This year’s Providence City Council races — in which at least two strong supporters of Mayor David N. Cicilline seem inclined to challenge incumbents, and several Latino candidates are taking on old-school councilors — promise to make for riveting political theater.
On Tuesday, Cliff Wood, the former director of the Providence Department of Art, Culture, and Tourism, announced his campaign for the Ward Two seat held for 15 years by incumbent Rita M. Williams. Calling the City Council “the next frontier for reforming Providence’s government,” Wood used a statement to assert, “We need a City Council that puts people and the good of the city ahead of politics. That means moving past the debilitating power struggles and being accountable to the people of Providence. It means being willing to challenge the mayor on policy issues when necessary, but being able to work with the mayor to get things done for our city.”
These words contain at least a little unintended irony. As the Phoenix noted in revealing Wood’s run last winter (see “Power play,” News, February 9), Williams has been a strong Cicilline ally, and Wood’s plan to run against her prompted some councilors to question whether the mayor is trying to consolidate power by remaking the council.
Although the mayor says he is not supporting challenges to incumbents, Kas R. DeCarvalho’s expected run against Ward Seven incumbent Miguel Luna is likely to fuel further speculation. DeCarvalho, a lawyer, says he intends to make a decision on whether to run for the seat “within the next week or 10 days.” He says another resident of the ward, Hector Jose, has revealed plans to seek the seat.
Nominated by Cicilline to chair the Zoning Board of Review, DeCarvalho earlier this year became the mayor’s first appointee to not win Council confirmation — a “debacle,” DeCarvalho says, that led him to consider a campaign. “I think the Council in general and certainly Mr. Luna, in particular, seem to have lost sight of the service aspect of serving in public office,” says DeCarvalho, who has not previously run for elective office. Ward-based matters, such as seeing to the filling of potholes and the replacement of streetlights, are the first and foremost responsibility of councilors, he says, although focusing attention on improving Providence's underperforming schools should also be a priority.
For his part, Luna defends his record, asserting that he has helped facilitate sidewalk improvements and streetlight replacements while fulfilling other needs, even though, he says, they are the primary responsibility of City Hall. “Check the charter,” Luna says. “It’s very clear who is in charge of what.” DeCarvalho says the mayor’s office was “fairly non-committal,” when he informed it of his consideration of a Council run. Luna, meanwhile, expresses certitude that Cicilline has encouraged campaigns by Wood and DeCarvalho.
Several nascent campaigns, meanwhile, will challenge the traditional Irish-Italian underpinning of Providence politics. Community activist Sabina Matos (and reportedly Pitch Chouen) plan to take on 24-year Ward 15 incumbent Joseph DiRuzzo. Another activist Latina, Doris M. De Los Santos, plans to challenge nine-year Ward Seven incumbent John J. Igliozzi.