Mayor Murphy Joins Mayors Against Illegal Guns


Photo Courtesy of Mayor Menino’s Office

Thursday morning, Mayor Patrick Murphy (far right in this photo) joined 16 other Massachusetts mayors at an event hosted by Boston Mayor Tom Menino at the Parkman House in support of legislative measures, violence prevention strategies and community mobilization efforts endorsed by Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

MAIG includes 1,000 mayors nationally, 26 in Massachusetts.

“Earlier this week, I asked the City of Boston to stand with us on guns and say enough is enough,” Mayor Menino said. “As Mayors, we have a responsibility to our residents to do all we can to make our neighborhoods safer. Today, we’re calling on every community in Massachusetts to stand with us. We must keep the pressure on Congress to take swift action.”

Mayor Menino also praised the entire Massachusetts federal delegation for signing onto HR 137. This legislation requires background checks for every gun sale in America.  But he also urged Mayors and their constituents to expand their reach: “Call your aunt in Florida; call your college roommate in Texas; call your old neighbor who moved to Vermont. Tell them we need them to stand with us and demand a plan from their members of Congress.”

Twenty-six Massachusetts mayors are members of MAIG. Mayors in attendance at Thursday’s event included: Mayor Joseph C. Sullivan of Braintree, President, Mass Mayors Association, Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone of Somerville, Chair, Metro Mayors Coalition, Mayor William F. Scanlon of Beverly, Mayor Carlo DeMaria Jr. of Everett, Mayor Lisa Wong of Fitchburg, Mayor Patrick Ó. Murphy of Lowell, Mayor Gary Christenson of Malden, Mayor Michael J. McGlynn of Medford, Mayor Robert J. Dolan of Melrose, Mayor Jonathan Mitchell of New Bedford, Mayor Setti Warren of Newton, Mayor Thomas Koch of Quincy, Mayor Daniel Rizzo of Revere, Mayor Kimberley Driscoll of Salem, Mayor Scott D. Galvin of Woburn.

The Mayors also taped a public service announcement, to be aired statewide.

A letter sent Wednesday to the Senate Judiciary Committee reiterated the coalition’s support for its three proposals: requiring every gun buyer to pass a background check; getting military-style weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines off the streets; and making gun trafficking a federal crime.

Last week, a letter from more than 830 mayors to Congressional leadership asked for swift action on the Fix Gun Checks bill introduced by Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), in an effort to close the enormous gap in current laws by requiring a criminal background check for every gun sale. Background checks are the only systematic way to stop felons, domestic abusers and other dangerous people from buying firearms. These checks are instantaneous and highly effective. Since its inception, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) has blocked firearms purchases at licensed dealerships by millions of individuals who are barred by federal law from owning them.

But criminals and other prohibited purchasers avoid these checks by buying firearms, including online and at gun shows, from unlicensed private sellers who are not required by federal law to conduct the checks. Millions of gun sales — estimated at more than 40 percent of the U.S. annual total — are conducted through private sellers.

For more information on the Demand a Plan campaign, visit:

For more information on Mayors Against Illegal Guns, visit:

Meet the Artists!

ArtistsLooking to break out of your winter-induced depression? Put a little art into your life.

This Saturday, February 2 from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., and the first Saturday of every month marks open studios at Western Avenue Studios, a chance to meet and mingle with the 200 artists who hone their craft in those old mills at 122 Western Ave. and purchase some art to brighten your home or office.

On a smaller, but just as impressive scale, the public is invited to visit with the 13 artists of the Brush Art Gallery and Studios Wednesday through Sunday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

As a primer before heading out into an adventure in the Lowell art world, check out the third episode of “Artists of Lowell: Their Stories,” a documentary series from Subes Acharya, his wife Soumita Acharya and Peter Tsaklis from Lowell Telecommunications Corp, highlighting the work, inspirations and challenges of Lowell’s artists.

