Opinion

LaPierre crosses the line

A sketch of a dollar sign

Lynn City Councilor at large Brian LaPierre knows how to represent unions. He knows how to win elections and, if Tuesday’s council committee meeting is any indication, he knows how to time travel.

For a few minutes during the discussion on spending money to build new public middle schools Tuesday evening, LaPierre took the council and its audience back to the 1950s when U.S. Sen. Joe McCarthy carved up reputations under the guise of asking important, intelligent questions.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and School Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham sat mere feet away from LaPierre as he directed these words to city attorney James Lamanna:

“There has been a rumor going around that somehow, some way, if you pass a bond of this nature, that the mayor or superintendent benefit monetarily (from) a bond like this. That is what people are asking. Does anyone in the city benefit from this bond being passed?”

In reply, Lamanna said Lynn students will benefit from the bond’s passage. “No salary increase will occur as a result of this bond.”

Reached by phone on Thursday, LaPierre said he subsequently apologized to Kennedy and Latham for his question. When asked to explain his “People are asking” remark, the councilor said three people brought the question to his attention. “I do regret asking it. I’m trying to close the books on it,” he said.

LaPierre probably could have asked a dozen probing and pertinent questions about the middle school project during Tuesday’s meeting. But the one that made the final cut for his choice of questions sounded like long-dead Joe McCarthy could have written it himself.

LaPierre is an educated and popular man capable of summarizing his position on issues and stating that position clearly. So why did he sling mud in the direction of two people who have all but staked their reputations on the construction of new middle schools?

Is there any reasonable-minded person, including Brian LaPierre, who thinks even for a minute that Judy Kennedy and Cathie Latham would approach their fellow Lynn residents with a tax-increase proposal that included a boost in their salaries?

Kennedy’s political future rests in part on how voters view the debt exclusion question. Latham is the architect and prime mover of the plan to get Marshall Middle School built. Her effort to repeat that success on behalf of Lynn’s students and future generations of students did not deserve to be tainted by LaPierre’s tawdry questioning.

Brian LaPierre is certainly aware of how much money Kennedy and the superintendent earn. Yet he publicly posed a question on Tuesday that sounded like, “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?”

LaPierre made sure Lamanna and anyone else listening knew he had researched the City Charter in an attempt to answer his own question. That statement was, at best, a clumsy effort by LaPierre to distance himself from the question. The notion that LaPierre — a man skilled in reading detailed labor contracts — does not have a working knowledge — if not a detailed knowledge — of the charter is preposterous.

LaPierre did himself a disservice as an elected city official and as a Lynn resident with his brief but pointed interrogation on Tuesday. In addition to the mayor and the superintendent, he also owes city residents an apology and, assuming he is running for reelection, he will have to wait until the fall to find out if they accept it.

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