The State House Let Lawrence Down

And the $34million bandaid the State threw at it fell off fast


By: Karin Rhoton – September, 2012

Charlie Baker and Karin Rhoton
Charlie Baker and Karin Rhoton

The City of Lawrence has been put in a financial position that is untenable, and
the House Representatives has enabled the city to drift for many years. The Lantigua Administration has been reckless in its financial decisions and it is time to have someone with backbone to stand up for the citizens of Lawrence and take the city back.

Fire Chief Jack Bergeron recently spoke at the Colonial Heights Neighborhood Association and outlined the challenges the Lawrence Fire Department is currently facing. Because of the understaffing of the Massachusetts Firefighters Academy in Stow, the Chief can’t get new potential firefighters trained until next April. Two fire stations remain closed, fire apparatus is on its last legs and the stations are in disrepair. The Chief has had to apply for a federal public safety fire grant in order to avoid a layoff of Firefighters.

Police Chief John Romero was excited about the ability to hire a dozen new police officers. However, because the funding source for these officers comes from a federal grant that must be applied for annually, the city potentially must lay off all those officers after just one month of graduating the academy.

At the state level the amount of revenue that has been received by the City of Lawrence in the form of structured local aid has dropped dramatically. Much of the Merrimack Valley has seen these cuts in local aid over the past years, yet the cost of living continues to increase.

How did Lantigua and his accomplices allow this to happen? Why did the City ever get in the position of having to rely on federal funding in order to staff and operate the public safety instead of the general budget of the city? How come one-time funds are continually applied to multi-year needs?

At a local level the budget passed the City Council, but it was definitely not unanimous.

Councilor Marc Laplante voted against the budget because what was presented was not responsible to the safety of the citizens of Lawrence. The Mayor presented a budget that increased people’s taxes yet decreased their services. Councilor Laplante was also looking for a budget that added funding for additional police officers. Alternatively the budget passed because a majority of the city councilors and the mayor favored increasing taxes while public safety remained understaffed and a second priority.

The city continues to have financial issues, and the passed budget shows increasing property taxes is the answer. I disagree.

The answer should be to build the economy with good, solid long-standing businesses in all the empty space to gain revenue and also grow jobs. But why should anyone come and invest in Lawrence when the leadership has cared more about themselves than the city?
New leadership at City Hall and Beacon Hill is desperately needed. Bring in new people. Get things moving. Change the direction of this city and get Lawrence growing again.

Karin Rhoton is a former member of the North Andover School Committee and is a candidate for State Representative.