Not content to let its dysfunctional government affect local matters, Lawrence is now preparing to mess up at a federal level.
The city’s four-member Board of Registrars has been reduced to two following the resignation of Lynne Garcia Jan. 25. Another member, Robert Martin, had resigned in November. That means the board is incapacitated, one member shy of the three needed to conduct its official business.
What does the Board of Registrars do? It is responsible for the oversight of elections, ruling on ballot challenges and participating in recounts. And it happens there is a very important election coming up April 30 — the special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by John Kerry when he resigned to become the nation’s secretary of state.
Mayor William Lantigua is scrambling to present the City Council with nominees to fill the vacancies so the board can be active in time for the election.
Part of the problem is that the posts must be filled by Republicans to maintain the required balance of political parties on the board. Republicans are in short supply in Lawrence, accounting for only 7 percent of the city’s 40,000 registered voters.
So desperate is the mayor that he has reached out to Michael Sullivan, the former mayor Lantigua has spent a great deal of time vilifying since his own election in 2009, and David Abdoo, the candidate Lantigua defeated in that election, and asked them to apply for the board seats. That plan may not be completely viable as Abdoo is unenrolled.
The problem of a board rendered non-functional by a shortage of members mirrors that suffered by the city’s Licensing Board earlier. That board, which oversees the city’s liquor licenses among other functions, was incapacitated for months while Lantigua tried, and failed, to stack it with political cronies.
Expect April to be a month of emergency meetings as Lantigua once again tries to play “Beat the Clock” with city government.
Members of the City Council were lining up to hammer Lantigua on this latest failing.
“It’s deja vu all over again,” City Councilor Marc Laplante told reporter Keith Eddings. “Clearly, the mayor has not learned the lessons that were offered last year when the Licensing Board nominees were appointed. A pattern has now developed. This is no way to run a government.”
Councilor Daniel Rivera, who is running for mayor, joined in.
“It’s a simple process, to appoint people,” Rivera said. “People are wondering why people are always talking bad about Lawrence. We’ve got to do the basics, and we have to do the basics well. And this is a basic function of government.”
The councilors are correct. This is no way to run a government. Nor should it be a political game, as Lantigua has repeated tried to stack the offices of city government in his favor. A member of a board resigns; the mayor should be ready with a reasonable nominee for replacement in a few days.
Instead, Lantigua allows what should be minor matters to simmer until they boil over into crises.
Lantigua likes to say he is the mayor of the “great city of Lawrence.” Let’s reserve judgment on that characterization for now, at least as it pertains to the city’s government.
We’d settle for the “competent city of Lawrence.”