At last week’s City Council meeting, the Council approved a resolution proposed by the Committee on Finance to extend the City’s contract with Waste Management of Rhode Island by three years. Led by Chairman John J. Igliozzi, Esq. (Ward 7), the Finance Committee has deliberated over necessary improvements in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and environmental concerns.
“The contract with Waste Management was very one-sided and didn’t benefit the needs of our residents. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the City has seen a larger amount of waste due to many people and families working from home, and some people are illegally dumping bulky items on the side of the road. This can lead to unsafe and unsanitary conditions in our neighborhoods. I am confident that this contract will make Waste Management more efficient and reliable while also helping residents save some money,” stated Chairman John J. Igliozzi, Esq.
This contract includes a commitment to embracing green initiatives, such as better access to recycling for residents and the use of waste collection vehicles powered by natural gas. Additionally, the contract has been amended to eliminate fees for mattress and box spring collection to residents beginning in January of 2022. Currently, the cost for mattress collection is $26, which has proven to be too expensive for many residents.
“This plan will not only promote public health by keeping our City clean and green, but it will also promote the financial health of Providence residents by making important waste management services such as mattress collection free as of January 1, 2022. I spend almost every Saturday driving through Ward 8 and picking up discarded mattresses. With so many in our communities on fixed incomes or not working due to the current pandemic, we need to provide relief when and where we can. I firmly believe that removing the cost barrier for residents to dispose of mattresses and box springs properly will exponentially cut down on the mattresses that are dumped on the side of the road all around the City,” added Councilman James E. Taylor (Ward 8).
In addition to eliminating mattress collection fees in 2022, the contract includes a plan to create a “mattress fund,” which will be utilized by the City of Providence when a mattress cannot be collected by Waste Management and must be disposed of by the City. “This is another step in saving our resident’s money, and I would like to thank Chairman Igliozzi and my fellow Committee on Finance members for taking these steps for our residents,” continued Councilman James E. Taylor.
As approved by the City Council, the contract will continue until July of 2023, when the Finance committee will again reassess Waste Management procedures in the City of Providence.
Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5) along with Council President Sabina Matos (Ward 15), Council President Pro Tempore Michael Correia (Ward 6), Majority Whip John J. Igliozzi Esq. (Ward 7), Senior Deputy Majority Leader Nicholas J. Narducci Jr. (Ward 4), Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11), Councilwoman Carmen Castillo (Ward 8), and Councilman James E. Taylor (Ward 8) are calling on Mayor Elorza to create a city-wide public safety plan to address growing violent crime in our neighborhoods. The comprehensive city-wide safety plan will call for an immediate start to the police academy, a dedicated funding stream for social services in each police district, a police training curriculum that prioritizes cultural and socioemotional competencies, and a re-emphasis on community policing as a proactive strategy to mitigate violence and crime.
“After several weeks of violent crimes including shootings, a kidnapping, and murders, it is clear that the City needs to support a proactive approach to policing,” stated City Council Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan. “Violent crime is up overall across the country, and much of that seems to be due to the global pandemic and the social strife that has plagued our nation. However, we cannot allow the quality of life of our residents to be further impacted by the violent crimes happening in our neighborhoods. We need to properly staff our department and give police the support and tools they need to keep residents safe.”
While Providence has had community policing programs for years, the department’s depleted numbers have caused officers to shift their focus to responding to calls rather than fostering healthy relationships with their communities and performing the proactive investigatory work that stems crime. This has diminished the effectiveness of our community policing programs.
Therefore, the Councilors are calling on the administration to start the new police academy without further delay.
“We appreciate the action from the City Council to allow us to continue to move forward with the 70th Providence Police Academy. The Training Division is in the midst of the recruiting/selection process and we are eager to move forward,” stated Colonel Hugh T. Clements, Jr., Chief of Police, Providence Police Department.
