Mayor Elorza sees ‘window of opportunity’ to settle $40M bond dispute

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A day after Providence City Council leadership withdrew its support for a proposed $40-million infrastructure bond, Mayor Jorge Elorza said he is still hopeful a deal can be cut on a spending plan by Thursday’s council meeting.

Council leaders held a press conference Tuesday to announce they no longer support the bond, sending a dagger through a proposed plan to pave roads, fix sidewalks and renovate recreation centers. Even if Providence voters approve the bond question on Nov. 8, the city can’t borrow money without a spending plan.

But Elorza said he believes there is “a slight crack in the window of opportunity here” to reach a deal that ensures all neighborhoods benefit from the proceeds of the bond.

“I’m reaching out to individual council members right now, and what I know for a fact is that most council people would like to see these investments happen,” Elorza said. “So if we’re all on board and the majority of the council would like to see this done, there’s no reason why we can’t come to the table and work out the language so that we can make these important investments for the city.”

Council leaders cited concerns over the city’s finances as the reason they pulled their support for the bond, but they spent several weeks trying negotiate a deal over how the money would be spent before holding their press conference Tuesday to announce they no longer support the ballot question. Michaela Antunes, the council’s spokesperson, said she learned Council President Luis Aponte decided to pull his support on Oct. 13.

The administration and the council have spent nearly three months trying to identify infrastructure projects throughout the city, but the two sides did not follow through on a promise to publish a list by the end of September. The council put forward a proposal that would give individual councilors more control over about $20 million of the proceeds, but Elorza has threatened to veto the plan.

Cyd McKenna, the council’s chief of staff, said Wednesday it is unlikely a resolution between the two sides can be reached by Thursday. There is nothing related to the bond plan on the council’s meeting agenda.

“We want to shift focus now to how to get pressing projects done in spite of not having bond money to pay for them,” she said.

CORRECTION: The original version of this report stated that council leaders spent much of Tuesday attempting to negotiate a deal. The report has been updated to reflect that negotiations occurred for several weeks.

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