At tonight’s City Council meeting, Councilors Helen Anthony (Ward 2), Nirva LaFortune (Ward 3) and John Goncalves (Ward 1) proposed a resolution calling for a review of Mayor Jorge Elorza’s license agreement with the charter school Achievement First, which grants the charter school use of space in a City-owned elementary school. The resolution describes how the execution of license agreement did not follow the required public process outlined in Section 416 (6) of the City Charter which requires a resolution of the City Council to enter into a lease of a City building. This resolution was passed by the full council.
“With the current state of Providence’s school system, City leaders should all be working together to ensure that major decisions such as this license agreement are carefully considered and deliberated. It is customary for the City Council to review any lease of City property, and it is in the best interest of Mayor Elorza, Achievement First and all Providence students for the Council to take the time to properly vet this agreement,” stated Councilwoman Helen Anthony (Ward 2).
According to the City Charter, any lease of City owned property must be authorized by the City Council. Mayor Elorza entered into a license agreement wherein Achievement First will rent a portion of the property located at the Charles M. Fortes Elementary school for the purpose of operating a charter school at this location beginning in September. The City Council was not given the opportunity to review or approve this agreement prior to it being finalized.
“The City Council is the legislative body of the City of Providence. We are here to provide an open, democratic process for the City’s development and initiatives. It is disappointing that the mayoral administration did not initially reach out for Council input on a plan which involves the lease of valuable public property. We are calling on the administration to comply with the City Charter and allow for due process,” added Councilman John Goncalves (Ward 1).
In March of 2015, the City Council reviewed a similar situation, in which The International Charter School was being considered to lease the Windmill Street School building. This request was communicated by the City’s Director of Public Property to the City Council. The Council’s Committee on City Property reviewed the request and reported back to the full Council, which voted to against the lease agreement.
“Moving forward, communication and transparency between our City’s governing bodies should be a priority. As a City Council, we cannot fulfill our duties if we cannot work collaboratively with the Mayor and other City departments. While charter schools remain a contentious issue in our city, this is also a matter of principle and good government. We are committed to adhering to the requirements set forth by the city charter, which provides the foundation of our city government,” added Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune.
Approved budget contains no tax increases and uses $42 million in stimulus funds for small business relief, youth investments, free public Internet access, and more.
Tonight, the Providence City Council voted to approve a $539 million FY 2022 City Budget including $42 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to address both immediate needs created by the COVID-19 pandemic and longer-term investments that will pay dividends for years to come. The budget holds the line on residential and commercial property taxes, while funding key City services that residents expect and deserve.
Tonight’s vote to approve the FY 2022 City budget follows 5 weeks and more than 11 Finance Committee hearings to receive input from the Mayor’s office, Council members, and city residents and community organizations.
“I want to thank my colleagues on the City Council and Mayor Elorza for working collaboratively to put together and pass this budget that invests in our city at a time of great challenge for our residents,” said City Council President John J. Igliozzi. “Developing this budget during the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge. Through months of hearings, we have heard just how hard hit our families, small businesses, and community organizations have been by the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. To address these needs, I am pleased that we are able to utilize $42 million in ARPA funds to invest in summer programming for our youth, early learning programs, free public internet access at parks and recreation centers, anti-violence programs, homeless interventions, street sweeping and sewer repairs, our public libraries, and relief for our small businesses. In addition, this budget continues to invest in core City services including inspections and public safety, while holding the line on taxes.”
Continued Igiozzi, “I also want to highlight this budget’s investment in public safety, which will provide the staffing and resources necessary to respond to criminal activity and to keep the people of our city safe. Talking with residents, many have said they are worried about a rise in crime and support smart investments in our police department, as well as substantive reforms to address community concerns about some policing practices. That is why this budget includes funding for recruitment of new police officers to protect our neighborhoods, and also creates a new Community Relations and Diversion Services Major position within the police department to resolve public safety issues that would be better dealt with through outreach and partnerships with City agencies and community-based organizations.”
“During this time of great need, I am pleased that my colleagues on the City Council and Mayor Elorza have worked together to pass a budget that helps our residents, small businesses, and community organizations get through the COVID-19 pandemic, while making long term investments in our city,” said Councilwoman and Finance Chair Jo-Ann Ryan. “I am particularly pleased that this budget provides $7 million in direct relief for Providence’s small businesses, invests in early education for our youth, and invests in basic City services like public safety and housing and building safety inspections to address quality of life issues.”
FY 2022 City budget highlights include:
•No property tax increases.
•Invests in the Department of Inspections and Standards to deal with quality-of-life issues.
•Invests in the Department of Public Property to hire additional personnel to handle projects in a more efficient and timely fashion.
•Creates a new Department of Equity and Inclusion.
•Invests in public safety, including expansion of diversion efforts, creating anti-violence programs, and provisions to fund recruitment of new Providence Police officers.
•Continues to invest in City parks with a portion of Tax Stabilization revenue going to the Parks and Recreation fund.
•Provides an additional $300,000 for Providence Community Centers for programs that qualify for American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) resources.
•Creates a new Community Relations and Diversion Services Major position within the Providence Police Department.
•10% of tax revenue from projects with a Tax Stabilization Agreement (TSA) will be dedicated to supporting debt service on the $25M Providence Redevelopment Agency Special Obligation Bond that funded the Providence Housing Trust in FY21.
•Invests $350,000 to expand the number of pre-kindergarten classrooms in Providence, increasing access to quality early learning programs.
•Invests ARPA funds for night basketball, recreational center programs for our youths, free internet access at our largest parks and recreation centers, sewer repair fund, and a $7 million small business relief fund.
In collaboration with SPIA Media Productions, Inc., Vin Buonanno, Liz Mauran, Wendy Marcus, members of The Mile of History Association and Providence City Councilman John Goncalves (Ward 1) present “Some Kind of Funny Porto Rican?”: A Cape Verdean American Story(SKFPR), Thursday, July 15, 2021, 8 p.m. at India Point Park, Providence, RI.
Directed by Fox Point native and prominent filmmaker/historian, Dr. Claire Andrade-Watkins, this feature-length documentary tells the untold tragedy and scandal of what happened to a vibrant community of immigrants from the Cape Verde Islands in the Fox Point section of Providence Rhode Island who were forcibly displaced by urban renewal to make way for coffee shops, antique stores, and elegantly restored houses.
Cape Verdeans are the first sub-Saharan African people to voluntarily immigrate to Providence, Rhode Island. The new immigrants sailed and arrived in 1892 on the packet ship Nellie May captained by Antonio Coelho. The first Cape Verdean community in Rhode Island, settled, grew and thrived in the historic Fox Point area of Tockwotton and Sparrow Parks near the waterfront and the Port of Providence from the late 19th through the mid-20th century. This close-knit Cape Verdean neighborhood of tenement homes and businesses stretched contiguously through Tockwotton, then along South Main, Pike, Brook, Traverse, and Wickenden Streets.
SKFPR fills in a significant thread currently absent from 02903 and State historical narratives about people of African descent, that can now be told and recognized as part of Rhode Island’s rich shared migratory tradition.
Dr. Claire Andrade-Watkins is the President of SPIA Media Productions, Inc. founded in 1998, and the Director of The Fox Point Cape Verdean Heritage Project (FPCVHP), an independent community-based research initiative comprised primarily of former residents and/or descendants of the founding Cape Verdean families who settled in the Fox Point section of Providence, RI at the beginning of the 20th century. Launched in 2007 and incorporated as a 501c3 non-profit in 2014, the goal is to document and preserve the legacy of the Cape Verdean community in Fox Point.
I am so saddened to hear the news of last night’s fire at Crook Point Bridge. The bridge is a relic of Providence’s history as an industrial port city and had recently inspired many preservation and reuse ideas before the unfortunate events of last night. Local landmarks like the Crook Point Bridge are what give our City a unique character and make Providence feel like home.
We’re incredibly lucky that no bystanders were hurt, however yesterday was a sad day for our community. Thank you to the Providence Fire Department and the first responders who worked through the night to put out the fire and keep the public safe.
We kindly ask that the community cooperate with the Fire Department and law enforcement officials as they work to gather more information about the cause of the fire.
Councilman, Ward 1
Providence City Council
At last week’s City Council meeting, the Providence City Council passed an ordinance expanding the College Hill Historic Overlay District. This ordinance was sponsored by Councilman John Goncalves (Ward 1) and unanimously approved by the members of the Providence City Council.
