News, schools, and views from a uniquely Lowell perspective

Drug abuse continues to plague communities

At the monthly meeting of the City Manager’s Anti-Gang Task Force this morning, we discussed the problem of rampant abuse of prescription drugs, not only in Lowell but throughout the state, and its impact on crime and overdoses. Lowell Police Chief Ken Lavallee noted that many of the city’s recent increases in car break-ins, in particular, are due to drug abuse. (Readers may recall a community event on opiates abuse in October.) An op-ed in today’s MetroWest Daily News argues that one way to reduce opiate abuse is to support recommendations from an opiates report recently released to the legislature. The OxyContin and Heroin Commission report notes: “Between 2002 and 2007 the Commonwealth lost 78 soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. In the same time period, 3,265 Massachusetts residents died of opiate-related overdoses. The Commonwealth is losing men and women on its streets at a rate of 42 to 1 compared to what the state is losing in two wars overseas. Addiction is a medical disorder, and we have a public health epidemic on our hands that is larger than the flu pandemic.”

Among other things, the commission’s report calls for taking away the threat of prosecution for individuals who seek help for an overdose victim or who assist police in identifying drug sources. Likening it to the Safe Haven Law that allows parents to abandon infants without fear of prosecution and the lives saved from that initiative, Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone said he could support similar legislation for drug users as long as it came “with limitations that didn’t allow drug pushers a free pass.” Leone went on to explain that lives are lost when drug-users are afraid to get help for themselves or friends because they fear prosecution. Another problem is the availability of prescription drugs on the streets and the lack of awareness: from doctors who may over prescribe these medications, and from people who don’t realize the risks of addiction and easy access due to storing these drugs without safeguards. For more information, watch replays of the Lowell community program on cable channel 22, at these times: more »

posted in Healthy Living, In the News, Local Groups, State Concerns | 0 Comments

Friends selling wreaths in Tyler Park on Saturday

Talk about buying local (see this post from LiL), tomorrow morning from 10-1 p.m., the Friends of Tyler Park will be selling wreaths for $10 and $13 (with a bow) to benefit the many activities involved in keeping up this historic park in the heart of the Highlands (such as planting trees, pruning, fertilizing, and hosting wonderful summer concerts). At this time of year when so many people are asking for donations, this is one of those win-win situations: you can contribute to a worthy cause and get yourself a fresh wreath to adorn your door. The Friends, which is a neighborhood group of volunteers, raises funds to maintain the park in ways that support the environment, such as a totally organic weed and fertilization program. The wreaths will be sold from the Westford Street side of the park, so stop by and pick one up. You’ll get yourself a fresh wreath and support one of the city’s most beautiful and historic green spaces.

posted in Environment, Local Groups | 0 Comments

Naughty Readings tomorrow night

If you’re in the mood for some sexy laughs tomorrow night (Sat. 11/14), join the Image Theater, Lowell’s local performing arts group, for its fifth annual, not-for-kids laugh-fest. The naughty songs and skits will be performed upstairs at the Old Court, 29 Central Street, beginning at 8 p.m. I’ve attended all these events and, believe me, they’re fun; although the humor is not kid-friendly, it’s definitely not too naughty for me—a somewhat prudish, Catholic-raised girl. The most important thing is that you will laugh often, and who couldn’t use a few laughs these days! At the same time, you’ll be supporting the efforts of local theater in our community. In its five years of existence, the Image Theater has produced the new works of more than 60 playwrights, as well as highlighting local talent and offering enjoyable theater. Seating is limited, so reserve a $25 ticket by calling 978-441-0102, or take your chances and pay $28 at the door.

posted in Just for Fun, Local Groups, Theater | 2 Comments

Another Saturday night and I ain’t got no money…

I couldn’t help but think of that silly song when I heard about the Image Theater’s event this Saturday. Where can you find good theater, art, creative people, and refreshments for $20? Lowell that’s where, and it’s this Saturday only, so don’t miss it. Lowell’s Image Theater returns with a new production in a great venue. In its first collaboration with The Whistler House, the local theater company will present a sneak preview, fully staged reading of Impasto, written by local playwright and artist Regina Eliot Ramsey, and directed by Image Theater’s own Ann Garvin. Impasto finds Hannah Bauer, (a protege of the great Willem DeKooning) in  quite a bind when, at the last minute, she pulls out of a “comeback”  showing of her artwork at a posh Soho gallery. Alone and embittered for many years, Hannah must open her heart to the prospect of romance, and she must learn to navigate the dog-eat-dog world of art commerce by selling her paintings… without selling out.

