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.
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.
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).
At last Thursday’s City Council meeting, the Council passed a resolution endorsing and urging the passage by the General Assembly of House Resolution 2021 H-5250, creating a special legislative commission to study ensuring racial equity and optimizing health and safety laws affecting marginalized individuals. This commission would specifically work to examine sex workers in the State of Rhode Island and their access to vital health, safety and legal resources.
The Council’s resolution was introduced by Councilwoman Kat Kerwin (Ward 12) and co-sponsored by Council President Pro Tempore Pedro Espinal (Ward 10), Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune (Ward 3), Councilwoman Helen Anthony (Ward 2), Councilor Rachel Miller (Ward 13) and Councilman John Goncalves (Ward 1).
“I am proud to support COYOTE RI and all the advocates who are working tirelessly to pass good policy that would provide our State with information on the impacts of the sex industry. The reality is, legalized or not, sex work continues to exist in Rhode Island and without regulation and research, people who engage in sex work, particularly women, are left without a safe network to report assaults or other issues that may arise from the job. I hope the State will consider passing this bill with the full support of the Providence City Council,” stated Councilwoman Kat Kerwin (Ward 12).
In a Rhode Island sex work study conducted by COYOTE RI and Brown University, 77 percent of respondents reported they had never tried reporting a crime while working in the sex industry and, of this group, 27 percent did not report because they did not think the police would do anything, while 32 percent did not report because they did not want to draw attention to themselves. For workers that did file a report, 4 percent were arrested while trying to report a crime, and 26 percent reported being threatened by the police when trying to file a report.
“We need to re-examine how laws around commercial sex are harming the people they are supposed to protect. Criminalization creates the perfect playground for bad actors and police to prey on sex workers with impunity,” added Bella Robinson of COYOTE RI.
An analysis of 134 studies spanning 30 years found that sex workers in decriminalized contexts were less likely to experience physical or sexual violence from clients and were less likely to contract HIV or sexually transmitted infections. The analysis additionally found that repressive policing of sex workers, their clients, and/or sex work venues disrupted sex workers’ work environments, support networks, safety and risk reduction strategies, and access to health services and justice.
On January 29, 2021, Rhode Island State Representatives Anastasia Williams, Edith Ajello, Camille Vella-Wilkinson, Karen Alzate, Brianna Henries, and David Morales introduced HB 5250 to create a special legislative commission to study ensuring racial equity and optimizing health and safety laws affecting marginalized individuals.
Copies of the Council’s resolution in support of HB 5250 will be sent to the Providence delegation in the Rhode Island House and Senate and the Honorable Speaker of the House.
On Thursday, May 6 the North End Outreach Association will be hosting a community football game at Davis Park at 6:00 PM. The football game is a part of the work that the North End Outreach Association has been doing to address the deeply rooted issue of violence in the community. The North End Sea Hawks will be facing the Mt. Hope Cowboys.
“The North End Outreach Association does great work to foster productive and empowering community engagement. Too many young people in our City are brought up surrounded by violence and conflict. This football program is a great initiative to encourage camaraderie and rewarding pastimes in our neighborhood. I am especially grateful to Chester DeWitt who works every day to bring health, growth and safety to our community,” stated Councilwoman Kat Kerwin (Ward 12).
Comprised of current and former residents of the Chad Brown and North End Neighborhoods; the North End Outreach Association aims to positively impact the community through service and leadership such as community food drives, holiday functions and sporting events. The Association works at the ground level to connect residents with needed resources that address relevant community needs such as food security and local youth programming.
“I am looking forward to this football game as a chance to encourage our kids to be active, competitive and connected with one another in a way that is healthy and safe. Youth programming like athletics is an important way to keep our community engaged and prevent our youth from turning to more dangerous alternatives in their free time,” added Chester DeWitt of the North End Outreach Association.
The City Council and local organizations like the North End Outreach Association continue to work to steer City youth away from local violence and create City programming that keeps young people safe, active and immersed in their community.
“Some have to ask themselves ‘why do they coach’. I coach because I love mentoring our youth and I vow make change. If we properly educate our children we can end all the madness in this world, especially local violence. Football is just a carrot. Once you have there attention, we can begin properly educating our youth,” stated Mt. Hope Cowboys Head Coach Nadim Robinson.
At last night’s City Council meeting, Councilman John Goncalves (Ward 1) proposed a change to the Providence Code of Ordinances which would require a building official to provide written notice to their City Council representative upon the issuance of a demolition permit. This ordinance was co-sponsored by Council President John J. Igliozzi Esq. (Ward 7), Council President Pro Tempore Pedro Espinal (Ward 10), Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5), Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11), Councilwoman Helen Anthony (Ward 2), Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune (Ward 3), Councilman James Taylor (Ward 8), Councilwoman Kat Kerwin (Ward 12), Councilor Rachel Miller (Ward 13), and Councilor David Salvatore (Ward 14).
“Recently, a beloved building in the Fox Point neighborhood was demolished, to the surprise of myself and the local community. Not only was this demolition project an inconvenience to residents of the area, it also was at the location of the former Duck & Bunny; a landmark of the Fox Point neighborhood,” stated Councilman John Goncalves (Ward 1).
Under current City law, building officials are not required to notify the City Council or the local neighborhood when a demolition permit has been issued. The proposal would require that written notice be given to the Council representative. This will allow for proper communication to be made between various City Departments, and ensure that residents and businesses surrounding the demolition site are made aware of the upcoming operations in their neighborhood.
“As a City, we work best when communication is open and reliable. As a City Councilman, I know I can better serve my constituents when I am aware of all developments in our Ward. Residents of any neighborhood deserve to know about major plans for construction or demolition which could affect their property, quality of life, safety or the integrity of our neighborhood. Moving forward, I hope this ordinance will encourage an open line of communication between building officials, City operations and residents,” added Councilman Goncalves.
The ordinance has been referred to the Committee on Ordinances for further review.