The city of Lowell’s slogan is “There’s a lot to like.”
But several people seemed unimpressed this week by the city’s efforts to rally the public so that a national pizza chain could bail out the community — by helping to fill in a few potholes.
In a tweet from the official City of Lowell account Tuesday night, residents were asked to cast a vote in Domino’s Pizza’s online “Paving for Pizza” campaign, a gimmicky funding initiative in which the restaurant gives money to select municipalities so that workers can patch some craters in the road.
“Visit pavingforpizza.com and input your Lowell zip code to help the City of Lowell get a $5,000 paving grant!” the city’s tweet read. “Help us fill our potholes and make our roads the best they can be. Every vote counts!”
Visit https://t.co/QU4JBWeqBK and input your Lowell zip code to help the City of Lowell get a $5,000 paving grant! Help us fill our potholes and make our roads the best they can be. Every vote counts!— City of Lowell (@CityofLowellMA) July 10, 2018
While the backlash wasn’t severe — the tweet was only shared five times — some of those following the city’s account questioned why officials couldn’t just do the job themselves, “instead of begging others to do it.”
“This city is begging for a handout as usual instead of hard work,” one person wrote. “Old time mills and buildings should remind us of the hard working people you used to be.”
A second person called the attempt to collect a mere $5,000 from Domino’s a “sad, sad commentary on a great city.”
A small batch of critics also emerged on the city’s Facebook page. But others said they would help by applying.
Lowell officials did not immediately return a request for comment. But a city spokesperson said in a brief telephone call Wednesday that the idea was born from a recent City Council meeting.
According to a statement on the city’s website, Lowell officials decided to ask residents to vote in the contest because “every little bit counts, and having $5,000 extra to help make our streets smoother would be a great help to our Public Works crews.”
The “Paving For Pizza” project launched last month as a way for Domino’s to promote its brand around the idea of safely getting a pizza to a customer’s doorstep without the cheese and toppings sliding around because of potholes.
“We don’t want to lose any great-tasting pizza to a pothole, ruining a wonderful meal,” Russell Weiner, president of Domino’s USA, said in a press release.
When the ad campaign first hit the Internet, the idea that a pizza chain was fixing roads for cities and towns seemed so absurd, the fact-checking website Snopes.com hopped on the case.
“Claim: In mid-2018, Domino’s Pizza began giving cities and towns grants for street repairs,” the website says. “Rating: True.”
One of the first people to tweet about the campaign had a similar take as those who responded to the tweet from Lowell officials this week.
“Dominos is paying their own money to pave over potholes in cities because cities aren’t taking responsibility and this is the greatest PR ever and [honestly] so sad that a pizza chain is doing the governments job,” the person wrote in June. The tweet went viral.
According to Domino’s website, Lowell isn’t the first city to take interest in the opportunity to have asphalt paid for by a pizza chain. The company claims it’s already done work in Texas, Delaware, Georgia, and California.
Last month, the Lowell Sun reported that the enticing mini-grant actually had some public works directors around the region “licking their lips.”
Steve Annear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.