Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza delivered an upbeat second-term inaugural address yesterday, boasting that his administration has improved city finances, brought the capital city back from the cusp of bankruptcy, kept property taxes stable and ushered in new investment in the historic New England city.
The 42-year son of Guatemalan immigrant also said that in his second term he wants to work with the city’s religious faith community to build a “kinder, more compassionate” city.
Democrat Elorza, who was a Roger Williams University law professor before winning election in 2014, is fresh off an impressive November election victory. At the ceremony on the steps of the Beaux Arts City Hall, he was sworn in as the city’s 38th mayor by Municipal Court Judge Frank Caprio.
As is usually the case in inaugural speeches, the mayor spoke in lofty themes. There were few specifics in his remarks, but the mayor did pledge to push for universal pre-Kindergarten and linking every child in the schools to high-speed Internet.
Elorza, a graduate of the University of Rhode Island Harvard University Law School, depicted a city lifted from “the talk of bankruptcy” and with scant development to a flourishing municipality with construction “cranes in the sky,” a slogan that is also often used by Gov. Gina Raimondo to argue that Rhode Island is moving forward.
“In the next four years, I pledge to not only engage around budgets, infrastructure, development and all those things that mayors talk about, but also so use this awesome platform that is being Providence’s mayor, to engage in the meaningful work that it takes to be kinder, more compassionate city,” said Elorza.
The mayor touted the blush of development –much of it fostered by the city’s non-profit hospitals and colleges—and the increase in home property values that a better economy has brought. “People are investing here, they’re visiting here, and they’re buying homes here,” said Elorza.
Seeking to connect his immigrant story to generations of earlier immigrants who have forged the modern Providence, Elorza praised the grit and ambition of his mother and father, who brought him here as a child.
“My parents journey was indeed amazing, but it wasn’t unique,” said Elorza. “For generations families in Providence, through grit and sheer will, have found a way to eke out a better life. My family story is the same as your story, as your parents and your grandparents story. Stripped down of the details, we’re all striving for a better future.”
The address was a delivered from the front steps of City Hall overlooking Kennedy Plaza on a cold, windswept afternoon. He thanked the city council, Providence state lawmakers and Gov. Gina Raimondo for help during his first term. Raimondo wasn’t in attendance due to the flu, said a mayoral spokeswoman. But all of the other state general officers were watching the mayor’s speech from a stage set up on the steps. More than 100 people thronged Kennedy Plaza to watch the ceremonies, but there were empty seats in the viewing area, perhaps due to the weather.
“Staying true to our values and working together, we have accomplished so much over the past four years,” said Elorza. “Now, we’ve stabilized our finances and are shifting the conversation to our long-term health.”
There was no mention of the recent round of dismal standardized test scores in the city’s public schools or such other second-term challenges, notably the ticking-time bomb that is the city’s underfunded public employee pension system.
Elorza boasted of fixing up city parks and advancing a plan to pursue development in the Woonasquatucket River corridor.