The Jamaica Plain Progressives have endorsed our current District 6 councilor, Kendra Lara, for re-election. Read our Steering Committee Endorsement Recommendation below.
Our Steering Committee Endorsement Recommendation
After deep listening and reflection on this complex decision, the JPP steering committee is recommending that our members vote to endorse Kendra Lara for D6 City Councilor. We came to this decision after much discussion and discourse, and we believe she is the best choice to represent our progressive priorities in this race.
Looking at our endorsement criteria on their own, our current councilor’s work this past term has clearly and effectively met the expectations on this list. The allegations surrounding her recent car accident, however, have been a salient reason that this re-endorsement merited serious consideration, so we must first address these. We ultimately believe that Councilor Lara understands the gravity of the mistakes she made and has expressed to us appropriate remorse, and we are trusting in her commitment to making amends.
The Steering Committee did not come to this decision lightly: Over the past two months, we have listened for many hours to the many thoughts and opinions of our members, our JP neighbors, our partners, our spouses, and our friends. We understand many are disappointed and angry and wanted a better explanation than they feel they’ve been given by Councilor Lara. They are questioning whether their trust in the Councilor was well placed. We understand and share these concerns.
It has been a challenge to sort through various media reports and the Councilor’s imprecise statements to understand what really happened and what she should be held accountable for: An accident? Driving without a license? Driving an uninsured vehicle? Not persevering through the RMV bureaucracies of two states? Driving 30 miles over the speed limit? We have heard the frustration expressed by JP voters about the lack of clear communication from Councilor Lara about the charges. We have also come to know that Councilor Lara was advised by her lawyer not to speak publicly, and we have felt this has severely hampered her ability to provide the details we have all been searching for. (We have offered her this feedback ourselves).
With time, some details have started to emerge about some of these matters. The recent article in the Globe corroborates that Councilor Lara took the required steps back in 2021, prior to joining the City Council, to have her suspension lifted by the state of Connecticut. The article also cites proof that she twice filed the necessary paperwork with the Massachusetts RMV in 2022 to have her license reinstated with no response, and later the suspension was lifted after she filed a third time, following the accident. We have also heard that Councilor Lara’s former husband, not Councilor Lara, drove their family, including their autistic son, to appointments and events for most of the time that the Councilor’s license was suspended—until their separation two years ago. The Councilor has reported that the car, which belonged to a friend, was insured and that she has been in touch with the constituent whose property was damaged so a claim can be filed. This is important to us because we know that our JP neighbors care deeply about each other and people want to know that the homeowner will be compensated appropriately for the damage. There are additional details that we hope are forthcoming and which will further allow consideration for the situation beyond what was initially reported. For example, objective data about the car’s actual speed prior to the accident would be be worthwhile. **It remains important to note that the police estimate of speed is in dispute and such data would shine a more objective light on the claims made.** Sharing these considerations and details is not meant to provide excuses or suggest that Councilor Lara didn’t make mistakes, but to illustrate that reporting may not yet be complete. At the end of the day, the question we are asking ourselves is whether Councilor Lara is worthy of our trust and if her transgressions are worthy of our compassion, our forgiveness, and our offered trust for another term. We are also asking ourselves if we believe she can still be effective in her role as a City Councilor.
EDITED TO ADD: Since the time of this statement, Councilor Lara has released a report on the information retrieved from the car’s event data recorder by The Crash Lab, an accident reconstructionist company. Using data from the car’s black box, the company found that the councilor was only driving 27 miles per hour and not the 53+ mph estimated by the police.
We believe the answer to these questions is yes. We are choosing to trust that further details will be sympathetic to the councilor’s situation. We are choosing to trust in the regret she has expressed and that she will correct her mistakes with humility and hard work.
So now, what is our affirmative case for Kendra Lara continuing to serve as our District 6 City Councilor? This starts with the critical role she plays on the Council as an effective leader promoting progressive policies for the issues we care most about. D6 residents and our own members have made clear that their top priority is affordable housing. As Chair of the City Council’s Housing and Community Development Committee, Councilor Lara has played an important role in advancing the home rule petition on rent stabilization through the council. She has also worked hard on the newly approved policy to improve the inclusionary development policy by both increasing the percentage of income-restricted housing for new developments to 20% and deepening the affordability requirements to better reflect Boston’s actual median income. This policy change alone could produce thousands of additional units of affordable housing for our city. She has been a vocal advocate for rights of immigrants, LGBTQ+ people, and seniors, showing that she understands and is responsive to the needs of constituents across the entire district—from the Latin Quarter of Jamaica Plain to West Roxbury, which has the highest population of elderly residents in the City.
At the local level, she fights for budget investments and advocates for justice across the district. Councilor Lara has been present and standing along constituents at rallies in defense of the tenants at the Forbes building or on the Arborway Yard Project. She also has brought funds back to the district for local schools and libraries ($22 million for the Egleston Square Library and nearly $5 million more for all the schools of the district). You can read a summary of her budget and policy accomplishments in her 2022 Year in Review.
We also feel that she has been more focused on consensus-building than one would think given the current dominant media narrative of a dysfunctional Boston City Council. She has collaborated with Councilor Frank Baker, who is frequently described as the most conservative member of Council, as well as former Councilor Kenzie Bok, to channel COVID recovery funds to create a composting infrastructure and jobs for Boston residents. She has collaborated with Michael Flaherty, another more conservative councilor, on a home rule petition to restore governmentally involved housing protections aimed at saving nearly 150 elderly and disabled low-income tenants of the Forbes building on Centre Street from eviction.
Finally, and importantly, Kendra is deeply of the district. She is the first woman and person of color to represent District 6, which is home to one of the city’s largest Dominican and LatinX communities. A particularly powerful moment at the JPP Community Conversation was when a long-time JP activist spoke about first meeting Kendra when she was 14 years old, already organizing through Spontaneous Celebrations. The community member spoke about her trust and faith in Kendra’s core values as well as Kendra’s commitment to centering the most vulnerable members of our district because of her deep personal connections. In addition to Kendra’s early years at Spontaneous Celebrations and as a student at the Curley School, she served as an organizer with Hyde Square Task Force and later was the youngest streetworker in the City’s violence interruption program. It’s this lived experience that has led her to fight so hard for increases in funding for youth jobs, securing $6 million for this program because she knows what it meant to her personal growth and how important it is to preventing youth violence. Her significant first-hand experience and deep commitment to the needs of the district’s most marginalized communities is unique, particularly when contrasted with the other candidates for the D6 seat. We believe that the representation of these constituents will be adversely impacted if Councilor Lara is not reelected.
Many people in our district have known Councilor Lara for most of her life, and they have expressed that this body of work is causing them to stick with her. This faith in her has factored heavily into our decision to trust Kendra at this juncture and to want to see her fulfill her commitment to a restorative process. We hope you will join us in standing by Councilor Lara for a second chance and a second term so she can continue the important work she started in her first term. She is a tireless advocate for the policies that will create a district and a livable, vibrant city that reflects the values we care deeply about.
Preliminary Election this Tuesday, Sept 12
Don’t forget to vote THIS TUESDAY, September 12 — unless you’ve already voted early!
To check your polling location, go to https://www.sec.state.ma.us/WhereDoIVoteMA/WhereDoIVote.
While redistricting efforts don’t appear to have changed any JP polling assignments, it never hurts to check! Polling locations will be open from 7 am to 8 pm.