Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity grant for Lowell Bridges
LOWELL — There’s the Merrimack River, and then there’s the river of money that is about to flow through Lowell in the coming years thanks to federal and local partnerships that secured millions of dollars for the city’s bridges.
On Monday, the federal delegation of Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan showed up at City Hall with a check for $21.4 million in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law federal funding for four Mill City bridges that span canals fed by the mighty Merrimack.
Trahan called the funding a “once-in-a-generation infrastructure package” that will “transform cities like Lowell that have long been left to fend for themselves.”
The four city-owned bridges that are part of the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity grant program, called RAISE, that is embedded within the legislation, includes:
• Broadway Street Bridge over the West Canal in the Acre
• Market Street Bridge over the Merrimack Canal in Downtown Lowell
• Lawrence Street Bridge over the River Meadow Brook in Back Central
• Swamp Locks Pedestrian Bridge over the Lower Pawtucket Canal in the Acre
An enthusiastic crowd packed the Mayor’s Reception Room on the second floor of City Hall to hear the remarks from the federal delegation and city leadership on the RAISE grant funding project, as well as to witness the ceremonial celebration of a facsimile of the check, which Trahan called “just the start” of securing more funding for critical infrastructure projects.
“I look forward to seeing these critical projects completed in the months and years ahead, and working with everyone here this morning to make sure we keep delivering the resources necessary to make Lowell an even better place to raise a family, to work and to call home,” she said.
This isn’t the first time Senators Warren and Markey have delivered a significant investment for Lowell bridges. In 2015, the duo worked with then-Congresswoman Niki Tsongas to secure a $19.2 million Department of Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER grant, for five canal bridges. The Central Street Bridge was the last bridge in that reconstruction and rehabilitation project.
The other four bridges were the Merrimack Street bridges over Western Canal and Pawtucket Canal and the Pawtucket Street bridges over Pawtucket Canal and Northern Canal.
This is the second time this month that Lowell has hosted visiting dignitaries bearing gifts. Last week, Gov. Maura Healey and Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll beat a path to Lowell’s door to sign the Chapter 90 bill that includes $1.87 million for Lowell. The bill will reimburse municipalities for maintenance on bridges and roads and authorize funding for transportation infrastructure grants.
The ending of that project and the launch of a new one was serendipitous, said Trahan.
“The Central Street Bridge represents the last of the five bridges funded through that grant so it’s perfect timing for this new federal investment to roll into this city,” she said, to applause.
Both Warren and Markey called the bridge money “historic,” and highlighted the role the Merrimack River and the canals play in the Lowell’s founding and future.
“Canals and the river are part of what make Lowell Lowell,” Warren said.
Markey said his family settled in Lawrence because of the Merrimack River.
“I would not be here if not for the Merrimack River,” he said. The Senator often weaves in personal anecdotes to his public remarks.
“I’d still be on a farm in Iowa somewhere,” Markey said. “It’s the Merrimack River that brought the Markey family to Lawrence. Lawrence, like Lowell, dammed that river and built the bridges in order to have the infrastructure that draw families to this region.”
He called the bridges “vital connections” for economic and population growth — especially immigrants.
“It’s all about community, family,” he said. “It’s all about families and having a welcome mat for the new generation of immigrant families. We know that immigrants will make American great again. We know that in Lowell – the city of immigrants.”
The detailed and complicated application was completed by the Department of Planning and Development’s Transportation Engineer Elizabeth Oltman, whose efforts City Manager Tom Golden specifically recognized in his remarks, saying “she did a fabulous job.”
Oltman said she had never done a grant of this size or expertise before, but a team effort made the process possible.
“I was the primary grant writer,” she said. “I worked with the team to pull everything together to make sure we had the i’s dotted and t’s crossed.”
She said it may take at least six years to complete all four bridges with the pedestrian access Swamp Lock Bridge, which has already gone through a design phase, being completed first.
That news cheered Lowell National Historical Park Superintendent Julie Galonska, who looked forward to the Market Street Bridge repairs, too, both of which she called “gateways” to Lowell.
“The Lowell National Historical Park is really the core of downtown,” she said. “We tell the story of the Industrial Revolution here in Lowell and its legacies. The canals and the river are a huge part of that. So these bridges that go over canals are very integral to our experience within the National Park for visitors and for local folks. The Market Street Bridge is right by our Visitor Center. The Swamp Locks Bridge, one of our lock-and-dam structures, is where our canal boat tours are.”
As the room cleared out after the ceremony, Oltman said the grant project was an eye-popping experience.
“It’s amazing the amount of money that is coming from the federal government to do these types of projects,” she said. “I already have the next grant in mind.”
Healey signs transportation funding bill in Lowell
LOWELL — Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey came to Lowell Friday morning to sign the $375 million annual Chapter 90 conference committee infrastructure bill that will reimburse municipalities for maintenance on bridges and roads and authorize funding for transportation infrastructure grants.
The Massachusetts state legislature approved the bill July 27, sending it to Healey’s desk to sign, which she chose to do in back-to-back ceremonies in Lowell and Amesbury to highlight much-needed infrastructure projects in both communities.
