PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The Providence City Council has overturned Mayor Jorge Elorza’s veto of a long list of proposed charter changes, just hours before the deadline for the proposals to get on the ballot.
The 10 proposed charter changes, including a plan to create a partly elected school board, were recommended as part of a once-per-decade process to update the city’s governing document, the Providence Home Rule Charter.
The vote was 11 to 3 to override the veto.
Elorza’s move to veto the charter changes on Friday came as a surprise, leaving the council scrambling to gather enough members to meet during its August recess to override the veto.
Elorza said he vetoed the resolution because he opposes the School Board proposal, arguing it would inject more politics into the school system. But because the 10 ballot questions were all packaged together, all the charter changes would have failed to go to voters if his veto was sustained.
The council needed a two-thirds majority – or ten votes – to override his veto.
“Shame on the mayor,” Council Majority Leader James Taylor said in remarks ahead of the vote. “He’s got four months left and he’s stopping … the residents of the city of Providence to vote on this issue. They have the kids going to the schools, and they should have a voice.”
Councilwoman Helen Anthony, who voted to sustain the veto along with Councilors David Salvatore and Nirva LaFortune, said the decision to create a new type of school board should wait until the schools are no longer in “turmoil.”
“The state takeover is not working,” Anthony said. “We need to take a step back and have a much larger discussion of how we’re going to take our schools back and how we plan to run them when we do.”
The Providence School Board is currently sapped of its powers under the state intervention, but the newly-created board under this proposal would be in place by January 2025, when the board could potentially regain control of the schools.
The proposal would create a ten-member board, half of which would be elected by the voters in five geographic regions of the city.
Elorza argued it would be costly to run for the seats, and could potentially limit access to serving on the board.
“I am disappointed in today’s vote,” Elorza said Wednesday. “Now, we’ll focus on defeating the referendum in November to make sure we do not inject more politics into our schools.”
Council President Igliozzi celebrated the override.
“Today was a great day for democracy,” Igliozzi said. “All these ballot questions go on the ballot, the people of Providence get to decide.”
Separate from the ten charter change questions, the council also unanimously approved a $125 million school construction bond for voters to consider this fall.
The Providence Board of Canvassers immediately met to certify the eleven ballot questions and hand-delivered the items to the Secretary of State’s office. The deadline to submit ballot questions was 4 p.m. Wednesday.