PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Five members of the Providence City Council are calling for city residents to vote against a proposed $40-million infrastructure bond unless a “clean” spending plan is released within the next week.
In a statement issued Thursday evening, Democrat Councilors Seth Yurdin, Sam Zurier, Nick Narducci, Wilbur Jennings and David Salvatore said the city “has not provided voters enough information concerning the infrastructure bond, and time is almost up.”
“The City Council leadership is holding the infrastructure bond resolution hostage to a ransom demand of ‘slush funds’ controlled by individual members,” the group said. “This ransom demand, when combined with the imminent deadline, seeks to extract political advantage from the city’s extensive infrastructure needs and scarce capital funds.”
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The councilors’ statement came a week after Mayor Jorge Elorza threatened to veto a proposal from Council President Luis Aponte that would give individual councilors more of a say over how $20 million of the proceeds should be spent. Elorza called the proposal a “slush fund.”
The proposal put forth by Aponte doesn’t actually create individual accounts for each of the 15 members of the City Council, but it requires that at least half of the proceeds be equitably distributed for projects “which have been identified by the council member from each ward.” Aponte said last week he can’t “envision a scenario where we’re not going to include projects that are encouraged by the council members.”
The proposal goes on to state that if any councilors don’t identify projects in their ward, the council president would have the ability to make decisions himself, but Aponte has called that language a “placeholder” until an agreement with the administration is reached.
Council leadership refused repeated requests for comment Thursday.
When the administration and the council initially agreed to an ordinance in August that allowed the bond question to be placed on the ballot, both sides pledged to work together to publish a list of specific projects by the end of September. Those projects have not been released.
Under the current proposal, the proceeds from the $40 million bond would be divided into five pools: $21.5 million for streets and sidewalks; $4 million for sewer projects; $7 million for bridge and dam repairs; $4 million for parks and recreation facilities; and $3.5 million for repairs to public buildings. Councilors would be given a say over how at least $20 million of the money is spent within those pools.
Even if a deal between the council and the administration isn’t reached by Election Day, the bond question will still appear on the ballot.