This episode profiles oil painter J.J. Long and Pamela Wamala, who paints in pastels.

Long, a full-time artist who earned a bachelor’s degree in oil painting from the University of New Hampshire, can be found in studio 518 at Western Avenue Studios. His work ranges from realist landscape and street scenes to more surreal fantasy pieces.

In an effort to keep art affordable for everyone, he not only sells original pieces on canvas, but also prints, posters, calendars and mugs that feature his work.

His work will be exhibited at Brew’d Awakening Coffeehaus on Market Street in April.

Wamala has a studio at the Brush Art Gallery and Studios on Market Street. She began painting with her grandfather in Maine at the age of 5 and hasn’t looked back since, creating beautiful, peaceful landscapes in pastels.

She said her goal in creating a piece is “capturing the feeling of a place through color and composition” and she prefers pastels due to their “buttery” nature and rich colors.

Wamala also started the Elder Art Initiative, a program through which she and other artists conduct art workshops for nursing home residents.

Previous episodes profiled artists Debra Bretton Robinson, Rachel Kowalik, Gay Tracy and Frank Tadley.

Subes Acharya said the purpose of the series is to help the artists market themselves both in and outside of the city and to serve as a learning tool for young people who are considering an art career.

The series is part of an effort spearheaded by the Acharyas and assisted by Tsaklis to “rebrand” Lowell and erase some of the inaccurate negative perceptions of today’s Lowell.

In addition to the artist profiles, they are also working on a larger documentary project focused on highlighting the evolution and successes of Lowell over the last five years. Check out

For more information contact Subes Acharya at 508-395-6379 or by email at

FREE Healthcare Resource Hotline for Lowell Residents

hotlineHealthcare can be confusing and expensive.

NeedyMeds to the rescue!

The Gloucester-based non-profit that has saved Lowellians more than $20,000 in prescription costs through its drug discount card since partnering with the city in December 2011, has announced it will now also offer a FREE Helpline Number for residents who need assistance locating health care resources.

“We are pleased to be able to offer this valuable service to the residents of Lowell, ” said Rich Sagall, MD, president of NeedyMeds. “This new service will compliment the savings Lowell residents are getting from the discount card.”

People who call the NeedyMeds helpline at 1-800-572-6091 will receive free assistance locating programs that may be able to help them with medication and healthcare costs. For those that need further support, they will be guided through the process of applying to programs. NeedyMeds staff will mail out applications and conduct follow-up to insure that anyone who calls receives all the help they can.

“This resource will be particularly helpful for those in the city that may not have access to a computer or who need assistance navigating the Internet,” said Elizabeth Messenger, Outreach & Education Manager of NeedyMeds.

The NeedyMeds website,, has accurate and up-to-date information on over 5,000 programs that can assist people, including the pharmaceutical patient assistance programs (PAPs) that can provide medications for free or low-cost for those who are eligible.

“I’m pleased to see this partnership between NeedyMeds and the City of Lowell continue to grow in support of more and more families as they deal with the rising costs of prescription drugs and health care,” said Mayor Patrick Murphy, who made the motion to bring NeedyMeds to Lowell.

On a related note, the NeedyMeds discount drug cards are still available at the Mayor’s Office, the Senior Center and various social service agencies.

Each time the Lowell card is used, the City of Lowell receives a small amount that helps to fund city-wide health-related projects.

Participating pharmacies offer a discount of up to 80 percent for prescription drugs. The average savings is 50% or around $30 per prescription.

The cards are currently accepted at more than 70,000 pharmacies nationwide, with over 30 located within a 5-mile radius of downtown Lowell. The cards can be shared with family members or friends, and they have no expiration date.

