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.
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.
This morning, Councilor David Salvatore and the Friends of Fargnoli Park announced that the splash pad located at Fargnoli Park will be operating with special hours to accommodate the elderly and persons with disabilities.
The water park will be open exclusively to the elderly and persons with disabilities from 10:00 AM-12:00 PM on Thursdays, and will open to the general public each day at 12:00 PM until 5:00 PM.
“Access to our neighborhood parks and recreational facilities should be possible for all residents of varying ages and abilities. As we get through the hot summer months, I am proud to have worked with the Friends of Fargnoli Park to ensure that our newly renovated waterpark is safe and functional for all who want to use it,” stated Councilor David Salvatore.
All city water parks are free and open to the public. In cases of extreme heat, the city may extend water park hours. For a full list of local water parks and pools, click here: https://bit.ly/3yy4Mte
“The Friends of Fargnoli Park have been working hard to create programming for our community. Making the new water park features accessible to all our Senior Friends and Friends with Disabilities creates the inclusion and equity we pride ourselves on having. We look forward to seeing our entire community enjoy Fargnoli Park.”
Fargnoli Park is located at 945 Smith Street.Questions and concerns regarding Fargnoli Park and the water park can be directed to the Friends of Fargnoli Park at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
At tonight’s City Council Meeting, Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5) proposed a resolution urging Mayor Jorge Elorza to decisively enforce the multiple laws that the Providence City Council has enacted to mitigate the dangers and nuisance of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) in the City of Providence. This resolution was passed and co-sponsored by Council President Sabina Matos (Ward 15), Senior Deputy Majority Leader Nicholas J. Narducci Jr. (Ward 4), Councilman John Goncalves (Ward 1), Councilman Michael Correia (Ward 6), Councilwoman Helen Anthony (Ward 2), Councilman John J. Igliozzi Esq. (Ward 7), Councilor David Salvatore (Ward 14), Councilman James Taylor (Ward 8), Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune (Ward 3), and Councilwoman Carmen Castillo (Ward 9).
“As a freshman Councilor, I got to work drafting and enacting legislation that would keep dangerous ATVs off our City streets. In doing so, my Council colleagues and I created a clear, legal framework that prohibited the operation of illegal ATVs and gave the Providence Police Department the power to seize and destroy any ATVs operating illegally. We legislatively created an ATV task force and ATV phone line. Yet years later, our City is still facing the major threats to traffic and pedestrian safety that ATVs create. The City Council is calling on the Mayor to uphold City ATV ordinances, support our Police and to take action necessary to address the public nuisance that illegal ATVs are causing in our City” stated Deputy Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan.
Additionally, Council President Sabina Matos (Ward 15) appointed Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan, Senior Deputy Majority Leader Nicholas J. Narducci Jr., Councilwoman Carmen Castillo (Ward 9), and Councilman John Goncalves to the Special Commission on ATVs and Recreational Vehicles. The committee will be tasked with investigating best practices regarding the enforcement of existing ATV laws in the City of Providence.
“I want to thank Councilwoman Carmen Castillo for advocating for a Special Commission to look at best practices and how we can encourage the Mayor to enforce the laws that this body has already passed. I have full confidence that this Commission will work diligently with residents, stakeholders, and the administration to find ways to mitigate this ongoing issue further,” shared Council President Sabina Matos.
The Council has passed multiple ordinances to stop the illegal use of ATVs in the City. On April 2, 2015 Councilman Michael Correia’s ordinance banning snowmobiles and ATVs from operating on City streets was passed. The City Council passed a second ordinance from Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan on May 4, 2017, which gave the Providence Police Department the power to confiscate and destroy ATVs that were caught being operated illegally. Both of these laws are still in place today.
“ATVs have been a major safety and quality of life issue in our City for years. The Council has continually worked with the Providence Police Department and community members to stop the massive gangs of ATVs speeding through our neighborhoods. We have done the work to end this problem, and we will continue working until it is not a problem anymore. But we need the same commitment from the Mayor,” added Councilwoman Carmen Castillo.
