EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 1, 2013

Editorial: Rivera has the skills Lawrence needs

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — There’s no denying that Mayor William Lantigua is popular in Lawrence. Lantigua, the first Latino elected to a full term as mayor, has a strong base among the city’s Dominican population.

But the people of Lawrence, Latino and Anglo alike, can do better.

The people of Lawrence would do better with a mayor who serves all residents of the city, not just his political friends and allies.

The people of Lawrence would do better with a mayor with the education and professional background needed to meet the challenges the city faces.

The people of Lawrence would do better with a mayor who has the courage to tackle the city’s problems head-on, who will not hide from tough questions, who is not afraid to face the people of Lawrence and defend his record in a setting he cannot control.

Lantigua talks a good game at rallies organized by his political supporters. But when called on to debate his political challengers, Lantigua runs and hides. When television cameras roll or when reporters approach, he falls mute, as if his silence is a show of strength. It is nothing of the sort. It is nothing but cowardice.

Lantigua will not speak to a general audience because he is afraid. He fears tough questions because he has no answers. He will not debate because his record cannot withstand scrutiny.

The people of Lawrence need a mayor who will first stand up for himself before he stands up for the city. Lawrence needs Daniel Rivera to be its next mayor.

Rivera, 42, is a two-term city councilor who lives in Lawrence’s Mount Vernon neighborhood. He is an Army veteran who saw service in the first Gulf War. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a master’s degree in business administration from Suffolk University. He works for a shipping consultant in Andover. Prior to joining the private sector, he handled economic development issues for former Congressman Martin Meehan.

Rivera knows what it takes to get Lawrence back on its feet economically. And he knows how vital that effort is.

Rivera, who is Dominican and Puerto Rican, said Lantigua uses charges of racism as a crutch.

“When you go into the world and you tell people you’re from Lawrence, people are like, ‘Oh, Lawrence,’” Rivera told the newspaper’s editorial board. “So you’ve got to be better just because you’re from Lawrence. And on top of that, because racism exists even in the Obama era, you’ve got to be prepared for that. And I think (Lantigua) uses that as a crutch. Instead of dealing with the problems, he uses that as a crutch.”

And that, Rivera says, has portrayed Lawrence as a lawless place whose mayor prefers to see himself and the city as victims.

“Whether you think the perception of the negativity around Lawrence is true, perception rules,” Rivera said. “And no one is going to spend a dollar in Lawrence if they perceive that there’s a lot of crime, that the mayor doesn’t care, that the populace is indifferent and that there’s no leadership to control the madness.”

Rivera says a mayor has to sell Lawrence to the business community as a place they should be, a place with a population willing to learn and work hard, where property and resources can be had for less than elsewhere and where crime is taken seriously.

“There is no way we cannot compete with Lowell and Southern New Hampshire for businesses,” he said.

Lawrence, Rivera says, must begin to support itself again without relying on state and federal aid, such as the $920,000 state grant to hire police announced earlier this week. When the grant money runs out, who then will pay for the added officers?

“We cannot be wards of the state for one of the most basic functions we provide,” Rivera said.

This isn’t what some in Lawrence want to hear. They’d rather listen to Lantigua’s easy promises and empty rhetoric. This is tough medicine that Rivera is offering. But Lawrence needs it.

We urge voters in Lawrence to elect Daniel Rivera as their next mayor.