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Effort Underway to Recall Providence Councilman

Saturday, March 10, 2012


A Providence City Councilman is being targeted for a recall by a group of residents who are upset with his decision to support the controversial redistricting proposal that would give control over downtown to Majority Leader Seth Yurdin.

The group, which includes several community activists, claims Ward 8 Councilman Wilbur Jennings was not representing the best interests of his constituents when he voted the proposal out of committee last month.

Fred Ordonez, the executive director of Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE), said members of his organization are involved in the recall efforts, but the organization itself is not staking a stance. He said he may get involved personally.

“Residents across all the communities of color are up in arms about this and of course there are DARE members that live in those communities,” Ordonez said.

He continued: "Councilman Jennings is someone who should know better.”

Jennings: I’ll Be Fine

The proposal was expected to be voted on by the full Council last week, but Councilman Sam Zurier was unable to attend the meeting and Council leadership did not have the eight votes it needed to pass the bill. A new vote has not been scheduled.

Supporters of the map have consistently said it helps restore previously divided neighborhoods and creates more cohesive wards. The proposal also gives the city five majority-Hispanic wards (up from four) and ten majority-minority wards (up from nine). But Yurdin has been criticized because he stands to benefit from becoming the only Councilman to represent downtown, which would give him control of the developing Route 195 property.

The need to redraw the maps at all comes because, according to the latest census data, all three wards on the East Side lost population while the wards on the western side of the city grew significantly. Yurdin’s district (Ward 1) lost about 500 residents while Wards 2 and 3 combined to lose nearly 1,800 voters. Wards 6 and 7 saw the largest growth in population over the last ten years. Ward 6, which is represented by first-term Councilman Michael Correia, picked up 2,134 new residents and Ward 7, which is represented by Finance chairman John Igliozzi, grew by 1,388 residents. Only six of the city’s 15 wards increased population since the 2000 census.

Jennings said he understands that residents are angry, but said that he is not worried about a recall.

“I’m very confident in the people of my ward and I'll be fine,” Jennings said. “I have to stand up for my constituents.”

Activist: It’s a Group Effort

A recall can be a daunting task. According to the city’s Home Rule Charter, 300 qualified voters from the specific ward have to sign a petition to begin the process. Then, at least 20 percent of voters from the ward would have to sign another petition to make the recall official. The City Council would then need to set a date for a special election.

Outspoken activist Anthony Sionni said he plans to collect signatures for the recall.

“The way I feel is I clearly don’t think Councilman Jennings is representing the wishes of his community,” Sionni said. “It’s going to be a group effort.”

Sionni said the reason residents are angry with Jennings is that he hasn’t spoken up about the changes to downtown.

“It's no secret he's with the leadership,” Sionni said. “That's what everybody is pissed off about.”


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