Lowell Mayor Sokhary Chau said at the signing ceremony at City Hall Friday that through the bill, Lowell will receive $1.87 million in funding that will be used on a list of ongoing infrastructure projects in the city, most of which will be bridge work. Most of the funding will be in the form of Chapter 90 funding, a state program that has helped municipalities to fund transportation infrastructure projects since 1973.
“We are grateful to Gov. Healey and Lt. Gov. (Kim) Driscoll for continuing this tradition with a city like Lowell, the Gateway City,” said Chau.
Healey said before signing the bill that the transportation funding will be put towards projects that citizens and officials believe to be critical to their communities. The ceremony was planned to take place outside next to the Beaver Street bridge in Lowell, but was moved to City Hall because of rain. The Beaver Street bridge has been closed to vehicular traffic since 2019, and is one critical project that Lowell will use the funding on.
“MassDOT recently approved $1.6 million to replace the superstructure of the bridge over Beaver Brook, and getting this bridge back on-line, we know, is going to make a difference for the neighborhood and the city,” said Healey.
The bill will allocate the $375 million into two major categories, with $200 million to be used as Chapter 90 transportation funds for road and bridge projects statewide, while $175 million will be allocated to public transit infrastructure projects, electric vehicle infrastructure and Complete Streets projects.
“We are committed to building on these programs and others, to grow our state and local partnerships with all of our communities as we move forward,” said Healey.
Driscoll said when she was the mayor of Salem, she was often concerned about safety as it relates to transportation, which this kind of funding will help bolster.
“These are the investments that really matter. I think about the things that kept me up at night when I was the mayor, and it was safety, and making sure we had the resources to make these investments, particularly in our older communities,” said Driscoll. “It is great being in local government in a community that is nearly 400 years old, except for when you think about the infrastructure.”
Lowell’s City Manager Tom Golden said that Chapter 90 funds help Lowell make the financial commitments to do these transportation infrastructure projects, like the recently completed project to repair the Central Street bridge.
“To MassDOT, and this administration, thank you so much for helping us with the Central Street bridge,” said Golden. “We ran into a few issues at the last minute, and this administration and MassDOT has always been there, ready and willing to help.”
Here is a list of 2024 Chapter 90 apportionment to local communities as outlined in the newly signed bill:
Interview with Representative Elliott on his legislation to protect youth sports officials. Rodney is a certified referee for soccer, basketball and lacrosse.
Representative Elliott Files Legislation to Protect Youth Sports Referees
We’ve all either witnessed, participated or heard about it – the out-of-control harassment, intimidation and physical violence directed at sports referees, from youth leagues to professional sports.
Adults acting like spoiled children – hurling insults at these often little-paid or volunteer arbiters, especially at the youth to high-school level – has taken its toll on the officiating ranks.
In an effort to discourage this behavior, which can border on the outrageous to outright unlawful, one local state representative wants to take a stand by sending an unmistakable message that these extreme sideline antics won’t be tolerated.
As a longtime local youth sports coach and referee, Rodney Elliott has endured his share of harassment, intimidation, and threats.
In soccer matches he officiates, Elliott, a high school certified ref, said he’s seen an increase in red and yellow cards for unsportsmanlike conduct and other behaviors.
“It’s not restricted to spectators or parents,” Elliott said of the assaults. “It’s coaches and players and it’s a trend that needs to change.”
Other states have adopted similar legislation, with potentially positive results, so Elliott said he views legal action as a necessary solution.
The Lowell Democrat’s filing of “An Act to Prevent Assaults on Sports Officials” would amend state law by fining or imprisoning those who commit assault on an official before, during or after a game.
The bill is one of other similar pieces of legislation currently being considered before the House Judiciary Committee.
Elliott told the newspaper that an incident at Cohasset High School in December, where a basketball player allegedly punched a referee, and a more recent episode at a Taunton West Little League game that subjected two umpires to verbal assaults and threats of violence, served as the catalyst for seeking a legal remedy.
The issue has seemingly worsened in recent years, as Elliott said he sees the violence as a growing, nationwide trend. There are now much fewer people becoming referees, he said, meaning many leagues end up canceling or postponing games simply because there’s no one available to officiate.
An article by Jon Solomon, the editorial director of the Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program, published in April 2022 by Global Sports Matters, supports Elliott’s observations.
Solomon interviewed Barry Mano, the founder and president of the National Association of Sports Officials, on the decline of referees due to verbal abuse.
Interview with Representative Elliott on Protecting Youth Sports Officials
INTRODUCING STATE Reps. Simon Cataldo, D-Concord, and Rodney Elliott, D-Lowell. Cataldo, representing the 14th Middlesex District, and Elliott, of the 16th Middlesex, are two of the 22 freshman legislators serving in the Massachusetts House, and it’s an honor neither of them take lightly. The new representatives were sworn in by former Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday.
Elliott, who grew up in Pawtucketville, is well known in Greater Lowell for his decades spent in the Lowell City Council and his stint as mayor. He also serves as a commissioner of the Lowell Housing Authority.
Time spent and experience gained at the local level warmed him up for this next big step.
“I’ve had 24 years to prepare for this,” Elliott said. “I do believe that it’s an advantage serving in local government because you do get an understanding and experience to know what the local issues are, and I will say, we do it best on the local level. We know how to address issues, we know what the issues are, we know where the funding needs are. And that was clearly preparation for me.”
