In Providence, one ballot question has already been decided

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Even if all 124,025 of Providence’s registered voters approve a $40-million infrastructure bond question on Nov. 8, the city will not move forward with borrowing the money.

Mayor Jorge Elorza confirmed Monday he is no longer holding out hope that a last-minute agreement with the City Council over how to spend the bond proceeds can be reached before Election Day, effectively killing Question 8 before voters have their say.

“The bond we don’t anticipate going forward,” Elorza told reporters in his City Hall office. “But, once again, these infrastructure investments, they have to be made. We have mechanisms that we can use throughout the city, so we’ll be looking at other ways to get this done.

Administration officials have already said they may consider borrowing millions of dollars for infrastructure improvements through the Providence Public Buildings Authority (PBA), a city agency that does not need voter approval to float a bond.

But Elorza aides remained optimistic last week that a deal could be reached with the City Council to move the ballot question forward – even though Council President Luis Aponte and other members of his leadership team have repeatedly made it clear they no longer support borrowing the money.

In a statement released Friday, members of Aponte’s leadership team urged voters to reject Question 8 “because it is not financially prudent and it is not attached to a responsible spending commitment.” Cyd McKenna, the council’s chief of staff, has said she doesn’t expect the council to support borrowing through the PBA either.

The administration and the council have clashed over bond proposal for several months.

In order to place the question on the ballot, the two sides placed a provision in the bond ordinance that required a spending plan to be approved by the council prior to Election Day. The two sides never published a list of infrastructure projects.

When the council introduced a resolution that would give individual councilors more control over some of the proceeds, Elorza called the proposal a “slush fund” and threatened a veto. The council then withdrew its support altogether, citing the city’s bleak finances.

Even without the bond, Elorza said the city has to make sure it can “stay on top” of its infrastructure needs.

“When it comes to infrastructure, it’s not a question of whether you’re going to make the investments or not going to make investments,” Elorza said. “We have to make the investments.”

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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