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.
On Saturday, Senior Deputy Majority Leader Nicholas J. Narducci Jr. (Ward 4) was joined by City Council President Sabina Matos (Ward 15), Council President Pro Tempore Michael Correia (Ward 6), Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5), Mayor Jorge O. Elorza, Director Brett Smiley from the Rhode Island Department of Administration, Senator Maryellen Goodwin, and Representative-Elect Nathan Biah for the official opening of the Hawkins Street Bridge.
“The Hawkins Street Bridge was closed to traffic since October of 2017,” stated Senior Deputy Majority Leader Nicholas J. Narducci Jr. “When I first learned that the bridge was being closed without notice, I was very frustrated. However, I took that frustration and put that into action. Working with Mayor Elorza, the Office of Governor Gina Raimondo, and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, I was able to bring everyone to the table and share how this closure was disrupting our community.”
The bridge repairs were initially slated not to be completed until 2024, which would have caused significant hardship for the North End for several years.
Senior Deputy Majority Leader Narducci Jr. continued, “The closure of the bridge caused a major disruption to the resident of the North End. It was pushing more vehicles on to Branch Avenue and causing longer commutes for neighbors. I am proud that the City and the State were able to work together to bring this bridge back online sooner than expected, and the North End is no longer divided.”
In addition to Saturday’s Ribbon-Cutting Senior Deputy Majority Narducci Jr. Joined Mayor Elorza at the City’s Gun Buyback Program held at the Da Vinci Center in Ward 4. Several stolen and illegal guns were taken off our streets. The program was in-part funded by Providence youth, who created a series of art pieces using repurposed weapons. Those pieces were sold to help generate the funding for this program.
“The Hawkins Street Bridge project was the second major restoration project to be completed in Ward 4. Recently, the Canada Pond Dam reconstruction project was completed and the pond is full once more. It was a great weekend for Ward 4 and I am proud of the work we have been able to do to better our community,” continued Senior Deputy Majority Leader Narducci Jr.
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.
Statement from Council President Sabina Matos in Response to Mayor Saying We Can’t Have “Both” New Police Academy and Reinvestment:
“I wish the Mayor would spend more time collaborating and resolving to address this issue of rampant violence in our City in partnership with the City Council rather than taking such a prideful contrarian stance.
When a shooting occurred on Dorchester Avenue, just a stone’s throw away from both of our homes just five days ago, I reached out to the Mayor and asked him how we could work together to address this issue plaguing every corner of our City. I have yet to receive a response.
His tone-deafness on the issue of violence is alarming and concerning. His quip of not being able to have it “both ways” (referring to a police academy and reinvestment) is a fallacy, simplistic, divisive, and disingenuous.
It is possible to both support a new academy to maintain a healthy number of police officers to replace those at-risk of retiring or leaving, while also diverting funds into initiatives and programs that better serve the needs of the community. Furthermore, it’s through new academies that we are able to diversify the department to better reflect the demographics of our communities.
I stand by my statement that we as a Council cannot pass a status quo police budget and that investments need to be made wisely and guided by the principles of preservation of public safety and community empowerment.
Now is not the time to pick a fight, Mayor. Please call me back and let’s talk about solutions.”
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.”