Lawrence’s licensing board circus

Nothing is easy in Lawrence — even filling empty seats on the city’s Licensing Board, which regulates nightclubs and hands out liquor licenses. One of the board’s three members stepped down at the beginning of this year, but the other two formed a quorum and were able to carry on the board’s business. Work ground to a halt, however, when board chairman Richard Fielding died in September.

Mayor William Lantigua initially tried to fill one of the board slots back in March, nominating Alfonso Garcia, a supporter who works for the School Department and also hosts a radio talk show. But the City Council rejected Garcia, apparently out of concern that it would have been inappropriate for him to sit on a board setting city policy while also collecting a city paycheck.

After Fielding died, Lantigua declared an emergency and tried to appoint Garcia to the Licensing Board without first gaining City Council approval. City Attorney Charles Boddy two weeks later said the emergency appointment was illegal. He invalidated Garcia’s appointment, as well as all of the licenses he approved at the lone meeting he attended.

Lantigua earlier this month nominated Luis Martinez and Pedro Torres, and the council quickly approved them. But several days later Boddy tossed out their appointments. By law, the three-person board must have at least one Republican and one Democrat who have been members of their parties for at least two years. It turned out that Martinez joined the Republican Party a week before his nomination, making him ineligible. Press reports were unclear on why Torres’s appointment was invalidated.

Lantigua earlier this week offered the Republican slot on the board to Ronald Martin, the chairman of the city’s Board of Registrars, but Martin begged off at the last minute because he feared he would have to give up his registrar job.

Martin said it’s not easy finding a Republican in Lawrence. “We’re an endangered species in this city,” he said, noting that Republicans represent only 7 percent of the city’s 40,000 registered voters.

City Councilor Marc Laplante posted on his Facebook page that if anyone knows a Republican in Lawrence they should get in touch with the mayor’s office.

Meanwhile, the lone member of the Licensing Board is Mayra Lantigua, the mayor’s ex-wife. The mayor confirmed in August that he was married to Lorenza Ortega, another city worker, although details of the marriage and his divorce from his previous wife are sketchy. Mayra Lantigua was appointed to her Licensing Board post by Lawrence’s previous mayor. Her term has expired but her former husband has made no move to replace her. 

                                                                                                            –BRUCE MOHL

BEACON HILL

Leaders of the state’s judiciary say they need $13.6 million to deal with the legal challenges that will result from the mishandling of drug samples by former state chemist Annie Dookhan. Gov. Deval Patrick named an interim public health commissioner to replace John Auerbach, who steps down next week in the wake of the Dookhan scandal, WBUR reports.

More questions arise about the laboratory practices of New England Compounding Center.

Tom Finneran loses his pension. Here’s the State House News story, via CommonWealth.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The town of Hanson agreed to a severance package with its former police chief but refused to release a report that investigated charges against him even though the agreement says no charges will be pursued.

The Zeiterion Performing Arts Center, an anchor in downtown New Bedford, is seeking help from the city for maintenance the center can no longer afford on the publicly owned building.

With its chairman in a Pennsylvania prison on a parole violation, the embattled Swansea Recreation Commission met for possibly the last time before a special Town Meeting decides whether to make the board an appointed rather than elected group.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Joe Lieberman decries defense cuts in a Wall Street Journal op-ed column.

Sen. Al Franken pens a remembrance of the late Paul Wellstone for The Atlantic.

ELECTION 2012

The New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn argues that the underpinings of President Obama’s auto industry rescue plan and Mitt Romney’s varied accounts of how he would have handled the crisis should matter a lot to voters in Ohio — and across the country. Romney goes all out in Ohio, but he’s chasing an impressive ground effort from the Obama camp. The Wall Street Journal profiles a group of disillusioned voters living on a single Ohio street. Romney’s campaign momentum is no more, but that doesn’t mean the campaign can’t bluff about it.  A Washington Post analysis suggests that the election has become even more racially polarized.

The Springfield Republican chides Mitt Romney for disavowing Romneycare.

CommonWealth finds quite a few people who supported Attorney General Martha Coakley when she ran against Scott Brown but who are now supporting Brown as he takes on Elizabeth Warren. Scot Lehigh has some unsolicited advice for Brown, whose campaign, he says, appears to be sinking fast. The New York Times examines how Brown’s party lost its lock on the Senate.

Backers of the medical marijuana ballot question, including a partially paralyzed Fall River man who uses the drug to relieve muscle pain, told the Patriot Ledger editorial board that the law could become a national model with its cap on the number of dispensaries and felony charges for fraud.

The Sixth Congressional District race has suddenly detoured into a debate over the net worth of Republican challenger Richard Tisei. The Globe says Tisei isn’t nearly as wealthy as incumbent Democrat John Tierney has charged, and the paper gets various tax and real estate experts to backstop the story. Could a Tisei ad about respectable Republican cloth coats be next? Tierney gets a warm reception in Salem, the Salem News reports. WBUR interviews Tierney, who says GOP attacks are distracting voters from the real issues.

Just why are presidential elections on Tuesday anyway?

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Construction has begun on a film studio at Devens, the Lowell Sun reports.

EDUCATION

An appeals court in New Jersey rules that state officials can impose salary caps on public school superintendents, the Star-Ledger reports.

HEALTH CARE

Brockton Mayor Linda Balzotti signed a deal with the city’s 17 unions to stem health care costs over the next four years without joining up with the state Group Insurance Commission.

Partners HealthCare System and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care have struck a four-year agreement under which the large provider network will care for Harvard Pilgrim subscribers under a global payment system designed to restrain health care costs while providing better quality care.

MEDIA

The New York Times Co. has total of 592,000 digital subscribers, but only 26,000 of them are to the Boston Globe, Poynter reports.  Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the chairman and publisher of the Times, gives his support to his incoming, embattled CEO, Mark Thompson, the Times reports. The Daily Beast examines Thompson’s rocky start.