Editorial | A troubling turn by a city councillor

The Boston City Council didn’t need another ding to its already battered reputation. But when District 6 Councillor Kendra Lara steered a borrowed automobile off the road and into the front porch of a Jamaica Plain home on June 30, she once again brought the body into a negative light.

Thankfully, Lara’s young child— who needed medical attention after the crash— is reportedly okay. But the incident raises troubling questions about Lara’s behavior, particularly since she was reportedly driving without a proper license and operating a car that was unregistered and uninsured. If true (the case is still pending a hearing), Lara should be held accountable, as any person in her constituency would be, in a court of law.

Aside from the immediate legal consequences, there are legitimate questions about whether this represents a pattern of scofflaw behavior by this councillor. If she has a habit of driving with a revoked license, this amounts to far more than a one-time lapse in judgement; it would speak to a sustained disdain for the rule of law and public safety, hardly the attributes one would hope for in an elected official in the city of Boston.

Last week, Council President Ed Flynn issued a stern rebuke of Lara and called for a review of the city’s oversight of the City Hall parking garage, where Lara would likely have parked when using her vehicle to get to work.

“The people of Boston deserve the highest standards of strong and ethical leadership,” Flynn said in a statement that also referenced Councillor Ricardo Arroyo, who was hit with an ethics violation for improperly representing his brother in a city-related lawsuit. “Moreover,” he added, “they want elected officials who show maturity, take responsibility as adults, and demonstrate the ability to follow the same basic rules and norms as the people they serve when placing us in positions of public trust.”

Flynn is spot-on with his critique. On July 8, Lara issued her own statement in which she offered “my sincerest apologies to everyone, especially the people of District 6. We are all accountable for our actions, and I am no different,” without making any specific reference to the crash or her past driving record or license status.

Individual council members shouldn’t have to wear the indignity of a colleague’s misdeeds. The majority of councillors adhere to the rules that govern the rest of us and conduct themselves with respect and professionalism. They should be furious with Lara – and with any councillor who embarrasses the body – for casting them in a negative light. When elected officials abuse their positions of power, their actions erode the public trust and make it harder to govern and attract new talent.

Voters will have an opportunity to send their own messages this September and November in the municipal elections. In Districts 5, 6, and 7, there are alternatives to the sitting councillors. District 3 voters will have a chance to select a new face to represent them. In the case of the four at-large seats on the council, voters will get to pick from eight men and women in a field that will include three incumbent names – Erin Murphy, Julia Mejia, and Ruthzee Louijeune – on the November 7 ballot.

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