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.

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Get On The Bus

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

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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.

cotes

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.

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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.”

 

Want to Save $$ on Drugs?

imageLowell, MA –  NeedyMeds, a Gloucester-based non-profit organization, established a partnership in December 2011 with the City of Lowell to provide prescription drug discount cards to residents. Since the program’s inception, the cards have saved Lowellians more than $20,000.

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. Participating pharmacies include CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, Target, Hannaford, Rite Aide and Pawtucket Pharmacy. 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.

Each time the Lowell card is used, the City of Lowell receives a small amount that helps to fund city-wide health-related projects. The card is available at many locations throughout Lowell, including the Mayor’s Office, the Health Department, the Senior Center, and various local social service agencies. There is no charge to obtain a card, and participants do not need to provide any personal information.

Sustainable Lowell 2025

sustainSustainability. It’s a buzzword. Everyone is using it. But . . . what the heck does it mean?

It means looking at the big picture — adopting policies today that will serve you well into the next year, decade, century. It means a better today, and a better tomorrow.

On a practical level for a city like Lowell, sustainability means: efficient, renewable energy; walkable neighborhoods; affordable lifetime housing; efficient transportation systems; cultural, educational and business opportunities that attract visitors and attract and retain residents; and a whole lot more.

For more than a year the city’s Department of Planning and Development has been collecting information from other city departments, institutions and businesses and residents through visioning sessions, telephone surveys and online to put together an updated version of the city’s 2003 Comprehensive Master Plan.

The result: Sustainable Lowell 2025, a blueprint to guide the city through the remainder of the first quarter of the century. Monday night a public session was held at Alumni Hall at UMass Lowell to discuss the draft plan and gather further input to be used to craft the final plan, which is expected to be presented to the City Council and Planning Board later this winter.

“This wasn’t a plan created by a handful of people in the Planning Department throwing ideas around,” said Neighborhood Planner Allegra Williams, who along with Senior Planner Aaron Clausen hosted the session, which was attended by more than 60 people.

The plan is broken into eight action areas:

  • Sustainable Neighborhoods: Williams said one of the primary ideas the city is looking at is finding was to use school buildings during non-school hours as community centers, a place to hold classes, events and gatherings to build community in every neighborhood.       Sustainable neighborhoods are created when initiatives are put into place to make the best use of the enclave’s natural resources such as waterfront areas and recreational areas, as well as planning policies that preserve the already rich character of each neighborhood and make each area easily accessible to business districts and other amenities. It also includes an initiative already on a roll in Lowell — community gardening and urban agriculture, which some are hoping will soon include the legalization of backyard chickens, modeled after the regulations put into place last year in Somerville.
  • Housing Choice: The goal is for Lowell to be a place that offers a
    Community Development Director Allison Lamey.

    Community Development Director Allison Lamey.

    wide range of safe, quality housing options in a wide range of prices: rental apartments and condos, artist lofts, multi-family and multi-generational homes, up to the large Victorian mansions of Belvidere and single-family capes in the Highlands.
    Part of that goal includes increasing and being vigilant with code enforcement and working closely with neighborhood groups to squash problems before they get out of control, as well as encouraging owner-occupancy and finding the right balance between development and open space.

  • Mobility and Access: City Engineer Lisa DeMeo said the city is starting to look at street development in a new way. Where previously, everything was developed with the mindset that the “car is king,” today pedestrian and bicycle safety and ease of use are taken into account. A large part of that is education for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians to make sure everyone is able to use the roads safely. The city is also looking at increasing the use of public transportation to decrease traffic congestion, as well as implement some of the street changes recommended in Jeff Speck’s Downtown Evolution Plan.
  • Vibrant and Unique Urban Hub: One of the top priorities in this
    Director of Economic Development Theresa Park

    Director of Economic Development Theresa Park

    realm is to bring more hotel rooms into the downtown, as well as to work with downtown businesses to expand their hours to keep the downtown a vibrant, lively place on evenings and weekends for more than just the bar crowd. The city is also continuing to cultivate its relationship with UMass Lowell and Middlesex Community College to promote the city and bring people and businesses into the downtown and out into the neighborhoods. It also includes the continued and increased support of artists, encouraging them to both live and work in the city.

