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.
At tonight’s City Council meeting, Council President Sabina Matos (Ward 15) proposed and passed a resolution supporting Providence Community Health Centers. This resolution was co-sponsored by Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5), Senior Deputy Majority Leader Nicholas J. Narducci Jr. (Ward 4), Councilman John J. Igliozzi Esq. (Ward 7), Councilman Michael Correia (Ward 6), Councilwoman Helen Anthony (Ward 2), Councilwoman Kat Kerwin (Ward 12), Councilor Rachel Miller (Ward 13), Councilman John Goncalves (Ward 1), Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune (Ward 3), Councilman David Salvatore (Ward 14), Councilman James Taylor (Ward 8), and Councilwoman Carmen Castillo (Ward 9).
“During a time when public health is of great concern, we must be using our resources to support organizations like Providence Community Health Centers. Their work has given over 65,000 residents access to quality, affordable primary care services. As we have learned throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, more work must be done to expand healthcare access. Let us do our part to give Providence Community Health Centers the tools they need to continue their great work,” stated Council President Sabina Matos.
Providence Community Health Centers (PCHC) has operated as a non-profit organization in Providence since 1968. With nine locations across the City, PCHC provides services including family practice, internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics, gynecology, behavioral health, optometry, dental care, and urgent care. PCHC treats all patients regardless of their ability to pay and offers multi-lingual, culturally sensitive care. In January of 2021, PCHC broke ground on a new health center location at 31 Atwood Street in the Olneyville neighborhood of Providence. The new location will be called PCHC Atwood and is due to open in early 2022.
“I am so excited for the new PCHC Atwood location. I commend Providence Community Health Centers for their work addressing racial and economic inequities in healthcare, affecting our most vulnerable neighborhoods. As PCHC does this work on the ground to reform systemic issues within public health, I ask my colleagues in government at the State House to support this undertaking,” added Council President Matos.
The new PCHC Atwood location will create space for 14,000 new patients in the Olneyville area. The Olneyville neighborhood is a diverse region of the City, with many minority groups, immigrants, non-English speakers, and other groups that are often underserved in the medical field. The area has been hard hit by the COVID-19 Pandemic. Additionally, this new location will create fifty new full-time, sustainable-paying jobs. Providence Community Health Centers is the largest primary health care provider in the City of Providence.
Providence City Council to Limit the Jurisdiction of the Housing Court as it Pertains to Receiverships
The City Council passed for the second and final time passed an Ordinance that would limit the Providence Housing Court’s jurisdiction pertaining to receiverships. The ordinance was introduced by Councilor Kat Kerwin (Ward 12), Council President Sabina Matos (Ward 15), Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5), Senior Deputy Majority Leader Nicholas J. Narducci Jr. (Ward 4), Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11), and Councilors Nirva LaFortune (Ward 3), Helen Anthony (Ward 2), Rachel Miller (Ward 13), Pedro Espinal (Ward 10), and John Goncalves (Ward 1).
The receivership program was initially started to address blighted and neglected properties throughout the City of Providence. However, in the years since that implementation private entities have begun to use the program as a way to displace homeowners and cause further inequities in our housing market.
“As councilors, it is our duty to protect our neighbors from predatory private interests whose goal is to profit off of those most vulnerable in our community. I am proud that our Council is taking a stand and refusing to allow these interests from taking homes away from hard-working residents, and I hope the state will follow suit and pass legislation that prevents this same predatory behavior in Superior Court,” stated Councilor Katherine Kerwin
This ordinance addresses the Providence Housing Court’s authority to hear receivership cases by limiting the Court’s jurisdiction to only those that have been filed by the City of Providence or the Providence Redevelopment Agency. Private actors such as abutter’s and non-profits will still have the opportunity to pursue receivership cases; however, they will now be required to utilize the Rhode Island Superior Court to do so. Receivership cases in the housing context may be filed pursuant to Rhode Island General Law §34-44, the Abandoned Property Act, and it is this state law procedure that allows private actors to petition abandoned properties into receivership for purposes of rehabilitation. This ordinance will ensure that the Providence Housing Court’s review of receivership cases will only occur in instances where the City of Providence or the Providence Redevelopment Agency have deemed it necessary to pursue such an action.
“I would like to applaud Councilwoman Kerwin for her swift action and attention to this matter. Her advocacy and determination are what public service is all about. During our Committee on Ordinances meeting on this matter, we had a robust and productive discussion about how we preserve our housing stock and ensure that our residents are being treated fairly. I would also like to thank the City Solicitor’s office for its guidance. This ordinance is all about protecting residents from unintended abuse of the cities streamlined receivership program,” shared Majority Leader and Chairwoman on the Committee on Ordinances Jo-Ann Ryan.
