From My Corner: July 1, 2024

The council is a circus!

There will be criticisms over my use of that word referring to the Lawrence City Council but week after week there are the same signals that they have had no training on procedures, respect, etiquette, etc.  I included all councilors in the picture because they are all to blame for these disparities.  There are some with more experience who should take the new ones aside and privately show them how it is done.  The entire city council looks inept for allowing the circus to continue.

Last week I suffered through five hours of the budget hearing.  It reminded me of a certain councilor a few years ago (not deserving to mention his name here) who took pleasure in deducting tiny amounts from areas of the budget just to show his power.  

Even more, the empty look in the eyes of some of them tells me that they have no idea what they are talking about because they have not opened the material in preparation for a vote.

Case in point, District A Councilor Fidelina Santiago.  The few times she dared talk, she was reading from a paper.  Perhaps someone wrote something for her to make her sound intelligent.  The proof is that she follows District B Councilor Wendy Luzon’s lead when it comes time to vote.  She doesn’t have a voice of her own because she doesn’t know what’s being discussed.

Wendy is not a good example to follow; she threw a tantrum during the discussion, “I want to hear from the mayor, and we always get his advisor.”  This time, Council President Jeovanny Rodriguez gaveled her “out of order” even when she was still complaining out loud.

Mayor Brian DePeña was sitting in the front row and his advisor Octavien Spanner was next to him when Jeovanny told Wendy that the mayor could choose who would speak for his administration.

After Mayor DePeña sent the original budget proposal to the council he made some changes and the second version showed a reduction of $3,441,877 which included the elimination of two positions (Deputy Chief, $125,000 and Assistant Fire Chief, $120,000) along with a series of reductions.  

They continued going through the budget reducing menial amounts from employees’ salaries.  Abel Cano was appointed to the newly created position of Emergency Management and the discussion was centered around his experience in emergency management.  “He is a great police officer but has no experience.  That should be under the Fire Department,” said Wendy Luzón.

Under the recommendation of District F Councilor Marc Laplante, it was voted to reduce Officer Cano’s salary by $25,000 from $130,000.

It was obvious that they were going after certain people as if it was a vendetta.

Nearing the end of the meeting, City Attorney Timothy Houten addressed the council to make them aware that they cannot cut employees’ salaries.  The cuts will be made to the entire department as the mayor has the authority to keep the desired salaries.

At that point, Councilor at-Large Ana Levy was losing her patience having been silenced for too long, and said, “We are discussing something insignificant when we should be talking about all good things that are happening in our city. Our City of Lawrence has had an increase in the credit rating from A to A+ and we had the best of the audit we just had showing that the city is performing perfectly. There was always a page that showed in the audit how poorly we were doing and things that needed to be corrected, this year for the first time the audit said how well we are performing.” 

This is what we needed to mention.  Councilor Levy emphasized that we are getting a great budget after the mayor and his officer cut the presented first budget from 8% to 2.5%.  Look at the increases in cities around us. This cut was initiated by the Mayor and Mayor’s office.  Our city and our economy are in good shape, and we are looking for pennies to cut that will not modify or change the budget. 

Councilor Levy continued: “Our city is growing, and many changes are happening, like whether or not we need to accept those changes, we are noticing those changes, and sometimes because we do not agree with a person, we don’t want to accept it. During this time, I can say that our taxpayers are getting the best and we will continue to work forward to give you the best.” 

She also thanked all members of the city council for all the hours put together to review the budget. “The work that we all are doing is to make our city a better city to live and work.” 

One comment that stuck in my head was by Bill Collins regarding the city’s veterans.  He asked the council why they have not filled two positions in Veterans Services that have been authorized for years.

The councilors responded that the veteran population has decreased in Lawrence, and they believe that is not necessary.


Rep. Estela Reyes

Pay attention whenever you are at a public event or read newspapers (particularly Rumbo) to check out our representative Estela Reyes.  She never misses an event where she can be prominently featured as if she is doing her job. 

Out of curiosity, I checked her record at the State House and was not surprised to see the disastrous record she has.  She reminds me of Marcos Devers who became famous for raising his hand to support others’ initiatives but never produced any himself.

See for yourself how much she has accomplished in almost two years.


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