Lowell News

Tara Hong, senior political science student at Umass Lowell with Tooch Van, candidate for Lowell city Council at Clemente Park on Wednesday, Lowell Candlelight vigils in for #StopAsianHate movement after Atlanta Shooting. Photo by Tara Hong

Racism issue has taken a new height in Lowell in recent weeks. School committee member Robert Hoey was asked to resign after using a racial slurs toward a Jewish person on a local cable Television Show called CityLife hosted by John McDonough. On February 25th, Lowell Mayor John Leahy issued a press release asking for his immediate resignation, then followed by a joint statement by Congresswoman Lori Trahan, State Senator Edward Kennedy, State Representative Tom Golden, Representative Vanna Howard, and Representative Rady Mom urging him to resin. Robert Hoey posted a video on his Facebook standing between two rocks, cried, apologized and announced his resignation; however, said he will run for the election in September because he loves his job as school committee member. The next person in line to be the school committee member by default was Dominik Lay, who served 1 term as school committee member in 2018, he was the top seven ticket holder in the last election; however, city auditor found discrepancies on his tax filing which suggested his primary resident was in Brookline where he owns another home. It was unclear about his Lowell residential status. Consequently, Ben Opera, the top 8 ticket holder has now replaced the Robert Hoey post. He is the first African American to hold a public elected office in Lowell.

 

#StopAsianHate
In the wake of the #StopAsianHate movement that has risen in recent weeks, the violence is only getting worse. According to Stop AAPI Hate National Report, 3,795 reports of anti-Asian hate incidents have been received since the start of the pandemic from March 2020 to February 2021, over a 150% increased in the last year as results of the message from President Trump statement “China Virus”. Despite many Asian community leaders speaking up against this message by unifying their voices “I am not a virus, hate is” through various social media platforms, it didn’t stop the conspiracy theory. On Tuesday March 16, the Atlanta shooting at three spas killed 8 people, 6 victims were Asian women were part of that hate crime, yet the Atlanta police chief put the matter lightly as “it was a bad day”. Asian community across the country held candlelight vigils, in unity with the “StopAsianHate” movement. Lowell Cambodian community also held a candlelight vigil at Clemente Park (or Pailin Park), organized by the CMAA and DEI.

The Charter Change
The city of Lowell will conduct the local city council election by a new system this year. In the past 50 years, Lowell had government plan E which elected 9 councilors, all city-wide, the top nine ticket getters are elected as city councils. However, in 2017 a lawsuit brought by several Lowell Cambodian and Spanish residents challenged the system that diluted their voting powers from electing the representative of their choice. The case known as Huot vs. City of Lowell has reached an agreement in which of the 9 Lowell districts, there will be 9 city councilors elected from each district, plus 3 city councilors can run at-large. Then, councilors will elect a mayor. As of March, many candidates from each district already tossed their names in the hat to run in September election, including some familiar names such as Robert Gignac who served as school committee, then city council for one term, he will run for Centralville; Dave Ouellette, an Acre resident who is known for his passion for the district, ran twice but did not win, now has announced that he is in the race again. Two other new candidates include one long time Cambodian leader Tooch Van from South Lowell and Corey Robinson for Centralville district. In this election, each eligible voter will vote only one candidate from the district and the other three at-large candidates. This is will be the difference from the past when voters can vote for up to 9 candidates.