By: Tom Duggan – August, 2001
Originally published on line on www.tomyduggan.com
Mayoral candidate Mike Sullivan held a fund raiser last week at the Lawrence British Club on Cambridge Street. Almost every political hack in the city was in attendance. City workers from almost every department in city hall packed the club in order show support for Mr. Sullivan. He is, after all, one of the two front runners in this race (Joe Quartarone being the other) and a clear favorite of the Eagle Tribune and the Dowling administration.
I find it highly inappropriate and a conflict of interest for department heads and city workers to be giving money to a mayoral candidate who may be their boss next January. It’s even more inappropriate for a mayoral candidate to accept such donations. The mayor of Lawrence is in charge of hiring and firing all city employees. The mayor can reassign workers, promote them, demote them, give them contracts and appoint them to city boards. It is very easy to repay a campaign contribution by a city worker when you are the mayor. A year after the election, you give out a promotion here, a special assignment there, and nobody is the wiser. (Well, almost nobody.)
You are all reasonably intelligent people. How inappropriate do think it is when you walk into a fund raiser and see city workers buying hundreds of dollars in raffle tickets (the proceeds of which benefit the Sullivan for mayor campaign) not to mention the cash donations being collected and the $25 admission price they paid at the door?
Beyond the patronage factor here, there are other reason why it’s inappropriate and damaging to the city when you have public workers playing election politics like this. For example; Police Chief John Romero was in attendance with several officers including the chief of detectives, Mike Molchon.
Everyone knows that Chief Romero’s contract will come up for renewal sometime during the next mayoral administration. Let’s say for the sake of argument that Mike Sullivan loses a bitter November election to candidate ‘X’. Will Romero’s politicking effect the professional and political relationship between the new mayor and the police chief for better or worse? And how will this effect the moral and capabilities of our police officers on the street?
What of the next list of promotions?
Is it possible that some of the officers who publicly supported Sullivan may be passed over for a promotion they deserve simply because they supported the wrong candidate? Of course it is!
Or maybe the next mayor will simply go after the chief and try to publicly humiliate him like Mayor Kevin Sullivan did to Chief Tylus in the early 80’s, rendering him ineffective and leaving the city’s public safety in a very vulnerable position. This is a very viscous business when the person holding power has an ax to grind or a favor to repay. Should we be encouraging this Hack-O-Rama by supporting someone who blatantly flaunts their willingness to be a part of it?
The city suffers when the most qualified people are passed over for promotions or their contracts are not renewed because someone played politics. We suffer just as much when unqualified people are promoted or hired because the backed the right guy. Is this what we want for Lawrence? Politics as usual? Isn’t this what has destroyed our image and our chance for progress over the last 30 years?
Isn’t this the reason we changed the city charter in 1986? I mean, I don’t want to depress all of you with this, but it really seems like things are never going to change when you start to realize that the same people are always calling the shots no matter who gets elected. And seeing former Mayor Larry Lefebre running the show last week certainly didn’t make me feel any better about it I will tell you that. Lefebre is the current personnel director in city hall.
The housing authority, inspectional services, the water department, DPW, the police department, the licensing department, the planning board, engineering, the tax office, the council on aging, the personnel office, the tobacco control office, the airport commission, the school department….they were all represented at this little money making event. Now, some may argue that all of these city workers just happen to like Mike Sullivan and think he would be a good mayor. My question is, a good mayor for whom, the tax payers or the political hacks? I know I don’t have to rehash for my faithful readers all of the raises and promotions Patty Dowling has given out to campaign supporters over the last four years.
But for those of you who need more proof, consider this; according to the mayor’s own campaign finance report filed with the secretary of state’s office, Earl Flansberg donated more than a thousand dollars to Mayor Dowling’s campaign account. What a coincidence that he just happened to get all three contracts to build the new Lawrence high school and two new grammar schools totaling millions of dollars in profits. You couldn’t get better odds in Las Vegas if you were playing with a loaded deck and the dealer was your wife. But here in Lawrence we continue to defy the odds. And we continue to ignore what we know is best for the future for our community.
And please don’t tell me that this is the way it has always been and it’s no big deal. Because it is a big deal. Just drive around the city and look at the condition we are in after the greatest economy in American history. How did Lawrence benefit from such great economic growth with a $170 million dollar yearly budget? We didn’t. And the reasons are simple. The millions we receive go to political hacks, lawyers and consultants who contribute to the political campaign of the incumbent mayors. Kevin Sullivan did it, Mary Claire Kennedy did it and now Patty Dowling has done it. After what I saw last Saturday night it is pretty evident that Mike Sullivan is probably going to do it as well.
Allowing the political hacks and self anointed power players to buy off campaign support with our tax dollars has devastated our city thus far and will continue to devastate us as long we allow it to continue. We need to have confidence in our elected leaders to bid contracts fairly, treat city workers equally and dish out our tax money in the most effective way to serve the citizens. That doesn’t happen when hacks control the process.
So how do you stop it? The answer is easier than you think. Ask every candidate for office to refuse campaign contributions from city workers, people or businesses who profits from city services. Any candidate who accepts money from such individuals, just don’t vote for them.