How much power does Jim Cook have in Lowell? Is the Lowell High School capital plan a done deal?

The following excerpt speaks for itself:

From The Lowell Sun’s “The Column”, August 4, 2013:

FOUR CANDIDATES with Cook connections running for office is also fueling speculation that a Lowell Plan initiative — a new or renovated Lowell High School — will be moved to the front-burner in 2014. (Editor’s note: just to clarify, the 4 candidates referenced are Stacey Hargis, Derek Mitchell, Jim Milinazzo and William Samaras. Add Steve Gendron to the list.)

Regardless of who is elected in the fall, Cook said a Lowell Plan priority in 2014 is to begin “serious discussions” on renovating the high school in its current downtown location — not moving it to the Cawley Stadium athletic field complex in Belvidere as was briefly discussed in 2008.

“It is inaccurate to say we’re going to do this only if those candidates are elected,” Cook said. “What is accurate to say is we’re doing it regardless of who is elected.”

The September 2010 Lowell Downtown Evolution Plan by Speck & Associates LLC, an urban-architectural firm hired by the Lowell Plan, recommended keeping the school downtown.  (editor’s note: this is not my interpretation.)

“We’re trying to accomplish some of the major recommendations of the report,” said Cook, who added he’s already had preliminary discussions with high-school Headmaster Brian Martin and state Sen. Eileen Donoghue.

A renovation plan, the report states, would work only if the city acquired the medical building on Arcand Drive across from the police station, next to the high school property. The report states: “This renovation would be focused primarily on the replacement of the school’s newer 1980 wing which, unlike the older school buildings, has been plagued with problems since its construction.”

Former Councilor Stephen Gendron, who is running for School Committee and not City Council, is also pushing the issue.

The Lowell Plan convened several focus groups before publication of the Speck report, and the dominant message was keeping the school where it is. (editor’s note: these were hand picked blue ribbon panels, not a cross section of residents who live in the City, and certainly not a reflection of the demographics of the City.)

A couple years earlier, a Lowell Plan subcommittee floated the idea of a new high school at the athletic-field complex, as Lawrence did a few years ago

The idea, however, died when it wasn’t embraced by the Lowell School Committee.


I don’t know about you, but as a resident and registered voter, I find the above excerpt both disturbing and offensive.

So is Jim Cook indeed Lowell’s unelected czar worthy of a rubber stamp of any issue that he puts before the City Council, School Committee, etc.? Does the community, including parents with toddlers who will be entering high school in 8-10 years have a say in deciding issues that affect their families?

Shortly after the Lowell Plan’s Downtown Evolution Plan was released in October 2010, I contacted Jeff Speck and asked him to come on my radio segment which then aired on 980WCAP to talk about the plan. He said “sure” but he wanted to check with Jim Cook. When he got back to me, he said that Jim Cook nixed the idea. J. Cook said he wanted to wait until the City Council approved the report. To date, that hasn’t happened.

I’ve listened to several interpretations of the report that don’t make sense to me. I have several questions for Mr. Speck. And with 35 years experience in the public and private sector directing and managing the planning, design and construction of capital improvements projects, I’m qualified to pose them objectively.

It’s really going to be difficult to make qualified decisions for voting on Tuesday. I’d like to have some answers soon. (editor’s note: The answers have yet to come as of April 3, 2014.)

George DeLuca, Lowell2020
Happy 4th Anniversary!

Also see: Futility of future improvements for the high school

One thought on “How much power does Jim Cook have in Lowell? Is the Lowell High School capital plan a done deal?

  1. Paul

    It is time for Mr. Cook to pack up his tent and go away. Nothing he has done or suggested has ever helped the city in any meaningful way.


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