At last week’s City Council meeting, the Council approved a resolution proposed by the Committee on Finance to extend the City’s contract with Waste Management of Rhode Island by three years. Led by Chairman John J. Igliozzi, Esq. (Ward 7), the Finance Committee has deliberated over necessary improvements in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and environmental concerns.
“The contract with Waste Management was very one-sided and didn’t benefit the needs of our residents. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the City has seen a larger amount of waste due to many people and families working from home, and some people are illegally dumping bulky items on the side of the road. This can lead to unsafe and unsanitary conditions in our neighborhoods. I am confident that this contract will make Waste Management more efficient and reliable while also helping residents save some money,” stated Chairman John J. Igliozzi, Esq.
This contract includes a commitment to embracing green initiatives, such as better access to recycling for residents and the use of waste collection vehicles powered by natural gas. Additionally, the contract has been amended to eliminate fees for mattress and box spring collection to residents beginning in January of 2022. Currently, the cost for mattress collection is $26, which has proven to be too expensive for many residents.
“This plan will not only promote public health by keeping our City clean and green, but it will also promote the financial health of Providence residents by making important waste management services such as mattress collection free as of January 1, 2022. I spend almost every Saturday driving through Ward 8 and picking up discarded mattresses. With so many in our communities on fixed incomes or not working due to the current pandemic, we need to provide relief when and where we can. I firmly believe that removing the cost barrier for residents to dispose of mattresses and box springs properly will exponentially cut down on the mattresses that are dumped on the side of the road all around the City,” added Councilman James E. Taylor (Ward 8).
In addition to eliminating mattress collection fees in 2022, the contract includes a plan to create a “mattress fund,” which will be utilized by the City of Providence when a mattress cannot be collected by Waste Management and must be disposed of by the City. “This is another step in saving our resident’s money, and I would like to thank Chairman Igliozzi and my fellow Committee on Finance members for taking these steps for our residents,” continued Councilman James E. Taylor.
As approved by the City Council, the contract will continue until July of 2023, when the Finance committee will again reassess Waste Management procedures in the City of Providence.
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.
Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5) along with Council President Sabina Matos (Ward 15), Council President Pro Tempore Michael 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), Councilwoman Carmen Castillo (Ward 8), and Councilman James E. Taylor (Ward 8) are calling on Mayor Elorza to create a city-wide public safety plan to address growing violent crime in our neighborhoods. The comprehensive city-wide safety plan will call for an immediate start to the police academy, a dedicated funding stream for social services in each police district, a police training curriculum that prioritizes cultural and socioemotional competencies, and a re-emphasis on community policing as a proactive strategy to mitigate violence and crime.
“After several weeks of violent crimes including shootings, a kidnapping, and murders, it is clear that the City needs to support a proactive approach to policing,” stated City Council Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan. “Violent crime is up overall across the country, and much of that seems to be due to the global pandemic and the social strife that has plagued our nation. However, we cannot allow the quality of life of our residents to be further impacted by the violent crimes happening in our neighborhoods. We need to properly staff our department and give police the support and tools they need to keep residents safe.”
While Providence has had community policing programs for years, the department’s depleted numbers have caused officers to shift their focus to responding to calls rather than fostering healthy relationships with their communities and performing the proactive investigatory work that stems crime. This has diminished the effectiveness of our community policing programs.
Therefore, the Councilors are calling on the administration to start the new police academy without further delay.
“We appreciate the action from the City Council to allow us to continue to move forward with the 70th Providence Police Academy. The Training Division is in the midst of the recruiting/selection process and we are eager to move forward,” stated Colonel Hugh T. Clements, Jr., Chief of Police, Providence Police Department.
City Council President Sabina Matos stated, “We have seen how community policing has a direct effect on our neighborhoods. When residents are familiar with and know who the officers patrolling their communities are, it leads to a better sense of security. It provides residents with direct contact if they see something that doesn’t seem right. If we are going to lower the crime rate, we need to support the police by providing social services needed in the City.”
Further, the Councilors are calling for the City to establish a dedicated funding for social service programs for each police district in Providence. They are also calling on the administration to provide more training for officers, with training focused on equity, diversity, and cultural understanding of the City’s diverse population.
