Monday, October 26, 2009

LDNA/JAMBRA Candidate Forum -- Quick Wrap-Up

I just got back a little while ago from the LDNA/JAMBRA Candidate Forum down at the Senior Center on Broadway. I'm not good at estimating crowd sizes but I would say the event drew approximately 75 attendees (let's call it five rows of 15) plus all the candidates, the event organizers, and the Senior Center volunteers.

Because I was time-keeping for the event (yes, the '0 seconds remaining' sign means you're done!) I don't have detailed notes.

Kudos, however, to all the candidates who spoke about specific policies as opposed to just boilerplate tripe about being anti-tax, pro-community, and anti-crime.

One challenger who stood out for me in this regard was Fred Doyle, who consistently gave 'em hell about the runaway cost of health insurance for city employees (the link will take you to his site where you can learn more). Doyle kept all his answers short and sweet (trust me, I was paying close attention to this above all else) and was the only candidate who sent me home with a policy/budget issue to want to research and learn more about.

Ben Opara and Patrick Murphy both spoke in favor of the restaurant meals tax, which Armand Mercier strongly opposed. Opara also voiced support for making Merrimack St.'s commercial heart open to two-way traffic.

Ray Weicker introduced a bold proposal to give Lowell police the power to immediately place drug offenders into detoxification treatment at the time of arrest, as a way of preventing some of the revolving-door-of-justice issues that he has witnessed as an attorney; in addition, enforcement of such a statute might give itinerant drug users a strong incentive to avoid Lowell altogether.

I had some traffic-related questions that got condensed at the end in the interest of time.

Even before the red-light running problem on Thorndike St. or the perilousness of the Bridge St.-VFW Highway intersection, I would like to see the city address the problem of cars in the "right-turn only" lane on Chelmsford St. continuing straight as Chelmsford crosses Plain (eastbound on 110 towards downtown). This makes the intersection treacherous for any motorist attempting to go straight in the way he or she is supposed to (being in the left-hand lane before the stoplight), because a) you have to swerve somewhat to avoid the cars facing you head-on in the other direction, and b) you're also worried about who might be in your blind spot after having gone straight at the light from the right-turn-only lane.

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