Last night, the City Council’s Committee on Finance met to review the City of Providence Public Safety Budget related to launching a new cohort for the Providence Police Academy. The Committee, Chaired by Chairman John J. Igliozzi Esq, (Ward 7), met with Providence Public Safety Commissioner Stephen Paré, Providence Police Chief Hugh T. Clements, City Chief Financial Officer Larry Mancini, and the City’s Internal Auditor Gina Costa to discuss budgeting and how we could fund an Academy in this current year.
“Public safety is a vital component to our City’s budget, and our residents and taxpayers expect that we will have an adequate police force to protect them if they come into harm’s way,” stated Chairman John J. Igliozzi, Esq. “Last night, our Committee was able to ensure that our Public Safety division had the appropriate allocations to fund a new Academy and would be able to move forward without further delay.”
With the help of the City’s Chief Financial Officer Lawrence Mancini and the City’s Internal Auditor Gina Costa, Chairman John J. Igliozzi, Esq., and Vice Chairwoman Jo-Ann Ryan confirmed that there are currently ample funds available to move forward with the current police academy while also maintaining the salaries of officers currently employed by the City. This funding was approved in the FY ’20 budget, and through attrition and current spending, the dollars remain available and even allows for a surplus in the division. Over the past several weeks City Councilor’s have called on the Mayor and the Commissioner to launch a new Academy and were told that the funds were not available to move forward. However, funding exists and removes any perceived roadblocks that contributed to the 2019-2020 police academy’s slow progression.
“Our police department is losing more officers than it is bringing on. We need to continue to recruit and train diverse and culturally competent new officers, especially during this time of unprecedented violence and crime in our City. There are young men and women out there who are ready and willing to serve. As a City, we need to actively seek out these selfless individuals so that our police department can continue to progress and improve. I, along with my colleagues, ask that the Academy move forward without any further delay, and I am very pleased that the Committee and the City’s finance teams identified funding to make this happen. Additionally, I look forward to working collaboratively with Family Services of Rhode Island and our finance teams to enhance the social services component of our policing,” added Vice-Chairwoman and Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5).
Currently, 119 young men and women are participating in the Providence Police Academy enrollment process. This multi-phase Academy includes recruitment, physical training, personal interviews, and background checks. The Academy is currently working through the interview portion for a cohort recruited in November through January of 2019.
It is prudent that we not stall the new Academy any further. The Council cannot responsibly pass a budget until they get a clearer picture of what amount the City will receive in State aid. However, with the current allocations, this new cohort can begin in earnest.
With approximately 113 officers currently eligible to retire from the Providence Police Department, it is crucial that the police academy moves forward and recruit more officers. A well-staffed police department in the City of Providence consists of anywhere between 450-500 officers. Because of retirements, the COVID-19 pandemic, and officers who have been injured while on duty and are unable to work, the Police Department is understaffed.
I am calling on Mayor Elorza and Commissioner Paré to let the police enforce the laws around the illegal use of ATVs and dirt bikes. These laws are in place to protect Providence citizens from these nuisance vehicles, and we need to take action now.
The unrest that many are feeling is palpable, but the violent protesting is not helping our community. It is only causing further divides. If we are to come together as a City and fix the issues at hand, we must do so peacefully and safely. The Black Lives Matter movement has shown us that peaceful protest works and can affect change. We are seeing in our streets is not peaceful, and I commend our police department for their steadfast courage and bravery as they have been taunted, jeered, and even had bottles thrown at them over these past several nights.
I would like to remind both the Mayor and the Commissioner that they took an oath to protect the citizens of Providence, and I would call on them to once again come out and support our police department and work to bring order back to our City.
Again. last night, there was another murder in Providence. Our residents are living in fear of leaving their homes because of this spike in violent crime. The majority of the residents of Providence want our police to serve and protect. When they are called away because of violent protesting, they are being taken away from individuals who are in need of help. I have the utmost respect for individuals who utilize their First Amendment right to protest peacefully and encourage it. That said, the violence that is erupting in our City is alarming, and we need to support our police department to protect our communities and keep them safe.
As a City Councilman and a lifelong citizen of Providence, I can’t recall a time when our City has felt so unsafe. I have heard from countless members of my community who are hardworking taxpayers, and their message has been consistent: We want our City back!
Mayor Elorza and Commissioner Paré, we must take action immediately and listen to our residents. This fear and animosity we are witnessing will only go to make things worse unless we act today.
Nicholas J. Narducci, Jr., Senior Deputy Majority Leader
Providence City Council
Councilman – Ward 4
Last night, there was yet another senseless murder in our community, and I am deeply troubled by this event and the recent violent crimes we have seen all across Providence.
I continue to search for answers as to why this is happening in our City. Understandably, so many feel significant unrest due to all that we are facing, not just as a city but as a nation. Violent crime is up all over the country, and pundits and others have given us several different reasons for this. Still, I am asking our community to work together to support each other and to be responsive, and if you see something, say something.
We are living in a divisive time, unlike anything I have seen before. Our community is suffering, and the daily news reports of yet another person shot, or stabbed, or kidnapped is leaving many in our community at wit’s end. Our residents remain afraid. So many of our residents have felt trapped in their own homes due to the virus, and now that anxiety has been compounded by the fear of violent crime. None of us want to live like this.