Impasto begins at 7 pm, Oct 10, at The Whistler House Museum, 243 Worthen Street. Get there early and see the beautiful Gorky exhibit.  After the show, meet with the actors and playwright, and enjoy refreshments. In five years, the Image Theater has produced and given voice to more than 50 playwrights. I have seen many of their productions, which always entertain, at locations as varied as the Revolving Museum and The Old Court pub. This one promises to be special, so call 978-452-7641 to reserve your seats soon because space is limited. And don’t let money blues keep you from having an exceptionally fine Saturday night in our favorite Mill City!

posted in Local Groups, Theater | 0 Comments

City planner wows at breakfast

It was early in the day for an hour-long lecture about ways to make downtown more vibrant, but you wouldn’t have known it by the audience as they listened attentively to City Planner Jeff Speck at the Lowell Plan breakfast this morning. Speck visited Lowell this week and presented his thoughts as part of the Lowell Plan’s 30th anniversary celebration. A “private, non-profit economic development organization” comprising many of the city’s top business leaders, the Lowell Plan can point to many contributions to the city’s re-invention over the last three decades. Add this morning’s breakfast to that list.

Speck was one of those speakers we hope our children get in school: inspiring, entertaining, and educational. Some of his points about Lowell: It has a unique and timeless architecture, the canals are an under-utilized resource, and the high school’s downtown location brings a huge benefit of humanity and energy to the city. Other observations: Our downtown is not walker friendly or enticing to pedestrian traffic, there are too many one-way streets and not enough street signs, we have the least bicycle-friendly city he has ever seen (this point especially resonates as someone who loves to bike and is afraid of cars). Speck showed how a four-lane street downtown doesn’t encourage safe walking or biking, but by reducing it to three lanesthe middle for turningthere is room on either side for bicycle lanes. His point about traffic in general: You don’t want people speeding by your downtown; you want them to stop, walk, and shop. For that, you need parallel parking, interesting things to see as you walk, and lots of other folks around. His final message to the group: the Lowell Plan needs a plan, and it should be one that doesn’t make the mistake of duplicating suburban sprawl, but instead builds on the urban beauty and history that is already uniquely ours.

posted in City Life, Local Groups | 0 Comments

Include the Friends in your weekend plans

There’s a lot going on around the city this weekend with the Lowell Open Studios and Arts Festival beginning tonight and running through Sunday. This year’s event will also feature a Youth Arts Recognition ceremony in honor of all the young people who participated in the festival. In addition, the Friends of Lowell High School will host a party on Saturday to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the group. Along with great music by LHS alumnus Ralph Funaro, delicious desserts, and a chance to thank founding members for an astounding three decades of supporting one of the best urban high schools in the state, attendees will get to participate in a fabulous silent auction featuring more than 50 items. Money raised from the event will go toward the FLHS Scholarship Fund. Tickets are $30 each or $50 per couple, and can be purchased at the door Saturday evening, Sept. 26, at Long Meadow Golf Club, 165 Havilah Street, Lowell, 7-11 pm. Earlier this week, The Sun published an article about the group’s history and current role at the high school. Saturday’s anniversary celebration will not only mark the group’s longevity and impact on decades of high school students, but should also be a rocking good time.

posted in Art, City Life, Education, Local Groups, Lowell High, Youth | 0 Comments

My slant on candidates forum

The Centralville Neighborhood Action Group (CNAG) did a good job hosting tonight’s City Council Candidates Forum, with decent turnout, plenty of snacks, and a quality sound system. Dick Howe’s blog has some impressions from Mark, and I’m sure LiL and The Sun will also cover the event (both a reporter and photographer were present). Because I have my own forum here, I’m going to post about one moment that got to me.