NeedyMeds’ drug discount cards may be used to obtain a discount on prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, or medical supplies written as a prescription, as well as pet medications that can be purchased at a pharmacy

The card can be a lifesaver for people without health insurance. People with health insurance can benefit from the card if:

  • The insurance has no drug coverage
  • There is a high drug deductible
  • There is a low medicine cap that has been met
  • There is a high co-pay and the card offers a better price
  • The patient is in the Medicare Part D donut hole

The discount cards cannot be used in combination with any private or government-sponsored health insurance program. They cannot be used to lower a co-pay, but consumers can compare the savings offered by the card versus the cost of the co-pay before purchasing a prescription.

Use Your Noodle

Noodles 117Flour. Water. A pinch of salt.

It’s a simple recipe, but in the hands of master noodler (yes, I made that word up) Chef Gene Wu the end result is anything but simple.

Rolled, rested, stretched and stretched and stretched.

Thwacked forcefully upon a wooden table over and over again, separated into strands and plunged into boiling water for three minutes then doused with hot oil, chili flakes, garlic and cilantro — what started as the simplest of doughs has been transformed into a bowl of tender, comfortingly chewy noodles that keep you coming back for more.

Noodles 024Wu shared his noodling secrets with a group of 30 curious onlookers Monday night at the Boott Cotton Mills Museum as part of the Lowell National Historical Park’s Lowell Folklife Series, programming that David Blackburn, LHNP Chief of Cultural Resources and Programs, explained aims to “bring the spirit of the Folk Festival all year round.”

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Wu came to the United States in 1997 from Xi’an, Shaanxi, China to study Chemistry.

Xi’an, he explained, is located in a landlocked mountainous region of China. It is very dry, too dry to grow rice, so wheat is the grain of choice. It is used to make flatbread and noodles. The particular type of hand-pulled noodles for which the region, and Wu are famous are called biang, biang mian, named for the banging noise the smooth stretchy dough makes as it is slammed against the table. The beating, Wu explained, helps to strengthen the noodle (not to mention the chef’s arms).

Theresa Park, of Lowell, uses her noodle.

Theresa Park, of Lowell, uses her noodle.

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David Blackburn learns from the master.

Wu did work as a chemist for 12 years and he loved the work, but something was pulling at him. Growing up in his grandparents’ restaurant in Xi’an, Wu washed dished, pots, pans and floors from the age of 7. He loved being there, watching the chefs and aspiring to be like them one day.

“I had a lot of fun in the restaurant kitchen and still do,” he said. “It was my childhood dream, it was always there.”

Noodles 106On Thanksgiving Day 2011, Wu opened Gene’s Chinese Flatbread Cafe at 257 Littleton Road in Chelmsford. This is not your father’s lo mein; the Cafe specializes in a small menu of fresh, authentic dishes from Xi’an where flatbread stuffed with flavorful slow cooked five-spice pork, biang biang mian and lamb noodle soup are king.

Ava Wu hones her noodle crafting skills as her dad, Chef Gene Wu looks on.

Ava Wu hones her noodle crafting skills as her dad, Chef Gene Wu looks on.

Today his 7-year-old daughter Ava spends time in her father’s restaurant kitchen the way he did in his grandparents’ kitchen so many years ago.

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To see the Cafe’s full menu, visit 

To keep up to date on programming offered by the Lowell National Historical Park, visit

Mia Morgenstern, daughter of LHS teacher, Competes on The Taste


Lamb loin with freekeh, mint-cilantro chutney, ginger butter and spiced cauliflower. A dish every home cook whips up for Tuesday dinner . . . right?

Well, it is if you are trying to impress famed chefs Anthony Bourdain, Ludo Lefebvre, Brian Malarkey and Nigella Lawson.

It is the one perfectly composed spoonful that earned former Westford Apple Blossom Queen and Westford Academy Valedictorian (class of 2004) Mia Morgenstern, 26, one of four coveted spots on Bourdain’s team in the new cooking competition The Taste, which premiered Tuesday night on ABC.

