Clock should be ticking on East Providence Budget Commission's departure


By any realistic and unbiased measure, the East Providence Budget Commission has been a success. The state overseers came into the city some 14 months ago with a mandate to sort out its finances, stabilize its cash flow, formulate a prudent future financial forecast and make meaningful cuts to municipal government our elected politicians failed to or were unwilling to do. On each those aforementioned matters, the Commission has done what it was supposed to do.

In the last week, the Commission and its lead negotiator, Providence attorney Joseph Whelan, ironed out a number of contracts with city workers. Those negotiations included bringing to an end what had become an acrimonious period of relations with the East Providence teachers' union. Not only do the teachers have a new long-term contract, but they agreed to settle several outstanding court actions, doing so at what was a great savings to the city.

The Commission still has work to do in terms of forging agreements with the remaining unions, among those with the East Providence Police officers. By most accounts, those negotiations have at times been contentious, but both sides seem ready to make a deal that will be equitable to those specifically involved as well as to the taxpayer.

With that in mind, and once those deals have been struck, it would behoove the powers-that-be in the state to thank the members of the Budget Commission very, very much for their efforts and disband the oversight group. And do so sooner rather than later.

The Commission has received near complete support in this space over the last year-plus. Regardless what its detractors have said, which has often been uninformed rhetoric and political posturing, it has served its purpose well and the city greatly.

But all things must pass, and the Commission has met its expiration date. It's time for the elected politicians of the city, who have basically been given a clean, balanced slate to work with, get their chance to perform their duties as they're written in the Charter.

The Commission is delving into the every-day operations of the city, often stalling minor, though needed, decisions inordinately and clogging the wheel of typical government operations unnecessarily. And it was not supposed to be that way. When the contract negotiations are complete, so, too, should be the work of the Commission. The time is approaching when we should get our city back.


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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.