From My Corner: January 8, 2015

The Real Ureña Story

As many of your may have read, former Veterans Director Francisco Ureña has been selected to be appointed Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Massachusetts for the incoming Governor Charlie Baker. In Lawrence, we know that Francisco was the Director for Veterans Affairs for the City of Lawrence and then went onto become the Director of Veterans Affairs for the City of Boston.

As I read the news of this wonderful appointment, I read from a couple of people who made comments of Francisco. Although all the things they said do apply, that Francisco is good for Veterans, I could not contain myself in thinking they all wanted take credit for something they did not initiate and again, the role of politics.

I conducted a search of past articles and notes that we (Rumbo) had on file during the time that Francisco came on board to become Lawrence’s Director of Veterans Services. I found it very interesting that one of the individuals that made comments, in taking credit for knowing or bringing Francisco to Lawrence was against the selection from the beginning.

It was the summer of 2006, in which Personnel Director Frank Bonet found that the former Veterans Services Office Director was being negligent of his duties.  An investigation by Personnel Director Bonet found that former Veterans Services Director, Dan Lannon, failed to file proper paperwork to obtain the refund of 75% from the state, funding that the city had disbursed for the years 2005 and 2006.  In 2006 alone, over $300,000 was found to be lost due to non-filing of paperwork with the Commonwealth and all of the moneys for the year 2005 were unaccounted.

So late in the year of 2006, both Mayor Sullivan and Director Bonet went before the council to recommend discharge of the VS Director.  The council had no choice but to vote to relieve Director Lannon of his duties.  It was then that a search for a new director was put in place. In the meanwhile, Director Bonet took over the duties of ensuring that the Veteran’s Day 2006 event was a success and Mayor Sullivan’s aide (Jorge De Jesus) took over the office duties temporarily to ensure that no loss of service took place. Mr. De Jesus found even more deficiencies while working in the office in 2006. Mr. De Jesus corrected and solved the office finances while Director Bonet continued a search.

In October 2006, the job was advertised and posted. Director Bonet composed a committee and after several interviews, recommended Mr. Ureña for the position.  I clearly recall Mr. Bonet stating that many people were calling his and Mayor Sullivan’s office advocating for another candidate, who happened to reside in Andover.  The pressure was on!

Director Bonet stuck to his recommendation and met with Mayor Sullivan. Mayor Sullivan asked why the Andover candidate wasn’t the choice and Bonet clearly stated, “Mr. Mayor, this is the future of the veterans of Lawrence. Future Lawrence veterans are the ones who are currently serving and will need a bi-cultural, bi-lingual and professional individual such as Mr. Ureña upon their return home.”  Mayor Sullivan understood the message and submitted Francisco to the City Council for confirmation.

On February 2007, a new Director of Veterans Services began his service in a professional, caring, and respectful manner.

Many people want to take credit for hiring and bringing Francisco to Lawrence. That’s fine if it makes then sleep better. However, I want to bring attention to Personnel Director Bonet (a veteran, as well) who saw within Mr. Ureña the best choice for the job.  Mr. Ureña is the role model our young people should emulate.  His success is the encouragement they need to continue their education.

In the short time that we were fortunate to have Mr. Ureña work for our veterans, we can say that he is a Lawrence success story.  Best wishes to you Mr. Secretary!

Lawrence YMCA

I usually work out at the Andover/North Andover YMCA because it is closer to my home but with the construction going on there, it’s becoming difficult to find a parking space in their lot.  The Andover Y is undergoing a multi-million dollar renovation that will make it the showplace of the entire state.

So, I turned to go to downtown Lawrence, wondering if I would find a parking space behind their building.  Lately, it fills up early and we must park on the street which poses a problem with parking fines if we lose track of time.  This day, I was fortunate to find several spots available and didn’t have to worry about the clock.

The best surprise was finding how the Lawrence Y has been renovated and the new equipment, particularly the treadmills.  These new machines have access to television stations, the web, check emails, etc. and attaching your own headphones you can lose pounds (not just calories) in one long session.  I can see myself doing Rumbo’s work while walking there.

Anonymous letters

I prefer to call them “coward letters” because they would not have a direct exchange in which I can rebut their assumptions.  They usually make unfounded accusations about someone perhaps with the hope that I am going to go crazy and print it.  I never give any credence to these letters but this one caught my attention because I recognized the subject of the letter.

That was the case this week.  The complaint was about an employee at City Hall who changed jobs with a $25K increase in pay and several other things.  Had this been a telephone call, we would have been able to discuss what I know to be true but I think the intent was just to create discord.

And if the job change is true, God bless him or her.  That’s what progress is all about!

If it’s heard on the radio…

It does mean that you should believe it.

This week I heard someone say that all City Hall employees receive an annual stipend for clothing.  Not true.  I looked into it and the answer is that only some union members receive that.

Another comment was that this administration brought $13 million in one year while the previous administration didn’t bring any grants at all.  Well, I don’t know where that information was taken from because according to Mark Ianello, Budget and Finance Director, “The City receives approximately 35-45 million dollars annually in federal and state grant awards.  This figure does not include the approximate $190 million in state (cherry sheet) aid which supports the general fund operating budget.”

Mr. Ianello also told me that for 2014, the city received $39.1M (not $13M) and for the previous years it was as follows:

  • FY10 – $44.9M
  • FY11 – $40.8M
  • FY12 – $40.6M
  • FY13 – $35.0M
  • FY14 – $39.1M

I am expecting figures from the Community Development Department although its Director James Barnes told me that it will not include “monies that go to the schools, the library, the senior center, etc.”

So, as you can see, grants have continued to arrive to the city through the years and that was a false statement.  I will provide more details next week.

Meanwhile, don’t believe everything you hear on the radio – no matter who says it.  Remember that historically, in Lawrence lies are repeated so many times that people end up believing them.