It’s quite the jump, from Lowell to the State House, but interestingly, Elliott once worked as a legislative aide there. But what helped ease his and other elected leaders’ transition was a three-day orientation at UMass Amherst, where they became acquainted with protocol and procedures and met members of the various committees.
For Cataldo, state Rep. Jim Arciero, D-Westford, has especially been helpful in his transition to office, he said.
“There are other colleagues there as well who have been really helpful at this point already,” Cataldo said. “It has been a very collegial atmosphere.”
After growing up in Concord, Cataldo worked as a special education teacher and became a nonprofit founder, federal prosecutor and passionate environmentalist. He also re-added Concord resident to his long list of titles, having moved back to the district in 2020.
From his swearing-in ceremony to observing Gov. Maura Healey’s own swearing-in, Cataldo said he’s been excited to witness and “participate in the legislative process.” He called the experience “humbling and profound.”
“I’m just so honored to be in this position,” Cataldo said, “and I’m so grateful to the residents of the district for trusting me to serve them in this position.”
Cataldo and Elliott campaigned together, and the day before the election received support from U.S. Sen. Ed Markey and U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan in Chelmsford.
The two Democrats, who both represent parts of Chelmsford, are even working in the same room together.
All of the first-term representatives are placed in “the bullpen” in the basement of the State House, Cataldo said. It’s a “bustling” environment of hard-working newbies who are already collaborating on legislation. Which is important, considering their filing deadline for the current session is Jan. 20.
Being surrounded by new members is helpful because “you learn from each other, both senior members, veteran members of the Legislature,” Elliott said. Their diverse backgrounds, work history and origins are important, he said, as they share their stories and passions.
Mental health is a big priority, Elliott said, and the rolling out of the 24/7 hotline, for people to access mental health services, will be a major asset. Elliott said he’s also concerned about acquiring funding for other issues of importance, including substance abuse, infrastructure and affordable housing.
“I think we have to look at tax cuts for those that need it most,” Elliott said. “And, again, while Massachusetts is a great place to live, people are leaving because it’s not affordable, and that’s not what we want in the city of Lowell.”
The next few weeks, he added, will be “very, very busy.”
Cataldo is already narrowing in on the issues he outlined during his campaign: education, mental health, transportation, veteran’s benefits, energy, water quality and more. As a litigator, Cataldo brings that legal background to the forefront, combing through potential bills and “crafting some (himself) from scratch.”
“It’s a really dynamic process because, in addition to trying to come up with legislation that you think will be helpful for the people of our district and the rest of the commonwealth, you also have to research what’s already been done or attempted to be done,” Cataldo said. “And so, all of that needs to be considered during the process. So it’s fun, and it’s interesting, and it’s challenging.”
Though Cataldo and Elliott are already putting their nose to the grindstone, others are still waiting for their Beacon Hill debut.
Their soon-to-be(?) colleague Margaret Scarsdale is waiting to be sworn in amid an ongoing recount in the 1st Middlesex District in her race against Republican Andrew Shepherd, in which she won by just seven votes.
Elliott’s met with city and town managers in the 16th Middlesex already and encourages his constituents to get in touch with him, as he’s “always just a phone call away.”
“I’m very eager, I’m optimistic, I’m enthusiastic and energized to start this new job,” Elliott said. “I feel that I can bring a lot to the table for my district and certainly the city of Lowell.”
Cataldo, too, wants residents of his district to connect with him and his office “to be heard on issues.”
“Folks should liberally reach out, and I’m really glad to say that a number of constituents already have,” he said. “And that’s a part of the job that I’m eager to do well.”
January 8, 2023
The story of Gov. Maura Healey’s administration is yet to be written.
But if the energetic crowd at the TD Garden on Thursday night is any indication, there’s a lot of people excited for the stories to be told and the work that lies ahead. Under a sports theme, a nod to Healey and Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll’s days on the basketball court, was history.
For the first time in state history, women occupy the governor and lieutenant governor positions. Additionally, Healey is now the first woman elected governor and first lesbian woman to hold the office in Massachusetts — the first state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2004.
Healey’s election is also a step forward for LGBTQ representation in state houses across the country, following the election of Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a bisexual woman elected in 2016, and Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a gay man, elected in 2019. A second lesbian woman, Gov. Tina Kotek of Oregon, was also elected in 2022.
The Boston Gay Men’s Chorus performs at the TD Garden in Boston on Thursday as part of the inauguration celebration for Gov. Maura Healey and Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll. (DANIELLE RAY/SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE)
Sitting in the front row of the TD Garden, Judy Maruca of Charlton said she thought Healey did a tremendous job as attorney general and was excited to be a part of the historic event. She added that she enjoyed seeing the peaceful transition of power with now-former Gov. Charlie Baker.
“I think she’s a strong negotiator and a passionate advocate for housing,” Maruca said of Healey.
The history of Healey’s inauguration was not lost on Maruca. The energy inside the TD Garden in Boston at the Jan. 5 inauguration ball for Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey and Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll was absolutely electric as thousands gathered to celebrate history in the making. The festive basketball themed fete featured speeches from the dynamic female duo, musical acts and performances from the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus, Grammy award winning artist Brandi Carlile, who brought her wife up on stage for a duet, and many more. (DANIELLE RAY/SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE)
“It bothers me that [gender] is even still an issue that that should be a factor in how somebody performs a job. There’s reason to celebrate and there’s reason for us to continue to ask why it’s still relevant,” Maruca said.
