2013-09-12 / Around Town

Providence Mayor Visits Aquidneck Island

Jonathan Clancy

Robert Sylvia, Middletown Councilman with Mayor Angel Taveras Robert Sylvia, Middletown Councilman with Mayor Angel Taveras “When we work together there is nothing that we can’t accomplish,” said Providence Mayor Angel Taveras to a crowd of Aquidneck Island officials last Wednesday during a meet and greet session at the Wanumetonomy Golf & Country Club. Middletown Town Councilman Robert Sylvia and his wife, Barbara, organized the event to help the mayor share his story of how he overcame adversity and helped to set the city of Providence back on its feet. Taveras’ visit ironically coincided with Governor Lincoln Chafee’s announcement not to run for re-election.

Though there has been no official word, some speculate that Taveras would make a great candidate for Governor of Rhode Island. “Hopefully with the right type of encouragement, we will see Mayor Taveras in the race,” Sylvia said.

Taveras grew up poor. “My parents were born in houses without running water or electricity,” the mayor told the crowd. “They didn’t make it past the eighth grade in school but their son stands before you as the 37th mayor of the City of Providence, and there is only one country where that is possible.” Taveras is one of many success stories from the Head Start Program. He went on to graduate from Harvard University and returned home to Providence to practice law.

During his time as mayor, Taveras has worked with unions to negotiate a comprehensive pension reform. He even gave himself a 10 percent pay cut when the city was facing a deficit. “I lead by example, and I’m not going to ask anyone to do something that I am not willing to do,” Taveras said. He praised the General Assembly for their help with the hearings on tax exemptions and pointed to the $50 million in support that together they were able to raise from tax exempt institutions. “I told the hospitals and I told the universities you can’t be successful in a failing city, and that they need to be part of the solution.”

During his speech, Taveras said the hardest thing he has had to do as mayor was closing schools. “Those hearings were heart wrenching,” said Taveras who noted that even after the gut-wrenching cuts, he was still able to work together with the teachers union to help improve education.

The Providence Mayor pointed to the city's $100 million worth of development as a sign that Providence is getting back on track. “We are paving roads,” said Taveras, who also noted that the city’s unemployment rate is at its lowest since 2008. But, Taveras also said that the job of mayor is never done, and that the goal is to leave the city better off for the next one. He said that there is more work to be done but that they are headed in the right direction.

“I want [this] to be the story of my administration,” said Taveras, “that the mayor took over during difficult times, brought people together, worked hard, and accomplished great things. As a result the city was better off; the state was better off as well.” To any doubters that he will surely face, Taveras said, “The odds of me standing here before you as the mayor of Providence were very low, yet here I stand. I hope that tells you something about me and my determination, and my commitment to succeed.”

Without making an official statement about his status as a potential gubernatorial candidate, the Providence mayor simply told the crowd, “I look forward to seeing a lot more of you in the weeks and months ahead.”

After the meeting, Taveras responded to a question about regionalization on Aquidneck Island. “Conceptually, regionalization is a positive thing, but the details are important. I would need to know more about the island and the different issues before I could answer specifically,” Taveras said and continued, “I think as a state, we should be looking at regionalization. In my experience as mayor, it is a challenging thing but it’s an [idea] that we can do more work on.”

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