  • Healthy and Sustainable Local Economy: This goal includes a range of activities including supporting job training programs, as well as working with businesses to recreate vacant spaces to house new businesses and pop-up galleries to eliminate blight. The city also strives to assist existing businesses through energy efficiency programs, business assistance programs and by bringing in more business to keep the commercial tax rate steady.
  • Environmental Resilience: This goal includes educating the public about how to increase how much they recycle and make it easier for those who live in apartments to do so, as well as look at other waste-reduction strategies such as composting at large institutions like schools and restaurants. The city is also encouraging the use of electric cars by purchasing more of them for  the city’s fleet, as well as installing electric car charging stations for the public to use. The city is also looking to promote urban forestry, with a goal of planting 2,000 more trees by 2025 and encouraging the planting of urban orchards where  appropriate.
  • Effective Operations, Infrastructure and Technology: It’s about
    Data Analyst Conor Baldwin and Better Buildings Program Manager Tom Heslin.

    Data Analyst Conor Baldwin and Better Buildings Program Manager Tom Heslin.

    working smarter. . . providing professional development and training to city employees, as well as offer competitive salary and benefit packages to attract and retain talented people. This also includes improving communication within city operations and with the public, as well as using data to better utilize personnel and financial resources. There is also a desire to look at the regionalization of services where appropriate.

  • Sustained Public Engagement: If the people of the city are not on board with the goals and policies the city is implementing they will fail. An engaged, outspoken and informed citizenry is vital to the city’s continued success. This includes working with a variety of groups throughout the city to draw a diverse group of people from various ethnic groups, economic and occupational backgrounds and ages to let their voices be heard.

Rebuilding 103The city will hold another Sustainable Lowell 2025 input session Wednesday January 9 at 6 p.m. at the Lowell Senior Center on Broadway.

Comments on the plan will be accepted through January 15 and can be sent to Allegra Williams at awilliams@lowellma.gov.

Luther Lawrence Mayor March 6, 1838 – April 17, 1839

The first in an occasional series on the Mayors of Lowell, Massachusetts.

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Replica of a portrait of Luther Lawrence donated to the city by Lawrence Academy.

It was a rainy Wednesday morning.

Mayor Luther Lawrence was excited to show his brother-in-law and Harvard classmate, Watertown attorney Tyler Bigelow the improvements made to the old woolen mill at the Middlesex Mills on the banks of the Concord River. It was one of five mills and dye houses owned by Lawrence and his brothers that manufactured underwear and stockings.

Middlesex Mills, courtesy of UMass Lowell

Middlesex Mills, courtesy of UMass Lowell

During the tour, Lawrence tripped, pitching himself 17 feet into a wheel pit, striking his head on a cast iron wheel. His skull was fractured and he died within 30 minutes. He was 16 days into his second year-long term as Mayor of the city he helped transform from a town to a city.

“The news spread rapidly throughout the city and carried sadness to every heart,” wrote Lawrence’s nephew Dr. Samuel Green, who later served as the City Physician and Mayor of Boston.

The City Council held a special meeting that night.

In the Illustrated History of Lowell, historian Charles Cowley notes: “Appropriate resolutions were passed by the city council bearing testimony to his high-minded and honorable character – his judicious administration of the city government – his lively interest in the various public institutions with which he had been connected . . . .Mr. Lawrence was a gentlemanly, kind-hearted man with the popular manners of his family, public spirited and well-fitted for county practice.”

Luther Lawrence was born in Groton on September 28, 1778, the oldest son of Samuel Lawrence, who had fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill during the Revolutionary War.

Luther and his bothers Abbott, Amos, William and Samuel all attended Groton Academy (renamed Lawrence Academy in 1845 in honor of the contributions of the Lawrence brothers); he graduated from Harvard College in 1801 and studied law under Timothy Bigelow, older brother of Lucy Bigelow, who he married on June 2, 1805.

Luther Lawrence ran a successful law practice in Groton and served as Groton‘s state representative at the Statehouse from 1812-1822; he served as Speaker of the House in 1821 and 1822.

LawrenceIn 1831, Lawrence moved to Lowell where his brothers had heavily invested in manufacturing. He setup a law practice with Elisha Glidden and quickly became involved in business and civic life of the city, serving as one of the original directors of the Railroad Bank.

Lawrence was chosen to chair the committee that studied whether the town of Lowell (est. 1826) should move to a city form of government. On Feb. 17, 1836 he presented the recommendations of that committee to Town Meeting, which was to do just that.

“The principal defects in the operation of the town government is the want of executive power and the loose and irresponsible manner in which money for municipal purposes is granted and expended,” Lawrence sad in his report.

By Feb. 27, he had drafted a city charter, which was adopted by Town Meeting on April 11 by a 961-328 vote; the population of the commonwealth’s newest city was 17,633.

On March 5, 1838 he became the second Mayor of Lowell (succeeding Elisha Bartlett) and was re-elected the following year.