“I am concerned that we are going to see a mass exodus of officers retiring in the coming year, and that causes me great concern,” stated Finance Chairman and Majority Whip John Igliozzi. “Reduced ranks will further stress an already overburdened department. We need to ensure that our police force is at capacity and that we have in place a strategic plan for crime prevention.”
The Councilors are also calling on the City to implement and explore best practices in violent crime prevention practices. The Councilor’s will be introducing legislation with further details and desired goals and outcomes at the November 5, 2020, City Council meeting.
Senior Deputy Majority Leader Nicholas J. Narducci Jr. stated, “I am in full support of our men and women who go to work every day to serve and protect our community. We need to support them to do the work they are charged to do. I believe that these actions and best practices will help us put a tamper on violent crime in the City and improve the quality of life for our residents.”
For more information, visit us on the web at council.providenceri.gov
Tonight, the City Council’s Committee on Finance adopted a new Compensation and Classification (Comp & Class) portion of the Fiscal Year (FY) ’21 Budget. The Council previously passed the tax levy keeping property taxes level and ensured no tax increase for residents. The Mayor’s Comp & Class budget, as submitted, called for the filling of vacant positions at a cost to the City’s taxpayers of just over $4 Million, and with revenues from speed cameras, school speed cameras, parking meters, hotel occupancy taxes, and food and beverage taxes all at record lows and have not yet received the City’s full Thirty-Two Million dollar pilot payment from the State (a payment from the State the City in lieu of taxes for state-owned properties), the Committee felt compelled to ensure the safety of the current workforce by removing these budgeted positions. The third and final portion of the FY ’21 budget, the appropriations portion, will not be taken up until the State passes its Budget.
“The fiscal forecast for the City of Providence is in peril,” stated Chairman on the Committee on Finance, Councilman John J. Igliozzi, Esq. (Ward 7). “As the legislative body, we have a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers of Providence to work in their best interest. By removing the Mayor’s request for an additional $4 Million in vacant and open funded positions it cuts the spending portion of our Budget, ensures our capacity to continue to keep our current workforce stable, and will help the City from falling off the fiscal cliff we are on. I have been a part of almost every City budget since I became a Councilman, and this is one of the gravest positions I have ever seen the City in financially.”
The Mayor’s requested positions can be revisited once the Council and the Committee on Finance have a better understanding of the state’s pilot payment notice. The City also had to make a significant investment in retrofitting offices and ensuring its workforce’s safety during this global pandemic and are waiting to learn what will be reimbursed from the state or federal agencies.
“We have a duty to protect our tax dollars for the residents of Providence,” stated Vice-Chairwoman of the Committee on Finance and Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5). “Had our fiscal outlook remained the same as it did in January, we would not be in this position. Since mid-March we have lost valuable revenues from hotel occupancy taxes, our food and beverage taxes, and state aid are significantly down which are critical to the City. However, like all cities, we are facing three crises at once an economic crisis, a global pandemic, and social unrest. $4 Million savings in vacant and open funded positions and raises is an opportunity to reduce our spending while preserving our current workforce, which is essential to keeping our City running.”
Chairman Igliozzi continued, “I want to thank my Committee colleagues Vice-Chairwoman and Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan, Councilors Carmen Castillo (Ward 9), Helen Anthony (Ward 2), and James Taylor (Ward 8) for their hard work during this longer than normal budgeting process. I would also like to thank my colleagues, President Sabina Matos (Ward 15), President Pro Tempore Michael Correia (Ward 6), Senior Deputy Majority Leader Nicholas J. Narducci Jr. (Ward 4), and Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11) for their input and guidance as we navigate these uncertain times.”
On Friday, October 2, 2020, City Council Deputy Majority Leader May Kay Harris was joined by Council President Pro Tempore Michael Correia and Councilwoman Carmen Castillo at Lockwood Plaza for a food distribution and census event.
Nearly 400 boxes of food were passed out to residents along with face masks and assistance with completing the 2020 Census.
All of these services are especially needed right now, as communities face economic hardships and the COVID-19 Pandemic, and as the 2020 Census comes to an end. The City Council has worked closely with community organizations, including The Elisha Project, the Rhode Island Census, and the Rhode Island Professional Latino Association to organize these events and pull together resources like food, face masks, and Census volunteers.
