Opinion

The man in the middle

Lynn City Hall
The budget will be considered again at the next council meeting. (File photo)

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Lynn City Hall.

Lynn Ward 3 City Councilor Darren Cyr officially becomes council president Tuesday night barring any last-minute political maneuvering or change of heart on Cyr’s part. Cyr’s power as council president resides mainly in his ability to name his 10 colleagues to council committee chairmanships and to set the agenda for council meetings.

He will preside over council meetings, wield the gavel and his reign will not extend beyond the Council Chamber in City Hall. But the winds of political change buffeting Lynn this year are sure to blow through the chamber.

Elected city officials, including Cyr, are seeking reelection in a year likely to feature a bruising mayoral contest in Lynn. Prospective candidates have yet to draw the battle lines. But Cyr and his colleagues will certainly see mayoral contestants call on them for support and endorsements.

Cyr is going to have to decide how forcefully he wants to set a course for the council in 2017 even as he maneuvers through what, at some points during the year, may look like a political minefield.

Best known as a gravel-voiced East Lynn advocate for getting streets plowed in the winter and vacant homes boarded up and kept clean, Cyr is a political veteran about to undergo his biggest test.

Building new middle schools, spurring waterfront development into reality and putting the city’s finances in good order are dominant issues slated to come to the forefront of council discussions and political debates this year.

Cyr played an active role getting the new Marshall Middle School built in Ward 3. He did not shy away from talking to Brookline Street residents about the eminent domain takings required to make room for the new school.

But the local unity that preceded Marshall’s construction has been replaced by disagreement marking the debate over where to put a new Pickering.

If the middle school project or development become political footballs to the detriment of efforts to build new schools and bring new tax dollars to Lynn, Cyr is going to have to step well beyond the role of a ward councilor, even a council president, and become a consensus builder, even a statesman.

Can Cyr, politically speaking, find a higher gear and shift into it? He knows how to take a problem by the horns and wrestle it down. But he’s going to have to think big and he is going to have to listen to people he might not necessarily agree with in order to do what’s best for Lynn.

Will he be able to keep councilors focused on city spending concerns so that 2017 does not become a repeat of 2016 with its talk of debt exclusion votes, declining city bond ratings and budget cuts?

Cyr’s biggest challenge will be striking a balance between keeping the council focused on city needs and moderating political grandstanding by his most ambitious members. Is he truly a leader or just the loudest voice on the council?

If the Tuesday night council sessions become soap boxes for a successive round of political speeches, then the public will know that Cyr’s gavel blows are ringing hollow in a year when the voter is sure to hear a lot of noise.

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