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Politics & Elections

Providence City Council inauguration a day of firsts and political fault lines



The inauguration of a new Providence City Council was a day of firsts and a day of revealed political fault lines. The new City Council remains steadfastly Democratic, but for the first time eight of the 15 members are women. In addition to swearing in four new City Councilors, Helen Anthony (Ward 2), James Taylor (Ward 8), Katherine Kerwin (Ward 12) and Rachel Miller (Ward 13), the City Council elected a new Council President, Sabina Matos (Ward 15), and a new President Pro Tempore, Michael Correia (Ward 6).

“This is… the first year that the Providence City Council will have a woman-lead majority,” said Council President Matos after her election. “That is not the only first for this City Council. [I’m] the first Latina to be elected President of this body… Councilwoman [Joann] Ryan [Ward 5] is the first woman appointed as Majority Leader of this body. Councilwoman [Nirva] LaFortune [Ward 3] is the first Haitian-American woman elected to the Providence City Council. And she is also the first formerly undocumented person elected to the Providence City Council. Councilwoman Miller is the first member of the LGBTQ community elected to the Providence City Council. Councilwoman Kerwin is one of the youngest members ever elected to the Providence City Council.”

You can watch Matos’ speech at 32:19 in the video below:

Elected after a turbulent few years at the City Council, Matos pledged to leave the “past where it belongs, in the past.” Unfortunately, the past was not buried and the vote for Council President and President Pro Tempore was soaked in the politics of the last two years. Matos received 11 of 15 votes. Helen Anthony, former City Council President David Salvatore (Ward 14) and Seth Yurdin (Ward 1) voted “no.” LaFortune abstained. (Video 21:50)

Directly after that vote Michael Correia was elected President Pro Tempore. Before the vote, Councilor Yurdin rose to raise a point of order: Traditionally, said Yurdin, nominees without opponents are passed with one ballot, not a roll call vote. Majority Leader Ryan asked for a roll call vote anyway, and Matos agreed. On a roll call vote Correia received 10 votes. Anthony, Kerwin, LaFortune and Salvatore voted against Correia. Yurdin abstained. (Video 27:19)

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About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.