PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza is settling the score after he was caught on camera confronting Gov. Dan McKee about the city’s teachers contract during what was supposed to be a celebratory event earlier this week.
12 News cameras captured the moment Elorza approached McKee before the ceremonial lighting of the WaterFire basins along the Providence River, which was to signify the return of the downtown art installation.
After pointing and yelling at the governor, Elorza was separated from him by a member of McKee’s R.I. State Police detail.
Elorza set out to clarify exactly what happened during an interview Friday with 12 News anchor Kim Kalunian.
Watch the full interview in the video above.
“This is not a situation where his security stepped in to protect him,” Elorza said. “He stepped in to shield him from having a conversation with me, one that he’s refused to have with both me and with the community.”
When asked whether he regrets his behavior, Elorza said he felt bad it overshadowed what was supposed to be a positive event. But he reiterated that, with the Providence Teachers Union scheduled to ratify the contract Friday, the clock was ticking.
“In terms of speaking to the governor, this is just such an important issue,” Elorza said. “He can’t hide behind it. This is the contract that is going to dictate and control education in my city for the next 30, 40, 50 years.”
“The stakes are just too high for this to be done in secret,” he added.
Elorza has continuously expressed frustration with the lack of transparency in the negotiation process, as well as McKee’s decision to make the details of the contract public after it’s ratified and without any community feedback.
“For something that is going to affect us for such a long time, they deserve and they’re owed the opportunity to provide their input,” he said, adding that the confrontation was an attempt to convince McKee to pause to the ratification process.
The mayor also claims the revisions made to the contract were marginal, and the city is “long past the point where we need marginal changes.”
“It’s a contract that still benefits the adults at the cost of the children,” Elorza explained.
McKee and Elorza are expected to be potential opponents in the Democratic primary for governor next year, and this is not the first time the two have butted heads in recent months.
Elorza reiterated that the confrontation was not politically motivated, and said it was in the city’s best interest he tried to speak with the governor about the contract.
“Anyone who thinks that doesn’t know me and doesn’t know how I operate,” Elorza said. “I stepped in to do this at great political risk and political cost, but I don’t care about that stuff because it’s the right thing to do.”
“I know so many people who put all of their hopes and dreams for their family and their kids into our school department,” he continued, “and to see this opportunity thrown away … to make a difference in people’s lives for the next generation, it’s hard to see.”