The ordinance will expand the historic district to protect nearly 90 properties on Governor Street, Benevolent Street, Angell Street, Hope Street, Manning Street, Cooke Street, George Street and Young Orchard Street. The expansion will also include historically significant Brown University owned properties including the Sprague-Ladd House (c. 1850, 1901-2) at 1 Young Orchard, otherwise known as the Orwig Music Building, and its accessory stable buildings at 105 Benevolent.
“I am proud to have worked with my council colleagues, neighbors, the Providence Preservation Society and community partners to expand the historic district and to protect the character and historic vibrancy of this beautiful neighborhood. We heard from so many residents who love this neighborhood and want to maintain its beauty and honor the iconic style and architecture that makes College Hill feel like home,” stated Councilman John Goncalves.
The Council considered testimony from many local homeowners through letters and petitions, along with the input of local groups including Preserve RI, the Rhode Island Historical Society, and the College Hill Neighborhood Association.
“The Providence Preservation Society has been involved in this neighborhood driven effort for years, and we are delighted to see these historic properties gain critical preservation protection. We are grateful to Councilman Goncalves for his continued support as we have advocated for the preservation of this neighborhood,” stated Rachel Robinson, Director of Preservation, Providence Preservation Society.
The Providence Preservation Society has worked since the 1950’s to advocate for the preservation of historic homes and buildings in the City and has worked closely with the City Council on this ordinance.
“Providence is a City with rich historical character. Taking steps to preserve historic homes not only protects local property value, but also assures that Providence develops in a way that is in keeping with the authentic spirit of the City,” added Councilwoman Jo-Ann Ryan.
This ordinance will connect two existing historic districts surrounding Angell Street and Power Street. To read the full ordinance and view a map of the new district, click here: https://bit.ly/3iPWyIb
“I would like to thank my Council colleagues and our community partners for their work on this important ordinance. We heard residents loud and clear as dozens of property owners shared their support for the creation of a historic overlay district. This is a beautiful neighborhood that should be protected, and that is exactly what this ordinance will do,” added Councilwoman Helen Anthony.
At tonight’s City Council meeting, Councilman John Goncalves (Ward 1) proposed a resolution calling on the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) to immediately re-open the public restrooms located in Kennedy Plaza.
The resolution was co-sponsored by Council President Pro Tempore Pedro Espinal (Ward 10), Majority Leader James Taylor (Ward 8), Majority Whip Carmen Castillo (Ward 9), Senior Deputy Majority Leader Nicholas J. Narducci Jr. (Ward 4), Senior Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11), Councilwoman Helen Anthony (Ward 2), Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune (Ward 3), Councilman Michael Correia (Ward 6), Councilwoman Kat Kerwin (Ward 12), Councilor Rachel Miller (Ward 13) and Councilor David Salvatore (Ward 14).
“It is imperative that RIPTA makes the public restrooms at Kennedy Plaza open to the public as soon as possible. The lack of access to bathroom facilities for transit riders, and anyone spending time in or around Kennedy Plaza, has led to serious public health and quality of life concerns. With the City coming back to life as more residents are vaccinated, our City must be ready to meet the needs of our residents and the public facilities they use,” stated Councilman John Goncalves.
The restrooms were closed to the public in early 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as local businesses and public facilities have reopened in recent months, the bathrooms at Kennedy Plaza have remained closed. A host of elected officials and local organizations have called on RIPTA to act, including Rhode Island Governor Dan Mckee and the Providence based Project Weber/Renew.
“Not having bathrooms is a public health emergency: not only for the people who need the bathrooms, but for every single person who is walking or working downtown and is forced to deal with human waste on the streets. In this time of COVID, we see how important public health is. The bathrooms are beyond a matter of simple public health, they are a matter of human rights,” stated Haley Carbonneau, Project Weber/RENEW, Kennedy Plaza Project Coordinator
In July of 2020, a letter to RIPTA was signed by 30 different public health and medical organizations, highlighting the risk presented by the continued closure of the public bathrooms at Kennedy Plaza, including the presence of human waste on City streets.
“RIPTA has a responsibility to reopen their bathroom to uphold the health and dignity of people downtown. With the City Council’s support, we now look to RIPTA to do their part to offer this important service to our community,” added Annajane Yolken, Project Weber/RENEW, Director of Programs
Upon passage, this resolution will be sent to Rhode Island Governor Dan Mckee, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza and the Chief Executive Officer of the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority, Scott Avedisian.