City Councilors Call for Review of Mayor Elorza’s Agreement with Achievement First

City Councilors Call for Review of Mayor Elorza’s Agreement with Achievement First

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.

Council President Pro Tempore Pedro Espinal Calls for Environmental Protections in South Providence

Council President Pro Tempore Pedro Espinal Calls for Environmental Protections in South Providence

At tonight’s City Council meeting, Council President Pro Tempore Pedro Espinal will introduce several pieces of legislation to address present and future threats to public health and the environment in the South Side of Providence.

Council President Pro Tempore Espinal proposed a resolution to stop the expansion of Sea 3 LLC, located in the industrial area surrounding the Port of Providence. This expansion would allow for the storage of an additional 450,000 gallons of propane on site, and the shipment of highly combustible propane tanks into the area of the port by rail.

“The Port of Providence and surrounding South Providence neighborhood is home to the most intensive industrial land use in the state of Rhode Island. For generations, residents in this area have faced disproportionately worse health outcomes compared to the rest of the city. Our focus should be on mitigating any activity that puts the environment or public health and safety at risk, not continuing to expand it,” stated Council President Pro Tempore Espinal.

In a letter to the Energy Facility Siting Board (EFSB) this past May, Pro Tempore Espinal shared his concerns that the expansion of this organization would only further burden the South Providence community, which has already suffered from toxins and air pollution for years due to industrial activity in the Port of Providence. In a continuation of this advocacy, Pro Tempore Espinal’s resolution further calls on the EFSB to reject Sea 3 LLC’s proposal for expansion.

In addition, Pro Tempore Espinal also proposed an amendment to the code of ordinances that would prohibit the bulk storage of Liquid Propane Gas (LPG) within the city of Providence. This ordinance would prevent any organizations from attempting to ship more harmful toxins or dangerous chemicals into the city or the port.

“The south side of Providence is constantly facing the adverse effects of industrial operations in the area. From poor air quality, to high childhood asthma rates, local residents and the local environment are always on the losing end of these kinds of developments. Additionally, the threat of an accident such as a fire or explosion could be devastating for our city. Just a few months ago, a submarine caught on fire in the port. It is irresponsible and unethical to allow for these kinds of dangerous operations to continue in our neighborhood. This is why I am fighting for both short- and long-term protections and regulations,” added Council President Pro Tempore Espinal.

City Councilors Call for Review of Mayor Elorza’s Agreement with Achievement First

Providence City Council Approves $539 Million FY 2022 City Budget

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.

A detailed summary of FY 2022 City Budget highlights can be found here.

 

Statement from Councilwoman Jo-Ann Ryan Regarding Upcoming Police Academy

Statement from Councilwoman Jo-Ann Ryan Regarding Upcoming Police Academy

I am pleased to share that the Providence Police Department has announced the 70th annual Police Training Academy will commence on Monday, May 24th. The academy will be located in Ward 5, at the former Providence Water Supply Building at 552 Academy Avenue and will run Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

With fifty new recruits, part of the most diverse class in history, this is a great opportunity for our Police Department to grow and improve based upon the unique needs of our city. These men and women will be trained in classroom and role play scenarios on how to best serve and protect all Providence residents and visitors.

In my role on the City Council, I have been an advocate for the expansion, development, and enhanced training of our police force. With a large swath of our existing police officers approaching retirement eligibility, it is crucial that a new generation of officers is recruited and trained. I extend my appreciation to the Providence Police Department for working to get this year’s academy up and running despite the complications presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

I welcome this year’s recruits to our neighborhood and wish them the best of luck as they begin their training. I look forward to seeing the value that they bring to our community as future members of the Providence Police Department.

Statement from Councilwoman Jo-Ann Ryan Regarding Upcoming Police Academy

Councilwoman Jo-Ann Ryan Calls to Reconvene City Fireworks Task Force

At the May 6 City Council Meeting, Councilwoman Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5) introduced and the Council passed a resolution to relaunch the City’s successful Fireworks Task Force.

“With summer approaching, so too is the threat to public safety presented by the rampant illegal use of fireworks in our neighborhoods. Based on last year’s success, the Council resolution requests public safety and administrative officials, once again, to coordinate enforcement and community education regarding the use of illegal fireworks. City departments must work proactively to mitigate this issue,” stated Ryan.

In the late spring and early summer of 2020, the City of Providence experienced an overwhelming increase in illegal fireworks activity. In 2019, the police department reported less than 20 calls related to fireworks complaints, but in June of 2020 that number skyrocketed nearly 500. In response, Councilwoman Ryan convened a group of City stakeholders to discuss this quality of life nuisance, and identified three main areas that needed to be addressed: public education on what is and isn’t legal; licensing enforcement for businesses that are illegally selling fireworks; and a coordinated effort by public safety officials to focus on hot spots or problematic areas. This effort lead to the creation of the City’s Fireworks Task Force which resulted in multiple arrests and the confiscation of illegal fireworks.

In Rhode Island, ground-based fireworks and sparklers are legal, but aerial fireworks and anything that explodes are not allowed without a permit.

“Last year, as a result of the diligent efforts of the Fireworks Task Force, the City was able to make a significant reduction in the use of illegal fireworks that had been disrupting and endangering our neighborhoods,” Ryan said. “I look forward to building on this progress as we head into another summer, and I thank our local law enforcement and fire officials for the work they do every day to maintain the quality of life and public safety of our community.”

Ryan is encouraging individuals to report the use of illegal fireworks in Providence or file a complaint, call the police department’s non-emergency line (401) 272-3121. Complaints can also be filed by calling 311 or visiting the PVD 311 Website and selecting the ‘Quality of Life’ complaint option.

This resolution was co-sponsored by Council President Pro Tempore Pedro Espinal (Ward 10), Senior Deputy Majority Leader Nicholas J. Narducci Jr. (Ward 4), Councilman Michael Correia (Ward 6), Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune (Ward 3), Councilwoman Helen Anthony (Ward 2), Councilwoman Kat Kerwin (Ward 12) and Councilman John Goncalves (Ward 1).

Council President Pro Tempore Pedro Espinal Calls for Environmental Protections in South Providence

Council President Pro Tempore Pedro Espinal Statement Regarding Last Night’s Shooting at Carolina Avenue

I am appalled by the senseless acts of violence that took place on Carolina Avenue last night which left nine people injured and terrorized the local community.

Gun violence has plagued our City for far too long and I remain committed to working with my Council colleagues, Mayor Elorza’s administration, and community partners to put a stop to the cycle of violence that is being perpetuated on our City streets.

I am praying for the Washington Park neighborhood and the recovery of those who were injured. I extend my gratitude to the Providence Police Department for their diligent work as this investigation continues.

Pedro Espinal
President Pro Tempore, Providence City Council
Councilman, Ward 10

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