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TheStreet Open House

Mayor Leads RI Capital City Out Of Financial Peril

"It's still something I'm working through with a lot of teachers," he said.

Paul Doughty, president of the Providence firefighters union, calls the mayor's tenure a "mixed bag." He felt burned when Taveras came back seeking pension concessions after he had already renegotiated their labor contracts. Later, Doughty was angered that the mayor and council passed pension overhaul legislation in the middle of negotiations, effectively resetting them â¿¿ a leverage-creation tactic the union leader understood but did not appreciate.

"We were there in good faith," he said.

Still, Doughty describes Taveras as a consensus builder and says he and his team were ultimately good negotiating partners.

"No ultimatums, no grandstanding, no surprises," he said. "It was all really earnest and honest negotiations at the table. There was a lot of give and take. They came in almost with an academic bent to them as opposed to a political bent, which was much different than the previous administration."

City Councilman David Salvatore, who worked closely with the mayor on the pension overhaul, said the conversation has shifted in Providence since Taveras took office.

"Two years ago we were talking about a city in peril. Today, through the collective efforts of the administration and the city council, we're discussing ways to grow our local economy," he said, referring to the mayor's new 20-point economic development plan. "The naysayers, five to 10 years ago, would say you'll never get pension reform passed the way you did in 2012. I think the outcome is a clear indication of this mayor's leadership. The scorecard speaks for itself."

While the city's finances have markedly improved, Taveras says there is little room for error in the months ahead. By his estimation, Providence hasn't turned the corner yet â¿¿ but it's about to.

"People have to believe," he said. "Confidence matters. We need to make sure we have that confidence."

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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