Issues

Other 2013 Topical Issues (in reverse chronological order)

       On November 20, the School Department reported to the Education Committee on facilities and transportation.  In the Facilities Report, the School Department reported that there is a mismatch between an anticipated increase in elementary and middle school enrollment, and a shortage of seats in those grades (with a surplus of high school seats).  The report identifies ways to align needs and capacity in the short run; however, over the longer run it will be necessary to bring more facilities (currently offline and in need of repairs) into service.  There are questions about how to fund this expansion, given the State’s moratorium on certain categories of school construction aid.  In the Transportation Report, the School Department reviewed its efforts to improve bus service after the initial configuration produced an unacceptable number of late arrivals and departures.  The School Department is reconfiguring the bus routes and adding additional buses online (at the cost of $100,000 each) to address this issue.  Finally, the Committee received a Financial Impact Report from the Senior Internal Auditor concerning the cost of the “no layoff clause” in the current Providence Teachers Union contract.  The Report indicates that this contractual requirement (which does not exist in any other contract in the history of Providence, and does not appear to have any precedent elsewhere in the State) has cost the School Department between $3.4 million and $4.2 million over the contract’s three- year term.

On November 7, the City Council passed for the first time an ordinance I introduced with Councilwoman Matos to remove the “Welcome to Providence” tax penalty for homeowners who plan to live in their homes, but purchase a house subject to the higher tax rate because the prior owner did not occupy it.  You can read the ordinance by clicking here: Homeowner Tax Reform.

At its November 7, 2013 meeting, the City Council approved a resolution I introduced urging the General Assembly to enact a state mandate to strengthen the health insurance market and provide revenue to fund the State’s heatlh care exchange.  You can read the resolution by clicking here: Affordable Care Act resolution.  The Providence Journal published an op-ed I wrote explaining the need for such a mandate you can read by clicking here: Op-ed.

Also at its November 7 meeting, the City Council approved a resolution I introduced urging the School Board to act thoughtfully and carefully when addressing the anticipated facilities shortages for next year’s middle school students.  In particular, the School Board should consider all stakeholders before adopting one alternative proposed, namely to close the Alvarez High School.  You can read the resolution by clicking here: School Capacity Resolution.

The Revaluation Study Commission held its second meeting on October 22, 2013.  They reviewed a Power Point Presentation compiling information about the standards that other states apply when performing property tax revaluations.  At a meeting scheduled for January 8, 2014, the Commission will review a set of draft recommendations to forward to the City Council. You can read a description of the recommendations by clicking here: Draft Recommendations.  The Providence Journal described the process in a report you can read by clicking here: Providence Journal article.

On October 9, 2013, the School Deparrtment described its strategic plan to the Education Committee.  As part of its report, the School Department provided a Pamphlet describing the Department’s overall goals and a Power Point Presentation describing goals for the next 12-24 months.  At page 9 of the Pamphlet, the School Department confirms in writing its commitment to advance the education of every child by at least one grade level each year, which has important programming implications for advanced and gifted students.

Also on October 9, the Zoning Board of Review adopted rules and procedures you can read by clicking here: Rules and Procedures .  Pages 10-11 of the Rules codify a new right for members of the public to comment at Zoning Board hearing when the applicant seeks a continuance.  The Zoning Board included this provision after the City Council gave initial passage that I sponsored (and Councilman Yurdin co-sponsored) which would include this provision in the Zoning Ordinance.  With the adoption of the new rules, the ordinance is no longer necessary.

On the morning of Sunday, September 29, River Road and Blackstone Boulevard will be closed for a foot race.  The race organizers have provided a Map of the race course, and a Schedule of access points for residents to cross the major streets while the race is taking place.

At the Education Committee’s September 18 meeting, the School Department made a presentation concerning its pilot program for principal compensation.  As described in this Power Point presentation, the new program would adjust compensation for the conditions at individual schools, and for the job performance of the principal.

