There were plenty of inferences to be drawn from Tuesday’s inaugural ceremonies above Post Road in the Interlink Skywalk. It was symbolic of how Mayor Scott Avedisian, Warwick’s only elected Republican official, will need to reach across to Democrats to get things done; it is tangible evidence, as Avedisian said, of the transportation hub the city has become; it manifests a community on the move and, as the mayor emphasized, it’s a bridge to the future and City Centre.
But to suggest Avedisian picked this location because he plans to move on would be a mistake. Governor Gina Raimondo understands that.
“Warwick is lucky you don’t have term limits; you’ve had this guy for almost 20 years,” she told an audience seated in a section of the glass and steel structure before the commencement of the moving walkway.
Early in his address, Avedisian observed that many people have asked him, “What is there left for you to do?”
The mayor answered that question, adding at the end of his remarks, “Although we will undoubtedly face uncertainty and difficult times over the course of the next two years, I truly believe there is no obstacle we cannot overcome, as long as we all remain unified in our goals for the future…So, what is there left to do, you may ask? So, so much more. Let’s get to work.”
The Skywalk remained open throughout the 80-minute ceremony, as did the announcements – including one recorded by Avedisian – welcoming travelers to Warwick and Rhode Island. Arrivals seeking to connect with rental car offices found themselves alongside the Pawtuxet Rangers as they wheeled their bags. Some were delighted by the reception, snapping pictures on their cell phones. Others seemed to pay no heed as if this always happened on landing in Warwick.
Raimondo set the stage for Avedisian’s remarks. She called him a fighter and champion for the city and in her crusade to bring companies and jobs to the state. She noted they had shared the podium in welcoming new airline service to T.F. Green Airport and that he is “constantly advocating for the City of Warwick.”
“We are clearly on the move; the wind is at our back,” she said. Raimondo said she wanted “to make sure we have economic opportunity at every rung of the ladder.”
As she has done at each of his inaugurals since being elected in a special 2000 election, retired Chief Judge of the Rhode Island Family Court Haiganush R. Bedrosian administered the oath of office to Avedisian. He, in turn, administered the oath to members of the City Council and School Committee.
In addition to being a transportation hub, Avedisian said he chose the Skywalk as the venue for the inauguration because it is symbolic of what has happened in the city “and what we’re going to see in the future.” With renderings of the 120-room Hyatt Place planned for the site of the former D’Ambra Construction asphalt plant on Jefferson Boulevard as a backdrop, Avedisian spoke of developments in various stages of planning and construction. The $23 million D’Ambra project, eligible for incentives under the city’s tax stabilization agreement, has gained city and state approvals.
Avedisian had hoped with the help of Ocean State Theatre Company to rain spotlights on the D’Ambra site that would have been visible from the Skywalk, but that didn’t work out.
The mayor also mentioned another hotel and residential complex planned by Joseph Piscopio on Jefferson Boulevard near the Hilton Garden Inn and Iron Works Tavern, which he built; a 100-room addition plus medical buildings at the Crowne Plaza; renovation of Pontiac Mill; and the transformation of Apponaug with the circulator project.
Avedisian used the inauguration to brag about the city, reminding Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, who was in the audience and had touted Cranston’s achievements in his inauguration Monday, that WalletHub ranked Warwick the 28th Best-Run City on their 2016 Best-Run Cities list. He said the ranking was based on six key categories including financial stability, education, health, safety, economy and infrastructure and pollution.
Avedisian opened the council meeting portion of the inaugural, calling for nominations for council president. As had been decided in a prior caucus of the all-Democratic council, Ward 4 Councilman Joseph Solomon was elected president. Ward 8 Councilman Joseph Gallucci, who was not in attendance and is in the hospital, was elected Council President Pro-tem. Ward 9 Councilman Steve Merolla was elected majority leader.
Solomon spoke of each council member summarizing the talents they brought to the team in two words, including compassion, dedication, loyalty, perseverance, benevolence, experience, focus, pragmatism, wisdom and balance. He disclosed the creation of an eighth council committee, health, education and welfare, to be chaired by incoming Ward 3 Councilman Timothy Howe. Solomon said he sees the need of the committee given school related issues faced by the city as well as its aging population. Also, in an effort to expedite council meetings that frequently don’t start on schedule because of extended committee meetings, Solomon said the finance committee would meet the Wednesday before the Monday council meeting. He named Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur to chair the committee.
Other committees and their chairs are: Public Properties, Ward 1 Councilman Richard Corley; Public Safety, Ward 6 Councilwoman Donna Travis; Ordinance, Merolla; Intergovernmental, Ward 7 Councilman Steve McAllister; Economic Development, Jeremy Rix and Appointments, Gallucci.
“I look forward to working together for an even better Warwick,” Solomon said.