News, schools, and views from a uniquely Lowell perspective

Council, school meetings worth noting

One of the great strengths of a democratic government is the right of its citizens to participate in, even criticize, leadership decisions. That right (a privilege and a responsibility) is especially demonstrated during tough fiscal times when people, as we saw at recent school budget hearings, voice concerns to their elected leaders. Tonight, the Lowell City Council will begin its budget deliberations at 5 pm, and citizens should participate in (or at least watch on channel 10) the process. Also tonight, the school administration will hold a special meeting for parents at the Rogers Middle School at 7 pm regarding transition issues relative to closing the school. Tomorrow, the School Committee will continue its budget hearing around 8 pm in Council Chambers after subcommittee meetings on special education (6:15 pm); transportation (6:45) and its regularly scheduled board meeting (7 pm). Next week, the Lowell High School subcommittee will convene on Tuesday, June 23, at 7 pm to discuss the impacts of teacher and administrative cuts at the high school, particularly regarding class size, student distribution, and programs under the direction of the now-eliminated position of student support services coordinator. These meetings are all open to the public, and I urge you to be involved and express your concerns: a strong democracy, like a strong community, is one where citizens are part of the process.

posted in City Life, Education, Local Politics, Lowell High, Money Matters | 0 Comments

Call the police

We may not be law enforcers, but we are the eyes and ears of our community. I was driving home this morning when I noticed a multiple-car fender bender on the Lord Overpass. Although it appeared no one was hurt, three women (one of whom was elderly) were involved in a shouting match. I heard a shrieking “You’re nothin’ but a B_tch!” and at that point, I decided not to stop and see if they needed help. Instead, I called the police on their non-emergency phone line: 978-937-3200. It reminded me of other times I’ve called the police to report an activity: one Sunday afternoon two men got into a fist fight at Tyler Park (over dog waste); another time, a group of teens were having a yelling standoff in the park. Years ago, I took a safety course and learned how much the police rely on observant citizens to stop crimes and capture criminals. Be aware of your surroundings. Notice if there’s an unknown car in your neighborhood, a lurking stranger, a door left open, or anything suspicious, and take a few minutes to notify the police if you think it’s warranted. They always welcome the information, and when they need to respond, they do it quickly.

posted in City Life, Uncategorized | 0 Comments

Desperately seeking purple bags…

Warning: Don’t plan any spring-cleaning projects in Lowell without securing your trash disposal first. As a multiple-recycling-container family, it’s no trouble fitting our trash in the large magenta barrel the city provided as part of its new trash collection system. In fact, we’re big supporters of the movement and have happily added our filled recycling bins to the many dotting our Highlands neighborhood as the new program appears to be working to increase recycling. That is, however, until we did some much-needed sorting and cleaning last weekend, and ended up with more trash than could fit in the one assigned container (along with half a garage full of giveaways, which we’ll deal with later). Since we are a family of procrastinators as well as recyclers and pack rats, the search for the infamous purple bags did not begin until last night—just hours before trash pickup was scheduled.  The five stores visited included Shop ‘n Save and Walmart at Drum Hill (who were both out), two convenience stores on Westford Street—Windsor Shop and Country Farms—who said they had not been able to participate(?),  and Walgreens on Chelmsford Street who has been out of them for weeks. We didn’t try Market Basket because by then we were out of time and patience. (And me, lover of all things purple: It’s ironic!) Alas, a quick check on the city’s recycling website didn’t yield any clues about where we might find the illusive bags, so I guess we’re left holding the trash, literally, for another week.

