PowerPlayer: Providence Councilman Seth Yurdin
Monday, December 19, 2011
This week’s PowerPlayer is Providence City Council Majority Leader Seth Yurdin. Mr. Yurdin was kind enough to chat with GoLocalProv about the highs and lows of his time on the Council and his vision for the future of the city.
1) You have quickly risen to power on a City Council that has a better relationship with the Administration than it has had in years. Tell us about the importance of having that strong relationship.
In times of crisis, the ability to work together toward resolution is crucial. Providence’s fiscal crisis was a catalyst for the executive and legislative branches of government to develop a cooperative relationship. We’re committed to maintaining and strengthening that level of cooperation through all Providence’s challenges—improving our schools, bolstering economic development and jobs for residents, setting and meeting environmental goals, and dealing with the long-term budget issues.
All of this is possible because the Council has assembled a great team of supporting professionals, and that means the Council as a whole is stronger. The Council takes its oversight role seriously—the best recent example being the reporting requirements and benchmarks we wrote into new laws dealing with the City budget and finances. At the same time, we will continue to partner with the administration. Given the challenges the City faces, it's clear that working together is the only option that makes sense if we are to serve the public; gridlock and petty bickering will undermine our goals, and too much is at stake for us to allow that to happen.
2) What has been the most difficult decision you have had to make during your time on the Council?
The most difficult votes are always the ones that increase taxes or reduce City services. In 2011, the Council increased property taxes and reduced the motor vehicle exemption to $500, which meant that people who had never gotten a tax bill on their car before, got one this year. Sometimes, the options are limited and we are faced with the best ‘worst-choice’, so you try to make the best decision you can, based on the information you have. That’s why feedback from the public is so important. We need to hear from people when we do something well, and when we do something that turns out to be problematic. We don’t always get it right.
3) Take us through a day in your life.
As citizen legislators, all Council members have pretty busy schedules. For me, that means I am up early, I head to the gym, and then to my law office. Most days, I will have afternoon meetings at City Hall, go back to the law office, and return to City Hall for evening committee and Council meetings. Other evenings are filled with neighborhood events or meetings. On a good night, I get to squeeze in an hour at the rock climbing gym.
4) We always hear about the negatives in the city. What are three most promising things the future has in store for Providence?
I love Providence, and I think we need to spend more time touting the amazing people and resources we have here. We have deep-rooted long-standing communities and newer additions too that all add to the vibrancy of this place. We’ve got creativity—the artists, entrepreneurs, and information technology innovators are everywhere—think AS220 and Providence Geeks. We’ve got location—our proximity to Boston and New York, our port, and our waterways are huge assets for economic development and tourism. We’ve got livability—Providence is small in size, but has urban amenities like great theaters, great restaurants, and a lively music scene. If we want good schools, jobs, and a sustainable stable community, we will need to harness all of these resources to make it happen.
I’ve climbed a few volcanoes.
Role Model: Louis Brandeis
Favorite Restaurant: Julian’s
Best Beach: Misquamicut
Best Book You've Read in the Last Year: Getting to Yes
Advice for the Next Seth Yurdin: Do your best to plan ahead – but you’ll have no real idea what to expect.
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