At its September 9 meeting, the Providence School Board heard a Power Point presentation from the School Department concerning issues arising from the opening of schools.  The presentation identified two issues that affect chidren in our neighborhood.  First, there are a number of issues with buses (see slide 5), including RIPTA bus service to high schools on Wednesdays, when schools open later due to planning time.  Second, the School Department had to find extra seats for a greater number of middle school and high school students than anticipated.  (See slides 6-10).  In addition to creating crowding at schools this year, it appears there will be additional problems next year with a projected increase of more than 300 in the overall middle school population.

In June, I introduced an ordinance that would protect the public’s right to participate in Zoning Board hearings by ensuring that their comments will be heard at a meeting they intend even if the applicant continues the hearing to another date.  You can read the proposed ordinance by clicking here: Proposed Ordinance.  The Department of Planning has prepared a report urging rejection of the ordinance which you can read by clicking here: Planning Report.  The City Plan Commission will review the proposal at a meeting on Tuesday, July 23 at 4:45 p.m. at 444 Westminster Street. The City Council Ordinance Committee will review it at a public hearing at City Hall at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 24.

On Wednesday, June 26, a group of concerned neighbors had a meeting with the Providence Police Department to discuss neighborhood crime issues.  You can read notes from the meeting by clicking here: Meeting Notes,  The police described the current issues as a combination of the poor economy and contraints on the Department’s resources.  Fortunately, the number of patrols is scheduled to increase with scheduled new hires within the Department.  The Police Department also provided a chccklist of crime prevention measures everyone should take for their home and theire property.  You can read the list by clicking here: Crime Safety Checklist

On Thursday, May 23 at 7:00 p.m. at the Lincoln School (on East Orchard Avenue), the Department of Parks and Recreation will hold a public meeting to discuss the possible location of an enclosed park where dogs can walk and run off-leash.  The proposed location is off Waterman Street near the Henderson Bridge.  You can see a map of the proposed location by clicking here: Dog Park Map.

On April 11, I held a community meeting to discuss crime and public safety issues.  To view a flyer describing the discussion panel, please click here: April 11 flyer.  Teresa Foley and Shelley Cortese from the Department of Corrections provided information about the prison’s rehabilitation and release program.  Approximately 31% of all released offenders move to Providence.  The attached map (click here: Release Map) indicates the neighborhoods that receive the most returning prsioners.  The Police Department recently released data comparing crime rates in our neighborhood between last year (2012) and the year before (2011).  You can review the findings by clicking on this link: Crime Rate Chart.  The chart provides data for Police Districts 8 and 9.  For a map of District 8, click here: District 8 map.  The Providence Police Department reveiwed suggestions residents can follow to keep their homes more safe.  For a map of District 9, click here: District 9 map.  You can read them by clicking here: Crime Prevention Tips.

You are invited to a reception to support my campaign.  It will take place on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 from 6:00-8:00 at Ristorante Pizzico at 762 Hope Street.  Tickets are $50 for guests, $100 for supporters, $250 for major supporters and $500 for co-hosts.  If you would like to come, you can sign up online by clicking here: Online contribution or downloading a reply card and mailing it in.  I hope to see you there.

On March 27, the Mayor presented to the Providence Foundation an economic development plan for the City.  You can review the plan by clicking here: Providence Economic Development Plan.

On Thursday, March 21, the City Council will debate a resolution I introduced seeking to delay the implementation of “high stakes” testing for high school students.  You can read the resolution by clicking here: NECAP Resolution

On Wednesday, March 13, the School Department made a presentation to the Education Committee concerning the State’s plans to introduce “high stakes testing” to public education.  Beginning next year, Providence students who pass all of their high school courses will not receive a diploma unless they achieve a score of “Basic” (2 out of 4) or higher on the State’s NECAP exam that is administered to 11th graders.  In Providence, 35% of this year’s 11th graders achieved this result, while 65%, (approximately 1000 students) did not.  The Providence School Department presented its plan to help children qualify for diplomas you can read by clicking here: NECAP Plan.  The Providence School Board wrote a letter to the State to make a case aginst this requirement you can read by clicking here: School Board Letter.  Rick Richards, an East Side resident who recently retired from the Rhode Island Department of Education wrote me a letter explaiing wny the NECAP is test is not an appropriate requirement for graduation you can read by clicking here: Richards Letter.

