After a nearly nine-hour continuous public hearing where Providence Residents called on the City Council to defund and abolish the police, and to provide more social service programs to help city residents in crisis, Providence City Council Majority Whip and Chairman of the Council’s Committee on Finance John J. Igliozzi Esq. (Ward 7) today announced his intention to replicate a program that was launched in Eugene, Oregon, in 1989 by White Bird Clinic, called Crisis Assistance Helping Out on the Streets (CAHOOTS). This proposed pilot program would address the social service needs that are better treated by trained counselors, medics, and crisis managers than the police.
“As Chairman of the Committee on Finance I will be bringing this issue forward and inviting the Providence Department of Public Safety and community partners back before the Committee at our next meeting to discuss the implementation and funding of a pilot mobile crisis intervention unit program similar to CAHOOTS here in Providence,” Stated Councilman John J. Igliozzi.
The program that Igliozzi intends to launch in Providence would be similar to the approach that CAHOOTS has been using since its inception. The Eugene, Oregon based program deploys teams of two unarmed civilian officers with a medic and trained crisis worker to calls that are nonviolent and do not require an armed response. According to their shared data, they handled 18% of the 133,000 911 calls in the City of Eugene last year and only needed to call for police backup 150 times. The program is operated on a $2-million budget and saved the city nearly $14-million in costs of ambulance transport and emergency room care in the past year.
“Monday night, and into the early hours of Tuesday, we heard from more than two hundred individuals that shared their fear, anguish, and concerns over the way police are called upon to handle crisis situations. Several of the 911 calls that our police department is called to answer are situations in which they are not necessarily trained to address. They are trained to deal with violent crimes, not mental health, and social service calls.”
Councilman Igliozzi continued, “In addition to the work I will be doing in Committee, I will be putting forth a resolution at the next City Council meeting calling on the City to officially implement a pilot program that mirrors the success that has been achieved in Eugene, working in partnership with the Police Department, the City Council, and community advocates. It was clear to me that we are a city in pain and abolishing or defunding the police is an unachievable goal in this current budget season. However, I believe we have an opportunity to divert funds from bloated city programs to create and embed a Social Service Mobile Crisis Unit in the Department of Public Safety that can address and alleviate many – not all – of the concerns that we heard from the residents who testified.”
Ebony Morgan from CAHOOTS Crisis Intervention wrote in a statement, “At our roots, Cahoots is innovative, forward-thinking, and dedicated to serving marginalized populations.” The pilot program that Councilman Igliozzi is proposing would mirror what they have achieved in Eugene, but will have a focus on addressing the issues that might be unique to Providence.
“The spending portion of the budget for the City of Providence is nowhere near complete, and by taking the time now to look at the budget holistically we can create the same kind of pilot program here in our City, and I believe we will be better for it.,” stated Chairman Igliozzi.
Chairman Igliozzi will be bringing together stakeholders to discuss how the City of Providence can create a pilot program and work with institutional partners.
Councilman John J. Igliozzi, Esq. (Ward 7) today announced the launch of an online petition asking the Governor and the General Assembly to repeal Rhode Island General Law 42-28.6 titled Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBR). Individuals looking to sign the petition can do so here: https://bit.ly/PVDWARD7.
“Last week, after receiving over 2,000 emails from residents asking the City Council to defund the police, I held a Committee on Finance meeting where I invited community advocates, members of the City Council, the Commissioner and the Chief of Police, as well as the President of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) to appear for a discussion on the Police Department’s budget and the concerns that the community shared via email,” stated Chairman on the Committee on Finance John J. Igliozzi, Esq. “The conversation came out of the community’s deep pain over the atrocities that have occurred in recent weeks but have been ongoing for centuries. One of the things that I heard from this conversation was that Rhode Island is one of 12 states to have a Police Officers’ Bill of Rights, and our state law is one of the most restrictive. I believe that if we are going to have real change in our police and community relations, we need to start here. If there is a bad apple, we don’t want it to spoil the whole bunch, and LEOBR prevents us from making a real change when we have officers that are accused of violence.”
During the Committee on Finance meeting that was held on June 10, 2020, Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris asked, “If Mr. Floyd’s life would have been taken here, would our Chief had the opportunity to call for the police officer to be fired?” Commissioner of Public Safety Steven Paré stated, “Under our LEOBR the answer is no. We would not be able to fire, which to me, means to terminate from employment, benefits, and everything. And even after the act was committed, we would have to wait until that individual was indicted, and that means getting an indictment, a charge, out of a grand jury since it’s a capital offense and a homicide. We wouldn’t be able to stop his salary until we get an indictment from the grand jury, and then we stop his salary, and his benefits continue until he’s convicted of that crime, and then we stop his benefits…”
“It was clear from Commissioner Paré that one of the biggest hurdles they face is the state’s LEOBR law. If we can repeal that and hold bad actors accountable, we could potentially save a life. I think that’s a worthy pursuit and why I’m launching the petition, and I hope that we can work together as a City and State to make a better community for all of our residents.”
The petition will be forwarded to Governor Gina Raimondo, Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, and Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello, and the members of the Rhode Island General Assembly.
City Council Majority Whip and Chairman of the Committee on Finance John J. Igliozzi, Esq. (Ward 7) has called for a meeting of the Committee on Finance to discuss Mayor Elorza’s plan to reopen our municipal government on Monday, June 1, at 5:00 PM via remote teleconference.
“It’s time to bring our City staff and offices back online safely and efficiently,” stated Chairman John J. Igliozzi, Esq. “A large percentage of our workforce has been idle, and not performing at full capacity. Over the past month, we have held almost daily Finance Committee meetings regarding the City’s budget and finances. The Committee has learned that the City is paying a large percentage of its employees for work that they are not able to do – at no fault of their own. There is no doubt that this pandemic has changed how we all live and work, but the City has had three months to take actionable steps to ensure that city services are being carried out. The administration did not provide modern technology to many of our employees, like call forwarding, laptops, or Wi-Fi hot spots. These simple steps would have allowed for city services to be done remotely and efficiently. At Monday’s meeting, the Committee expects the administration to provide an actionable plan of how they are going to safely and efficiently bring our employees back online and do the work that our taxpayers expect us to do whether that be remotely or in-person.”
City Hall and most other city-owned buildings have been closed to the public and non-essential staff since Saturday, March 14. During this time, residents have not been able to access city departments as they normally would. The City Council nor the Committee on Finance has been noticed on what the plans are to reopen city buildings and how the administration plans to bring back staff that is safe and manageable during the phased reopening process as put forth by Governor Raimondo.
Vice-Chairwoman of the Committee on Finance and City Council Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5) stated, “It is imperative that we get back to work, but we also must be able to ensure the safety of our city’s workforce. We have several offices that were able to pivot and work remotely, but not everything can be done online. We need to understand what the plans are to reopen the City because absent a comprehensive plan we are putting the health of our employees at risk. I look forward to hearing from the administration as to how they will be bringing back our workers safely and the measures they are putting in place to keep both our employees and visitors alike safe from the continued spread of the COVID-19 virus.”
The Committee on Finance will meet Monday, June 1, at 5:00 PM via Zoom. Members of the public are able to join the Zoom meeting either by phone or computer or watch on the City Council’s YouTube Channel. The information for Monday’s meeting can be found below:
Join from a PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, or Android device.
Please click this URL to join the meeting: https://zoom.us/j/98023635365
Or join by phone – Dial: US: 1-646-876-9923 or 1-877-853-5257 (Toll-Free)
Webinar ID: 980 2363 5365
International numbers available: https://zoom.us/u/adDcs7QB17
Meetings are also streamed live on the City Council’s YouTube Channel: https://bit.ly/pvdmeetings. Please refresh your browser every minute or two until the meeting starts.
Today, the City of Providence Board of Contract and Supply approved the hiring of Ernest Almonte, Rhode Island’s former Auditor General, to advise the City Council and its members on the proposed FY ’21 Providence City Budget.
As the City of Providence is facing severe budget deficits due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, the City’s Internal Auditor has hired an outside firm to help provide independent guidance during these times of financial uncertainty. Due to the administration submitting a budget dependent on unresolved factors and their request to borrow $90-million, the Internal Auditor felt that it was imperative that the Council get third-party advisement on how to work through these challenges.
“The COVID-19 Pandemic has upturned every aspect of our lives; including our City’s finances,” stated Council President Sabina Matos (Ward 15). “Auditor General Almonte‘s expertise in state and municipal finances will help the Council make the best decisions on how we can maximize our City’s tax dollars in the upcoming fiscal year.“
Ernest Almonte has 40 years of experience working in government, not-for-profits, and higher education, where he has provided technical assistance on accounting and financial reporting issues to federal, state, and local governments. Mr. Almonte is a leader with vast experience working with federal, state, and local government leadership on compliance, audit, and consulting projects. He is a frequent speaker on industry-related topics and spent 16 years as Rhode Island’s Auditor General.
