EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

September 16, 2013

Fewer candidates want to run for "powerless" office

Lawrence votes for first School Committee under receivership

LAWRENCE — It’s hard to find a compelling campaign issue in this year’s city elections for School Committee — at least one that will distinguish each of the candidates.

Then again, fewer candidates are interested in running for an elective office that’s been stripped of its authority.

This will be the first election since the state took over Lawrence Public Schools in late November 2011. That creates an unprecedented situation where the school committee won’t have any direct involvement in voting on the budget or setting school district policy. It lost those governance powers under receivership.

With just seven announced candidates for the six district School Committee seats, the options will be extremely limited for voters, particularly in the three districts where incumbent candidates Pavel M. Payano (District C), Milquicided Santos (District B) and James R. Blatchford (District F) are all running uncontested on tomorrow’s preliminary election ballot.

There are five candidates for mayor, who chairs the seven-member committee.

Interest in the School Committee is worse than two years ago when nine candidates campaigned for office and three of the races were contested. Four years ago, there were 12 candidates with competition in three of the races.

Voters in District A won’t have a choice on the ballot. “I feel useless on that committee,” the incumbent committee member James Vittorioso said of his decision not seek another term.

But, Community activist Myra Ortiz last week began a write-in campaign for the District A committee seat. No names will appear on the ballot for the seat and Ortiz can take it only if at least 50 voters write in her name.

“Without someone representing my neighbors or myself, who do we go to when we have a problem or a concern about our child’s education?” Ortiz said about why she’s started the write-in campaign.

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