By: John Macdonald – May, 2017
The question of where a new High School in Lowell should be built (or if it should be built) is bringing the worst out of politicians, neighbors and former friends. What’s becoming as close to a civil war as you could possibly get within the borders of Lowell, is pitting friends against friends, brother against brother and a neighborhood against neighborhoods.
It brings no joy to this writer’s life to write or shine light on a project that is bringing the worst out of people in Lowell… a city I love and live. What could have been a catalyst for unity and future growth has tuned into what constitutes to watching a baby who’s overdue for a diaper change. The tactics are likening itself to this past Presidential election cycle that coined the phrase of “Fake News”. Bad information, rumors and flat out lies are being shoved out as fast as they can be made. The worst part is it seems to be coming at a big cost.
What might be the worst part of Lowell’s civil war (besides jeopardizing future generations of Lowell) is the bad position that people who are supposed to be leaders are putting the hard-working city administration in to. Weekly the City Manager and his team are forced to defend itself against rumors, answer questions based on bad information and forced to endure political theater that belittles the process and the citizens that the city council has been elected to serve.
Now I’ve made it no secret where I stand in this whole hotly contested debate, which is that I am for not wasting money on an old, obsolete building located in the heart of what is and can be the mecca of Lowell’s economic development hub and future economic boon. I’m not for the taking of successful businesses by eminent domain (Option 3 in LHS Gate) in a misguided attempt to portray this as “for the Greater Public Good” package. I’m not for hamstringing the City of Lowell for generations by doing nothing or for increasing taxes so badly, that people will legitimately ask why they don’t just move to Concord of Lexington?
However, what I am for is… common sense. Right now, the best option is the one that either gets the current high school out of the downtown or dramatically reduces its footprint in the downtown. The option to build a new High School at Cawley Stadium seems to be the best option, based on common sense and would benefit the entire city… greatly. However, the political “Power” structure of the city resides on Clark Road (Belvidere) and represent a block of voters that come out in droves on election day. And guess what… they don’t want Cawley and they are pulling out all the stops, gags, mistruths and full out lies to make sure it doesn’t happen.
In my observation, there’s the good guys and the bad guys in this ever changing “Days of our Lives” styled saga. Let’s just use the old western movies to cast our villains in black hats and our heroes in white hats. So, as this saga unfolds I think it’s time to develop the score card and identify who’s wearing black and who’s wearing white.
The Black Hats
Mayor Kennedy – Belvidere resident and anti-Cawley. The mayor has tried to throw every road block he can muster into the process, dealing in back door politics, emotional city council outbursts, to citing fictitious eminent domain takings of popular pizza shops. He’s got an arsenal of made up stories that will only give him justification to delay a vote on the high school’s final decision on location. (BLACK HAT)
City Councilor Corey Belanger – Corey has stabbed his base in the back. He might have the biggest black hat of them all, before this is done. He used to be the “Champion of downtown business” and being the point man in moving the high school out of the downtown. He used the downtown business mantra as a campaign promise and it propelled him into a seat at the council two terms ago. Well this might be his last term. He owned a business downtown and was consistent in his open criticism of the adverse effect the High School had on downtown businesses. Well Corey has moved on and out of the downtown. Corey has magically decided that he’s no longer a proponent of business and seems willing to flip the middle finger to the very people who got him elected. Back door deals and badgering old alliances have converted this weak-kneed councilor from a white hat to a black one. Enjoy the seat while it lasts (BLACK HAT).
City Councilor Jim Millanazo – He’s actually saved the city council’s proverbial butt on a few occasions that may have jeopardized the future of a new high school all together. He’s made no bones about the fact that he’s a solid “keep the high school downtown” and the heck away from Belvidere… proponent. The magic for Jim is that he’s out… He’s not running for re-election. So, Jim gets to where what every color hat he wants… (TAN HAT)
Here’s a quick list of Black Haters to keep an eye on…. The leaders of the “Downtown Option 3” brigade. They are everything and everyone from former city councilors, NIMBY enthusiasts to Sanctuary City proponents… more in future columns as this story unfolds.
Now for the White Hats.
The loud voices of the Belvidere residents part of the Pro-Cawley movement. Guys like Marty Tighe, Eric Nelson and new political candidates like Matt LeLaucher, Dan Finn, Noelle Creegan and Dan Shanahan. (WHITE HATS) all around.
Lowell City Councilors Danny Rourke, Rita Mercier, Jim Leary and Rodney Elliott. All seem against taking successful businesses… out of business. They have all in their own way contributed positively to the high school discussion with real facts and stay out of the shenanigans. Dealing in calm discussion and rational behavior these city councilors get big fat (WHITE HATS).
City Manager Murphy – Murphy and his team get white hats, simply because they are in the cross hairs. Because of the tone and negative mood created by the anti -Cawley crowd, the administration is on fulltime public relations mode. Losing a big business to Dracut that was destined for the Hamilton Canal project is now being blamed on the anti-business rhetoric coming from people like Councilor Belanger. Stab people and business in the back… they go elsewhere. (WHITE HATS)
City Councilor John Leahy – John… oh John. He doesn’t care about successful businesses getting the shaft and wastes time by making motions to move the high school into the last economic development area (Hamilton Canal) in the city. Let’s take one of the last taxable properties away from the city… hello McFly? John? If your last name was Jones… you’d be living in Dracut. (DUNCE CAP)
City Councilor William Samaras. I’m pretty sure that he’ll stick with keeping the High School downtown. However, he’s been professional and willing to listen. So, for now… its smooth sailing for Billy Boy. (SAILORS CAP)