On Sunday March 3, at 7:00 p.m. I will join a panel discussion on changing tax policy to improve the tax climate in the State and the City.  The discussion will take place at Temple Emanuel at 99 Taft Street.  You can view a flyer describing the panel and the discussion by clicking on this link: Tax Discussion.

On Friday, March 1 I met with Chief Clements and Commander Oakes of the Providence Police Department.  They described their response to property crime in our neighborhood.  As illustrated in this Chart, property crimes often spike up and down from week to week.  They informed me this often occurs because an individual will be released from prison, find a neighborhood with many targets of opportunity, and hit several of those targets until the police make an arrest.

During the Blizzard of 2013 and the days that followed, many of you forwarded to me concerns about the City’s response and suggestions for improvement.  I have compiled them in a letter to the Department of Public Works you can read by clicking here: DPW Letter.  The Public Works Committee will hold a meeting to address these and other related issues.  If you have suggestions for further discussion topics, please send me an email.

On February 6, I introduced two measures to review the City’s tax exemptions to increase fairness and tax revenues.  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.

On February 5, the School Department presented its strategic plan to the Education Committee.  You can view it by clicking here: Strategic Plan.

On February 3, the Providence Journal published an op-ed I wrote that offers a “third way” for charter schools that balances the costs and benefits to school districts.  You can read it by clicking here: Op-ed.

On January 31, 2013, the Internal Auditor reported his analysis of the City’s financial performance against budget for the first two quarters of the fiscal year.  He presented his findings in a Power Point Overview with detailed projections of Revenues and Expenditures.

On January 30, I made a presentation to the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns concerning Providence’s reform of the homestead exemption, which increased City tax revenue without raising tax rates.  You can view the presentation by clicking here: Presentation

Also on January 30, the Education Committee heard a presentation from the School Department concerning the extent of teacher absences, and its causes, as well as the School Department’s efforts to reduce absences and maintain learning in the classroom when the teacher is out.  You can view the School Department’s presentation by clicking here: Teacher Absences.  The School Department produced a bar chart with additional information you can view by clicking here: Bar Chart.

On January 16, the Internal Auditor measured the City’s financial performance against budget.  He reported his conclusions in a letter you can read by clicking here: Auditor’s Report.

The Providence Neighborhood Planting Program is accepting applications from groups of neighborhoods to plant trees along City streets.  Applications from groups of neighbors are due by Januayr 15.  You can read about the program by clicking on this link: Tree Program.

2012 Topical Issues (in reverse chronological order)

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.

The November ballot will include 18 voter questions.  The first seven relate to State issues.  Questions 8 through 18 relate to Providence issues.  You can read a memorandum listing the ballot questions and  describing briefly the issues each question addresses by clicking here: Providence Ballot Questions.  The City Council and the Mayor’s office have prepared guides to the ballot questions as well.  You can read them by clicking on City Council guide and Mayor’s Office Guide.

I am concerned about the proposal to convert the Martin Luther King Elementary School to an “in-district” charter school.  While the conversion may bring additional resources and autonomy, it is not clear whether the school can retain its neighborhood character.  With that in mind, I introduced a resolution for the City Council stating its view that neighborhood schools are an important part of the City’s social fabric.  You can read the resolution by clicking here: In District Charter Resolution.  All of the City Council’s members joined the resolution as co-sponsors.  The resolution was referred to the Education Committee.  The Education Committee’s next meeting is scheduled for November 7, and the agenda will include a discussion of in-district charter schools.

On October 17, the School Department provided the Education Committee with an update about the teacher evaluation program.  They provided an overview of the program in a Power Point Presentation.  The Providence evaluation program contains elements of the Rhode Island Department of Education’s template (to view click here: R.I. Evaluation Program) with additional features adapted to conditions adapted to Providence described in a set of frequently asked questions (to view, click here: Providence Evaluation FAQ).

John Marion, Executive Director of Common Cause, will be joining me at a community meeting on Monday, October 15 to discuss his organization’s reform agenda in Rhode Island and Providence.  I also will be happy to discuss community issues as well.  The meeting will take place at the Nathan Bishop Middle School beginning at 6:30 p.m.  Click on this Flyer for a description of the meeting.