City Council President Sabina Matos stated, “We have seen how community policing has a direct effect on our neighborhoods. When residents are familiar with and know who the officers patrolling their communities are, it leads to a better sense of security. It provides residents with direct contact if they see something that doesn’t seem right. If we are going to lower the crime rate, we need to support the police by providing social services needed in the City.”
Further, the Councilors are calling for the City to establish a dedicated funding for social service programs for each police district in Providence. They are also calling on the administration to provide more training for officers, with training focused on equity, diversity, and cultural understanding of the City’s diverse population.
“I am concerned that we are going to see a mass exodus of officers retiring in the coming year, and that causes me great concern,” stated Finance Chairman and Majority Whip John Igliozzi. “Reduced ranks will further stress an already overburdened department. We need to ensure that our police force is at capacity and that we have in place a strategic plan for crime prevention.”
The Councilors are also calling on the City to implement and explore best practices in violent crime prevention practices. The Councilor’s will be introducing legislation with further details and desired goals and outcomes at the November 5, 2020, City Council meeting.
Senior Deputy Majority Leader Nicholas J. Narducci Jr. stated, “I am in full support of our men and women who go to work every day to serve and protect our community. We need to support them to do the work they are charged to do. I believe that these actions and best practices will help us put a tamper on violent crime in the City and improve the quality of life for our residents.”
For more information, visit us on the web at council.providenceri.gov
Tonight, the City Council’s Committee on Finance adopted a new Compensation and Classification (Comp & Class) portion of the Fiscal Year (FY) ’21 Budget. The Council previously passed the tax levy keeping property taxes level and ensured no tax increase for residents. The Mayor’s Comp & Class budget, as submitted, called for the filling of vacant positions at a cost to the City’s taxpayers of just over $4 Million, and with revenues from speed cameras, school speed cameras, parking meters, hotel occupancy taxes, and food and beverage taxes all at record lows and have not yet received the City’s full Thirty-Two Million dollar pilot payment from the State (a payment from the State the City in lieu of taxes for state-owned properties), the Committee felt compelled to ensure the safety of the current workforce by removing these budgeted positions. The third and final portion of the FY ’21 budget, the appropriations portion, will not be taken up until the State passes its Budget.
“The fiscal forecast for the City of Providence is in peril,” stated Chairman on the Committee on Finance, Councilman John J. Igliozzi, Esq. (Ward 7). “As the legislative body, we have a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers of Providence to work in their best interest. By removing the Mayor’s request for an additional $4 Million in vacant and open funded positions it cuts the spending portion of our Budget, ensures our capacity to continue to keep our current workforce stable, and will help the City from falling off the fiscal cliff we are on. I have been a part of almost every City budget since I became a Councilman, and this is one of the gravest positions I have ever seen the City in financially.”
The Mayor’s requested positions can be revisited once the Council and the Committee on Finance have a better understanding of the state’s pilot payment notice. The City also had to make a significant investment in retrofitting offices and ensuring its workforce’s safety during this global pandemic and are waiting to learn what will be reimbursed from the state or federal agencies.
“We have a duty to protect our tax dollars for the residents of Providence,” stated Vice-Chairwoman of the Committee on Finance and Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5). “Had our fiscal outlook remained the same as it did in January, we would not be in this position. Since mid-March we have lost valuable revenues from hotel occupancy taxes, our food and beverage taxes, and state aid are significantly down which are critical to the City. However, like all cities, we are facing three crises at once an economic crisis, a global pandemic, and social unrest. $4 Million savings in vacant and open funded positions and raises is an opportunity to reduce our spending while preserving our current workforce, which is essential to keeping our City running.”
Chairman Igliozzi continued, “I want to thank my Committee colleagues Vice-Chairwoman and Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan, Councilors Carmen Castillo (Ward 9), Helen Anthony (Ward 2), and James Taylor (Ward 8) for their hard work during this longer than normal budgeting process. I would also like to thank my colleagues, President Sabina Matos (Ward 15), President Pro Tempore Michael Correia (Ward 6), Senior Deputy Majority Leader Nicholas J. Narducci Jr. (Ward 4), and Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11) for their input and guidance as we navigate these uncertain times.”
