PAYING ATTENTION! WITH TOM DUGGAN
What do you do when you are a State Representative and a campaign contributor violates his liquor license (by letting people drink outside) at a political party?
Well, if you are Willie Lantigua and you’ve made your name in politics by race baiting, you stick with the game plan and go after anyone who tries to make you (or your supporters) comply with the law.
You see, last month Lawrence City Councilor Israel Reyes held a “City Hall Appreciation” party at Adams Cyber Café on Appleton Way. Nobody knows for sure who actually coordinated the party, or whose campaign funds paid for it, but when police showed up to complain about patrons drinking outdoors, it certainly looked as though Lantigua was firmly in charge.
First, Lantigua intervened when the police showed up to inform bar owner Rafael Guzman (who donated $150 to Lantigua’s campaign) that he was in violation of his liquor license. Shortly thereafter, the police left without forcing the bar owner to comply with the law.
Apparently, $150 goes a long way in the world of Lawrence politics.
Before it was all over, however, Lantigua began making accusations against Licensing Board Chairman Roger Twomey (who called in the complaint). “This is harassment and I’m not going to stand for it anymore,” Lantigua said. “This isn’t over. We have the same problem all the time with this guy. We know what he’s all about,” [here’s the kicker] “he only goes after certain people. ”
In Willie-speak “certain people” means Hispanics and “This isn’t over” means accusations of racism and personal attacks against Commissioner Twomey are on the way.
Just imagine the gall of this licensing commissioner. Doesn’t he know the rules apply to everyone but Willie and his pals? I mean, Mr. Guzman was only violating his liquor license and state laws. How dare anyone call him on the carpet for it? Doesn’t everyone know that Mr. Guzman is a Lantigua supporter? That he’s a Hispanic? Doesn’t that automatically exempt him from having to follow the law like everyone else?
Lantigua seems to think so.
Reached by phone after the event, Lantigua was predictably vague about the incident saying he had hired a lawyer and was “taking this all the way to the top.” When asked why he had hired a lawyer and what he had to do with Mr. Guzman’s liquor license, Lantigua replied, “My lawyer told me not to comment on this matter.” Asked for his lawyer’s name for a comment from him, Lantigua refused.
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
For his part, Licensing Board Chairman Twomey went above and beyond the call of duty to help Mr. Guzman stay out of trouble. Twomey visited Adams Cyber Cafe days before the party, warning Mr. Guzman’s manager not to let patrons bring alcohol outside the establishment anymore.
“He assured me it would not be a problem,” Twomey said. Asked why Lantigua had injected himself into the situation, Twomey was perplexed. “I don’t know, it’s Mr. Guzman who has to come before the Licensing Board for a hearing. We will see what the board wants to do. I’m keeping an open mind. This is really between Mr. Guzman and the Licensing Board.”
When asked what he believes the punishment should be for Mr. Guzman breaking the law, Commissioner Twomey said he wanted to wait until the hearing. “I want to hear what Mr. Guzman has to say and look at all the evidence before I can make that kind of judgement. It will really be up to the rest of the board. They can suspend his license, give him a warning, fine him, or revoke his license completely.”
Asked if he was looking to pull Guzman’s license, Twomey said “No,” adding, “I just want to comply with the law. I deal with everyone fairly.” But that won’t be good enough for our meddling State Representative who is itching to rally like-minded supporters around the phony banner of racism.
And you can bet he will be at the August 18th hearing with the usual race baiting malcontents whining about the evil white man and how victimized they are as minorities because Mr. Guzman can’t break the rules. They’ll pack the council chambers causing disruption (as is usually the case) all the while Lantigua orchestrates from the sidelines. But this time it won’t work.
Twomey may be white, (the only requirement for a Lantigua attack) but he is widely regarded as meticulously fair and extremely honest. So much so, that political insiders (who routinely think they can skirt the law because of who they are) have been putting pressure on Mayor Sullivan to get rid of him.
That’s a sure sign that Commissioner Twomey is above reproach.
And since his term on the board expires in 2006, you can bet he will long survive the political assaults of Willie Lantigua.
Speaking of survival, you might think Lantigua would be spending his time campaigning against Democrat Jose Santiago instead of launching personal attacks against Mr. Twomey to protect a campaign contributor.
Santiago has a clear advantage this year because he is running as a Democrat.
Lantigua is running as an Independent, though we all know he will swap back to Democrat once he wins.
With the majority of Lawrence voters historically voting Democrat straight down the ballot in a presidential year, and with the added bonus of “favorite son” John Kerry at the top of the ticket (remember Lantigua endorsed Howard Dean in the primary), Lantigua has a lot more to worry about than the liquor license of a political supporter. But don’t count him out!
Normally, the thought of another Democrat winning a State Rep. Seat would just make me ill. But this year, the phrase “State Representative Jose Santiago” is starting to have a pretty nice ring to it.
Otherwise you can bet Lawrence is in for a decades of corruption if Lantigua wins and gets closer to his ultimate goal of becoming mayor of Lawrence as a platform to run for President back in the Dominican Republic.