2018 issues (in reverse chronological order)
In June, 2017, I voted to override the Mayor’s veto of the smoking ban ordinance because I believed to have reached an agreement with the business community to make the ban temporary, with an expiration date of October 1, 2018. When I had difficulty getting the Ordinance Committee to approve the “sunset,” I wrote Mr. Paolino a letter to enlist his support of the agreement we reached. He wrote me a response in which he explained his reasons for failing to support the “sunset” notwithstanding his prior agreement to do so.
A developer is under contract to purchase the Nicholson Estate at 288 Blackstone Boulevard, and proposes to demolish the main house and subdivide it into 10 lots. You can view the current conditions and proposed plan by clicking here: Current Conditions Proposed Plan.
he Planning Department has prepared a proposed Ordinance to address zoning issues, including short term rentals. It will be introduced into the City Council and reviewed by the Ordinance Committee.
A controversy has arisen concerning two pieces of mailed literature in which one candidate for the City Council (Ryan Holt) has made accusations concerning the conduct of another candidate (Helen Anthony) while she served on the City Council in Columbia, Missouri. The first flyer identifies two sources for its factual information, namely an article from the Columbia Heart Beat blog, and a report from the Columbia Historic District Commission. The second flyer cites the same two sources. I have reviewed the two flyers, the two listed sources. I also found two pieces of additional information from my own research, namely an article from Columbia Missouri public radio concerning Helen Anthony’s plans to resign her Columbia City Council seat, and an article from the Columbia Missourian concerning the eventual construction of the Columbia, Missouri road improvement project discussed in the two flyers. After conducting that review, I prepared an Analysis of the flyers, reaching conclusions about the validity of the charges they contain.
On August 23, the Department of Public Works published its work schedule for road paving projects. You can view it by clicking here.
On June 27, the City Council conducted a public hearing on the student housing ordinance, which was well-attended by concerned College Hill residents. As noted last week, the City Plan Commission had voted to support the ordinance, but made its own commitment to study the broader issues it raises, as the incremental change the ordinance proposes will not address the major underlying issues. Unfortunately, the Ordinance Committee misunderstood the report from the City Plan Commission, and decided to place the ordinance on hold until after the City Plan Commission completed its supplemental study. In light of this misunderstanding, the Planning Department sent a Letter to the Ordinance Committee clarifying the issue and asking them to reconsider their vote.
On June 19, the City Plan Commission will consider a proposal to rezone the area around 150 Lloyd Avenue from R-1 to R-4. The Planning Department staff prepared a Report recommending against approval. At the same meeting, the Planning Commission will consider an Amended Ordinance to regulate rentals to student housing in 2-family homes in R-1 or R-1A zones.
On March 20, the School Department Oversight Committee held a hearing on the School Department’s 5-year budget, Summary 5-year strategic plan and Extended Strategic plan. The Committee also reviewed analysis of Providence Teachers Union contract prepared by the Internal Auditor.
2017 issues (in reverse chronological order)
In November, the Department of Planning held a public meeting to review plans for its application for a grant to build a boat ramp on the Seekonk River south of the base of Irving Avenue. As part of the meeting, the Department presented a Conceptual Plan.
As of the middle of October, the Police Department is reporting an overall decrease in property crimes year-to-date in Districts 8 and 9 of 31.3% compared to last year at this time. The breakdown for the districts combined is as follows:
For a map of Districts 8 and 9, click here.
On September 15, the Mayor sent a Letter to the City Council to inform them of his decision to veto the resolution it approved in support of mandatory traffic and economic impact studies prior to the designation of bicycle lanes.
On September 13, the Governor released a consultant’s report assessing the cost of repairing and maintaining the State’s inventory of school buildings, concluding that those buildings had, collectively, a “deficiency cost” (cost of repairs) of $2.2 billion. The consultant estimated Providence’s cost at $372.4 million. Under the State’s construction aid formula, the State would pay 83.1% of this amount, or $309.5 million, while the City would pay the balance ($62.9 million). I prepared a Chart that applies the current State aid formula to the consultant’s estimated cost per district.