The City Council voted this evening to pass a change to the Code of Ordinances, giving authority to the Providence Redevelopment Agency (PRA) to borrow up to $20-Millon to capitalize the Providence Affordable Housing Trust Fund (Fund). The Council’s Committee on Ordinances, chaired by Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5), moved for full council approval of the amendment to the Code of Ordinances at their meeting on Tuesday, September 22, 2020.
“The City Council is making a historic and meaningful commitment to addressing the shortage of affordable housing,” stated Majority Leader Ryan. “The Fund was created by the City Council in 2019, in collaboration with its affordable housing partners, earmarking 10% of all TSA payments to provide the basis for the Fund. The $20 Million is anticipated to make up to 1,500 affordable homes possible in the next three years for Providence residents. The Fund is intended to provide critically needed gap financing to encourage the production, preservation, and protection of affordable housing. I want to thank Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris, my fellow committee members, our affordable housing partners, City finance teams, and Council colleagues past and present for their hard work on this important topic.”
“Affordable housing is a basic human right,” stated Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11). “I have been working on equity in housing for far too long, and this is the first major investment that I have seen made to address the issue in our City. I want to thank my Council colleagues for supporting this measure and their steadfast dedication to ensuring that we do all we can to address this pressing need. During the Fane Tower hearings, many residents spoke up and spoke loudly about the need for affordable housing, and I heard them. As we live through this pandemic, where so many are out of work, and where housing insecurity is coming into full focus, I am beyond proud that this body has acted and can take such a monumental step for our residents.”
The change to the Code of Ordinances approves the Providence Redevelopment Agency (PRA) to seek a bond of up to $20 Million to capitalize the Council’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund. The Fund, created in 2019, is an important City Council initiative that ensures that developers seeking tax relief are also investing in the City through their Tax Stabilization Agreements (TSAs). These agreements provide a structured tax phase-in for large scale development in the City and include specific clauses whereby the developer must invest into the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, and meet a host of other obligations. Ten percent of the TSA’s total estimated value must be deposited into The Fund, which is managed by the PRA.
City Council President Sabina Matos stated, “TSAs are an integral part of growing our City and our tax base. Yet, it is imperative that developers also invest in the community. When we created the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, we did so to ensure that our investors were putting skin in the game and that we were creating a dedicated funding stream to create much needed affordable housing units in Providence. By moving forward with this ordinance to allow capitalization of The Fund, we will be able to do just that. I want to thank Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris for her tenacity in shepherding this important legislation through the Council.”
The additional bond funding could allow for nearly 1,500 affordable housing units to be added to the City’s housing stock. The PRA will mandate that all rental units created through this program be rented at 80 percent or less than the area median income (AMI) and no more than 120 percent of the AMI for multi-family homes. This funding is intended to be used as gap dollars to help fulfill the needs of developers and our housing partners, like local Community Development Corporations, to achieve their goal of creating affordable housing units throughout Providence.
Executive Director Jennifer Hawkins of One Neighborhood Builders stated, “Housing stability is the greatest economic challenge our residents face. Now more than ever, we need to ensure families and residents, despite their income, have access to safe, quality housing they can afford. Affordable housing promotes neighborhood stability and enables families and residents to thrive.”
“We are excited to see the City taking such an important step to support the production of much-needed affordable housing in Providence,” said Carol Ventura, Executive Director of RIHousing. “Many funding programs are over-subscribed, leaving developers searching for additional funds to close the gap and move projects forward. This new funding stream will be critical to creating and preserving affordable homes, spurring economic activity and creating jobs.”
This change to the Code of Ordinances will dramatically impact the community and our ability as a City to ensure that affordable housing can be developed and that residents can live and work in Providence without being house burdened.
