LAWRENCE — City Councilor Daniel Rivera yesterday pledged to keep property taxes flat in his first year as mayor and said he would establish monthly police checks on major roads to help re-establish control over a city he said has become “an open market for drugs.”
In an hour-long interview that the Eagle-Tribune's editorial board scheduled after Mayor William Lantigua declined the newspaper's invitation to a debate, Rivera also pounded Lantigua for failing to attract jobs, improve schools and make the city safer and for blaming the indictments and scandals that have beset his administration on racism.
“If he just woke up to being an Hispanic male in this world, then I can understand his being surprised that he's going to come into some problems, that he's going to meet people that might not give him a fair break,” Rivera said, grabbing onto an issue that many politicians consider the third rail of politics. “But I go into these things knowing I have to work harder, I've got to be cleaner, I have to follow more of the rules to the letter, because I represent a community that has less, that in some circles is expected to do less.”
Rivera's mother is Dominican, as is Lantigua and his mother. Rivera's father is Puerto Rican.
Rivera, a two-term city councilor and the council's vice president, said Latinos living in Lawrence face a second challenge because of the city's perception as an impoverished, lawless place ruled by an indifferent mayor who portrays himself as a victim.
“When you go into the world and you tell people you're from Lawrence, people are like, 'Oh, Lawrence,' ” Rivera said. “So you've got to be better just because you're from Lawrence. And on top of that, because racism exists even in the Obama era, you've got to be prepared for that. And I think (Lantigua) uses that as a crutch. Instead of dealing with the problems, he uses that as a crutch.”