Chairman on the Committee on Finance John J. Igliozzi, Esq. stated, “The Council is prepared to pass a no tax increase budget, but we must understand where cuts can and must be made. With Ernie’s vast knowledge of the state financial system, he will be able to guide the Council and the Committee on Finance through the current financial crisis we find ourselves facing. I look forward to working with him and getting his decades worth of advice to help us make the best and most economically sound decisions for the residents of Providence.”
Mr. Almonte will begin researching the budget, department by department, to find ways to save money and to identify how the City can be the best stewards of resident’s tax dollars as soon as possible.
“I’m happy to be working with Ernie and look forward to his guidance as we prepare to finalize our City’s budget,” stated Providence Internal Auditor Gina Costa. “The City is seeing severe revenue losses across several sectors, and with no idea of when we might begin to see those revenues return, my team and I must have the support in doing our due diligence for the residents of Providence.”
Last night the City Council convened to vote on the extension of Mayor Jorge O. Elorza’s Executive Order. The matter did not pass as it required a mega-majority vote (11 out of 14 affirmative votes) which it did not receive.
Pursuant to section 302-i of the City Home Rule Charter Mayor Elorza would need three-fourths of the Council to vote in the affirmative or 11 out of the current 14 voting members. Last night the vote was 7 ayes, 5 nays, 1 abstention, and 1 Councilor absent.
“The City Council has a sworn oath to uphold the City’s Home Rule Charter,” stated City Council Majority Whip John J. Igliozzi Esq. (Ward 7). “As a Council, we are the checks and balances of the Executive Branch and the Mayor’s order did not meet the requirements put forth by our founding mothers and fathers to extend, and our duty is to the will of the many not the will of one.”
What this means for the residents of Providence, is that all regulations put forth by Governor Gina Raimondo should be followed in its totality. With that, all parks and golf courses within the City limits will be open under the strict guidelines set forth by the Governor. No groups of five or more individuals shall gather together in the first phase of her plan to reopen the economy, cloth face masks must be worn at all times, and social distancing guidelines must be followed.
Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5) stated, “The Mayor’s Executive Order did not meet the required vote to pass the City Council. It is our obligation to follow the Home Rule Charter to the letter, and that is what we did. These are difficult times, but we must follow the law.”
“Last night’s vote only proves that the Mayor is not following the guidelines set forth by Governor Raimondo,” stated Councilman James Taylor (Ward 8). “I have consistently voted against the Mayor’s Executives Orders as each one of them has not been consistent with the Governor’s.”
Providence City Council President Sabina Matos (Ward 15) announced today that the City Council would be granting Clínica Esperanza/Hope Clinic a $100 Thousand grant to expand COVID-19 testing at their health clinic. Data made public by the Rhode Island Department of Health last week showed that the City of Providence is being disproportionately affected by COVID-19 cases. More specifically, the hardest-hit zip code in the entire state encompasses the neighborhoods of Olneyville, Silver Lake, and Manton – communities that Clínica Esperanza/Hope Clinic serves.
“These neighborhoods are home to some of the hardest working and most marginalized populations in the state,” stated City Council President Sabina Matos. “These truths are also why they are more likely to be exposed to the dangers of this virus. These communities are the ones risking their lives manufacturing essential goods, ringing out and delivering food to everyone’s homes, and are more likely to access mass public transit. These critical funds will allow Clínica Esperanza/Hope Clinic to expand their testing operations from three days a week to six days a week and will provide the 02909 community a testing site that’s more easily accessible.”
Clínica Esperanza was founded in 2007 as a place for patients, volunteers, community partners and donors to be healthy. Their community health care model ensures that quality care comes from caregivers who are fully integrated in the community. They offer primary medical care to uninsured Rhode Islanders, with an emphasis on culturally accustomed and linguistically appropriate care.
Council President Pro Tempore Michael Correia (Ward 6) stated, “By providing expanded testing hours for our community we are sending a message to our residents that their wellbeing is our number one priority, and that we are doing whatever we can to make testing accessible and equitable. I commend the Council President for her leadership and guidance on this initiative.”
“The health of the community we serve is our highest priority,” stated Councilman John J. Igliozzi, Esq. “These funds will go a long way in ensuring that our most vulnerable residents can access COVID-19 testing safely and with the help and guidance of a culturally competent staff.”
Clínica Esperanza/Hope Clinic is located at 60 Valley Street in the City of Providence. With this grant, they will be increasing their COVID-19 testing to six days a week from 4 PM – 9 PM daily. Their staff is multi-lingual, and you will need to make an appointment by email at email@example.com, or by calling 401-408-0238, or by sending them a Facebook message.