Sunday Notes July 5th 2015

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Money Money Money Money!

I don’t envision a big upset in the City Council race. It should be a pretty quiet race, especially with only 4 challengers and 8 out of 9 Councilors presumed running for reelection. It shouldn’t be a very expensive race on the Council side but the present council isn’t taking chances, with many stocking up their campaign coffers already.

According to the Mass OCPF here’s what the current Councilors have raised so far this year and what they have on hand in their campaign accounts:

Corey Belanger $8,200 (has $5,721.00 in account)
Rodney Elliott $5,307.00 (has $22,177.54 in account)
Ed Kennedy $7,700 (has $9,395.39 in account)
John Leahy $9,800 (has $9,834.76 in account)
Bill Martin $0 (has $13,887.02 in account)
Rita Mercier $4,020.00 ($7,948.38 in account)
Jim Milinazzo $0 ($1,079.36 in account)
Bill Samaras $10,195.00 ($10,300.00 in account)
Dan Rourke $15,145 ($18,200.87 in account)

BTW for those wondering about the St. Patrick Day Ads on WCAP Elliott, Mercier, Samaras and Rourke all have listed expenditures for those ads.

On the Challenger side:
Dave Conway $11,585.00* ($8,642.19 in account) *includes $2,000 “donation to himself” – He also has an expenditure for the St. Patrick Day Ads on WCAP!
Vesna Nuon $905.00 ($426.32 in account)
Paul Ratha Yem $0 ($1,591.20 in account)
Joe Mendonca $50 ($234.40 in account) He also has an expenditure for the St.Patrick Day Ads on WCAP!

The Budget contains NO money for raises…or does it?
According to the Lowell School Dept. Website:

The FY16 budget includes a $ 3 million increase over FY15.

The FY2016 budget utilizes $ 1.1 million in projected FY2015 salary surplus to offset the FY2016 general revenue shortfall.

The budget reflects all known salary increases previously bargained and all known non-salary contractual increases;

Employee salaries have been increased in accordance with the applicable employment agreements and collective bargaining agreements governing the 2015/16 school year;

An amount equivalent to a 1% cost of living increase for all school department union and non-union employees has been included in the school committee suspense account for collective bargaining purposes

All interesting information but I have a question. Why isn’t the entire School Budget posted on the School Dept. Website?

Shouldn’t the public be able to look at it and see where a $154 Million dollars gets used?

No Leader….infighting..canceling meetings….chaos or Why UTL won’t accept a contract from this Committee!

It’s one thing for a big mouth blogger to take shots at elected officials..it’s another thing when they fight among themselves to the point that the Union who represent the majority of employees who work for the School District can see it in newsprint or on a public Facebook page and know that they can wait out this group of dysfunctional “adults” and wait until the School Committee is stacked with more friendly Committee members to get the contract they want.

Even though Kim Scott and Kristin Ross-Sitcawich announced they would not seek re-election, they still are obligated to fill out their current term but judging from their published comments in the SUN, they aren’t above contributing to the dysfunctionality by throwing gasoline on a fire that is already pretty well lit.

Ross-Sitcawich – On Supt. Hiring -hiring was rife with votes based on “friendships, not professional acumen. “Ask anyone familiar with the process and they will tell you personal politics came into play in a big way,”

On hiring: said she is tired of the “backroom stuff, the behind-the-scenes” angling for jobs. She declined to elaborate or name names, but said: “If people only knew.”

Scott: On Supt. Hiring – “We’ve made a decision, and that should be it,” said Scott. “However, there’s a sentiment that lingers, and lingers and lingers.” She declined to elaborate.

On her Public “Lowell City Wide Parent Group” Facebook Page Scott was a bit more blunt ” It annoys me that the loudest proponents against change in the Lowell Public Schools have either sent their own kids to private school (or attempted to), moved out of town, have financial business with the schools, have multiple family members employed, or have advocated for their kids to go to a certain school. Hypocrisy at its finest!

If you are going to make public such damning accusations how do you expect the other members to react? Why would the UTL even try to sit down with this Committee when from all appearances they don’t want to sit down with EACH OTHER! Wednesday Night School Committee meeting might be must see TV! from now until December.

This Committee in my opinion has DRAGGED their feet from the beginning refusing and stalling meeting with the UTL to settle a contract and I’ve heard that they have cancelled two of the last four meetings with a mediator. Does the Committee really just want to go to fact finding? Which by the way is NOT binding! If that is true it highlights the lack of leadership on this committee. Gone are the days of a Mike Gallagher, Bill Taupier or Steve Panagiotakos. No one wants to be a leader and the UTL sees that.

We need someone not afraid to meet with the union face to face . Someone willing to either say Sorry we have to hold the line on salary because …or have someone willing to meet and advocate for the School Dept. and say to the Manager and Council we need to raise the property tax by another .5% or 1% to fund city services including a raise for staff.

Why is it that the School Committee wants Public negotiations with the UTL but you never hear the Manager or Council requesting the Police or 1705 union negotiate in public. Is Paul Georges that intimidating? I’d sit in a room with him.

Remember when the UTL under some pressure agreed to join the GIC? It allowed Lowell to be able to save millions on health cost and the Council to hold taxes to a minimal .5% increase. So why hasn’t a School Committee member or challenger asked this City Manager about sharing some of the Million dollars in savings he claims the city has saved in 2015 and is expected to save in 2016.

Why haven’t challengers taken a stand and talked about the stalled contracts, their position on LHS or asked about the GIC money?

At this point every option on funding needs to be looked at and vetted. Every program and the cost of that program needs to be looked at. Can accounting and administration jobs be combined with the city. Is there a way to save money . Nothing should be off the table, we should PUBLICLY look at all options including fees for athletics, music, drama etc.

Dates to remember…

Friday, July 31, 2015
Last day and hour to obtain nomination papers 5 PM

Tuesday, August 4, 2015
Last day and hour to submit nomination papers to the Election Commission 5 PM

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