The Providence Tax Stabilization Investment Act creates a streamlined and transparent process to incentivize development and further grow Providence’s tax base
PROVIDENCE, RI (September 17, 2020)…Providence City Council President Sabina Matos (Ward 15), along with a majority of her Council Colleagues including President Pro Tem Michael Correia (Ward 6), Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5), Senior Deputy Majority Leader Nicholas J. Narducci Jr. (Ward 4), Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris (Ward 12), and Councilors Carmen Castillo (Ward 9), Councilman David Salvatore (Ward 14), Nirva LaFortune (Ward 3), Helen Anthony (Ward 2), Katherine Kerwin (Ward 12), Rachel Miller (Ward 13), James E. Taylor (Ward 8), Councilman Pedro Espinal (Ward 10) and John Goncalves (Ward 1) tonight introduced an ordinance entitled the Providence Tax Stabilization Investment Act.
The Providence Tax Stabilization Investment Act (The Act) would standardize the processes for all future Tax Stabilization Agreements (TSAs) in the City of Providence by increasing transparency, simplifying and streamlining the application process, and clearly defining the requirements that all developers must abide by should they wish to obtain a stabilization agreement with the City. The proposed legislation will create a tax stabilization system that not only protects our City’s financial interests but also incentivizes new development.
Council President Sabina Matos stated, “Over the past several years, my colleagues and I have grown increasingly frustrated with the existing TSA process as it has resulted in confusion for developers and Providence residents alike. This legislation sets clear expectations to developers from the get go and codifies them all in one section under our Code of Ordinances. By providing clear expectations and terms from the onset of an application for a tax stabilization agreement, the Council can better monitor and enforce the terms of the agreement that are meant to empower the communities that work and live in Providence. Furthermore, by streamlining this process developers will find it easier to move here, create more good-paying jobs, and grow our tax base.”
The Act is intended to balance economic development with responsible employment practices in order to increase the city’s tax base while revitalizing our existing communities. In order to advance this mission, it is vital that the city provide developers, entrepreneurs, and investors with a predictable TSA process which clearly defines both the procedure to obtain a TSA as well as the requirements that will be imposed should a property be granted such an agreement.
“I am very proud of the work we have done to create a crystal clear and reliable process that incentivizes development and defines community benefits,” stated City Councilor Rachel Miller. “When Providence forgoes tax dollars to support development, we should be able to trace the positive impact of that investment in our communities and to city residents. At the same time, developers should be able to rely on a predictable process. The Act is a tremendous step in both directions. The ordinance is the result of an intensive collaborative process between the Council, Council staff, the Solicitor’s Office, and the City’s Planning Department, and I look forward to a rigorous discussion of its merits with my colleagues and with city residents.”
About the Providence Tax Stabilization Investment Act:
The Act will tie the length of TSAs to the amount of investment being made in the City of Providence, and it will standardize the process by which TSAs are reviewed and approved. This includes citywide departmental review before reaching the Council, as well as a clearly defined list of documentation that a developer must provide at the outset of the application.
In addition to procedural changes, the proposed legislation condenses a number of existing requirements on TSAs into one section of the Providence Code of Ordinances to eliminate confusion. These requirements include the criteria all developers will be held to if they want a TSA, such as hiring Minority and Women Business Enterprises, paying prevailing wage during construction, and defining specific reporting timelines to ensure compliance. There are also specific designations for the taxes generated from stabilized properties, which includes 1% of all taxes for First Source, 10% for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, and 7% for the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund. While these designations have been designated by ordinance in the past, the new legislation places them directly in the section of the Ordinances governing TSAs in order to eliminate any uncertainty regarding where TSA taxes must go.
Finally, the Act establishes a very specific notice and cure provision in order to increase the enforcement capabilities of the Council so that they can exercise greater control over compliance with all of the terms and conditions of each TSA.
At the September 3 City Council Meeting, Councilman John Goncalves (Ward 1) introduced several resolutions with City Council colleagues regarding the start of the new school year, school improvements and COVID-19 preparedness within Providence schools.
