1. New Manager and a Large To Do List
Last night marked the first meeting with new City Manager Tom Golden. Understandably, we didn’t hear much from the new CM, as he’s only been on the job since Friday of last week. I also didn’t catch who, if anyone, was in the Assistant City Manager chair. Despite a new City Manager, there was an extensive list of motions on the agenda as last week’s meeting ran long, leaving the following:
- C. Gitschier – Req. City Mgr. Have The Proper Department Repair The Brick Sidewalk Outside Tre-Monte On The Palmer Street Side For The Outside Seating Area.
- C. Gitschier/C. Robinson – Req. City Mgr. Set Up A Tour Of LeLacheur Park And The National Park For The City Council.
- C. Robinson – Req. City Mgr. Have Proper Department Install A Stop Sign At The Intersection Of Christian Avenue And Methuen Street.
- C. Robinson – Req. City Mgr. Have Proper Department Look At Installing A 4-Way Stop At Read Street And 5th Street Intersection.
- C. Robinson – Req. City Mgr. Have Proper Department Look Into Changing Traffic Pattern For Side Streets Off Of Bridge Street From 2-Way To 1-Way.
- C. Robinson – Req. City Mgr. Have Proper Department Look Into Installation Of Additional Lighting Along 1st Street.
- C. Robinson – Req. City Mgr. Have Proper Department Provide A Plan To Remove “Widow Makers”, Dead Wood Along 1st Street.
- C. Robinson – Req. City Mgr. Have Proper Department Provide A Report On What Services Our Animal Control Department Provide; Including, How Stray Animals Are Handled And If The Department Head Feels As If They Are Adequately Staffed.
- C. Nuon – Req. City Mgr. Have Proper Department Install A Stop Sign At The Intersection Of Columbia And Wright Streets.
- C. Nuon – Req. City Mgr. Have The Proper Department Investigate The Possibility Of Renovating The Lowell District Court For The Lowell Police Department.
- C. Nuon – Req. City Mgr. Provide An Update Regarding The Hiring Of Traffic Engineer.
- C. Rourke/C. Scott – Req. City Mgr. Have The DPD Present The Council With An RFP For The Lease And/Or Sale Of LeLacheur Park
- C. Scott – Req. City Mgr. Have Appropriate Department Provide A Report About The Parking Placard Policy For Residents’ Homes; The Report Should Include What Is Needed To Apply For One, Where They Are Allowed In The City, Instructions For Their Placement And How They Are Enforced.
- C. Scott – Req. City Mgr. Have Appropriate Department Report On Pedestrian And Traffic Improvements To Be Implemented In Conjunction With The Pending Opening Of The New Home Depot Distribution Center On Woburn Street In Tewksbury.
- C. Scott – Req. City Mgr. Have Proper Department Develop A Plan To Post Dates And Approximate Times On The City Website Of Any Blasting Activities That Will Happen Within Any Neighborhoods.
- C. Scott – Req. City Mgr. Have Proper Department Look Into Installing A Stop Sign At The Exit From The VA Clinic At The Corner Of Cunningham And Marshall Roads.
- C. Scott – Req. City Mgr. Have Proper Department Remove The Small Pedestrian Bridge On The Pond On Park Avenue Near The Pyne Arts School.
- C. Scott/C. Robinson – Req. City Mgr. Report On The Feasibility Of Developing And RFI For A Municipal Marketing Program; The RFI Should Include The Goal Of Identifying City Owned Assets Available For Sponsorship And Advertising To Bring In New City Revenues Using A Private/Public Partnership Model.
- C. Mercier – Req. City Mgr. Have Police Patrol The Area Surrounding Gorham, Central And Charles Streets; Especially In The Area Of Jerry’s Food Store And The Portuguese American Monument.
- C. Leahy – Req. City Mgr. Report On Status Of Filling Potholes Around The City Of Lowell.
- C. Leahy/C. Jenness – Req. City Mgr. Have DPW Look Into Sidewalk Condition On Palmer Street, In Front Of Tre-Monte Restaurant, And Come Back With Plan To Fix And Repair The Sidewalk.
- C. Leahy/M. Chau – Req. City Mgr. Work With Proper Department For Major Clean-Up Throughout the City
- C. Gitschier – Req. City Mgr. Have Human Resources Provide All New Employees With Entire W-4 Forms And An Explanation Of The Tax Deduction Process At Time Of Hire.
- C. Gitschier – Req. City Mgr. Update The Council On The Crosswalk Painting Throughout The City For Public Safety.
- C. Yem – Req. City Mgr. Have Representative From National Grid Provide An Update To The Council Regarding Their Plan To Erect A Permanent Fence At The National Grid Site At The Corner Of School And Rock Streets.
- C. Yem/C. Nuon – Req. City Mgr. Direct Proper Department Raise The “Entering & Exiting” Sign On School Street Bridge For The Safety Of Children Walking To And From The Stoklosa Middle School.
- C. Nuon/C. Yem – Req. City Council Recognize April 17th As Cambodian Genocide Remembrance Day.
- C. Nuon – Req. City Mgr. Have DPD Work With The CMAA And Cambodian Town Committee To Install Flags On The Utility Poles Along Middlesex Street.
- C. Nuon – Req. City Mgr. List All Qualifications For All Department Heads On The City Website.
- C. Nuon – Req. City Mgr. Work With Proper Department To Come Up With A Plan For Bulky Item Disposal That Will Mitigate The Illegal Dumping That Continues Throughout The City.
