During my term on the City Council, I have introduced ordinance proposals to address City issues as follows:
A. Homestead Exemption Reform (introduced and enacted into law)
The City provides homeowners with a 50% exemption if they label their home address as their primary residence. Many people claiming this exemption were registering their automobiles at other addresses, and the City was losing motor vehicle tax revenue as a result. I introduced a resolution to close the “Florida license plate” loophole which you can read by clicking here: Reform Ordinance. The City Council enacted the ordinance in 2011, and it took effect in 2012. The administration estimates that it will raise an addiitonal $6 million in annual revenues for the City without raising tax rates.
B. Redistricting reform (approved by the City Council, on the November ballot)
The City Council revised ward boundaries in the Spring of 2012, a once-a-decade process required to account for changes in the U.S. Census. The process was quite contentious, as people criticized the City Council for basing decisions on excessively political considerations. Working with Common Cause, I developed a package of reforms to the redistricting process to make the procedures more transparent (by increasing public notice) and to express clear standards concerning the proper (and improper) factors that may be considered in developing ward boundaries. You can read the proposal by clicking here: Redistricting reform. The City Council approved the proposal and the Mayor approved it as well. It will be on the November ballot for the voters to consider as Question 18. The Providence Journal published an op-ed making the case for the proposal you can read by clicking here: Op-Ed. You can see a sample set of ballot questions, which includes the redistricting proposal as Question 18, by clicking on this link: Ballot Questions.
C. Pay-to-play regulation (introduced)
One of the issues that arose in the Plunderdome trial was the “tow list,” which revealed a link between campaign contributions and awards of City business to private contractors. In September, 2012 I introduced a resolution to restrict campaign contributions by vendors currently doing business with the City or planning to do so in the future. You can read the proposed ordinance by clicking on this link: pay to play. The proposal will be heard before the Ordinance Committee this Fall.
D. 257 Thayer Street
In September, 2012, I introduced a resolution to urge the City Plan Commission to provide a full and complete review of the 257 Thayer Street project as it moves forward after the City Council approved changes to the zoning ordinance and comprehensive plan. You can read the ordinance by clicking on this link: 257 Thayer The ordinance also urges the Department of Planning and Development to conduct a thorough study of the Thayer Street neighborhood over the next 6-9 months.
E. Eliminating the “welcome to Providence” tax penalty (introduced)
For some people buying a new home in Providence, the current tax system imposes an unfair penalty. Providence homeowners are entitled to a 50% property tax exemption on their principal residence, but people who buy houses that are not already exempt may have to pay higher taxes for 18 months before receiving the benefit of the exemption. As this example illustrates, the penalty can exceed $3,500 for a house worth $250,000. I introduced two ordinances to address the issue in different ways. The first would achieve modest reform by providing a flat tax abatement of $500 for all home buyers who are faced with this penalty (to read, click here: Abatement ordinance). The other, more comprehensive alternative would be to adjust the home buyer’s taxes to apply the exemption immediately after purchase of the house. (To read this version, click here: Comprehensive reform). The City Council’s Ways and Means Committee is scheduled to hear these proposals on November 20, at which time the Tax Assessor will be asked to describe implementation issues.
F. Tax Exemption Reform
In addition to the homestead exemption discussed above, the City grants a number of other tax exemptions. Based on state law, the City grants complete exemptions to certain property owners, such as educational institutions. East Providence recently reviewed its list of exemptions and discovered 35 property owners who received exemptions they were not entitled to receive. By placing these properties back on the tax roll, East Providence gained $500,000 in additional revenue without increasing the burden to taxpayers. I introduced a resolution the City Council enacted requesting the Tax Assessor to review the list of exempt property owners. You can read a newspaper article about this effort by clicking here: Tax exempt audit. In addition, the City awards partial tax exemptions to certain groups, including families of veterans and the elderly. I introduced an ordinance that would require parties seeking this type of exemption to register their cars (and pay motor vehicle tax) in Providence.
G. Quality of Life Issues
The East Side has some narrow streets, and the problem becomes more acute when roads are further constricted from snow plowing. I introduced a resolution the City Council passed to permit the City to impose temporary single-side parking during snow emergencies. You can read the ordinance by clicking here: Single Side Parking.
