Former Providence councilwoman tapped for new city job

Providence City Council meeting. (Photo by Dan McGowan/WPRI)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The Providence City Council didn’t look far for its latest hire.

City Council President Luis Aponte said Tuesday he has brought in former Councilwoman Balbina Young to work as an “administrator and liaison” to the city clerk’s office, a newly created position in city government. The job, which was not advertised to the public, has a pay range of between $57,000 and $60,000, Aponte said.

“She’s got years and years of institutional knowledge,” Aponte told WPRI.com. “With her years in leadership on the council, she understands the challenges on the council and in the clerk’s office.”

Aponte said Young, 68, is one of several new hires he is considering in both the council and clerk’s offices. He’s already named part-time city treasurer James Lombardi as a special advisor to the City Council and is mulling bringing in a communications expert. He said the clerk’s office is also looking for a bilingual clerk.

Those jobs will be funded by a recent 6% increase in the City Council’s overall budget, which includes council members and staff, the clerk’s office, treasury, internal auditor, archives and municipal and probate courts. Councilman Sam Zurier, a Democrat from Ward 2, has been publicly critical of council leadership for not discussing the council’s budget when the council Finance Committee vetted the overall city budget in recent months.

Young’s decision to return to City Hall meant she had to suspend her $495-a-month elected official’s pension for the time being, Aponte said.

A Democrat, Young became the first African-American woman elected to a municipal office in Rhode Island in 1988 when she won a special election for the Ward 11 City Council seat on the city’s South Side. Known as an outspoken advocate for disadvantaged city residents, she rose to become acting president of the council when Council President John Lombardi was promoted to acting mayor following the 2002 resignation of Mayor Vincent A. “Buddy” Cianci Jr.

She was also never shy about taking on city officials.

In 1993, Young helped form Providence Residents Against Casino Gambling after Cianci admitted that he met with casino mogul Steve Wynn. At the time, she told The Providence Journal a casino in Providence “could be a final death knell for the city.”

Five years later, she joined several council colleagues in a failed attempt to cut Cianci’s administration budget $985,400 to $6 as payback after Cianci supported an incumbent councilman’s opponent in an election.

When Providence Police Sgt. Cornel Young Jr. – no relation to Young – was shot and killed by two fellow officers in 2000, she told The Journal she believed the accused killers had “a problem with people of color.” She later sponsored a council resolution aimed a calling the death of Young a “murder.”

As a member of the council, Young called for the resignations of police chiefs Urbano Prignano Jr. and Dean Esserman. She also supported a council resolution in 2010 asking then-Mayor David Cicilline to either resign his post or quit his campaign for Congress.

After retiring from the council in 2010, Young moved to Florida for several years. But she returned to Providence last year to make a surprising announcement: after clashing with Cianci for much of their respective careers in City Hall, she endorsed his comeback bid for mayor.

“She’s on our side now,” Cianci said at a press conference last summer.

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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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