D for Decisions

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I am admittedly a Blowellian – a blow-in to my home in Lowell, MA. Right there, that may discount any opinions I hold because I’m not “from here”. One would never guess that from my clearly mid-western dialect; I only recently stopped pronouncing a-u-n-t as /ant/.

I am, however, able to vote and with an upcoming municipal election on Tuesday, I plan to exercise that privilege.

As November 5th grows near, the tenor of this municipal election has turned somewhat vicious. A non-local PAC is spreading misinformation. And of course, social media plays its role in creating hostility between groups of people who hold opposing viewpoints. I’ve turned away from Facebook for the most part because of this – hopefully I’ve not missed anyone’s birthday!

In my own mind, I’ve made my decisions as to who I will vote for City Council and School Committee. I’ve listened and read and watched voter information sessions and thank the groups sponsoring such events for their commitment toward getting actual information to voters. I also have my own set of criteria which include:

  • If I’ve contacted you and you’ve never had the courtesy to respond, even just to say “got your email”, you are not receiving my vote. This voter wants to know that you’ve heard me, even if we are on opposite sides of an issue. The courtesy of an automated reply is preferable to the dead silence of an elected official.
  • Part 2 of the above. I don’t have such a giant ego that I would expect anyone to recognize me by name, but I do expect eye contact and maybe even a nod hello when we cross paths as in you acknowledge there’s another human in your orbit. I was actually in a room where two elected officials passed right by me – the only other person in the room. One gave me the nod hello, the other looked straight ahead as if no one else was there…. guess which one I’m voting for.
  • Any candidate must be fully supportive of public education. I earned my entire education in the public schools (K-graduate school) and I had the privilege of working in traditional public schools for most of my career. I believe in them; I do not believe in privatization of public education in any way, shape, or form. If you do, we disagree and you are not on my list.
  • If you don’t immediately know enough about something, say so. The word “yet” is a powerful statement as in I don’t know enough about that YET. To do otherwise is a sign of arrogance and unwillingness to pursue a better understanding.
  • This community has changed. We need to ensure that the voices of everyone in the community are heard. I have lived a life of white, middle-class privilege and admittedly do not know a lot. If a candidate doesn’t believe the election lawsuit was overdue and necessary for ensuring all who make up Lowell are represented, you’re not on my list.

Name calling, smears…. this Blowellian doesn’t think those pre-election activities will benefit my now-adopted city. I’ve made my list and on Tuesday, I’ll be voting. How about you?

Don’t Sit This Out. Please.

white and grey voting day sign

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Don’t sit tomorrow’s election out. Go vote.

Think your vote “doesn’t matter”. I disagree. Recently in the MA3 Congressional District Primary, less than 150 (recounted) votes was the difference between the eventual winner, Lori Trahan and second place, Dan Koh. Yeah, those 150 votes mattered. Quite a bit as it turned out. Your vote might just be a deciding factor; go vote.

Yes, I agree with you that the electoral college is an abomination but we are in the mid-terms and the electoral college won’t be a factor this time. Maybe who you vote for will be able to help change the presidential election process; however, so go vote.

Good ol’ boy/girl network making you think it’s pointless. Vote anyway. It will only be pointless if you don’t vote your heart and mind. If the candidate for office is unopposed and you write in a name, that also sends a message. As I learned in Latin class, illegitimi non carborundum. You can look that one up and then go vote.

Does an Election Day on a November Tuesday seem inconvenient?  (The answer to why we vote on the first Tuesday in November is here.) Your vote could change that; after all many states allow early voting now.  Absentee ballots can still be petitioned for and submitted prior to noon today (see MA Secretary of State Absentee Voting or call your City/Town elections office). And although the Early Voting window is closed for this election, you can and should still go vote.

Hard to get to the polls? Need a ride? Contact candidate campaign offices. Oftentimes there are volunteers who can help with that. And by-the-way, the rumors about free Lyft and Uber rides are not exactly true. Here’s the straight talk dispelling rumor and misunderstanding from Snopes. Get a ride and go vote.

In Massachusetts, the polls must be open from 7 am until 8 pm; some places are allowed to open at 5:45 am, so check with your city or town election office. If you are in line at 8 pm, you must be allowed to vote. DO NOT GET OUT OF LINE (that is also true for most other states). The Massachusetts Secretary of State’s Office has a detailed list of when (and why) you might be asked for identification and also about requesting a “provisional ballot”. Check here. Know the voting regulations and go vote.

Listen, we all need to make time for this civic obligation. There are some important issues that are being decided and even more coming in the future. You may or may not be cancelling out my vote; go vote anyway.

There Are Consequences

We teach students that there are consequences for their actions and choices. Well, there should be consequences for the INaction of adults as well.

Teachers, paraprofessionals, cafeteria workers and custodial workers have been without a contract in Lowell for over 450 days. My understanding – as I am recently retired, I no longer attend union informational meetings – is that this is driven by several factors. Included in the list of factors would be cancelled and perpetually postponed meetings of the negotiating teams. That in itself surely does not indicate that contracts are of high – or actually any – priority.

I’ve heard the reports of concessions, not the specifics. However, it is an election year; it would not be unreasonablefrontboard1 to think some who are negotiating the contracts with the Unions would like to make a grand political statement.

With tight municipal budgets, no one is expecting exorbitant monetary increases, like the 15% pay raise I learned of for a first-year hire at a private corporation. And just as a point of interest, even retirees (not from this past June, but all prior retirees) received a cost of living raise of 3% from the Commonwealth’s Teacher Retirement Board.  (The details and the history of which are found here.)

I am concerned by the reports of demands in the negotiations. No, I don’t know specifics, but asking for additional time (longer days? less preparation? longer school years?), giving back previously negotiated benefits, those things represent a disrespect for the talented people who make this school system one of the best achieving urban districts in Massachusetts.

One financial impact of this is that, hard-earned pensions are calculated based upon a salary rate that has not changed for 450 days. For those who may not know, pension benefits are based on a formula which includes an average of three highest years of earning (for most teachers, that would be the last 3 years of service). Thus, the pension that recent retirees have earned will be impacted for the rest of their lives. That’s not insignificant. Nor is it fair.

The consequence?  I am a registered voter who is doing due diligence. I am watching the field of candidates for school and city offices. The consequence of inaction, will indeed be action.