CENTRAL FALLS – Delivering his inaugural address in both English and Spanish, new Mayor James Diossa declared that Central Falls “has struggled through its darkest days,” but “time has come to build a new future” for the city.
Referring to the state receivership and bankruptcy the city is just now emerging from, and the spectacle of former Mayor Charles Moreau pleading guilty to a federal corruption charge and facing prison, as a “painful chapter in our city’s history,” Diossa said, “each and every one of our residents has been directly impacted as a result. But, we have endured. We have survived.”
Diossa handily won a special election in December to succeed Moreau and will now fill his unexpired term until the next municipal election in November.
Dignitaries attending the inaugural included Gov. Lincoln Chafee, Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien, Providence Mayor Angel Tavares, Cranston Mayor Alan Fung and North Providence Mayor Charles Lombardi. He took the oath of office from Probate Judge Bruce Sawyer.
“This new future must be built on a foundation of trust,” Diossa told a crowded Central Falls High School auditorium, which was the site of his high school graduation 10 years ago. “As mayor, I am going to ensure that Central Falls has the most transparent government in its history.
The new mayor said his “first order of business” will be to “submit an Ethics ordinance package that will establish the city’s first Ethics Commission and lay the framework to ensure that we never return to the dark days of insider politics and pay-to-play. Additionally, I will work closely with the council and the state to ensure that we follow the financial plan while actively seeking new sources of revenue to help ease the difficult burden that has been placed on property owners.”
Property tax payers in the city, already hit with a large supplemental tax increase under former state receiver Robert Flanders are facing five straight years of tax rate hikes at the state maximum 4 percent a year.
Diossa said he is “well aware that this is not a conventional transition of authority from one mayor to the next. I am well aware that this is an historic occasion on many fronts, not the least of which is the looming presence of our city’s receivership. Over the past several weeks I have met repeatedly with the state director of revenue and the receiver to discuss the transition from receivership to home rule. I am committed to working with the State to complete this transition in the shortest order. However, I cannot accomplish this by myself.
Although he had a rocky relationship with his fellow City Council members before becoming mayor, being the only one of the five to not participate in a court challenge to the receivership law and the only one to participate in the “Receiver’s Council” assembled by Flanders, Diossa made an appeal to work with “my brothers and sister on the City Council. I urge you to join me in looking ahead towards our bright future and working towards a common purpose: ending the receivership, returning to home rule and ensuring that Central Falls is set on a sustainable path for prosperity.”
“As we look to the future,” Diossa said, “it is clear that our city’s long-term success depends on our ability to attract new businesses and help existing businesses grow and expand. I have already formed an Economic Development advisory committee that is working on a strategy to strengthen and grow our local economy.
“Within the first six months of my administration,” he promised, “I will roll out a comprehensive economic development action plan that includes specific measurable benchmarks and goals. I will also continue to engage our local business leaders so that they can help us develop and implement practical solutions to improve our city’s business climate.
“I stand before you today with a deep sense of humility and determination,” Diossa asserted. “I am humbled by the opportunity to serve the people of Central Falls and lead our great city towards a future full of promise and opportunity. And I am determined to succeed by working closely with each and every one of you to achieve that goal. I love this city and I know that regardless of our differences we all share the belief – the knowledge - that Central Falls will once again shine bright.”