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Lowell’s ‘California’ City Council

July 30, 2018

The Lowell School Department has a management crisis on its hands -- five top- level administrative vacancies -- and at least three motions on the City Council’s agenda last Tuesday night dealt with the possibility of offering City Hall resources to help out until permanent replacements can be found.

So what did councilors do?

They never took up the motions for discussion.

As the council’s 10 p.m. meeting deadline approached, the nine-member body approved all 20-plus motions still on the docket in a mass roll-call vote -- without discussion -- and sent them to City Manager Eileen Donoghue for action.

So what were the council’s major accomplishments for the evening?

They issued support for National Grid union workers locked in a contract dispute by instructing City Hall to no longer approve gas-line permits to National Grid until the lockout ends.

The second “major” piece of business approved was a motion to “consider the feasibility” of banning the use of plastic straws in the city.

Anyone watching at home on local cable access TV might have thought they were tuned into a UC-Berkeley campus rally.

And no one could blame taxpayers for throwing their shoes -- or dinner plates -- at the TV screen thinking: “Here are these blowhards who gave themselves a $15,000 a year raise (they now make $25,000) and they can’t work a single minute past 10 o’clock on a Tuesday night to discuss more important matters like the School Department’s meltdown?”

Talk about misplaced priorities.

First, let’s talk about the National Grid motion. Besides the political posturing to the union workers, council members said they were concerned about the danger of National Grid giving “dangerous” gas-line work to independent, nonunion contractors. How absurd. National Grid is a multi-billion dollar corporation. The last thing it wants to do is jeopardize the lives and property of its customers by giving work to any Tom, Dick or Jane. Furthermore, a Google search of “National Grid pipeline explosions” yields half a dozen gas-blast incidents -- two in Massachusetts -- leading to lawsuits and settlements dating back to 2014 against the company and its union workers.

Two days after the council’s vote, the Boston Globe ran this story: “As the utility’s lockout drags on, customers are becoming irritated about long delays for gas work.”

Gee, do you think any of those irate customers live in Lowell? Yes, they do. And now they’ll be waiting longer in Lowell because of the council’s action.

As for the plastic straw ban, did any councilor call Lowell General Hospital or any of the city’s nursing homes and find out how patients and elderly will sip their juice after having major surgery? Will they be fined for sneaking out a plastic straw to a patient?

Once thing about feel-good motions: They serve a political agenda, but they rarely, if ever, serve the innocent people impacted.

The City Council should focus on helping Lowellians instead of acting like a progressive PAC.

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