EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 15, 2013

Editorial: In Lawrence, Rivera, Gonzalez, are best choices for mayor

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — 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.

Lantigua faces five challengers in a preliminary election. The two candidates with the highest vote totals will meet in the general election in November.

We favor Daniel Rivera and Juan “Manny” Gonzalez.

Rivera, 42, is a two-term city councilor who lives in Lawrence’s Mount Vernon neighborhood. He is Army veteran who saw service in the first Gulf War and, after his return, earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts/Amherst and a Master of Business Administration from Suffolk University. He works for a shipping consultant in Andover.

Rivera has become one of Lantigua’s sharpest critics on the council, hitting the mayor on his many scandals, patronage appointments and cuts to public safety. Lantigua, Rivera says, has divided the city when he should have been a unifying force.

We believe that Rivera can be the unifying force Lawrence needs. He has the education and experience needed to lead the city and earn the respect of Anglos and Latinos alike.

We also support the candidacy of Juan “Manny” Gonzalez.

Gonzalez, 46, is a longtime Lawrence firefighter who has been active in a number of civic organizations. Gonzalez is a partner in Heal Lawrence, a nonprofit relief agency that helps city fire victims recover and relocate. He helped establish the District B Neighborhood Association and has volunteered his time with youth baseball organizations and the Boys and Girls Club. He holds an associate’s degree in fire science from North Shore Community College.

Gonzalez supported Lantigua in 2009 but soon became disillusioned with the mayor as scandals erupted. Gonzalez worked on the unsuccessful efforts to recall the mayor.

Gonzalez says his priority would be to restore Lawrence’s public safety departments, something that is sorely needed. He also can be a unifying force in the city.

Gonzalez lacks the polish of a candidate like Rivera but his heart is in the right place. Should he not move on from the preliminary election, we would encourage Gonzalez to keep his hand in city politics. Lawrence needs caring, committed citizens like Gonzalez to get involved in its affairs.