Today, the City announced that they would be removing the Christopher Columbus Statue and will be placing it in storage during the renovations of Columbus Square.
This decision was made by the Administration and the Superintendent of Parks, to keep the statue safe during renovation and to ensure an equitable and open process going forward.
After the completion of the project, I will ask that the City’s Special Committee on Commemorative Works which I am a member of, bring this before their body to hear the community’s input on the statue. Any decision they render will then go to the Board of Park Commissioners for final discussion and decision.
James E. Taylor
Providence City Council
Councilman – Ward 8
Yesterday, I had a protective box placed over the Columbus Statue in Columbus Square in the Elmwood Neighborhood. My reason for doing so was to protect the statue from the upcoming construction that is scheduled to begin in the coming weeks. Upgrades will include new lighting in the park as well as other infrastructure upgrades.
As you may have learned, the protective box was vandalized late last night, but the Columbus statue remains intact. This statue has been vandalized in the past, and I have been steadfast in my support that it should remain in the neighborhood until residents are able to decide on the future of the statue. The City has formed a Special Committee on Commemorative Works which will be overseen by Providence’s Arts, Culture + Tourism Department in conjunction with the City Archivist, and I will be urging them and the Providence Parks Commission to address the community’s concerns around the Columbus Statue. I will also ensure that residents of the Elmwood neighborhood can be heard, and express what they believe should happen in their neighborhood.
The statue was a gift by the Gorham Manufacturing Company to the residents of the Elmwood neighborhood. Where many of the factory workers once lived and stands as a reminder to the residents of our past bustling manufacturing history.
The statue will remain protected in Columbus Square until all construction is completed.
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.”
Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5), Majority Whip John J. Igliozzi Esq. (Ward 7), and Councilman James E. Taylor (Ward 8) call on Mayor Elorza to reopen public parks, green spaces, and trails for respite and educational purposes.
Mayor Elorza issued an executive order to close all parks, green spaces, and trails to the public until May 8, 2020. While Governor Raimondo has allowed state parks and beaches to remain open while only closing parking lots to limit the number of individuals that can visit at one time. The Councilors believe that the Mayor’s executive orders should mirror the Governor’s orders to lessen confusion and the spread of misinformation.
Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan stated, “We are asking residents of Providence to stay in their homes as much as possible, which is needed to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus and flatten the curve. Yet, we also have an obligation to balance the need for the public’s physical health with their mental health. Time outdoors is critical to ensuring that our residents – of all ages – have opportunities to get fresh air and spend time in nature. We know that spending time outdoors helps lessen anxiety, depression, and feelings of loneliness. Over the years, my colleagues and I have invested much of our precious Neighborhood Infrastructure Funding and Capital Improvement Plan funding into our neighborhood parks for this very reason. I think we can all agree that many of us are experiencing a high rate of anxiety due to the current health crisis. I believe that by following the Governor’s lead of keeping parks open, wearing cloth masks, and by practicing social distancing measures, we can allow for residents to visit their neighborhood parks, trails, and green spaces.”
Public health is paramount to the City Council and its members, but that must include ways to address mental health as well. This also presents an opportunity to work with the Governor to use these spaces as a way to inform individuals of the current crisis.
“There are several positive public health factors to reopening our parks, green spaces, and trails in a controlled and responsible manner,” stated Majority Whip John J. Igliozzi, Esq. “By reopening our natural areas, we can provide our neighbors with the much-needed ability to get fresh air and exercise. By deploying members of our police department to monitor our natural areas, and to ensure that safety protocols like social distancing and number of individuals congregating together are being adhered to, I believe we can do this in a measured and safe way. By reopening the parks in a controlled manner, it provides us the opportunity to enhance our community’s well-being both physically and mentally. It will allow residents to get to know the men and women of the Providence Police Department that serve in their neighborhoods; provides an extra level of public safety; and more importantly, we have an opportunity to share information about the virus, testing, and mitigation efforts with individuals that might not otherwise have access to that important information. It is naïve to think that every resident is watching the Governor’s daily press conference or receiving City emails regarding the current crisis. I strongly encourage the Mayor to reopen our parks, trails, and green spaces and use this opportunity to get information out to those that might not otherwise have access to it.”
