On Monday, January 6 Representative Sánchez addressed a packed audience at Lawrence High School in a congratulatory speech to the Lawrence City Council, Lawrence School Committee, and Greater Lawrence Technical School Committee. In his speech he stressed the importance of partnerships and collaboration in the new economy and highlighted many of the City's accomplishments, including:
- 37.5% of businesses are owned by Latinos compared to 3.3% in Massachusetts
- 39.7% of business are owned by women, compared to the rate of 29.8% in Mass
- 20.4% are owned by Blacks v. 3.4% in Massachusetts as a whole
- In November, Standard & Poors upgraded the credit rating to A, menaing it would be cheaper for Lawrence to borrow money for capital project
- The opening 62 units of affordable housing at Malden Mills
- MCAS scores are up, particularly in mathematics
- Graduation rates increased by 9 points to more than 61 percent
- Number of Level 1 schools — the state’s classification for schools that have met their performance goals — has tripled in the district in just two years.
- Dropout rates have decreased significantly from over 14% in 2006-2007 to just above 4% in 2013-2014 school year
Representative Sánchez ended the speech challenging the City Council to work with the mayor to focus on solutions instead of just challenges, "becuase if Lawrence comes with a unified voice, make no mistake about it: everyone will listen."
See below for a full text of the speech:
Let’s celebrate the new school committee and the new city council here in this great city of Lawrence. I am so honored to have the pleasure to address you here tonight as we inaugurate this Lawrence city council and school committee. Mr. Mayor, thank you. Mr. President, thank you. Members of the Council and the School Committee and those of the the Technical School Committee as well.
There are so many people that can be up here, and I’m just humbled. I’m humbled that you’ve invited me to share this moment with you today.
I’ve been a great admirer of this strong and vibrant community for so long. Given that my community, Jamaica Plain, and Lawrence, have certain similarities. First and foremost, we all love bachata and salsa. We also like corned beef and cabbage and we also like pasta. We also like kinich as well. Somos una comunidad diversa. We are a diverse community.
But even more so…when my mother came here from Washington heights, in the early 70s, Boston was a different place. Boston was considered a city in decline.
The industrial base had gone down, and communities were having a hard time. We arrived in a housing project that was a moth ball because the federal government wanted to tear it apart. And the state government and the local government were okay with that despite there being people coming in from the south: Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, and Cubans came into the city because there still was an agriculture and manufacturing base.
And I remember my mother was always organizing. She was, and still is, a big housing advocate. I remember when it came to putting together ideas and people together to bang on doors at the State House, it was the leaders here in Lawrence that she counted on. One in particular is Isabella Martes. You are the one woman who always sticks out to my mother. There were only a few Latinos who were banging on the doors of Governor Sargent and even Gov. Dukakis. But make no mistake about it, those voices were strong, and they were loud. They mad such a big impact. And it gave us much of us in my age group – and those that are here, and opportunity to see what happens when we put our minds together and work together.
Tonight I want to reflect with you on what makes this city of Lawrence so great, and to challenge you as you start this session today. I’m sure that you know all the statistics. I’m going to focus on the positive things that make you truly unique. You should feel great about your accomplishments. We have a saying in Spanish that goes, “You can’t cover the moon with your hand.” That’s because the sky is so vast. There is so much that we have to work on.
But one thing is true: the stars are aligned for Lawrence. You have the privilege of being one of the most diverse cities in the Commonwealth. In particular, the business community is a stunning example, and is the backbone of all business activity in the commonwealth.
38% of the businesses here are owned by Latinos compared to 3.3% in the Commonwealth.
39.7% of businesses are owned by women, compared to the rate of 29% throughout the state.
20.4% are owned by African Americans compared to 3.4% in the commonwealth as a whole.
People from all walks of life come to this city. It’s a city that welcomes everyone with open arms.
It has a history of attracting immigrants during times of vitriol. It is an example for not just the state but the nation. It is a city that makes people feel like they can make their life better. The revitalization of Lawrence is the revitalization of their own lives and is a common goal amongst all of you. This is just one of many things.
