We are Lawrence?


By: Peter Larocque – April, 2012

The response to an article in March’s Boston Magazine entitled, “Lawrence, MA: City of the Damned” by city politicians and community activist young and old has me scratching my head.

I do understand some of their reasoning, but in the end it is just more of the same, the blind leading the blind. As citizens of Lawrence, we should all know by now the statements made in the article; I will spare you a reiteration of them.

We also should be aware of the response to this article by Councilor at-Large Dan Rivera. There have been many editorials written in all the local papers concerning this one article including a video produced entitled, “We are Lawrence” available on Facebook, featuring some of Lawrence’s political and community activist who got together at a local restaurant to discuss a course of action to respond to the article.

Some of the remarks by those attending were; “the young people of Lawrence believe what they are told”, “the world is a better place outside of Lawrence”, “Lawrence students are upset and confused by what they are being told about their city”.

The action that was birthed from this meeting was the “We are Lawrence Rally” which took place at Pemberton Park on Tuesday afternoon March 13, 2012. This was followed by a march in Boston on March 21, 2012 in front of the offices of The Boston Magazine asking the magazine to write a follow up story that is more balanced with the positive progress of what is happening in Lawrence. I must ask the question, why did you march wearing masks?

 Before I give my reasoning behind my blind leading the blind statement, let me say that I applaud all those who participated in these “We are Lawrence Rallies and marches”!

I tip my hat to all of you and say good job! Citizens’ working together for a good common goal is always commendable!

But unfortunately the Mayor ruined your good intentions by giving an interview at the “We are Lawrence” rally in Lawrence. Mayor Lantigua said that the reason for all the negative articles written about him and the great City of Lawrence was due to racism! Then we wonder why our young people are upset and confused! This is what I am talking about when I say, “The blind are leading the blind!”

 The real reason why our young people of Lawrence are upset and confused is not because of all the negative press that the city receives. The reason for their confused state of mind is because of the mixed message they are constantly being bombarded with by the State’s and City’s Elected Officials.

On one hand they are told again and again that the city is improving and moving forward and that the city is making progress toward the goal of being self sufficient. Then, on the other hand before you can say, “self reliance and self governing” a politician’s hand goes out to receive another bailout of some kind.

 For example, Lawrence received $6,749,168 dollars from the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009 under the title of State Fiscal Stabilization so that teachers would not be laid off. Then the city was granted permission in 2010 to deficit borrow 24 Million dollars so that Police and Firemen would not be laid off.

After permission was granted, Police and Firemen were laid off anyways. Also with that permission to borrow, a State Overseer was appointed to Lawrence to oversee Lawrence’s City budget. Most recently, a State appointed Receiver/Superintendent came to Lawrence as a result of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Takeover of Lawrence’s Public Schools. This Takeover was due to an 81 page report by the DOE on the status of Lawrence’s Public Schools which highlighted the fact of a lack of Leadership and Direction given to the School Administration by Mayor Lantigua who also chairs the School Committee along with the other Members of the Lawrence School Committee.

 Now I ask? Where was the rally put on by Lawrence’s politicians and community activist when Lawrence politicians had their hands out to receive all this bailout money? Where was the rally put on by Lawrence’s politicians and community activist when Lawrence received its appointed Overseer? Where was the rally when Police Officers and Firemen were laid off?

Where was the rally put on by Lawrence’s politicians and community activist when Lawrence’s Public Schools were taken over and a Receiver/Superintendent was appointed? Where is the rally put on by Law rence’s politicians and community activist when Mayor Lantigua consistently uses the Race Card? Rallies are good for the purpose of bringing people together, but when used inconsistently and only when it fits into Beacon Hill’s Democratic Party’s political agenda, this is why our young people keep getting upset and confused.

Where is the rally put on by Lawrence’s politicians and community activist concerning that it is now 2012 and the recommendations put forth by citizens during the 2010 City Charter Review have been ignored! One of those recommendations was the removal of the Mayor as the Chairman of the School Committee. Would we be today where we are if that change was implemented? We will never know! Now I’m hearing that there are those who are calling for the State Police to now step in and takeover Lawrence’s Public Safety issues. If so, would there be a rally?

How much State intrusion do we want in Lawrence?

 A wonderful example of citizens coming together against what would seem as impossible odds, took place recently in Bridgeport, Connecticut. There the Public Schools of about 20,000 students were taken over by the Connecticut State Board of Education. Bridgeport had their elected School Board replaced by an appointed one by the State. Well that decision did not sit well with many parents and residents and they fought back with more than just marching carrying signs.

They took their fight all the way up to the Connecticut State Supreme Court! Eventually the court ruled that the State Education Officials violated the law when they dissolved Bridgeport’s elected school board in July and replaced it with an appointed board. The State’s highest court ruled that members of the dismissed board had not received any training, as required by state law, before the disbandment. The court ordered that the dismissed elected board be reinstated.

 Now imagine this happening in Lawrence? Impossible, because almost every elected politician (not including School Committee Members Jennifer Cooper and James Blatchford) who represent Lawrence has drunken the cool-aid made by Commissioner Chester and believes that the takeover was necessary! The only other elected official representing Lawrence who has consistently spoken against the takeover is State Representative Dave Torrisi!

I must call it like I see it! For this reason I feel compelled to support his re-election bid! Senator Barry Finegold, State Representative’s Marcos Devers and some time Republican Paul Adams, along with Lawrence’s Mayor and all the City Councilors are on board with the Takeover.

Let’s remember that this Takeover was orchestrated by the Democrat machine all the way from Boston, from the Governor on down. If anything is to be damned in Lawrence it should be their re-elections! I hold to my belief that Lawrence’s Schools didn’t need to be taken over; all they really needed was a good qualified Superintendent. I also still believe that this takeover is Unconstitutional!

 So in my humbled opinion, Lawrence’s Leaders are still doing the young people of Lawrence a grave disservice by continuing to send them the mixed message of, stand up for the progress in Lawrence and the Image of the city, while at the same time, blindly except every State intervention!

God Bless the City of Lawrence.