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News, schools, and views from a uniquely Lowell perspective

Senator Panagiotakos not running for re-election

I just got off the phone with Jen Myers, reporter for the Lowell Sun, who is trolling to find out who may run for the open seat left by State Senator Steve Panagiotakos, chair of ways and means, who announced late this afternoon that he will not be seeking re-election this fall. Add this democratic seat to the other 23+ that are open this fall and you have a watershed moment in Massachusetts politics. According to Myers, one name that keeps coming up as a likely candidate for the seat is former city councilor Eileen Donaghue. Many see Donaghue as an excellent candidate and one who would run a good campaign. Readers may recall, she ran a solid campaign for Congress, losing in the primary to Representative Niki Tsongas.

posted in Local People, Local Politics | 0 Comments

The power of blogs

It’s a whole new world out there and we better be part of it or get left behind. Today’s Boston Globe has a two-page feature on a mom-turned-blogger who is shaking up the education scene in Boston, adding her  two cents about the schools, the education lottery, and whatever else she chooses to write about on her blog. Also today, Paul writes on Dick Howe’s site about two new Lowell-area bloggers and how they will contribute to the cyberspace community in our city. No matter what you think of certain sites, there is no doubt that through the power of the internet, individuals can contribute to the discourse in their community (and far beyond) like never before. Expressing ideas and capturing the attention of others on a mass scale used to be limited to those who had FCC licenses and printing presses, but now that power is available to any individual with a keyboard and wifi. Technology is changing the way we relate to each other (interacting with teens now requires texting ability) as well as the world around us. The opportunity to discuss issues in a public context with so many people is heady stuff that invigorates a sense of belonging and makes us less dependent on traditional media for context and meaning. It can also be a major time-robber and should be balanced with direct human connections as much as possible. (My solution is to take days off and focus on computer-free living in the moment.)

posted in In the News, Local People | 0 Comments

Co-hosting local cable show tomorrow

If you happen to be up at the crack of dawn tomorrow, tune in to LTC Channel 8 and you’ll catch me live on City Life with co-host George Anthes from 6-8 a.m. The show currently airs weekday mornings rather than its previous afternoon slot, with daily replays broadcast at 4 p.m. on channel 95. Frank Singleton and Christine Connolly of the Lowell Health Department will be our guests during the 7-8 segment of the show. At anytime during the broadcast, however, viewers may call in questions and comments by dialing 978-808-8200. In addition to discussing city health concerns with our guests, George and I will talk about all things Lowell and beyond—political, educational, and otherwise. And if past practice is any indication, producer John McDonough will join the conversation too, so tune in and telephone us if you’re up with the sun.

posted in Local People | 0 Comments

My vote in the senate primary

With the senate primary this Tuesday, it’s no wonder the campaign volume has risen in recent days, with increased snail mail, recorded phone calls, and emails from the candidates. Today, I spent about 15 minutes on the phone with Dan Murphy, Lowell cc-elect Patrick Murphy’s twin brother and the muscle behind many of his youtube ads. Dan called to discuss Mike Capuano’s candidacy and to ask me to help with phone banking. He’s working the media for Capuano’s campaign and somehow I made his call list. (See LiL for post about his brother’s endorsement.) I like Dan and the entire Murphy clan, and I was happy to talk politics with him. Although he made good points about Capuano: his experience, grassroots campaigning, knowledge on the issues, record of progressive votes, etc—the more we talked, the more I realized, I really want to vote for Martha Coakley. (Prior to this discussion, I thought I was undecided.) I admit, it is hugely compelling that Martha Coakley would be our first women senator from Massachusetts and I could help make it happen. (About time!) Still, I don’t see myself as a gender voter; the bottom line is always the candidate’s values, ideas, and positions on the issues. (For example, I chose Tim Murray for Lt. Governor over two qualified women because he best represented my views and values.) I like Mike, and I like that yesterday a Boston Globe op-ed noted him as the “scrappy” candidate—a plus in a world where we desperately need folks fighting for just causes. But Martha brings her own skill set: she embodies the intelligent, hardworking, ethical female candidate we need in leadership. (The same op-ed described her as “deliberative,” also important in a legislator.) Either one of them would serve my interests in Congress, albeit from different perspectives, but when Tuesday comes, I will vote for Martha Coakley. Whatever your take on the candidates, please show up on election day and vote your choice.

