LAWRENCE — Seven years after then-state Rep. William Lantigua captured the attention of a national newspaper and the ire of local officials by plastering Lawrence with campaign signs five times larger than the city allows, the monster-sized signs imploring residents to vote for Lantigua have reappeared.
Lantigua did not return a phone call last week, but seven years ago he told The Christian Science Monitor that the local law limiting political signs to six square feet is an unconstitutional restriction on free speech — and he was not obliged to follow it.
“I think this is one of those cases when I have to stand up and say, ‘You know what? That ordinance, it is unconstitutional and you need to modify it,’” Lantigua told the newspaper.
Lantigua’s views apparently haven’t changed, even if as mayor he’s now charged with enforcing the law he’s allegedly flouting.
The oversized blue-and-white signs have reappeared, hanging from buildings and fences in neighborhoods around the city — including on Route 114 in South Lawrence, where there are three or four within a few hundred yards. At about 30 square-feet each, they’re impossible to miss.
Seven years ago, then-Inspectional Services Commissioner Miles Burke issued Lantigua several citations for violating the sign law, the Christian Science Monitor reported then. Three years later, shortly after he was elected mayor, Lantigua fired Burke.
Burke wasn’t the only one who spoke out against Lantigua’s signs.
“The signs that are being put up are unsightly and obstruct motorist sight lines when coming out of certain streets,” Patrick Blanchette, who was then president of the Lawrence City Council, told the Monitor.
Blanchette ran against Lantigua for mayor in the preliminary election four years ago and, when he lost, endorsed Lantigua in the general election. Lantigua later named Blanchette economic development director. He has since become one of the mayor’s top political lieutenants and this year has rarely missed a street rally for Lantigua (where he waves much smaller signs for his boss).