Spirits Dancing Into Light

Life is funny.

Judith Dickerman-Nelson earned a MFA from Emerson College with the goal of teaching writing to college students.

The next thing she knew, the pale-skinned red-head was clad head- to-toe in traditional Cambodian dress, performing centuries old dances as part of a Cambodian dance troupe, the only white face in a sea of beautiful young Cambodian women.

She never felt that she did not belong.

Judith Dickerman-Nelson’s foray into Cambodian culture began in 1995 when she volunteered to teach a writing workshop to young Cambodian parents at Lowell’s Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association.

“The people were just so incredibly warm, gracious and welcoming,” she said, adding she was amazed by their strength and faith as they began sharing their stories of escaping the genocide of the Pol Pot regime, which left nearly 2 million of their family, friends and countrymen dead and nearly wiped out art and culture in the Southeast Asian nation.

In 2008, Judith had the opportunity to visit Cambodia with friends. They hit up the usual tourist spots like Angkor Wat, but also spent time in the home of her friend’s grandmother in rural Cambodia.

Sharing a homemade meal in another person’s home brings a real sense of intimacy, a sharing of culture and humanity that cannot be recreated at Epcot Center.

“I fell madly in love with the people and their culture,” she said.

Being a writer, Judith expressed her love in prose. At first, she felt slightly uncomfortable about telling other people’s stories, but as she became more immersed in the culture and grew to know more Cambodians in the U.S. that uneasy feeling waned. She knew she could tell their stories with the respect they deserve.

Her poems have recently been published by Paul Marion’s Loom Press in a book titled “Spirits Dancing Into Light.”

It is broken into two sections: “Cambodia and the Camps,” focused on the barbed wire, the fear, the death; and “Lowell, Massachusetts,” focused on their new home, the fear of government in the form of census workers, the red tape, homesickness for the rural farming villages they left behind, and hope in bringing their culture to America through events like the Southeast Asian Water Festival.

There is also a poignant piece about the senseless 2009 death of 17-year-old Tavaryna Choeun, who was shot in the head while a passenger in a car, her body left on the curb on Willie Street. She was an innocent victim of an argument that spun out of control.

On the opposite page of each English poem is its Khmer translation, done by Boroeuth Brian Chen, of Lowell. Judith is quick to point out her’s are not Cambodian poems, which have a very regulated structure, but English poems translated into Khmer.

The book’s inner design was created by Derek Fenner and the cover art by Jim Higgins and Joan Ross.

The book is available at the Umass Lowell downtown bookstore (the former Barnes and Noble) in the Bon Marche building on Merrimack Street. Judith will hold a book signing there from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on October 13.

Judith Dickerman-Nelson lives in Vermont with her husband and two grown sons. She is also the author of Believe in Me: A Teen Mom’s Story, a memoir published earlier this year by Jefferson Park Press.

Lost Dancer by Judith Dickerman-Nelson

She used to dance

in silken skirts of gold.

rolling her long black hair

into a bun and becoming

an Apsara goddess

gliding across the stage,

across a bridge

to a past nearly lost

in genocide.

She survived

because she knew

the Blessing Dance,

because she knew

when to be silent,

when to answer,

and when to move slowly.

 

The lithing sound of music

and the beat of her feet

padding across a floor

save her.

Hamilton Canal District Taking Shape

freuden 005This week the windows were blown out of the Freudenberg building, formerly known as the Saco-Lowell Shops. On purpose.

On Friday September 7 at 2 p.m. city and state officials will join representatives from Trinity Financial, the Boston developer hired to oversee the $800 million revitalization of the 15-acre Hamilton Canal District, to officially break ground on the project that, in a year’s time, will result in the rebirth of the unattractive old textile factory into 54,000 square feet of modern office space known as 110 Canal Street.

freuden 026freuden 004The $8.5 million rehabilitation of the Freudenberg, along with the recently completed Canal Street Bridge over the Hamilton Canal will mark the completion of Phase I of the project, which also included the 2011 redevelopment of the Appleton Mills into 130 affordable live/work rental units for artists.

When completed, the 15-acre Hamilton Canal District will boast up to 450,000 square feet of commercial and office space, 55,000 square feet of retail space and 700 units of affordable-and market-rate housing downtown, as well as generate as many as 400 permanent jobs.

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Connection to Kenya

At Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, Fred Goldberg (above left) presented Mayor Patrick Murphy with a plaque from Mayor George Aladwa of Nairobi, Kenya, one of Lowell’s nine sister cities.

Goldberg, President and Program Director of OWLI – The One World Leadership Institute, an educational organization working to connect schools in Africa and the United States geared at developing the leaders of the next generation, spent a month in Kenya last fall.

He will return to Nairobi on September 23, bringing with him a letter of friendship from Mayor Murphy to Mayor Aladwa.

Mayor Murphy Names Sister Cities Task Force Members

Nairobi, Kenya

Tonight, Mayor Patrick Murphy will announce the names of the five Lowellians chosen to serve on the Sister Cities Task Force, charged with developing strategic goals for and guiding the Sister Cities Initiative through the committees established to maintain each sister city relationship.

Strengthening the relationships between Lowell and its nine existing sister cities, as well as forming new relationships, has been one of Mayor Murphy’s top goals.

Lowell’s nine Sister Cities are: Limerick, Ireland; St. Die des Vosges, France; Nairobi, Kenya; Barclayville, Liberia; Lobito, Angola; Winneba, Ghana; Bamenda, Cameroon; Berdyansk, Ukraine; and Bryansk, Russia.

Limerick, Ireland

In addition to providing a better cultural understanding between cities in two nations, the Sister City relationship can also be extended to educational, business and economic development connections.

Earlier this summer the Lowell city Council approved the Sister Cities Initiative Charter, providing a strong foundation on which to continue building the program.

The newly formed Sister Cities Task Force includes:

Julio de Carvalho: Originally from Cape Verde, Julio holds a doctorate in educational leadership and has worked as a foreign language teacher at Lowell High School since 2001. He also is the director of the Lowell High School summer school program and is fluent in Portuguese, English, French, Cape-Verdean and other African languages.

“I am diplomatic, tactful and able to maintain positive, productive and long-term working relationships,” he wrote to Mayor Murphy in his letter expressing interest in the position.

Greg Page: The former aide to Mayor Murphy, Greg was instrumental in reviving the Sister Cities Program.

A Captain in the U.S. Army National Guard, Greg is currently studying for his MBA at the  M.I.T. Sloan School of Management and is fluent in French and Spanish, and does understand and can speak some Khmer.

“I believe that Lowell, a city with 22,000 foreign-born residents (in addition to many other who have lived abroad), can become a national leader among small cities in the realm of international relationship,” he wrote. “Together with four other motivated individuals who care about results, I can help ensure that LSCI leaves the nest and becomes successfully self-sustaining and operational as a bottom-up entity that does not depend on a small number of individuals to carry it along.”

Beatriz Sierra: For more than 20 years Beatriz has been organizing events for the city’s Colombian community. She previously instructed Colombian folkloric dance groups, participating in festival throughout New England. Beatriz also coordinates visits from the Colombian Consulate to Lowell.

Beatriz currently works in Youth Employer Services for the Greater Lowell Workforce Investment Board at the Career Center of Lowell, building relationships with employers to secure available jobs and match them with potential employees.

For the last five years has been sponsoring two schools in Titiribi, Colombia, providing school supplies for 180 low-income students and didactic materials for their teachers.

Anne Sheehy: A life-long Lowellian, Sheehy has a strong technology background, having worked as a district-wide Instructional Technology Specialist in the Lowell Public Schools. Anne holds a master’s degree in Instructional Technology from Salem State University and is currently studying for her doctorate in Leadership in Schools from UMass Lowell.

“I feel that it is important to have a representative of our educational community on this task,” she wrote.

Tooch Van: As the Coordinator of Middlesex Community College’s Multicultural Center and an International Student Advisor, Tooch counsels and supports the college’s international and minority students. He also teaches Khmer language, history and culture as an adjunct faculty member.

Tooch has also served as an event coordinator for Lowell’s Southeast Asian Water Festival, is a native Khmer speaker, fluent in English and conversant in French. He holds a master’s degree in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher school of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

“This is a group with varied perspectives that should serve the city well,” said Mayor Murphy.

What’s in Your Drawers?

Remember the desks in school that students who had come before you had carved their names into or written them in permanent marker, their presence forever marked in history?

It is not just a schoolhouse tradition . . . it is also a prominent piece of the lore of the Lowell City Council Chamber.

Although few may realize it, the desks at which the councilors sit are the ORIGINAL desks that came with the building — circa 1893.

Over the years City Councilors and School Committee members have left the mark inside the desks wooden drawers. Pens, pencils, carving tools and even fountain pens have been used.

drawer16The oldest signature I was able to read is that of Fred Rourke, 1894.

For some it not only a piece of city or their own personal history, but a source of family pride.

drawer11There is the grandfather/grandson duo of City Councilor George B. Murphy (1954) and City Councilor/now Mayor Patrick Murphy (2010).

drawer14There are the father/son combinations of City Councilor/Mayor Armand LeMay and City Councilor Curtis LeMay; and City Councilor Dan Leahy and School Committee member John Leahy (as well as John’s cousin, City Councilor Mike Lenzi).

There is one father/daughter duo: City Councilor Larry Martin and School Committee member Connie Martin.

And there are two husband/wife teams: City Councilor Samuel Sampson and his wife City Councilor and the city’s first female Mayor Ellen Sampson; and City Councilor Rodney Elliott and his wife City Councilor Laurie Machado.

In addition to the elected officials, the drawers also hold the names of some of their children and grandchildren who visited the chamber on Inauguration Day, and mock trial and student city council participants from Lowell High School who have used the chamber over the years. One that stands out from that group is Walter Poirier 1994. Wally was a LHS graduate (Class of ’94), who disappeared while working with the Peace Corps in Bolivia in February 2001. He was 22-years-old.

drawer12drawer10drawer05drawer02drawer01The visible names of elected officials in the existing drawers (the drawer in the desk used by City Councilor Kevin Broderick is missing), include:

