Our capital city on the edge
This past week, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza gave his third State of the City Address. The speech’s resemblance to a governmental expositional was minimal. However, its similarity to a professional wrestling match was extraordinarily high.
Mayor Elorza’s tenure in office has been rife with controversy in regard to his far left political ideology. Also, many have questioned his administrative handling of the yet unresolved teacher contract dispute, his erstwhile embattlement with the fire department on scheduling, his mania in reference to placing a parking meter every few feet, his unwillingness to allow the police to enforce laws against panhandling and loitering, and his social engineering attempt with the questionable formation of the “One Providence” movement.
Besides the trials of the mayor, racial unrest has been a subject of conversation lately. In our majority-minority city the fine line of egalitarianism is often breeched by emotional discord, either real or imagined. Ethnic slights have been presented in an embellished fashion and have evolved precariously into social divisiveness.
Adding to the complexities of the problems Providence faces is the sheer enormity of the capitol city’s budget in comparison to its size. With grossly high commercial property taxes, almost equally high residential property taxes and an anti-business stance in regard to restricting police from corralling the ever-present never-do-wells that impede business, Providence is a city on the edge.
When Jorge Elorza ran for mayor against former Mayor Vincent A. (Buddy) Cianci, many voters questioned whether Jorge had the requisite experience to be mayor. With strictly a background in community activism and teaching law at Roger Williams Law School, Elorza had no administrative governmental experience. His tenderfoot status had hampered the young mayor from making practically driven decisions rather than social ideological ones.
During the State of the City Address, Elorza tried to dramatically display his extreme progressivism. He stated: “We’ve stood with Standing Rock, and we are divesting our pension fund from the filthy fifteen; we’ve stood with Paris, and opposed an LNG facility here in our port; we’ve stood with the Dreamers, and announced our own city ID program; we’ve stood with Black Lives Matter, and invested in cradle-to-career programs; we’ve stood with the Women’s March, and instituted paid parental leave; and we’ve stood with Orlando, and offered gender-affirming health care.”
Of course, the glaring problem with those forceful words is that they have little to do with the appropriate operating of Providence. Leftist rhetorical falderal may make friends with the Democrat National Committee and the Rainbow Coalition and the LBGTQ Community, but it does nothing to actually address the pressing problems of the capital city.
Conspicuously, one of those pressing problems is the still unresolved teacher’s contract. The last contract expired last August and Maribeth Calabro, the Providence Teachers Union President, stirred an uproarious protest, which vociferously blocked the mayor’s ability to convey his message well.
Although the question of fairness in teacher pay is subjective to the minds of educators, it is objective in the minds of Providence taxpayers. Nevertheless, Calabro orchestrated a sign saturated gallery of bellowing teachers who want more money in their paychecks. Eight months ago, the Providence teachers received a raise. Now they wish to claim another.
No matter what the motivation, Mayor Elorza is the duly elected mayor and should expect appropriate respect when giving the annual address. Instead, he was treated as a professional wrestling competitor; assailed visually, verbally assaulted, and heckled mercilessly.
Apparently positive, under Elorza there have been two years of budget surpluses. However, public safety has been understaffed and many are accusatory that the surpluses are smoke and mirrors because of that understaffing. Regardless, the teacher’s argument is that they should enjoy the surplus money.
Speaking of public safety, Elorza’s greatest imbroglio was with the Providence Fire Union. The mayor attempted to reroute the firefighter’s work schedules. This battle caused a year filled with lawsuits and arbiters until an agreement was reached in September of 2016.
The most misbegotten actions of the young mayor might be related to business. Storeowners, business people, skill shopkeepers and restaurant managers have strongly expressed their umbrage to significant counterintuitive factors imposed upon them by the mayor.
Elorza had a ridiculous number of new parking meters installed. He raised the number from 1,400 to 2,100, thus deterring their patrons and hurting their businesses. Faulty in the mayor’s thinking is the notion that the additional revenue from the meters will be greater than the loss of tax revenue from the possibly failing businesses.
Also vexing is the prohibition on enforcing the anti-loitering and anti-panhandling laws. Simply, Elorza has chosen liberal social ideology over the practicality of creating a business friendly environment.
A more stupefying example of this troubled managerial paradigm is the mayor’s formation of “One Providence.” In political response to the election of Donald Trump as president, Elorza created a 24/7 hotline for examples of ethnic derision. And he created a Muslim-American Advisory Board. Elorza said he wanted to “protect and serve every resident of the city.” There was no evidence of Islamic Believers being targeted whatsoever in Providence, and what that has to do with the presidential election, who knows?
Additionally, some group of myopic ignorant fools produced fliers which were distributed to doorsteps and attached to street signs. These venomous booklets were titled “Negro Crime in Mayor O. Elorza’s Sanctuary City.” Whoever the Neanderthals were who produced this printed piece of excrement, they stirred the protest of Providence civil rights activists including NAACP President JimVincent. Small demonstrations erupted but not large ones. Besides being overtly distasteful, the impact of a flyer is miniscule. Yet the mayor voiced his umbrage about the incident, describing it as more impactful than it actually was.
Concentrating on social issues over administrative ones is the overriding difficulty with Jorge Elorza. The capital city has a population of 180,000, which makes it by definition a medium-sized American city.
Still Providence has an almost $737 million operating budget, about 20 percent higher than the average city of similar population. Furthermore, Providence has the highest commercial property tax rate of all American cities of similar size and the third highest residential property tax rates. Along with these horribly high rates, the proficiency of goods and services are lackluster. The police are impaired by the policies of their mayor. Fifty-one percent of the Providence Budget is public school funding, and yet school infrastructure is decrepit and graduation rates are well below the national average.
So, no matter how successful Mayor Elorza may be at shouting over his detractors, and no matter what far left sociological message he may want to convey, his steering of the ship of state in Providence careened that ship into the rocks. Jorge should realize that being the mayor of the capital city is not a professorial podium to change social mores and opinions. His first responsibility is to provide the highest degree of goods and services for the least amount of taxes levied.
Until that revelation is realized, Providence will remain on the edge. Elorza should know that City Hall is a place of administration, not a place for social experiments.