posted in In the News, Local People, State Concerns, Women's issues | 1 Comment

MRT play humorous and heartwarming

Nancye Tuttle has a review in today’s newspaper about Heroes, the current play at the Merrimack Repertory Theatre (through Dec. 13). My husband and I saw the play on Friday and loved it. In fact, we have enjoyed all three productions this year, finding this season’s offerings so far to be outstanding—perhaps the best consistent run we’ve experienced since becoming season ticket holders. We are fortunate to have the MRT as part of the city’s cultural offerings, and I encourage you to make time to attend a performance. There is nothing like live theatre to express the universality of being human in a way that resonates, and Heroes does not disappoint in its humorous and heartwarming take on aging and friendship. As Tuttle writes, “No matter how we fight it, deny it or ignore it, death awaits us all.” Like most things in life, swallowing that hard reality is much easier with a dose of laughter. The quirky characters and hopeful message of Heroes will stay with you long after the curtain closes, and are well worth the price of admission.

posted in In the News, Local People, Theater | 2 Comments

A letter to Fair Vote Lowell supporters

The following letter was sent yesterday to  Fair Vote Lowell supporters. It is posted here with the permission of Victoria Fahlberg:

Dear Supporters of Fair Vote Lowell,

As you likely know by now, Choice Voting did not pass by a margin of 43% to 57%, or 5174 yes votes and 6841 no votes. We do not know the results yet in terms of precincts other than hearing that the Downtown precincts had more than a 100% increase in turnout and the traditionally strong precincts had about the same voter turnout. We don’t know if the new voters voted for Choice Voting (I’m betting they did), and in the upcoming days we will be analyzing the data to determine where our votes came from.

I have been thinking a lot about what the results mean, but before I get to that, I want to express my deep and sincere gratitude to every person who worked on this campaign. Unlike most campaigns, this campaign had two parts that required enormous work from volunteers. First, was the signature gathering that often took place in the rain or intense heat. More than 100 different people helped us gather an enormous number of signatures. It was that turnout of volunteers that gave Fair Vote Lowell the ability to press forward despite the odds against us.

Once we were finished with the signature gathering, we entered a whole new phase, that of the campaign itself. This phase also required intense labor on the behalf of volunteers, from phonebanking to canvassing, it was amazing how, once again, hundreds of people in Lowell, often people who had not participated in the signature gathering phase, stepped up to move the campaign forward.

There really are not words to describe the gratitude and thanks that all of you deserve who participated in any aspect of the Fair Vote Lowell Campaign. It was a wonderful experience to see the hope and energy of such a large and diverse group of people, who were willing to give their time to promoting justice and fairness. Thank you, thank you.

While a loss feels pretty terrible, as I reflect upon the results, I can’t feel entirely discouraged.  We had a huge uphill battle from the beginninghere are some of the challenges we faced:

  1. The bar for gathering signatures for a local initiative is set at a minimum of 8% of all registered voters. For comparison, a statewide initiative only requires signatures of 3% of voters who voted in the last statewide (gubernatorial election). For us, that meant 4188 certified signatures to get choice voting on the ballot.  In Lowell, for a statewide measure it would have only been 641 certified signatures (our volunteers did more than that in a single weekend!)
  2. Winning in a statewide initiative requires only a simple majority, as long as that majority includes at least a third of voters who turned out in the last gubernatorial election, whereas the bar for us included a super majority turnout that has not been seen in a local election in decades.
  3. The Lowell Sun told their readers to vote No on Choice Voting. While some in Lowell debate the efficacy of our local newspaper, it should be obvious after looking at the overall results of the election thatThe Sun still holds a great deal of power among voters.
  4. The local radio station was so biased against us that we felt that we could not utilize them as a source for advertising and be treated fairly. They don’t have a large audience, so this was not a major impact, but it probably did impact a few of their listeners to vote against us.
  5. It was our understanding that on the ballot, the referendum would be called Question 1. The referendum had no title at all and the words Question 1 did not appear at all.  During the day, we received a number of calls from people we had phonebanked that they had not seen Question 1 on the ballot. While this would not have impacted the final result, it did confuse some people who went to the polls to vote YES on Question 1 and most likely contributed to the almost 1,700 voters who did not even vote on the question.
  6. Few people in Lowell had ever heard of Choice Voting before we began signature gathering in June. We finally got the required signatures on August 27th, which only left us two months to educate the public on an issue that was completely new to them in so many ways—that Lowell’s current system is the least fair system for local multi-seat elections, that ranking candidates provides a more fair system, explaining the complicated (though necessary) vote tabulation, etc.
  7. When we started this adventure, we had the promise of funds to see us through to the end, but in June that funding fell through. As a result, we were often a day late and a dollar short, so to speak. In the last few weeks of the campaign, we did see some significant donations that will help offset the cost to ONE Lowell. However, if the promised funding had been available in the Spring, I believe that we could have done more.

So with all of these challenges taken into consideration, everyone at Fair Vote Lowell actually achieved a major accomplishmentnearly 5200 people in Lowell voted for Choice Voting! The more I think about the challenges we faced, the more amazing it becomes to me that so many people voted YES for Choice Voting. How we will best use this incredible accomplishment moving forward, I don’t know. The accomplishment is not that of any one personit belongs to us all. What I do know is that moving forward, ONE Lowell needs to hear from you, who rose to a challenge, and made a huge impact on your city.

