Lawrence, Mass.: City of the Damned
Crime is soaring, schools are failing, government has lost control, and Lawrence, the most godforsaken place in Massachusetts, has never been in worse shape. And here’s the really bad news: it’s up to controversial Mayor William Lantigua to turn it all around.
IN MID-JANUARY, the fourth attempt to recall Lantigua fails. A large number of signatures Hernandez’s team collected over that first weekend are disqualified by City Attorney Charles Boddy and City Clerk William Maloney. The officials rule that the petition, despite having been previously approved by the city and entirely bilingual on one side, is missing a few lines of Spanish on the other. The city replaces the petition with a thoroughly bilingual one — but refuses to reset the 30 days allowed to collect the signatures. The volunteers have to start all over again, and eventually run out of time.
“Sometimes I feel discouraged, but the news is getting out,” Hernandez says. “As a Christian, I pray for Lantigua. But he’s gotten like a dictator.”
I stop by St. Patrick’s church to speak with Father O’Brien, who stared down Lantigua during the inauguration at the high school. “We’re surrounded by the drug industry,” O’Brien says. He’d been driving past the Beacon projects recently, he continues, when he recognized two teenage boys loitering on a corner. O’Brien waved and the two boys waved back, each with a gun in his hand.
“They pulled them down quickly — they didn’t mean to do that — but we’re this casual about guns now,” O’Brien says. “It’s like the Wild West.”