I was pleased to learn that last night, the Providence Zoning Board voted unanimously to deny the Narragansett Improvement Company’s Petition for a land use variance for their property at 338 Allens Avenue.
After hearing from a number of constituents and reviewing the petition myself, I was concerned that the proposed use would contribute to the continued degradation of the air quality in South Providence. I wrote a letter to the Zoning Board citing these concerns and calling on the board members to deny the petition.
I commend the members of the Zoning Board for their unanimous decision to protect the local environment in the Port of Providence and the public health of residents in surrounding neighborhoods.
As a City Councilor, I have been a consistent advocate for putting individuals before industry and stopping detrimental expansion of environmentally harmful and dangerous commercial activity in South Providence. I am extremely grateful to everyone who testified last night in support of our community. I look forward to continuing this advocacy with my colleagues in government, community members, business owners and local leaders.
To read the letter that Council President Pro Tempore Pedro Espinal sent to the Zoning Board on October 13th, 2021 click here:
This evening, the Providence City Council voted unanimously to approve a Providence Home Rule Charter Section 403 resolution to bring charges against City Clerk Shawn Selleck, and to seek his suspension or removal from office. The resolution charges Mr. Selleck with the following:
· Violations of the City Code of Conduct
· Violations of the City Anti-bullying Policy
· Violations of the City Anti-harassment Policy
· Violations of the City Workplace Violence Policy
· Creation of a Toxic Work Environment
· Inappropriate Management
The charges contained in the resolution are based on an independent investigation conducted by respected employment and labor attorney Carly Iafrate, which determined Mr. Selleck violated the City’s Code of Conduct, Anti-Bullying, Anti-Harassment, and Workforce Violence policies through a pattern of bullying, confrontational, and intimidating behavior that created a toxic work environment within the City Clerk’s office.
Pursuant to Section 403, these charges will be presented in writing to the Mayor and Mr. Selleck, and after a 30-day period, the Council will call a public hearing to weigh the charges and vote on the suspension or removal of the City Clerk (two-thirds vote of the Council required).
Last night, I was glad to join community members at the Coastal Resource Management Council (CRMC) meeting, to welcome the decision the CRMC made to protect public shoreline access on Public Street in Providence.
Shoreline access is a legally protected right in Rhode Island. All residents living in the Ocean State should be able to access our beautiful shorelines, including here in Providence.
I would like to thank the office of Attorney General Peter Neronha, the CRMC, the City of Providence, and the many community activists who advocated to protect this right of way.
Moving forward, I hope we can continue this momentum, working to expand environmental equity in the south side of Providence and throughout the city.
President Pro Tempore-Providence City Council
Council President Pro Tempore Pedro Espinal is calling on the Costal Resources Management Committee (CRMC) to designate a public right of way to the shoreline located on a portion of Public Street in Providence. At the July 15th City Council meeting, Pro Tempore Espinal introduced a resolution urging the CRMC to protect this shoreline access point. The CRMC will be meeting on Tuesday July 27th to vote on the matter.
“Access to the shoreline is a historically important and legally protected right for all Rhode Islanders. Here in the Ocean State, it is imperative that state and local governments continue to enforce the public’s right to access our shorelines,” stated Council President Pro Tempore Espinal.
Recently, a section of Public Street has come into question as to whether or not the area is designated as a right of way for purposes of shoreline access. The CRMC is now in the process of considering a formal designation of Public Street as an official right of way. Pro Tempore Espinal’s resolution supports and endorses this designation to further codify public shoreline access.
“One of the best things about living in Rhode Island is the proximity to our beautiful shorelines. Every Rhode Islander has a right to access the water, for productive and recreational purposes. In urban areas, public access to the coast is often limited by development or environmental hazards. I call on the Coastal Resource Management Council to protect this right on Public Street and throughout the state,” added Council President Pro Tempore Espinal.
In recent weeks, I have heard resounding concerns from members of my community regarding the Emergency COVID Housing Opportunity (ECHO) Village proposal that may be located at 545 Prairie Avenue in South Providence.
While the House of Hope Community Development Center’s efforts to build a homeless shelter is noble and necessary, I share my neighbors’ deep concern that this location is not appropriate for this development.
This homeless shelter is yet another matter which disproportionally affects the residents of South Providence. This neighborhood is constantly facing new threats to public health and safety. From the proposed garbage transfer station in 2020, to the more recent proposal to expand storage of liquid propane gas in the Port of Providence, why must South Providence continue fighting these battles?
While I believe that homeless shelters are needed in our city, I do not believe that building a shelter in close proximity to several schools, in a neighborhood with a number of other serious quality of life issues, is appropriate.
I sent the attached letter to House of Hope, further outlining my thoughts on this matter. This evening, I will be attending a community meeting along with other elected officials and community members to further discuss the ECHO Village proposal with House of Hope.
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.