“Lynn, Lynn the city of sin, never go out the way you came in.”
A quote many know (I’ve even heard it said by people while in Texas) but very few understand the implications of. The rhyme actually highlights and further reinforces the negative reputation that Lynn unfortunately has. Is the reputation justified? There’s points to be made on both sides but either way it shouldn’t be something we celebrate.
Lynn is the birthplace of For The Culture so it’s near and dear to our hearts. Our mission is to inform, inspire, and engage Urban America and we believe that starts right here in the “City of Sin”. I’ve had the opportunity to get involved in a local political campaign and through that work I’ve learned very important (and sometimes terrifying) information about the city. I feel it’s my duty as a member of The Culture to share some of that. I know you’re busy, so for now I’ll just hip you on 3 critical areas you should be aware of:
Now over the past few months I’ve seen the word “gentrification” thrown out a lot about Lynn. I get why it’s easy to jump to that conclusion when you see an ad or article about “luxury” apartments going up downtown with rent prices that seem ridiculous. Now let me just say that everyone needs to pump the brakes a bit. Lynn is a lot closer to bottoming out than from having a gentrification problem. Let’s not worry about problems that aren’t problems yet.
This, by the way, isn’t just my opinion but rather an objective look at the facts—Lynn is always the target in conversations about “affordable” housing but if you actually look at the stats we’re doing more than our fair share: Lynn has over 35,000 affordable housing units (12% of which are even subsidized by the government) which is easily the highest number on the North Shore with Peabody at a distant second with only 22,000. For every article on facebook you see about “luxury” apartments you can rest assured that there are multiple affordable housing complexes that you aren’t hearing about. These numbers also don’t even include the disturbing amount of halfway homes that get forced onto Lynn with little to no oversight as to where they are located or how many there are. Another problem that should be discussed way before gentrification is on the table.
The push for some higher-rent housing in Lynn actually stems from the most serious issue at hand: the city is broke. Attracting individuals with higher incomes will help increase the tax base a bit but even if Lynn was gentrified overnight it wouldn’t get us out of the hole we’re currently in. The city is facing down a nearly $10M deficit with no easy answer for how to resolve it. The mayor has imposed some new taxes that help a bit but not nearly enough to tip the scales. The city government has been running on a bare bones budget for years now but even after doing that upcoming layoffs look to be inevitable. There’s a lot of urgency down at City Hall right now but unfortunately it may be too little too late.
So where do things go from here? Well either the city figures out a miraculous way to generate millions more dollars in revenue or (sometime in the next couple of years) we go into what is called receivership. Receivership is essentially when a government or other institution has to have a larger institution take over control of its finances most often due to bankruptcy. In this case it would be the state of Massachusetts taking over Lynn and would mean that all city contracts are nulled and pretty much everything regarding the city’s finances is renegotiated from square one. This definitely isn’t anyone’s ideal scenario but for context this is what happened to Chelsea a few years back and they’ve been able to get back on their feet for the most part. Sometimes you have to hit the bottom in order to bounce back up.
Some of you may already know all of this but my guess is that for most people this information is alarming. I know it was to me when I found out. But what made me more mad than the information itself is the fact that I had no clue any of this was going on. If the city is in such dire straits then how come no one was aware of it? The answer unfortunately lies with our elected representatives and the entire city government at large. None of this should have come as a surprise to anyone—multiple consultants have been used for over a decade to produce studies on the city and all of their findings highlighted Lynn’s financial risks and put forth recommendations on how to address them. Those recommendations weren’t pursued aggressively (or, more importantly, made aware to the public) so now, 10 years later, we sit in the very poor position the experts told us would be in.
While a lot of this seems negative (which it is) these are just the facts. However, whenever there is a tomorrow there is still hope. The presidential election last year (and subsequent antics of our man-child president) have catapulted politics into society’s attention more than it has been in recent memory. The timing is ideal because Lynn actually has an important election this November which could define the future of the city. There is going to be a heated race for Mayor between current Judy Kennedy and challenger Tom McGee but there are many hats in the ring for positions on the City Council and School Committee as well.
FTC isn’t here to tell you who to vote for but what we do stress is that you should actually vote and make an effort to inform yourself about the candidates beforehand. It may be tempting to tune out of politics altogether and at the national level you’re probably safe to do that, but please remember local politics can actually affect your day-to-day life way more than anything Trump tweets. So next time you’re scrolling through your newsfeed, instead of clicking “5 Best Celebrity Blah Blah Blah” try going to the page of one of the local candidates and see what they’re about. If Lynn is ever going to be known for more than just being the “City of Sin” then it starts with all of us actually starting to give a shit.