On September 13, 2017 at Hope High School, I will co-host a community meeting with Councilwoman LaFortune to discuss a bike lane on Olney Street. For more information click here.
At its July 20 meeting, the City Council approved a resolution to issue a $45 million infrastructure bond to be spent according to the basic principles of a Capital Improvement Plan the administration submitted with the 2017-18 budget.
On July 19, the Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Council reviewed a Staff Report on plans to add a bicycle lane on each side of Olney Street from Hope to North Main Streets.
On June 15, Joseph Paolino, Jr. sent the City Council a Letter offering to work with City officials to develop a public-private partnership at Greater Kennedy Plaza.
The City Council approved the Providence Community Police Relations Act at its June 1 meeting. At the Council’s debate, I explained my position in these Remarks. This version marked the successful culmination of a legislative process that made several improvements over the original draft, including the removal of its controversial Preamble.
On May 30, the Ordinance Committee will review a Report from a working group reviewing the Providence Community-Police Relations Act (formerly known as the Community Safety Act. The group has proposed an Amended Ordinance which has gained consensus support from all stakeholders, including Police Chief Clements and Police Union President Boehm. I expect the Ordinance Committee to approve the Report and forward the amended ordinance to the City Council.
In response to my request, the Bureau of Inspections and Standards Director has sent a Letter to the owner of 150 Lloyd Avenue (and his attorney) informing him that the zoning variance on the property permits a doctor’s office where prescriptions are written, but not the dispensing of drugs.
On May 11, I joined City Council members Jennings, Narducci, Salvatore and Yurdin in issuing a Statement urging the immediate resignation of City Council President Aponte.
The City’s pension actuary has prepared a Schedule that indicates the increasing amounts the City will need to contribute to the pension fund over the next 25 years.
On Sunday, May 7, the Cox Half Marathon returns. The route will affect access on Blackstone Boulevard. You can review the route map by clicking here.
In April, 2017, the General Treasurer published a Debt Affordability Study which provided data on, among other things, the City’s ability to afford to issue new debt. The Municipal Chart indicates that Providence currently exceeds recommended debt ratios, especially those which include pension debt.
On Thursday, April 20, the City Council will debate a proposed ordinance called the Community Safety Act, for which I have prepared this Analysis.
The City’s contract with Waste Management is set to expire this year, and the administration is holding neighborhood meetings to solicit comment about how to improve the City’s trash program. On February 22, the administration presented information in a Power Point Presentation describing current issues to address. The presentation describes an opportunity to save money while benefiting the environment through greater recycling. The presentation notes that Providence recycles at a 9% rate. In contrast, State data for all cities and towns in 2011 and 2015 shows an average of more than 20%. Also, the administration presented a Chart presenting recycling rates in Providence by garbage pickup day.
The current discussion concerning a proposed suboxone office in a residential neighborhood revealed a loophole in Providence’s zoning ordinance, under which nonconforming uses are not abandoned if granted by variance. With that in mind, I introduced an Ordinance amending the zoning code to close this loophole.
While several courts have restrained enforcement of President Trump’s executive order banning travel for certain groups on legal grounds, the policies on which the order are based also break faith with the values of religious freedom and tolerance on which the City of Providence was founded. With that in mind, I introduced a Resolution expressing concerns about the executive order. The City Council approved the resolution at its February 16 meeting.
On February 8, the Education Committee received a 5-year budget from the School Department projecting future deficits in the tens of millions of dollars. The School Department also provided a detailed budget itemizing the component parts of its projections.
The Providence Performing Arts Center is sponsoring scholarships for summer arts education programs for students from 11 to 14 years old. You can get further information and application forms by clicking here.
