What to watch for in Taveras' State of the City address

Jan 28, 2013

Taveras during his 2012 State of the City address
Credit Ian Donnis

Providence Mayor Angel Taveras faces a sharply different landscape as he prepares to deliver his second State of the City address at 5:30 pm Tuesday in the City Council Chambers at City Hall. A year ago at this time, Taveras warned of how Providence faced the possibility of going bust. Now, the mayor can tout considerable improvements in the city's fiscal standing - a narrative that meshes with his expected gubernatorial run in 2014.

A few things to watch for:

-- SPEAKING TO A STATEWIDE AUDIENCE. More than 60 years have passed since a Providence mayor was elected governor (Dennis Roberts in 1950). The old verities about the challenge of running statewide from City Hall are probably overstated in this instance, since Taveras (with prospective rival Gina Raimondo) is among the state's most popular pols. It doesn't hurt that the mayor has assembled a stable of seasoned political operatives in his administration and can benefit from the ballyhooed three Ls (liberals, labor, and Latinos). Eliminating the vast majority of Providence's deficit is nonetheless a narrative with some broad resonance.

-- BEING POSITIVE, BUT NOT TOO POSITIVE. Success has many fathers, as the saying goes, and failure is an orphan. So watch for Taveras to celebrate the shared sacrifice that helped solidify the city's fiscal standing, including new/increased contributions by nonprofits and concessions by city employees. Yet as Moody's Investors Service noted earlier this month, Providence has little room for error if other revenue gets squeezed. So don't be surprised if the mayor also highlights the need for ongoing vigilance.

-- WHO'S NEXT? Taveras has dropped some jokes about Buddy Cianci, who's been the subject of persistent rumors about a possible run for City Hall if the incumbent moves on. City Council President Michael Solomon appears to be the institutional would-be heir-apparent, although the question of exactly who runs will take time to shake out. So will the mayor drop an oblique clue about what he'd like to see in a successor?

-- THE VISION THING. With Providence having emerged from crisis,  watch for Taveras to signal some new priorities, including growing the city's economy, improving schools, reducing violence, and fostering green approaches in city government.

Taveras has come a long way since making his first political run -- in the Second Congressional District -- in 2000. He's a far better speaker than he was as a candidate in 2010, and has put to rest questions about whether he was tough enough for a demanding job. Now, with anticipation growing about 2014, Taveras' latest State of the City address will set the stage for his next move.