Friday, December 23, 2011

Lowell Cultural Resources Inventory

A crosspost from the Lowell Historical Society blog at

From Lowell Historical Society board member and Director of UMass Lowell’s Center for Lowell History Martha Mayo:
The first batch of Lowell Cultural Inventory Reports of Buildings in Downtown Lowell [369] are available on the UML Digital Commons site. They can be viewed here. They can be viewed here –
Please share this effort was part of an Mass Bureau of Library Council Grant for digital preservation. Please share with others interested in Lowell History through email, blogs, facebook, and other social media.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Update on Lowell's Master Planning Process

I received the following email today from Allegra Williams, Lowell's Neighborhood Planner, today:
As a follow up to your participation in the Master Planning process this past Summer, we wanted to let you know that a Public Opinion Report ( had been completed and was now available online. For those who are interested, the report provides an overview and analysis of the data that was collected through the telephone survey, visioning sessions, and online participatory planning tool. From here, you can also access the 2011 Existing Conditions Report, which provides a snapshot of Lowell today and highlights data trends over time.

For those who have not yet had a chance to view the award winning photographs from the Sustainability Snapshots Contest (, those are up on the website and will be showcased in the finalized Master Plan document.

Again, we truly appreciate your involvement throughout this planning process and we hope you will continue to work alongside us in shaping a vision for Lowell's future, as there will be opportunities to provide comment on a draft document in the coming months. We will continue to keep you apprised of our progress moving forward.

As always, feel free to be in touch with questions or concerns.
There are about 300 pages here total - I haven't finished reading over all of it myself, yet. I have finished reading the Public Opinion Report, and generally speaking, I didn't find any huge surprises. Some highlights from the Highlights section:
  • Slightly more than half of the survey participants (55%) rated Lowell highly as a place to live (8, 9 or 10 on a 10 point scale), and 75% rated Lowell a 7 or higher. Survey results in 2002 were nearly identical. On average, as the age of participants increased, so did the participants’ rating of the city. Caucasian and Latino residents rated the city more favorably than Africans, African-Americans, and Asians. Those earning between $30,000 and $74,999 rated the city better than residents with either lower or higher incomes. 
  • Understandably, given the recent reductions in State and Federal aid and consequent cuts to local government operations, there has been an increased importance placed on maintaining city services, as noted by survey participants. However, the simultaneously high prioritization of city services and property tax reduction poses a challenge for Lowell at a time when municipal resources are diminishing, as it is difficult to deliver public services of a high caliber without sufficient tax revenue, particularly as costs of service delivery continue to increase. 
The last point worries me a bit. Following last week's announcement in The Sun that the council voted to shift as much of the tax burden from the Residential to Business sector as state law allows, and in a city with a comparatively low tax rate, I do wonder how we are supposed to maintain services, attract businesses, and keep taxes low. You can't have your cake and eat it, too. Do that many people really feel they're overtaxed and don't get what they pay for? This isn't simply about income, because households making over $100k a year were actually the most likely to complain property taxes were too high. These people would be paying considerably more in the suburbs...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Looking for writers and photographers for

Getting the word out for a friend at I'm also adding to my blogroll:
Are you a creative person looking for more publicity? If so,
recommend someone as a contributor to Are you a
supporter of the creative community? Then, contribute to is a site about bringing together creative people and
their supporters. That’s why has just launched - to do just that. is looking to bring together writers and photographers
to contribute to Writers will contribute
articles about events in the Lowell/Boston area, profiles on
interesting people and other topics which relate to the cultural
scene. Photographers will contribute photos of events in the area,
take photos to support writers’ articles and photograph creative and
cultural scenes. Contributors can choose to cover a topic from a list
of suggested topics or feel free to submit content based on original
Contributors of accepted articles or photos will be paid $5 per post
in which the content is used to cover expenses incurred while creating
the content. 
If you or someone you know are interested in being a content
contributor, please email

Friday, December 9, 2011

WCAP and Salvation Army Radiothon

On this Saturday Morning, December 10th, WCAP will be holding a Radiothon to benefit the Salvation Army. If you would like to participate, please call 978-454-4980 to make a donation. LTC channel 8 will be broadcasting and live streaming the items available for people to call and make a bid.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Downtown fire - 1904

Thanks for Lowell Firefighting and Michelle for linking to this excellent post on a fire at
the O’Donnell and Gilbride Department Store one January night over 100 years ago:

It appears that Forgotten New England is doing a series of posts on fires here in Lowell.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Jevons Paradox

I post with some frequency about Peak Oil, walkable neighborhoods, etc. However, I'm living in a contradiction because I drive a car that averages in the low 20 MPGs for fuel efficiency. I also drive a fairly typical 15,000 miles a year or so. Not exactly eco-friendly.

One point I like to bring up when justifying this to myself is the concept of the Jevons Paradox, or the Jevons Effect. Deferring to Wikipedia:
In economics, the Jevons paradox (sometimes Jevons effect) is the proposition that technological progress that increases the efficiency with which a resource is used, tends to increase (rather than decrease) the rate of consumption of that resource. In 1865, the English economist William Stanley Jevons observed that technological improvements that increased the efficiency of coal-use led to the increased consumption of coal in a wide range of industries. He argued that, contrary to common intuition, technological improvements could not be relied upon to reduce fuel consumption.
The idea is fairly simple: let's assume we can bring coal to the market for $1/lb. We can use that coal to make $2 worth of widgets. Now, let's say we can use that same amount of coal sold at the same price, through technological advancement, to produce $4 worth of widgets instead. Assuming the demand for the widgets is there at that price, we haven't actually used any less coal. In fact, profits are now way up. We might even want to buy even more coal for a higher cost (if we need so much it can no longer be sold as low as $1/lb) to make yet more widgets. On the other hand, maybe we start producing widgets for the discount market worth $1 per pound of coal, which would've been unprofitable with our older, inefficient system. We just created a whole new market segment that didn't exist before! Either way, we are using more coal than we used before the improvements, and we've enlarged the total size of the economy.

Of course, not everyone thinks this is sound economics and I would tend to agree that it's probably too simplistic to be a general law for a variety of reasons. It's still an interesting concept. To my original point about cars, you can argue that people will only drive a certain number of miles a year because of the cost of gas. In this case, I think it's fair to say that if fuel economy goes up, people will drive somewhat more. I don't think it's fair to say somebody changing to a more efficient car is going to strive to keep their gas budget the same by driving more. If it was that simple, we could mandate 1970s Cadillacs for all to control sprawl.