- C. Nuon/C. Drinkwater – Req. City Mgr. Work With HR Department And City Solicitor To Provide The Following Information To The City Council: The Most Recently Completed Wage And Classification Study; The Salary Grid Establishing Tiers And Steps For Employees Not Covered By Collective Bargaining Agreements; And Any Movement Of Positions Within Salary Tiers That Occurred Within The Last Ten Fiscal Years.
- C. Drinkwater – Req. City Mgr. Direct The DPW To Coordinate With Youth Sports Leagues To Adjust Trash Pick-Up Schedules At City Parks To Account For Increased Usage Of Fields During Spring And Summer Sessions.
- C. Robinson – Req. City Mgr. Have Proper Department Provide A Report On How To Speed Up Process In Dealing With Abandoned/Vacant Lots; Ie. Union Street, 33 Hildreth Street, Royal Street And Any Other Throughout The City.
- C. Mercier – Req. City Mgr. Have Parking Director Find Ways And Means To Change Two Paying Parking Meters In Front Of 13 Hurd Street (The Open Pantry) To Two Free 15 Minute Parking Meters For Clients Picking Up Food.
- C. Jenness – Req. City Mgr. Evaluate The Feasibility Of Creating A Centralized Communications Department To Improve Information Flow
- M. Chau – Req. City Mgr. Have Proper Department Explore Installing A 4-Way Stop Sign At The Corner Of High And East Merrimack Streets.
- M. Chau – Req. City Mgr. Have Proper Department Place Highland Avenue And Powell Street On The Paving List.
2. Traffic Motions That Could Be E-Mails
It’s been noted that the volume of motions filed by this council is far above that of previous councils. A glance at the weekly agendas, including this week’s meeting, reveals that a large portion of the filings are concerned with traffic-related issues. There are several takeaways:
- Residents are demanding safer streets.
- We need to fill our vacant traffic engineer position; and
- We need to do more in the area of street design rather than relying on signage.
If the motions filed reflect the concerns of residents, it’s clear that people are demanding traffic calming and safer streets. The demand reflects an evolution in attitudes towards traffic that shifts the priority of transportation policy from speed to safety. I recently wrote a post touching on the encouraging uptick on pedestrian-related motions this term.
Council Nuon pointed out that perhaps a large number of these motions could be eliminated if the city had a full time traffic engineer in its employ. The position has been vacant for over a year, leaving the Council to grapple with resident’s concerns. There was some discussion, as there commonly is, relative to an increase in the salary the city is offering so as to attract candidates.
If and when we do get a new traffic engineer, we could also eliminate many of these motions by focusing on road design. A great many of these motions call for better markings and increased signage. These are worthwhile goals. However, there are ways design streets that will slow down traffic automatically, without the need for heavy-handed enforcement, and regardless of what the signage says. Ordinances that automatically call for raised crosswalks, bike lanes, grass strips, trees, etc., during road reconstruction could go a long way in this regard.
3. LeLacheur Park
C. Rourke/C. Scott – Req. City Mgr. Have The DPD Present The Council With An RFP For The Lease And/Or Sale Of LeLacheur Park
C. Gitschier/C. Robinson – Req. City Mgr. Set Up A Tour Of LeLacheur Park And The National Park For The City Council.
The park was built in 1998 in a partnership between the city of and UMass. The rights and responsibilities of both the City and the University can be found, in part, in Chapter 325 of the Acts of 1994 as well as a ten year lease entered into in 2017, (amended in 2019).
As such, any decision made on the future of the park will touch upon the rights and interests of the university. In some circles, it’s a foregone conclusion that the city will be unloading the park to the university for a pittance. However, Councilors Scott and Rourke are correct in that the council would not be doing its due diligence on behalf of the taxpayer unless we seek other proposals. After some discussion, it was decided that the councilors would first get a tour of the park to assess its current condition, followed by an executive session to discuss the city’s position.
4. Lowellians for Sale?
C. Scott/C. Robinson – Req. City Mgr. Report On The Feasibility Of Developing And RFI For A Municipal Marketing Program; The RFI Should Include The Goal Of Identifying City Owned Assets Available For Sponsorship And Advertising To Bring In New City Revenues Using A Private/Public Partnership Model.
Kudos to Councilors Scott and Robinson for thinking of ways to improve the city. However, these proposals usually just bum me out. On the surface, they look like free cash for a cash-strapped city. However, I don’t think that this form of revenue is simple low-hanging fruit.
Selling advertising on public property is a form of commodification of the people. It can easily be forgotten that advertising of this sort involves the government deciding to sell access to its population.
Examples cited by the makers of the motion were large advertisements on the facade of our parking garages as well as ads on our parking kiosks (similar to those annoying ads that play on gas pumps). Worcester was cited as an example of a city we should seek to emulate on this front:
The Grant Welker / Worcester Business Journal article cited above, notes:
“Mock-ups for the advertisements show signs on virtually every available space: on the facades of the Major Taylor, Union Station and Pearl-Elm garages, next to payment kiosks, along walkways and even on the machines where drivers take a ticket to enter or leave the facility.”
If done poorly, this kind of visual noise can wipe out efforts to beautify and preserve the historic character of our city. If we go this route, it would be nice to see a scale that permits local business to provide sponsorships. To their credit, the makers of the motion emphasized this point. This model seems to work well for the local businesses who support youth sports activities, such as youth baseball and softball. I’d pass, however, on wrapping a garage with a Mountain Dew ad. Looking forward to more details in weeks to come.