Category Archives: Politics

Black Lives Matter, a look under the hood

By George DeLuca
November 11, 2016

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Masada Jones (right) addresses the crowd

Black Lives Matter is an international organization that combats violence and racial profiling. There is a quote on their website that reads, “Freedom by definition, is people realizing that they are their own leaders.”

Last July, a public event was held in front of Lowell City Hall, to give the public an opportunity to share some thoughts and ideas about the movement and the issues they raise. By the end of the meeting, there was consensus that the underlying issues attributed to racism are not always black and white.

There is no Lowell chapter of Black Lives Matter, so Lowell resident Masada Jones of the Violence Prevention Coalition organized the local rally and vigil. When there are national incidents, “you have to travel to Boston to show your respect and feel like you are part of something larger, so I thought it was important to have this forum in our own community,” Jones said in her opening statement to the crowd.

So, as the sun began to set, over 200 people joined together to discuss and better understand the perception of racial stereotyping in the local community, and to hold a candlelight vigil for black men who have died at the hands of police in the U.S.

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A crowd of about 200 people came to speak, listen, and learn

But several in attendance also expressed sympathy for the families of five police officers who were killed by a rooftop sniper during a peaceful Black Lives Matter rally in Dallas. Jones opened the discussion by welcoming all viewpoints.

“Black Lives Matter is a term that we are using to draw attention to black and brown folks dying disproportionately by the hands of police officers,” Jones said, calling the event an “open mic.” “I’m here to honor black and brown lives, but there are people here to honor all lives that are lost.”

Danny Factor of the Green Rainbow Party is one of those who expressed a need to develop a spirit of unity and inclusion. The process starts with listening, he said. As he spoke, he drew inspiration from his mother, a holocaust survivor, who he said impressed upon him the importance of understanding various points-of-view.

“Every single person deserves dignity, respect, and love; regardless of race, gender, age, ethnicity, religion, nationality, language, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical or mental disability, or immigration status,” Factor said.

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Danny Keating

Others tried to define what the word racism signified. Danny Keating (right) is an organizer of the Lowell/NH chapter of the Socialist Alternative, a national group that fights against worker exploitation and division. He said that racism “is a system of oppression where one race of people gets systematic privileges through the oppression of other groups of people,” he said. “It’s used in the United States primarily to divide poor people and keep them from working together.”

But Jones struggled with the term, although she painted a clear picture of how the scourges of bias and discrimination manifest in society. “I can’t define racism, but I have experienced it and because of racism, black and brown lives are not able to reach their full potential because of glass ceilings and all the things that encompass racism, which comes in a lot of different forms,” she said.

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Pastor Dwayne Wheeler

Pastor Dwayne Wheeler (left), of Deliverance Temple COGIC in Lowell, talked about the plight of black men, but he warned against divisiveness. “When we bleed, we all bleed red,” he said.

Wheeler said that changes can be made by uniting and working within the system. He challenged the attendees to find leaders who are ready, willing, and able to take on the elite power structure, starting right here in the city of Lowell.

“There’s one part of Lowell that runs this whole city. It’s called Belvidere and you-all let it happen,” he said. “How about if we all, as the people of Lowell, get together and find somebody who can run … who can be on the school committee … who can be on the city council? Let’s do something that’s going to make a change.” The crowd applauded.

Lowell resident Kelsey Barowich, a UMass Amherst Gender Studies undergrad expecting to complete her master’s in public policy this fall, said that people must be supportive of each other, citing the need for political change and equal opportunity for all. “I feel very strongly about racial equity and equality. We need better policy,” she said.

Keating said he agreed that there’s a need for political change, and offered a thread of hope for the future. “When people die, you see how interconnected all of these different things are in our society, and how it’s not as simple as finding a silver bullet to fix the problem. Maybe we need some fundamental retooling of society,” he said.

Lowell2020 Endorses Charlie Baker for Governor

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Charlie Baker

Lowell2020 is pleased to endorse Republican Charlie Baker for Governor of Massachusetts. The primary is September 9.

