Government was happening last night. Maybe not as much as some councilors would have preferred, but let’s take a look.
1. New Show at the MRT
Last night, representatives from the MRT were present to plug a new show titled “Letters From Home,” currently running until February 5th. The show is written and performed by Kalean Ung, who was on hand to give some details on the show. As per the MRT website: Kalean Ung weaves together her Cambodian family’s refugee story with her own as a bi-racial, second-generation American. Inspired by family member’s letters sent to her father from refugee camps after the Cambodian genocide, Letters from Home unearths the myths and mysteries of her family’s past as a ritual for intergenerational healing. Check it out at www.mrt.org/Letters.
2. We Still Doing “Where’s the Beef” Jokes? (because IMO we never should have stopped)
There were two motion responses that were not exactly well-received by the council. The first was a response to a September motion by Councilor Nuon seeing a report on the Rourke Bridge and Timeline to Completion. The response, essentially, told us what we already know. The bridge is temporary and will be replaced. Got it. Further, “[t]his will be a design/build project starting in 2024 and funding is programmed through 2030.” This is closer to a timeline, but not much. Elizabeth Oltman, the City’s Transportation Engineer, was present to explain that this was the best data that she currently had available and that better updates would follow. Councilor Noun expressed frustration that the report didn’t really give the information that was sought. Councilor Yem piled on with a “where’s the beef?” joke.
The second response lacking beef, was a response to two motions (one from Councilor Scott on 10/11/22, one from Councilor Gitschier on 10/25/22) seeking information on enforcement efforts and fines relative to trach pick-up.
When the agenda came out last Friday, I was kind of surprised that DPD was authoring the response as I think of DPW more than DPD when it comes to trash/recycling issues. I was also unable to make much sense of the 56 page response. I guess I was not alone as most councilors speaking on the response were also puzzled. First, the response is difficult to read and doesn’t really analyze the 54 pages of byzantine data attached. Next, there was frustration over the City’s lack of emphasis on the enforcement itself. Councilor Scott noted that there were long periods of time when there is seemingly little to no enforcement happening. The response notes that “open positions in the Solid Waste & Recycling Division have severely hampered the ability to consistently inspect for contamination, and issue violations.” However, Councilor Gitschier pointed out that when the motions were filed in October of 2022, enforcement activity spiked. This suggests that the work can be done, but has simply not been a priority (at least until the motions were filed).
So why didn’t the City Manager weed these out? On the one hand, can see how the administration wants to respond to motions (and a LOT of them) in as timely manner as possible or risk get raked over the coals for foot dragging. On the other hand, someone had to know that these responses were not going to go over well. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, I guess.
In addition, I would hope that councilors know when to “pick their spots” on this stuff. To my knowledge, the city administration has never had to respond to so many motions before. If you read the responses, it sure seems like the DPD and Traffic Engineer do much, if not most of the heavy-lifting. I should think a couple of duds will roll trough every now and then. Push too hard and we’ll be trying to fill more empty seats in high-level positions.
3. Update on ARPA Funding
There were two items related to ARPA Funding up for discussion last night. I’m running out of steam, so I’ll summarize as follows: things are happening and more will be happening soon.
There was a motion response on Community Information Sessions and the process for organizations looking to apply for ARPA Fundings. There was also an Informational Report on the ARPA Economic Development Programs.
There is a new motion that caught my eye that I will be looking forward to a response on:
C. Jenness/C. Drinkwater – Req. City Mgr. Have Proper Department Explore Potential For Targeted Mixed Use Development On One Or More Remaining City Owned Parcels Within The HCID And Report.
Finally, there was an Executive Session to, in part, “Discuss Matters Of Ongoing Litigation (Estate Of Eddie K. Gayyean V. City Of Lowell), Public Discussion Of Which May Have Detrimental Effect On The City’s Position.” Is this case still happening? How is this still happening?