Sunday Notes Sept. 7th 2015

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Putting a Smile on Dave Conway’s Face

Congratulations to Anne Sheehy who was recently appointed Assistant Director of Human Resources: Educator Evaluation and Licensure at Lowell Public Schools. She was passed over for a promotion by the last administration but began her new position under the new Supt. in July. Dave Conway was said to be a strong supporter of hers when she applied for her last promotion.

Not a lot to like about Lowell if you’re a surrounding Community!

Lowell is getting a rather poor reputation among its neighboring communities. First Ed Kennedy files a motion to change the agreement concerning the Greater Lowell Tech and upsetting Dracut, Tyngsboro and Dunstable.

Then Manager Murphy unleashes his bulldog – Former State Sen. Phil Shea on the LRTA trying to bully a settlement on using their land for buses to get the Hamilton Canal Project jump started.

Then Lowell who was originally part of a Regional Dispatch Center backed out after the other communities didn’t agree to a weighted vote giving Lowell control of the board.

While the Lynch Administration and former Councils worked at trying to form partnerships and regionalization opportunities the Murphy Administration and this Council seem to want to flex Lowell’s muscles of being the big bad BIG CITY and treating our neighboring communities like they are lucky Lowell is willing to work with them.

Bait and Switch!
A case could be made that the City of Lowell under the current Mayor is practicing deceptive advertising when trying to fill key positions. Here is a line from the Posting for the Lowell School Supt job posting.

Salary and benefits: $175-$200K. Three year contract, benefits negotiable.

Yet when they get down to Final interviews all of a sudden you are asked if you will work WITHOUT the contract even though one was advertised. Lowell has been fortunate that no one yet has sued but the word is getting around the municipalities throughout the state that Lowell is not honest in job postings.

It’s one of the reasons Lowell ended up hiring an Auditor that wasn’t from MA. and had no strong knowledge of the workings of a city Govt.or MA. Auditing practises. People in state with experience don’t want to come here without a contract. If you recall it took the Council two tries to hire the last Auditor. How long will it take to hire the next one.

Playing Politics with Purchasing?

I’m told it’s just the way municipal purchasing is done but it strikes me odd that the City Council, who has run for re-election touting their commitment to public safety, has yet to ask for an update on Councilor Rourke’s highly touted and council supported $500,000 shot spotter software which closed for bidding August 12th and hadn’t been awarded yet. Are they waiting until the election date gets closer to announce the purchase or keeping it open until after the election so they can maybe go a different way?

The hiring of a firm to “review” the Fire Dept. also closed August 18th, is the city again stalling the award so that the review doesn’t happen until after the election?

Mayor and School Committee costing taxpayers MILLIONS?

According to Ted Panos the teachers union could be owed around a million dollars in back pay if a grievance they have filed gets upheld by an arbitrator. It is the School Committee’s own doing if that happens.

I’m betting based on past performance by this committee and knowing the Mayors attitude toward contracts, they are using that settlement to say sorry we have no money especially if that gets awarded. So not only does this committee want concessions, they want to be rewarded for violating a contract they agreed to honor.

Elected Officials complain if unions work to contract but have no problems violating the contract then expecting the union to give up what the worked for but the committee violated then refused to correct.

How can this be considered fair negotiations? Why are all the committee members allowing this fiasco and where are the challengers?

Between yanking Supt. Franco’s Contract at the 11th hour, not hiring Lang and ignoring advise of Legal Counsel , this Committee by the time this grievance is settled (if it’s in the UTL favor) could cost in one time payouts to Lang and Franco when they left , along with the grievance $1.2 million dollars. Imagine what we could by in books and supplies for Lowell students with that money.

What’s always surprised me is that the Mayor had opposed most of the recent union contracts for city workers, yet he is a union member covered under a contract and even listed as a union steward from what I’ve been told. Very ” Do as I say, not as I do!”

WARNING – Lowell Business Owners Should NOT run/serve has City Councilors!

I can remember John McDonough’s words when asked ‘Why don’t you run for City Council?’
His answer was ” Because if you own your own business, being a councilor hurts your business!”

I never thought more about that until recently when I heard about the difficulty Corey Belanger is having, even in trying to sell his business. It seems certain unions are mad at him so they skip patronizing his business. When he did have people interested in buying the business, they applied to the LDFC to help with financing but BECAUSE Corey is a Councilor they could not get funded to buy that business because it was owned by a City Councilor and looked at has a conflict of interest.

I’ve never heard Corey Belanger complain about any of this, I’m told he was even warned by Alan Kazanjian that being a Councilor hurts your business but he wanted to serve and ran anyway. Based on stories I’ve heard, I’d guess John Leahy’s business has also been hurt, since some people would not hire his company to paint because of votes he has taken.

Neither of them is looking for sympathy or pity and would probably be happier if I didn’t make these comments. When I asked Corey Belanger about this he just shrugged and said in the words of a Bill Belichick “it is what it is”.

I feel badly that anyone could lose their livelihood because they were willing to serve their city. Is Corey everything you want in a councilor? Maybe not but he is at least willing to try and serve while most just complain about those who do serve.

I also feel badly that Lowell loses out on having successful, experienced business people who understand budgets, hiring, insurance, personal issues etc. able to serve on the City Council if they own a business in Lowell.

It is Lowell who loses out…instead we seem to be satisfied with retired municipal or federal workers, people who work for Federal, State or county government, the occasional Lawyer, Banker or real estate advisor. We lose out on the experience of a business owner who faces the same struggles the city does, paying workers, providing insurance and dealing with regulations and personal.

Good Luck to Corey both in his reelection attempt and in selling his business and getting a new job. We may not agree on many things but no one deserves for any reason, especially political ones, to suffer personal financial or employment challenges because they are willing to serve in elected office.

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