He said the out-of-town image of the city has hobbled its ability to attract development and create jobs. He criticized what he said is Lantigua's failure to try to re-craft the city's image, including his relative silence when a Boston magazine described Lawrence as a “City of the Damned.”
“Whether you think the perception of the negativity around Lawrence is true, perception rules,” Rivera said. “And no one is going to spend a dollar in Lawrence if they perceive that there's a lot of crime, that the mayor doesn't care, that the populace is indifferent and that there's no leadership to control the madness.”
Lantigua did not return a phone call seeking a response.
Rivera said the scandals and indictments that marked Lantigua's first term left him without the “moral character” to lead the Police Department. The four city employees indicted over the last year or so include Deputy Police Chief Melix Bonilla, who managed Lantigua's 2009 campaign and was indicted on corruption charges two years after Lantigua promoted him from sergeant to deputy chief.
Rivera said several of the administration's efforts have been misdirected, including when inspectors wrote $75 tickets to people who left their garbage bins on the street too long while “we have three-decker and four-decker family houses that kids are living in that haven't been inspected.”
He said Lantigua's leadership of the School Committee also went off track at the start, when he said Lantigua allowed its attention to veer from critical tasks to “all these crazy other things that were not essential.”
“He voted twice not to review (former acting superintendent Mary Lou Bergeron),” Rivera said. “Then the mayor went about talking about a superintendent search for three or four months, then convened a search that failed. That lost opportunity to lead our community caused the state (to take over city schools in 2011).”