Despite the decisive legislative action taken by the Council, ATVs have continued to be a significant threat to traffic and pedestrian safety in all neighborhoods of the City. This is why Council President Sabina Matos has assembled this Special Commission on ATVs and Recreational Vehicles and why Councilors are calling on the Mayor to enforce the laws already in place, as we enter another spring and summer season.
“It seems like every time I look at the news, especially during the warmer months, there is another story about a pedestrian who was injured by an ATV, or a car that was damaged, or a big traffic jam due to a huge group of ATVs recklessly driving around our City. As elected officials, it is our job to put a stop to this. As a member of the Special Committee on ATVs and Recreational Vehicles, I am hopeful that myself and my colleagues can find new solutions to help our police department better enforce our City’s ATV laws and bring peace and safety to our streets,” stated Senior Deputy Majority Leader Nicholas J. Narducci Jr.
The Special Commission on ATVs and Recreational Vehicles will be tasked with studying the best practices regarding the enforcement of existing ordinances in a way that is fair, practical, and above all protects the safety of pedestrians, motorists, and families in neighborhoods across our City.
“The illegal use of ATVs has been a major issue in my neighborhood. I feel my neighbors’ frustration as these loud and intrusive vehicles speed through our streets, endangering children, cyclists, drivers, and really anyone nearby. I look forward to working with my Council colleagues to work towards the stricter enforcement of the laws we have put in place. I hope we can find an off-road place that they can ride. I am optimistic that Mayor Elorza will do his part in enforcing these laws so that our City does not have to continue facing the dangers created by ATVs daily,” added Councilman John Goncalves.
Tonight, Councilman Pedro Espinal (Ward 10) introduced a resolution, which was passed, calling for more environmental controls and compliance in the Port of Providence after last week’s fire. The resolution is co-sponsored by Council President Sabina Matos (Ward 15), Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5), Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11), Senior Deputy Majority Leader Nicholas J. Narducci Jr. (Ward 4), Councilman John Goncalves (Ward 1), Councilwoman Helen Anthony (Ward 2), Councilman Michael Correia (Ward 6), Councilor Rachel Miller (Ward 13), Councilman John J. Igliozzi Esq. (Ward 7), Councilwoman Carmen Castillo (Ward 9), Councilor David Salvatore (Ward 14), Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune (Ward 3) and Councilman James Taylor (Ward 8).
“After the fire at the scrap yard on Allen’s Avenue last week, it has become even more pressing that we need to have better environmental controls and compliance by the businesses who are working in the Port of Providence. Last year, I introduced and passed an Ordinance to protect the Port and other areas of the City from becoming a wasteland. Yet, these existing businesses continue to pollute our neighborhoods and potentially our waterways. I want these businesses to do better, be safer, and to transition as best they can to cleaner and safer practices,” stated Councilman Pedro Espinal.
The Port of Providence and Allens Avenue neighborhoods have the highest asthma rates in the state and are ranked ninth in the Country. According to the Rhode Island Department of Health, these neighborhoods have some of the highest emergency department visits among children on Medicaid with asthma in the City of Providence.
“One of the greatest crises that we are facing as a society is climate change, and the damage that is being done to the environment by businesses like scrap yards and other ‘dirty’ businesses. As a city and state, we want businesses to operate and flourish here, but we can’t have that at the expense of our residents and our natural environment. I share my colleague’s concerns and hope that we can move to more environmentally friendly business practices in the Port,” shared Councilman John Goncalves.
Through this resolution, the Council is calling on the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, who is tasked with ensuring compliance with State and Federal environmental regulations at the Port, to provide them a copy of all Notices of Violation issued to businesses and property owners located in the Port of Providence for the past ten years.
“Thankfully, last week’s incident did not result in any injuries or damages, and it should serve as a wake-up call to the entire City. The scrap yards and other businesses located around the Port can cause significant negative environmental and health impacts on the community, which is why my colleagues and I call for better oversight of the businesses around the Port. It is only a matter of time before the surrounding communities are put in jeopardy due to a lack of environmental compliance,” continued Councilman Espinal.
Copies of the resolution will be sent to Mayor Jorge O. Elorza, Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha, Director Janet Coit of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, and the members of the Providence Delegation at the Rhode Island General Assembly.