Think of the show as The Voice for foodies. The four coaches/judges taste one spoonful without seeing or speaking to the chef who created it, relying only on their palate and instinct to decide whether they want the chef or home cook who prepared it on their team for the rest of the competition. Each coach will lead a team of four contestants throughout the season. The last contestant standing wins $100,000 and a 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid.

Millions tuned in Tuesday night at 8 p.m. for the show’s premiere, including one in Westford who was admittedly “so nervous that my stomach hurt” – Mia’s mom, Lowell High School ESL and history teacher Miriam Morgenstern.

With her husband out of town, Miriam invited a friend over to watch the show; she also was receiving texts and Facebook messages from her Lowell High friends and colleagues throughout the night.

“My friend and I ate popcorn and hot chocolate, although I felt guilty I hadn’t made something edgier,” she said.

Following her 2004 graduation from Westford Academy, Mia went to Harvard and then took a job as an associate consultant at Bain and Company. Realizing the corporate world was not her cup of bubble tea, she quit and headed to San Francisco where she has been teaching yoga and dabbling in different food-related gigs, like working on photo shoots for “Food and Wine” magazine.

“We are a family of foodies! We always enjoyed eating out and experimenting with different ethnic cuisine,” said Miriam. “I love to make Indian food, and all of us enjoy spicy food. We also did quite a bit of baking, nothing fancy, but always homemade.”

Mia and her sister Emma benefitted from Miriam’s work as an English as a Second Language teacher, by being exposed to a variety of cultures and cuisines. One of Miriam’s former students, Ken Lu, who has since graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and works as a professional chef in Texas, would make “perfectly prepared” Vietnamese egg rolls for the Morgenstern family.

When other kids were watching cartoons, Mia was watching Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, Martin Yan, Ina Garten and Lidia Bastianich.


“My earliest food memories include my mom’s yellow rice and daal, a prized birthday cake decorated like Minnie Mouse, an insatiable desire for authentic, New England clam shack-style chowder, molasses cookies baked fresh from the Silver Palate Cookbook recipe, and endless Saturdays spent watching “Baking with Julia” on television,” Mia wrote on her website

“I have a deep love for the authentic and the obscure, which is manifest in my overflowing collections of spices and cookbooks, and in my tendency to mix and match flavors, cuisines, and ingredients in new and novel combinations,” she added. “More than anything, though, I love the act of cooking: the physicality of chopping and mixing, the meditative effects of repetition, the satisfaction of preparing a meal that stirs something deep inside of me that then gets passed along to my guests, family, and friends. For me, cooking is what reminds me, again and again, of the joys of being alive and of being human.”

Miriam said when Mia was visiting home last month they headed to the Bangkok Market on Chelmsford Street where Mia picked up some lemon grass, Thai basil, coriander and rau ram.

“She used coconut milk, pumpkin, chicken, fish sauce and the fresh herbs to make a curry served over purple rice,” recalled Miriam. “She also made a salad of chayote and carrot. The meal was delicious, healthy and fresh.”

She may be slightly (okay, incredibly) biased, but Miriam Morgenstern is confident her daughter has what it takes to be crowed the winner of The Taste.


Courtesy ABC

“Mia is quick on her feet and she has good hands. She played piano for years and I credit this for her excellent knife skills (we think she should have been a surgeon!) – she has a lot of confidence and she’s smart,” she said.  “Of course we hope she wins it all, but we know there are a lot of talented chefs out there and just the experience itself is thrilling for her and our whole family. It is so much fun!”

Join the Morgensterns in cheering Mia on. The Taste airs at 8 p.m. on Tuesday nights on ABC (Channel 5). The pilot episode, as well as Mia’s successful lamb recipe can be found at

Courtesy ABC

Courtesy ABC

Sweet Lydia’s Sweet, Gooey Grand Opening!

This post (the 100th of this blog. Yay!) needs few words, the pictures speak for themselves. But I will leave you with three words: Maple bacon brittle. Seriously. Oh, and Sweet Lydia’s can be found at 160 Merrimack St. in Lowell or at

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Lydia's youngest fan, 2-month-old future Mayor of Lowell Sam Tugbiyele with his dad Bobby.

