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.
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.
The Providence Tax Stabilization Investment Act creates a streamlined and transparent process to incentivize development and further grow Providence’s tax base
PROVIDENCE, RI (September 17, 2020)…Providence City Council President Sabina Matos (Ward 15), along with a majority of her Council Colleagues including President Pro Tem Michael Correia (Ward 6), Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5), Senior Deputy Majority Leader Nicholas J. Narducci Jr. (Ward 4), Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris (Ward 12), and Councilors Carmen Castillo (Ward 9), Councilman David Salvatore (Ward 14), Nirva LaFortune (Ward 3), Helen Anthony (Ward 2), Katherine Kerwin (Ward 12), Rachel Miller (Ward 13), James E. Taylor (Ward 8), Councilman Pedro Espinal (Ward 10) and John Goncalves (Ward 1) tonight introduced an ordinance entitled the Providence Tax Stabilization Investment Act.
The Providence Tax Stabilization Investment Act (The Act) would standardize the processes for all future Tax Stabilization Agreements (TSAs) in the City of Providence by increasing transparency, simplifying and streamlining the application process, and clearly defining the requirements that all developers must abide by should they wish to obtain a stabilization agreement with the City. The proposed legislation will create a tax stabilization system that not only protects our City’s financial interests but also incentivizes new development.
Council President Sabina Matos stated, “Over the past several years, my colleagues and I have grown increasingly frustrated with the existing TSA process as it has resulted in confusion for developers and Providence residents alike. This legislation sets clear expectations to developers from the get go and codifies them all in one section under our Code of Ordinances. By providing clear expectations and terms from the onset of an application for a tax stabilization agreement, the Council can better monitor and enforce the terms of the agreement that are meant to empower the communities that work and live in Providence. Furthermore, by streamlining this process developers will find it easier to move here, create more good-paying jobs, and grow our tax base.”
The Act is intended to balance economic development with responsible employment practices in order to increase the city’s tax base while revitalizing our existing communities. In order to advance this mission, it is vital that the city provide developers, entrepreneurs, and investors with a predictable TSA process which clearly defines both the procedure to obtain a TSA as well as the requirements that will be imposed should a property be granted such an agreement.
“I am very proud of the work we have done to create a crystal clear and reliable process that incentivizes development and defines community benefits,” stated City Councilor Rachel Miller. “When Providence forgoes tax dollars to support development, we should be able to trace the positive impact of that investment in our communities and to city residents. At the same time, developers should be able to rely on a predictable process. The Act is a tremendous step in both directions. The ordinance is the result of an intensive collaborative process between the Council, Council staff, the Solicitor’s Office, and the City’s Planning Department, and I look forward to a rigorous discussion of its merits with my colleagues and with city residents.”
About the Providence Tax Stabilization Investment Act:
The Act will tie the length of TSAs to the amount of investment being made in the City of Providence, and it will standardize the process by which TSAs are reviewed and approved. This includes citywide departmental review before reaching the Council, as well as a clearly defined list of documentation that a developer must provide at the outset of the application.
In addition to procedural changes, the proposed legislation condenses a number of existing requirements on TSAs into one section of the Providence Code of Ordinances to eliminate confusion. These requirements include the criteria all developers will be held to if they want a TSA, such as hiring Minority and Women Business Enterprises, paying prevailing wage during construction, and defining specific reporting timelines to ensure compliance. There are also specific designations for the taxes generated from stabilized properties, which includes 1% of all taxes for First Source, 10% for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, and 7% for the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund. While these designations have been designated by ordinance in the past, the new legislation places them directly in the section of the Ordinances governing TSAs in order to eliminate any uncertainty regarding where TSA taxes must go.
Finally, the Act establishes a very specific notice and cure provision in order to increase the enforcement capabilities of the Council so that they can exercise greater control over compliance with all of the terms and conditions of each TSA.
At the September 3 City Council Meeting, Councilman John Goncalves (Ward 1) introduced several resolutions with City Council colleagues regarding the start of the new school year, school improvements and COVID-19 preparedness within Providence schools.
“As we approach the 2020-2021 school year, it is crucial that we take all considerations to build a safe and productive school year. I commend and applaud the hard work of the Department of Education, Commissioner Infante-Green, Superintendent Peters and the Department of Health, and offer these resolutions as simply suggestions to further ensure these goals are met,” stated Councilman Goncalves.
The first resolution encourages Providence residents to vote “Yes” on the November ballot referendum to approve a $40 million bond for school improvements in Providence. These improvements would include construction, renovation, landscaping, furnishing and equipping Providence schools and school facilities throughout the City.
This resolution is co-sponsored by Council President Matos (Ward 15), Council President Pro Tempore Correia (Ward 6), Councilwoman Anthony (Ward 2), Councilwoman Castillo (Ward 9), Councilman Espinal (Ward 10), Finance Chairman Igliozzi (Ward 7), Councilwoman Kerwin (Ward 12), Councilor Miller (Ward 13), Councilor Salvatore (Ward 14) and Councilman Narducci (Ward 4).
Council President Matos stated, “While we should prioritize the warmth, safety, and security of our learning spaces for our youth, we should also invest into projects that inspire learning and instill a sense of pride in students about the spaces they spend most of their days in. Voting yes on this ballot referendum would help provide us the flexibility we need to work towards transforming our schools both academically and structurally into investments we can be proud of.”
As plans are made to begin the new school year, the possibility remains that students will be returning to in person learning for at least some of the school year. This means that the physical state of Providence school buildings remain a timely and important concern.
The second resolution proposed by Councilman Goncalves requests that the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) ensure that every Providence Public School has a trained nurse available on site during the day.