  • Pat Walsh 1958 + 1959
  • Samuel S. Pollard 1952-53 1954-55 1942-43 Plan B
  • Patrick Óisin Murphy 2010
  • Chanrithy (Rithy) Uong “First color person to serve as city councilor in Lowell elected 11/2/99”
  • Clement Gregory McDonough 1941-1981
  • John Donahue 1905
  • H.S. Greenwood 1902-03
  • Harold Hartwell Jr. 1937-38-39-40-41-42-43 Councilor at large
  • Steven C. Panagiotakos Lowell School Committee 1992-1993
  • George A. Ramirez Lowell City Council 2006-2007
  • Thomas Markham councilor at large 1934-35
  • John J. Donovan, Mayor
  • George Callahan, Councilor 1939 Ward 10
  • Victor Forsley City Council 1974-75
  • Edward F. Ryan 1949-1951
  • Kathleen M. Kelley
  • Fred H. Rourke 1894
  • John Oliver 1895
  • Maurice F. Flynn 1906
  • Tyler A. Stevens 1903
  • Thomas G. Little 1902 1905
  • Frank Lundberg 1900
  • Frank Hubin 1925-26-29-30-31
  • Tarsy Poulios 1988-1989 1990-1991 1992-1993 (mayor) 1994-1996
  • Henry Beaudry June 8, 1944
  • Regina M. Faticanti
  • John Mahoney 1970 1971
  • W. Pat 1956 1957
  • Francis McMahon 1934-39-41-42-52-53-54-55
  • E.M. Borden
  • Walter E. Clement Plan E Councilor 1944-45
  • Councilor Ed Ryan 1949-1953
  • Mayor Rita Mercier Jan 7 2002
  • Joe Mendonca
  • Peter Richards Councilor 1996-1999
  • William Barrett 1938-1939
  • Raymond J. Gilbride Councilor 1966-1969
  • Bernie Lemoine 1992-1996
  • George O’Hare 1974-75-78-81
  • Robert J. Wolfgang 1978-79
  • Raymond F. Rourke city council 1978-1979 1980-1981 1983-1984
  • Janice Kierce 2001
  • Jim McMahon 63-64-65-66
  • Leo J. Farley 1970-1977
  • W. Peters 568 Pine Street 1979
  • George Grove 1898
  • Paul McDermott 1887
  • J.J. Sweeney 1939-40-41-42-43-44-45-46-47 mayor 48-49
  • F.G. Baldwin, Ward 6,  March 4, 1903
  • Connie Martin
  • D.C. Milne 1917
  • Jim Milinazzo
  • Dan Tenczar 200
  • Brian J. Martin 1981
  • Kimberly Scott 2012
  • George Anthes 1981
  • Grady Mulligan 94-95
  • Dave Laferriere 2001
  • R.S. Fulton Ward 1 year 1910-11
  • Curtis J. LeMay L.C.C. 1988-89, Vice mayor 1990-91, LCC 1992-93
  • Edmund F. Shea 1905
  • James Kennedy served in the Common Council 1897 and 1898
  • Michael J. Markham served in the Common Council 1898 and 1899 and 1900 from Ward 4
  • Vice Chair Jim Leary S.C.
  • Ed Early 61-69
  • John McQuaid 2000 School Committee
  • George A. Ayotte 1948-49 mayor 1950-51 councilor
  • Harry Whittet served on the Council year of 1909-10-11 Ward 9
  • Lowell City Council George B. Murphy 1954
  • Jeremiah Connors Ward 5 1906
  • Armand Mercier
  • William G. Brown Ward Nine 1902-03
  • Frank McLaughlin Ward Five 1903-04
  • Joseph R. Legare 1901-1902
  • John Leahy
  • Joseph Mullen 1906
  • Dennis J. Cooney 1903
  • George B. McFadden 1908
  • John J. Coughlin 1911
  • S.M. Lyons June 1923
  • Bill Martin
  • George B. Kouloheras 1962
  • Laurie Machado 1994-1995
  • Ray Riddick 1990-1991
  • Larry Martin 1992-1996
  • Ken Powers 1993
  • Armand W. LeMay 1976-77 1977-83
  • Hon. Henry Beaudry School Committee 1944-45-48-49 Mayor 1952-1953 Councilor 1952-53-54-55
  • John J. Bennett 1930-31
  • Kathryn Philbin Stoklosa
  • Councilor Roger S. Hoar 1958
  • C. Fred Hard 1903 Ward 6
  • Charles A. Spenos 1908 Ward 8
  • Rodney Elliott
  • Thomas J. O’Donnell
  • Otis W. Butler 1909-1910 Ward 1
  • “Dick Howe best friend Dan Leahy 1998”
  • Dick O’Malley
  • Daniel F. Moriarty councilor Ward 5 1922-23-24
  • Mike Lenzi
  • Bud Caulfield
  • Marty Lorrey
  • John J. Walsh 1990
  • Bart J. Callery Jr. councilor 1940
  • Sean Sullivan 88-89
  • Philip L. Shea 1970
  • Woodbury F. Howard 1944-45-46-47-48-49
  • Councilor Samuel A. Sampson 1954-1958
  • Albert Wilson 1917
  • Alan Kazanjian 2008-2009
  • Edward T. Bailey Ward 4 1925 1931
  • Gerald J. Durkin Jr. Lowell School Committee 78-87
  • Ellen A. Sampson
  • Frederick Pyne 1917
  • Patricia A. Molloy LSC 1976-1977
  • Charles T. Marsh 1905
  • John F. McNamara 1906
  • Michael H. Hoar occupied this seat in 1907
  • John E. Kearns 1909 Ward two
  • Franky Descoteaux cc 09-11
  • Robert Gignac 2012-2013
  • Thomas E. Garrity 1938-1939-1940-1941 Ward 4
  • Councilor George P. Macheras 1958-1960
  • John Mahoney 1908
  • Henry Sullivan 1950-1951
  • Kathleen Janas Hennigan Lowell school committee 88-90
  • J.D. Caddell
  • Arthur B. Chadwick 1922-23-24-25
  • Samuel N. Pickering
  • Lewis Lebron 1901
  • William C. Geary 1944-1951
  • Abel R. Campbell 1926-1927-1928-1929
  • Gus Coutu City Council 81-82
  • Tom Gill 1912 to 1916
  • David J. Conway
  • James J. Flanagan 1907-1908-1909-1910
  • Thomas Crowley
  • Bernard Lee occupied this seat in the year 1900

Lowell’s Burmese Work Toward American Dream

burmese 033

burmese 050Volleyball, hot dogs, face painting, tug-of-war and a bouncy house — a typical American summer party.

Look closer.

The path these 200 revelers took to the volleyball net on the lawn of the Calvary Baptist Church on Hastings Street Saturday was anything but typical, but it certainly was very American.

burmese 034They are refugees from Burma, many of whom spent years living in overcrowded camps on the Thai/Burmese border, with no opportunity to get an education. Relocated to Lowell by the U.S. State Department, they are working toward their American dream in the Mill City, with the assistance of a dedicated group of a half-dozen Burmese-American volunteers helping them to become self-sufficient.

burmese 062“The goal is to empower them,” said Ardeth Thawnghmung, a political-science professor at UMass Lowell, who along with her husband James has been assisting Lowell’s Burmese refugees since they began arriving in 2007. “We do not want to perpetuate this culture of dependency; we want to show them they can be self-sufficient and not rely on welfare.”

burmese 108

James Thawnghmung

Today, there are approximately 200 Burmese refugees living in Lowell. About 30 families who were originally placed here have since moved to other parts of the country due to the high cost of living in Massachusetts, Ardeth said.

