Council Supports State Efforts to Protect Rhode Islanders from Harmful Chemicals in our Water Supply & Food Packaging

Council Supports State Efforts to Protect Rhode Islanders from Harmful Chemicals in our Water Supply & Food Packaging

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.

Providence City Council Calls on the United States Senate to Pass the Equality Act

Providence City Council Calls on the United States Senate to Pass the Equality Act

Tonight, the Providence City Council members voted to pass a resolution urging the United States Senate to pass the Equality Act. The resolution was sponsored by Councilor Rachel Miller (Ward 13). It was Co-sponsored by Council President Sabina Matos (Ward 15), Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5), Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11), Majority Whip John J. Igliozzi, Esq. (Ward 7), and Councilors Helen Anthony, Esq. (Ward 2), Carmen Castillo (Ward 9), John Goncalves (Ward 1), Kat Kerwin (Ward 12), Councilman Pedro Espinal (Ward 10), Councilman James Taylor (Ward 8), and Councilman Nirva LaFortune (Ward 3)

The Equality Act was introduced to the House of Representatives by Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline and in the Senate by Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon in 2015, 2017, 2019, and 2021. It was finally passed by the United States House of Representatives in 2019 and 2021 but has died in the United States Senate committee. After the United States Supreme Court’s June 2020 ruling in the Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, which upheld protections for gay and transgender individuals in employment matters under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its subsequent amendments, now there is more support in the Senate for passage. The City Council members are urging the body to take this bold and meaningful action to codify the rights of every person living in the United States.

“First, I want to thank our Federal Delegation, especially Congressman Cicilline, who has worked doggedly on this act for the past seven years. Even as it languished in the House and Senate, he still believed that the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community were worth the battle. I am proud that he represents Rhode Island and am grateful for his leadership. The Equality Act will codify and protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, which has been missing from the Civil Rights Act for decades. The Equality Act wil also protect against discrimination in the workplace, in housing, in health care, and even in financial lending,” stated Councilor Rachel Miller.

The Equality Act will amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Jury Selection and Services Act, and several other federal laws around employment and discrimination in public spaces, services, and federally funded programs.

“Former United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg once stated, ‘We should not be held back from pursuing our full talents, from contributing what we could contribute to society, because we fit into a certain mold, because we belong to a group that historically has been the object of discrimination.’ With that statement, she was referring to what women have endured for generations. It is equally true for LGBTQIA+ communities that face higher rates of suicide, bullying, and the alarming rates of murder amongst transgender women. The Senate must pass the Equality Act, and I know that our Rhode Island Delegation is supportive, and I hope that we can all agree that discrimination of any kind needs to be removed from our legal system,” stated Council President Sabina Matos.

Many studies have shown that members of the LGBTQIA+ community face high levels of discrimination in housing. The bias is noted to come in many different ways: being denied housing, charged higher rents, or being removed from housing once a landlord realizes the orientation or the gender expression of the renters. Additionally, the Equality Act will add protections to LGBTQIA+ individuals living in 27 states which do not have state-wide LGBTQIA+ anti-discrimination laws.

“There are currently 27 states where, as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, my right to be free from discrimination in employment, housing, and other civil protections is not protected by law. I am proud to be a member of this body that tonight took a stance for equality for all,” concluded Councilor Miller.

Copies of the resolution will be sent to the Rhode Island Congressional Delegation. The City Council members hope that the United States Senate will pass Senate Bill 393 – The Equality Act.

Statement from Council President Sabina Matos on the Passing of the Honorable State Superior Court Judge Alton Wiley

Statement from Council President Sabina Matos on the Passing of the Honorable State Superior Court Judge Alton Wiley

I am saddened to learn of the passing of the Honorable Superior Court Judge Alton Wiley, an accomplished jurist and a man who broke down barriers.

Judge Wiley’s role as the first black judge to sit on the Rhode Island District and Superior Courts was proof that anything is possible with hard work and dedication. Not only did he break barriers, but he served the State of Rhode Island for decades with integrity, intellect, and allegiance to the law.

It is public servants like him who value virtue, equality, and opportunity that make the State of Rhode Island such a wonderful place to be. He will be sorely missed by all those who knew him.

I extend my most sincere condolences to Judge Wiley’s family and friends and pray that his memory is a blessing to all who knew him.