On October 3, the School Department reported to the Education Committee on United Providence!, a new organization created to operate three Providence Public Schools in collaboration with the Providence Teachers Union, providing a Power Point introduction to the program you can read by clicking here: Power Point  United Providence entered into a performance contract with the Providence School Department you can read by clicking here:  Performance Contract.

On October 2, at the Nathan Bishop Middle School at 7:00 p.m., the admnistration will make a presentaiton concerning the proposed $40 million street improvement bond.  The administration has provided a Construction Map of road improvement work that will take place if the bond is approved.

On September 19, the Providence School Department reported to the Education Committee concerning enrollment trends and reforms to the student registration process, including a Power Point Presentation.

 This past Spring, the Education Subcommittee heard a presentation from the Meeting Street School concerning its proposed mayoral academy now called The Hope School.  I have prepared a draft report reviewing the proposal, and recommending that it be changed from a K-8 school to an elementary school.  You can read the current draft of the report by clicking on this link: Report

On August 1, the City Council authorized the voters to consider several changes to the Providence Home Rule Charter.  Among them was the reform of the redistricting process I worked on with Common Cause.  You can read the proposal by clicking on this link: RedistrictingOn July 23, the School Department presented information to the Education Subcommittee concerning the recent school classifications made by the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE), under which additional Providence schools were targeted for intervention.  RIDE based its classifications on a rubric you can read by clicking here: Classification Criteria.  Under the new system, RIDE listed the Dr. Martin Luther King Elementary School as a “warning” school and the Nathan Bishop Middle School as a “focus” school.  These classifications will require the School Department to introduce new programs in the schools to improve each school’s ratings.  The new programs will come from a “Chinese menu” of options described in a chart the School Department presented to the Subcommittee as part of a power point you can read by clicking here: School Department Intervention ProgramThe City is bringing overnight parking to the East Side.  If residents on a street wish to “opt out” of the program, they need to compile signatures from 2/3 of the household units.  The City has provided this Opt-out form on which to submit the signatures.  On July 16, 2012, I wrote a letter to the Parking Administrator concerning a partial ban on overnight parking on University Avenue you can read by clicking here: LetterEarlier this year, I worked with Common Cause to present a proposed change in the City Charter to reform the ward boundary redistricting process.  On June 6, the City Charter Review Commission proposed a change to the Charter that incorporates a single suggestion, namely beginning the process earlier.  Common Cause and I adopted a revised draft to submit to the City Council that is less extensive than what we presented to the Charter Review Commission, but more so than what they proposed.  You can read it by clicking on this link: Redistricting proposal

On June 5, the Internal Auditor prepared a letter containing his analysis of the City budget.  You can read his letter by clicking on this link: Auditor’s Letter

During the first week of June, 2012, a series of armed robberies have taken place on the East Side of Providence.  I have spoken with Lieutenant Ryan of the Providence Police Department, who informs me the Department has treated these incidents as a top priority City-wide, second only to the recent homicides.  I also have written letters to the Mayor and Chief of Police to inform them of the concerns you have shared with me. You can read those letters by clicking on this link: Letters Some constituents have asked to compare the current crime wave with historical patterns.  The Police Department compiled a 5-year comparison of crimes in Disticts 8 and 9 which you can read by clicking on this link: Crime Data.  District 8 (map here: District 8) comprises the northern half of the East Side, while District 9 (map here: District 9) comprises the southern half.

The City of Providence and Brown University reached a tentative agreement whereby the University agreed to increase its annual contributions to the City in return for certain street closures and parking rights.  You can read the body of the Agreement, and some (but not all) of the attachmments to it by clicking on this link: Agreement

On May 14, the Zoning Board will review an application by a restaurant to expand seating and be excused from providing the required number of parking spaces.  I wrote a letter opposing the project, which you can read by clicking on this link:Zoning Board Letter

On Saturday, May 12, the Parent Teacher Organization and I co-sponsored an electronic waste recycling day at the Brown University football stadium parking lot.  We had a great response you can view in this photograph:

 

The Providence Journal’s May 7 edition published my opinion piece on the motor vehicle tax loophole we recently removed in Providence.  You can read it by clicking on this link: Op-Ed

On May 3, the City Council Education Subcommittee reviewed a draft report concerning the Meeting Street School’s application for a mayoral academy charter school.  You can read the draft report by clicking on this link: Draft Report.  The draft report recommends describes the differences between elementary school and middle school education, and recommends that the applicant consider limiting the school to the elementary grades, which would be more compatible with the school’s small size.  This alternative also would reduce the impact of the school on the financial well-being of the Providence Public Schools.

