Sunday Notes August 9th 2015

Today would have been my late brother Paul's 52nd Birthday.
Today would have been my late brother Paul’s 52nd Birthday.

Time for a Charter Review

I find it hard to believe or understand why there would be ANY talk among the current City Council to even discuss the idea that Lowell should consider canceling a September Preliminary Election over cost. This conversation comes up EVERYTIME there is only 22 or fewer candidates for Council. If you recall waivers were requested by the City Council and approved by state officials in both 2007 and 2009 eliminated those preliminaries.

The Sun published a column back in 2011 when there was a faint hint of canceling the preliminary that included this reminder from the delegation:

At that time (2007), then-state Sen. Steve Panagiotakos told the council he and the rest of the city’s delegation would support the waiver. However, the support came with a warning – don’t ask again. Panagiotakos advised the council to seek a change to the city charter to increase the number of candidates that trigger a preliminary election in the future.

It still has not.

Panagiotakos also expressed displeasure at the council’s late waiver request, which came on Aug. 14, when the Legislature was on summer recess.

In 2009, the council voted to request the waiver in July, before the ballot was set. Members of the delegation said they were not thrilled with the idea, but they would respect the vote of the council and bring the waiver request forward. Gov. Deval Patrick expressed concern at the time that granting such a waiver would compromise democracy. But he signed the waiver anyway.

There has been little talk about changing the charter since that time and the time has come for this Council to take the lead and ask the Manager to have the Law Dept. look into what exactly would be involved in a full charter review.

My understanding is to raise the number of candidates required for a preliminary, it would need a Charter change. Would the council want to run the risk that the election of district / ward councillors or the people voting for the Mayor’ position gets brought forward? It is a possibility but Lowell to my knowledge hasn’t had a Charter Review in the past 40+ years (more likely longer but I’m only 52 so going from my memory). Now seems like a good time for one.

Budget for Elections:

There seems to have been some type of miscommunication or misunderstanding regarding the dollar amount budgeted for the upcoming elections. According to the Budget for the Election Dept. it appears that Salary and Wages Temp. is budgeted for $90,000 and that was for the November Election and March Presidential Primary. (approx $45,000 per Election) The city will have to transfer in more money at some

Seems to me that the Manager screwed this one up by cutting the requested $130,000 (Approx. $43.3K per election) He should have been planning for the event of a Preliminary since it is easier to have excess than shortages.

Election Budget

BULLYING or Lowell Politics as usual?

Remember this headline from the Sun last April? Union disputes city’s overtime policy Local 1705 criticized the city for changing practices that have been in place for more than ten years. They alleged the change in interpretation of the contract originated with the city auditor and since the auditor works for the council, the council should be involved in this?

Could it perhaps have lead some over zealous union activist to make thing so uncomfortable for this Auditor that she chose to quit her job? The rumor mill has been buzzing with this rumor (far more believable than the stupid cook the book rumors). It would not be a first for a Union to react negatively to someone and make them uncomfortable. Nor would it be the first time elected officials turned a blind eye to Union chicanery in an election year!

However, if this is indeed the case has the Union exposed the City to a potential harassment claim? Has the HR and Legal Dept. spoken to the Auditor and asked about any type of harassment?

Is the feeling uttered supposedly among some elected or appointed officials that “She can’t handle Lowell Politics? has stupid as it sounds to me. Harassing someone to the point they give up their job is NOT and should not be Lowell Politics as usual.

New Political Force or just concentrated power?

In 2013 Dick Howe posted a column titled The Cambodian voters of Lowell and in that post, identified Cambodian voters by their last name. He says in the post: “I’ve had a sense that Cambodian-American voters in Lowell have played a key role in the outcome of the 2011 city council election, the 2012 US Senate election, and the 2013 US Senate special election”

He did so with the clear understanding that ” It is an inexact method but I believe it is the best one available to help explore this issue.” He went on to say “Of the 54,955 registered voters of Lowell in January 2013, 7038 had Cambodian surnames. That’s 13% of the electorate.”

Is that number along with the election of Rady Mom to the State Rep. seat any indication that the Cambodian Community is becoming a political force? So far Lowell has had only 2 Cambodian City Councilors Rithy Uong who won 2 terms and Vesna Nuon who won 1 term.

According to Dick’s post ” The Cambodian voters are not spread evenly throughout the city. Instead they live mostly in the Highlands and the Acre. Very few live in Belvidere, Centralville or Pawtucketville.”

He then gives us a breakdown by ward / precinct. I’ll just provide the largest ones:

3-2 All voters = 1390; SEA voters = 458; percentage SEA voters = 33%
3-3 All voters = 1422; SEA voters = 474; percentage SEA voters = 33%

4-1 All voters = 1730; SEA voters = 602; percentage SEA voters = 35%
4-2 All voters = 1279; SEA voters = 520; percentage SEA voters = 41%
4-3 All voters = 1629; SEA voters = 377; percentage SEA voters = 23%

7-2 All voters = 1516; SEA voters = 379; percentage SEA voters = 25%
7-3 All voters = 1243; SEA voters = 597; percentage SEA voters = 48%

8-2 All voters = 1815; SEA voters = 462; percentage SEA voters = 25%

Are those number of votes in a limited area enough to say that the Cambodian community is a political force or that they effect the outcome of a race?

Is it high enough to help the number of Cambodian candidates running this year? It is only 3869 votes out of a possible 12,024 mostly concentrated in a general area. With many solid and impressive candidates running, will the 13% City wide really be a factor? It will be something worth watching and paying attention to.

While I believe it will help in a small way some challengers I do think it will also help some incumbents. Mayor Elliott, Rita Mercier, Corey Belanger and Dan Rourke have all done tremendous out-reach in the Cambodian community.

VFW / Bridge St. area
The Transportation SUbCommittee is holding a meeting this Tuesday August 11, 2015 at 5:30 the Meeting will be mainly a Presentation from MassDOT Officials Regarding the Realignment and Reconstruction of VFW/Bridge St. The Public is invited to attend.