EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 27, 2013

Campaign Notebook

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — They’re back

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).

Blanchette did not return a phone call seeking to learn if stands by his previous statement that Lantigua’s oversized signs are unsightly and unsafe.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that municipalities can regulate the time, place and manner of political speech if they also enable residents “ample alternative channels for communication.”

As they did seven years ago, Lantigua’s signs include his phone number: 978-423-0079.

Strong voting records

METHUEN — Mayor Stephen Zanni and challenger Jennifer Kannan are no strangers to the ballot box.

A review of voting records over the last decade shows the two candidates for Methuen mayor have a strong track record on Election Day. Voters will elect either Zanni or Kannan mayor on Nov. 5.

Zanni and Kannan both voted earlier this year in the primary and special elections to fill John Kerry’s U.S. Senate seat. In 2012 both candidates also voted in the fall elections, though Zanni did not cast a ballot in the March presidential primary.

Kannan voted in the Republican presidential primary last year.

Between 2008 and 2011, Zanni and Kannan each voted 11 times in various local and state elections.

The only other discrepancies between the candidates’ voting records came in 2007, when Kannan did not vote in a local preliminary election, and in 2004, when Kannan didn’t vote in a presidential primary. Zanni voted in each, including the Republican presidential primary in March 2004.

Otherwise, Zanni and Kannan each voted nine other times between 2003 and 2007 in various elections.

Both candidates are now registered Democrats but in previous years were unenrolled.

Quid pro quo?

METHUEN — Before she announced her candidacy for mayor earlier this year, Jennifer Kannan said Mayor Steven Zanni suggested she run for School Committee instead — a claim Zanni now denies.

“Give me two years and I’ll give you my full backing (for mayor in 2015),” Zanni said, according to Kannan.

The discussion allegedly occurred in Zanni’s office in September 2012. Kannan was there to tell Zanni she planned to run for mayor — a decision Kannan did not announce publicly until March.

Zanni suggested she run for School Committee this fall, serve a two-tear term and then run for mayor in 2015, according to Kannan. Kannan is Zanni’s only challenger for reelection Nov. 5.

Kannan said she didn’t read much into the conversation, though she does find it “comical” that Zanni was willing to back her as mayor in two years but now claims on the campaign trail that she isn’t suited for the job.

“I told him that he doesn’t decide what political office I run for,” said Kannan.

Zanni said he did meet with Kannan late last year to talk about the election, but denied Kannan’s assertion that he said he would support her in the 2015 mayoral election if she passed on it this fall.

“I didn’t say that,” said Zanni.

Santiago now asking the questions

Former state representative and ex-Lawrence City Councilor Jose Santiago may have found a new niche in politics — even if he can’t get elected to public office again.

He can sit back and grill other candidates at a public forum.

Santiago, who has also been an unsuccessful mayoral candidate in previous years, was a member of a three person panel asking questions of City Council at-large candidates at the Lawrence Public Library last week at a forum sponsored by the Puerto Rican Political Action Coalition.

Santiago asked the candidates a few controversial questions including whether they supported voter identification, if any members of their family worked for the city and whether they would support the elimination of term limits for the mayor.

Fire endorsement

METHUEN — East District Council candidate Tom Firth has received the endorsement of the Methuen Firefighters Union.

In a statement, Firth said union president and Methuen fire Lt. Tim Sheehy notified Firth of the endorsement.

Firth said he has a plan to take unsafe Fire Department vehicles offline and lease/purchase new ones at a considerable cost savings. As the city grows, Firth said Methuen firefighters need safe vehicles.

Coffee with Maura

HAVERHILL — School Committee candidate Maura Ryan-Ciardiello will be hosting “Coffee with Maura” events starting today.

Ryan-Ciardiello will be at various delis, diners, and doughnut shops throughout Haverhill this week. For the complete listing of when and where she will be, email maura52157@aol.com or visit Facebook.com/MauraRyanCiardielloHaverhillSchoolCommittee.

Ryan-Ciardiello is also seeking volunteers to hold signs on Election Day, Nov. 5.

The games have begun

METHUEN — Every other fall, local candidates put up election signs across the city. And just as soon as they do, allegations start that their competitors just may have been spotted taking them down.

One such allegation was posted recently on City Council Chairman Sean Fountain’s Facebook page.

“Let me know if your FOUNTAIN lawn sign has mysteriously disappeared over the weekend. #TheGameshavebegun,” wrote Fountain.

Will voters have a sweet tooth?

HAVERHILL — The PTO at Golden Hill Elementary School will hold an Election Day Bake Sale on Nov. 5 from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church on Ashland Street.

The church, located just outside of Monument Square, serves as a polling location for Ward 3, Precinct 3.