Sabina Matos, President
Providence City Council
Councilwoman – Ward 15

COVID-19 Vaccination Clinics Announced for February 17, 19, and 20, 2021

COVID-19 Vaccination Clinics Announced for February 17, 19, and 20, 2021

COVID-19 Vaccination Clinics Have Been Announced for this week for Providence Residents 75 and Older:

Wednesday, February 17, 2021: http://bit.ly/3ajpbJi
Managed by Providence Emergency Management Agency

Friday, February 19, 2021: http://bit.ly/3aiqTdS
Managed by Aesthenis Pharmacy in partnership with the City of Providence

Saturday, February 20, 2021: http://bit.ly/3dcbGNm
Managed by Providence Emergency Management Agency

*Internet Explorer will not work with the above-provided links. Anyone who registers that is not 75+ or a resident of Providence will have their appointment cancelled. In the coming days, additional clinic dates will be added to https://www.providenceri.gov/vaccinate/.

Residents who need assistance signing up for an appointment are encouraged to dial 3-1-1 to speak with a representative who can walk you through the enrollment process in English or Spanish. Although additional staff are supporting phone lines, residents should expect longer than normal wait times as MCCS anticipates a higher than normal call volume.

Providence City Council to Host its Sixth Black History Month Celebration by Honoring the Life and Legacy of Michael S. Van Leesten

Providence City Council to Host its Sixth Black History Month Celebration by Honoring the Life and Legacy of Michael S. Van Leesten

Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11) and the Providence City Council has teamed up with the Providence City Archives to create a Black History Month Online Exhibit and online panel discussion to honor the life and legacy of Michael S. Van Leesten entitled “Michael S. Van Leesten: Bridge Builder.”

The panel discussion will take place on Monday, February 15, 2021, at 7:00 PM. The discussion can be viewed on the City Council Facebook Page, YouTube Channel, or individuals can join the conversation on Zoom. Pre-registration is required: https://bit.ly/PVDBHM

“Every year, I am proud to work with the City Archives to create a Black History Month Exhibit that showcases the numerous contributions that people of color have made to our City. Michael S. Van Leesten was a rock in our community for so many years and touched the lives of everyone he worked with and advocated for. When I was a working single mother, Mr. Van Leesten’s support helped me to build a career as a welder. Later, I had the honor and pleasure of working with him as a community organizer. I am so excited to be honoring him this year and so grateful to his family for sharing so much with us so that we could share his inspiring story with the world,” stated Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris.

The panel will include: Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris, Ms. Mary Harrison, Mr. Jordan Van Leesten, Mr. Frank Santos, and Mr. Ray Rickman and will be moderated by City Council President Sabina Matos (Ward 15). The discussion will range from his long history as a freedom fighter to his dedication to education and workforce development. In addition, Mayor Jorge O. Elorza will provide welcoming remarks, Superintendent of Providence Parks, Wendy Nilsson, will join us to give an update on the renaming of the Providence Pedestrian Bridge after Mr. Van Leesten, and City Archivist Caleb Horton and Ziggy Giles from the Providence City Council will discuss the companion online exhibition.

Caleb Horton, Providence City Archivist, shared, “For the past six years, I have had the pleasure of working with Deputy Majority Leader Harris to tell the story of the black community here in Providence using items from our archives. Past exhibits have highlighted both the struggles and the successes of the fight for equality in our City. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic did not allow us to have an in-person gathering as we have done in years past, but it forced us to think outside the box. Working with Ziggy Giles, Abigail Appel, and Jill Van Leesten, we have put together what I believe to be one of the best exhibits we have ever created. It is interactive, moving, and tells an icon’s story – Mr. Michael S. Van Leesten. I look forward to sharing this special project with the community.”

The exhibit will feature photographs and stories from the decades Mr. Van Leesten spent as an activist for racial equity in voter registration, workforce development, and education reform.

The Van Leesten family has generously shared photographs, articles, and personal stories to help build this exhibit highlighting his lifelong devotion to the City of Providence and social justice throughout the country.

“Mr. Van Leesten’s lifelong dedication to activism and public service will forever serve as a model to all who want to effect positive change in their communities. I am humbled by the many stories of bravery, leadership, and integrity that he left behind. As we celebrate Black History this month, and throughout the year, let us remember those who came before us; the men and women who built the bridges that we have walked across,” stated Council President Sabina Matos (Ward 15).