On Mioday, April 23, the Mayor presented the 2012/13 budget to the City Council.  You can read his address by clicking on this link: Budget Address.  In his address (at page 5), he noted that the City was going to receive an extra $6 million in tax revenue without raising rates due to an ordinance I introduced that ties eligibility for the homestead exemption to a requirement to register automobiles in the City (and pay tax on them).  Scott McKay of the WRNI On Politics blog wrote a profile about my work on this ordinance that you can read by clicking on this link: Profile

On Wednesday, April 11 at 5:30 p.m., the City’s Charter Review Commission will be holding a hearing.  I will attend with Common Cause to present a proposal to reform the ward redistricting process.  You can read a memo describing the proposal by clicking here: Memo.  You can read a copy of the draft charter language by clicking here: Proposal

On April 9, I held a community meeting at Hope High School to discuss the Gilbane Development Company’s proposal to build student apartments at 257 Thayer Street.  The following night, the College Hill Neighborhood Association held a meeting on the same subject, where the developer answered questions. You can read my notes of comments from the two meetings by clicking on this link: Meeting Notes

A search committee has forwarded the names of four finalists to the School Board for the position of Superintendent.  On April 2, I wrote a letter to the School Board President in support of Interim Superintendent Susan Lusi.  You can read the letter by clicking on this link: Letter

The Gilbane Development Company is seeking permission to build student apartments at 257 Thayer Street, between Meeting and Euclid Streets.  I am developing my own position regarding this propoal, and I would appreciate your feedback.  You can view the proposal by clicking on this link Application

At its March 20 meeting, the Providence City Council is expected to approve an agremeent with Johnson and Wales University for payments in lieu of taxes that will range from $960,000 to $1.45 million annualy.  After deducting the value of the closed streets Johnson and Wales is receiving as part of this agreement, this represents between 12% and 18% of what the University would pay if its property were fully taxable.  I have a prepared a chart that calculates what the City’s other major nonprofits would pay if they followed Johnson and Wales’s example, along with contact information for each institution for anyone who wishes to write letters.  You can see the chart by clicking on this link: Nonprofit chart I sent a thank you letter to Johnson and Wales, and letters to the nonprofits asking them to follow Johnson and Wales’s example,  You can read them by clicking here: Nonprofit letters

On March 6, the Pension Sustainability Subcommittee reviewed a report from the Internal Auditor that demonstrates the City’s inability to keep pace with the pension payment obligations that will accrue in the next several years absent reform.  You can read the report by clicking on this link: Pension Report.pdf

On February 28, the Ward Boundaries Committee issued a report you can read by clicking on this link: Report.pdf

On January 23, 2012 I held a community meeting to discuss crime prevention.  At the meeting, the police and participants developed a set of crime prevention tips you can read by clicking here: Crime Prevention Tips.

 

The 257 Thayer Street Proposal

The Gilbane Development Company is seeking permission to build student apartments at 257 Thayer Street, between Meeting and Euclid Streets.  I am developing my own position regarding this propoal, and I would appreciate your feedback.  You can view the proposal by clicking on this link Application

In my April 2 ward letter (link here: April 2 Letter), I discuss the Grace Academy charter school application, a proposal to change the redistricting process in the City Charter, the 257 Thayer Street apartment project and the search process for a Superintendent of the Providence Public Schools.

On April 9, I held a community meeting at Hope High School to discuss the Gilbane Development Company’s proposal to build student apartments at 257 Thayer Street.  The following night, the College Hill Neighborhood Association held a meeting on the same subject, where the developer answered questions. You can read my notes of comments from the two meetings by clicking on this link: Meeting Notes

In my April 9 ward letter (link here: April 9 letter), I discuss two community meetings concerning the 257 Thayer Street project, and the Mayor’s presentaton to the General Assembly delegation concerning the state of the City’s finances.