“The sensation produced in the community is deep and very extensive,” Rev. Theodore Edson of Saint Anne’s Episcopal Church wrote in his diary regarding Lawrence’s unexpected death.

Lawrence had worshipped at Saint Anne’s until an October 1838 disagreement about religion with Edson led him to remove himself and his family from the congregation.

“The kind neighbor, the useful citizen, the trusty counselor, the judicious friend in whom the widow and the fatherless often confided, the devoted and efficient public officer, he filled all stations with strict integrity of purpose,” Rev. Henry A. Miles said of Lawrence in the sermon given at the South Congregational Church on the Sunday following Lawrence’s funeral. “Sincere in his manners, frank in his address, firm and faithful in his friendships, how many had he bound to his generous, manly heart. By his large circle of acquaintances, by us of this society with whom he worshipped, by numerous public institutions of which he was an active member and supporter, by this city – its able executive head – too deeply for our poor words to describe, will his loss be felt.”

He was buried in the Old Burying Ground in his hometown of Groton; his family decided against holding a public funeral. People lined the streets as the funeral procession made its way from the Groton Common to the burial ground.

Luther and stuff 015Fun facts:

  • Lawrence Street in Lowell is named for Luther Lawrence
  • Lawrence, Massachusetts was founded by and named for Luther’s brother Abbott Lawrence.
  • Luther Lawrence’s nephew Amos Adams Lawrence founded the University of Kansas, as well as the city of Lawrence, Kansas; he also helped found Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. His father-in-law, Samuel Appleton, brother of Nathan Appleton, one of the founders of Lowell, donated $10,000 to the school’s library so the city was named in his honor.

Cliff Krieger to Join License Commisson . . .Samkhann Khoeun to LHA.

City Manager Bernie Lynch has tapped Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Cliff Krieger to fill the seat on the License Commission left vacant by the November resignation of Denis Teague.

In accordance with the state law that established License Commissions in Massachusetts, Lynch had to fill the spot with a registered Republican — who better than the Chair of the Lowell City Republican Committee?

cliffKKrieger, who works for a defense contractor, has been active in city civic affairs and politics, having run twice for state representative against Democrat Dave Nangle and was the “right” side of the bi-partisan PAC “Move Lowell Forward.” He has also been active in the city’s efforts to end homelessness as a member of the “Ending Homelessness in Ten Years” Education and Conferences subcommittee.

Krieger, who blogs at http://right-side-of-lowell.blogspot.com/ was most recently considered by the City Council and School Committee to fill the vacancy on the Greater Lowell Technical School Committee vacated by the resignation of Mike Lenzi. That spot went to Ray Boutin by a one-vote margin.

“My wife tells me what I can bring to the License Commission is the ability to bring diverse views together,” said Krieger. “I try to listen to all views and try to find the best view . . what is best for the city. To me the question is: what can I do for my city? And apparently being on the license commission is what I can do for the city.”

Krieger will join Brian Akashian and Christy Delaney on the commission, which is expected to revisit the rules and regulations governing the city’s liquor-serving establishments as recommended by the City Council and Police Superintendent Ken Lavallee, in the near future.

The tightened regulations were drafted following last February’s riot at the now-closed Club 44 at Fortunato’s Restaurant on Palmer Street. Following months of meetings during which the proposed regulations were tweaked, the commissioners took no action, which ultimately led to the resignations of commissioners Wally Bayliss and Ray Weicker at Lynch’s request.

In addition to Krieger’s appointment, Lynch has chosen Samkhann Khoeun to join the Lowell Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners, to fill the expired seat held by  Walter “Buddy” Flynn.

samkhannKhoeun is an academic advisor for the TRIO-Educational Talent Search and GEAR-Up Massachusetts programs at Middlesex Community College and Lowell High School, where he assists low-income, first generation and other college-bound students complete their high school education and move on to post-secondary educational opportunities.

He is the former executive director of the Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association and is an active, outspoken member of the city’s Cambodian community. Khoeun is a member the steering committee working to help the Community of Khmer Buddhist Monks build a 20,000 sq-foot temple, educational and cultural center off of Townsend Avenue in Pawtucketville.

Bass guitarist Eric Faulkner, a denizen of the city’s downtown and U.S. Army veteran who works as an IT manager for Nobis Engineering, has been appointed to the Lowell Memorial Auditorium Board of Trustees to fill the seat vacated by the expired term of Bunrith Lach. Crystal Arnott, Shelter Manager at the Lowell Humane Society, has been re-appointed to the Animal Advisory Committee.