Robbing Peter to Pay Paul: the Lawrence RMV Move

RMVBy: Oscar Camargo – December, 2014

Whether you like it or not, the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) in South Lawrence is moving. The lifeblood of one community will be diverted to another with the hope that it’ll be revitalized. The goal, as envisioned by Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera, is to promote economic development in the business district concentrated along Essex Street and Broadway.

Despite the pleas from residents and business owners, the message is clear: Take your medicine. It’s a bit of tough love that, if successful, will transform the area for the better. But the fear from many is that Lawrence is simply robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Can you blame them?

Leaders are able to articulate a vision for the future, make compelling arguments, and are inclusive. The Mayor and the state’s Department of Transportation have done a decent job explaining the benefits of moving the RMV, but they’ve failed to explain how South Lawrence will survive after the move. Why else would five thousand people sign a petition in protest of the move if they didn’t feel included in the process?

These concerns are real and you’d be remiss if you ignored them. The fear in South Lawrence is that there isn’t a viable post-RMV plan. If there is, then it hasn’t been articulated as well as the move. In the end, we’re left with one portion of Lawrence hopeful for the future and another worried about its prospects. Moving forward, this vision ought to account for those who’ll be left behind.

Oscar Camargo can be reached at or follow him on Twitter at @followcamargo.