Providence Mayor Angel Taveras' latest State of the City speech celebrates the value of overcoming complex problems through collaboration -- a not-so-subtle contrast with the state pension overhaul championed in 2011 by the mayor's prospective Democratic gubernatorial rival in 2014, state Treasurer Gina Raimondo.
In comments Tuesday evening to the City Council, Taveras notes the contrast to February 2012 when "Providence was running out of cash, and running out of time. In the months that followed, there were some who said Providence could not avoid filing for bankruptcy."
A year later, Taveras says, Providence's $110 million structural deficit has been "all but eliminated," and "we expect to end this year with a balanced budget. Working together, we have accomplished what few believed possible."
The mayor's second State of the City address is a detailed, workman like piece that offers thanks to a wide range of people -- including Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter, who rebuffed the city's attempt to move retirees over 65 into Medicare (and who is presiding over unions' legal challenge to the statewide pension overhaul backed by Raimondo in 2011.) Taft-Carter's order for mediation, Taveras says, offered "an unlikely path to pension reform," allowing Providence's problems to be settled "in a way that pulls us together instead of tearing us apart."
Taveras thanks many others: police, firefighters, Local 1033, retirees, legislative leaders, nonprofit hospitals and universities, the City Council, citizens -- you name it. His speech includes a Reaganesque flourish, recognizing city workers who, the mayor says, aided an elderly woman with a heating problem on their own time.
Here's the rhetorical heart of Taveras's address, based on prepared comments:
"As a City and State, we have demonstrated that even when the stakes are at their highest and the path forward is beset with obstacles, reasonable people can get things done when they are committed to working together. There's nothing we cannot accomplish when we are united."
-- Taveras says he plans to offer a detailed plan next month for improving Providence's economy.
-- He cites a goal of raising to 70 percent the number of 3rd graders reading at grade level by the end of 2015. By way of comparison, Taveras says 46 percent of 4th graders read at grade level last year.
-- The mayor says he's committed to passing "reasonable, common-sense gun control."
Governor Lincoln Chafee, who has said he plans to seek re-election, was expected to be on hand for Taveras address. Raimondo is not mentioned in the speech.