At the moment, it seems Ward 6 Councilwoman Donna Travis has the votes to be City Council President. But nothing can be certain until a vote is taken at the Jan. 8 inaugural meeting at City Hall, which will begin at 7 p.m.
“I’m definitely going for it,” Travis said yesterday morning during a brief phone interview. “It looks like I have the votes, I just don’t want to get into details about who.”
With the exception of a handful of council members, a few continue to be tight-lipped about who they plan to support. While Ward 7 Councilman Charles “C.J.” Donovan briefly thought about seeking the position, he said yesterday that Travis now has his vote.
“I put my name out there; I just didn’t have the votes and Donna did,” Donovan said. “She had the support from the beginning. I just want to support Donna and move forward with council business.”
Donovan said even if other council members throw their hats in the ring, he’s committed to Travis. Ward 8 Councilman Joseph Gallucci said Travis also has his vote.
“If Donna’s a candidate, I’m voting for Donna,” Gallucci said yesterday morning. “No one else has asked me for their support, so I don’t know who the candidates are.”
Ward 2 Councilman-elect Tom Chadronet said he’s in support of Travis, too. He predicts she will be victorious.
“I think Donna Travis is going to be Council President,” he said. “She’s got the votes. We’re tied 4 to 4 right now, with [Ward 1 Steven] Colantuono being the deciding vote.”
Colantuono said he is yet to hear anything about it, other than the fact that Travis is interested in the position.
“If she’s interested, I would support her 100 percent,” he said Friday. “I think she will do a fine job if she’s the majority choice.”
The rest of the votes, Chadronet said, are for Ward 9 Councilman Steven Merolla. But Merolla said he hasn’t actively pursued the position, however, people have called him and asked him to run.
“My name has been mentioned in the past,” said Merolla. “It’s flattering, and I’ll leave it at that. I’m not picking up the phone and calling people, but if something drastic happened and I needed to be council president, then I definitely would.”
Gallucci said Travis has his vote due to experience with the council (she’s served as Ward 6 councilwoman for 18 years) and her dedication to the people she represents and serves. He also praised her leadership qualities, the fact that she attends all necessary committee meetings, as well as her ongoing commitment to the city.
“She’s hardworking and has the best at heart for the city,” Gallucci said. “Someone like her is able to become a good council president. She’s a great person and has made a great public person of herself. I’m proud of her. She wants to do it. It’s not as if someone is pulling her in or drafting her for the position, as certain people indicated.”
Gallucci is referring to resident Rob Cote, the leader of the Car Tax Revolt, as Cote expressed concern for Travis’ election as council president. He made his feelings known at the Dec. 17 council meeting, noting that he doesn’t think she is qualified for the position.
In an interview Sunday evening, he reiterated his feelings, saying that she “knows nothing about finance.”
“She is completely unqualified, considering her education, professional experience, [and] mathematical background,” said Cote. “She is the least qualified, not only on the council, probably in the city, to manage a city’s budget of $275 million, not to mention the fact of the complete cronyism where it’s ‘pay to play.’”
He said he thinks she is simply going to be Mayor Scott Avedisian’s puppet. He claims the mayor gave Travis’ daughter a city job, as well as helped Travis secure a full-time position at the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal.
“The mayor got her a job with the state, so it’s payback time,” said Cote. “He can manipulate her to do anything they want.”
In an email, Avedisian said he had “absolutely nothing” to do with Travis getting a state job.
“That comment is just false,” wrote Avedisian. “Her daughter is a well respected employee at the Warwick Public Library who doesn’t need any help getting or doing her job.”
Cote also said that the Warwick Car Tax Revolt intends to go on an active campaign to remove anyone from office who votes for Travis. He doesn’t understand why any of the council members would vote for her.
“Evidently, the rest of the council members forgot that she introduced a piece of legislation to ban signs, which is a direct assault on the First Amendment,” he said. “The ACLU had to come in.”
Merolla said he spoke to Cote about a newspaper ad Cote took out in the Warwick Beacon, which asks taxpayers to contact their respective council members to encourage them to vote for Merolla for council president. In an interview with the Beacon, Merolla said he doesn’t think it does anybody any good to put ads in the paper about this type of issue.
“I don’t think that personal attacks on people are the way to go,” Merolla said. “She’s an elected official. She was elected by the people, and she has that right to be a council president. I’m happy to have support from people in the community, but I don’t believe that destroying peoples’ characters will be a benefit to anyone.”
Gallucci shares his sentiments.
“It’s personally insulting,” Gallucci said.
But Travis said she’s not concerned with Cote’s point of view. Instead, she’s focused on obtaining the position.
“I just want to move forward and move in a positive manner,” Travis said. “Hopefully, we’ll work closely with the administration, and everybody will work together. I’m hoping to bring trust, leadership and experience. The biggest thing is my ability to communicate with everybody to make this city a better place and make people want to stay here.”
Avedisian said, “I am prepared for whatever decision is made by the City Council … and look forward to working with all nine members of the council over the next two years.”