“If you’re explaining, you’re losing,” according to a quip credited to Ronald Reagan.
For the Hollywood actor-turned-president, regarded as a master communicator, that meant delivering a straightforward message that voters could readily absorb without need for a lot of explanatory elaboration. But it probably applies even more so to an elected official who finds themself spending a lot of time addressing troubling questions instead of touting highlights of their record.
How she’ll fare in her looming reelection bid remains to be seen, but Boston City Councilor Kendra Lara was doing a lot of explaining this week.
Lara faces a litany of charges stemming from a late June incident in which she crashed a car into a house on a busy Jamaica Plain street. According to the charges against her, Lara had not had a valid driver’s license for 10 years when she careened off the road traveling more than 50 miles per hour – over twice the speed limit. Police say she was also driving an unregistered car and that her 7-year-old son, who suffered injuries requiring stitches, was not properly restrained in a car seat.
Lara faced a grilling this week from the Boston Globe editorial board, whose members presumably will weigh in over the coming days with an endorsement in the contest for the Jamaica Plain-based district seat, where Lara faces two challengers in next month’s preliminary election.
On what many might regard as the most eye-popping charge against her – that she has not had a valid driver’s license for 10 years – Lara’s explanation seemed to amount to, the RMV dog ate my homework.
Two Globe editorial writers, Abdallah Fayyad and Joan Vennochi, offer takes on Lara’s situation in today’s paper.
Fayyad says voters should judge Lara on her council record and policy positions, not her driving record. He also says nearly everyone “ventures outside the law at some point in their life,” asking readers whether they’ve ever texted while driving or had a beer in a park. The more important question in Lara’s case, he says, is what laws were broken and why?
Lara tells Vennochi it’s wrong to suggest she was driving for the entire decade she had no license, which was suspended in 2013 after she missed a court date in Connecticut where she was cited for a driving violation. Lara said her former husband did all the driving and she only began to drive after their divorce.
What’s more, Lara says she felt compelled to begin driving to transport her son, who has special needs, to school.
She produced records for the Globe showing that she began to try to have her license reinstated in 2021 after she decided to run for office. She showed a June 2021 “restoration notice” from Connecticut showing that she had paid her outstanding fine there. But she then faced several months of frustrating dealings with the Massachusetts RMV, saying her restoration notice from Connecticut was twice rejected because it was issued more than 30 days earlier.
“Ultimately, she got caught in a classic bureaucratic mess,” writes Fayyad, who suggests that’s the sort of fight with a “faceless bureaucracy” that most people can identify with.
Vennochi is less understanding. The months Lara spent fighting bureaucratic red tape “is certainly aggravating,” she writes. “Still, if everyone did what she did, the roads would be filled with unlicensed drivers.”
Meanwhile, Lara is navigating the awkward, diverging paths of trying to explain to voters, with a degree of contrition, what happened while also mounting an aggressive legal defense against the list of charges she faces. Those include negligent operation of a motor vehicle, operating a motor vehicle after suspension, and assault and battery on a child with injury.
She issued a statement after the crash saying, as “an elected official I have to hold myself to a higher standard and I intend to do so.” In court this week, however, her lawyer filed a motion seeking to have all the charges dismissed on the grounds that police did not give her a citation that is the foundation for all the charges “at the time and place of the offense.”
Prosecutors objected, saying more investigation was necessary before some charges were lodged and that “the seriousness of the defendant’s accident put her on notice of the likelihood of forthcoming citations.”
The next court date in the case is October 20. But the court of public opinion will render its first judgment five weeks earlier in the September 12 preliminary election. The top two finishers in the three-way District 6 contest will then advance to the November 7 final election.
Housing leeway: State officials tweaked regulations covering the MBTA Communities housing law that requires the 177 cities and towns served by the T to zone at least one area where denser, multi-family housing is allowed. Under the new rules, communities can include housing units in mixed-use buildings where commercial space is required on the ground to count toward the zoning mandate.
–While the new rules give communities more leeway as far as the kind of housing units that will count toward meeting the zoning requirement, the state also broadened the penalties cities and towns could face if they are not in compliance with the new law. Those communities were already not eligible for three major state grant programs. The state will now weigh compliance with the housing law in making awards from 13 other grant programs. Read more.
FROM AROUND THE WEB
Geocoding data links the leak of a letter alleging bullying and harassment by three Boston city council liberals to the street where City Council President Ed Flynn lives. “I didn’t leak anything,” Flynn said. “I didn’t send anything to any reporter.” (Boston Globe)
A new audit of Worcester claims there is too much parking space in the city’s downtown. (MassLive)
Brockton is considering a $55 million purchase of the 65-acre former fairgrounds site, which would require supermajority buy-in from city councilors to get loan approval. (The Enterprise of Brockton)
Nahant will soon launch a composting pilot program with trash bill rebates and compost starter kit reimbursements. (The Daily Item)
Overdose reversing drug Narcan will soon be available at every stop of the MBTA’s Red Line under a provision of the state budget Gov. Maura Healey signed earlier this month. (WBUR)
Healthy pay: Lots of Massachusetts hospital chief executives saw big income boosts in 2021, with the presidents of Mass General Brigham and Beth Israel Lahey Health each pulling in more than $5 million in total compensation. (Boston Globe)
Two years after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the plight of Afghan evacuees who have resettled in the US, including more than 2,000 in Massachusetts, is marked by uncertainty. Senate Republicans are blocking the bipartisan Afghan Adjustment Act sponsored by Rep. Seth Moulton of Salem, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for Afghan arrivals, many of whom worked with the US military or with democracy-promoting nonprofits before the fall of Kabul. (GBH News)
Former Bristol County sheriff Tom Hodgson will again chair Donald Trump’s Massachusetts campaign in 2024, says Stephanie Murray of The Messenger.
Backlash over two Facebook posts related to the Worcester City Council race is forcing the council to address social media practices by city employees. (Worcester Telegram)
A special election to fill a vacant seat on the Bellingham Select Board will pit two longtime public servants against one another. (MetroWest Daily News)
Longtime Beverly mayoral incumbent Mike Cahill is facing two first-time challengers, whose paths to victory rest on engaging a historically low-turnout electorate. (Salem News)
An adjustment to the state building code will allow all-gender multi-user restrooms to be permitted in public buildings by right. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)
Hadley planners are leery of pursuing a zoning change for a 232-unit complex near the University of Massachusetts. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)
Framingham expects, once again, that it will not have enough bus drivers for the new school year. (MetroWest Daily News)
The Worcester Telegram explains the state’s new electric vehicle rebate policy, which is touted as a step toward reducing Massachusetts’ carbon footprint to net zero by its self-imposed 2050 deadline.
An aerial survey of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument southeast of Cape Cod, just before the area will be completely closed to all commercial fishing, observed 737 animals on the surface. (Cape Cod Times)
A man who won an $8 million judgment against Worcester police officers for fabricating evidence against him still has not been paid. (MassLive)
The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism is launching a statewide news website dubbed HorizonMass that will be fueled by student interns. (HorizonMass)
The Associated Press announced new standards on artificial intelligence that ban the use of AI by its journalists to create “publishable content and images.” (Associated Press)