For Lara, a lot of explaining
Embattled Boston city councilor faces reckoning over driving
“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.
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.
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.