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Mayor James Briden Looks Forward to Helping E.P. Reinvent Itself

Briden will attend this week his first meeting as a representative on the Budget Commission, which 'can make decisions without worrying about political backlash.'

New East Providence Mayor James Briden believes the Budget Commission on which he will begin serving Thursday is helping the city “reinvent ourselves.”

“The status quo is not working,” Briden said last week in a conference room at his Pawtucket law firm a few days after the new City Council elected him mayor.  “The model is somewhat functionally obsolete.”

“They (Budget Commission) are a great resource,” he said of the volunteers who have been put in place in East Providence by the state. “They can make decisions without worrying about political backlash.”

This situation, which turns a year old on Dec. 20, does not mean that Briden will let the budget board run roughshod over the city without him standing up for what he sees are “the best interests of East Providence.”

“I won’t defer to them, and I don’t think the Budget Commission expects us to defer to them all the time,” he said. “At the same time, the commission needs to be efficient without undermining the operation of the city.”

But the budget board is providing invaluable expertise in dealing with systemic problems that exist in many municipal governments, not just E.P., he said. Many corporations pay big bucks for this type of consultation.

“The Budget Commission is helping us achieve centralized management of the city as a whole,” he said. “Without centralized management, the City Council and School Committee will bump into each other.”

Briden, who was East Providence solicitor a few years ago, likes to talk as much about his own economics training as his legal education and experience. He holds a degree in economics from Boston College.

Economists like to see businesses get the same output with less input or more output with the same input, he said.

“We need to think like an economist -- with well-defined values,” he said.

Briden sees his overall role as mayor, especially as a member of the Budget Commission, as “doing what’s best for the city.” And that means having the same objectives as the Budget Commission.

“We’re going to be in much better shape when they leave,” he said. “But we need to be open to change. We can’t see change as threatening.”

“This process is not a painless one,” Briden said. “But what we’re experiencing is really necessary for growth. They’re laying a foundation for growth.”

“We need to make decisions based on data, not politics,” he said. “That’s what the commission is doing.”

City government also must be as open and transparent as possible, Briden said. That goes hand in hand with being financially stable.

“Our role should not be viewed as what we can do as politicians,” he said. “City councilors are the trustees of the city’s image.”

Indeed, Briden said, the role of the mayor has probably expanded beyond what the charter mandates. As mayor, he’ll operate as close as possible to what the charter envisions for that post.

Briden, who lives in Rumford and represents Ward 1 specifically, is high on East Providence. There is a lot that is very good about the city, he said.

“We have a great workforce, and we’re in a great location,” he said. “And we have reasonable property taxes with a sold infrastructure and a blueprint for economic growth that is already in place, particularly for the waterfront.”

RI Department of Revenue director Rosemary Booth Gallogly said at a recent Budget Commission meeting that the city is actually seen as a model in some areas because of what has gone on over the last year.

Briden couldn’t agree more. And there is more good to come, he believes, as the city reinvents itself.

Paul December 10, 2012 at 03:28 PM
It is encouraging to hear some of the thoughtful and constructive positions from Mr. Briden. I hope that he and the new council will also work with the budget commission to make it a priority to restore video coverage of City Council meetings. It is not a privilege, but a right, for tax payers to be given access to the proceedings when they cannot physically attend. It does not need to be video streaming in real time, but merely a record that can be viewed after the fact.
Govstench December 10, 2012 at 10:16 PM
The people of East Providence have spoken and elected a new council and school committee. The politics are over, and these people have been sworn in. They now need the support of the community to restore the "townie pride" to this city. The divisions of the past need to be buried and look ahead to the future.
Taxpayer December 11, 2012 at 01:42 AM
This was in the East Providence Post...."Sgt. Grant estimates using about $250,000 in Google money. Implementation of the plan would be done over the next several months. The vehicles to be purchased will likely be either Ford Taurus sedans or Explorer SUVs. Sgt. Grant said he is leaning towards purchasing mostly Explorers. The Tauruses, he explained, are more compact than the Crown Victoria model they would replace. He believes the Explorer, which is built on the same frame as the Taurus, is a more versatile vehicle." I do hope this commission is watching this issue closely. I have never seen an Explorer that is not more expensive than a Taurus. Also, the Explorer is much more expensive to run on fuel and to maintaine. Start with the cost of new tires on an Explorer vs the Taurus! The taxpayers of East Providence are not THAT stupid! This city does not need the police department running around in Explorers! Here goes all the Google money being spent foolishly. Let's look long term folks. Mayor...pay close attention to what the plan is for the replacement of these vehicles! PS The State Police have brand new Chevy MALIBUs. If they are good for the state police, one would think that would be a good fit for the East Providence Police too!
Diane December 11, 2012 at 12:41 PM
Did anyone happen to notice that when everyone was being sworn in and sitting there making appointments, that no one looked happy about being there? Why was the public not informed who applied for appointed positions, and why these people were picked behind public view? I do agree we need to give this city council a chance, but it would appear they started off on the wrong foot making appointments out of public view. Time will tell how honest this council will be, and if they will work together for the good of the residents.
Dave December 15, 2012 at 10:02 PM
Research the changes in available "police PAckage" vehicles from Ford. These are not stock regular everyday set ups. They are designed for the rigors of 24 hour use etc. And I think what was meant when the Sgt stated what he did about the size of the vehicle was the available storage area, dash and console space etc. If you look at the new ads for these police package vehicles I think you would better understand.

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