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August 26, 2013

In state's poorest city, job creation agency hasmet twice in two years


More recently, a decade ago, the LRA acquired a former railroad station from the MBTA and sold it to New Balance, providing the sporting goods company with the space to build the parking lot it needed to stay in the city. In 2009, the LRA obtained federal stimulus money to demolish the Truell Building on Essex Street, a once-ornate retail center and function hall in the heart of downtown that became an abandoned eyesore over its last decade.

The LRA’s list of accomplishments has dwindled since then, to nothing so far this year.

It hasn’t met at all in 2013 and most of its few agendas from 2012 have the words “no quorum” or “canceled” scrawled across them.

Part of the problem is that Mayor Lantigua, like earlier mayors, has been lax about filling the seats on the authority’s board as they become empty and working proactively with the board’s membership, critics say. Mayors fill four of the five seats on the LRA’s board. The governor fills the fifth.

Two of its seats have been empty for more than two years, meaning that if one member calls in sick, the authority loses its quorum and can’t conduct business.

Earlier this month, Lantigua nominated Jimmy Miranda, who describes himself in his application for the seat as a “clinical liaison” at a treatment center for troubled girls, to fill one of the vacancies. The three incumbents also are Lantigua appointees, including Joel Chalas, a public works foreman who is one of Lantigua’s political foot soldiers. The fifth seat, formerly held by City Councilor Marc Laplante, who was appointed by former Gov. Jane Swift, is empty.

“Oftentimes, I’d sit there with one member, waiting,” said Laplante, who served on the LRA from 2002 to 2011 and chaired it for his last year. He said he stepped down after Lantigua appointed another city councilor, Estela Reyes, to the authority, concerned it had become top-heavy with councilors.

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