Back in the spring of 2009, the Lowell School Committee was contemplating budget cuts. During the public comment portion of a school committee budget session, one individual – I believe it was a teacher – was speaking critically of the cuts. While she spoke, most of the members of the school committee, one-by-one, sauntered into the cloakroom adjacent to the city council chamber. They remained there until that speaker finished. Shortly thereafter, a private citizen approached the microphone. Her name was Alison Laraba. Outside of her circle of friends, acquaintances and co-workers, few in the city knew her. In her remarks that night, she chastised the school committee for the rude, disrespectful behavior they exhibited towards the previous speaker. After that, everyone knew who Alison Laraba was. That fall, she ran for the Lowell School Committee, the sole challenger that year, and she won a seat with 22-year incumbent Regina Faticanti losing. Alison served one term on the school committee, failing to win re-election in 2011. She still lives in Lowell and is still active as was fully evident last night when she registered to speak. At the microphone last night, she delivered the following remarks which she shared with me (at my request) this morning:
There was a time when every student learned about their civic responsibility in the classroom. The importance of voting and being engaged in government at all levels was impressed upon them at an early age as they learned about the struggles of women and minorities to obtain the right to vote which had been guaranteed to all men of property in the Constitution. In an age where voter turnout is…..poor –we need to show people that their vote matters, that their involvement matters and that their elected officials listen to them and act in the best interest of the majority-not the minority. Sadly this current council has seen failure on all three counts. In the short time since your inauguration your main topics of discussion have been:
-The placement of a manger-I won’t even discuss the separation of church and state aspect-but I believe that time would have been better spent having multiple discussions on public safety and the placement of more police officers on the street. That is an issue that affects every resident of the city.
-A portrait-I don’t care if you’re offended by a portrait-I would like you to be offended about the increasing drug problem in our city and the violence that accompanies it. And instead of wasting time being vindictive about where you will place said portrait or establishing guidelines about future portraits-how about discussing ways to combat that drug problem. That is an issue that affects every resident of the city.
-The city manager’s ability to make appointments-it’s simple-either he can or he can’t. But the farce that was last week’s dealings with the manager’s appointments was offensive on many levels. As a woman it did not escape my notice that two men breezed through the confirmation process while the lone female candidate was “tabled”. As a person born in this country I noted that the person who made a conscientious decision to become an American citizen was rebuffed. In a time where we are supposed to be judging people on their individual merit, not their connections, I learned that some members of this council have not caught up with the times and a qualified candidate was dismissed because of who she was married to. If this action was meant as a slap in the face to the city manager-it wasn’t, if it was meant as a slap in the face to “evil” blogger Jack Mitchell-it wasn’t, if it was meant as a slap in the face to Salmira Mitchell-it wasn’t. When a city councilor acts in a manner that fits their own personal agenda and not the best interest of the city and admits as much on the radio-that people- is a slap in the face to every voter and resident of this city and I find that the most offensive thing of all.
It is time for this council to put on their big boy, and girl, pants-stop the pettiness and vindictive rhetoric and get to work-you have a city manager to hire-hopefully a professional one not a political one, a city auditor to hire, a budget to approve, taxes to hold down, and public safety issues to address-people have been shot-I know of at least one home that was invaded in broad daylight and this council has been quiet on that front. These are the issues that affect all the residents of Lowell and it is past time for this body to get to work on the business of the people.