That moment was when Armand Mercier responded “No” to the question about whether he would support the meals tax, adding that he felt it would not bring in significant revenue. There was no follow-up question asking Councilor Mercier what further cuts he planned to make to city government since the budget he approved a few months ago was based on revenue from that tax. (City funding for the schools was also based on that revenue, so without it, the schools also will have to cut more—about $400,000 more!) Earlier this evening, Mercier described himself as a voice of reason with a common sense approach, yet his reason for not supporting a meals tax (not enough revenue generated) and his reason for voting NOT to hold a primary (to save a measly $40K) don’t sound like common sense or even remotely reasonable to me.

A final note on the meals tax: a .75 increase on a $50 dinner bill would cost a diner an additional 38 cents—spare change when dining out—yet revenue sorely needed to fund local services like schools, police and fire. Postcript: I’m hearing there are many councilors taking Mercier’s position, which, given today’s economy, I can understand not wanting another tax, but then why did they vote for a budget based on revenue from it?

posted in Local Groups, Local Politics | 0 Comments

Thanks to Sun editors

It’s no secret that over the years I have clashed with The Sun (and them with me) on various issues. In fact, here is a perma-link to a piece I wrote in October 2003long before I ever imagined running for school committee. Since I’ve been on the school board, of course, our disagreements have continued in frequency and intensity—at times bordering on obsessive (on their part, not mine). Either they were unhappy regarding a particular vote I took and slammed me about it repeatedly, or I was chastising them for some issue regarding their coverage of Lowell schools. One thing, however, has remained constant: No matter how harsh my words, The Sun editors have always given me space and published my criticisms in a timely manner. As I link to my op-ed in today’s Sun, I want to formally acknowledge and thank them for that. It has not been my experience with other print media, such as the Worcester Telegram and the Boston Globe, who also have prompted me to write at times, but who have not been as generous with space. Honestly, thanks for giving me ink to share my views with your readers.

If interested, this page contains a collection of published op-eds and speeches. Of course, since starting a blog, most of my views have been expressed electronically here.

posted in In the News, Local Groups | 0 Comments

CPC meets tonight!

Budget cuts, swine flu, city elections – these are trying times and it’s more important than ever that parents stay involved and speak out in support of public education. Please add your voice to that of other concerned parents by joining the Citywide Parent Council . The CPC mission is to empower parents to make a difference in the education of all Lowell’s school children. The last meeting of the year is tonight, 7:00 pm, at the East End Club. The agenda will include a year-end wrap-up, elections and planning for next year.

posted in Education, Local Groups | 0 Comments

Celebrating excellent teachers

Despite the chilly rain, hundreds of educators attended tonight’s ninth annual Celebration of Teaching Awards at the Doubletree Hotel. Sponsored by the Lowell Rotary Club, the dinner has become an annual way to celebrate the many caring teachers in the Lowell Public Schools, as well as provide them with the opportunity to nominate their own favorites for “best teacher of the year.” Each school nominates a teacher, providing background information about their accomplishments, which often includes funny, heartwarming notes of endorsement from students. Based on the nominations, the Rotary then selects one winner for each of three categories: elementary, middle, and high school. The winners receive a $500 cash award, a trophy, and the priceless honor of being selected by their peers for excellent teaching. All nominated teachers are winners, but the Rotary’s pick for top three this year were: Ruth Buckley, Pawtucketville Memorial Elementary School; Frances Sacco, Stoklosa Middle School; and Martha Lappin Iarrapino, LHS.

Since its inception under the leadership of former Supt. Karla Brooks Baehr nine years ago, I have not missed the awards celebration. It always moves me to experience each school excitedly cheering for their nominee and to hear the ways our teachers touch the lives of children every day—just one more affirmation of what a great school system we have. I don’t know of any district statewide with this type of celebration of teaching excellence. The other 2009 award nominees are: Diane Antonelli, Maureen Welch, Christine Topjian, MaryAnn Nochnuk, Catherine Klingman, Patricia Colgan, Manuela Flynn, Ana Irwin, Leona Giovannini, Dawn Boehn, Charles Boliantes, Ernie Descheneaux, Jill Laganas, Ellen Melina Notishen, Mary Theres Linehan, Janeann Kay, Donna Reis, Steven Rose, Carol Anne Chipman, Rosemary Janco, Hilde Gilman, and Sue Wilson. Congratulations and thank you to each of them!

posted in Education, Local Groups | 0 Comments

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