From My Corner: September 1, 2023

Elections Season

When Council President Marc Laplante attended the Board of Registrars’ meeting on August 22, 2023, he was prepared to explain the nature of his complaint to the board.  He was disappointed in not being able to do it while the Board ruled against his opponent.  Many people in the audience did not understand the reason (including this writer) and I will explain it now.

Mr. Laplante was ready to provide evidence that there were several missspelled names, erroneous addresses, and a couple of signatures that he delivered days before Germinudy Rosario yet, hers were counted, instead.

Those were problems that should be brought up and corrected so it won’t happen in future elections but the biggest problem was the forged signatures.  According to the Secretary of State’s regulations, the Election Division correctly allowed the names to be certified.  Even if they suspect that the signatures are fraudulent, they must be certified. Only upon a challenge before the Board of Registrars can these signatures be overturned.

Anyone interested can check the nomination papers of all candidates on the city’s website  Nomination Documents and Petitions | Lawrence, MA, and you’ll find the same type of problems in other candidates’ nomination papers.  The issue is that most candidates don’t have the knowledge or desire to challenge anyone but there’s the possibility of knocking an opponent off the ballot if they only care to do so.

Some people in charge of collecting signatures are lazy and believe that no one will notice and sign with the wrong name or even the wrong address.  Apparently, they are confident that the Elections Department workers will approve it even if they notice the differences between what they signed and what appears on their records.  That’s because the rules from the Secretary of State indicate that they should.  It’s up to the opponent to bring up these differences to the Board of Registrars to disqualify him or her.

In Laplante’s case, he wasn’t allowed to challenge the forged signatures since his opponent did not clear the first hurdle of providing a signed nomination paper that was notarized.  Ms. Rosario was deemed illegible to be a candidate because her papers did not follow the rules and thus there was no need for Marc to present his case since she was no longer considered a valid candidate.

That’s another common mistake of inexperienced candidates.  When that happens, all the signatures on that page improperly filed are automatically invalid but it has to be brought to the Board’s attention by a contender.

I spoke with City Clerk Eileen Bernal and questioned the actions of the Elections Department employees and she said, “There were minor details but they did a good job with the process following the Secretary of State’s rules.”

Again, that responsibility falls on the other candidates to make sure things are being done correctly.

Now, let’s think about the politicians we are electing.  If they are sloppy with their work and allow just anyone to reach out to their constituents to collect signatures and this is the result, they should not blame the opponent who’s intelligent and knows how to work the system.

But these are the people running for office that we vote for unprepared and who believe that good intentions are what counts.  For example, last Wednesday, Julio Merán interviewed Jessica Aquino, candidate for City Council District B.  Young, well-spoken and delivered her answers with ease, but reminded me of Vice President Kamala Harris with her constant laughter.  That was a serious interview, not an entertainment program.

I was turned off by her demeanor until she gave it away.  Mr. Merán asked her if she had seen the City Charter, if she had read Robert’s Rules of Order, the City Council Rules, and the current city budget to which she said that she had seen them but at one point she admitted that he didn’t mention one of those items in the questions that he had sent her.

That’s why the laughter!  She was over-confident because she was prepared for whatever he would throw at her.  Would he prepare in the same way someone with whom he disagrees?

I always watch his program because Merán has the courage to tackle important issues that no one else cares to touch and he documents himself before speaking but this program was a big disappointment.

Electing members of the City Council is the most important task we have every two years.  We run the risk of ending up with people like María De La Cruz in District A.  She hardly knows what’s being discussed and sometimes after a discussion, she ends up voting against what she argued for or in favor of what she opposed.

Fortunately, she won’t be running again and thinks her term ended.  She has not been to a meeting in several months or been seen anywhere and she’s still collecting her salary.  Let that be an example of how not to vote.

Merán was a disappointment because he kept repeating that the city budget carries some $45 million for Miscellaneous which is “suspicious” in his opinion.  This is not “petit cash”; it’s a required amount that the city must have for emergencies and that appears in every budget, every year.

A good example of that is snow removal; since no one knows how much snow we’ll have each year, the budget calls for a minimal amount and, at the end of the year the balance can be transferred from that fund.

Also, the trash collection and recycling; while the city has a set budget, there are times when extra expenses are unavoidable.  And, union negotiations; while each department has a budget for salaries, upon union agreements they must be increased and it comes from that Miscellaneous fund.

Keep in mind that “Free Cash” cannot be used for any of these purposes.

According to Mayor DePeña and Councilor Ana Levy, this has been explained to him several times and he continues with the insinuation.



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