Joined by his family and supporters, Providence City Council President Michael Solomon on Wednesday formally entered the race to succeed Mayor Angel Taveras, backed by the by-far largest war chest in the race and a coalition of supporters from across the city.
Solomon, 56, touted himself as someone who helped Taveras to restore fiscal stability to the city and who has the experience and community roots to move Rhode Island's capital forward. He spoke during a morning event at Building Futures, a job-apprenticeship program on Manton Avenue in Olneyville.
Solomon's boasts a war chest of more than $500,000 and broad support among Providence's elected offciials. Ten members of the City Council was present for his launch (the exceptions were Luis Aponte, Bryan Principe, Kevin Jackson, John Igliozzi, and Carmen Castillo). Also present were state Representatives John Carnevale, Grace Diaz, Scott Slater, Joe Almeida, and John DeSimone.
"I'm proud to say that Providence's auditors now report that the city has a $1.6 million surplus," said Solomon, who was joined on-stage by his father, former state treasurer Anthony Solomon, his three daughters and other friends and supporters. "From a $110 million deficit to a $1.6 million surplus in 3 years -- that's amazing. And it shows what we can do working together, sharing in the sacrifice and making tough decisions, no matter how politically unpopular."
Solomon acknowledged that Providence's fiscal condition remains fragile. He unveiled a proposal to spend $250 million improving outdated city school buildings over 10 years (the state typically reimburses communities for 80 percent of school construction costs; Solomon's campaign also distributed a letter from internal auditor Matthew M. Clarkin Jr. stating that the city's debt-service is due to decline by $30 million over the next 10 years). Solomon says he other priorities include neighborhoods and jobs, although he offered few specifics on how he'd try to improve the economy.
The other candidates for mayor include Democrats Brett Smiley, Jorge Elorza, Lorne Adrain, and Christopher Young and Republican Daniel Harrop. State Representative John Lombardi is considering a run, and Buddy Cianci can't be completely ruled out as a possibility.
Solomon is being advised on his campaign by Peter Baptista, Nick Hemond and Matt Jerzyk of the Hamilton Group, the latter of whom helped pilot Taveras' winning mayoral campaign in 2000.
Solomon was introduced by Ward 15 Councilor Sabina Matos and Misty Delgado, who described being helped by Solomon when she was a 15-year-old dropout. Delgado credited Solomon, who owns Wes' Rib House in Olneyville and Coal-Fired Pizza downtown, with encouraging her to pursue her education, to the point, she says, where she went to law school. She called him the "quintessential father figure."
Solomon is serving his second term from Ward 5, composed of Elmhurst and Mount Pleasant. He became council president following Taveras' election as mayor in 2010. Solomon, who is not known as the smoothest speaker, seemed to be having fun as he gave his speech and impressed observers with his delivery.
Solomon's intention of running for mayor was well known in advance of his event. He began his formal announcement by describing how his grandfather to Rhode Island 100 years ago "with 25 cents in his pocket." While the family later moved to Elmhurst, Solomon said Olneyville has been a second home since his father had operated a drug store in the neighborhood.