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Elorza Travels to Guatemala to Meet with Discredited President

Thursday, August 20, 2015

 

President Otto Perez Molina, under investigation

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza is on a trade trip to create a sister city program with Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina, while Molina's administration has been under investigation for months.

Molina's Vice President was forced to resign over a kickback scheme for imports, a corruption ring was being run by the Vice President’s private secretary, and the President's son-in-law was arrested in July for drug trafficking.

The Guatemalan President has also been tied to war crimes - alleged murders during the country's civil war.

As New York Times reported in June, “In April a United Nations commission exposed a multimillion-dollar network of customs fraud, operating within the country’s tax authority and involving a web of customs agents and high-ranking government officials, including the vice president’s personal secretary.”

The ongoing United Nations investigation has unveiled a sweeping array of corruption.  

Mayor Jorge Elorza

Corruption Probe

Guatemala's President will be investigated in a corruption probe and could be stripped of immunity that protects him from prosecution. 

"The Central American nation's Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that President Otto Perez Molina should be investigated and asked the country's lawmakers to lift the President's immunity,” according to a June CNN article. Earlier this month, the Guatemalan parliament voted not to strip Molina of his Presidential immunity.  

Perez Molina is not eligible to run for re-election and voting is scheduled for September.

 

Related Slideshow: Ten Issues Elorza Can’t Hide From

Inauguration activities are now underway for the new Mayor of Providence, Jorge Elorza.  

While the pomp, circumstance, and celebration taking place over the next several days, here are the issues the new Mayor will have no choice but to soon have to deal with.

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Staffing Costs

Elorza has announced a slew of hires to date -- including the position of Chief Operating Officer in addition to Chief of Staff, as well as two Deputy Chiefs of Staff.  Outgoing Mayor Taveras' former Director of Administration was the highest paid city official at $196,086 in total compensation before departing (but retaining a private contract with the city).  To date, Elorza has not responded to requests for salary information for his administration.  Once the budget is submitted he won't be able do hide. 

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One Time Fixes

The current Administration loaded up this current year's budget with one-time stop gap measures.  So while next year's budget gap is projected to be anywhere between $17 million and $24 million, Elorza's also got to factor in where the city will get the money -- roughly $7 million -- from the one time fixes in FY15 that won't be on the table in FY16.  

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Council Relations

When Elorza was elected, and announced his transition team, he didn't give likely council-President Luis Aponte heads up or prior notice. The council has two new faces in the way of Mary Kay Harris and Jo-Ann Ryan, but the remaining 13 seats are returning.  Will Elorza work in tandem with the council -- or will it be a more hands-off approach from the Mayor's office?  

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Body Camera Funding

Since Elorza was elected, the fallout from grand jury decisions Ferguson and New York has brought a new reality to cities -- both in protests and policing.  While law enforcement members said they would support the use of body cameras -- and some community members sided with them, while others did not -- the question is where the funding of both the technology, and manpower to oversee it would come from, given the current constraints of a force that is looking to get up to full complement . 

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195 Development

Developments since election day have included the purchase and sales agreement for a dorm on 195 land -- and reaction from those who are opposed to tax breaks for such a project.  Will Elorza work in tandem with the 195 commission to articulate a vision for the future use of the land, or will it largely be dictated by outside interests?  And with minority contractors looking to be sure to be part of the process, there are more questions than answers at this point.

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East Side Crime

East Side Crime:  In December, residents, and a City Councilman, flagged crime issues on the east side as and issue, and Elorza did not respond to request for comment.  Whether it was a seasonal aberration, or indicative of a long-term trend, the uptick of crime has residents concerned about the safety of the community.  

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Superman Building

Whether it be Citizens Bank or another bidder, the looming behemoth at 111 Westminster continues to need to be addressed.  High Rock Development failed in its attempts over the past two years to gain traction for apartments coupled with retails space.  Will Elorza play a driving role in determining the fate of the downtown anchor?  With the reconfiguring of Kennedy Plaza, whether or not the Superman building can find a tenant is an issue Elorza cannot hide from. 

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Blackstone Boulevard

The initial proposal for a sub-division of the Granofff property on Rochambeau and Blackstone Boulevard -- which faced vocal opposition from neighbors -- did not pass the City Planning Council.  But could the team of Granoff, Moses, and DeRentis, husband of Chief Operating Officer Brett Smiley, come back to the table for a new lot subdivision based on new lot allotments? If so, Elorza will have a major issue on his hand that he's been able to stay out of until now.  

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Labor Issues

Following an election that saw most of labor's support got to Cianci, labor issues are at the forefront.  "Right now one of my top priorities is to get a tentative agreement and subsequently a collective bargaining agreement that respects Providence teachers and the amazing work they do everyday," said Providence Teachers Union head Maribeth Calabro.  However, even labor leader Paul MacDonald said he sees bigger issues -- the council. "Can he get the support of the city council will be a bigger challenge for him than labor.  The big question for the Mayor is he willing to work with the Teachers, firefighters, hotel/bartenders and the big one the Laborers union 1033," said MacDonald in Decemb

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Affordable Housing

During the campaign, Elorza's announcement that he would create a bonded $5 million revolving loan program to redevelop foreclosed and abandoned properties in Providence was met with questions from affordable housing advocates as to its impact both on the market, and neighborhood redevelopment.  

"There are lots of questions here.  I'm not sure it's been completely vetted for a long term strategy.  You can't just fix a house and sell it, and cross your fingers and hope it works," said SWAP's Carla DeStefano.  "What this program needs to do is work within the greater context of neighborhood revitalization, and incorporate best practices from other states, and our knowledge."  How Elorza will work with the affordable housing community to articulate his vision -- and succeed -- will be a major test

 
 

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