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

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

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

Providence City Council Endorses Creation of An Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Policy

At last week’s City Council Meeting, the Providence City Council passed a resolution requesting the Office of Sustainability collaborate with the Purchasing Department, the Healthy Communities Office, the Providence Public School Department, and the school district’s food service and facilities management companies to create an Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Policy (EPP Policy) for the City of Providence. The resolution was introduced by Councilman John Goncalves (Ward 1) and co-sponsored by Council President Sabina Matos (Ward 15), Council Majority Leader JoAnn Ryan (Ward 5), Senior Deputy Majority Leader Nicholas J. Narducci Jr. (Ward 4), Deputy Majority leader Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11), Majority Whip John J. Igliozzi, Esq. (Ward 7), Councilors Helen Anthony, Esq. (Ward 2), Pedro Espinal (Ward 10), Kat Kerwin (Ward 12), Rachel Miller (Ward 13), David A. Salvatore (Ward 14) Carmen Castillo (Ward 9), Michael Correia (Ward 6), and James E. Taylor (Ward 8).

In November of last year, Councilman Goncalves drafted a resolution calling for the City of Providence to share an inventory of single-use plastics used at City-owned properties. Based on discussions with Providence’s Office of Sustainability, the Environmental Sustainability Task Force and Clean Water Action Rhode Island, the resolution was later broadened to include environmentally preferable practices in all City purchasing, not just single-use plastics.

“What we learned when researching our City’s purchasing practices is that there is room for an environmentally friendly approach in many areas, not just single-use plastics. This new resolution encourages an Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Policy that holistically addresses environmental and health concerns such as reducing the use of products containing neurotoxic chemicals along with purchasing products that contribute to a local, regenerative, and circular economy in Providence,” stated Councilman John Goncalves.

An EPP Policy will guide City staff and contractors in making purchasing choices that minimize negative impacts on human health and the environment while supporting the goals outlined in the City’s Climate Justice Plan. Making the switch to EPP does not have to be a costly endeavor as more and more cities and nations are going “green.” Items that would replace single-use plastics and other supplies have sharply decreased in price to be equivalent or even less costly than their traditional alternatives, particularly when lifecycle costs are taken into account. Coupled with third-party certification programs to guide staff, this can be a win-win for the city’s fiscal health and our goal of being carbon neutral by 2050.

Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan expressed, “I was very happy to join Councilor Goncalves as a co-sponsor on this important initiative. When we are looking at how we are spending our precious tax dollars I believe that putting an eye on greener and more efficient purchasing will benefit our City’s fiscal health in the long term. This is another great step in making Providence a greener city.”

Additionally, Councilor Helen Anthony, one of the co-sponsors of the resolution stated, “I’m proud to support the adoption of the Environmental Preferable Purchasing Policy by the City of Providence. We need to lead by example. Green purchasing will minimize the negative environmental impacts of the products and services used by the City and generate a healthier environment for our residents.”

“With an EPP Policy, the City can leverage its purchasing power to lead by example in city-owned schools and facilities, create a healthy workplace, schools, and community spaces, and help build a sustainable, zero-waste economy right here in Providence,” said Leah Bamberger, Director of Sustainability. “The Office of Sustainability looks forward to working with colleagues and contractors across the City to explore purchasing options that prioritize the health of our people and planet.”

Some of the goals of an EPP policy as outlined in the resolution are to encourage City staff to purchase products and institute practices that reduce waste and materials that are landfilled, especially single-use plastics; conserve energy and water; reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and minimize the use of products containing neurotoxic chemicals. An EPP policy would create incentives for healthy, low-impact purchasing in City-owned facilities and encourage other consumers to adopt similar policies.

“We are grateful to Councilman Goncalves not only for the content of this Resolution – which will help put the City on a path to achieving goals set forth in the Climate Justice Plan – but also for actively engaging with the community and incorporating feedback from the Environmental Sustainability Task Force’s meeting. The Task Force unanimously voted to support the Resolution in December and we want to express thanks to the Councilman for demonstrating collaborative governance,” said Sue AnderBois, Chair of the Environmental Sustainability Task Force.

“I am grateful to the many community partners who have worked to create this plan to institute an EPP Policy including the City of Providence Office of Sustainability and Purchasing Department, my Council colleagues, Mayor Elorza, the Environmental Sustainability Task Force, Clean Water Action Rhode Island, as well as national partner Healthy Babies Bright Futures. I look forward to seeing this initiative come to fruition in the City of Providence as we lead by example and work together to find new ways to ensure that the City of Providence is a green, clean and healthy place for all who reside here,” added Councilman Goncalves.

To read the full resolution, click here.