Supporter Sue Smith-Scott of Charlton said she liked that Healey wasn’t afraid to stand up to the administration of former President Donald Trump.
“The first time I heard her speak was at the [Boston] Women’s March, right after Trump was elected,” Scott-Smith said. “And she gave me hope.”
Speaking from centerstage, Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll said, “For all the little girls out there, we may be the first all-female team leading the state, but we will not be the last.”
The energy inside the TD Garden in Boston at the Jan. 5 inauguration ball for Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey and Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll was absolutely electric as thousands gathered to celebrate history in the making. The festive basketball themed fete featured speeches from the dynamic female duo, musical acts and performances from the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus, Grammy award winning artist Brandi Carlile, who brought her wife up on stage for a duet, and many more. (DANIELLE RAY/SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE)
As Driscoll’s “teammate” Healey took the stage, she pledged both she and Driscoll were committed to having Massachusetts be “truly a commonwealth.”
“We know like any great team, and I will always be a point guard, it’s about the assist,” Healey said to cheers. “That’s the statistic that matters — the assist — and I know I can count on you people, all across the great state of Massachusetts to do just that.” On the floor of the event, a number of local dignitaries shared reflections of the historic affair.
State Rep. Michael Kushmerek, D-Fitchburg, said the moment was about the “peaceful and democratic transfer of power from one administration to another.” State Rep. Michael Kushmerek and (left) and Fitchburg State University Special Assistant to the President for Community, Governmental Affairs and Special Projects A. J. Tourigny joined in the festivities at the TD Garden in Boston on Jan. 5 for the inauguration ball for Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey and Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll. (DANIELLE RAY/SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE)
“Everybody’s working together seamlessly to make sure that from governor to governor, from Legislature Legislature, that everybody is set up for success to ensure that businesses and residents are going to prosper,” Kushmerek added.
Leominster School Committee member and Executive Director of Ginny’s Helping Hand Brandon Robbins expressed optimism about the state’s future under Healey and Driscoll’s leadership.
“As a School Committee member, education is a top priority for me,” Robbins said. “The administration’s track record for support of public education is strong, and the commitment to funding mechanisms such as the Student Opportunity Act was clear in the governor’s inaugural remarks.”
Robbins added, “Their victory and administration provides an opportunity for everyone of us to see themselves in our leaders. I am excited as they ‘move the ball forward’ and bring our commonwealth forward.”
Lowell Mayor Sokhary Chau said, “There is a new paradigm of openness and inclusion in Massachusetts. Gov. Healey and Lt. Gov. Driscoll are true leaders making history, putting our commonwealth on a new and successful path. Tonight demonstrates the America we love.”
Like Kushmerek, Lowell’s newest Democratic state Rep. Rodney Elliott was in attendance for the swearing-in ceremony and the nighttime celebration. Elliott said both events marked a significant moment in the state’s history.
“At both events you could feel enthusiasm, energy and electricity in the air. We face a lot of challenges but I feel the governor and Legislature are ready and prepared to tackle issues of mental health, affordable housing, infrastructure, and I am very enthusiastic to be part of the House to play a role,” Elliott said after the ceremony.
For state Rep. Natalie Higgins, D-Leominster, it is an incredible moment to have two women leading the commonwealth with the first LGBTQ governor in the state.
“While Massachusetts continues to bring equity to the forefront of our legislation, we don’t always see that equity play out in our reality. While over 20,000 men have been elected to the Massachusetts Legislature, only 232 women have been elected in that same time,” Higgins said. “Further, while Massachusetts has long been a leader on LGBTQ+ rights, we continue to face increased discrimination of our LGBTQ+ neighbors and legislation targeting LGTBQ+ people in schools, libraries, healthcare and more. This week fills me with so much hope as a queer woman in this Commonwealth, and I know it will pave the way for many more firsts.”
Although Democrat Margaret Scarsdale, the 1st Middlesex District state representative-elect, was unable to be seated this week with the rest of her colleagues, she too paused to reflect on the historic moment. She was in attendance as Healey took the oath at the State House.
“What more powerful and meaningful way to once again demonstrate that Massachusetts is a leader than by our inauguration of Maura Healey, our first woman governor and first openly gay governor,” Scarsdale said Friday. “These are not just symbolic firsts: They are a forceful reaffirmation that we understand the importance and power of diversity, of welcoming all voices to the table. Diversity empowers everyone, and is the path towards a better future for all our residents. Gov. Healey is a dedicated and proven leader, and I look forward to working with her administration.”
Headlining the evening’s festivities was six-time Grammy Award winner and Americana extraordinaire Brandi Carlile. Healey said that if she was allowed to have one performer at inauguration, Carlile was her choice.
“I really admire how much she’s put herself out there,” Healey said. “I admire her voice — not just her singing voice of course — but also the voice she gives to so many, so many women, young LGBTQ people. So many people, from whatever walk of life, may have felt vulnerable, may have felt marginalized, may have been made to feel less than.”
In between songs during her set, Carlile said Massachusetts had chosen a “hellraiser” in Healey and shared her own story as a lesbian woman. When she wanted to marry her wife, Catherine Shepherd, she said they did so in Massachusetts, a place they could feel “legitimized.” Throughout the performance, people from the audience could be heard encouraging to Carlile to move to the state permanently.