The Councilors understand that the virus can stick to metal playground equipment, and are supportive of cordoning off that equipment to keep residents and children safe. Yet, they also know that being able to spend time in nature has many positive impacts on productivity and mental health. There are 1000’s of scholarly studies that show that spending time in nature – even if it is just walking through a park – can relieve stress and anxiety for individuals. Now, more than ever, eliminating that option for residents could potentially do more harm than good.
Councilman James E. Taylor stated, “For many in my neighborhood Roger Williams Park is used daily for walkers, runners, and people who just need to get outside. I believe that if the Mayor would rethink his Executive Order and close our parks to traffic and parking, neighbors could safely use their neighborhood parks, all while practicing safety measures as recommended by the Governor and Dr. Alexander-Scott of the RI Department of Health. By closing the traffic to Roger Williams Park, it would create wider areas for individuals to run and walk, making it easier to maintain social distancing. I hope that for consistency sake, the Mayor will change his order to mirror that of the Governor’s so we can all take it outside and relieve the stress that so many of us are feeling.”
The Councilors are hopeful that by working together with the Mayor and his Administration that we can reopen our beautiful parks safely and provide the much-needed benefit – of Vitamin-N (for Nature).
Last night, the City Council’s Committee on Finance approved an additional $5 Million for new fire apparatus through the City’s Master Lease Agreement.
“I would like to thank Chairman John J. Igliozzi (Ward 7) for his leadership of the Council’s Committee on Finance, and my fellow members of the Committee for acting swiftly after we heard from Derek Silva, President of the Providence Firefighters Union for the need to replace much of their aging fleet,” stated Councilman James E. Taylor (Ward 8). ” The Committee quickly brought back the City’s Master Lease Agreement and tonight approved the necessary funds for these vital pieces of equipment.”
The additional funds will go towards the purchase of potentially four ladder trucks, two fire engines, and one rescue apparatus.
Chairman on the Committee of Finance, John J. Igliozzi, Esq. stated, “This is an important investment in our City’s Fire Department. Our current fleet is aging-out and it was imperative that the Council ensure that the men and women of our Fire Department have the equipment they need to do their job safely, and with the knowledge that the equipment is in working order.”
Derek Silva, the President of the Local Fire Fighters Union, shared his concern regarding the aging fleet with the Council earlier this year. It was at his urging that the Committee revisited the needs of the Fire Department’s fleet.
“The Council’s top priority is the safety of our residents,” stated Majority Leader and Vice-Chairwoman of the Committee on Finance Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5). “We are in the midst of a world-wide pandemic and our Fire Department is often the first on the scene at any emergency. They are charged with ensuring the safety of our resident and their property, and without adequate equipment, it puts all of us in jeopardy. Our City’s economic outlook is precarious due to COVID-19, but the use of our precious tax dollars on this investment is not only prudent but necessary.”
The amendment to the Master Lease Agreement will go to the full Council for vote and passage at the next regularly scheduled meeting.
Today, The Board of Contract and Supply approved an additional $5 Million for new fire apparatus. This is great news for the hardworking men and women of the Providence Fire Department.
I would like to thank Chairman John J. Igliozzi (Ward 7) for his leadership of the Council’s Committee on Finance, and my fellow members of the Committee, for acting swiftly after we heard from Derek Silva, President of the Providence Firefighters Union for the need to replace much of their aging fleet.
The Committee quickly brought back the City’s Master Lease Agreement and allocated the necessary funds for these vital pieces of equipment. I am glad to know that we are moving in the right direction to give them the tools they need to do the job safely and confidently.