LAWRENCE — The city grudgingly accepted state oversight of its spending four years ago as a way out from under its crushing debt.
Two years later, the state also took control of the schools, consolidating its grip on public life in Lawrence.
Today, much of the initial anger and unease over the loss of control at City Hall and the schools is evaporating — even turning to relief — at least among the four candidates for mayor who responded to a questionnaire on the issues facing the city as it heads into Tuesday’s preliminary election.
Mayor William Lantigua and challengers Marcos Devers, Juan “Manny” Gonzalez and Daniel Rivera addressed the state takeover and other issues put to them in an Eagle-Tribune questionnaire. In written answers, they often generally agreed on how to fix many of the problems facing the state’s poorest city, including attracting development, providing jobs, attacking poverty and reducing the high school dropout rate.
But the incumbent and his challengers diverged sharply on a subject that has infused almost every issue in the campaign: Lantigua’s leadership.
Lantigua, Devers and Rivera said they support continuing the state’s veto power over local spending and its even more complete takeover at the schools, where Boston also controls staffing and the curriculum.
“We have made tremendous improvements over the past four years and I greatly appreciate the partnership of our state government” in restoring balance to the city’s budgets, said Lantigua, who is seeking a second two-year term and expressed the expectation that he will get it.
“We are clearly heading in the right direction and over the next year I am sure that my administration will work closely without state leaders, including (state overseer Robert) Nunes, to determine what is the best time for us to relax oversight or continue on.”