It is time to take a moment and give Providence Mayor Angel Taveras a hearty slap on the back.
Within two months of taking office, he was handed a report that said Providence had a fiscal 2011 structural deficit of $70 million, as well as a fiscal 2012 deficit of $110 million. The mayor’s characterization of the city’s fiscal crisis as a “Category 5” hurricane was apt.
Since then, Mayor Taveras has taken a series of bold steps to control the city’s escalating spending while increasing its revenue base, including growing the amount of money that the city’s major nonprofit institutions pay in lieu of being taxed.
Of course, he has had help, from the city’s unions who have renegotiated contracts to City Council, which passed pension-reform legislation he signed last week. But none of it would have happened without the mayor stepping up with the willingness to be honest about the problem as well as direct about the difficult way ahead.
As an interview with Mayor Taveras in this week’s edition of Providence Business News makes clear, the city is not out of the woods. But the mayor is doing all he can to keep the city from bankruptcy, which is still a possibility.
He is negotiating with more nonprofits to increase the payments the city receives. And the pension reform and retiree medical-benefit changes that are scheduled to take effect are either already being challenged in court or soon will be.
But this uncertainty should not keep Mayor Angel Taveras from being recognized for the leadership he has shown since taking office. •