January 6, 2023
Democratic candidate for state representative in the 16th Middlesex District Rodney Elliott stands outside the McAvinnue School in Lowell Tuesday with his wife, Laurie Elliott, right, and their daughter, Mikayla Lewis of Boston, with her Berna-doodle Rufus. (Julia Malakie/Lowell Sun)
LOWELL — Democrat and Lowell native son Rodney Elliott won the 16th Middlesex District seat against his Republican opponent Karla Miller in Tuesday’s general election.
Elliott trounced Miller in Chelmsford, where he won 3,058 votes to Miller’s 1,864. His electoral juggernaut extended into the candidates’ home base of Pawtucketville and neighboring Centralville.
The unofficial results released by Lowell Elections Director Greg Pappas early Wednesday morning showed Elliott with 4,114, or almost 68% of the vote, to Miller’s 1,946, or 32% of the vote.
Overall, Elliott’s racked up two-thirds of the vote, with 7,172 votes to Miller’s 3,810.
The local vote reflected the percentages in statewide up- and -down-ballot races of governor, attorney general, secretary of state and treasurer contests, as well as the 3rd Congressional District race, in which incumbent Lori Trahan easily held off Republican challenger Dean Tran.
The newest member of the Massachusetts House said he’s grateful for the strong voter support, which he believes will help him continue the long tradition of delivering services to the constituents of the 16th Middlesex District.
“I’m very happy with the results,” Elliott said. “We worked hard all spring, summer and fall — we knocked on doors for seven months. I think it was important to listen to people, and I’m very humbled and grateful to the voters for their support.”
Elliott, who served 24 years as a Lowell city councilor and two terms as mayor, ascends to the State House with an overwhelmingly Democratic state delegation and leadership.
Along with the 159 other representatives and 40 state senators, the Legislature will have a full plate of pressing issues to address including helping families with high heating costs, inflation and affordable housing concerns.
He will represent a diverse district of nearly 43,000 residents across an area one-fourth as large as Disney World.
“My No. 1 priority will be the economy,” Elliott said during the candidate debate at WCAP a week before the election. “We need real help right now with heating fuel. Secondly, is tax relief. We need to increase the rental deductions for our renters. We need to increase the earned income tax credit for our low- and middle-income families The we need to address the housing affordability crisis and mental health.”
On the ballot measures, Elliott tracks with his newly elected Democratic delegation: He is in favor of the so-called “millionaire tax,” which, if passes, would amend the Massachusetts Constitution to impose an additional 4% tax on income over $1 million, with proceeds going toward education, roads and bridges, and public transportation.
He supported regulating dental insurance, which passed by a huge margin, and he also was in favor of the measure that passed to uphold the state law allowing driver’s licenses for those not living legally in the U.S.
“Experience counts in this district,” Elliott said. “I’m ready to hit the ground running.”
Sovanna Oung and Sok Paul Pen, both of Pawtucketville, held campaign signs for Elliott at the entrance to the parking lot of Pawtucketville Memorial School. A steady stream of cars rolled past them with voters rushing to cast their ballots well into Tuesday evening.
They’d been standing outside in the cold since 4 p.m., and were staying until the polls closed at 8 p.m.
“We know Rodney,” said Pen, who is friends with Oung, a first-time sign holder. “And we believe he’s the right person for the job.”
Miller did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
November 9, 2022
Debate between Rodney Elliott & Karla Miller
READ MY OP-ED IN THE LOWELL SUN NEWSPAPER
By RODNEY ELLIOTT |
PUBLISHED: November 3, 2022 at 2:55 a.m. | UPDATED: November 3, 2022 at 7:39 a.m.
Our country hasn’t experienced inflation rise this high and fast in over 40 years. The impact of these record increases is being felt particularly hard by our seniors on fixed incomes, veterans, and families. It’s time we support people and prioritize spending in ways that will make Massachusetts affordable and competitive.
As a City Councilor and Mayor, my priorities as a fiscal watchdog were to ensure we kept taxes affordable, reduced wasteful spending, and maintained the City’s financial stability. I feel we accomplished those goals, and I was a part of that success.
As your State Representative for Pawtucketville, Centralville, North Chelmsford and the Westlands, I will continue to use my experience to watch your tax dollars and priority one would be to cut taxes and spending while our residents are being crushed by inflation and escalating costs. There are ways to direct savings to working families through the tax code and targeted relief. I intend to do just that.
First and foremost, it is time to put the $3 billion surplus back into the pockets of the taxpayers. This will provide some much-needed relief from rising utility costs, gas at the pump, groceries, and basic items we all need to live. Voters approved that ballot question at the polls some 40 years ago. We can’t conveniently ignore it now because it finally worked in the favor of the taxpayer.
State reserves are at historic levels. I support Gov. Charlie Baker’s $700 million comprehensive tax relief proposal which would provide substantial tax relief for hundreds of thousands of our residents and benefit seniors and low-income and working families who need help now.
In addition, the pending economic development bill left on the table last legislative session provides direct financial assistance to many communities and benefits Lowell and Chelmsford specifically with monies for important community projects like Lowell High School and Vinal Square.