posted in City Life | 1 Comment

Perfect time for improving laws

Since there’s obviously not much state revenue for next year’s budget, it’s a perfect time for our legislators to focus on reforms around a number of laws that impact our quality of life here in the Commonwealth. Lately, a lot of media coverage has been given to pension reform, which makes sense given the litany of abuses we’ve heard about. Another reform, perhaps not as visible in the media, but certainly of interest to the Lowell Police and members of the City Manager’s Anti-Gang Task Force (to which I belong) is the issue of laws that limit people from carrying dangerous weapons. State Senator Steve Panagiotakos has proposed legislation to expand an existing statute, a change many in law enforcement have been asking for since 1985. The current statute, MGL Chapter 269 section 10(b), reads like a laundry list of weapons; but without definition or inclusion of many of the newer, different kinds of disguised knives and machetes being found on the streets these days, it offers limited recourse for police. Coincidentally, the Lowell City Council is reviewing plans to add an ordinance to the city’s laws around this issue in response to handmade weapons such as golf clubs with blades, knives disguised as pens, and a variety of other weapons that have been confiscated by police. The ordinance would allow Lowell Police to arrest and fine someone caught carrying these weapons within city limits. With the added teeth of an expanded state law on this issue, perpetrators would also be subject to more punitive measures including incarceration. Given the likelihood of cuts to public safety budgets, the trend towards increased crime during difficult economic times, and the advent of warmer weather—public safety officials need all the help they can get, and soon!

posted in City Life, State Concerns | 0 Comments

Another misleading newspaper article…

The older I get, the more cynical I am about newspaper coverage. (After being misquoted and seeing what passes as “balanced reporting,” I consider it a learned response.) Today’s Boston Globe ran a story about surveillance of public places that erroneously claims: “Police in Lowell are installing sophisticated video surveillance systems to watch students inside and outside the public schools as part of a citywide security system to monitor and deter criminal activity.”

I don’t pretend to speak for the Lowell police here, and in fact, I know little about the city’s plans for cameras except what I’ve heard about prioritizing “hot spots” of criminal activity and having live feeds to the police station. But I do know about security cameras in the schools, and I can tell you we have had them at the high school for years, and there is no plan to expand the system or go to a live feed with the police. At LHS, more than 100 cameras transmit internally to a video control center at the school, which is monitored by a security officer. The cameras view hallways, stairwells, doors, and outside areas, and have been extremely effective in deterring crime and catching perpetrators. For instance, although they are not in the bathrooms or locker rooms, they are installed directly outside those areas, which enabled high school security to identify the student who set fire to a trashcan in the boys’ bathroom a few years ago. The cameras enhance security (consider 3,800 students with only a handful of security and police officers), and they serve as a major crime deterrent. Today’s paper attempts to make this about civil liberties and some may see it that way; but the internal video surveillance system at Lowell High School serves a critical role in student safety, and I’ve got no problem with that. The fact that the paper got the story so blatantly wrong about the city’s plans baffles even the most cynical reader.

posted in City Life, Education, Lowell High | 0 Comments

Bring back Sunrise!

I guess I took Sunrise, the late, lamented UML morning show, for granted. I knew that if I didn’t tune in for the whole show, I could catch important bits on the ‘rewind’ portion from 9:00-10:00, or catch up with interesting guests and topics by listening to a podcast of the segment later in the week. Plus, there’s always NPR. But, the truth is, I really miss Sunrise. NPR is great, but it can be repetitive, and I miss the local slant on national or global news. I liked hearing firsthand from local pundits like UML Professor Bob Forrant how economic trends and politics were affecting the Merrimack Valley. I liked hearing our local politicians being interviewed in a fair and balanced way without the relentless political agenda of AM radio talk shows. I liked the mix of news, arts, essays and politics – it really worked. I really miss Perry’s soothing tones, Christine’s cheerful laughter and Bob’s zeal for a good story. I think the show was getting better all the time and becoming a cornerstone of Greater Lowell media. We lost a lot when we lost Sunrise.

posted in City Life, Local People | 4 Comments

Late-night streets no place for young people

 I’m not a lawyer and I’m certainly not an expert on Constitutional law, but it seems to me we’ve been limiting children’s civil rights (if you want to look at it that way) for years, and for their own good. Most kids I know would argue against anything that limits their freedom to do what they want. (Some youngsters—especially the two teens I live with—might also accuse us of being mean and unfair for doing so.) Be that as it may, it is appropriate to restrict children’s activities for safety reasons, and as a society we have been doing it for a long time. If the Supreme Judicial Court should rule against Lowell’s 11 p.m. curfew for youngsters under 17 years old, what next? Will it be unconstitutional to require children to wear helmets on bicycles and seat belts in cars? How about laws forbidding the sale of cigarettes and alcohol to minors? What about restrictions on attending R-rated movies? The fact that the SJC has chosen to review this law has made front-page news, both in today’s Sun and in yesterday’s Globe, but the concept that we might start down this slippery slope is frightening. Our young people should be safe at home in the late evening, whether they have a responsible adult demanding it or not. If they have good reasons why they are wandering the streets after 11, then the curfew gives police the authority to stop them and help sort it out. See LiL for additional thoughts and comments.