Refugees arrive here with nothing, and speaking little or no English. They receive $450 in start-up money, eight months of Medicaid, food stamps and welfare upon settlement in this country. Refugees are granted $428 per month in assistance for a single person, with an additional $105 per family member.

The Thawnghmungs have worked with the Lowell Public Schools to secure interpreters and aides who speak Burmese, as well as Karen, the language of the minority group to which most of the city’s refugees belong.

They also worked with U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas’ office to pressure the Registry of Motor Vehicles to allow the Burmese, like the Cambodians, to use an interpreter when taking their driver’s license test.

“It is so important, especially for the working moms, to be able to drive as soon as they can to help them become self-sufficient while they learn English and get a job,” Adeth said.

The Burmese women have a tradition of weaving beautiful fabrics that can be used as scarves, table clothes, curtains and for a variety of other uses. They have begun selling them at the Lowell Farmers Market, giving them the confidence they can be successful here and lift themselves up on their own abilities and talents.

burmese 008The Thwanghmungs and a small group of other Burmese-Americans recently founded the SayDaNar (Goodwill) Community Development Center. Working on a zero budget they have secured volunteers, like Kyaw Thiha, of Worcester a graduate of Worcester Polytechnic Institute who is now in graduate school studying education administration, to tutor the children in math and English.

“We have seen a drastic improvement in their skills,” said Ardeth. “There are some very bright, talented students.”

Thirty children took part in the center’s summer school program, working to learn English and push themselves to the same level as their American counterparts.

burmese 151burmese 148burmese 145At Saturday’s back-to-school party, students were rewarded for having good report cards at the end of the school year, as well as for the efforts they have put in this summer.

burmese 142City Councilor Vesna Nuon, who came to the United States from Cambodia 30 years ago, told the Burmese he knows what they are going through and encouraged them to continue to working hard.

“I remember how difficult it was to get the services we wanted, to get into the school we wanted,” he said.  “You need to work hard, harder than your classmates. Through hard work you will achieve what a lot of people before you have achieved.”

Burma achieved independence from Great Britain in 1948, and the people lived under a democratic, parliamentary government until 1962. At that time, a military coup unraveled the nation’s constitution, plunging the Texas-sized country, nestled between Thailand and India, into a military-run, socialist government.

burmese 139On Sept. 8, 1988, student-led demonstrations against the repressive military junta ended in tragedy as the government killed more than 1,000 demonstrators. Thousands more, primarily those from the Karen and Chin ethnic groups, fled to refugee camps along the Burma-Thai border. In 1989, the military government changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar, a change not recognized or accepted by the democratic opposition or the United States government.

in 2010, the first multiparty elections in 20 years were held. The pro-government party took an overwhelming victory, in an election U.S. and European officials dismissed as a sham.

burmese 143Voters told the BBC they were not allowed to vote in private. Opposition groups alleged government employees were pressured to vote for the pro-military party. Foreign journalists and election monitors were not allowed in the country and more than 1.5 million voters were disenfranchised because the government deemed their location a place “too dangerous” in which to vote.

Since 2005, more than 40,000 Burmese refugees have been relocated to the United States.

I first became acquainted with Lowell’s Burmese refugees in March 2009, meeting with a group who had arrived just the day before, in a Bowers Street apartment. It was there, Thawnh Hu, then 31-years-old, shared his life story through a translator.

Hu, who arrived in the U.S. with only the clothes on his back, had been forced into a life of hard labor, building railroad tracks seven days a week in his native Burma. Later, he was nearly beaten to death in a prison run by the Burmese military.

His story is that of many of his countrymen.

But on Saturday, none of the pain of their former lives was visible. As the married men battled the single men in volleyball, their “fans” cheered and screamed in English, Burmese and Karen.

burmese 042The children stood in line, waiting to have butterflies painting on their faces or to get a hot dog or ice cream sandwich.

When the rope was revealed for tug-of-war it was all hands on deck, as women, men and children flocked to competed in the world’s oldest feat of strength and teamwork.

burmese 091

burmese 077

burmese 132Step one on the path to the American dream complete.

Lowell Police Address Lower Highlands Concerns

In the first hours of 2011, eight partygoers, ages 14 to 20, were shot in the basement of 104 Grand St. in the Lower Highlands.

Corinna Oeur , 20, died.