Who we elect to the House of Representatives will have a major impact on our lives. Under the leadership of State Representative Tom Golden, he was able to secure important State funding for Lowell and North Chelmsford. As your State Representative, on day one, I go to work for you, hardworking residents of the District, just as I did as your City Councilor and Mayor.
My experience and knowledge of budgeting will bring practical solutions to State government. I will provide accessible and immediate constituent services right in your neighborhood. Making Massachusetts affordable for all members of our community is essential. The residents of the 16th Middlesex District deserves someone who will fight for them, and my record proves I will.
Rodney Elliott is a Lowell resident and Democratic candidate for the 16th Middlesex House District
November 3, 2022
PUBLISHED: November 2, 2022 at 7:35 p.m. | UPDATED: November 3, 2022 at 6:56 a.m.
LOWELL — With less than a week before Election Day, the candidates for the 16th Middlesex District seat delivered their homestretch message to voters during a radio debate held Nov. 1.
Both Republican Karla Miller and Democrat Rodney Elliott believe they are the best person to lead the district in the race to replace former state Rep. Tom Golden, who stepped down in April to accept the role as Lowell’s city manager.
They pitched listeners on their competing policy positions on inflation, infrastructure, energy independence, reproductive rights and mental health resources.
Miller, who was raised in Chelmsford and has lived in Lowell for more than 20 years, said her newcomer status was a benefit to voters.
“I’m a taxpayer like you who is fed up with the status quo,” she said in her opening statement. “Rather than sit by and watch the state be destroyed from within, I decided to be proactive and be part of the solution.”
In contrast, Elliott, who born in the area of Lowell formerly known as Little Canada and now lives in Pawtucketville, said that his 26 years of service in city and state government would yield immediate results for constituents.
“Experience counts in this district,” he said. “We need a state representative who is going to go to work on Day One to get results. That’s the state representative you’re going to have if you elect me.”
Elliot has been a Lowell city councilor and mayor, and currently serves as a commissioner on the Lowell Housing Authority board. Miller is a Realtor with Keller Williams.
The hourlong debate was held at the Market Street studio of WCAP. Former City Councilor Marty Lorrey asked questions of the candidates, with News Director and Morning News Anchor Gary Francis moderating.
Both candidates agreed that the Rourke Bridge replacement project is a priority. They also both supported increased resources for mental health, homelessness and substance use issues, but were divided on approaches to addressing those areas.
Miller advocated taking impacted populations out of the cities, and building facilities and farms in rural areas, which would be underwritten by private investment.
“I believe that we should be building facilities,” Miller said. “And they should be in rural areas — perhaps on farmland — where the people can work the farms, and feel like they’re doing something and creating things.”
Elliott said he was in favor of supportive services that met people where they were, such as the proposed crisis-diversion facility of the Middlesex County Restoration Center. He said he would secure funding from sports betting revenues.
“In order to appropriately fund these important services, you need a revenue stream,” Elliott said. “I think that a percentage of sports betting revenue should be funneled to support mental health and substance abuse programs.”
As comparison, he cited the approach Lowell took in diverting revenue from citywide cannabis operations.
Last fiscal year, the city hauled in about $1.4 million in revenue from legal pot. The city has collected a combined amount of $3.3 million in revenue from the recreational marijuana business since 2016.
There was a canyon-wide gap in the candidates’ position on reproductive rights, with Miller arguing that women are using abortion as a means of contraception. She advocated instead for increased reproductive education.
“I believe in the need to protect life whenever possible,” Miller stated. “It (abortion) seems to be used as a contraceptive because it is out of hand with how many abortions are being performed. I think we need more education with young girls and women with contraception.”
Elliott called the issue of abortion a personal decision that belongs with a woman and her doctor, and he took offense with Miller’s characterization of the reason why women have abortions.
“Quite frankly, the comment made by my opponent that women were using abortion as contraception is to me baseless and harmful,“ Elliott said. “I don’t feel anyone, certainly not a man, should be making that decision. It’s a woman’s fundamental right to have autonomy over her body. It’s a health care decision between a woman and her doctor.”
The candidates agreed that inflation and rising energy costs posed real challenges to the financial security of many constituents.
Elliott said Lowell had the foresight in 2012 to create the municipal electricity aggregation program, but that reducing the country’s fossil fuel dependency was vital. He advocated for tax credits and climate-based investments such as wind power.
“Offshore wind is an important part of providing a balanced energy plan,” Elliott said. “I don’t think the commonwealth should solely be relying on fossil fuels. We need to diversify the portfolio.”
Miller blamed Democrats for creating inflation and high gas prices and taxes, and said the solution was to stop electing them to statewide offices. She argued that the state was “going over the cliff” because of “Massachusetts’ Green New Deal.”
“This is not working for people,” Miller said. “We have to slow this down.”
In keeping with her opening statement, Miller closed by saying that Democrats had created the problems, and it would take a Republican to clean it up.
“Even if you have never voted Republican in the past, I am asking you to help me help you,” she said. “We can no longer afford Democrats.”
In his closing statement, Elliott said he would be the “voice of people,” and get things done.
“I understand budgets and appropriations — there’s no learning curve. I know how to get things done,” he said. “The district needs a representative who is going to go there and fight for funding on Day One.”