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

Providence City Council Hires Paul J. Fox III as Chief of Staff

Providence City Council Hires Paul J. Fox III as Chief of Staff

Fox brings more than a decade of experience working with city leaders

Providence City Council President Sabina Matos today announced a new chief of staff to support the work of the 15-member Council. Paul J. Fox, III (P.J.) will begin on Monday, December 21, 2020.

“We are excited to welcome P.J. to our team,” stated Council President Sabina Matos. “His career has been dedicated to serving the residents of Providence and helping make our city a safe and welcoming place for everyone to live and work. I look forward to working together to move the work of the Council and the City of Providence forward. As we begin this new chapter, I would be remiss if I did not thank Doris De Los Santos for serving as the interim chief of staff during this period. This is not an easy role to fill, and she stepped in and handled it with grace, and I am indebted to her for all she has done to keep our office running.”

The Chief of Staff to the Providence City Council is entrusted with the management of the Council Staff, City Clerk’s Office, City Treasurer’s Office, City Archives, and Municipal and Probate Courts. Additionally, their role supports the 15 elected City Councilors and their work. They engage with stakeholders across all sectors and will work to strengthen the City’s COVID-19 response and recovery.

Paul J. Fox III shared, “I am grateful for the opportunity to join the City Council team. I look forward to helping Council members serve the residents of Providence, especially as we continue to navigate these challenging times due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Most recently, Fox served as the executive director of the Nonviolence Institute. He also sits on the Board of Directors of Providence Sports and Leadership, a youth leadership development organization. Fox is also the Vice- President of the Providence St. Patrick’s Day Parade and is a member of the Providence Rotary Club. He is a graduate of the University of Rhode Island with a degree in Political Science.

 

Statement from Councilwoman Carmen Castillo Regarding Recent Shooting in Ward 9

Statement from Councilwoman Carmen Castillo Regarding Recent Shooting in Ward 9

It is so upsetting that there was yet another deadly shooting in my neighborhood today. It is even more upsetting that it occurred at a time when students were getting out of school.
My heart is broken for the young man who lost his life, and my thoughts and prayers are with his friends and family at this time.

This matter is still under investigation, but if you know any details about this horrible crime please call the Providence Police department at 401-272-1111 or use their online citizens complaint form on the Providence Police Department’s Website: https://bit.ly/2X9J12N

If you see something, say something. We all have a role to play in stopping crime in our City.

Carmen Castillo
Providence City Council
Councilwoman – Ward 9

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

City Council Approves the Refunding of Bonds Giving a $1.3 Million Boost to the City’s Pension System

Tonight, the City Council voted to approve the refunding of the City’s bond portfolio. The refunding of bonds is much like the refinancing of homes, providing efficiency and better interest rates, which yield savings.

“I want to thank the Committee on Finance, our Council finance team, and the City’s finance team for their dedication to ensuring that we are doing what we can, when we can, to help address our pension liability. It is not always easy but finding savings to help address our fiscal obligations is paramount,” stated Council President Sabina Matos (Ward 15).

The 2010 bond’s refunding will realize more than $1.3 million in net savings for the City of Providence and will not extend the life of the bond, nor will it cause the City to incur an increase in its financial obligations.

“Refunding bonds at this time is an important cash management tool,” stated Chairman of the Committee on Finance and Majority Whip John J. Igliozzi, Esq. (Ward 7). “It is what you do with the savings that are realized from refunding that is important. The Committee has wisely and clearly stated that the funds should go toward the City’s pension fund. This will provide some relief to our more than billion-dollar unfunded pension liability. The Committee on Finance are stewards of the City’s finances, and it is mission-critical that we remain laser-focused on these long-term obligations.”

The City Council has directed the City’s Finance Director to ensure that any net savings from the refunding of the bonds will be used to pay a pension payment above one hundred percent of the Annual Required Contribution and cannot supplant any pension payment. Guaranteeing the additional $1.3 million in savings from the bond refunding go towards the City’s outstanding pension liability.

Vice-Chair of the Committee on Finance and City Council Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5) shared, “With the current low interest rate environment, the City is wise to be proactive in its bond management strategy. Directing the realized savings towards our pressing long-term fiscal obligations makes good sense. The Committee on Finance has an obligation to our taxpayers to be fiscally responsible and prudent with these funds. Ensuring that savings are put towards the City’s pension is an important step in that direction.”

The resolution was passed tonight by the City Council and will allow for the City to refund the bonds before the end of the calendar year.

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

City Councilors Ask for Federal and State Help to Fight Hunger

Tonight, Council President Sabina Matos (Ward 15), Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5), Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11), and Councilman John Goncalves (Ward 1) were lead sponsors of a resolution addressing the Rhode Island Community Food Banks’ recently released annual Status Report on Hunger, which highlighted the significant hardship Rhode Islanders are facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The resolution is co-sponsored by President Pro Tempore Michael Correia (Ward 6), Senior Deputy Majority Leader Nicholas J. Narducci Jr. (Ward 4), Finance Chairman John J. Igliozzi Esq. (Ward 7), Councilwoman Carmen Castillo (Ward 9), Councilwoman Nirva R. LaFortune (Ward 3), Councilwoman Helen Anthony (Ward 2) Councilman James Taylor (Ward 8), Councilwoman Katherine Kerwin (Ward 12) and Councilman Pedro Espinal (Ward 10).

The Rhode Island Community Food Banks’ annual Status Report on Hunger found that one in four Rhode Island households lack adequate food, which is the highest rate the agency has seen in over two decades. The report noted that food insecurity levels are highest in Black and Latinx communities, which are the very same communities that have been hardest hit by the global pandemic. Due to this overwhelming demand, the Community Food Banks has increased its food distribution by 1.6 million pounds (a 45% increase from before the pandemic).

“This is not just a Rhode Island problem,” stated Council President Sabina Matos. “What the COVID-19 pandemic has done in this Country is exacerbated the already demanding need for food not just in Rhode Island but in every state. It has also shone a light on the massive inequities in our society, where nearly 5.3 million more Americans are unemployed today than they were in February of this year. Rhode Island was not immune to that alarming statistic, which is why in the early days of the pandemic, I reached out to George Ortiz of The Elisha Project to work with the Council to help bring food to Providence’s most struggling communities. Through our partnership with the Elisha Project, the Council hosted 24 food distribution events across the City. We were able to provide approximately 816 thousand pounds of culturally appropriate nutritious meals or the equivalent of 680 thousand meals to our most vulnerable residents. We owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Ortiz for the work he is doing in Rhode Island and Massachusetts to address the food insecurity that too many families are facing.”

The resolution is calling on the Federal government to pass another COVID-19 relief bill that would bring back the supplemental unemployment compensation and boost SNAP benefits for individuals until the pandemic subsides. It also calls for the USDA to provide Pandemic-EBT benefits for all children from low-income families when schools are closed.

Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan stated, “This is an alarming statistic; if more than one in four people statewide are food insecure as stated in this recent report, we know the ratio is much higher in our urban core. The City Council initiative to provide immediate assistance to our struggling families is an admirable local level effort. However, we need a COVID Relief Bill passed in Washington without delay. While our federal delegation has been leading the charge in Washington, we need federal relief. The United States Senate has had the opportunity to pass the $2.2 trillion HEROES Act since May and has failed to do so. The stimulus package that my colleagues and I call for in this resolution will not just help those facing food insecurity, but will also address the nearly 20 million renters at risk of losing their homes. It has been eight months since the Senate and House passed the CARES Act, and it is time to put Country over party and pass the HEROES Act to protect our most vulnerable residents.”

Additionally, the resolution calls on the Rhode Island Department of Health and Human Services to implement a comprehensive SNAP outreach program to help newly unemployed Rhode Islanders enroll and gain access to these much-needed services.

“The RI Food Bank report also critically highlights that food insecure Rhode Islanders are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 due to prevalent underlying medical conditions,” stated Councilman John Goncalves. “Additionally, it makes clear the racial and ethnic disparities that exist related to food insecurity, and the fact that disabled adults also experience a higher risk for food insecurity due to healthcare-related expenses and limited employment opportunities which further exacerbate already existing health and economic disparities.

We are seeing record levels of demand from food-insecure Providence and Rhode Island residents, low-income families and children, which demonstrates that critical funding and assistance is needed now, more than ever, to address widespread hunger in our communities.”

The resolution also urges the Rhode Island General Assembly to support Governor Gina Raimondo’s call for increased funding for the Rhode Island Community Food Bank.

Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris stated, “I know what it is to be hungry. I know what it is to decide between buying food for my family and paying the light bill. Our neighbors need help. We live in the land of plenty, but until we have plenty for all, we have plenty for none. I applaud the Elisha Project, the Rhode Island Food Bank, and the work that so many are doing in the City, the State, and across the nation to address food insecurity. But, as the poet Robert Frost so eloquently stated, we have miles to go before we sleep, and this is no time to sleep. Our neighbors here in Providence, and in every city and town in our state and across the country need help. I, like my colleagues, urge the United States Senate to pass the HEROES Act now before they end their session.”

The City Council passed the resolution, and copies of the resolution will be sent to each member of Rhode Island’s congressional delegation, Governor Gina Raimondo, Director Courtney Hawkins of the Rhode Island Department of Human Services, and to the members of the Providence delegation of the Rhode Island General Assembly.

About the Elisha Project:
The Elisha Project is a movement that is focused on bringing diverse communities together through service, sharing, teaching, and learning. With the mission of addressing food insecurity and operating by the motto, “There is Always Enough to Share.”

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