Lydia’s youngest fan, 2-month-old future Mayor of Lowell Sam Tugbiyele with his dad Bobby.

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JuanCarlos Rivera!

JuanCarlos Rivera!

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The Duke and Duchess of Marshmallow Craig Thomas and Sweet Lydia Blanchard.

The Duke and Duchess of Marshmallow Craig Thomas and Sweet Lydia Blanchard.

Best use of an official Mayoral citation. Ever. And yes, that is toffee with potato chips on it!

Best use of an official Mayoral citation. Ever. And yes, that is toffee with potato chips on it!

"This is the best bargain East of the Mississippi," said Joan Matteuzzi as she purchased a bag full of marshmallows, chocolates and assorted deliciousness.

“This is the best bargain East of the Mississippi,” said Joan Matteuzzi as she purchased a bag full of marshmallows, chocolates and assorted deliciousness.

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Treasurer Grossman to Speak at City Homelessness Conference

Steve-GrossmanOn Friday April 12, Massachusetts Treasurer Steve Grossman will be the keynote speaker at the city’s Keys to Ending Homelessness Conference.

The eighth such conference held as part of the city’s 10-year plan to end homelessness, the April 12 event at the UMass Lowell Inn and Conference Center, will focus on homelessness in the senior citizen population. Other topics that have been taken up over the last several years include: veterans, food security, and criminal justice re-entry.

The registration form can be found here: KEY CONFERENCE 8 REGISTRATION FORM (2)

The Keys to Ending Homelessness Conference Series is organized by the city and sponsored by Massachusetts community colleges, UMass Lowell, the Chelmsford Housing Authority, Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance and the Paul and Phyllis Fireman Charitable Foundation.

Get On The Bus

Waiting for a bus in the rain, snow, heat or blistery wind just got a whole lot more comfortable.

BusShelter 014

Tuesday morning city and Lowell Regional Transit Authority officials gathered at Lincoln Park on Chelmsford Street at one of six brand new bus shelters installed throughout the city since late last year. Seven more will be installed in the spring.

The bus shelter program was born of a motion made by Mayor Patrick Murphy on the Council floor two years ago, one of several initiatives he has spearheaded in an effort to increase the use of and make public transit more convenient for residents.

BusShelter 008Murphy invoked the Mayor of Bogota, Colombia, who last year said:  “A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It is one where the rich use public transportation.”

Murphy went on to thank LRTA Executive Director Jim Scanlan and his staff for “their partnership with the city in providing this amenity to the riders,” as well as Department of Planning and Development design planner Sandy Swaile and the LRTA bus drivers for their input regarding where to best locate the shelters.

“It was the efforts of Tom (Henderson of the LRTA) and Rachel (Kisker of the DPD) that made this happen and make people like me and Bernie and the mayor look good,” said Scanlan, adding he is working with the city on Murphy’s other transportation initiatives including the expansion of Saturday and night time service.

The shelters were purchased by the LRTA using funding from a Federal Transportation Administration Grant from the U.S. Dept of Transportation. The city is responsible for installing and maintaining the shelters, eight of which are equipped with advertising cabinets — the revenue from which will offset the maintenance costs.

BusShelter 003Not only will the shelters protect riders from the weather, said City Manager Bernie Lynch, but will also “serve as part of the overall effort to reinvigorate our neighborhoods,” by providing a space to display maps and other important neighborhood information.

So far, the DPW has completed or is close to completing installation at six locations: Gorham Street Firehouse, 799 Gorham Street; Maguire Park, Woodward Ave at Mammoth Road; Moulton Square, 6th Street at Jewett Street; Lincoln Park, Chelmsford Street at Lincoln Street; Shaughnessy Elementary School, 1158 Gorham Street; Westford St. at Stedman St.