At a January 25 meeting of the Special Committee on Municipal Operations and Oversight. representatives of the Water Supply Board reported that they lacked authority to regulate Johnston’s sale of “wholesale” water to the proposed Invenergy power plant in Burrillville. The State enabling act that establishes Johnston’s authority contains language that suggests that such purchases should be limited to uses within Johnston, but does not require it. With that in mind, I have introduced a Resolution to support a change in State law to close what appears to be a loophole in the State law. The City Council approved a Resolution proposing State legislation. On February 16, Senator Goldin introduced Bill S-334 which would change State law to accomplish this purpose.
On January 17, the Mayor released a proposed 5-year capital budget which will be reviewed by the City Plan Commission in the coming weeks.
Councilman Principe and I co-sponsored a Resolution inviting the School Department to present a 5-year budget to the Education Committee that reflects the budgetary impact of the approved expansion of the Achievement First Mayoral Academy.
On January 3, the administration released a 5-year-budget projection. It diverges from a multi-year budget its consultant NRN produced last year as part of a 10-year financial plan. I have prepared a Chart that compares the two budgets, year-by-year.
2016 issues (in reverse chronological order)
The City Council majority announced at a press conference on October 17 that the City could not afford to issue an infrastructure bond. There are many reasons to question this statement; however, it does indicate a desire on the majority’s part to find additional savings in the budget. An obvious candidate for savings is the City Council budget itself, which has increased by more than 40% over the past two years without any review by the Finance Committee. With that in mind, I introduced an Ordinance requiring the Finance Committee review the City Council for a minimum of 30 minutes as part of the City’s overall budget, and a Resolution committing the City Council to roll back these increases to a more sustainable 3% annual rate of growth.
The Achievement First Mayoral Academy has applied for permission to expand from 912 to 3,112 students. Given that more than 80% of the school’s children are from Providence, this expansion could have a dramatic impact on the School Department’s budget. With that in mind, I prepared a Resolution asking the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education to study and publish this impact prior to considering the application further. The internal Auditor prepared an analysis of the fiscal economic of the proposed expansion, which would result in a net loss of between $28.5 million and $29.5 million for the Providence Public Schools. Councilman Principe and I presented this information to the Board of Education at its November 16 meeting. On November 30 I submitted a Report to the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education stating the fiscal impacts that could result from the proposed expansion.
On October 18, I issued a joint statement with Council members Wilbur Jennings, Jr., Nicholas Narducci, David Salvatore and Seth Yurdin after the City Council leadership withdrew support for an infrastructure bond proposal for the November ballot.
On October 13, I issued a joint statement with Council members Wilbur Jennings, Jr., Nicholas Narducci, David Salvatore and Seth Yurdin concerning the City’s proposed infrastructure bond on the November ballot.
Over the past 18 months, I have introduced or co-sponsored 10 pieces of legislation that have been referred to two committees (Finance and Ordinances) who have not agreed to schedule any of this legislation for a hearing. The Home Rule Charter provides a check for this conduct by requiring committees to hear legislation when at least 50 voters petition for a hearing. With that in mind, I have prepared a Petition Packet that voters can print up to sign their names to these petitions. The packets also include explanations of the legislation, so voters can choose which ones to sign.
One of the petitions is for reform of the lobbyist registration ordinance. At a September 26 meeting, the Ordinance Committee voted to continue the matter indefinitely. Two days later the Board of Elections voted to refer a complaint to the Attorney General concerning the City Council President’s alleged personal use of campaign funds after he failed to file reports for several years. The Board of Elections issued a Report explaining its referral.
A coalition of groups has proposed a local ordinance addressing police-community relations called the Community Safety Act. While the goals of the legislation are commendable, the Providence Police are concerned that some of the language may compromise essential law enforcement tools. With that in mind, I have prepared an alternative ordinance and companion resolution I will introduce to the City Council at its October 6 meeting. Although not as far-reaching as the Community Safety Act, these proposals will accomplish many of the Community Safety Act’s goals in a way that will not compromise law enforcement, and provide a basis for further discussion.
The Special Commission on Diversity and Equity in City Government has prepared a Final Report which it will present to the City Council at its October 6 meeting.
