By: Kathy Runge – Sept. 2016

The City Council needs an official summer schedule. I said this last month but it’s so important I have to say it again. Both the councilors and public deserve to know when the council will meet during July and August. How’s a responsible councilor supposed to plan their summer vacation? The same thing for the committee meetings. It shouldn’t be a question as to when they are held, the only question should be whether there is any business for them to consider or not; if not, then cancel the meeting. Otherwise have it on a regular schedule.

That being said, if you want to be a city councilor you shouldn’t take month long vacations. You need to be here for the city. Councilor at Large DePena missed the July and August council meetings. He did manage to show up at the special meeting in between these, held to accept Councilor Almonte’s resignation.

District E Councilor Dave Abdoo gets kudos for driving back from his vacation at the beach to attend the August meeting. Way to go!

It was good to see Councilor at Large Nilka Alvarez Rodriguez at that meeting. She looked great, much better than she did this past spring. I hope her good health continues. We need all nine councilors.

We have a new District A Councilor, Myra Ortiz, who ran for the office in 2015 and accepted the position after Councilor Almonte resigned last month. Welcome, Myra!

At the August meeting there were many speakers complaining about the prevalence of drug use in the streets and parks of the city and how it negatively impacts their lives. They were speaking in support of an ordinance outlawing the use and sale of synthetic marijuana, which passed.

Lawrence has many wonderful events, including Ciclovia, and a Jazz Festival last month. But these feel good events really don’t count for much if the music is obnoxiously loud. You probably don’t care about them if there’s a gang hangout next door to you or the alleyway behind your house is used as a shooting gallery / restroom. We have to concentrate on these problems if we want to make Lawrence better.

A few months ago I read an article in which one of the problems young Hispanics from Lawrence mentioned was the “barriers to learning English.” Ever since then I’ve been wondering what those barriers are. For the life of me, the main barrier to learning English, I can see, is that the entire city speaks Spanish, almost all of the store signs downtown are in Spanish, and people are encouraged to speak the Spanish language.

It’s too easy to survive in Lawrence speaking only Spanish. When I voted in the primary election this past March, a Hispanic women was in line in front of me when I was at the check-in table. She was speaking English. One poll worker was Hispanic and she immediately started speaking Spanish to the woman. That was it for the English language. Behavior like this, in my opinion, is a barrier to learning English.

Northern Essex Community College is offering free online English classes starting in October for people who want to improve their English proficiency. Where are the free Spanish classes for non-Spanish speakers? We’re the minority here. We’re the ones who can’t understand 80% of the conversations in this city.

I’ve tried Rosetta Stone and it’s not that easy. It would be very beneficial for the adult non-Spanish speakers to have an option for learning Spanish other than taking a class in a traditional college setting.

Don’t forget to vote in the primary election on Thursday, September 8. Losing candidates, please take your signs down!