After four months of quizzing the Providence mayoral candidates, attending debates, and talking with each, I have made my choice: I will vote for Angel Taveras on September 14*.
For many of my peers, Angel was always the obvious choice. Not for me. I’ve been candid in my critique of all the candidates, Angel included. All have delivered disappointing performances, glossed over issues, and at times relied on under-baked talking point filler to answer tough questions about the future of our city. This is the nature of the campaign beast.
September 14 is just the beginning. Nothing underscores this more than the sometimes shocking vapidity of the mayoral campaign. Leadership matters, but my position on the election has not changed: there is no silver bullet candidate. The challenge isn’t winning the election. The challenge is getting citizens focused and organized around problem solving. After serious meditation, this is exactly why I will vote for Angel on 9/14.
Steven Costantino and John Lombardi both possess strengths. Steven knows very well how the cogs of government churn. He is a quick-witted, intelligent guy who has demonstrated great political savvy. Say what you will about the General Assembly, but only the strong survive, and Steven has survived many a storm. Similarly, John Lombardi scores big points for being “in it to win it.” When John says he wants nothing more from life than to be mayor of Providence, I believe him. He is surprisingly polished for someone known to be brash and as comfortable at a pub as he is at a podium.
I’ve heard supporters of these candidates echo the same sentiments, and they are not wrong. But after thinking deeply about what Providence needs now, I’ve concluded that Angel, who possesses both intelligence and a rare compassionate confidence, is best suited to be our next mayor.
Here are a few reasons why:
When other candidates were organizing campaign fundraisers, Angel was organizing advisory groups of the City’s best and brightest to sharpen his vision. Then and now, Angel is confident enough in himself to tap into the wisdom of Providence’s citizens, our greatest (and most abundant) resource. When it comes to problem solving, a little humility goes a long, long way.
Angel will fill the few positions that the mayor controls with intelligent, competent people who are qualified for the job. Pack the administration with patronage hires, and the ship is sunk. I’ve looked this man in the eye and directly challenged him. I’ve seen how he manages his advisors. Angel values the truth, even when a truth is difficult or unpopular.
Angel will seek qualified advisors. The challenges we face as a city are serious. Many months after the election, we will still have staggering unemployment rates, a foreclosure nightmare, and a school system in crisis to contend with. It’s going to take a consortium of talent to make progress. We need a mayor who has the self-confidence to enlist help. I believe that Angel will put problem solving above political posturing, even if it has a negative impact on his political career.
Chutzpah and political gamesmanship make for good theater, but not necessarily good municipal leadership. Providence needs a mayor who will buckle down and work with as little drama as possible. Angel has been criticized for not being “tough enough.” This is total bullshit. Despite the popularity of Fox News, thoughtfulness and a calm demeanor are not anathema to good leadership. In our next mayor, we need a problem solver, not a talk radio prizefighter.
A different time, a different economy, and maybe then a different mayor. But today, Angel is the one I trust.
Here’s the hitch: whoever wins, the citizens need to stay involved. Without our ongoing support (and watchful eyes), all of these candidates will fail to deliver the mayoral service Providence needs. Please get out and vote on September 14. And if you agree with me, vote for Angel Taveras. But no matter what happens, remember that our future cannot be just about politicians or their elections.
*The opinions represented in this post are those of Melissa Withers and should not be considered representative of the Uncaucus as an organization.