LYNN — It appears to be a two-man race to replace Peter Capano on the City Council. The panel is expected to vote on its next Ward 6 councilor on Tuesday.
Capano stepped down from the City Council last month and was sworn in to the state legislature on Wednesday. He was elected in November to represent West Lynn and Nahant.
There are four candidates vying to replace him on the City Council, a position he held since 2005, but only two, Fred Hogan and Donald Castle, have garnered support from the panel.
Under City Charter rules, if a seat becomes open on the Council, the person who came in second gets the job. But since Capano ran unopposed in the last local election, the Council will choose his replacement by majority vote.
Hogan, a community activist, and Castle, assistant chief probation officer in Suffolk Superior Court, sat down with the Item in separate interviews on Thursday to outline why they believe they should be selected to represent Ward 6.
If appointed, Hogan or Castle would fill the seat until November’s election. No matter how the vote turns out, both plan kick off their campaigns later this month to run for a full term as Ward 6 councilor.
“I want to make Lynn better tomorrow than it was today,” said Hogan. “Lynn’s not a bad place. Lynn’s a good place, and we can always make it better. It’s how I feel. I hate when the city gets a bad rap.”
Hogan, a Lynn Classical High School graduate, has worked as a Grade 2 wastewater operator and site safety coordinator for the Lynn Wastewater Treatment Plant for 21 years and is one of the founding members, with Capano, of Lynn’s Stop the Violence Initiative.
He is quick to point out he’s not a politician, but rather describes himself as “a guy that just went out and did stuff,” and is now learning the political side of things. He has the support of Capano, whom he calls a long-time friend and mentor.
Hogan is currently an assistant football coach at Lynn Classical, and has coached football and basketball in the city for 25 years, including stints at Lynn English, Lynn Vocational Technical Institute, and Lynn Classical. However, he says he plans to give up coaching if he’s appointed to the Council.
“All the sports that I’ve done and giving up my time, to be able to put that towards your area and your city now is going to be the way I want to do it now,” he said. “Everyone always says to me, ‘Fred, you do so much for the city,’ but this is different. I can actually do more.”
He’s in favor of a new school in the ward to replace Pickering Middle School and a major problem he sees in Ward 6 is flooding. Two recent major rainstorms in a year’s time crippled the city and put a spotlight on its outdated drainage system.
Work is expected to begin this year on a 13-year, $200 million sewer replacement, or combined sewer outflows (CSO) project, which Hogan said is key to alleviating flooding, including Ward 6. Work will include 15 miles of new piping between West Lynn and the downtown areas.
He also wants to work to reduce crime in Ward 6, which includes continuing to get out the message of Stop the Violence to kids, an initiative he thinks is working.
“We’re not going to totally stop the violence, but if we save one or two kids, that’s one of our goals,” he said. “You get a kid to walk up to you and say coach, some of the stuff you said to me, I actually went the other way, and that actually makes you feel real good if a kid did something positive instead of something negative.”
“I envision Lynn where you can walk downtown or walk to the waterfront, kind of like a Pickering Wharf, and there’s things for kids to do — open space, nice shops, nice restaurants, water activities and a safe, clean environment,” Castle said. “I hopefully will see that in the not too near future.”
Castle, a lifelong Lynner and Lynn Classical graduate, has aspired to run for political office since he was in high school when his mother was personnel director for the city. He attended the University of Massachusetts Boston and the Massachusetts School of Law.
He’s in favor of a new middle school to replace Pickering, but said there has to be a better location than the last proposed sites and a more transparent process that involves the community.
Castle is the founding member of Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, a grassroots organization that helped defeat a $188 million plan for two middle schools last spring. He said the group’s major problem with the proposal was the site and environmental impact, and they never got their questions answered during the process.
“The children of Lynn deserve a new school,” Castle said. “The teachers deserve a new school … (but) we have to make sure we do it in a feasible, affordable way.”
If appointed to the Council, Castle said he would call for the panel to vote for a complete audit of the city finances, citing the projected $5 million budget gap for fiscal year 2020 after the city exhausted a $14 million loan through legislation this year to balance its FY18 and FY19 budgets.
He said the Council needs to exercise its power to ask the tough questions and initiate the audit.
“Whatever’s happening right now — they’re a lot of my friends and I support the mayor, I really do — it’s not having a big impact,” Castle said. “It’s not working. We’re in a $5 million deficit. We’re facing receivership. These are tough questions that people need to know.”
One of those questions, Castle said, would be why Lynn isn’t seeing the same economic growth he sees in nearby communities such as Revere and East Boston.
He said one reason could be the perception of Lynn. He said work needs to be done to make neighborhoods safe and clean. Castle has a family member who is an addict and has immersed himself in the opioid crisis.
“I think we need to send a signal and however we do it — do not come to Lynn to buy and sell drugs anymore,” Castle said. “We need to send that signal out there that we’re going to have a fully funded police and fire department and you’re going to get caught if you come to Lynn to buy and sell drugs. I think that directly relates to the building, the economy in Lynn. People are still hesitant and we need to shake that image by being aggressive on policing and aggressive on rehabilitation as well.”
Castle also cited flooding as one of the major issues in Ward 6, but said he has to become more knowledgeable on the subject.
Hogan is nervous but appears cautiously optimistic about the Council vote. He said he’s had some solid support from a lot of councilors he’s worked with over the years.
“It’s not there yet, but it’s getting there,” he said.
Castle has talked with councilors as well, but is not sure how the vote is going to play out, but he’s clear on one thing.
“I would prefer to be elected by the people of Ward 6, not appointed by politicians,” he said.
David Ellis, who serves on the Lynn Water and Sewer Commission board of commissioners and is a former city councilor, and Cinda Danh, once a legislative aide to former state Rep. Steven M. Walsh, have expressed interest in the post as well.