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Six things I learned biking with Gonzalo Cuervo

Providence mayoral candidate Gonzalo Cuervo at the start of a bike ride in Providence.Edward Fitzpatrick/Globe Staff

Three Democrats are running for Providence mayor, but only one is biking. So here are six things I learned while riding around the city with mayoral candidate Gonzalo Cuervo.

🚲 Cuervo has been riding bikes since entering BMX races on a dirt track as a kid. He has a Ride1Up electric bike and a 1974 Lambert bike from Britain that’s as old as he is.

If elected, he plans to bring back Cyclovia, an international phenomenon born in Colombia that closes main streets for use by bikes and pedestrians. He helped bring Cyclovia to Providence in 2012-14 when working for then-mayor Angel Taveras. And he admires Boston Mayor Michelle Wu’sOpen Streets” initiative.

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🚲 Cuervo said he supports moving to an elected school board, noting that Providence is the only city in Rhode Island without one.

”There is an opportunity for more people to get involved, to represent their neighborhoods, to represent their children,” he said. “Obviously, it’s not going to have a direct, immediate impact on education policy and practices. But it makes an impact on ensuring community engagement and that communities have a voice.”

On Monday night, the Providence Charter Review Commission recommended a hybrid elected and appointed school board.

🚲 He rejects the claim by mayoral opponent Brett Smiley that Smiley’s experience at the state and city level make him more qualified than Cuervo and Nirva LaFortune.

When Smiley was chief operating officer, Cuervo said, the city “got into big tussle with the firefighters that ended up costing the city millions of dollars in settlements,” and “then he went onto another job.”

Cuervo spent more than a decade in City Hall under mayors Taveras and David Cicilline. “I would argue that I have much more experience in managing the city of Providence,” plus extensive experience building coalitions, he said.

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🚲 The Taveras administration received lots of criticism when it sent out layoff notices to every teacher in 2011. Cuervo, who was then deputy chief of staff, said that was meant as a procedural step and the city didn’t intend to lay off all the teachers. “It turned out in hindsight to be a terrible idea,” he said. He said the city should have had more extensive communication with the teachers union.

🚲 Cuervo said he has received endorsements from a diverse group of supporters who reflect “the changing face of the city that is more than 70 percent people of color.”

”We have a city that has a sizable BIPOC community,” he said. “And we have a growing number of young, white professionals who have moved here. Specifically, since the pandemic, we have seen a growing number that have moved to the West Side of the city from outside the state because they find Providence to a very appealing place to live.”

He hopes to win the support of that new Providence.

🚲 Cuervo also talked about how, if elected, he would be similar to and different from former mayor Vincent A. “Buddy” Cianci Jr.

”Buddy Cianci was a master at capturing people’s imagination, and he was a master storyteller,” he said. “Those are two very important qualities in an elected official because we’ve been in this era of technocratic, data-driven talking points, and I think we could use a little more magic.”

But, Cuervo said, “I will be honest, and I will make decisions with integrity and with the interest of our community and taxpayers and city first and foremost.”

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Stay tuned for more miles with more mayoral candidates.

This story first appeared in Rhode Map, our free newsletter about Rhode Island that also contains information about local events, data about the coronavirus in the state, and more. If you’d like to receive it via e-mail Monday through Friday, you can sign up here.


Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.