More than anything, I want you to know that even though we lost the vote, we made our voices heard and we are more united than ever. Fairness and justice often come slowly. But it will come. Thank you, Victoria

posted in In the News, Local People, Local Politics | 0 Comments

Important community event tonight

The Lowell schools, police and attorney general’s office are sponsoring a community forum tonight at LHS Auditorium, 50 Morrissette Blvd., 6-8 p.m., on prescription drug abuse among our youth. (The meeting will be televised on channel 22.)This problem is not unique to Lowell, however, we are taking a proactive position of partnering together to do something about it. As the parent of teens myself, I know what most of you are thinking: This isn’t a problem that impacts my kids. In fact, when I told my son he was required to attend the event, he gave me a similar response. “I don’t do drugs, so I don’t have to go.” Wrong! We all need to be informed—whether the problem hits directly at home or not. Someday it may impact your teen’s friend, a neighbor, or (God forbid) a family member; well-educated means well-prepared to deal with the issue. Join with us tonight to learn the dangers, warning signs, and actions we can take to protect our young people. Even one life derailed from drug abuse, hurts us all.

After that, if you’re looking for more to do, attend the school committee meeting at city hall, at 8 p.m.

posted in Education, Local People, Lowell High, Youth | 1 Comment

Whistler weekend

My first stop while in DC last weekend, was the Freer Gallery, which intrigued me because of a connection with our own native son, James McNeil Whistler (I believe Whistler only lived in Lowell for the first two years of his life and, as a Bohemian artist, always denied his industrial revolution roots; however, he was born here, so we get to claim him). As an aside, his birthplace, the Whistler House Museum in Lowell, features a copy of his most famous painting, “Arrangement in Grey and Black”, also known as “Whistler’s Mother” as well as some charming contemporary art work and many of his etchings, and tidbits of Lowell history. What I was particularly interested in at the Freer though, was “The Peacock Room.” This was a dining room that Whistler took over decorating for a wealthy friend and patron, Frederick Leyland. Whistler got carried away and, while the businessman was absent, painted the walls a beautiful rich blue-green, gilded the shelves, painted golden Peacock motifs on the panels and changed the entire look of the room. The two had a falling out over the cost, as well as the artist’s presumption, and Whistler added two fighting peacocks on one of the walls. After Leyland’s death, the entire room was purchased by a wealthy American businessman, Charles Lang Freer, another friend and patron of Whistler’s who also collected Asian art, along with Whistler’s paintings and etchings. Freer had the room installed in the DC mansion that he was having built to house his art collection. In addition to the dining room, we viewed a range of Whistler’s paintings and etchings (he was ranked right up with Rembrandt in etching), and gained a new appreciation of his art. At my next stop, the West Wing of the National Gallery of Art, we saw a few more Whistler’s, including the rather strange “Symphony in White, No 1.” I’m sure there are more Whistlers to be viewed in DC, but all in all, it turned out to be quite a Whistler weekend in Washington!

posted in Art, Local People, Travel | 0 Comments

Live on cable TV today

Like any job, there are parts of being on the school committee that I don’t particularly relish–such as appearing live on television. (The camera just doesn’t capture my inner beauty.) I recognize, however, the value of talking about how we’re working to improve our schools and how important a quality education is to our children and our community. Television is a powerful tool for doing this, so whenever they invite me to participate in a show, I do. Around election time, it becomes particularly important to discuss your perspective and goals, and what makes you a good candidate. This afternoon will provide me with that opportunitiy, and I hope you’ll tune into “City Life,” a locally produced cable television show that is broadcast live on LTC Channel 8, weekdays from 4:00 to 5:30 pm. George Anthes, former WCAP radio talk show host, and Tom Byrne serve as co-hosts, with John McDonough as producer. If you haven’t seen the show, check it out this afternoon when I will be a guest from 4:30 – 5:30 pm. We’ll discuss Lowell schools and my campaign for re-election. (More on that later.)

posted in Local People, Local Politics | 0 Comments

Upcoming media moments

Today, I will be a guest on City Life, a cable television show hosted by George Anthes and Tom Byrne that airs live on Channel 95, weekdays from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. (I go on at 4:30 today.) Then on Saturday, May 30, I will join Warren Shaw at 9 a.m. for a chat on his weekly radio show on 980 WCAP. So if you’re hanging local at those times and want to tune in for some discussion regarding public education (natch), lunch ladies, appointed school committees, budget woes or whatever topics strike our fancy, check it out.

posted in Local People | 2 Comments

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