News, schools, and views from a uniquely Lowell perspective

With neighbors help, Brady School gets a facelift

In another example of involved citizens making a difference, the once-neglected Brady School (now home to the Lowell Health Department) is finally getting a facelift—proving yet again that activism is the way to make things happen. Formerly a proud symbol of colonial revival craftsmanship, the Brady School (the old Pine Street School) had been stripped of its asbestos siding several years ago and left to the forces of nature like a coatless man on a winter’s day.  Built in 1897, the structure immediately began to suffer from the exposure, and the resulting neglect caught the attention of a group of concerned neighbors and active members of the Friends of Tyler Park.  Under the persistent efforts of this group, most notably FOTP President Jay Mason (aka my husband), calls were made to councilors and anyone willing to listen. The Friends wanted to know when the City, who owns the building and removed its siding, was going to repair it. With each season of exposure taking its toll, time was running out. Councilor Bud Caulfield was contacted and made a motion, asking the city to provide $75K to begin repairs. This was not enough and so State Rep. Kevin Murphy was also contacted about the need for funding. He was able to secure a state match in funds. The combined $150K is enough to repair, paint, and side the building using new state-of-the-art products that have better insulation properties and need less maintenance.  Once again, the Friends of Tyler Park have shown that involved citizens and a government willing to listen can initiate public-private partnerships that benefit an entire community.

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Volunteers make it happen

I am always tempted to volunteer to help out at the Folk Festival. I think it would be a lot of fun to join the ‘bucket brigade,’ collecting donations from the crowd or be a guide to one of the performers, but I never have.  Instead, we open up our house to out-of-town friends and family for the whole weekend.  Having a dozen or more overnight guests is a lot of work, but it makes me feel that I’m doing my part to support the festival and spread the good word about Lowell. This year, some of our younger friends took the Festival Train from Faneuil Hall in Boston up to Lowell. It was a free train ride and the energetic Brazilian Perucussion ensemble, BatukAxe, kept them entertained the whole way.  Still, it takes over 1,000 volunteers to run the festival! I’ve checked out the website, and they make it easy, by trying to fit people with a task that they will enjoy and be well-suited for and there are lots of different opportunities to help. It seems like a fun and different way to enjy the Folk Festival. One of these years, I may just leave my guests to fend for themselves and get behind the scenes…..

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More moments from the Lowell Folk Festival

The best thing about this year was that our college-age kids and their friends had a good time. After years of dragging them around the festival, this year they chose to come.  My musician son’s comment about the guitar playing of James Hand & Magic Band:  “Sick.”

Some other favorites from this year:

Saturday at Boarding House Park, Diunna Greenleaf & Blue Mercy – the sound technicians had to work hard to keep her connected as she waded into the crowd, ‘feed me, I’m going out there,’ she said.

Under umbrellas at Market Street Stage, listening to the soothing sound of Edmar Castaneda and his Colombian harp: more »

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Favorite Folk Festival moments

   It was another GREAT Folk Festival! The weather cooperated, the city looked great, the food and music were outstanding and the people you met, whether on the dance floor or in line for food, were all in a great mood. I always discover one act or band that I wouldn’t have planned to see that turns out to be a favorite; this year, it was the Armenian group, Aravod Ensemble. I was passing by St. Anne’s Churchyard and was drawn in, partly by the shade and the $1 bottles of water, but also because of the rhythmic, infectious music.  It  has an almost Greek sound and the traditional dancing demonstrated by 20 or more local Armenian Americans had a Greek look to it, as a line of dancers joined hands and moved in unison to the music.  They lent such vibrancy to the music, as they kept in time, circling, moving with certainty and grace and liveliness, despite the heat.  It was one of those perfect Folk Festival moments. 

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Folk Festival blasts into town

Last night, Lowell was home to the biggest, best outdoor party—with music drifting along the breeze from Boarding House Park to the lot behind the National Park Visitors’ Center (a new location for the dance tent and an absolutely brilliant decision). I know, it’s the Folk Festival, and we expect to hear music and see people outside dancing and eating ethnic foods. Well, I didn’t expect to see so many people having fun (thousands), nor see bands in new locations. In fact, there were only two festival stages set for opening night of the 21st annual event, touted as the largest free folk festival in the country. Area businesses joined together (or on their own) to provide live music, such as the band playing in the middle of Palmer Street, which was flanked by crowds at tables outside Café Paradiso, Fortunato’s, and the Blue Shamrock. There was also a band of local veterans playing in the lot on Market Street where Olive That and More served beer and wine, and Café Aiello dished up gelato. Mambo Grill had a band on the sidewalk amid outside diners, drinkers, and walkers. People of all ages—from seniors toe-tapping on the benches at Market Street to a toddler twirling with mom at the dance tent—joined in the fun as the whole downtown became a huge block party. Best of all, it’s just beginning! more »