I have created a Web page compiling information about the fire fighters’ contract.
In a September 12 letter, the Internal Auditor reported on his progress in auditing the City Council’s legislative grant program.
As school began this year, parents learned that RIPTA had eliminated bus routes that children had previously used to go to Classical High School. This has disrupted these children’s access to education. RIPTA also appears to have violated its Memorandum of Understanding with the School Department, under which the School Department agreed to purchase at least 2,500 “full price” bus passes each month in return for RIPTA agreeing to provide additional bus service to accommodate the students. As a result, I have introduced a Resolution for the September 15 City Council meeting urging the School Department and RIPTA to resolve this issue without further delay.
On September 7, the Special Commission to Study Diversity and Equity in City Government reviewed a draft report. The Special Commission will meet again on September 22 to review the next draft.
On July 22, the City Solicitor issued an Opinion Memo stating that the City Treasurer lacked authority to hire bond counsel. This marked the second instance in which the Finance Committee refused to seek a legal opinion before taking an action that violated the City Charter and ordinances. On both of these occasions, I attended the Finance Committee at which the potentially illegal action was announced, requested that the Finance Committee seek a legal opinion first, and was ruled out of order by the Chair of the Finance Committee.
On July 14, the Finance Committee reviewed the administration’s proposal for a $40 million infrastructure bond. The Finance Committee leadership proposed an amended ordinance that would create a discretionary account of $1.5 million for each City Council member (for a total of $22.5 million). The Finance Committee pointed to a similar arrangement that the Cianci administration had presented in connection with a Cianci Bond Ordinance from 2000. That ordinance in turn, was based on a 1996 version that produced a host of abuses documented in a Providence Phoenix article.
On July 13, the Education Committee received a Report concerning the water quality testing at the City’s 17 elementary schools and 6 middle schools. The tests indicated that all of the elementary schools and 5 of the 6 middle schools have levels of lead and iron that are below safety standards, but that one middle school (West Broadway Middle School) has a drinking fountain that exceeds safe levels of lead. The City agreed to replace the piping for the fountain and expand testing at the school to identify any other issues prior to the start of school this fall.
At the May 4 meeting of the Committee on Claims and Pending Suits, the Internal Auditor’s office presented a Memorandum estimating the cost of overtime (or “callback”) for the Fire Department for next year. The estimates range from $6.7 million to $8.2 million, which diverges from the administration’s estimate of $2.1 million.
On April 30, between 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., there will be a road race on portions of Lloyd Avenue, Cole Avenue and Blackstone Boulevard as indicated on this Course Map.
On April 27, the Mayor presented his 2016-17 budget to the City Council for review. The budget calls for a reduction in real estate property tax rates, but taxes will increase due to the revaluation. The Internal Auditor has calculated the average tax change for the entire City and for Ward 2 residents. The budget presentation included a Capital Budget Plan.
On April 15, Mayor Elorza signed a Resolution I introduced and the City Council approved to establish a commission to study equity and diversity in City employment. He also signed a Resolution I introduced requesting the Special Committee on Education to examine the quality of the drinking water in the Providence Public Schools.
In an April 11 press release, the Mayor called a consultant’s report concerning the City’s finances a “resounding call to action.” The announcement is reminiscent of one made by Mayor Taveras in March, 2011 concerning a “Category 5 fiscal hurricane.” At that time, Mayor Taveras announced a “shared sacrifice” campaign that included a comprehensive Checklist of steps to be taken by all stakeholders to reduce costs and increase revenues sufficient to close a structural deficit of $110 million. It was not easy to ask every stakeholder to contribute to the solution, but it was a critical step because many of them were reluctant to step forward without reassurance that everyone would contribute their fair share. By the end of his term, Mayor Taveras had reduced the structural deficit to less than $10 million.
