Inside Stories

Council Meeting Recap: March 26, 2024

1. End of First Quarter of 2024

Last night marked the end of the first quarter of the year for our council. After twelve weeks, I’m struggling to find the words to describe this term. As baseball season is upon us, I’ll reach into the mixed bag (at best) of movies about baseball for an analogy. Remember that montage in the The Natural when the Knights fell into a slump as soon as Roy Hobbs started hooking up with the destructive force that was Memo Paris?

In my humble opinion, this council started slumping ever since they were sworn to a new term. I’m likely projecting to some extent, but things feel kind of flat. There hasn’t really been a big ticket item to grab attention. Nevertheless, things are happening. We got our first look at our new Master Plantransformative things are afoot on East Campus, and most of the public drama surrounding Councilor Robinson has mercifully blown over. In addition, I’m a big fan of the way meetings are being run with Mayor Rourke holding the gavel.

[A note on this chart – at the beginning of the year, councilors took the bizarre step of refiling motions that were not answered in 2023. I didn’t count those motions. I also didn’t count any motion to re-file a “package” of old motions. My numbers are likely more off than usual.]

Let’s get some zoning change back on the agenda to spice things up! We need to find our Iris Gaines to break the slump.


2. Dirt Bikes are Awful – But E-Bikes are Not Dirt Bikes

At the request of at least one constituent, Councilor Yem filed a motion to:

Req. City Mgr. Have Appropriate Department Post A No Motorized Vehicles/Dirt Bicycles/E-Bicycles Allowed In All City Parks And Place Bollards At Wide Entrances To The Parks.

The motion was well-intended. For ten minutes a couple of weeks ago we had some nice weather and the city was once again terrorized by riders on dirt bikes. Apparently, they’re not just on streets but have taken to public parks as well. I’m all in favor of anything approaching enforcement of existing laws that seek to protect the public. However, I don’t see much value in the remedy proposed by this motion and I actually think it’s misguided.

You can put up signs – I guess – but if the riders are not going to follow the rules of the road, I doubt they will care much about a sign near a park. Second – it would be a waste of time and money to place bollards. If a bollard is wide enough to allow a wheelchair, stroller, or average-sized American, it’s wide enough to let a dirt bike slip through. Further, most parks are not fully enclosed so the bollard would be extra useless. Finally – and most importantly – WHY are we lumping e-bikes in with dirt bikes?!

If we’re going to transition to a less auto-dependent society utilizing micro-transit options (See: East Campus, See Also: Lowell Forward Master Plan), E- bikes will be a key tool in our arsenal. Lumping them into the same category as dirt bikes is seriously bad P.R. and shows ignorance as to what an E-bike is and what they can do. Your average E-bike rider has very little in common with the dirt bike riders tearing up the parks.

I was surprised and saddened that no councilor noted this last night.

3. 311 Update – Still Nothing, But There’s a Reason

There was a glorious time between early 2020 and 2022 when you could blame pretty much any shortcoming on COVID and nobody could question you. They same is true with anything tech-related in the city since the great Cyber-Attack of 2023.

For years now, Councilors (most vocally Councilor Robinson) have been pleading for the implementation of a 311 System. If you’re like me and kind of know what it is (but also, kind of have no idea), it’s apparently an automated and streamlined resident service delivery for governments. In many areas, 311 can be a phone number that residents can call for information about services and issue community-based requests, such as reporting that a street light has burned out. In other areas, 311 systems are a fully integrated internal and external communication and request maintenance tracking tools.

Sounds good, so why don’t we already have this when people have been asking for it for years now? As per the motion response discussed last night:

The City of Lowell began working with our vendor towards the integration and rollout of 311 services as a part of our Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems during 2022. Plans to go live with 311 services were scheduled for 06/30/2023, with significant progress towards that goal completed within a testing environment. These plans were disrupted by the April 2023 cyber-related incident.

Following the cyber-related incident, all ERP systems were transitioned into the cloud as part of our “Disaster Recovery” (DR) operations. While in DR, ERP resources were restricted to ensure continuity of operations, as opposed to expansion of operations or implementation of new products, resulting in our inability to continue work on 311 services.

On 3/11/2024, MIS successfully transitioned our ERP systems out of DR. On 3/18/2024, MIS managed to restore the work that had previously been conducted in the testing environment. MIS is currently working with our vendor for resource assignments to assess where we left off on the implementation, identify what remains to be configured and tested, and assist us with completing the rollout of 311 services.

In other words, we had to take a year off to deal with an emergency. Nice to see it’s moving forward again.

4. Citywide Clean-Up

It’s Spring (allegedly) and everything looks awful, so the time is ripe for a motion aimed at sprucing things up a bit:

C. Robinson – Req. City Mgr. Reach Out To The Lowell Litter Krewe, Appropriate City Departments, Area Non-Profits, Our Local Educational Institutions, Neighborhood Groups And Any And All Other Stakeholders To Organize A Citywide Clean-Up Event.

The discussion that followed allowed councilors to tee-off on their favorite shit-holes throughout the city and how some people are pure savages. Which, of course, is why a coordinated citywide clean-up is a good idea.

As always people, stop throwing your trash onto First Street. Please drive it into Chelmsford or Westford and throw it there.

4. The Rest

Jay Mason was on hand to present the 8th Annual Sustainable Lowell Awards:

Lowell Litter Krewe (Brad Buitenhuys); UMass Lowell’s Rist Institute for Sustainability and Energy (Ruairi O’Mahony) and Youth Climate Change Action Award: Plastic Waste (Jisella Sanquiche); Carbon Footprint (Penina Mukundi); Compost (Tyvohn Matias Mbugua); and Urban Forestry (Disha Patel)

Discussion on a proposed Ordinance relative to outside dining. The council voted to waive the fee owed by businesses for this upcoming year.

No discussion on a unanimous vote to accept to accept and expend a “Gaming Mitigation grant” in the total amount of $137,600.00 from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts via the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

A line in the letter attached to the vote from City Manager Golden caught my eye:

My finance team has been working with the Lowell Management Group and Peter Lally, the general manager, to strategize the best use of funds to improve the quality of the shows offered at the LMA.

I’m going to take the phrase “improve the quality of the shows” as an admission and run with it. Coincidentally, I was recently looking at the live music offerings between now and the summer:

  • The 60s’ Show – (Covers of Music from 60 years ago)
  • The Fab Four (Covers of Music from 60 years ago)
  • Zach Williams (I don’t know what that is, but I don’t like it)
  • Dion Warwick (Music from at least 40 years ago)
  • Air Supply (Ok, Air Supply is awesome, but Music from at least 40 years ago) [P.S. did you ever see that unhinged Air Supply infomercial that used to run at like 3 a.m.? Me neither. And as I’m typing this I’m remembering that Dion Warwick also had a bizarre infomercial.]
  • Happy Together Tour (Music from 60 years ago)

Setting aside the hillbilly music that has no place in New England (maybe Dracut?), why does it always seem like the Auditorium largely caters to a certain demographic? I’m guessing the answer is that you need acts that can fill 3,000 seats and that these acts represent pretty safe bets.

However, people like to refer to the Auditorium as a “crown jewel” of the city. Much like the Smith-Baker Center, how can we expect people to care about what happens to the “crown jewel” when the programming offered has little to no relevance to large portion of our population?

Maybe when I’m 70 I’ll be able to catch a De La Soul/Tribe cover act or what’s left of Eddie Vedder?

One response to “Council Meeting Recap: March 26, 2024”

  1. Kilted guy says:

    I’m not even young, and the acts they book are too old for me to care about.

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