Politics: Councilmen Blacklisted by New Leadership


Originally Appeared at GoLocalProv in January, 2011

Two veteran local lawmakers are citing political retribution as the reason they were completely left off Standing Committees for the first time in either of their careers. Providence City Councilmen Kevin Jackson (Ward 3) and Luis Aponte (Ward 10) say their lack of support for new President Michael Solomon (Ward 5) has put them in the dog house with council leadership and now it’s the residents of their respective neighborhoods who will pay the price.

Freshmen Councilmen Davian Sanchez (Ward 11) and Bryan Principe (Ward 13) were also kept off any of the six major committees. Sanchez says he supported Aponte’s bid for Council President while Principe says he didn’t endorse either candidate. The other five freshly elected Councilmen all received committee appointments.

Reached at Thursday night’s Council meeting, Solomon would only say, “The assignments speak for themselves and I’m committed to working with the whole council.”

They’ve Disenfranchised Four Neighborhoods
Jackson supported Aponte’s run for Council President as well, but said the unprecedented act of payback also could be because he supported Mayor Angel Taveras during last September’s heated Democratic primary. He said it was sending the wrong message to citizens in four parts of the city.

“In my 16 years on the council, I’ve never seen this happen,” Jackson said. “Even when [Peter] Mancini and [John] Lombardi were serving as President, they still gave everyone opportunities. What they’re doing here is disenfranchising four communities by telling these people that they don’t get a seat at the table. They said they would be inclusive. This isn’t inclusive.”

Jackson, who had been on the City Property Committee for 16 years, is the senior member of the City Council. From 1999 through 2007, he was Chairman of the Finance Committee.

It’s About Power
A council member since 1998, Aponte never publically supported a candidate for Mayor, but said he believes he is being punished following an unsuccessful attempt at running for Council President.

“I can only attribute this to being about power and retribution,” Aponte said. “I ran for Council President and didn’t have the votes and now this is happening. To me, it’s all about power. I’ve been on Committees ever year. This isn’t normal at all.”

Aponte agreed with Jackson’s opinion that not allowing a councilman to be a part of any committee is a huge disservice to their neighborhood. Both men said they plan to stand up and make their presence known at Council Meetings and they were among the few who spoke during Thursday’s brief session.

Aponte called on his fellow Councilmen to be ready to make tough votes during tough economic times and said it was time to fix some of the mistakes made in previous years.

Principe And Sanchez Respond
The freshmen councilmen left off all committees had a more optimistic view despite being shut out by the new leadership. Both Principe and Sanchez agreed that it was a little strange to not be invited to join a committee, but said they were looking forward to working with everyone on the council.

Said Principe, “I don’t think it diminished my voice. I support Council President Solomon and plan to work with everybody. If this was political retribution, I find it very unfortunate because the issues this city are facing are too big for that.”

Regarding the Council President race, Sanchez said he was neutral until Solomon told him there would be Committee positions available. That’s when he supported Aponte. He said he wasn’t too worried about being left in the dark.

“I don't think it will effect me in anyway. I feel like it’s actually a good thing not being in a committee. More time for me now to work in my ward.”


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