In April, the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) approved with modifications the proposed bridge to span the two sides of the park planned for the I-195 Parcel. The approval changes the original design by raising the height to accommodate sea level rises and removing stairs that access the piers of the previous highway bridge due to concerns raised by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The administration engaged National Resources Network (NRN), a consultant, to analyze the City’s financial challenges and provide perspective and solutions for addressing them. In its Preliminary Report, NRN places several components of the City’s budget in a perspective based on peer communities and prior performance.
The Tax Assessor has prepared revaluations for all residential real estate in the City. The Internal Auditor has compiled a Comparative Analysis that aggregates the data by ward and Citywide, and by property classification. Residents of Ward 2 can find their revaluation in this Spreadsheet or, for those of you without spreadsheet software, Chart, organized by address.
On February 18, the Tax Assessor provided an Initial Report regarding the progress of the statistical revaluation of City real estate.
On January 26, the administration submitted a proposed Deficit Reduction Plan to the Auditor General for pre-approval. In a January 29 letter, the Auditor General approved the general structure of the plan, subject to further questions and City Council approval. In a February 4 letter, the City Council’s Internal Auditor forwarded questions to the administration about its plan. The administration provided a response in a February 11 letter.
On January 26, the Education Committee met to discuss upcoming legislation and a Report calculating the impact on the School Department budget resulting from its support of charter school student athletes.
On January 25, the Finance Department submitted its Second Quarter Report to the State’s Division of Municipal Finance.
On January 11, the I-195 Commission and the State’s Commerce Corporation released a Consultant’s Report proposing action steps to develop the I-195 district.
Also in January 11, the Public Works Committee received a report from the Director of Public Works concerning the City’s snow removal program. He provided Answers to Questions, a Ward 2 snow removal map and an Inventory of snow removal vendors.
2015 issues (in reverse chronological order)
A group of Blackstone Boulevard residents have worked with the Public Works Department to develop a plan to regulate traffic on Blackstone Boulevard. The plan consists of 24 speed “lumps” or “humps”, 19 raised crosswalks and three signs. The plan is laid out in the followings maps: Map 1, Map 2, Map 3 and Map 4.
On November 13, Moody’s issued a Revised Credit Rating Memo for Providence, indicating that the outlook for its rating for the City’s bond issues had been downgraded from “stable” to “negative.”
On October 22, the Governor issued an Executive Order to establish a Working Group to study the State’s school aid funding formula. On December 3, the City Council approved a Funding Formula Resolution recommending changes in the funding formula to benefit the children of Providence. On December 10, the Working Group held a meeting at which I stated a Public Comment on this issue. I also submitted a Position Paper describing the current formula’s inherent limitations and the need for a Constitutional amendment.
When the City performs a real estate property tax revaluation, it can affect the relative shares of the tax burden assumed by the three major types of real property. According to the Assessor’s Tax Certification for the current year, the City raises $126.4 million (or 48% of the total $266.4 million raised in real property taxes) from commercial property, $77.0 million (29%) from homeowners and $62.9 million (24%) from non-occupant owned rental properties. (The totals add up to 101% due to rounding.)
In recent years, a group of residents have raised awareness of the Providence roots of the writer H.P. Lovecraft. They are now proposing to install a marker to note the (former) location of home where he grew up. They have prepared three proposed renderings you can see by clicking here.
At the November 3 meeting of the Finance Committee, I presented a Letter to the Committee Chair discussing the seniority protections incorporated into the proposed Providence Teachers Union contract.
On November 3, the Economic Development Task Force met to review an updated Report of the consultant’s “cluster analysis” of industries compatible with the City’s strengths and opportunities for economic development. The Report will now be reviewed by the City Council.
I have prepared a Proposed amendment to the City’s leaf ordinance to regulate the use of leaf blowers and the practice by some of sweeping leaves into the street. It will be introduced at the City Council’s November 5 meeting.
On October 20, the State’s Auditor General sent a Letter to the Mayor and City Council President (with copies to City Council members) directing the administration to submit a plan, approved by the City Council, to close the accumulated deficit in compliance with State law requirements. The letter also calls for monthly status meetings to ensure the City undertake any necessary corrective action to avoid a deficit this year.
