Monday, May 16, 2011

Just a quick follow-up question, Governor

Three weeks ago it was revealed that Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua (that's "Willy" to his friends, family, and Lawrence night club owners) is currently the focus of a number of overlapping, multi-jurisdictional corruption investigations. 

At the time, Governor Patrick - whose strong support of Lantigua in 2009 was essential to Willy's victory in a very tight race - was asked if he still "has confidence in the Mayor."  The Governor's response was typically Devalian: "I know what I’ve read, but we’ve been contacted by no authorities."

A week later, a vocal critic of the Mayor was viciously beaten by a brawny Lantigua associate, who called his victim a "snitch." 

Now it turns out the Mayor and his live-in girlfriend are the targets of yet another criminal investigation, this one into allegations that the pair - whose combined income is around $145,000 - have been illegally collecting federal home heating aid intended for the city's many poverty-stricken residents.

All of this has the Commonwealth's liberal intelligentsia understandably in a dither.  The Globe's Yvonne Abraham was first, lamenting Lantigua's rapid fall from grace in a mournful column centered on the Mayor's bizarre claim that someone had tried to run him down on the street, and that his own police department had "framed him" before accusing him, basically, of filing a false police report.

 Today is is Abraham's Globe colleague Adrian Walker's turn.  Under the title, "Heating up more trouble," Walker recaps Lantigua's troubles,
Lantigua’s utterly disastrous administration has been terrible news for one of the state’s most-troubled cities, right from the start. A charismatic state representative when he was elected mayor, he initially refused to resign from his legislative seat, claiming he could serve in both offices at once. He was eventually forced to give up his spot on Beacon Hill.

Then came the probes: Both the FBI and the Essex district attorney’s office have been looking into his affairs. They are especially interested in his relationships with companies that are regulated by the city, like towing companies and nightclubs.

Then, of course, there was the recent story about a Lantigua critic, Antonio Arevalo, who was beaten by a bouncer who referred to him as a snitch. The bouncer admitted to beating Arevalo but denied it was prompted by Lantigua. Lantigua has also been accused of filing a false police report, stemming from his claim that a car tried to run him over.
Walker then turns to the current heating assistance scandlet, noting that it relates back to a controversy over the Mayor's true home address that first arose during his 2008 run for the state legislature,
But back to the issue of Lantigua’s address. When he ran for the Legislature in 2008, opponent Marcos Devers insisted that Lantigua no longer lived in the district. Lantigua ducked questions about where he lived for years, before revealing last month that he lived with [his girlfriend] Ortega. There’s something deeply unsettling with a mayor whose address is in question.

The ill-gotten fuel assistance came through a program managed by the Greater Lawrence Community Action Council, an antipoverty agency that has at times feuded with Lantigua. State officials immediately began taking steps to recoup the money, which Ortega has been receiving for a year or two.

As the state's first Latino Mayor, Lantigua was supposed to represent hope for the future, not be a throwback embodiment of old school urban corruption.  So it is understandable that some of the Globe's leftmost columnists are feeling let down.  One can practically see Walker's eyes water as he typed, 
Part of the shame of all of this is that Lantigua — the state’s first Latino mayor — possesses the raw political skills and charisma to begin to turn Lawrence around. While a tad vainglorious, he is a person who could be an inspiration to a city that needs it.
Right.  Except for the corruption, the Sopranos plot-lines and the whiff of literal insanity he gives off, Lantigua would be a great Mayor.  Just what Lawrence needs.  This is what cult of personality politics gets us.

For all their lamentation, neither Walker nor Abraham saw fit to note that Mayor Willy did not become the disaster that he is all on his own.  He had a lot of help from Governor Patrick.

So far as I have seen, in fact, no member of the press has bothered to ask the obvious follow-up to the question the Governor dodged three weeks ago.  After the imaginary run-down, the "snitch" beating and now this federal heating assistance thing, does Governor Patrick still have confidence in the Mayor he to helped put in office?

Hello?  Is this thing on?

1 comment:

  1. Exactly. If the media can hammer Charlie Baker for his associations ( then the same should done to Deval (especially since this isn't the first time he's supported a corrupt politician---see: Wilkerson robo call).

    Ultimately, Deval's pussyfooting around the issue of Lantigua speaks to a larger issue of partisan politics, where to denounce a "party member" can only be comfortably done after said member has committed the gravest of transgressions (warranting an arrest, indictment, etc.). To do so otherwise would be to alienate not only Lantigua, but also the mayor's network of friends and supporters---in other words, Deval's political capital. For the same reason Charlie Baker couldn't denounce Bill Hudak for his birther views (which, I would add, are far less serious than a politician who abuses his position of power to intimidate opponents, receive kickbacks, and waste public funds), Deval finds it difficult to denounce Lantigua.

    So what we're left with is the bane of political discourse: bumbled, ambiguous responses to reporters' inquiries, crafted in a manner to ensure that the maximum amount of political capital is salvaged.


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