Power play

By IAN DONNIS  |  February 9, 2006

In another instance, Ris, who worked as a mayoral fellow at City Hall in the summer of 2004, told the Brown Daily Herald last year that he encountered members of Cicilline’s administration who were “dissatisfied the council in general.” Asked by the Phoenix if Cicilline has encouraged him to run, Ris says, “The mayor personally has not. He has sort of made a big point in distancing himself from my race . . . He’s been generally encouraging of my interest in politics.”

Several councilors tossed cold water on the notion of Cicilline targeting incumbent councilors. Things are much more personal for Ward Two’s Williams, however, because of the expected challenge from Wood, a sharp dresser and political junkie who seems in many ways a reflection of Cicilline. “He certainly has the right to run against me, if he likes, and I will run on my record,” says Williams, a retired former social worker in the North Providence schools. At the same time, she questions whether Cicilline encouraged Wood to run because of the mayor’s frustration with the council. “My feeling is that he probably wants people who go along with him, so he may be encouraging [Wood’s campaign].”

What difference does it make?
The looming clash between Cliff Wood and Ward Two's Rita Williams is all the more curious since Williams has been a Cicilline supporter.Like a number of other councilors, Williams faults Cicilline for an insufficient amount of communication with the council. “From the beginning of his administration, he has instead of really talking with us and working together with us, he’s kind of done his own thing and let us know about it after the fact in terms of many, many decisions that he makes.” For his part, Cicilline says his administration makes energetic efforts to communicate with the council, and he ascribes the councilors’ frustration to a desire to play a greater role in executive decision-making.

The cold calculus underlying this back and forth is the 10 council votes that constitute a veto-proof majority. While Lombardi, Young, Aponte, and Ward Nine’s Miguel Luna tend to really stick together, Cicilline has enjoyed more success than the council president in plucking votes, although the council’s fault lines are considerably more fluid than when Cianci was mayor. As Ward One’s Segal says, “Under Buddy, every vote went 8-7, one way or another. My predecessor [Robert Clarkin] was the swing vote. Now I don’t think we’ve had a single 8-7 vote.”

Some of the conflicts between the council and Cicilline — Mary McClure nomination to return to the school board, for example, or going ahead with a rewrite of the city’s zoning, in advance of updating the comprehensive plan — come down to differences of opinion. Other instances, though, have a distinctly personal tinge. The mayor’s nomination of Kas R. DeCarvalho to succeed Sandra Carlson, as chair of the Zoning Board of Review, is a case in point.

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