As part of its October 13 meeting, the Claims Committee reviewed a Report the Solicitor’s Office prepared concerning claims for injuries from defective sidewalks over the past five years. The report’s data indicated that in an average year the City receives 50 claims, is sued in 14 court cases, settles seven of those cases and pays an average aggregate amount of approximately $141,000 to settle those claims.
The Seekonk Riverbed Alliance has developed a new plan to reconfigure River Road to enhance its use as a park. In contrast to other proposals, the current proposal retains the road’s capacity for two-way automobile traffic. The group has prepared four sketches of its proposal, including an Overview, a Plaza near the foot of the hill, the portion of the road near the Meadow, and the area near the Narragansett Boat Club. The group will hold a public meeting to discuss the proposal on Thursday, November 5 at 4:00-6:00 p.m. at the Planning Department, 444 Westminster Street.
On October 13, the Claims Committee received a Report from the Internal Auditor estimating the financial impact of contingencies related to the City’s dispute with the fire fighters. Based on current information and assumptions he describes in the Report, the Auditor expects the current year’s Fire Department budget to end with a $1.8 million deficit. He estimated the cost to the City to implement one of its “final offers” during negotiations (“straight time” for all hours in excess of an average of 42) to exceed this year’s budget by $6.7 million, while a potential ruling by an arbitrator to require the City to pay overtime as it did prior to August 2 of this year to generate a deficit of $9.6 million.
Also at its October 13 meeting, the Claims Committee received a Report compiling the cost of resolving claims made by people injured on the City’s sidewalks. Over the past five years, the City has paid 65 claims (through settlements or lawsuits) by paying more than $700,000, an average per year of 13 claims and more than $140,000.
On October 5, the City Council’s Economic Development Task Force reviewed a preliminary draft of the consultant’s draft Cluster Development Report. The Task Force will continue to meet to revise and refine the Report before submitting it to the City Council.
The Department of Public Works has completed a Traffic Impact Study of the proposal to make River Road a 1-way southbound route. The study concludes that the resulting impacts can be managed.
On July 16, it was reported that a former member of the City Council was being hired to a newly created position in the Clerk’s Office. Because the City has a “defined benefit” pension plan , this created the possibility of a windfall for the employee and a major liability for the City’s pension plan. To get a general sense of the magnitude of this possibility, I performed a “back of the envelope” Pension Comparison based on assumptions contained within these Exhibits. The “bottom line” is that five years of work in this position will increase the employee’s annual City “civil service” pension from its current level of $6,000 to $36,000, while adding more than $100,000 to the City’s pension funding obligation beyond what the City would contribute had this employee (or another one) taken the position without this amount of prior service on the City Council.
On July 2, the City Council approved a Resolution I introduced stating the City’s solidarity with the congregation of the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C. and requesting the City to post its flag outside City Hall at half staff to memorialize the victims and the values for which they stood.
The City Council’s Bond Study Commission reviewed a Draft Report and Exhibits at its July 1 meeting. The Commission will meet again on July 8 to discuss revisions and possible approval of a final report.
On May 21, Mayor Elorza released a report by the PFM Group concerning the City’s projected structural deficit over the next five years. Both the PFM Report and the accompanying Deficit Charts include projections of an $8.7 million accumulated deficit from prior years that the State requires the City to pay down by the end of the 2016-17 fiscal year under Section 45-12-22.3 of the Rhode Island General Laws.
On May 13-14, the City Council’s Bond Study Commission and Finance Committees will hold public meetings concerning the proposed streetcar plan. The Planning Department has prepared a Streetcar proposal description, plan amendment and Streetcar route map to provide an overview of the proposal.
On the morning of Sunday, May 3, there will be a road race affecting access on the East Side. I describe the impacts and how to address them in this Alert.
At its April 16 meeting, the City Council formally received a Report describing ways to structure job descriptions and staffing to allow City services to be provided more effectively and efficiently.
