Yup, it’s the scenario from hell for anyone who cares about the conditions of the City of Lawrence, how it affects the surrounding communities, and indeed the rest of the state. You know, the people paying all of Lawrence’s bills because they still can’t get their act together after 50 years of fake loan giveaways and state grants to pay for basic services.
On the one hand, we have incumbent Mayor Dan Rivera who has done yeoman’s work trying to repair some of the damage done to the city’s image under the Lantigua administration, but has an ego that acts like a brick wall to any real progress or new ideas. He also spent far too much mental energy on the city’s image and not enough on fixing the problems that caused that image.
He treats people badly, doesn’t keep his word, abuses his authority as mayor to settle scores, throws his police officers under the bus at every opportunity, refuses to settle police and fire contracts, and is incapable of transparency, or being open minded about … well, anything.
On the other hand we have… Willie Lantigua.
You see the problem.
A CHANGING TIDE
In many ways, Rivera has been a disappointment, but that may be our own fault. Perhaps we all had unrealistic expectations of him as someone above reproach, because we were comparing him to the “evil” Willie Lantigua.
Nevertheless, Rivera came into office four years ago with a tidal wave of good will and an unusual coalition of people from many different demographics willing to pitch in to help him make Lawrence better. He squandered that good will.
Today, many of those who were cheering for Rivera four years ago are either sitting on the sidelines, or publicly campaigning for Willie Lantigua. Part of the reason for that is the mayor’s inability to explain his reasons for the decisions he makes. This has left many to assume the worst political motives behind his actions. True or not, perception is reality.
Despite his many flaws, Rivera has done some really good things for Lawrence.
Under Rivera, Lawrence’s credit rating has gotten better…. not a lot better, but in Lawrence any improvement is welcome since the rest of us are paying the bills.
Rivera has hired 23 new police officers, and purchased 15 new cruisers. He also reopened the Bailey Street Fire Station and hired three new firefighters.
Lawrence has seen more than $200M in private business and residential development in the city over the last four years, and while the mayor can’t take credit for all of it, his administration had to work with each of those developers for each of those projects to move forward.
Rivera has also renovated and updated 22 baseball, and other fields throughout the city, though we are still waiting for the South Lawrence East Little League field.
Add to that 139 streets properly paved after four years of a Lantigua administration putting only a base coat on streets and touting them as being “repaved” which cost the city millions in additional repairs when they fell apart.
Granted, the funding for those road repairs came from state taxpayers (as usual) and our local reps had to fight for that money at The State House, still – Rivera deserves credit for pushing the issue and spearheading the effort to get the streets done and done correctly.
LANTIGUA STILL HAS IT
It’s an interesting side note that Rivera won his election against Lantigua four years ago because of the way Lantigua treated the Lawrence Police, but this year most of the police officers are supporting Lantigua. The Lawrence Patrolman’s Union even took a vote of no confidence in the mayor.
As for Lantigua, he’s a master. It’s fascinating to watch him in action while he campaigns throughout the city. Lawrence voters, in particular Dominican Lawrence voters treat him like he’s a rock star. They light up when they see him. He knows them by name and asks about their family members by name. He remembers whose mother is sick and the name of the grandchild having problems at the Arlington School. For sure, Lantigua has the “Dominican vote”.
His problem is trying to put together a wide enough coalition of other voting blocks to defeat the man who defeated him four years ago.
Lantigua has secured the support of all but one of the failed mayoral candidates (out of 9) and is visible knocking on doors every day. Talking to voters on Broadway and Common and Essex Streets every day.
PUBLIC SAFETY IS NO PRIORITY
What’s important to most people who live in Lawrence is public safety. Right now the public does not feel safe. No matter who wins the mayor’s race the police department will be the loser. So too, will be the people of Lawrence who innocently go about their lives afraid of being the next victim of the next shooting, or the next home invasion.
Make no mistake about it, Lantigua and Rivera are no friends of the police.
As mayor, Lantigua stripped the department down with 29 layoffs and multiple demotions. Rivera, as a councilor approved it.
As mayor, Rivera has been hostile to the police, micromanaging their every move and meddling in their investigations. Rivera can say that Comstat numbers prove crime is down in Lawrence, but then conceals those numbers from the press. This from a guy who promised transparency four years ago when running against Lantigua the first time.
On the other hand Willie Lantigua accused Lawrence firefighters of purposely setting fires to make him look bad, after he laid off 28 firefighters and closed two fire stations.
DESIGNED TO FAIL DESPITE GAINS MADE
To be fair, Lawrence has made some legitimate gains under both Dan Rivera and Willie Lantigua. Those gains should be recognized by both sides in this contest. They deserve the credit for the good things they have done. But, they also bear the burden of responsibility for the things they have done wrong, or most importantly, what they have failed to do.
Either way, Lawrence continues to be the biggest money scam the world has ever seen. The city gets grants and other funding from the state and federal government to pay for municipal operations. [Nearly 80% of Lawrence’s budget comes from the state.]
If Lawrence over-spends and goes into debt, the state floats the city a loan. The following year, the state increases Lawrence’s funding so that Lawrence can take that state taxpayer money, and use it to pay back the loan they owe to … the state taxpayers. It’s the biggest Ponzi Scheme ever.
So you see, it doesn’t really matter who wins Lawrence’s election on November 7th. Lawrence is designed to be perpetually dependent upon state and outside funding through a failed system that has led Lawrence’s chance of success to be … right where it is today.
A real leader for Lawrence would be trying to break that cycle of failure, and be willing to make political enemies by doing real things to really change it.
If only there was a leader like that in Lawrence.
Instead, Lawrence has one guy looking for redemption, and another guy looking to run for congress.