Other locations where bus shelters will be installed include: D’Youville, 930 Varnum Street; Downtown on Market St. in front of the Leo A. Roy parking garage; Downtown on Merrimack Street in front of Smith Baker Center.

Other locations with which the Department of Planning and Development is coordinating with property owners to locate bus shelters include: Centennial Island Apartments, 576 Lawrence St.; and the Market Basket locations on Wood, Bridge and Broadway Streets.

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Four City Councilors walk into a bus shelter . . . . (there’s got to be a joke in there somewhere).

Can You Grow Baked Beans?!

Wilfred Levasseur and his wife of 63 years, Gertrude, at a Dracut Senior Citizens Club dance.

Wilfred Levasseur and his wife of 63 years, Gertrude, at a Dracut Senior Citizens Club dance.

He grew the best tomatoes, big cucumbers, squash and whatever the soil would allow. He grew a business that has been a second home to generations of Lowellians and a destination for those from near and far searching out authentic Quebecois comfort food.

Tonight, the Lowell City Council will vote on Councilor Marty Lorrey’s motion to name the Whiting Street community garden in honor of Wilfred Levasseur,  longtime proprietor of Cote’s Market on Salem Street.

“It’s an honor for me to be able to put forth a motion to name this garden after Mr. Levasseur, who built a business that has become part of Lowell lore and has stayed in the Acre all these years,” said Lorrey.

In the early 1950’s, Wilfred Levasseur took the reins of the market his father-in-law Joseph Elphege Cote founded in 1917. He had served as a dental assistant in the U.S. Navy during World War II and had wanted to study dentistry, but with a growing family to support, taking over the market was a natural.

It was he who adopted the famous Rochette’s bean recipe, including the actual pots to cook them in, the ovens and measuring cups, from Frank Rochette and made them a Cote’s staple and a mainstay on Lowell tables on Saturday nights next to a plate of hot dogs and brown bread.


Even after his “retirement” in 1983, Wilfred Levasseur could be found at the market every day. The apron-clad patriarch would peel potatoes, wash pot holder, clean the ovens . . . . whatever needed to be done. He also was known to hold court.

“He always had a story,” recalled Dave Ouellette, President of the Acre Coalition to Improve Our Neighborhood. “Even more so than Roger (Wilfred’s son who now runs Cote’s). Anytime you walked in there you could hear him telling stories and he was always smiling.”

Wilfred Levasseur passed away in 2007 at age 84 following a fall in his Dracut home.

The city-owned lot on Whiting Street, just around the corner from Cote’s Market was am overgrown eyesore; a magnet for drug dealing and illegal dumping.

In 2011, Ouellette was able to secure a $1,500 neighborhood grant from the city to kick-start what he had envisioned for that lot. Ouellette formed partnerships with several groups in the city including CTI Youth Build, Mill City Grows, Coalition for a Better Acre and the Lowell Alliance for Families and Neighborhoods.

Today, the lot has been cleared and Youth Build has constructed a pergola in the middle of the space, from which a bird feeder hangs. The Lowell Parks and Conservation Trust has donated two trees, which have been planted. Curbing that the city had discarded lines the border, where in the spring 14 raised garden beds will be built, giving tenement residents many of whom are immigrants from farming backgrounds, a place to grow vegetables.

Art will be displayed along the top of the fence behind the garden beds. It will be a place for neighbors to get to know each other, learn from each other and build a stronger, safer neighborhood.


An artist’s rendition of the soon-to-be Wilfred Levasseur Community Garden

Ouellette said there will be an official ribbon cutting an dedication ceremony in the spring and he cannot think of a better person to name it after; he is thankful that Lorrey has brought the motion forward.

“I think it is great,” Roger Levasseur said of the impending honor when reached at Cote’s early this morning. “My father would be very proud of having such a place named for him, especially with what they are going to be doing there. He was an avid gardener and very proud of it.”