At its April 15 meeting, the Bond Study Commission heard a Presentation from the City’s bond finance and legal advisors regarding the legal and financial requirements of bond financing.
At its March 25 meeting, the Bond Study Commission heard a Presentation from the Internal Auditor describing the current inventory of outstanding bonds issued by the City and its coordinate capital finance agencies.
The School Board’s assignment policy allocates 80% of elementary and middle school seats to neighborhood children; however, families who move into the neighborhood after the registration cutoff do not have preferred access to their neighborhood school. On March 27, I wrote a Letter to each of the School Board’s members asking them to modify the policy to accommodate families who move into the neighborhood during the Spring and Summer preceding a school year.
The owners of the 257 Thayer Street student apartment building have opened a sales office on Thayer Street in anticipation of an opening this summer. Business is brisk, and the units are almost completely sold out at rents per person per month ranging from $1,166 to $1,900. The building will be reassessed as of December 31, 2015, at which time its value will be established for the 2016-17 tax roll. When the owners sought a tax treaty in 2012, the Internal Auditor prepared a Table comparing the proposed treaty with anticipated tax revenues based on the rent the developer charged. While the treaty called for tax revenues to increase from $300,000 to $456,286 over the next 12 years, the current rent levels appear to support an annual tax of more than $900,000 beginning in 2016-17.
The City Council’s Commission To Study Bond Financing held its first meeting on March 18. At that time, the Commission reviewed a Set of documents that includes (1) the Resolution establishing the Commission, (2) the City Charter provision concerning capital budgets, (3) the 2014-15 capital budget and (4) the Commission’s agenda of future meetings.
At its March 5 meeting, the City Council approved a resolution I introduced establishing a special commission to study the City’s bond financing program. I will serve as Chair of the Commission, with Councilman Salvatore serving as Vice Chair.
At its March 5 meeting, the City Council approved a Resolution I introduced asking the administration to report to the City Council on the performance of the ProvConnex program.
State Representative Regunberg has introduced legislation to enhance the State’s review of school construction projects and develop a clear funding stream to sustain those projects. At the March 5 City Council meeting, I introduced a Resolution stating the City Council’s support for the legislation and urging the General Assembly to pass it.
Pedestrian access to sidewalks depends critically upon the clearing of the sidewalk portions at the corners of streets. At the March 5 City Council meeting, I introduced an Ordinance clarifying the responsibility of owners of corner lots to clear this portion of the sidewalk.
On February 12, 2015, the City Council’s URRP Committee reviewed the new designation of neighborhoods eligible for federal block grant funds. The new Block Grant Map includes neighborhoods from Ward 2 for the first time.
On February 8, 2015, the Providence Journal published an Op-ed I wrote about the City’s need to develop an infrastructure plan to make optimal use of its bonding capacity.
On January 29, 2015, Nick Freeman and I made a Presentation to the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns.
On January 26, 2015, the Board of Contract and Supply announced the award of a contract to Fourth Economy to perform a Cluster Development Study. The project represents a key component on which to build an economic development as described in the Report prepared by the City Council’s Economic Development Task Force.
The City of Providence has prepared a Snow Removal Plan that guides its efforts during snow storms.
On January 20, the Providence Journal published an op-ed commentary I wrote on the need to build a City-wide network of strong neighborhood schools.
The General Assembly organized a study commission to review the financial impact of the “money follows the child” feature of the 2010 school aid funding formula. The commission viewed a slide presentation that describes how the host district loses more funds per child (“average cost”) to a charter school than the district saves from educating fewer children (“marginal cost”).
The Downtown Stadium Proposal
A group of citizen advocates submitted a voter initiative petition to the City Council seeking passage of an ordinance that would (1) ban the construction of a baseball stadium on the I-195 land and (2) ban any tax concessions for construction of a baseball stadium elsewhere in the City. The City Solicitor issued an Opinion concluding that the Petition was not permitted under the City Charter, as the voter initiative section excludes petitions affecting the City’s tax policy.
