the Op-Ed pages. That doesn’t happen now days.

The paper is transitioning and keeps losing Salespeople and reporters. The only thing making that easier on the SUN is that 2-3 City Councilors email them all correspondence from the Manager / Auditor so they write a story without having to assign reporters to actually do any research or collect all the facts. The Editors have been so busy it has been over a month since the Column Blog was updated. That may be because Scotty figures I’m back and have things covered, but some including me miss the updates.

Siopes Case Settled
I do give the Manager credit for knowing when to fold and run. Unlike the Solicitor and/or former Manager who seemed to drag cases on and on even when faced with losing thousands of dollars of the city’s money. This Manager knows a losing hand when he see’s one. Getting Lt. Thomas Siopes to take a deal saves the city any more embarrassment (or having to explain white out on a document) and gives this officer who has dedicated his life in service to the city the chance to settle for what he and the Manager think is an acceptable punishment is fair to all and hopefully the Police Dept. can stop the internal bickering and get behind Supt. Taylor and move the dept. forward and attack the gun violence that has plagued this City.

I call City Councilor Corey Belanger for the Defense!
Former Library Assistant Diane Cloutier has threatened to sue the City over city funded video surveillance and to help her in her suit a sitting Lowell City Councilor at a public meeting states: “The city crossed a line here,” Belanger said. “There’s no two ways about it.” ..Did he get deposed that night or did her Attorney just up his settlement offer by another six figures thanks to that statement?

TWO WAY Traffic Downtown
Yesterday the City switched the Traffic patterns on Merrimack, Shattuck, Central and Market St. While the roads were painted and marked, some streets still had the old signage up (Central at Merrimack sported a One Way Arrow and Do Not Enter sign at 5:45 am) but all things considered it appears there were no great incidents or accidents and now we have to allow a good 6-9 months to pass and see what transpires before declaring a success or failure.

LMA Shortfall Back in the days of Mill City Management the trio with the LMA Boards approval “borrowed” $2.6 million, 20-year bond that paid for the auditorium’s new roof and other repairs. The yearly $250,000 NOTE was supposed to be funded by the extra ticket sales and surcharges. Any amount not received for the full $250.00 was paid for out of the General fund. So how much of the $154,072 worse than anticipated shortfall is a result of uncollected from Global through ticket sales lost because the City Council led by Rodney Elliot / Ed Kennedy dragged their feet in approving the Global contract? “Some shows that were booked in May/June were canceled or rescheduled at the last minute, and several other shows underperformed from their original projections/expectations,York wrote in an email.(To prove my point from above)

Time to Play “Get that Vote”!
With news that Erick Gitschier will be resigning from the Tech Board, it appears a new round of “Get that Vote” will be played out. Interested parties will begin to solicit support from the Lowell City Council / Lowell School Committee to be able to get a majority of the 15 votes up for grabs. Someone will need 8 votes. Look for names like Mike Hayden and Ralph Hogan to be in the mix. Former member Dave Laferriere may be interested but most of these people already showed Dave they have no respect for him or his service to the Tech by not supporting him last time.

Growing the LOWELL strength at the Greater LOWELL Tech
Facing a lawsuit by the City of Lowell over proper representation under the law, the Greater Lowell Tech voted to propose to the 4 communities that make up the ‘district” a weighted voting method gives each of the four Lowell representatives approx. 17.7 percent of the vote or a Majority of 70.8% control of the School Committee. Lowell being the largest feeder community also contributes the most funding.

The Tyngsboro Rep. was the only committee member to oppose this. Tyngsboro which is the town that houses the Tech would go from having 1/8th of the vote to 7.5% under the weighted system. It will be interesting to see if the Town meetings in Dracut, Tyngsboro or Dunstable will approve this change?

HELP LOWELL POLICE
Condolences to the Callahan Family on the lost of the boys last weekend in a senseless tragedy PLEASE keep your eyes out for this man and report any sighting to the Lowell Police. He needs to be off the streets and put away for the safety of all.

No Published Caption

Posted in Politics | 3 Comments

Another Strong addition to Murphy Team -Erik Gitschier

Gitschier

According to the SUN City Manager Murphy has chosen Erik Gitschier to be the new Executive Director of the Lowell Regional Water Utility.

Erik has been Lexington’s water and sewer superintendent and previously worked here in Lowell.

Erik has a very solid reputation in Lexington and I believe he brings a strong presence to the Water Utility.

While he and Mike McGovern were not always agreeing on things at the Tech. I have no doubt he and Erik will work well together has part of the Murphy team.

Since elected school committee members at the Tech do not receive a stipend, I don’t believe there is any conflict with Erick continuing to serve on that board.

Posted in Politics | Leave a comment

Another Exit from City Hall?

image

If Rumors around the downtown bubble and in political circles are true, the Sun’s Lyle Moran is leaving the City Hall beat and the Sun in the next few weeks and moving on.

While I did give him the moniker “Cub Reporter” and think his “reporting” is biased and slanted to the political leanings of his bosses (Campy and O’Neil) and that it favors certain Councilors, I wish Lyle well wherever the next stop in his journalism career takes him.

He has always been polite and even though we disagree on many things , he has for the most part been decent when dealing with me. It’s good to go and follow your dreams while you are still young and embrace the opportunities ahead.

He is a talented young man who under proper supervision by an Editor who doesn’t have a personal grudge / agenda could grow to be an outstanding, unbiased and solid reporter.

If you see Lyle around, wish him good luck.
____________________________________________

Lyle may not be the only one exiting…H/T to Jack and Lowell Live Feed Facebook Forum..

The City Manager continues to reshape his office and has a post up for an Administrative Asst. (and it’s posted for more than 6 days!)

I believe the person now doing the job is only a temp, so this may be to find a full time person. For a long time there were two admins until one was cut in the layoffs I believe that occurred last year or two years ago. He does have a women on temp. assignment from the Election Office so unless he is creating another new position (has he did with the 3rd Asst. City Manager) you would have to assume that she will be sent back to Elections after the primary or if he husband is successful, reassigned somewhere permanently.

Since the Manager stated one of Kevin Coughlin’s functions is to outreach to the Cambodian Community, maybe the Manager can find a minority to appoint to this position.

Manager Murphy has selected many women and men for his team and to fill Boards and Commissions but not many (if any) have been minority. Having a minority / bilingual person full time in his office would be a sign he is committed to reach out and be accessible to ALL members of the Lowell Community.

Posted in Politics | Leave a comment