The last four years have been disastrous for Lawrence.
Under Mayor William Lantigua, the city has been placed in the care of the state, like a wayward child. After years of failing the city’s children under multiple mayors, Lawrence’s schools are under the control of a state receiver, the city’s School Committee rendered powerless.
Lawrence’s finances have been placed under the watch of a state-appointed fiscal overseer, a requirement of a deal that allowed the city to borrow to cover unbalanced budgets from the previous administration. Subsequent budgets have been balanced, but at great cost. Firehouses have been shuttered and firefighters laid off, at one point leaving the city dependent on aid from surrounding communities on even the smallest fires. Police have been cut, leaving the Police Department understaffed. Only a stream of state and federal grant money has patched the holes in Lawrence’s public safety net. What happens when the grant money dries up?
Lantigua did not create these problems; he inherited them. But the mayor has been unwilling or unable to exert the leadership necessary to solve them.
The Lantigua administration has failed even in the basics of mayoral responsibility. The mayor, until recently, had failed to make appointments to the city’s regulatory boards and commissions, leaving them unable to perform their duties. He has filled important posts with friends and supporters, rather than the best qualified people for these important jobs. He has allowed politically friendly police officers — even the deputy chief — to continue receiving pay while on suspension pending their trials on criminal charges.
The mayor himself has been under state and federal investigations and has repeatedly violated state campaign finance law.
Lawrence needs a change in the mayor’s office. Tuesday, voters will get their first chance to make that change happen.