Charlie Baker, former CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, wants to increase local aid, doesn’t support in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, and wants to develop a more significant relationship with Canadian Hydro who makes renewable energy products including the Francis Turbine (named after the turbine developed by James B. Francis in Lowell!).

He’s against the Kinder Morgan Keystone XL pipeline as proposed, but will consider bringing natural gas into Massachusetts to supplement the state’s energy needs along routes already existing, and not through people’s yards.

Baker’s priority is growing the economy by developing a strategy of jobs creation. At last weeks debate at Middlesex Community College in Lowell, he said that this is the most important issue in the race. He’s right. Baker outlined a strategy that includes government deregulation and tax reductions.

But the meat of his proposed jobs creation initiative is in the “how”, not the “what”. Baker proposes that the state tap the intellectual capital of the colleges and universities, citing Northeastern University’s coop program as a means to that end. Baker considers Northeastern’s work-study program a viable model for other colleges in the Commonwealth to emulate.

He also recommends that the state’s community colleges become workforce training centers. His support of collegiate “on the job training” would add structural foundation to plans already being implemented by UMass Lowell and Middlesex Community College. Baker’s support would add synergy to current & future collaborations and initiatives in Lowell.

With Charlie Baker as Governor, Lowell can come to the forefront as a model enterprise zone and gateway city in Massachusetts, while building on the city’s potential towards becoming a credible global city. But for this to happen in earnest, the City must decide on its vision for downtown Lowell, and, deliver the best setting for the education and recreation of its high school students (Cawley Campus).

George DeLuca
ComeToLowell.com

Brush Gallery & Artist Studios temp move due to Gov’t Shutdown

This is per Artist Pamela Wamala:

Due to the fact that the Brush Gallery & Artists’ Studios is on National Park property, if the government shutdown continues into Open Studio Weekend, the artists can be found on the 3rd Floor at Gates Block Studios, 307 Market St., Lowell, MA 01852, 978-225-0307

FB Page for Gates Block Studios

ComeToLowell.com enters its 5th year!

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Happy 4th Anniversary!

ComeToLowell.com was born September 28, 2009, based on an idea that crystallized at a downtown marketing conference early that summer. Lowell City Manager Bernie Lynch was looking for ideas to freshen up the theme There’s a lot to like about Lowell. At the time, the slogan was considered tired. It was being ridiculed by people in other Cities and Towns, and even here in Lowell. So Bernie asked a crowd of over 200 people if they could come up with a fresh idea.

I have considerable experience in marketing, so I asked myself, “What’s the goal exactly?” “What do we want people to do?” “What’s the desired effect?” And after listening to the City Manager elaborate, the phrase Come To Lowell came to mind.

I raised my hand, Bernie said “You there!”, and I presented my thoughts. “Just tell people what you want them to do. Say Come To Lowell, and build a marketing strategy around that statement.” I continued to think about it afterwards, and decided to go forward with the idea, the first step being to reserve the domain name ComeToLowell.com.

Fast forward 4 years and this month, September, 2013, the site has achieved another record for unique users and total times accessed. This past Wednesday, the site achieved a new record for times accessed in a day. The website is simple, easy to navigate and has a loyal following. The reason I keep it going is because people use it. And every day, I hear someone use the phrase “Come To Lowell” in a sentence, I hear it on the radio or read it in the newspaper. The brand has taken hold.

From the very beginning, the roll out was intended to be a 5 year process. That process ends at the end of next September. The mission is on target. The main goal from day one was to delineate the City of Lowell, similar in idea to a concept that Jack Kerouac formulated. He always wanted to delineate Lowell, but maybe events in his life got in the way of achieving that. I don’t admire Kerouac as a writer so much. To me he was just another guy from Lowell … a brother in a way. But he loved Lowell. That’s important.

