PowerPlayer: City Council President Michael Solomon

Monday, June 06, 2011


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It took only two terms as City Councilman for Michael Solomon to move up the ladder and become Council President, which makes him a perfect choice for this week's PowerPlayer interview.

When the 53-year-old is not wheeling and dealing at City Hall, Solomon is often checking up on how things are going at his restaurant, the delicious Wes' Rib House in Olneyville. The life-long city resident was nice enough to talk with GoLocalProv about the work he is doing in Providence.

1) You're the President of a City Council that had massive turnover last fall. So much so that you're considered a veteran when you're only on your second term. What's it been like working with an inexperienced Council?

Each of the seven freshmen councilmen bring a youthful energy and a unique understanding of their role as city council members, and in these tough times, fresh perspectives and impassioned dialogue are exactly what this city needs. Also, this is my first term as Council President so it's a learning experience for me, too.

2) The city is facing a staggering fiscal crisis. How long ago did you see this coming and, in retrospect, what could the city have done to prevent such a difficult situation?

During the transition period it was apparent that we needed to have a true assessment of Providence's finances. After the mayor's fiscal task force issued their report showing a $110 million deficit, we retained Gary Sasse to review the city's financial management system. We felt this was important because we wanted to know where responsibility fell and what was preventable. There are many recommendations in our corrective action plan, which we have codified into ordinances and hope to pass by the end of the summer. A few of the things we hope to do right away are require monthly reporting, place restrictions on the use of reserve funds, and appoint an audit committee.

3) On the bright side, the Council and the Taveras administration appear to have a better working relationship than at any time in recent history. What is working now that hasn't worked in the past?

Constant, direct communication is the key to any good relationship.

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4) You're a small business owner. What's the answer when it comes to economic development? Is it helping small businesses grow and thrive? Is it bringing in the large companies that can create hundreds of job? How do we make Providence more business friendly?

Most businesses make decisions based on long-term growth, so if I am a business owner looking at Providence I would be looking to see if my business can thrive in the long run. Obviously a lot goes into building an economy that can support long-term growth, but two facets city government can control are equity and predictability in our tax structure. Businesses won't thrive here if we don't give them the benefit of a predictable and fair revenue structure that recognizes the critical nature of the investments they make in our city. This is why we must structurally address our deficit this year instead of repeatedly asking residents and business owners for more tax dollars, and losing any sense of predictability and fairness.
5) What's the most difficult part of your job?

There are only 24 hours in one day.

6) Tell us something nobody knows about you.

I used to play basketball with Al Pacino.

Quick Hitters

Role Model: My Dad
Favorite Restaurant: Hamburgers at the Hot Club
Best Beach: Bonnet
Best Book You've Read In The Last Year: The Way We'll Be by John Zogby
Advice for the next Michael Solomon: Work hard.

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