“As in-person learning resumes, at a time when public health is so important, it is imperative that a trained nurse or substitute nurse in every building be made available to all Providence students. This will further protect the health of Providence children, their families and surrounding communities,” added Councilman Goncalves.
The next resolution suggests that the RIDE and Providence Public Schools provide a remote learning best practices workshop for parents, through whichever means they see fit. This resolution has been co-sponsored by Council President Matos, Council President Pro Tempore Corriea, Councilor Anthony, Councilor Castillo, Councilor Miller, Councilor Narducci, Councilor Kerwin and Councilor Salvatore.
“So many parents have suddenly had to become teachers as they help their children navigate distance learning. Feedback has indicated that many parents would like to learn more about what they can do at home to provide the best possible learning environment for their children,” continued Councilman Goncalves.
“With the possibility that schools may be relying on distance learning for part of the school year, this type of training would help to mitigate absenteeism and provide parents with some assurance as families adjust to this change,” stated Councilor Anthony.
The final resolution recommends that RIDE utilize disaggregate data in their school operations decision making. While the current guidelines call for broad municipal data in which any city or town with more than 100 positive cases per 100,000 residents cannot move to a full in-person reopening, disaggregate data captures community spread of COVID-19 more closely by pinpointing data within certain subsets of the populations such as race, ethnicity and zip code.
“We have all learned that data and science is crucial when it comes to combating COVID-19. I have 100% confidence in our Governor, Department of Health and Department of Education and the five metric methodology for a safe reopening in person, and this is simply a recommendation to look at our municipal readiness in a more granular way. Since COVID zip code data is readily available, looking at zip codes, race and ethnicity to guide school operation decisions could ensure a safe and equitable return to school, specifically among communities of color and zip codes that have been disproportionately impacted,” stated Councilman Goncalves.
“Communities of color and lower income communities have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 within the City of Providence. This disaggregate data would provide a deeper understanding of the risks involved with returning to school within these specific communities and zip codes’ ‘ stated Finance Chariman Igliozzi.
Council President Matos added, “It’s extremely important that we as the City Council continue to advocate for reform and transformation in our schools: whether it be for better family engagement or basic personnel such as a school nurse. I’m proud to have partnered with Councilman Goncalves and my Council Colleagues in bringing forth these resolutions to keep our kids and families safe.”
Upon passage, these resolutions will be transmitted to the Honorable Governor of the State of Rhode Island, the Mayor of Providence, the Superintendent of the Providence Public School District, and the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education for the State of Rhode Island.
At tonight’s City Council meeting, Councilwomen Helen Anthony and Nirva LaFortune (Ward 3), and John Goncalves (Ward 1) put forth a resolution in opposition to the proposed multi-hub bus system Downtown Providence. This resolution is also co-sponsored by Councilor Katherine Kerwin (Ward 12) and Councilor Rachel Miller (Ward 13). It will be referred to the City Council’s Committee on Urban Redevelopment, Renewal, and Planning (URRP) for further discussion.
The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) has proposed a substantial redesign of the Kennedy Plaza bus hub in downtown Providence. This redesign decentralizes bus activity in Providence which adversely impacts the transit riders. Significant opposition has been voiced by many community members and groups, including Rhode Island Transit Riders, Providence Streets Coalition, Grow Smart Rhode Island, Jewelry District Association, and the Providence Foundation.
“RIDOT presented a final plan without involving the stakeholders it most affects. Specifically, the plan causes longer commutes and increases the required number of transfers per trip for individuals who use this essential service. The process is so flawed, we shouldn’t even be looking at the merits of the plan.” RIDOT should stop, engage in a robust public process and make sure that new plan does no harm to the diverse group of Rhode Islanders who rely on transit service that passes through Downtown Providence,” stated Councilwoman Anthony.
The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority serves up to 45,000 commuters a day, with many Rhode Islanders relying on the bus system to get to and from work. RIPTA provides an essential service to some of the most economically vulnerable individuals in the state.
Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune stated, “The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority bus service is the primary mode of public transportation in our state. Access to public transit amplifies our residents’ freedom and mobility to go anywhere. Any changes to a public service in which people rely on require a public process. Unfortunately, this plan was not designed with the community’s input or from an equity framework that prioritizes accessibility, cost, safety, or environmental implications. The community is open to working with RIDOT to designing a plan that improves public transit in or city and state. I urge residents to reach out to the Governor and the Department of Transportation to express their continued opposition.”
The current plan was proposed with little public input and data to support the siting of new hub locations. Several community members from around the state have expressed opposition to the proposed redesign of routes and bus stops from Kennedy Plaza to near the Providence Train Station.
“I have serious concerns about the proposed RIDOT Multi Hub Bus plan, and strongly urge RIDOT to change their current proposal,” stated Councilman John Goncalves. “I have had several constituents from Ward 1 express significant concerns about the proposed Dyer Street/Innovation District Hub, and the plan as it stands will disproportionately inconvenience low-income communities, seniors, and persons with disabilities. I fully understand and support the need to beautify Kennedy Plaza for our downtown residents and visitors alike, but not at the expense of the most vulnerable amongst us.”
Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris shared, “This is not just a transit issue, but an equity issue. Transit riders come from predominantly low-income communities, are people of color, have disabilities, or are seniors. If RIDOT continues with these plans, they will only be making it more difficult for these marginalized groups to have a reliable way to get to work on time or get home safely. Any plans to drastically change public transportation should prioritize the input of the people who rely on RIPTA every day. This is why I am planning to hold an URPP meeting next week so that the Council may engage in discussion with the community regarding this proposal.”
The resolution was referred to the URRP [spelled out] Committee which will convene Wed. September 9th at 5:00 to hear from the stakeholders regarding the proposed resolution.
Upon passage, this resolution will be sent to Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, The Director of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, the Chief Executive Officer of the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority, and Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza.