The natural progression in a politician’s career seem to always aim for higher offices, and Mayor Angel Taveras is ready to fall into his path’s next steps.
The announcement was made in a simple ceremony at a state-of-the-arts charter school located in the middle of Providence, RI. He will run for the highest state office in 2014 to achieve a goal nobody has dared before: to become the first Latino Governor of the “Ocean State.”
With a decreasing population of just over 1 million inhabitants, Rhode Island is home to 136,000 Hispanics primarily concentrated in the City of Providence. Almost 40 percent of “Renaissance City” is of Latino origin, and among them, Dominicans play a main role.
Taveras is pursuing a goal only a handful of Hispanic politicians have achieved, and might become just the second Latino Mayor from of a large city –after Robert “Bob” Martinez in Florida – to set foot in a Governor’s mansion.
“We are a young population, and Latinos have not had yet the opportunity to run for office such as other groups had,” Taveras said to VOXXI. “We will see more Latinos participate in every aspect of our country’s political life.”
With a demographic power of over 52 million people, and a strong saying in national elections –the Hispanic vote was instrumental in electing the last two Presidents to office-, Latinos still lack political representation that would sustain their interest and gain momentum for their cause.
Taveras' decision has been supported by Latino leaders around the nation.
Mayor Taveras and his campaign
Taveras' announcement was made at the Meeting Street School, a charter institution that opened in 2007 and holds an Early Learning Center, a K-8th grade school, and a high school in a custom-designed, 76,000-square-foot building nestled on a 7.5-acre campus.
“I chose this setting because the Meeting Street School has a strong Head Start Program,” he said. “I’m the result of a Head Start Program and early education, something all children should be entitled to receive,” he added.
In addition to a strong public education agenda, the Latino Mayor is running on his record of fiscal responsibility, building coalitions and bringing the toughest negotiations to fruition. He faced that situation upon taking the Mayor’s office, in a fiscal disaster he described as a “category 5 hurricane.”
In the brink of bankruptcy, Providence Mayor recurred to deep cuts in department budgets and elimination of public jobs –he himself took a salary cut.
He also reached out to higher education institutions and hospitals in the Providence area that were traditionally tax-exempt –despite receiving municipal services– and negotiated larger contributions to the city.
Lastly, he sat with public servant unions and negotiated pension funds and out of control growth of life-long benefits for retirees.
“In order to increase jobs and attract businesses, we needed to put our finances in order first,” he said. He plans to do the same with the state finances when he reaches office.
Taveras is realistic about Rhode Island’s poor environment to attract new businesses, especially because several of its cities are facing similar situations of fiscal disarray, financial instability and loss of opportunities.
“We need to open access to capital and increase opportunities in education, not only to provide skilled labor that will attract new businesses but also to help our workforce achieve high management levels in the corporate world,” he said.
He also believes in supporting established businesses in the region. “In Providence, we provide tax benefits to companies that hire from the city’s labor force, which greatly has benefited Latinos and other resident groups,” he said.
Rhode Island and “Secure Communities”
In 2010, as the Mayor of Providence, Taveras took a stand in the “Secure Communities” program and tried to opt out of the agreement with little success.
Fortunately, the following year, the new elected Governor Lincoln D. Chafee dismantled the legislation, revoked the enforcement of federal immigration laws by state police and eliminated the E-verify requirement for workers’ immigration status.
If elected, Taveras will follow on the same path. He believes immigrants are not only beneficial for the state’s economy but also it is a typical American experience. His family is one example of many immigrants who came to this country for opportunities and achieved a position to give back to their new homeland.
“In elementary school I knew I wanted to be a lawyer, do pro-bono work that had impact and have the chance to serve,” Taveras said. He believes Latinos, like Italians, or Irish or any other immigrant community before, will succeed in time if they are given the right opportunities. “We won’t have ‘secure communities,’ not on my watch,” he said.
This article originally appeared on VOXXI under the title "Mayor Taveras wants to become the first Latino Governor of RI."