LYNN — Candidates for councilor-at-large engaged in a heated debate sponsored by the New Lynn Coalition at the Lynn Housing Authority Tuesday night. Six of the eight candidates discussed wage-theft, inclusionary zoning for affordable housing, and Lynn as a potential sanctuary city.
A crowded room of Lynn residents with concerning questions, most of which are a part of local unions and community organizations, heard from Brian Field, Jaime Figueroa, John Ladd, Brian LaPierre, Hong Net, and Taso Nikolakopoulos. Buzzy Button and Richard Ford had prior commitments.
The debate’s moderator, Elisabeth Daly, informed the candidates of their strictly-timed responses before asking the first question regarding whether they agree with putting the possibility of a sanctuary city on Lynn’s November ballot, just as neighboring city Salem has.
“The issue is a balance between public safety and morality,” said Figueroa. “It’s a matter where there should be a referendum on the ballot and let the people decide.”
Net noted that we live side by side as a community and should let the residents decide, while Nikolakopoulos echoed that by saying he wants to listen to the views of our residents because that is what legislators do, concluding there should be a referendum because the residents are the voice.
Ladd, who noted that this topic is not as black and white as it made out to be, does not believe Lynn should become a sanctuary city at this time due to the potential federal funding losses that would detriment Lynn’s debt even more. LaPierre agreed and also suggested there should be more in-depth conversations about it before it is put onto any voting ballot.
Field expressed the same concerns as Ladd and LaPierre while emphasizing the current strain on Lynn’s finances and law enforcement.
The second question prompted the deep concerns of wage-theft in the city of Lynn, with all candidates unanimously appalled upon finding out there are 50 businesses in the city of Lynn found guilty of wage-theft in 2017. The candidates all agreed there should be an Anti-Wage Theft ordinance for the city of Lynn.
“I absolutely agree with a wage-theft ordinance including a monetary punishment,” said Ladd. “Theft is theft and you should be out of business.”
LaPierre and Net couldn’t agree with their colleagues any more on the atrocity of Lynn employers behaving this way and promised to do whatever in their power to eliminate it.
Nikolakopoulos, who was appalled in finding out that 50 Lynn businesses had been found guilty of wage-theft this year, agreed that something should be done, but he couldn’t support an ordinance that was not written in front of him yet.
Field and Figueroa agreed this was abuse by employer to employee and that if each were elected, this is something that would be eradicated in the city of Lynn.
“If this is something that is happening in our city then it’s embarrassing,” said Field.
The final question regarding an inclusionary zoning ordinance for affordable housing was the biggest divider among the candidates. LaPierre, Net, Field, and Figueroa all agreed an inclusionary zoning ordinance should be passed.
LaPierre noted that Lynn has the cheapest rent among surrounding North Shore communities, yet it’s still too expensive.
“It’s way too expensive in all of the communities and many of you in this audience are being priced out of Lynn,” LaPierre said.
Net, who wholeheartedly supports the inclusionary zoning ordinance, agreed with the majority of his colleagues.
“Before we approve any developer we have to make sure affordable housing is included,” Net said.
Ladd, who has a background in real estate, argued Lynn needs to focus on commercial development because the city can’t fund affordable housing with its $8 million debt. Nikolakopoulos agreed, while emphasizing we need to get more creative.
“I want to update zoning to empower generations through innovation and trade,” said Nikolakopoulos. “We need to bring $25-$30 an hour jobs through training.”
Even with all of the heated disagreements, the debate ended with two residents singing a song about freedom that left each candidate as a unified team, holding hands to show how Lynn remains united.