Fabricated Drama on the Lawrence City Council

By: Kathy Runge – July, 2016

The soap operas have nothing on the Lawrence City Council. The meetings are filled with fabricated drama.
The Budget Drama: During the first meeting to consider the budget, Councilor Maldonado said that because 95% of the residents of the city are low income, catering to middle class wishes, such as public safety, amounted to catering to “special interest” groups. Yes, middle class people, you are a special interest group whose needs should not be a priority. Can we have your tax money please?

While residents of surrounding towns are struggling to decide which services to cut, Councilors Maldonado, Almonte and DePena are complaining because our budget has money for more police and money to keep a recently reopened fire station open. This is catering to “middle class” wants and is raising our taxes. I throw the other twocouncilors in the group with Maldonado because they voted against the budget at that meeting, with no public comment, so one must assume Councilor Maldonado spoke for them.

The vote was 5- 3, with the aforementioned councilors voting against and Councilor Alvarez-Rodriguez absent due to health issues. The budget needs 6 votes to pass, so another meeting was scheduled in two weeks time.

At the next meeting, the budget finally passed 6-2. Councilor DePena flipped his vote, giving as much reason for his change of heart as he did for his original vote. He never explains his votes or provides any input at all. Believe me, the whole budget drama was planned from day one.

The Haverhill Street Drama : See last month’s column if you need some background on this story. A measure regarding the Haverhill Street property partially owned by Councilor Reyes was finally discussed at the regular Council meeting of June 7th. Councilor Maldonado repeatedly restated unsubstantiated rumors and “perceptions”. Councilor Almonte had issues with the entire situation being a “huge conflict of interest”.

Almonte asked for the details of the private sale, something she could look up on her city provided IPad in about 3 minutes. She accused the city departments of favoritism toward Councilor Reyes since the Inspectional Services Department responded quickly to address safety issues with the property and to give citations.

It was decided that they would request the city attorney and building commissioner to attend the next meeting.
Almonte said she “couldn’t wait” for the interviews to occur and “I hope they have more answers because I’m going to have a ton of more questions.” President Vasquez voted against further discussion as the council has no authority on building code issues. Almonte replied that he didn’t know what the questions were, but she did.

Almonte vowed to get to the bottom of the issue, which she said would amount to “pulling teeth.”

At the next meeting, Housing Committee Chair Jeovanny Rodriguez made a motion to take the document off of the table. There was no second. Not a peep from the three amigos. The motion failed. After a stunned silence, Councilor Abdoo stated he would be in favor of taking the item off the table, so he made a motion and they had a redo. This time Councilor Maldonado seconded it. Whew, what drama!

No one was in any hurry to question Building Commissioner Blanchette, so he summarized the events. All seemed to be in order. 

Councilor Maldonado was confused as to how this document ever came about. Wasn’t he there? He was confused as to why there were only three members on the Housing Committee. Mr. Maldonado, the reason is that Councilor Alvarez-Rodriguez said she would only take the time to serve on two committees if she were chair of the second one.

Maldonado asked if the building was going to be demolished and who was going to pay for it. When the answer came that the owners would pay for any demolishing, Maldonado said “OK, simple” and that was that. Almonte said nothing, zip, nada. She must have left her dental instruments at home along with those “tons of questions.”

The Absurd Conduct Drama : Almonte still regularly wants special treatment at the meetings, constantly speaking out of order. She wanted to speak at public participation at a recent meeting but didn’t sign up for it. Council President Vasquez reminded her of this necessity, which is common knowledge, and instead of respecting the decision, she Almonte argued about it.

She threatens to have spectators thrown out of meetings for being amused by her antics. Does she think we can’t see that certain councilors are just trying to disrupt the meetings?

At a recent meeting, Councilor Almonte voted against adjournment yet again, forcing a roll call. She was the only no vote. While all of the other councilors were seated, she was standing up with possessions in hand, moving toward the exit as they took the roll call.

We need a constable in attendance at these meetings to maintain order. I could use a little less drama!