Along with Councilwoman Harris and her fellow Councilors, many community partners also pitched in to make this event happen. Stephanie Fortunado of Providence Arts, Culture + Tourism, Dr. Wayne Montague and Lori Richie of Winn Residentials, Property manager of Lockwood Jacklyn Gonzalez, Providence Police Lieutenant Barros and Helene Miller of Partnership for Providence Parks, all lent a helping hand.
The collaboration between these many community leaders and organizations is precisely what the City of Providence needs right now. Despite the troubling circumstances, when we all bring our skills, resources, and compassion to the table, we can make big things happen.
From feeding her community to making sure that every single Rhode Islander is counted in the 2020 Census, Councilwoman Mary Kay Harris remains a dedicated community leader. She continues to make strides in improving the quality of life and access to resources in her beloved neighborhood.
The City Council voted this evening to pass a change to the Code of Ordinances, giving authority to the Providence Redevelopment Agency (PRA) to borrow up to $20-Millon to capitalize the Providence Affordable Housing Trust Fund (Fund). The Council’s Committee on Ordinances, chaired by Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5), moved for full council approval of the amendment to the Code of Ordinances at their meeting on Tuesday, September 22, 2020.
“The City Council is making a historic and meaningful commitment to addressing the shortage of affordable housing,” stated Majority Leader Ryan. “The Fund was created by the City Council in 2019, in collaboration with its affordable housing partners, earmarking 10% of all TSA payments to provide the basis for the Fund. The $20 Million is anticipated to make up to 1,500 affordable homes possible in the next three years for Providence residents. The Fund is intended to provide critically needed gap financing to encourage the production, preservation, and protection of affordable housing. I want to thank Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris, my fellow committee members, our affordable housing partners, City finance teams, and Council colleagues past and present for their hard work on this important topic.”
“Affordable housing is a basic human right,” stated Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11). “I have been working on equity in housing for far too long, and this is the first major investment that I have seen made to address the issue in our City. I want to thank my Council colleagues for supporting this measure and their steadfast dedication to ensuring that we do all we can to address this pressing need. During the Fane Tower hearings, many residents spoke up and spoke loudly about the need for affordable housing, and I heard them. As we live through this pandemic, where so many are out of work, and where housing insecurity is coming into full focus, I am beyond proud that this body has acted and can take such a monumental step for our residents.”
The change to the Code of Ordinances approves the Providence Redevelopment Agency (PRA) to seek a bond of up to $20 Million to capitalize the Council’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund. The Fund, created in 2019, is an important City Council initiative that ensures that developers seeking tax relief are also investing in the City through their Tax Stabilization Agreements (TSAs). These agreements provide a structured tax phase-in for large scale development in the City and include specific clauses whereby the developer must invest into the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, and meet a host of other obligations. Ten percent of the TSA’s total estimated value must be deposited into The Fund, which is managed by the PRA.
City Council President Sabina Matos stated, “TSAs are an integral part of growing our City and our tax base. Yet, it is imperative that developers also invest in the community. When we created the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, we did so to ensure that our investors were putting skin in the game and that we were creating a dedicated funding stream to create much needed affordable housing units in Providence. By moving forward with this ordinance to allow capitalization of The Fund, we will be able to do just that. I want to thank Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris for her tenacity in shepherding this important legislation through the Council.”
The additional bond funding could allow for nearly 1,500 affordable housing units to be added to the City’s housing stock. The PRA will mandate that all rental units created through this program be rented at 80 percent or less than the area median income (AMI) and no more than 120 percent of the AMI for multi-family homes. This funding is intended to be used as gap dollars to help fulfill the needs of developers and our housing partners, like local Community Development Corporations, to achieve their goal of creating affordable housing units throughout Providence.
Executive Director Jennifer Hawkins of One Neighborhood Builders stated, “Housing stability is the greatest economic challenge our residents face. Now more than ever, we need to ensure families and residents, despite their income, have access to safe, quality housing they can afford. Affordable housing promotes neighborhood stability and enables families and residents to thrive.”
“We are excited to see the City taking such an important step to support the production of much-needed affordable housing in Providence,” said Carol Ventura, Executive Director of RIHousing. “Many funding programs are over-subscribed, leaving developers searching for additional funds to close the gap and move projects forward. This new funding stream will be critical to creating and preserving affordable homes, spurring economic activity and creating jobs.”
This change to the Code of Ordinances will dramatically impact the community and our ability as a City to ensure that affordable housing can be developed and that residents can live and work in Providence without being house burdened.