Power play

By IAN DONNIS  |  February 9, 2006

As Cathleen Crowley reported in the Providence Journal earlier this month, “DeCarvalho, a lawyer, had accused City Councilman Kevin Jackson of sabotaging his nomination because of a personal disagreement,” involving how “DeCarvalho argued against allowing Jackson’s son to return to the [Met] school after the teenager was expelled.” The accusation “angered many members of the council.” Jackson, who denies having a personal motive, tells the Phoenix that his main reason for opposing DeCarvalho was because “he was very evasive, he wouldn’t make commitments” while appearing before the council.

Cicilline remains upset about the council’s rejection of DeCarvalho, saying it remains incomprehensible to him. At least on the surface, though, the mayor seems untroubled by the council’s overall functioning. “There are times when things take longer than I would like it to, but it’s the nature of the process,” he says.Rita Williams

This philosophical response might reflect a realistic view of the status quo. As Brown University political science professor Darrell West says, “It’s frustrating for every mayor when city council members attempt to block appointments and when they raise objections to policy initiatives, so it’s always tempting to try to resolve the situation by trying to get a more favorable city council member. But it’s very tricky, because incumbents are people who have demonstrated vote-getting power, and it’s often not easy to defeat them.”

Considering the polyglot composition of the council, ranging from progressives and labor supporters to old-school Providence types, Ward One’s Segal hits close to mark when he says, “I don’t think any extra voice or two that was consistently automatically supportive of the mayor would really fundamentally alter the balance.”

If reelected, Cicilline will face a second term with any number of distinct challenges, ranging from the need to deal with the city’s $600 million unfunded pension liability, a property revaluation in 2010 that could boost property taxes, and the possible departure of administration officials — like director of administration John Simmons and operations chief Carol Grant — who can earn considerably more in the private sector. Taking all this into account, having some certain allies on the council could prove tempting.

Then again, Cliff Wood’s Ward Two campaign might mostly represent an effort to establish his own fledgling political career, perhaps preparing for the day when his mentor seeks higher office. US Representatives Patrick J. Kennedy and James R. Langevin are unlikely to vacate their positions anytime soon — and the same is true of US Senator Jack Reed and whomever wins the contest for the Senate seat now held by Lincoln Chafee.

Considering this (and assuming that Carcieri wins reelection this fall), the 2010 gubernatorial race probably represents Cicilline’s best hope of moving up. 

___

Email the author:

Ian Donnis: idonnis@phx.com
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