In  my April 15 ward letter (link here: April 15 Letter), I discuss the information we learned last week about the 257 Thayer Street project and the change in the implementation of the overnight parking program.

The Providence Preservation Society has published a letter and supporting materials concerning the 257 Thayer Street proposal.  You can read their letter to Mr. Gilbane by clicking on this link:  PPS Letter .  They prepared a list of findings concerning the project you can read by clicking on this link:  PPS Findings PPS also prepared a map of the surrounding area you can read by clicking on this link: PPS Map

The College Hill Neighborhood Association prepared a letter to me in which they stated their concerns about the proposed development.  You can read it by clicking on this link:  College Hill Letter

In my April 23 ward letter (link here: Letter), I discuss the Mayor’s anticipated budget, pension reform and the 257 Thayer Street project.

On April 24, the City Plan Commission held a hearing concerning the project.  The Providence Planning Department submitted two documents describing the project you can read by clicking here planning 1and here  planning 2 .  the City Plan Commission issued a conditional approval you can read by clicking here: CPC.  The Planning Commission will review the project at a hearing scheduled for May 15, 2012.

In the May 24 edition of the Providence Journal, columnist David Brussat wrote an opinion piece criticizing the project.  You can read it by clicking on this link: Brussat

The June issue of the East Monthly has an article about the 257 Thayer Street project you can read by clicking on this link: East Side Monthly

On Tuesday, June 12, the Ordinance Committee will review a proposed amendment to the zoning ordinance and comprehensive plan related to the 257 Thayer Street proposal.  You can view the proposed zoning ordinance by clicking here: Zoning change and the proposed change to the comprehensive plan by clicking here:  Comprehensive plan revision

On Tuesday, June 26, the Ordinance Committee received public comment on the proposed changes to the comprehensive plan and the zoning ordinance.  The Planning Department has revised the proposed amendments to the comprehensive plan (June 18 draft comp. plan) and zoning ordinance (June 18 draft zone change) as indicated.

The College Hill Neighborhood Association presented a statement you can read by clicking on this link: CHNA Statement .  The Providence Preservation Society presented a statement you can read by clicking on this link: PPS Statement .  The Ordinance Committee will resume the hearing on Thursday, July 19, 2012 at 5:30 p.m.

The College Hill Neighborhood Association and the Providence Preservation Society organized a steering committee to review the project, chaired by PPS Executive Director James Hall.  The Steering Committee held meetings as described in this timel line: Time Line.  In response to the Steering Committee’s comments concerning the design, Gilbane commissioned a local architect who prepared a revised design you can see by clicking on this link: Redesign.  The Steering Committee developed two lists of concerns.  The first regards the project itself, which you can read by clicking on this link: Project concerns.  The second describes the need for additional planning concerning the future of the Thayer Street neighborhood which you can read by clicking on this link: Planning Concerns.  The Providence Preservation Society has summarized its involvement in the project in a document you can read by clicking on this link: PPS Summary.  The Gilbane Company responded to the Steering Committee’s list in a document you can read by clicking here: Responses.

On Monday, July 16 at 6:30 p.m. at the Central Congregational Church at 296 Angell Street, the Steering Committee held a public meeting concerning their review of the 257 Thayer Street Project.  On Thursday, July 19, the Ordinance Committee held a public hearing on the project.  On July 24, 2012, Sam Shamoon prepared an analysis and recommendation concerning the Project.   You can read it by clicking here.

On July 25, 2012, the Ordinance Committee voted to approve the proposed comprehensive plan change and zoning change subject to a set of conditions signed by the developer in a letter of intent. You can read the conditions by clicking on this link: Letter of Intent The change requires two separate City Council votes to become effective.  The first vote is scheduled for Monday, July 30.  I voted in favor of the project.  I explain the basis for my decision here: Decision Explanation 8-7 Draft.