I’m asking the community, our elected leaders, and our community leaders to come together to work to find solutions to the troubles that we are facing. No one can fix these issues alone. It will take all of us to do our part. I am pledging my support today to do whatever I can to build bridges and find solutions.
Lastly, I send my deepest condolences to the friends and family of Dante Mann, who so tragically lost his life last night.
Pedro J. Espinal
Providence City Council
Councilman – Ward 10
On Saturday, Senior Deputy Majority Leader Nicholas J. Narducci Jr. (Ward 4) was joined by City Council President Sabina Matos (Ward 15), Council President Pro Tempore Michael Correia (Ward 6), Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5), Mayor Jorge O. Elorza, Director Brett Smiley from the Rhode Island Department of Administration, Senator Maryellen Goodwin, and Representative-Elect Nathan Biah for the official opening of the Hawkins Street Bridge.
“The Hawkins Street Bridge was closed to traffic since October of 2017,” stated Senior Deputy Majority Leader Nicholas J. Narducci Jr. “When I first learned that the bridge was being closed without notice, I was very frustrated. However, I took that frustration and put that into action. Working with Mayor Elorza, the Office of Governor Gina Raimondo, and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, I was able to bring everyone to the table and share how this closure was disrupting our community.”
The bridge repairs were initially slated not to be completed until 2024, which would have caused significant hardship for the North End for several years.
Senior Deputy Majority Leader Narducci Jr. continued, “The closure of the bridge caused a major disruption to the resident of the North End. It was pushing more vehicles on to Branch Avenue and causing longer commutes for neighbors. I am proud that the City and the State were able to work together to bring this bridge back online sooner than expected, and the North End is no longer divided.”
In addition to Saturday’s Ribbon-Cutting Senior Deputy Majority Narducci Jr. Joined Mayor Elorza at the City’s Gun Buyback Program held at the Da Vinci Center in Ward 4. Several stolen and illegal guns were taken off our streets. The program was in-part funded by Providence youth, who created a series of art pieces using repurposed weapons. Those pieces were sold to help generate the funding for this program.
“The Hawkins Street Bridge project was the second major restoration project to be completed in Ward 4. Recently, the Canada Pond Dam reconstruction project was completed and the pond is full once more. It was a great weekend for Ward 4 and I am proud of the work we have been able to do to better our community,” continued Senior Deputy Majority Leader Narducci Jr.
Ensuring the Jobs of Over 700 Providence Hotel Employees
City Council Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5) introduced an Ordinance, which was passed by the Council for the first time, at tonight’s City Council Meeting ensuring that any hotel worker who was laid off or furloughed due to the COVID-19 pandemic would be rehired before other candidates, as City hotels come back online. The Ordinance is being co-sponsored by Council President Sabina Matos (Ward 15), Council President Pro Tempore Michael J. Correia (Ward 6), Majority Whip John J. Igliozzi, Esq. (Ward 7), Senior Deputy Majority Leader Nicholas J. Narducci Jr. (Ward 4), Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11), and Councilors David A. Salvatore (Ward 14), Nirva LaFortune (Ward 3), Kat Kerwin (Ward 12), Rachel Miller (Ward 13), James E. Taylor (Ward 8), Pedro J. Espinal (Ward 10), and John Goncalves (Ward 1).
“Over 700 Providence hotel employees are currently laid off due to the COVID-19 Pandemic,” stated Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan. “As the industry comes back online, it is important that we get our City’s hotel employees back to work. If you worked at a hotel in March and were laid off, then you should be called back when that hotel reopens. This important piece of legislation will ensure that our hardworking hospitality professionals get their jobs back and can reclaim their livelihoods.”
Leader Ryan continued, “Tourism is a vital component and revenue stream for the City of Providence. Currently, the City’s room occupancy tax revenue is down nearly $700,000 from last year. As travel begins to open up, the hospitality industry will return as a large economic generator for the City of Providence. The proposed legislation will ensure that these dedicated workers will have the option to return to their job by classification and seniority. It’s about fairness.”
City Council President Sabina Matos stated, “Providence hotel workers are the lifeblood of our tourism industry. They are the ones that welcome our visitors, take care of them during their stay, and are part of the very reason why so many people fall in love with our diverse and beautiful City of neighborhoods.”
Over the past several decades, the City of Providence has invested heavily in tourism, from its support of iconic cultural events like WaterFire and its Annual RI PRIDE celebration. Through tax stabilization agreements that gave investors the help, they needed to bring their hotels to Providence. This investment was also an investment in the City’s workforce. With 700 jobs on the line, this legislation will ensure that hotels located in Providence will not be able to permanently fire their employees and ask them to reapply as if they were just starting out with the company.
Majority Leader Ryan continued, “We have read about hotels across the country telling dismissed employees that they could reapply for their jobs. Yet, they start from the bottom-up. Many hotel employees go to work at these establishments for the opportunity to grow within the organization. This is simply not a good business practice. During a time when so many are out of work and are not making ends meet with unemployment, it is incumbent on us as elected leaders to do all we can to protect the interest and livelihood of our hospitality workers. It’s about fairness.”
The legislation also includes protections and enforcement for employees that are not brought back to work, including the right to bring legal action and penalties. The legislation does include a sunset clause and will remain in effect until November 1, 2022, unless it is repealed or the City Council approves an extension or re-authorization.
The Hospitality Worker Comeback legislation had its first passage tonight and will be referred to the Ordinance Committee for further review and discussion.