“It is important to reflect on where we were and where we are now,” Lowell Police Superintendent Ken Lavallee told more than 50 residents of the Lower Highlands who gathered Saturday morning in the parking lot of the Molloy School. “Overall crime trends are getting better; by working together with the community we are having success.”

The community meeting was prompted by a recent spate of high profile incidents in the neighborhood including three incidents in which bullets were shot into homes and a prostitution sting in which 18 prostitutes and “johns” were arrested.

Late last month, a bullet ripped through the bedroom wall of a 71-year-old woman on Upham Street. That weekend, a bullet careened through Leslie Oxton’s home at 11 Fernald St., grazing a door frame, traveling through the wall of the bedroom in which her husband was sleeping and lodging in the wall of her daughter’s closet.

Last Sunday afternoon, three shots were fired into the side of 154 Smith Street and another into the bumper of a vehicle.

Lowell Police West Sector Commander, Capt. William Taylor, explained when comparing crime statistics from January 1 to August 20, 2011 to the same period this year, there has been an overall decrease in crime of 14 percent in the Lower Highlands.

Those figures include a 21 percent decrease in burglary, from 80 to 63 incidents; a 46 percent decrease in car breaks from 39 to 21 incidents; and a 24 percent decrease in robbery from 25 to 19 incidents. What skews the statistics is a 250 percent increase in shoplifting from 2 to 7 incidents.

The number of calls received by police for shots fired in the neighborhood (some of which later turned out to be firecrackers) fell from 38 in 2010 to 25 in 2011 and 18 so far this year.

Gang-related crime has decreased by 6 percent from the first eight months of last year compared to this year. Violent gang-related crime saw a drastic decrease from 2010 to 2011, from 13 to 6 incidents, while total gang-related incidents fell from 45 to 31 incidents; so far this year there have been 15 gang-related crimes in the neighborhood.

Taylor stressed in order for the positive trend to continue the police need cooperation from victims, witnesses and neighbors to get the criminals out of the neighborhoods. He urged anyone who sees anything they think is suspicious to call the police, even if it may seem minor.

He added the police department is using federal grant funding to assist community partners like the Boys and Girls Club and the United Teen Equality Center to further their proactive missions of keeping young people off the streets and out of trouble.

Additionally, Lowell Police are working with the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Office and State Police to provide an increased police presence in trouble spots.

Last Saturday night, for instance, following the Southeast Asian Water Festival, the State Police Community Action Team, which usually patrols Revere Beach during the summer, sent a sergeant and four troopers to Lowell to work with the LPD to prevent any potential gang violence.

In addition to Lavallee and Taylor, LPD Officers Paul Corcoran, Charlie Pappas and Peter St. Arnaud, as well as state Rep. Kevin Murphy, City Councilors Vesna Nuon and Marty Lorrey, Assistant to the City Manager Henri Marchand, and Boys and Girls Club Executive Director Joe Hungler attended the meeting.

Marchand said City Manager Bernie Lynch has authorized the city’s Impact Team to sweep through the Lower Highlands early next month. The Impact Team brings together officials and inspectors from several departments including police, fire, health and inspectional services to tour a section of the city, spot and fix problems.

Frustrated Lower Highlands Neighborhood Group President Taya Dixon Mullane asked why these sweeps seem to only occur in the wake of a problem, being reactive rather than proactive.

“The next time we have one of these meetings it will be because somebody is dead,” she said. “The impact team visits should be standard, every couple of months. The streets are littered with trash.”

She added the city’s vacant and foreclosed property ordinance is not being enforced; property managers and banks that own troubled locations are not maintaining the properties, which are both an eyesore and danger in the neighborhood.

Lieba Golden-Koulendros said she and several of her neighbors live in historic homes built in the 1860s that do not have porch lights and there are no street lights in her section of the neighborhood. The darkness, she said, provides a welcoming spot for drug users and prostitutes.

“The whores walk the street like it was the runway at a modeling show, twirling around,” she said.

Nuon said he hears the residents’ frustrations, adding everyone needs to work together to solve the problems. He urged residents, if they have a problem or feel an issue is being ignored, to call him or another city councilor.

The Lowell Police Department can be reached by calling the non-emergency line at (978) 937-3200. If you have any information on any crime, call the Crime Stoppers Tip Line at (978) 459-TIPS (8477) and you could be eligible for a cash reward. All callers remain anonymous. You can also Text-a-tip 847411 (tip must begin with   ”LPD tip”). Residents are encouraged to follow the LPD on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lowell-Police-Department-Official/329534741682 and LPD Twitter account @lowellpd for updates.