- Associated Press - Sunday, December 21, 2014

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Providence Mayor Angel Taveras will wrap up his single four-year term on Jan. 5. Taveras grew up in poverty and often spoke of his path from Head Start to Harvard when he was elected in 2010. He decided to run for governor but lost in the Democratic primary to Gina Raimondo, now the governor-elect. He will be succeeded by fellow Democrat Jorge Elorza.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Taveras looked back on his time as mayor and discussed his future.

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HIS ACCOMPLISHMENTS

Taveras lists his top accomplishment as saving Providence from bankruptcy. Two months after he took office, he declared Providence’s finances were a “Category 5” hurricane as he released a finding that the city would have an estimated $180 million structural deficit over two years. He worked to renegotiate union contracts, cut jobs and froze non-essential spending. The city is still working to replenish its rainy day fund and faces what Taveras pegs as a $7 million deficit for next year - although some estimates place that higher. But Taveras says the city is now on the right path.

“When I came in, we were projected to run out of cash. We had to take some real drastic steps to avoid that. I can tell you that that’s not the case right now,” he said. “At this point, we are in the aftermath of the hurricane. We are recovering and cleaning up.”

He also lists as accomplishments his emphasis on education, including winning the $5 million grand prize in a Bloomberg Philanthropies competition for a program designed to improve language skills of low-income children, and improving the city’s infrastructure, including paving 60 miles, or almost 20 percent, of the city’s roads.

HIS REGRETS

Taveras agreed to what amounted to an increase in the car tax for city residents, something he said he didn’t want to do at the time because it had a greater impact on lower-income people who could least afford it. He lived to regret the decision.

“I should have followed my instincts,” he said.

THE TOUGH TIMES

There have been 63 homicides in the city since Taveras took office. He learned those would be his toughest times as mayor.

“The most difficult moments were losing children. Losing a young, 12-year-old girl in the Hartford project that night. Losing the young boy on Sumter Street, where I had lived. Losing the 16-year-old boy, whose killer was just sentenced,” he said. “As mayor, every death, every murder was hard. Don’t get me wrong. But the children, it’s even worse.”

WHAT HE’LL MISS …

“I’ll miss the kids and their reaction to me being mayor. Walking into a classroom and jaws dropping,” he said. “Kids knowing that, ‘Gosh if he made it, I can make it too.’”

AND WHAT HE WON’T

Snowstorms: “You can’t please everyone. The only people you hear from in a snowstorm are the people you’re not pleasing,” he said. “The emphasis is always on what we didn’t do.”

WHAT’S NEXT

Taveras, a lawyer, plans to return to the private sector, and will most likely practice law. He says he is considering several opportunities, and expects to make a decision within the next month, possibly before he leaves office on Jan. 5. Taveras said he doesn’t know whether he will stay in Rhode Island, although he says no matter where he is, “Rhode Island will always be my home.”

He said he hopes to find a way to tap into the skills he learned as mayor, such as negotiations, avoiding bankruptcy and pension issues. He may also do some teaching at a university.

When asked if he would run for office again, Taveras, 44, talks about his two children. A son was born this month, and he has a nearly 3-year-old daughter. He said he needs to focus now on providing for his children.

“I’m not certain that the timing will ever be right again for me,” he said.

ON LEAVING OFFICE

“It’s been a real honor to serve as mayor. It’s been the most challenging job that I think I’ll ever have. But also, I know that we’ve made a difference in our city and our state, and we’ve done it for good,” he said.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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