EAST PROVIDENCE — The first East Providence City Council meeting conducted under new guidelines approved recently by a slim majority of the current legislators took place mostly in a rather staid manner Tuesday night, July 18, in the City Hall Chamber though it did eventually conclude with a fiery retort from one of the members.
The meeting ended at approximately 10:18 p.m., following a vote to extend the forum an extra 15 minutes per the new rules. The Council voted 3-2 to change the parameters of its meetings, most significantly agreeing to end them no later than 10 p.m.
Tuesday, the Council voted unanimously to extend by the also agreed upon extra 15 minutes. Once that time had expired, the Council voted 4-1 to adjourn with only Ward 4’s Chrissy Rossi dissenting. Mrs. Rossi and At-Large Councilman Tracy Capobianco voted against the implementation of the new guidelines last month.
Although it concluded just 18 minutes past its intended deadline, there was still enough time for some fireworks.
Former City Councilor and State Representative Brian Coogan and area resident Christopher L. Smith, with varying degrees of voracity, each pressed the Council to adapt a change to the current parking ordinance on Taunton Avenue.
Mr. Coogan, speaking longer and as a proprietor of Horton’s Seafood, and Mr. Smith, who as a resident of 228 Taunton Ave. was brief in his remarks, both strongly urged the Council to change the allotted parking time on the south side of Taunton Avenue between John Street and Six Corners from two to six hours as it had done previously on the opposite side of the street.
Council President James Briden was reluctant to enact any changes without input from City Public Works Director Steve Coutu or East Providence Police Chief Joseph Tavares. Instead, Mr. Briden suggested, and the rest of the Council agreed, to have both administrators prepare a report on the subject.
Due to the length of the bulk of the meeting, which included show-cause hearings for city establishments found to have served minors alcohol during a recent police-led sting, a handful of public communications and most of the requests from Councilors to discuss topics by personal privilege were tabled until the next meeting scheduled for Aug. 20.
One Councilor, Ward 2’s Helder Cunha, did request and was granted the opportunity to engage through personal privilege and it certainly did get personal.
Mr. Cunha took the opportunity to take Mrs. Rossi as well as School Committee member and frequent Council public comment contributor Anthony Ferreira to task for what he deemed were inaccurate and inappropriate comments recently made by each.
Reading from prepared text, Mr. Cunha stated, “I put this on the docket to address some public comments made by Councilwoman Rossi and School Committee member Anthony Ferreira.
“I’ll start off by saying that I don’t usually respond to comments made in newspapers or social network sites. I believe in the First Amendment and that everyone is free to say whatever they want. But lets not forget the reason we are sitting here: to do what’s best for this community. I draw the line when people choose to ignore or twist the truth. To that I respond.
“Councilwoman Rossi has been critical of the Harding Avenue decision. She has decided to play politics with the issue. She ignored her own lawyer who told her that we would open the city to the wrong end of a lawsuit if we didn’t follow through on the prior decision made by the budget commission.
“Councilwoman Rossi has also been critical of our decision to limit council meetings to 10 p.m. She once again, fails to be honest that meetings were running past midnight and into the next day.
“She also fails to admit her role in extending then when she insists on taking up Council time with her weighty contributions to the future of this embattled city with fireworks, and greenhouses.
“Now I am all for these and in better times we might consider her contributions to be important and worthy of debate until 1:00am, but this city is trying to fight its way out of a deep hole, part of which Rossi helped dig deeper during her time on the School Committee.
“If there is an emergency we certainly can go past 10pm for our meetings. Until then, we owe it to the taxpayer to do our business while they are still awake and we need to focus on matters of importance, not fireworks or greenhouses.
“As to Mr. Ferreira, he has been in office for less than a year and now he’s scolding the rest of us. We voted on May 7th to request a joint meeting with the school committee. He complained in the newspapers that we were uncooperative and would not meet. He either doesn’t pay attention or he intentionally misrepresented the truth.
“I would submit that the problems of our schools, which in fairness preceded the tenure of Mr. Ferriera, require that we try to work together and not seek cheap political headlines if we want to do right by our kids.
“As far as his stated threats to run people against the rest of us, he risks adding his name to the tawdry list of the past few years of people who put politics first before any real concern for the health of this city, which is the primary reason we are in such a disadvantaged position. We should stop this political nonsense and buckle down to represent the taxpayers of our city. They are fed up with it, and so am I.”