Elorza wants Cranston resident on city licensing board

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The Elorza administration has asked the Providence City Council to give a Cranston resident a coveted position on the city’s licensing board, the panel best known for deciding the fate of bars and clubs accused of wrongdoing.

The council Finance Committee on Tuesday sent the nomination of Luis Peralta to the full council for approval, but not before several members urged Peralta to connect with other members of the council who might not be comfortable giving a seat on one of the city’s most powerful boards to someone who doesn’t live in Rhode Island’s capital city.

“There are some council members that have a strong position when it comes to appointed individuals that don’t live in the city,” Councilwoman Sabina Matos told Peralta during a meeting Tuesday.

Peralta, who owns a three-family home on Public Street and lived in the city for 11 years, is a former reporter for Providence En Español, a popular Spanish-language newspaper that stopped publication in 2014. He also works at the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence.

Peralta’s Facebook page shows he was an early supporter of Elorza’s campaign for mayor. He also contributed $100 to Elorza’s campaign last May, according to filings with the R.I. Board of Elections.

If approved by the council, Peralta would replace Everett Bianco, the board’s vice president. Commissioners for the Board of Licenses are paid $19,713 a year and generally meet about three times each week. The board processes thousands of entertainment and liquor licenses annually.

Nothing in the city charter prohibits people who don’t live in the city from sitting on most boards and commissions, but some council members have long argued for tighter residency rules.

“You have a challenge ahead of you to make council members comfortable that you are going to be thoughtful and considerate and deliberate and understand that the decisions the board makes have an impact,” Council President Luis Aponte told Peralta.

Other appointments

Separately, the Finance Committee forwarded the Municipal Court judicial nominations of Chief Judge Frank Caprio Sr., state Rep. John Lombardi and volunteer Judge Lisa Bortolotti to the full council for approval. (Municipal judgeships are decided by the council with no input from the mayor.) If Caprio and Lombardi are approved, there would be one paid position on the court still available. Judge Anthony Giannini and state Rep. Daniel McKiernan will meet with the Finance Committee Thursday to discuss their interest in the position.

The committee also forwarded to the full council the nominations of lawyer Jeffrey Dana for city solicitor, Victor Capellan to the city Zoning Board, and James Hackett and Pastor Antonio Aquino to Board of Tax Assessment and Review.

Snow removal

In other council news, members of the Public Works Committee grilled the city’s director of operations and acting director of public works on snow removal following several winter storms over the last month.

The council members praised the work of the city’s DPW employees, but questioned whether they have the proper equipment to handle larger storms. Committee Chairman Michael Correia said secondary roads in certain neighborhoods are “still impassable.”

Alan Sepe, who oversees operations for the city, said he believes the city has handled the snow as best it could. He indicated one problem with snow-covered side roads is that residents push snow from their driveways into the middle of the street and too many cars remain parked on the road even when there are parking bans, making it difficult for plows to get through.

Financially, the city has spent about $1.1 million of the $1.6 million it allocated for snow removal in its current budget, according to Evan England, a spokesman for the mayor. England said the city will seek federal reimbursement for the costs of last month’s blizzard.

Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan

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