Sunday Notes March 13th 2016

Q. What is Irish diplomacy?
A. It’s the ability to tell a man to go to hell, in a fashion that he will look forward to making the trip!

Jokes like that are in store this upcoming Thursday during the annual St. Patrick’s Day Dinner hosted by the City Manager and State Sen. Eileen Donoghue but having the event on St. Patrick’s Day has riled some Irish tempers.

Many view St. Patrick’s day like the day before Thanksgiving, a day to make stops at several establishments and catch up with friends and family while having a drop of the creäture has they say. Having to decide to either stay with tradition and join family and friends or for political reasons attend the dinner has put some people in a bind.

Speaking of establishments, many businesses especially in the downtown area aren’t happy that the Senator and Manager are taking away 300-500 people during one of their best days of the year. While the dinner is for charity many local businesses who get hit up often for contributions now have to compete with the politicians for dollars.

Most bar owners will tell you that along with the day before Thanksgiving and New Years Eve, St Patrick’s day is their busiest and most profitable day and two of the City leaders are hurting their business.

A wiser choice which was suggested to me by a wise , long serving politician would have been to hold the event the Thursday BEFORE and you would still be able to get the Gov.and Reps. to attend. It’s to bad that no one advised the Manager and Senator that they were creating resentment among attendees and business owners who desperately need the revenue St. Patrick’s Day generates.

Another Mom Challenger?

Yesterday on Saturday Morning Live w/Warren Shaw State Rep challenger Dave Oullette announced that Paul Ratha Yem who two years ago made an ill-fated run for State Rep. then an unsuccessful run for City Council last year, has pulled papers for another possible run for State Rep. I contacted Paul and he said that while he did pull papers he has NOT decided to run and will not decide anything until April.

A reasonable raise for Elected Officials and for Signatures / Preliminary requirements!

The special ad hoc committee looking at increasing the number of signatures required to get on the ballot for municipal elections, the number of candidates required to hold a preliminary and the stipend received by elected officials meets this Tuesday at 5:30.

I was encouraged to see Kendall Wallace in his Saturday Chat column see the value and justification for a pay increase. He noted Members of the Lowell City Council and School Committee have gone 16 years without a salary adjustment. He also wrote

This is not an issue city councilors relish discussing. Every other city employee gets a raise every year, but somehow it becomes a huge controversy whenever an increase is under consideration for elected officials.

The year 2000 was the last time councilors and committee members got a raise.

The current proposal would take annual council pay from $15,000 to $18,000. School Committee salaries would rise from $6,000 to $10,000. The mayor would go from $21,000 to $25,000.

I have no idea what is fair compensation for an elected official, but I certainly know councilors and, to an even larger extent, school board members work pretty hard for the city.

Jumping the council pay from $15,000 to $18,000 would be a 20 percent jump — not much considering the 16 years since the last raise

Increasing the signatures from 50 – 100 shows that BOTH incumbents and challengers have to work a little harder without it appearing that this Council is trying to discourage or be punitive by increasing the signatures to 150 or 200.

By allowing up to 25 candidates to run before requiring a preliminary it gives challengers the knowledge that they will be in the race for the long haul while at the same time decreasing the cost to th city. It also gives challengers added time to grow their base and look at more issues that could impact the race, that if anything is detrimental for current councilor’s.

Deputy Supt. title could add to the friction / fraction!

The latest whispering in the bubble has the 2 Asst. School Superintendents not only looking for new contracts (Both expire this year) but reportedly looking to try and get one last boost for pension time. The contracts which are public information and posted on-line show that the Asst. Supt for Curriculum makes approx. $7,829 more than the Asst. Supt for Support Services.

It also appears by looking at the numbers in the contract that one of the Asst. Supts. received at least 1 of her 2% Evaluation bonus along with her 3% salary increase while the other received only her 1% Salary increase on both years of the contract.

There’s also talk about “awarding” someone the title of Deputy Superintendent and the $5,000 stipend that goes along with that. In a year of a tight budget, you would think that not filling that Title and using the $5,000 elsewhere would at least show a token attempt at budget reduction.

Hopefully this Mayor and School Committee will not bother to award a title for the sake of trying to even out the contracts.

Camps are forming on who should or shouldn’t get the “Deputy” title which to me seems like a wasted titled. It appears it was used previously to incentives the Asst. Supt of Finance to stay but the current Supt. like the Manager can appoint one of the Asst. to be the lead person if he for any reason is out for a week or a few days. Why spend $5,000 to pick a side? If we have lasted the entire school year to date without a Deputy Supt. why the need for one at all?

This is only adding to the friction/fractioning that has developed over the last year. We have seen the Grant Manager leave and there is buzz that 2-3 other solid hardworking administrators / supervisors are also looking to leave.

I’d give the two Asst. exactly what they gave everyone else 3.75 % and do the same with the Principals. I’d also not even attempt to award one of them a $5,000 title!

School Grant titles, leaves you asking questions..

Being an involved and active parent or a school committee member, requires you to look at the school budget but what you see leaves your scratching your head trying to understand what and why things are. Lot’s of questions just looking at grant positions like,

Why do we have a grant position listed in the budget that reads Parochial School Reading teacher at $81,580?

Why does the Central Administration have Social Workers? (psychologist I could understand!)

What are Evaluation Team Chairpersons (2) and what do they do?

What does a Coordinator of Leadership Support and Development do for over $100,000?

That’s just after a quick glance…there are so many different type of services needed, offered, paid for by grants and out of the regular budget that you need to me a math major to understand it. How the heck do we expect School Committee members to?

Parking Cost

One thing that bothers me in the general budget , Why is the School Department the only City Dept. that pays for parking after it was the City Council who wanted them to move downtown? To his credit, City Manager Murphy responded when I asked about it on WCAP Saturday Morning Live that he would look at it. It’s $100,000 but if the budget is going to be as tight has many think, every little bit helps.

Welcome to the Party Pal!
Good Luck and best wishes to City Councilor Corey Belanger who I hear has joined the Baker Team in some capacity. Corey and I have and do disagree on things but he’s a really nice guy who deserves a break after a tough personal year. He joins Jordan Gys and Rodney Elliott from Lowell for Baker !!

Copy of red_raiders_5-2






1 thought on “Sunday Notes March 13th 2016

  1. I don’t think we should give any additional raises to top level management. As far as the equity goes, City Manager Kevin Murphy negotiated Asst. Supt. Claire Abrams and his wife an incredibly generous contract. He is a good labor attorney. If we are going to play keeping up the Jones then maybe the city can pay for it? Only fair, right? I am running out to my backyard right now to pick some more money. Darn, the trees are bare.

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