By: Gerry Nutter – June, 2011
Election Season has begun here in Lowell. This year in the City Council Race we have one open seat with the retirement of longtime Councilor Edward “Bud” Caulfield who was truly ‘The People’s Representative” and was the epitome of the neighborhood councilor.
It leaves 8 strong Incumbents running including current Mayor Jim Milinazzo, former mayor’s Bill Martin & Rita Mercier, long serving councilors Kevin Broderick and Rodney Elliot and completing their first term Franky Descoteaux, Joe Mendonca and Patrick Murphy who has yet to confirm he is in the race. Along with some very formidable challengers including former City Councilor / Mayor Armand Mercier, Longtime School Committeeman John Leahy, trying to make the jump to Council, Sal’s Enterprises VP John MacDonald, Longtime Democratic worker and retired Postal Carrier Marty Lorrey, Paul Belley who finished 12th in the last council race, Corey Belanger who is on the Zoning Board and had a strong showing in the Governors Council race, fellow ZBA board member Vesna Nuon and newcomer Van Pech. Robert Merrill and Fred Doyle are two fringe candidates.
So what are the big issues being discussed by the council? Is it the tax rate? No the city is $5 Million dollars under the total allowable Tax levy. Is it the sky-rocketing cost of health care for city workers? No, the City Manager has gotten the Unions to agree to a lesser cost program. Maybe it is the mounting debt from borrowing to make improvements in school buildings and energy improvements? No overall debt is down this year and the city has built up its reserve funds so they are no longer on a State watch list.
The “BIG” issue’s are whether the city should lease space on an elevated water tower to Cell Phone companies, whether a house should have been built on a legal lot size because it ‘doesn’t fit the neighborhood (both items involve the same neighborhood – The Highland section of Lowell) if pit bulls should be muzzled and if the City Manager should release the names and resumes of all applicants who apply to serve on a city board or commission to the City Council, newspaper and public.
So has you can see not a lot of real meaty, glamorous or controversial issue facing the incumbent City Council or challengers. One incumbent Rodney Elliot who finished 9th by 217 votes and was the only incumbent to pull papers the first day they were available and has been trying in the past few weeks to paint himself has the Councilor who stands up and questions the City Manager. Rodney is trying to reinvent himself from Fiscal watchdog to Attack Dog –guardian of the people.
The School Committee race is even quieter with 1 open seat and only two challengers. Incumbents Connie Martin, Jim Leary, Jackie Doherty, Dave Conway and Alison Labara are all running for re-election and Kristin Ross Sitcawich and Robert Gignac are the challengers.
The non-tending of an offer to current Supt. Chris Scott or the use of Federal Race to the Top money and the unsettled teacher’s contract are the issues but again it looks like a very quiet race.
The Greater Lowell Technical School Board has 2 incumbents up for re-Election in Lowell. Mike Lenzi the current chair and former City Councilor who runs a well loved Banquet Hall/Catering Business and is from a large well liked political family along with former chair David Laffieier who is a retired plumber and is also a well liked gentleman. Neither has publicly declared if they will be seeking re-election and the only challenger who still hasn’t officially announced is well known local Blogger Gerry Nutter (Hey that’s me!).
Not many big issues in the Tech race, aside from the teachers contract not being settled and the School Committee with a reputation for overpaying the Superintendent but not the teachers. The former Supt. who retired in 2010 was making more money than the Supt of Lowell, Dracut and Tyngsboro Schools and even more than the Town Managers from Dracut, Dunstable, Tyngsboro and more than the Lowell City Manager.