LAWRENCE - Mayor William Lantigua outlined modest steps forward this week for this fiscally challenged city, including a street repaving campaign that will hit close to home. His home.
In a remarkable bout of candor, Lantigua vowed during his State of the City address to repave some of Lawrence’s crumbling streets, including the one he lives on.
“One of the worst is Boxford Street,’’ Lantigua told a crowded City Council chamber Tuesday night, according to the Eagle-Tribune newspaper. “I couldn’t fix it [last year] because I live there. But I’ll tell you tonight, that one will be fixed this year.’’
The proclamation seemed brazen, even for a mayor who seems to court controversy. When he took office in 2010, Lantigua refused to step down from his seat as a state representative, drawing two government paychecks as his city teetered on financial ruin. After more than a month of pressure, he relented and gave up his state post.
Looking back at 2011, it may be clear why Lantigua did not want the added headache of repaving his own street. He was the target of a recall effort, albeit unsuccessful. Earlier in the year, the Globe reported that he was under state investigation for a possible campaign finance violation and that federal prosecutors were exploring whether his administration had overseen illegal shipment of city and private vehicles from Massachusetts to the Dominican Republic.
Lantigua has not been charged with any crime. Yesterday, he did not respond to phone messages seeking comment. In an interview, City Council President Frank Moran said that Lantigua’s tone during the speech suggested that he may not have been completely serious about paving the road in front of his house.
“I think he came across like he was joking,’’ Moran said. “I personally don’t have a problem with it, as long as it really is one of the worst streets in the city. Other constituents live on that street as well, and they shouldn’t be penalized because the mayor lives there.’’
Boxford Street is indeed pocked with potholes and haphazard asphalt patches. Cars drive slowly out of necessity, bobbing rhythmically like a baby in a bouncy seat. Sections have disintegrated into gravel. A step from the mayor’s driveway waits a 2-food-wide divot ready to twist an ankle or pop a tire.
“The street is messed up,’’ said Wilkin De oleo, 27, who works at D’Jean Barber Shop, around the corner from Lantigua’s home. “It’s one of the worst around.’’
But a quick barber shop conversation suggested several streets in Lawrence may be just as battered as Boxford or even worse.
“He should probably start [repaving] some other places first, so people can see he is doing streets other than his own,’’ said another barber shop employee, Juan Remedio Mendez, 29, with a shrug of his shoulders. “But he’s the mayor.’’
For Councilor Marc Laplante, whose district includes Boxford Street, the issue speaks to a problem about what he called the embattled nature of Lantigua’s administration. The street should have been repaved last year, Laplante said, adding that it is a shame residents have had to navigate jarring potholes because the mayor was afraid repairs would make him look bad.
“He is that concerned about his reputation that he won’t pave a street that is in desperate need,’’ Laplante said. “It just boggles his mind.’’