Playing the race card in 2010

Is it time for City Councilor

Grisel Silva to resign?



By: Robert O’Koniewski, Esq., – March, 2010


Grisel Silva
Grisel Silva

Just how far Lawrence can sink has yet to be seen. The recent events surrounding Mayor Lantigua’s insistence on keeping, and then resigning from, his State Representative job certainly has enabled us to plunge to the bottom that much quicker. But I am confident that we still have more ground to cover at an accelerated pace as the state of our city government deteriorates at a steady clip, aided in considerable part by the ignorance of some our elected officials to blame it all on the so-called racist attitudes of the Mayor’s opponents.

It isn’t enough for these people that Lawrencians and taxpayers and legislators throughout the state may possess actual legitimate reasons for speaking out about the antics of the Mayor and his hired guns. No, for these people it’s all about being against the Mayor because he is a Latino who now possesses political power, much to the chagrin of the hating white folk.

Count City Councilor Grisel Silva as the most prominent and certainly most vocal amongst those who have resorted to playing the race card and blaming all this opposition on anti-Latino fervor. In particular, her deployment of the race card to describe the opposition to the Lawrence bailout legislation here, in other communities, and at the State House is an insult to any mature, free-thinking, responsible members in our society. Never mind that many Latinos in our city also have expressed their concerns about the direction the mayor seems to be taking our community.

News to Silva – the controversy has nothing to do with the Mayor’s ethnicity as a Dominican. The controversy does have everything to do with (pick one or any combination thereof): Lantigua said he would resign as State Representative when elected Mayor and he did not; a $35 million bailout from the state with very little state controls or oversight in a community that has never demonstrated an ability to manage its finances responsibly; Lantigua cannot bother to show up at the State House for the public hearing on the bailout legislation; Lantigua and his handlers have revealed no plan to address the growing $25 million deficit they say exists; four months since his election Lantigua has yet to hire a qualified Budget and Finance Director for the city; Lantigua seems to have problems following state law on any number of issues including who he hires and how; etc.

Silva managed to compound the matter further by insisting that there is nothing wrong with the Mayor ignoring the so-called white media and making his administration an all-Spanish, all-the-time affair. Never mind that, as Councilor Marc Laplante pointed out at the council table, anyone who calls the shots at the State House or Wall Street reads and listens to the English-speaking press.

I am always disgusted by a politician who cannot debate an issue based on the facts and merits of the matter. Silva cannot accept the fact that there is legitimate reason to question the behavior and motives of the mayor and his handlers. I’m not suggesting that there are no racists in the white and Latino communities. But using the race card as Silva has done does nothing but provoke a visceral reaction from the unsophisticated members of our city, again, white and Latino alike. The race card does nothing but drive a wedge further between the disparate elements of our community. There are many of us here who strive everyday to improve our community and demonstrate that ethnicity is not a factor in our support for or opposition to the policies promoted by any single politician.

I, for one, have stated numerous times that Mayor Lantigua should be given an opportunity to govern appropriately. But if he is going to depend upon “haters” like Grisel Silva who see things only in terms of white versus Latino, then his support within the community will dwindle accordingly. At that point he will lose all semblance of legitimacy as a mayor and community leader.

It is time for our city to be done with these haters. As a former supporter of Councilor Silva, I feel it is time for her to go – to resign immediately for the sake of our community. To continue on the path she is on will lead to her personal destruction and ultimately a further exacerbation of the tensions that exists in our community that we strive to eliminate.

When Silva had her criminal issues with the police and her husband, and people tried to help her (and her children) with housing, a job and an overall commitment from one human to another in desperate straits, were those Latino people or white people or just plain old Lawrencian people who were her friends? Just when, Grisel, did this become about whites hating Latinos, because if you really have always felt this way then you played a pretty good game taking advantage of the whites who really were your friends, or at least thought they were.

At this point, Silva should do herself and city a favor and just quit. Until that happens, we will not be able to get her hate-filled attitudes out of our political institutions where they serve no positive purpose. Until we get beyond the Latino or white designations and just look at ourselves as Lawrencians, we will never fully overcome the problems facing this community that are on a grander scale than white, brown, black, or otherwise.

Aside from the racist politics she employs, her inappropriate public behavior must not be overlooked. Whether it’s her screaming fits at public meetings, the public photos she posts on line or her countless run-ins with the law, it is clear Silva has done nothing but bring embarrassment to the City of Lawrence.

Council Watch 2010 – Heroes of the Month: The members of the Housing Committee – Marc Laplante, Modesto Maldonado, Dan Rivera, and Eileen Bernal – who refused to take up property disposition awards for applicants who could not even bother to show up for the committee meeting to promote their application. Goat of the Month: Need we say it – the aforementioned Silva for obvious reasons.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not offer my congratulations to District A Councilor Sandy Almonte-Rosado for successfully getting passed her first filing on the council – a “no parking” zone right in front of her mother’s house on Woodland Street. Nice job. Now, why don’t you focus on the growing gang presence on Prospect Hill or the deteriorating streets or the seeming increase in crime in the city?

 Robert O’Koniewski is an attorney in Boston, a former member of the Lawrence zoning board and is the former campaign manager for Marcos Devers. You can email him at: