Providence City Council President Luis Aponte plans on attending a special meeting tonight to schedule a recall election against Councilor Kevin Jackson, and he expects there will be a quorum.
“There will be at least eight, probably more” he said, referring to the number of councilors who need to attend to hold the meeting.
WPRI ace reporter Dan McGowan wrote this weekend that “City Council leadership [has been] unwilling to call a special council meeting to schedule the recall election.” Five city councilors called today’s meeting and it was unclear if the other ten planned to attend.
If the city council didn’t meet, there is also a Board of Elections meeting today, at the behest of Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, to schedule the recall vote.
“I believe that the Board of Elections has the authority to do this in the event that the Providence City Council fails to to take timely action,” she wrote in a letter to the Board of Elections. “If the Providence City Council were to schedule a special meeting … then the Board of Election’s special meeting would no longer be necessary.”
Aponte said there was no reason for what he called “the harried state involvement.”
He said he scheduled a meeting for Thursday to set the recall election. This timeline complied with the city charter, he said, if not state law.
He changed his mind, and decided to attend Monday meeting, after a slew of stories from WPRI, and a rare Saturday night statement from Mayor Jorge Elorza.
“Providence residents, specifically those in Ward 3, deserve an open, transparent and timely election process,” Elorza said in a statement sent out to the press over the weekend. “I applaud the members of the Providence City Council who took action to ensure compliance with Rhode Island State Law. I urge the other members of the council respect this special meeting and show up on Monday to make sure the election date is set without delay.”
Aponte will vote to schedule the recall election today, saying, “I will vote to uphold the requirements of the charter.” He declined to say if he thinks Jackson deserves to be recalled. “My opinion doesn’t matter to the folks that live in that area and signed the petition to have him recalled, so I’m not particularly inclined to share it.” He did confess that he isn’t looking forward to doing so. “He’s a friend of mine. Of course it will be a tough vote.”
Jackson represents Ward 3 on the East Side of Providence. Last year he was charged by State Police with embezzling $127,153 from a local youth track and field team. 2,300 Ward 3 residents signed a petition to hold a recall election.
State law requires that election happen by May 3.
If Jackson is recalled, Mark Santow, a progressive Providence school board member told WPRI he would run for the vacated council seat.
“I believe we need to be represented by a transparent, accessible, honest and progressive City Council person, focused on improving our public schools (the buildings, and what happens inside them), on criminal justice reform, on affordable housing, and on making Providence a more just and sustainable place,” Santow told WPRI.