ComeToLowell.com isn’t a portal site like other sites in the City, it’s a tool for economic development; one that’s involved radio appearances on 980WCAP and WUML 91.5, the production of TV shows on LTC and video clips on YouTube, and writing newspaper columns and this Blog. The effort has involved establishing and maintaining connections with many leaders in the City whom I admire and respect.

So, what is the vision for the City of Lowell? Who are we as a City? What is our defining strategy going forward? We’re barreling towards the answers to those questions, as we struggle to find consensus. The City is approaching a fork in the road in the coming year. The path we decide to take will clearly define the future of the City.

If we choose the right path, Lowell will be on its way to becoming a world class city. If we’re not up to that, at least we know that Lowell will always be a fine City.

2013 Lowell Preliminary Election – City Council

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A few comments about my voting experience:

  1. The turnout was light at 11am at UML Tsongas Center, I’m Ward 2 Prec 2
  2. At 11am, those voting were predominantly South East Asian
  3. Didn’t make a final decision until entering the booth.
  4. Only voted for 7 candidates … 5 incumbents, 2 challengers
  5. All 5 incumbents who I voted for attended the Gallery 119 forum on Friday. I spoke with 3 of them about an important issue facing the City.
  6. I selected one challenger whom I had NOT been considering based on last night’s meeting of the School Committee’s Facilities Sub-Committee.
  7. Candidate answers to Left in Lowell questionnaire helped me to decide who NOT to vote for
  8. The voting experience went smoothly … kudos to the Election Commission and Dept.

INFO About the Candidates

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.

Comments?

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 ComeToLowell.com!

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Also see: Futility of future improvements for the high school

Lowell Sun Back Talker seeks consensus for a new Lowell High School!

Could this property better serve the City?

Could this property better serve the City?

It pleased me to see the following comment in this morning’s Lowell Sun in the Back Talk column:

“URBAN EDUCATION: Having Lowell High School located in downtown Lowell is really missing the boat with downtown development. Let’s make it a desirable destination with hotels, shops and restaurants with views overlooking the river. This approach brings jobs and revenue. It produces income and contributes to tax revenue. Build a new, world-class Lowell High School with top-notch facilities. Let’s do it right.” — Lowell

Now compare the above comment with Kendall Wallace’s editorial in his Saturday Chat column on Sept. 14. Mr. Wallace seems to be telling people how to think. Wouldn’t it be better to work within the community to build consensus on what to do about the future of Lowell High School? Isn’t this something that parents of school age children should be considering?

In his editorial, Mr. Wallace spoke for School Committee Candidate Steven Gendron, and urban planner Jeff Speck. As a candidate, does Mr. Gendron approve of that message? He certainly wasn’t quoted. I need to know if the comments of Mr. Wallace truly reflect the position of Steven Gendron before the election. In fact, I want to know where all the candidates for School Committee stand on the issue. And why isn’t Mr. Speck allowed to speak for himself? It’s interesting that Mr. Wallace wasn’t able to obtain a quote.

Mr. Wallace ends his editorial as follows: Do we still have the Tsongas spirit of: Why not the best for Lowell? Or, do the naysayers rule now? This election may swing on the answer to that question.

My question is this: If we disagree with Mr. Wallace, does that make us naysayers? Or, does he have a problem with asking people in Lowell who have school age children what they think?

Mr. Wallace and his good friend Jim Cook should curb their egos for a moment and consider what professional urban planners advise. Ask the users (parents and school personnel) what they think, and for their input. Ask those that use downtown regularly what they think. Ask the taxpayers what they think. And I don’t mean the chosen few.

Have a series of consensus building meetings inviting 106,000 residents of the City of Lowell.  Consensus building is a formal process involving all interested parties and moderated by a facilitator. Once the process is complete, put a ballot question together for a vote and offer it to the 54,000+ voters in the City.

This question is too important to have it decided by people with no credentials in urban development. Jeff Speck’s report is being misrepresented by the unqualified. As the Back Talker said, “Let’s do it right.”

George DeLuca, Lowell2020
Happy 4th Anniversary ComeToLowell.com!

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Also see: Futility of future improvements for the high school