posted in City Life, Youth | 0 Comments

March is about honoring women

Tomorrow kicks off a month dedicated to celebrating the many contributions women have made and continue to make in our community. In Lowell, it has become an annual event featuring a week’s worth of activities—from films, breakfasts and lectures, to “Because of Her” awards and opportunities for networking. We certainly have come a long way from when Susan B. Anthony made impassioned speeches about how the mothers, sisters and wives of America were not inferior to men, but deserving of the right to vote and participate in government. Today, women in Lowell are active leaders in business, government, education, non-profits, the arts, and community groups. We still, however, do not hold our share of decision-making positions given our population–only about 25% of the state legislature is women, and Congresswoman Niki Tsongas is the only female representative from Massachusetts. Check out this year’s schedule and make time to participate in an event. It’s important. When women share in each other’s successes, we help pave the way for today’s young sisters to become tomorrow’s leaders.

posted in City Life, Local Groups, Women's issues | 0 Comments

Trash day in the Highlands…could get messy

As much as I want folks to recycle and am particularly enamored with the new barrels (such a pretty color), I was disheartened today to see so many of the new containers on the streets loaded with trash and waiting for pickup. (I counted at least a dozen on Westford Street alone.) Thinking perhaps it was a Highlands disconnect, I called the Health Department and they confirmed it: Citywide, lots of loaded barrels were put out early—BEFORE the program was set to begin. As the instructions on the containers state, the program starts March 2, which is next week. No problem, they emptied them anyway, but it got me worried that the transition to the new trash system could get messy…


It also got me thinking about what to do with the old containers. There are several options: Reuse them for “Yard Waste” or “Bottles and Cans” by getting free stickers from the Health Dept, 341 Pine Street, or Lowell City Hall (weekdays 9-5) and placing them on your old containers. Or if you don’t have storage space, in a few months the city will schedule pickup of the old barrels. Just think, no need to purchase bags for leaf raking in the fall—another plus for a more recycling-friendly waste system that will save money too! For more information about the new system, check here.

posted in City Life, Environment | 1 Comment

Solving homelessness together: Forum this Sunday

The other day, a soup-kitchen volunteer recognized a former Westford neighbor, now homeless and living at a Lowell shelter. He was stunned to realize the face of homelessness could be someone he knew, someone from a wealthy suburb. No matter where they come from, most homeless folks land in our cities—that’s where the limited services exist. (I’m pretty sure they don’t have shelters in Andover, Westford or Chelmsford.) In Lowell this Sunday, a variety of faith-based groups will meet to address homelessness because although the burden is weighted heavily on the cities, they feel the responsibility is shared. Solving homelessness makes sense from a selfish perspective too: How can I safely enjoy my shelter when increasing numbers of people are literally out in the cold?


Here is the information I got on the event: Homelessness is a real and growing challenge for faith communities in Greater Lowell. As people of faith, we are called to care for the sick, feed the hungry, and shelter the homeless. Are we doing enough?  Join us for an informative and inspiring event to learn how you can be a part of the solution.
WHAT: The Greater Lowell Interfaith Forum on Homelessness
Keynote Speakers:  The Reverend Liz Walker and Lt. Governor Timothy P. Murray
WHEN: Sunday, March 1, 2009.  2pm-4pm, Registration begins at 1:30pm.  Networking session with refreshments from 3:30-4pm
WHERE: Christ Church United UCC, 180 E. Merrimack St. Lowell. For more information, contact: Brent Rourke at 978-459-0551 ext 219. (Also, check out this article in the Sun.)

WHO: Christ Church United UCC in Lowell, the S.H.I.F.T. Coalition, Social Action Ministries of the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance, Eliot Presbyterian Church, New England Prison Ministries, One Family Inc., and the Lowell Transitional Living Center.

posted in City Life, Local Groups | 0 Comments

  • Blogroll

  • Contact Us

  • Education Links

  • Local Groups

  • Local media