By Steve Klamkin WPRO News
Saying “integrity is key” in today’s City Hall, Mayor Jorge Elorza began his “State of the City” address by talking about a change in the culture.
“We are professionals, who treat our residents and businesses as customers and provide them best-in-class city services. Gone are the days when you had to know a guy to get a pothole filled,” Elorza said to a special session of the City Council and a cheering crowd of supporters in the City Council chamber.
No fewer than 30 times in his 30 minute speech, Elorza referenced what he called a “New Providence”
Saying Providence is in the midst turning around from a dangerous, desolate place, Elorza pointed to a reduction in crime, crediting former Mayor David Cicilline for bringing on police Chief Dean Esserman, whom he recognized for introducing community policing.
Elorza embraced the state takeover of city schools.
“I called for not just an improvement, but an entire transformation of education in our city. I stood in this very room and was shouted down. But I never abandoned my belief that we needed a wholesale transformation of our district,” he said.
Elorza focused on the positives, but also said the city is well equipped to deal with difficult issues including homelessness, substance abuse, overdose deaths and the growing anger and division in society.
Speaking afterward with reporters in his office, Elorza said his office is working on ways to ease the city’s crushing pension debt without reliance on the plan, rejected in 2019, of selling off the city’s water supply system. He suggested shifting to a defined contribution, or 401(k) style plan.
In a release issued prior to Elorza’s address, the Providence Republican Party’s leaders called for balancing the city’s budget by reducing unnecessary spending, not raising taxes and fees in addition to reforming the pension system.