November 3, 2022
By MELANIE GILBERT | email@example.com |
PUBLISHED: September 6, 2022 at 10:55 p.m. | UPDATED: September 6, 2022 at 11:42 p.m.
BREAKING: Rodney Elliott has won the 16th Middlesex District Democratic primary by 102 votes over Zoe Dzineku. According to unofficial results released by Lowell and Chelmsford, Elliott received 1,875 votes to Dzineku’s 1,773.
After a day of frenzied voting, sign holding and last-minute campaign pitches by the candidates, the voters of the 16th Middlesex District have spoken — kind of.
Lowell Democrats Zoe Dzineku, who immigrated from Liberia when she was 4 years old, a pivotal life event that she said made her into a “fighter” and “consensus builder,” and Rodney Elliott, who ran on his long career in public service to deliver constituent services, were neck-and-neck in a race to take the open seat in the 16th Middlesex District. The winner will face Republican challenger Karla Miller on Nov. 8.
Polls closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday, and unofficial Lowell results gathered by the Dzineku campaign showed Dzineku and Elliott in a race too close to call as of 10 p.m.
Dzineku credited her aggressive door-to-door, get-out-the-vote campaign, during which she wore through three pairs of sneakers, with her effort.
“I knocked on over 2,500 doors,” Dzineku said. “People were amazed that I was actually speaking to them and encouraging them to come out to vote.”
She said turnout was good despite the rainy weather, but was grateful for mail-in ballots as well as early voting options.
“It was such a joy to vote this morning and exercise one of the most important civil liberties that we have,” Dzineku said upon exiting Robinson School on June Street her Centralville voting location.
Elliott credited his supporters, who he said had worked tirelessly on the campaign since February.
Elliott said he’s been voting “since he was able,” and called casting his vote exciting.
“Today is the culmination of months and months of work,” he said after voting at the Pawtucketville Memorial Elementary School on Meadow Road, in Pawtucketville’s Ward 1.
The winner of the Democratic primary will run against Miller in November, to represent a diverse constituency, encompassing an area that extends from Lowell’s Pawtucketville and Centralville neighborhoods, to the northeast parts of Chelmsford. It’s an area one-fourth as large as Disney World, that 42,000 people call home.
Dzineku is on leave from her position in constituent services for state Sen. Ed Kennedy, D-Lowell, and is former chair of the Lowell Election Commission. For 24 years, Elliott served as a city councilor and two terms as mayor. He also held positions in state and federal government
House seats open up every two years, but this race is to replace former state Rep. Tom Golden, who stepped down in April to accept the role as Lowell’s city manager.
Voting lines were steady, according to election worker Kenneth Davis, of Chelmsford. He was the first face voters saw when they entered the McCarthy Middle School polling place on North Road for Chelmsford’s Precincts 3 through 8.
Assistant Town Clerk Maria Vasquez said that without volunteers like Davis, “elections wouldn’t be possible.”
Dzineku, wearing a colorful pair of sneakers, was passing out her campaign flyer to voters entering the building.
Sahr (he asked that his last name not be used), of Lowell, said his wife told him “to go vote” but he didn’t know his polling place. He came to the Pawtucketville Memorial Elementary School gymnasium, where he was issued a provisional ballot by election workers.
In Lowell, sign holders braved the elements to do last-minute campaigning for their candidates and perhaps sway any undecided voters. By law, they must not interfere with voters, and maintain 150-foot distance from the entrance to the polling location.
As polls closed at 8 p.m. the candidates gathered at their respective election night celebration spots. For Dzineku, it was the East End Social Club in Centralville where supporters gathered around a horseshoe-shaped bar that featured several large televisions soundlessly tuned to local news channels.
Elliott gathered with his family — his wife, Laurie, and two daughters and their families — friends and supporters at his Pawtucketville home.
The food was gone, the speeches left unsaid, as the votes continued to be counted at City Hall.
Unofficial results from Lowell and Chelmsford were not available before The Sun’s print deadline.t. Clearly list and describe the services you offer. Also, be sure to showcase a premium service.
North Chelmsford and Vinal Square needs Rodney Elliott for state representative
Those who know me, know that my heart and soul is in doing what is best for North Chelmsford and that is why I believe Rodney Elliott is the best candidate for state representative in the 16th Middlesex District.
I read the recent op-ed piece in The Sun newspaper on the Economic Development Bill submitted by Rodney, and I appreciate that he is already paying attention to pending economic development legislation. I am impressed that he is advocating for important funding for Chelmsford programs already (e.g., improvements to Varney Park, wastewater flow system, PFAS remediation system). To me, his attention already demonstrates that he understands the issues and funding needs affecting our district and town.
As past chairman and current member of the Vinal Square Strategic Action Plan Committee, we are at a critical crossroads of an exciting vision for redevelopment. Progress has been made, but we are still not there, and state funding is imperative to continue this progress.
Rodney took the time to meet and learn the needs of North Chelmsford and shared his experience as Chairman of the Economic Development Subcommittee on the Lowell City Council. As we move forward with our master plan, we must have a state representative that has this experience, with an understanding of state government and is able forge private/public partnerships.
The upcoming election is critical to North Chelmsford, and we need this experienced leader. I ask you to join me and please vote for Rodney Elliott on Tuesday, Sept. 6.