On September 6, the City Council passed a resolution requesting that the Planning Department conduct a study of the entire Thayer Street neighborhood, and that the City Plan Commission conduct a rigorous review of the 257 Thayer Street project.  You can read a copy of the resolution by clicking on this link: Thayer Street Resolution

The administration has reached a tentative tax agreement with the developer of the 257 Thayer Street project.  The administration has submitted the tentative agreement to the City Council for review.   You can read a copy of the proposed agreement by clicking on this link: Proposed tax agreement.

The City Council’s Ways and Means Committee began its review of the proposed agreement in a November 20 meeting described in the following newspaper article: Hearing Description.  As the article indicates, I determined that the tax valuation in the agreement was pegged to a projected monthly rent of $850 per person per month.  I believe this figure is inadequate, and will lead to a significant tax subsidy.  The Committee has postponed further discussion of the treaty until Gilbane addresses this and other issues associated with the proposed agreement.

On December 18, 2012, the City Plan Commission approved the preliminary plan submission for the project.  You can read the CPC’s Decision by clicking here: CPC Decision

On February 26, 2013, the City Plan Commission approved the final plan submission for the project.  You can read the final approval decision by clicking here: Final Decision

On June 26, 2013, the Thayer Street Planning Group is holding a community meeting to seek input concerning the planning study of the neighborhood.  You can view a flyer describing the meeting by clicking here: Flyer.

The ML King Elementary School
“In District” Charter School Application

The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Spaziano elementary schools has begun the process of applying to become an “in-district” charter school.  To begin the process, the King School prepared a prospectus you can read by clicking here: Prospectus.  It will refine and expand upon the Prospectus to prepare a full application by December 1.

At the October 22 School Board meeting, the Providence School Department provided some background information about the charter-school “conversion” process in the form of answers to frequently asked questions you can read by clicking here: FAQ.  The School Department also prepared an initial analysis of the financial impact that would result from the “conversion” of the King and Spaziano schools.  You can read that by clicking here: Preliminary Analysis.

Currently, the King elementary school is a “neighborhood” school, providing a preference for famillies of children living within the general neighborhood of the school.  Under the School Department’s current student assignment plan, King is considered a “neighborhood school” for children living on the greater East Side, i.e., east of North Main Street.

There are a total of 22 elementary schools in Providence, but only two of them (King and Gregorian) are located on the East Side.  You can view the location of the Providence elementary schools by clicking here:  School Map.  As the map indicates, the next closest school after King for East Siders will be the Kizirian school, which is clearly a different neighborhood.

It is not clear whether the King School would retain its neighborhood identity if it became a charter school or, alternatively, whether its admissions would be determined by a City-wide lottery.  I introduced a resolution to the City Council expressing a concern about the loss of King as a neighborhood school.  You can read the resoultion by clicking here: City Council Resolution

The King School’s application to convert to “in-district charter” status could not go forward because it failed to gain support from 2/3 of the faculty.  As a result, the school’s principal and vice-principal submitted an alternative application to open a new school in a different location.  The new school is described in this Providence Journal article: New Charter Application Article  I am very concerned about the impact the new school, if approved, would have on the existing school, which could lose its principal, vice-principal and several teachers to the new school.

We have learned that the General Assembly’s decision to reorganize the Board of Regents will postpone the consideration of all new charter school applications.  As a result, the King proposal is now on hold for a year.

 

Ward Letters from 2011 (in reverse chronological order)

The December 31 edition of the Providence Journal published my op-ed piece (link here: pro jo 12-31-11 – af.pdf ) concerning the Achievement First mayoral academy proposal.  I recommend that the Board of Regents approve only one of the two proposed schools to permit most of the benefits of the proposal while reducing the financial impacts on the Providence Public Schools.

In my December 19 ward letter (link here: december 19 ward letter.pdf ) I discuss the Education Subcommittee’s final report on the Achievement First charter school application and the Nonprofit Subcommittee’s report for the Revenue Study Commission.

My December 12 ward letter (link here: 12-12 ward letter.pdf ) discusses the Achievement First charter school applicaiton and an upcoming community meeting with Lieutenant Ryan of the Providence Police Department.