The Speaker of the Rhode Island House announced that negotiations to build a stadium on the I-195 land have ended, as reported in this Article in the September 20 edition of the Providence Journal.
The May 18 community meeting will include a moment of silence to recognize the untimely passing of James Skeffington as described in this Update.
On May 14, I appeared on a televised panel discussion concerning the stadium proposal.
On April 30, the Providence Journal published an op-ed I wrote concerning the stadium proposal you can read by clicking here: Providence Journal.
On May 7, the City Council unanimously passed a Resolution I introduced inviting the ownership of the PawSox baseball team to meet with the City Council to answer our questions.
On May 8, Dan Yorke invited me onto his television show to share my views on the downtown baseball stadium proposal. You can view the show by clicking on this link: Dan Yorke Interview.
On May 8, the Providence Business News published an Article noting that the PawSox baseball team ownership has begun a public relations campaign asking the public to lobby the General Assembly to support their stadium proposal even as they still have not scheduled a meeting with the Providence City Council.
2014 Topical Issues (in reverse chronological order)
On November 24, the Historic District Commission will review proposed guidelines concerning rooftop solar panels. You can review them by clicking here: PHDC Solar Guidelines.
On October 14, the Department of Public Works reported to the City Council concerning the City’s sidewalk repair program. You can review the report by clicking here: DPW Report.
On October 14, the Providence Journal published my op-ed piece making the case for a Constitutional Convention to establish a right to education. You can read it by clicking here: Constitutional Convention.
On October 2, the City Council provided initial passage to an extension of a tax stabilization agreement for some projects on Westminster Street. I describe the program in general and my reasons for voting in favor in this Post.
On July 9, the Providence Journal published an op-ed I wrote concerning Providence’s new Open Contracting ordinance you can read by clicking here: Open Contracting
On July 3, Mayor Taveras vetoed the tax shift ordinance. He prepared a veto message you can read by clicking here: Veto Message. The City Council overrode the veto at a special meeting that took place on July 14.
The City Council has passed an ordinance that would shift the tax burden next year (in 2015-16) between non-occupant landlords (lower taxes) and homeowners (higher taxes). I voted against the measure, and the Mayor vetoed it.
At a meeting I held concerning proposals for River Road, a group made a Presentation concerning improvements to the area in conjunction with changing River Road into a one-way street.
On May 21, I held a panel discussion on crime watches. The panelists included Jay Tavares and Monica Anderson from the West Broadway and Summit neighborhoods, who discussed how their neighbors work together to report suspicious activity to the police, and monthly follow-up meetings with the police to review specific cases and arrests. The police officers on the panel described the value of “real time” tips, and neighborhood education on crime prevention, which has been correlated with a reduction in the crime rate in the West Broadway neighborhood. If you wish to learn more about starting a crime watch group or about crime prevention tips, please click on this link: Crime Prevention Tips and Resources (Updated 1-25-15)
The Providence School Board is reviewing a draft policy concerning school-based autonomy. The School Board President will meet with the Education Committee on Wednesday, May 7 at 6:00 at City Hall (Third Floor) to review the School Board’s consideration of the policy and discuss its potential applications.
On Sunday, May 4, the Cox Half Marathon will run through the East Side. The major affected area will be near Blackstone Boulevard. You can see a map of the race course by clicking here: Map, and a description of the access points by clicking here: Impact Notice.
At a meeting of the Vartan Gregorian Elementary School PTO, the School Department described its plan to relocate the school’s pre-kindergarden program to a different school to create space for other programs. The current program is both popular and highly regarded. I believe the harm to the Gregorian school community outweighs any potential gains. For this reason, I sent a Letter to the Superintendent expressing my concerns about this proposal.
At the February 26 meeting, the Committee on Ways and Means heard a Presentation from the City’s Director of Planning of ways the City could integrate its tax stabilization policy with other economic development tools.