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Tierney & social security

As I said in a previous post, I saw a lot of Tom Tierney signs in North Chelmsford the other day.  On one side of Tierney’s signs you see the candidate’s name, but on the other it says “Tom Tierney will save Social Security.”  This statement seems disingenuous since it implies that he thinks there is something badly wrong with the program and that we need him to step in and save it.  Having heard him at the NPA debate last week, I understand that he believes that there is nothing wrong with Social Security and that it is one of the most successful programs ever, so the people he is saving it from are actually his fellow Republicans.  As President Bush was unable to get anywhere with his attacks on the program (one of his big campaign issues in ‘03), it seems to me as if Tierney is beating a dead horse; surely there are other issues he might want to emphasize?  Or, is he trying to have it both ways, attract those who think the program is in trouble as well as those who think it should be left alone? These were my thoughts as I sat in construction traffic looking at the numerous Tom Tierney signs.

posted in Local Politics | 2 Comments

The care and feeding of lawn signs

I’ve been following Mimi’s thread about the timing and regulation of lawn signs on Left in Lowell, which is up to 20 comments now. Some people think that signs are simply a free speech issue and others think they ought to be controlled at least a bit. Apparently the Supreme Court disagrees and not just the current court:  in 1994, a Missouri city law prohibiting lawn signs was struck down and lower courts have used this case as a precedent in challenging any regulation of political signs. What surprises me is how long the Supreme Court decision can take to filter down through all the courts.  For some reason I thought a Supreme Court ruling immediately becomes the law of the land, but it doesn’t appear to be so. As Mimi points out Lowell still has an ordinance on the zoning book dated April 3, 2007 that declares that political signs must be temporary, with temporary defined as 30 days or less.  Maybe it takes the ACLU or other challenger to enforce the rulings of the higher court. (Perhaps a lawyer could comment on this?) The excellent First Amendment Center website has a timeline of such challenges from 1994 through September 2006, and in every case the challenger won.  Meanwhile in Lowell, more »

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Locals in Boston news

Today’s Globe, on the front page of the Northwest section, features stories on two prominent Lowellians: Acting Superintendent of Police Ken Lavallee, who is the leading candidate for the permanent police chief position, and former City Councilor George Ramirez, who stepped down from the council last week to work for the governor. In addition, 5th Congressional Candidate Patrick Murphy was profiled this morning on Boston’s National Public Radio affiliate, WBUR-90.9 FM. (WBUR may run the piece, Bricklayer Seeks House Seat, again later today or you can check here for the audio file and text.) The youngest candidate in this congressional race, Murphy has several factors that distinguish him from the crowd, such as running without pursuing or even accepting campaign donations, and if elected, he says he will not accept health insurance until all Americans have it. Check out his website for more about this unusual candidate and his positions. 

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Tyler Park concert tomorrow!

The popular local duo Take Two will return to beautiful Tyler Park tomorrow evening for a FREE concert. These guys play a lot of old favorites and always draw a crowd. Come at 6 pm for food and friendly mingling; the music starts at 7 pm.  The Friends of Tyler Park have worked hard to bring attention to this neglected gem and worked with the city to bring the park to its present state of serene beauty.  They always do a great job with the concerts.  There will be arts & crafts, children’s activities and raffles.  The weather looks good for tomorrow, so grab a lawn chair and come on over; it’s a great way to kick off the Lowell Folk Festival weekend!

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Shop downtown, save gas and more

My son has been nagging me for days to get him the new Harry Potter book, so while I was downtown today, I got it at Lowell’s own Barnes & Noble book store. Most folks might not think about our book store downtown, heading up to Nashua instead where they have mega book stores along busy Daniel Webster Highway. There are a lot of reasons to stay local when doing your shopping—books or otherwise—and here’s just a few of them: First, our B&N offers Lowell Public School employees a 20% discount on purchases. Second, our B&N discounts New York Times’ bestsellers (30% hardcover, 20% paperback) which Nashua B&N doesn’t. And third, even though our B&N is smaller, it boasts an expert reading staff that will advise you on the best cooking, romance, horror (you name it) books. That personal touch by knowledgeable people, such as Manya Callahan, the helpful bookseller I spoke with today, makes the whole experience more enjoyable. Also, the city now reserves three-hour-parking spots on the first floors of both Market and John Street garages, which are a short walk to the downtown area. And here’s an added plus: when you shop downtown Lowell, you get a walking experience with choices that include great cafes, restaurants, spas, boutiques, specialty stores, museums, history tours (by foot, canal or trolley) and the most stunning library in the state. It sure beats driving to Nashua and sitting at endless lights on DW Highway.

posted in Books, City Life | 0 Comments

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