“As we approach the 2020-2021 school year, it is crucial that we take all considerations to build a safe and productive school year. I commend and applaud the hard work of the Department of Education, Commissioner Infante-Green, Superintendent Peters and the Department of Health, and offer these resolutions as simply suggestions to further ensure these goals are met,” stated Councilman Goncalves.
The first resolution encourages Providence residents to vote “Yes” on the November ballot referendum to approve a $40 million bond for school improvements in Providence. These improvements would include construction, renovation, landscaping, furnishing and equipping Providence schools and school facilities throughout the City.
This resolution is co-sponsored by Council President Matos (Ward 15), Council President Pro Tempore Correia (Ward 6), Councilwoman Anthony (Ward 2), Councilwoman Castillo (Ward 9), Councilman Espinal (Ward 10), Finance Chairman Igliozzi (Ward 7), Councilwoman Kerwin (Ward 12), Councilor Miller (Ward 13), Councilor Salvatore (Ward 14) and Councilman Narducci (Ward 4).
Council President Matos stated, “While we should prioritize the warmth, safety, and security of our learning spaces for our youth, we should also invest into projects that inspire learning and instill a sense of pride in students about the spaces they spend most of their days in. Voting yes on this ballot referendum would help provide us the flexibility we need to work towards transforming our schools both academically and structurally into investments we can be proud of.”
As plans are made to begin the new school year, the possibility remains that students will be returning to in person learning for at least some of the school year. This means that the physical state of Providence school buildings remain a timely and important concern.
The second resolution proposed by Councilman Goncalves requests that the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) ensure that every Providence Public School has a trained nurse available on site during the day.
“As in-person learning resumes, at a time when public health is so important, it is imperative that a trained nurse or substitute nurse in every building be made available to all Providence students. This will further protect the health of Providence children, their families and surrounding communities,” added Councilman Goncalves.
The next resolution suggests that the RIDE and Providence Public Schools provide a remote learning best practices workshop for parents, through whichever means they see fit. This resolution has been co-sponsored by Council President Matos, Council President Pro Tempore Corriea, Councilor Anthony, Councilor Castillo, Councilor Miller, Councilor Narducci, Councilor Kerwin and Councilor Salvatore.
“So many parents have suddenly had to become teachers as they help their children navigate distance learning. Feedback has indicated that many parents would like to learn more about what they can do at home to provide the best possible learning environment for their children,” continued Councilman Goncalves.
“With the possibility that schools may be relying on distance learning for part of the school year, this type of training would help to mitigate absenteeism and provide parents with some assurance as families adjust to this change,” stated Councilor Anthony.
The final resolution recommends that RIDE utilize disaggregate data in their school operations decision making. While the current guidelines call for broad municipal data in which any city or town with more than 100 positive cases per 100,000 residents cannot move to a full in-person reopening, disaggregate data captures community spread of COVID-19 more closely by pinpointing data within certain subsets of the populations such as race, ethnicity and zip code.
“We have all learned that data and science is crucial when it comes to combating COVID-19. I have 100% confidence in our Governor, Department of Health and Department of Education and the five metric methodology for a safe reopening in person, and this is simply a recommendation to look at our municipal readiness in a more granular way. Since COVID zip code data is readily available, looking at zip codes, race and ethnicity to guide school operation decisions could ensure a safe and equitable return to school, specifically among communities of color and zip codes that have been disproportionately impacted,” stated Councilman Goncalves.
“Communities of color and lower income communities have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 within the City of Providence. This disaggregate data would provide a deeper understanding of the risks involved with returning to school within these specific communities and zip codes’ ‘ stated Finance Chariman Igliozzi.
Council President Matos added, “It’s extremely important that we as the City Council continue to advocate for reform and transformation in our schools: whether it be for better family engagement or basic personnel such as a school nurse. I’m proud to have partnered with Councilman Goncalves and my Council Colleagues in bringing forth these resolutions to keep our kids and families safe.”
Upon passage, these resolutions will be transmitted to the Honorable Governor of the State of Rhode Island, the Mayor of Providence, the Superintendent of the Providence Public School District, and the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education for the State of Rhode Island.