Posted on July 23, 2013
LYNN — Ward 2 Councilor William Trahant and Ward 4 Councilor Richard Colucci have publicly offered their support in a decade-old battle to bring voting back to the Ford School.
“They have both said they supported it for the last couple of years but they’ve never really come out publicly,” said Highlands Coalition member Leslie Greenberg. “So this is a very big deal.”
Greenberg and a contingent of supporters will attend the second meeting of a Human Rights Commission subcommittee scheduled for today at 5:15 p.m., which is looking at the viability of bringing voting back to the Highlands area. In 2004 City Clerk Mary Audley moved the polling location from the Ford School to North Shore Community College and the Highlands Coalition has been fighting to bring it back up the hill ever since.
“I’ve been going to the coalition meetings,” said Colucci. “They have a lot of good points. It’s a hardship for some of them to have to go to the college.”
Colucci and Trahant each said they had never been opposed to voting at the Ford School, they simply followed the lead of City Clerk Mary Audley. According to her statement sent to Human Rights Commission Chairman Robert Tucker, the Massachusetts Office on Disability notified Audley in 2003 that 14 of the 15 polling locations were found to have at least one feature out of compliance with state accessibility laws. Audley had numerous meetings on the issue and gave each place time to come into compliance but the Ford School was among three locations that would need significant work to make it accessible.
“I know in the past the state would not certify it but if it needs work, we could probably get that done,” Trahant said. “I would speak in favor of it.”
Greenberg said the only reason that state’s Commission on Disabilities sided with the city was because many of the residents failed to file their complaints in a timely fashion. She called the relocation discriminatory because the Highlands neighborhood is comprised largely of low-income minorities.
In her statement Audley said, “I deny that any action of the part of the Election Commission has violated the individual rights of any member of the Highlands Coalition by making the process of voting onerous, burdensome or causing a hardship to their community.”
Audley said she will attend the hearing and she hopes this will finally bring the long battle to an end.
Greenberg said she is hoping the Commission will give a favorable report to the City Council so the council will vote on the issue once again. Greenberg said in the past the council has not supported the relocation effort but she is hoping Colucci and Trahant will weigh in her favor now.
“This could be really good for us,” she said.
The Human Rights Commission subcommittee meeting will be held today at 5:15 p.m. in room 302 in City Hall.