Citing Trump, Mayor Elorza urges residents to ‘be part of the solution’

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Criticizing the Trump administration for attacking “the principles we hold most dear,” Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza said Wednesday he has become more inspired by city residents since the new president took office.

In his second State of the City address, the 40-year-old Democrat praised the community for the compassion residents have shown amid the “changed landscape in which we now find ourselves” while also touting the city’s improved financial standing and his effort to ramp up city services during his first two years in office.

“In our system of government, ultimate power will always lie in ‘we the people,’” Elorza told the crowd gathered in the City Council chambers. “And your local government needs you now more than ever. To my fellow residents, if you are concerned that our city is not living up to its full potential, I invite you to be part of the solution. Let’s focus our energy on building something together that is amazing.”

The State of the City is separate from the mayor’s budget address, which will be delivered in April.

Elorza has been vocal about his opposition to President Donald Trump’s executive orders around illegal immigration and has declared that Providence is a sanctuary city for undocumented people.

The mayor urged residents to get involved by joining boards and commissions, attending upcoming city-wide education conference, and weighing in on the future of Kennedy Plaza. He also recommended volunteering in classrooms and starting a neighborhood crime watch.

Watch in Full: Mayor Elorza’s State of the City speech »
Watch in Full: Mayor Elorza’s State of the City speech »

“Let’s channel our energies to build something exciting and let’s do it together,” Elorza said.

The bulk of the mayor’s speech focused on his efforts to stabilize the city’s financial picture and invest in schools.

By “reforming the way we put the budget together, eliminating almost every one-time, short-term solution, renegotiating contracts, and keeping track of every cent that comes in and out,” Elorza said, Providence ended the 2015-16 fiscal year with one of the largest surpluses on record.

He pledged that Providence will finally have a rainy day fund at the end of the current fiscal year, referring to the cash reserves the city hasn’t had since 2011. He said he is also committed to investing $120 million over the next five years on infrastructure improvements in all city neighborhoods.

“I know that no city has ever cut its way to greatness,” he said.

Elorza also pledged to improve “structures and supports that surround our schools,” noting that he has pledged to increase the city’s contribution to the school department for the first time since 2011.

“Every dollar invested in kids is a dollar well spent,” Elorza said.

Elorza has already pledged to run for re-election next year.

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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