Election Among Lowell’s Most Memorable

November 4, 2017 GMT

By Kendall Wallace

LOWELL -- The city election on Tuesday will be the 29th local election I’ve observed in a variety of roles at The Sun.

It is one of the more interesting ones.

It at least ranks among the top three over the past 50 years based on voter interest and the impact the results will have on Lowell for a very long time.

The centerpiece this year is the non-binding referendum on the proposed location of Lowell High School.

That issue has led to two camps in regard to candidates for the City Council and School Committee.

There have been signs for slates of candidates who favor the downtown site and for candidates who favor the Cawley Stadium site.

The first time I saw council candidates running as slates was more than 50 years ago. It was one of the most nasty campaigns I have ever seen. Six candidates ran as a group know as the “Pick Six.” Their promise was “elect us and we will fire the city manager.” Five of the six got elected and at the first meeting they fired the city manager.

The campaign was highlighted by a first-ime candidate named John F. Carney. Carney would buy at least an hour of radio time on WCAP and sometimes he would run over the hour and announce over the air he was handing over money so he could keep talking.

He focused his attacks on The Sun, claiming they ran the city through their puppet City Manager Frank E. Barrett.

The problem was Barrett was a Sun reporter before he became city manager and his brother-in-law was then managing editor of The Sun.

Carney’s attacks worked and Barrett was ousted.

Despite the attacks Barrett was probably the most progressive manager of the city up to that point and remains one of the longest serving managers in the history of Plan-E government in Lowell.

He was first hired in 1952 and built the first new school in the city in decades; established the city’s first urban planning department; launched the first two urban-renewal projects in the city; made a decision to build the city’s first water plant that took drinking water from the Merrimack River; and built a city incinerator way ahead of most communities that were still using landfills.

The scars of that election were felt for a long time.

Hopefully the results of the election on Tuesday will be clear enough to allow the city to move on with the high-school project.

Walter F. Bayliss, who for more than 50 years was a community activist in the city, will be honored at a flag-raising ceremony in the Highlands on Veterans Day.

Bayliss, who died last year, worked tirelessly for veterans and for any project that made Lowell a better place to live for all.

The ceremony will take place at the flag pole on Lincoln Parkway, near his home.

Bayliss served on several city boards including the Lowell Memorial Auditorium and the city License Commission.

Lowell blogger Richard Howe had a real good piece about an amazing group of former and current Lowell High School students who combined to write book on diversity after doing a tremendous amount of research on the major points of the Civil Rights Act, landmark federal statutes and Supreme Court decisions.

The students made an hour-long presentation for a large group of authors at Boston Book Festival at the Boston City Library last week.

The book, Defining Diversity, was published last May.

A total of 24 students were involved in the project and six former and current LHS students presented the hour-long discussion in front of the other authors at the book festival.

Howe said the students represented the city and their school well and talked about the advantages of going to a large diverse high school.

Among the authors at the event were Maureen Dowd, Dennis Lehane, Ann Collette and Geraldine Brooks.