H. Lobbyist Registration
The City’s lobbyist registration program has promoted open government. I have introduced an Ordinance to expand the program’s reach to lobbying that is currently not regulated, while reducing the burden for grass roots organizations by lowering the registration fee and providing a “safe harbor” for first-violators to cure the violation without paying any penalty. I also prepared a Legislative Report describing the rationale for the proposed changes.
Residents are concerned about the introduction of AirBnB into residential neighborhoods. I have asked the City Council office to begin researching how other communities regulate AirBnB. As a first step, I have introduced an Ordinance that would clarify that residents of single family homes who offer the entire home to paid lodgers will not quality for the resident homeowner tax rate.
A. The Providence Teachers Union Contract
As Chair of the Education Subcommittee on Finance, I conducted hearings on the Providence Teachers Union contract. Here are some links to media reports of the Subcommittee’s work, as well as interim reports the Subcommittee has generated to date.
B. Achievement First Mayoral Academy
The Education Subcommittee completed its review of the Achievement First mayoral academy charter school application. You can read the report by clicking on this link: Achievement First. On January 5, 2012, I testified to the Board of Regents concerning Achievement First. You can read my testimony here: regents speech 1-5-12.pdf At the City Council meeting of January 5, 2012, I spoke at greater length concerning Achievement First. You can read my statement at hte link below: 1-5-12 achievement first city council.pdf
C. Revenue Study Commission
I served on the City Council’s Revenue Study Commission to review the City’s tax and revenue structure. The Commission prepared a report you can read by clicking here: Revenue Commission Report. I served as chair of the Subcommittee on Nonprofits. The Subcommittee’s report appears as pages 27-39 of the Commission report. e Study Commission’s nonprofit subcommitee completed its report. It forwarded the report to the full Commission. You can read the subcommittee’s report by clicking on this link: nonprofit subcommittee reportt.pdf. The subcommittee report refers to a Study prepared by the Lincoln Land Institute.
At the February 2 meeting of the City Council, I spoke twice about issues related to the City’s burden of hosting nonprofit institutions. First, I spoke about the need for greater State aid to reimburse this cost. I introduced a resolution calling for greater funding of a State aid program. You can read the resolution here: non profit institutions.pdf You can read my remarks by clicking here: 2-2-12 state aid.pdf Second, I spoke about the need for the major nonprofits (particularly Lifespan) to be part of the solution themselves. You can read my remarks by clicking here: 2-12 nonprofit speech.pdf
D. Hope Academy Mayoral Academy Proposal
The Education Committee conducted hearings on the Hope Academy mayoral academy proposal sponsored by Meeting Street School. I prepared a Hope Academy Report which was received by the Committee. The Report finds that the “full inclusion” model proposed by Meeting Street would appear to be most effective for elementary school children, while the needs of middle school children may better be addressed in a larger system with a greater range of academic resources. The Report therefore recommends that the proposal be modified to a K-5 elementary school.
E. The Bond Study Commission
In March, 2015, the City Council established a Commission to study the City’s bond finance program. On July 7, the Commission approved a Final Report with Exhibits 1-6 and Appendix A (Bond Finance Overview), Exhibit B (Internal Auditor Review of Current Bonds), Appendix C (Providence Phoenix article), Appendix D (Fanning Howey Plan), Appendix E (Sidewalk Repair Report), Appendix F (VHB Road Repair Presentation), Appendix G-1 (March 2014 Streetcar Plan Description), Appendix G-2 (April, 2015 Streetcar Summary Presentation), Appendix G-3 (Phase 1A Revision Explanation), Appendix G-4 (Streetcar Project Phase 1A Summary), Appendix H (Downtown Park Improvements), Appendix I (Future Debt Capacity Projection)
F. Pension Study Working Group
From October, 2017 to April, 2018, I met with a group of City Council colleagues and the Chief Operating Officer to review the status of the City’s pension. We prepared a Report with Exhibits describing the scope of the problem and possible solutions.