1. Ten Present
Not much to recap to be honest. The most compelling item on last night’s agenda was the Roll Call. Specifically, Councilor Robinson was not present. Obviously, the big news in the city this week is that Councilor Robinson was charged with two counts of assault and battery on a household or family member in connection with allegedly assaulting a female victim. You’re also likely familiar with the reported details.
All of it could be true, some of it, or none of it. I have no idea what actually happened and – very likely – neither do you. Nevertheless, we all have a scale of justice calibrated to our unique settings. Maybe you’re already certain of a conviction? Personally, I’m not ready to make that leap. I’ve seen too many cases and sat in too many courtrooms to make those assumptions.
But what’s going to happen in the meantime? What should Councilor Robinson do? What should his colleagues do? What is in the best interest of Lowell?
So far, six of his ten colleagues have publicly stated that Councilor Robinson should “step aside” until the criminal matter is resolved. To my knowledge, none of the remaining four have stated that he should remain in the seat.
Councilor Robinson has stated that he has no intention of resigning. I assume the argument here is that mere allegation is insufficient to warrant loss of a duly elected seat. Why should anyone who has yet to have a day in court have to suffer a penalty? Who represents the interest of Centralville if he steps aside or resigns? What does “step aside” even mean? Would stepping down or aside be construed as an admission of guilt? These are all valid questions. Moreover, these are not abstract thought experiments. These are sticky matters involving real lives.
Can business as usual continue with Councilor Robinson on the council while a serious criminal matter is unresolved? I’m not so sure. We give those we elect our consent to be governed. In return, we should expect transparency and accountability. I think this is where the “remain in office” argument fails. It’s not that Councilor Robinson doesn’t have a defense or is not entitled to one – it’s that the citizenry is currently denied access to it and will be for the foreseeable future.
Fairly or unfairly, Councilor Robinson simply can not be transparent in these circumstances. In criminal court silence is advisable – the state has the burden of proof – you don’t have to say anything. However, the relationship between state and a criminal defendant is very different from that of representative and the public. Given the nature of these allegations, “I can’t tell you more” is incompatible with the public’s need for certainty that it is not represented by a violent criminal. A self-imposed gag order may be a sound legal strategy in the long run, but obstructs accountability in the short-term.
All of this is just a long way of saying that the pending criminal matter is an impediment to to the job. To pretend otherwise is a farce. Otherwise, I assume we would have had eleven present last night. Remaining on the council while this case lingers may be in the best interest of Councilor Robinson, but I struggle to see how it’s in the best interest of Lowell.
2. The Rest
Again, not a ton to dive into here:
A. Larry Finn from Coats from Ann Above and Lowell Fire Department was on hand to discuss the success of the annual coat drive. Outstanding stuff, as always.
B. A representative from your favorite new arena football team, the Massachusetts Pirates introduced himself and the organization to the council. Worth checking out, no doubt. Maybe even buy some gear for Christmas? “What’s this?” they’ll ask. “I heard about it from the Lowell Citizen,” you’ll say.
C. Informational Report from the Manager’s Office relative to The Municipal Equality Index (MEI) is a nationwide evaluation of municipal law employed by the HRC to evaluate the inclusivity of municipal laws, policies, and services in support of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer plus (LGBTQ+) community residing and working in the city. Lowell has scored 91 points out of a possible 100, marking a significant leap from its 2022 MEI score of 50. When the score of “50” came up last year, there was some question as to whether the city got a fair assessment. Nevertheless, it’s nice to see an improvement in the score. Other DEI efforts undertaken by the manager were also highlighted as part of this discussion.
D. Much discussion relative to Councilor Gitschier’s Motion seeking update on the conditions of the Pawtucket Memorial School. There seemed to be a consensus: throw money at it and get the air system fixed. Neither kids nor parents will care where the money comes from. Just do it.