The accomplishments that you’ve made show that Lawrence is moving in a great direction. In November the credit agency Standard & Poors increased rating to A. That means it is going to be cheaper for Lawrence to borrow money for capital projects. That makes Lawrence even stronger. Look at this building that we’re in today: this is an example of the things that can come when we all work together. It reflects an improvement of the city’s management and reflects an improvement of everyone working together.
The 62 units of affordable housing down in Malden Mills show you’re taking care of middle income folks. And in terms of the education of this community, there are major improvements: your MCAS scores are up, particularly in mathematics. Your graduation rates have increased 9% to more than 61%. And the number of Level 1 schools, the state’s classification for those schools that have met performance goals, has tripled in past 2 years. Give yourselves a round of applause for these great statistics, because it’s just the beginning.
And with all of your hard work, it can get better. Not only that, your dropout rates have decreased significantly from over 14% in 2006-07 to just above 4% in 2013-14. Be proud of that.
From what we see on the outside, a lot of it has to do with your partnerships, which are the key to success. There are so many youth serving organizations that are working together to create educational and professional opportunities for youth and for families. Parents are now pursuing advanced degrees over at Northern Essex Community College, which established that beautiful campus in downtown Lawrence, which I saw a few weeks ago on a walkaround with Representative Moran. The legal services center is helping people who lack resources to access services. The small business development center has opened to foster the entrepreneurial spirit in this city. There’s just so much, and it reflects the partnerships that come from working together. It should be a model on what you can do when you collaborate.
It’s no secret that there have been some challenges. The closing of the Polartec factory in Malden Mills will present some challenges. But make no mistake about it: while the factory has been a pillar in the community (a major employer of immigrants, providing a living wages and benefits), Lawrence has an opportunity to capitalize on the changing economic landscape. The local economy is no longer centered on a single corporation or one single industry. We know that: all you have to do is walk down Essex Street. I know this because I went on a tour of Essex Street with Representative Moran. To see all those storefronts that had people and had business thriving, what do we do to support that backbone to ensure it grows more, and also at the same time capitalize on the strengths of the manufacturing economy base that you already have. And diversify the skilled manufacturing and building within this new technology-based economy. You folks will come up with those ideas, those solution, on how to help the people of Lawrence by leveraging your unique culture and experience to encourage growth in new technology-driven economy.
What we need to ask ourselves, is what are the barriers preventing the people of Lawrence from attracting businesses and accessing new jobs? How do we make sure the citizens have the capacity to meet the demands? How can we remove those barriers? And what are the solutions? What will we all do to agree on the solutions in a manner that exemplifies civility and respect for the offices we hold for an example for all of our citizens. Because right now, the campaigns are over. Yes we are entering a presidential campaign and a few other campaigns next year, but right now for all of you, it’s time to govern. As all of us at the state go into an election, all of you are going to be working with us during that time. And we want to make sure that our partnerships are strong with you, because they are key to positive outcomes. We have to make sure that we help struggling families build assets, escape poverty, build support networks so both current citizens and immigrants succeed. We need to empower the next generation of Lawrence residents.
The things that I’m talking about today are the same that are shared in cities like Boston and throughout the Commonwealth. This is an opportunity to build outside, to figure out where Lawrence fits in with the regional economy and solutions amongst each other. Make sure that you do not forget the power that your delegation has at the state level. My friends Representative Frank Moran, Representative Marcos Devers, Representative Diana DiZoglio, and Senator Barbara L'Italien. I first came into the State House in 2003 with the Senator and had the pleasure of working with her. The state is here to support you and find solutions. Your elected officials are here to understand what is going on so you can communicate effectively in the state house
There’s just so much to be proud of here tonight in Lawrence. And as this new City Council and School Committee are sworn in, let’s look forward to so much more. It’s an exciting time for all of us. We can focus on those challenges, but where are the solutions? What are the things we’re going to agree on? Because if Lawrence comes with a unified voice, make no mistake about it: everyone will listen. Because everyone knows that the stakes are high and the examples are great in this great city of Lawrence. You’re in a remarkable position to define the trajectory and I wish you all the best of luck. Thank you for the honor of being here.