Inside Stories

Light Agenda is Heavy on Information

The agenda for the May 23 Lowell City Council meeting is out, and while it once again contains a “light agenda” compared” to many others earlier in this group’s term, many of the items are worth noting.

-The biggest issue is an update to the Fiscal Year 2024 budget process, which became much more challenging as a result of the April 24th cyber security incident. As a result, the City Manager’s Office has pushed back the presentation date to June 6th. That date is significant in that it leaves a very tight window to conduct a public hearing that will be scheduled “at least two weeks later,” while also complying with a state law mandating the budget be presented to the Council “within 170 days after the council organizes in early January.”

While that is the goal, the budget update also mentions the ability to submit up to three “1/12th” budgets for a period of no more than the three months of July, August and September. Such a move would not be unprecedented, having been used during the 2020 Covid pandemic in creating Lowell’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget. It’s also a path pursued numerous times by the State Legislature when failing to agree on a budget by June 30th. In case you needed reminding, City Manager Tom Golden spent 2+ decades voting and working on those budgets.

In the spirit of the Preakness Stakes and the millions that’ll be gambled on the second leg of Horse Racing’s Triple Crown tomorrow, a betting person might want to throw a few bucks on at least one, if not all three of those 1/12th budget options coming into play, despite the optimistic goal.

-Speaking of cyber security, the “Votes from the City Manager” portion of the agenda asks for a $350,000 transfer from the City Manager’s Contingency account to a newly created Cyber Security account. The money would be used to fund LifeLock, an identity theft protection service to be offered to every city employee.

A couple of other items that caught this writer’s attention;

-A head first dive into a joint motion filed April 4th by Councilors Corey Robinson and Paul Ratha Yem to adopt a marketing campaign centered around the “Experience Lowell” theme, which Councilor Robinson penned an InsideLowell editorial about on March 27th. The report on that motion details Experience Lowell “as a natural next evolution in the “Like Lowell” campaign and something that can grow to an all-encompassing ethos of how visitors and residents experience the City.” It then goes on to lay out a 4-year plan for implementing the campaign, beginning this year and culminating in the city’s 2026 bicentennial year.

-Then there are these two motions;

Two motions on the same agenda mentioning the Superior Courthouse, which has been mentioned previously in discussions on addressing mental health, substance use and homelessness issues. On top of that, there are specific State department and other elected officials mentioned in the motion. As a firm believer in the “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” theory, I say keep an eye on the that building, which shuttered its doors in March of 2020. I have a sneaking suspicion its future use may already be in the works.

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