JEERS to flaring tempers among city officials and a mayoral misfire in Methuen.
Tensions are nothing new, especially as the city has weathered a series of budget problems and a calamitous contract with top officers in the Police Department. But the public discourse took a weird turn last week with the revelation that Mayor James Jajuga had called out a city councilor and sometimes critic, James McCarty, accusing him of breaking into City Clerk Jack Wilson’s office while Wilson was away on vacation.
Jajuga fired off an email addressed to City Council Chairwoman Jennifer Kannan which, according to staff writer Breanna Edelstein’s reporting asked her to “investigate the circumstances of what happened.” Jajuga copied McCarty, Wilson and City Solicitor Richard D’Agostino on the note which pointed to McCarty’s history of “abusive behavior” toward city officials. It also alluded to a possible sinister motive, noting the July 29 incident occurred at a time when the clerk was receiving nomination papers for candidates running for local office.
Well, upon further investigation — which clearly should have happened before he sent the email — Jajuga determined the staffer who thought McCarty was the one inside the clerk’s office had been mistaken. Turns out it was City Councilor Ryan Hamilton and a couple of filmmakers, whom Jajuga knew were inside the building, though there’s some dispute over whether he’d pointed them toward the clerk’s office as a place to visit.
So, the day after his first email, Jajuga sent another, this one apologizing. But he’d already stoked McCarty’s ire over being falsely accused. In his own email demanding a public apology from the mayor, McCarty referred to Jajuga’s accusation as “false and slanderous,” “willfully malicious” and smacking of “thuggery and intimidation.”
It’s not clear it was all that, though McCarty’s indignation is warranted. What is clear is that the mayor could and should have avoided this contretemps by asking more questions before leveling an accusation.
CHEERS to the latest piece of public art to grace the streets of Lawrence, this one a mural depicting a collection of diverse faces and an inspiring quote from Nelson Mandela about the power of education.
The colorful work replaces a worn painting on the side of Broadway Furniture, at Broadway and Bradford streets. It was the doing of Lawrence High art teacher Eric Allshouse, Lawrence High alumna Angely Cisneros and two other student artists, Andrew Messina and Judith Ovalle.
As Eagle-Tribune staff writer Bill Kirk reported last week, Allshouse got help from the Essex Arts Center and MassHire, which supports summer jobs for kids, to cover the cost of supplies and pay the young artists. The finished product features the faces of a Vietnamese nurse, Guatemalan man and Dominican high school student. It shows the flags of more than a dozen countries represented in the population of Lawrence, as well as an outline of the city’s skyline at dusk.
“This brings life to Lawrence,” David Landy, the building’s owner, told Kirk. “This will improve the area.”
Indeed, a glimpse of such a vibrant image of the city will improve the day of anyone who passes by it.
Finally, a JEERS to a driver hauling construction equipment who apparently missed a sign as he left downtown Lawrence last week and didn’t heed a warning about the 14-foot, 2-inch clearance on the Duck Bridge.
The excavator he was hauling for P. Gioioso & Sons on Monday afternoon thwacked the overhead beams of the bridge spanning the Merrimack River, causing up to $500,000 in damages. Once the broken beams were spotted the following day, the bridge was closed for a hurried repair.
The good news was the bridge could be reopened to vehicle traffic relatively quickly, by Thursday afternoon, though not without headaches for drivers trying to cross from one side of the river to the other.
There's also some solace to be found in the fact this appeared to be accidental. Police Chief Roy Vasque, who watched security footage from both sides of the bridge, said the driver clearly stops when he hears the excavator hit the supports and looks to see what's happened. But he apparently doesn’t find anything and keeps going. Vasque told reporter Kirk there was “no intent” to damage the bridge, and there likely won’t be any charges.
That’s fine and well, but a lot of traffic hassle — not to mention a half-million dollars in damages passed along to the contractor’s insurance company — could have been avoided with more caution at the outset.