Michael S. Van Leesten was a graduate of Hope High School, Rhode Island College, and was a veteran of the United States Air Force. He was active in the Civil Rights movement and participated in voter registration efforts in rural Alabama. He later founded and served as the Executive Director of Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC) of Rhode Island. Additionally, Van Leesten was a consultant and the owner of Van Leesten Associates and served as the Director of Planning and Development for Providence. Van Leesten also went on to serve as the Director of Public Affairs for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe. In addition to this expansive career, Michael S. Van Leesten was a board member of numerous organizations, including the Board of Regents, Peerless Precision, and Fleet Bank. Van Leesten sadly passed away in August of 2019, leaving behind five grown children and four grandchildren.

“It has been an honor for our family to take part in this event to show the community his passion around his family, friends, and work,” stated Ms. Jill Van Leesten. “He was an amazing and humble man. We miss him dearly and pray that his level of kindness and positive way of being will continue within us and be a gift to share with others. We want to thank the Providence City Council for all of their hard work and dedication. It has been such a pleasure working together on this special project.”

In June of 2020, the Council’s Committee on Urban Redevelopment, Renewal, and Planning (URRP), chaired by Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris, voted to rename the Providence Pedestrian Bridge in honor of the late Michael S. Van Leesten. As a man who spent his life building bridges for future generations to succeed, it is only fitting that this Providence landmark be named in his honor. In continuation of the Council’s gratitude to Mr. Van Leesten, this Black History Month exhibit was created to share the story of his dedication to the cause of racial and social justice in our City.

Visit the Providence City Council and the Providence City Archives on the web to view the online exhibits and look out for social media posts highlighting Mr. Van Leesten’s life throughout the month. The Michael S. Van Leesten: Bridge Builder online exhibition will permanently remain on the Council and Archives web pages and will continue to be updated with new stories of the rich history that people of color have built in the City of Providence.

Providence City Council Calls on the United States Senate to Pass the Equality Act

City Councilors Call on Residents to Vote “Yes” on Questions Two, Three, and Five in Upcoming Special Election

At last week’s City Council meeting, Councilors put forth several resolutions urging Providence voters to vote “Yes” on ballot referendum questions two, three, and five in the special election taking place on March 2, 2021. In December 2020, Governor Raimondo signed a state budget for the 2021 fiscal year that restored funding to cities and towns, used federal coronavirus relief funds to aid struggling Rhode Islanders, and did not raise taxes. In addition to the FY21 budget, there were also seven bond referendums regarding $400 million in bonds for education, affordable housing, green infrastructure, transportation, and other initiatives. All three resolutions were sponsored by the full Council.

The first resolution, proposed by Councilman John Goncalves (Ward 1), asks that voters vote “Yes” on ballot question two to support a $74 million bond for environmental and recreational projects.

“This bond would create funding for a proposed park on the former I-95 land along with local recreational projects, the dredging of the Providence River, the restoration of local wetlands, much needed municipal resiliency projects, and more. We are encouraging Providence voters to vote ‘Yes’ on question two in order to create meaningful and lasting environmental improvements not only in the City of Providence but across the State of Rhode Island,” stated Councilman John Goncalves.

The second resolution, also proposed by Councilman John Goncalves, advocates that voters vote “Yes” on ballot question five, which includes a $15 million bond for early childhood care and the Educational Capital fund.

“I call on all Providence residents to vote ‘Yes’ on ballot question five. This funding will be key to ensuring our students have a strong start, as early childhood care and education is what supplies children with a solid and broad foundation for success both in and out of school,” stated Council President Sabina Matos.

The third resolution, proposed by Council President Sabina Matos (Ward 15), Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11), and Councilman John Goncalves (Ward 1), urges residents to vote “Yes” on ballot question three, in support of a $65 million bond for affordable housing projects throughout the state.

“This bond will allocate millions of dollars towards the building and maintaining of affordable housing in Rhode Island. In addition, millions more will go directly towards community revitalization projects. I encourage residents to support this initiative, as affordable housing and community development will be central in the recovery of our economy and public health moving forward,” added Council President Matos.

The special election will occur on Tuesday, March 2, with polls open from 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM. The deadline to submit mail ballot applications is Tuesday, February 9 and early in-person voting begins on Wednesday, February 10.

To request a mail ballot, click here: https://bit.ly/36He8r5
To find your polling location, click here: http://bit.ly/2MowkPz

Chinese (Simplified)EnglishHaitian CreoleSpanish