— Bill Gilet
CHELMSFORD, MA —Just 102 votes. That's all that separated the victorious Rodney Elliott from Zoe Dzineku in Tuesday's Democratic primary for state representative in the 16th Middlesex District.
According to the Associated Press, Elliot, of Lowell, received 1,875 votes (51.4 percent), while Dzineku, also of Lowell, got 1,773 votes (48.6 percent).
Now, Elliott will face Karla Miller in the general election. Miller ran unopposed in the Republican primary.
Elliott, who currently works as an assistant regional manager for the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, reflected on the primary and looked ahead to the general election.
"I would like to thank all the voters and all those who supported me throughout this election," Elliott said in a statement to Patch. "Zoe Dzineku and I worked hard campaigning day in and day out and we focused on issues and how best to improve our communities."
Elliott continued: "Moving forward, I look forward to continuing to reach out to even more residents in Lowell and North Chelmsford, listen to their concerns and priorities, and earn their votes in November. "
On his campaign website, Elliott said his priorities in office would include: evaluating the Massachusetts School Building Authority formula and increasing funding for schools, supporting an increase in Chapter 90 funding for road repairs, and supporting legislation to fund more mental health counseling in schools.
Thank you to Ann Marie Page and her husband Bob, for their support. Ann Marie is a lifelong Centralville resident, President and founding member of the Centralville Neighborhood Action Group (CNAG) for over 25 years. She has done so much for the neighborhood for so many years, and I am grateful to her for all her help.
The Massachusetts House of Representatives needs to put people first and pass the tax relief economic development bill now. Had the process not been halted, checks would be going out averaging $250 for individuals and $500 for those filing jointly.
What could working families do with an extra $250 or $500 dollars? To many, this money could provide at least some immediate help with clothes for school or additional groceries for families already struggling with inflation and gas prices.
I commend the Legislature for passing critical bills for mental health, infrastructure, and climate change, along with comprehensive sports betting that allows businesses to remain competitive. However, they fell short by not passing the sweeping $4 billion-dollar-plus economic development bill.
The pending bill provides $1 billion dollars in tax relief ($500 million in one-time tax rebates, and $500 million in permanent cuts). It also makes significant investments in MassWorks, clean energy environmental infrastructure, technology, education, Clean Water Trust, nursing homes, rental assistance, affordable housing, and millions to boost research initiatives. The direct rebates to taxpayers comes during a time the state enjoys an unprecedented $5 billion dollar surplus. Families need that help now, not in January 2023.
The House is waiting on a review of a 1986 law, Chapter 62F which calls for the return of certain tax surpluses, now estimated at $3 billion dollars. That surplus should be returned to the taxpayers immediately.
This law’s been on the books since 1986 and there has been plenty of time to study the effect. The Economic Development bill stands on its own merits and should be passed now. Working families and our many support organizations in Lowell and Chelmsford cannot wait for funding on vital projects. I am urging the House to advance the economic relief legislation through informal session and approve it immediately or return into formal session.
The critical funding for programs in Lowell includes monies for: Lowell High School athletic fields, the Lowell Parks and Conservation Trust, UTEC, Lowell Acre Crossing, Lowell Community Health Center, Cambodia Town Lowell, Inc.; the Bridge Club of Greater Lowell; Project Learn, Inc.; Megan House Foundation Inc.; Acre Family Child Care and more.
In Chelmsford, there are also very vital programs at stake including $150,000 for improvements to the playing field and Varney playground equipment; $150,000 for an excessive wastewater flow system; and $250,000 for a PFAS remediation system.
Residents of the 16th Middlesex District deserve a state representative that will work tirelessly to secure the funding we need. Serving on the local level for 24 years, I saw your struggles firsthand. If I have the honor of serving as your state representative, I will use my experience to make government work for all of us. Let’s put people first and pass the Economic Development bill.
Rodney Elliott is a candidate for state representative in the 16th Middlesex District which includes the Lowell neighborhoods of Pawtucketville, Centralville; and the Chelmsford neighborhoods of North Chelmsford and the Westlands. For more visit rodneyelliott.com
August 28, 2022
Rodney Elliott has always been there for our neighborhood of Centralville. When I was head of the Centralville Neighborhood Action Group, I called Rodney on many issues. It never mattered how big or small, he always answered his phone and helped whether it was dealing with a loud party or illegal dumping. Any problem, any time of day, he responded. Rodney shows up.
As a former mayor and 24-year city councilor, there isn’t an issue he hasn’t dealt with including working with state agencies. Rodney knows the who’s who and what’s what of cutting red tape. As a senior, I was happy with his motion to sue big pharma which brought in millions of dollars, and his support for the gas tax holiday for hardworking families. Rodney has worked hard his whole life from helping with his family’s small business at a young age to decades at environmental agencies.
Rodney has the experience, but most importantly, he has heart. The heart of a leader who cares about his community enough to volunteer countless hours to many organizations including working with our youth as part of Lowell Youth Soccer and Centralville Basketball.
It is because he’s been there for me and my neighborhood that I will get out on Tuesday, Sept. 6, and cast my ballot for Rodney Elliott for state representative. Let’s put this hard-working responsive person in a position to help all of us.
August 27, 2022
Discussing issues with Sam Chase. Thank you for having me on your program.
Thank you for having me on your program to discuss the issues important to the voters