By Keith Eddings
---- — LAWRENCE -— Mayor Daniel Rivera got a wintery mix of opinion yesterday from residents about how he handled the frigid nor’easter that dumped a foot of snow on his first day on the job.
One resident said his commute went smoothly while another said Rivera’s predecessor, former Mayor William Lantigua — who spent some of the last week vacationing in Florida — did it better.
After the last flake fell yesterday, Rivera gave himself a mediocre grade for the way his administration performed during its first snow storm.
“I think we got a C,” said Rivera, who wore dungarees to work because he knew he’d be spending a lot of it on the streets and in the public works yard.
“We’ve got to do better. Some roads are down to pavement. Others aren’t. And we need to have a walkable downtown,” he said.
Snow, or clearing it, is the kind of stuff on which mayors build their reputations because of the visible, tangible evidence it provides citizens as to whether they are up to the job, and because messing it up can be a catastrophe. For Lawrence’s new mayor, most of the two-day storm fell between his private swearing-in Thursday evening and his public inauguration today, giving him barely enough time to put Acting Public Works Director John Isensee on his speed dial.
Both men said the two were in constant contact, including outside City Hall at 8:30 a.m. yesterday, when Rivera expressed concern to Isensee that downtown sidewalks were still snow-packed.
“He said there were a lot of people on the street,” said DPW laborer Keith Hamelin, who was at the street-corner meeting between the new mayor and the veteran DPW chief and then spent most the day clearing sidewalks with a Bobcat snowplow. “He was concerned. He wanted to get us on the sidewalks,” Hamelin said.
Pumping gas into his Honda Accord at a Haffner’s gas station on Lawrence Street while his girlfriend and their two dogs waited in the car, Eddie Reyes, 19, complained a driver skidding in the snow “almost hit my girl” on Thursday and pined for the old days under the former mayor.
“When Willie Lantigua was here, the streets were clean,” Reyes said. “Now we have a new mayor. No clean streets. No salt. My girl slipped yesterday,” he said.
Fernando Davila, a 23-year-old security guard, said his drive to work at the height of the storm Thursday evening wasn’t much different from any other night.
“It was normal,” he said. “The streets were perfect, fine. It wasn’t that slippery. To be honest, for Rivera’s first day, he did a great job.”
Acting Police Chief James Fitzpatrick said there were no major accidents on city streets and only a few “slow-speed fender-benders” over the two day snowfall.
“He was ahead of the game,” Fitzpatrick said of Rivera. “Before his swearing-in, he met with us to strategize how to deal with it best. I give him credit for that,” he said.
Although the first day of the storm was Lantigua’s last in office, Fitzpatrick said he had not spoken to the ex-mayor for five or six days and said the two never consulted about the storm. Isensee said he also didn’t discuss the storm with Lantigua.
Lucy Almonte admitted she’s not an expert on the subject of clearing snow from dense, urban streets. But she had a complaint and some advice for the new mayor as she gassed up her Volkswagon Passat last night.
“I don’t know how plowing works, but there’s still snow on the streets and it’s still slippery,” Almonte said. “More salt on the road, please,” she said.