The Housing Court enforces the municipal ordinances and state laws governing minimum residential requirements, lead paint abatement, zoning, and building requirements to the end that all the people in the City of Providence be housed in dwellings that are safe, sanitary, and fit for human habitation and that all structures be utilized per state and municipal lead, code, zoning, and building laws, in the belief that such enforcement will protect and promote the health, safety and general welfare of the people of the City of Providence and fulfill the City’s Mission of creating and maintaining healthy neighborhoods. In fulfilling its mission, the Housing Court will seek to achieve enforcement and safeguard public health and safety without impairing property ownership.
“As elected officials, we must work to protect our residents in all ways, and this ordinance will make it the purview of the State Superior Courts to award receiverships by private entities. Our community is hurting financially because of the ongoing pandemic, and we need to act to protect our homeowners and housing stock in the City. I want to thank Councilor Kerwin for her leadership and all my colleagues who co-sponsored this important legislation,” stated Council President Sabina Matos.
Statement of Support for the Asian Community from City Council President Sabina Matos:
The violence yesterday in Georgia, where eight individuals were killed, six of whom were of Asian descent, is heartbreaking. Yet, it is a continuation of the series of attacks on Asian communities across the country since the Pandemic began.
Today, I stand with our Asian communities and pledge my support to help fight back against these ugly and vile acts of hatred.
If we are to move forward and get through this Pandemic, we must support all members of our communities and call out hate and discrimination in all forms.
Sabina Matos, President
Providence City Council
Councilwoman – Ward 15
Tonight the Providence City Council passed two resolutions, sponsored by Councilor Rachel Miller (Ward 13), to support several initiatives before the Rhode Island General Assembly to reduce Perfluorinated and Poly-Fluorinated Alkyl Substances (PFAS) in Rhode Island’s water supply and in food packaging in our state. The resolutions were co-sponsored by Council President Sabina Matos (Ward 15), Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5),Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11), Chairman John J. Igliozzi Esq. (Ward 7), Councilors Helen Anthony (Ward 2), Carmen Castillo (Ward 9), John Goncalves (Ward 1), and Kat Kerwin (Ward 12), Pedro Espinal (Ward 10), James Taylor (Ward 8), and Nirva LaFortune (Ward 3).
The first resolution supports and urges the passage of House Bill 2021 H-5523 and Senate Bill 2021 S-107, which will require the RI Department of Health to set a Maximum Contaminant Level for PFAS and requires that our public waterways and drinking supply be sampled and monitored for PFAS contamination. The second resolution supports and urges the passage of House Bill 2021 H-5356 and Senate Bill 2021 S-0110, which eliminate the manufacture, sale, and distribution of food packaging to which PFAS have been added.
“These initiatives in our General Assembly and State Senate are significant steps in the effort to improve food and water safety in Rhode Island. PFAS are persistent chemicals that are known to cause harm to humans and the environment. It is time for the Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Management to take action to set standards and testing protocols to protect the health and safety of Rhode Islanders. I know that my colleagues in government trust science and believe that we should do everything we can to protect and care for the health and safety of Rhode Islanders and our environment. PFAS have been linked to cancer, developmental issues in children, problems with fertility and pregnancy, and a host of other serious health problems. That is why we must act now to reduce these harmful chemicals from our food and water,” stated Councilor Rachel Miller.
PFAS are highly persistent chemicals that have been widely used in consumer products since the 1948. They are often used in food packaging to prevent grease and other fats from sticking to the paper packaging. However, PFAS are released during production processes and remain in the environment for long periods, entering the air and bodies of water. Because of this widespread contamination, PFAS can often be found in the blood of both humans and wildlife. Over the years, concern has grown regarding the health consequences of frequent exposure to PFAS.
“One of the most precious resources we have in the State of Rhode Island is the Narragansett Bay, and we must do whatever we can to protect this natural resource. Further, PFAS that end up in our water inevitably end up in our sea life. As a state with a robust seafood industry, we have to protect and preserve the catch’s quality. Doing so will protect jobs and this important economic generator. I applaud Councilor Miller for working to ensure that we are supporting important green and healthy initiatives at the General Assembly, and I too add my voice to the chorus of my colleagues who want to see these bills pass and enacted,” stated Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan.
The resolutions passed, and copies will be sent to the Rhode Island General Assembly and the Providence Delegation.