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).
Next month will mark sixteen years since my dear friend, my partner, the person I loved in life was cut short by gun violence as he walked out of a bodega in New York City. He was mistakenly struck by a bullet intended for someone standing outside the store. Our lives were changed forever by a needless act of violence.
For three consecutive days, our city has experienced a rash of violence. Yesterday’s incident took place on Camp Street in front of Billy Taylor Park, a neighborhood park where my daughter plays and where I’ve hosted various events to bring the community together.
I am heartbroken and appalled by these unthinkable acts of violence. The epidemic of gun violence is destroying our communities, injecting fear into our neighborhoods and further dividing our city. It must stop.
The issue of gun violence is systemic and we must address the root cause. On Friday, May 14th, I reached out to the Mayor, the Police Commissioner and Chief, the Attorney General, the Executive Director of the Nonviolence Institute, and community leaders to convene a meeting to discuss how we can work collaboratively to create a comprehensive plan to address the gun violence in our community and also ensure meaningful and impactful ways to serve our young people. Creating solutions is often a bottom-up process and we’ve got to find ways to engage our young people who are often disenfranchised, struggling, and in some cases, very angry.
I have had the privilege to go on ride-alongs with the NonViolence Institute’s street workers and the police department to see firsthand the impact of such violence on communities and on lives. I am committed to continuing to work with the Mayor’s administration, the police department, and community partners to stop gun violence in Providence and develop solutions to prevent these violent crimes from happening. Talk is not the answer. Action is.
I will update you as our meetings progress. And, please reach out to me if you have ideas on this issue. It’s by sharing what we know and working together as a community that we will make significant change.
With love for our city,
Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune
Providence City Council
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.
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.
The Councilwoman Urges Residents to Respond and Share Survey through Social Media with Friends and Family
Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune (Ward 3) today has launched a survey requesting input from Providence residents on the use of $130 million in federal stimulus funds expected to be delivered to the City. The survey, created in both English and Spanish, can be found below.
“I have heard a lot of recommendations as to how Providence should spend these federal stimulus funds. This is an enormous amount of money and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the people of Providence. I believe residents of Providence should have clear and strong input as to how this money gets spent,” said Councilwoman LaFortune. “The key to getting answers from our city’s residents is simple: just take the time to ask them and listen to what they say. I hope residents from across the city will fill out this survey and make their voices heard.”
The survey contains eight questions and should take less than five minutes to fill out. It seeks responses in multiple areas and asks people what is most important and perhaps not so important to them. The survey also provides a place for residents to indicate their own ideas on spending the funds. The Councilwoman asked that residents fill out the survey by April 15, 2021.
“People across Providence have suffered in different ways for different reasons during this pandemic. The loss of a job, the loss of a loved one, the loss of a once-vibrant business, the inability to access food, or the challenge of dealing with mental health issues, evictions, or at-home schooling have all weighed heavily on the people in our city. Now, our city is presented with an opportunity to begin to recover. The important thing to prioritize is a recovery that benefits the people of Providence.
“I urge residents to complete the survey and to share it with friends and family. The more input we receive, the more representative our decisions will be,” Councilwoman LaFortune concluded.
At tonight’s City Council meeting, Councilman John Goncalves (Ward 1) proposed a resolution supporting Rhode Island House Bills 2021 H-5674, H-6074, H-5595, and Senate Bills 2021 S-0219, S-0468, and S-0540, known collectively as the Rescue Rhode Island Act. This resolution was co-sponsored by Senior Deputy Majority Leader Nicholas J. Narducci Jr. (Ward 4), Councilwoman Helen Anthony (Ward 2), Councilman Pedro Espinal (Ward 10), Councilman Michael Correia (Ward 6), Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune (Ward 3), Councilor Rachel Miller (Ward 13), Councilman John J. Igliozzi Esq., Councilwoman Carmen Castillo (Ward 9), and Councilman James Taylor (Ward 8).
“We urge our elected representatives in the Rhode Island General Assembly and Senate to support and pass the Rescue Rhode Island Act. This initiative takes bold action to address a myriad of issues facing our State, from housing insecurity to sustainable food systems and climate justice. ” stated Councilman John Goncalves.
The Rescue, Rhode Island Act focuses on three main areas of concern. The first concern is the expansion of green and affordable housing construction. The Rescue, Rhode Island Act would allocate funding towards the construction of high quality, energy-efficient, affordable housing through the Housing Jobs Construction Program, which would also provide job training programs in energy-efficient construction and solar panel installation.
The second focus is the support of locally sourced food production. The legislation would assist in developing a reliable food production system in the State of Rhode Island.
“The Rescue Rhode Island Act takes progressive steps to move Rhode Island into a new era of green jobs, sustainable, affordable living, and a return to embracing local food systems. We have the technology, and we have the ability to make our State’s practices more environmentally friendly, so it is time for us to take the necessary steps in government to allow these exciting changes to happen,” added Councilman Goncalves.
Finally, the Rescue Rhode Island Act’s third focus is the creation of Green Justice Zones in Washington Park and the South Side of Providence. These Green Justice Zones would receive funding for projects such as the replacement of lead pipes. Within Green Justice Zones, polluting facilities would be more strictly regulated, and new polluting facilities would not be allowed to move into the area. Washington Park and the South Side of Providence are regions of the City that have been significantly impacted by air, water, and soil pollution. The outcomes of this pollution include disproportionate rates of childhood asthma and increased risks of environmental hazards.
“Changes must be made to protect the residents and the Washington Park and South Side neighborhoods’ ecosystem. The ongoing pollution only deepens the inequities in health and economic outcomes in the City of Providence. It is time that we put Rhode Islanders first and make meaningful change to improve the future of our State, but also to improve the everyday lives of those residing in areas that are prone to excessive, harmful pollution,” added Councilman Pedro Espinal.
The resolution has been sent to the Special Committee on State and Legislative Affairs.