---- — Credit Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua with the sense yesterday to concede defeat to Mayor-elect Daniel Rivera. With the Nov. 5 election producing a razor-thin 58-vote margin for Rivera out of more than 15,000 cast, Lantigua had every right to ask for a recount.
But when that recount Saturday expanded Rivera’s margin of victory to 81 votes, Lantigua initially still refused to concede defeat. With the only option available now a potentially divisive court challenge, the mayor yesterday finally called it quits.
In conceding, Lantigua was, at times, gracious but at other moments, less so.
Lantigua said that it was “time to give Mr. Rivera his chance” and planned to meet with the mayor-elect today for coffee and to discuss the way forward. So far, so good.
But then Lantigua fell back on his tired trope that he is the victim of a racist conspiracy. Lantigua’s aides initially tried to bar English-language reporters from the Spanish-language radio studio where the mayor gave his concession. After the broadcast, Lantigua spoke to the reporters gathered at the studio.
“If my name were John Sullivan and I looked like some of you, my face would be on the cover of Money magazine or Forbes because of what I’ve done” to reverse the city’s financial fortunes, he said.
Lantigua’s misfortunes are the result not of racism but of his own misdeeds. From the outset of his first campaign for mayor in 2009, Lantigua showed his disdain for the English-speaking population of Lawrence. He declined to speak to English-language media, refused to debate his opponents in two election campaigns. Indeed, his tenure as mayor was an insult to all Lawrencians — English and Spanish-speaking alike — who care about the future of their city. Lantigua filled important jobs not with the most skilled but with politically reliable cronies. He micromanaged the Police Department, even to the point of keeping indicted friends on the payroll while they wait for their trials.
When Rivera, a city councilor, emerged from a field of challengers to be the mayor’s opponent in the Nov. 5 general election, the lie of Lantigua’s claim of racism was exposed. Here was a challenger every bit as Latino as Lantigua, who could speak intelligently in both Spanish and English to city residents, who reached out to all constituents in all neighborhoods with a promise to do his best to make Lawrence a better place. Still, Lantigua would not meet him in honest debate.
Now, Lantigua will be gone in little more than a month. Attention rightly should turn to Mayor-elect Rivera and the task that stands before him.
We call on Rivera to hire the best, professional people available for the jobs that need doing in the city. The most immediate of these will be the search for a new police chief. Rivera has already stated his commitment to find a high-quality candidate for this important post.
Rivera must get tough and stay tough on crime in Lawrence. From his interviews with our editorial board, it’s clear he understands this. Getting a handle on crime in Lawrence is key to Rivera’s economic development goals of getting business and industry to see the city as a place where they can expand and add jobs.
These are difficult challenges. But we are confident Rivera will give them his best and honest effort.