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July 25, 2013

Vacancies, expired terms hobble boards


“It just stalls the process for people,” said planner James Blatchford (his appointment expired Saturday). “When you have a business and you want to put up a sign, either you have to do it illegally or you have to wait. (Lantigua) has had four years to fill all the boards, not just the Planning Board. That’s just one of the things that mayors can do — have people involved on these local boards who are trying to improve the city.”

City Council President Frank Moran and Councilor Sandy Almonte, who chairs the council’s Personnel Committee, could not be reached yesterday.

“Many people may not realize how important these boards are to the city, whether they’re dealing with development, wetlands, signs,” said Councilor Marc Laplante, who resigned as one of the five members on the Lawrence Redevelopment Authority after Lantigua appointed another city councilor to the agency, which Laplante said made it top-heavy with councilors. “These are important decisions made by unelected individuals appointed by the mayor and approved by the council and if these positions remain unfilled, we are hamstringing progress in the city.”

Keeping a city’s boards and commissions up and running can be one of the most challenging tasks for any mayor given the numbers of appointments involved. Lawrence has more than a dozen of the agencies, which oversee everything from human rights to voting to the airport. Each has between three and seven members. The job is especially challenging in Lawrence, an intensely poor city with a large number of immigrants for whom civic duty is not always a priority. The task of filling seats on agencies such as the Licensing Board and the Board of Registrars is harder still because they must have bi-partisan membership. Only 6 percent of the city’s 37,000 registered voters are Republican.

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