Next Monday, the Education Subcommittee will review the a draft report concerning the Achivement First charter school application you can read by clicking on this link: af education subcommittee report 4.pdf

In my December 5 letter (link here: 12-5 ward letter.pdf ) I discuss some information we learned in last week’s hearing about the Achievement First charter school application, as well as a series of “quality of life” ordinances I worked on last week.

My November 28 Ward Letter (link here: 11-28 ward letter.pdf ) discusses this week’s hearings in the Pension Sustainability Committee and the Education Subcommittee (which is reviewing the Achievement First charter school application), as well as the process to apply to the Providence School Board.  You can click on this link:http://www.providenceri.com/schools/nominating-commission-application to learn more about how to apply to the School Board.  You can review the Achievement First charter school application at the Department of Education’s website by clicking on this link: http://www.ride.ri.gov/commissioner/charterschools/applications.aspx .

My November 21 Ward Letter (link here: nov. 21 ward letter.pdf ) discusses the Occupy Providence movement, the mayoral academy application, and the Revenue Commission subcommittee on nonprofit institutions.

I wrote letters to my General Assembly representatives (Speaker Fox and Senator Perry) concerning the need for pension reform both for the State and for municipal systems.  You can read my letters by clicking on this link: pension letters.pdf

In my November 14 letter (link here: 11-14 ward letter.pdf ) I discuss the role that nonprofit institutions (colleges, hospitals) could have in supporting the City’s finances.

I have learned that the City’s parking enforcement program has, on at least some occasions, issued tickets to cars within one or two minutes of the expiration of time on the parking meter.  I sent this letter to the Parking administrator (click here: leo perrotta november 14.pdf ) to suggest that the possible advantages of allowing a 5-minute grace period before issuing this type of parking ticket.

In my November 7 ward letter (link here: 11-7 ward letter.pdf ) I discuss the issues parents raised in a community meeting with Superintendent Lusi held last week.

In my October 31 letter (link here: 10-31 ward letter.pdf ), I discuss an upcoming community meeting, the review of last year’s budget and the Achievement First mayoral academy charter school application.

In my october 24 letter.pdf I discuss the State pension reform bill and its potential impacts on reforming the City’s pension system.

In an October 20 letter (click here: ptu.pdf ), the Presidents of the Providence Teachers Union and Local 1033 announced they would soon be submitting a comprehensive plan to the City Council to improve the public schools are a preferred option to the Achievement First mayoral academy.

In my october 17 letter.pdf I describe some upcoming meetings, as well how the proposed mayoral academy in Providence could impact teacher quality in the Providence Public Schools.

Public Safety Commissioner Pare responded to my September 30 letter concerning the 2-hour delay in opening school. You can read his letter here: commissioner pare letter.pdf

In my october 11 letter.pdf, I discuss a new City Council subcommittee organized to enact pension reform.

My October 3 ward letter (link here: 10-3 ward letter.pdf ) describes the administration’s overnight parking program proposal.

After the School Department announced that school would be delayed two hours to accommodate a motivational seminar downtown, I wrote this sept. 30 school delay.pdf letter to the Commissioner of Public Safety to request that better alternatives be developed in the future.

In my september 28 letter.pdf , I discuss my decision to vote in favor of the contract with the Providence Teachers Union.

My September 26 letter (link here:  9-26 ward letter.pdf ) discusses the framework for property tax reform adopted by the Revenue Study Commission.

My September 14 letter (link here:  9-14 ward letter.pdf ) discusses the Council’s hearings next week on the police and teachers contracts, as well as the Council’s study of the overall property tax rate structure.

My September 10 letter (link here:   9-10 ward letter.pdf ) discusses the Council’s upcoming review of the teachers contract.

My September 5 letter (link here: 9-5 ward letter.pdf ) discusses the Achievement First charter school application and its possible impact on all of the school children in Providence.

My August 30 letter (link here: 8-30 ward letter.pdf ) describes how the City pays for sidewalk repairs, and why we need to have a better infrastructure budget in the City of Providence.

My August 4 letter (linke here: 8-4 ward letter.pdf ) discusses changes coming to the School Department as school resumes this fall.

My July 26 letter (link here: 7-26 ward letter.pdf ) discusses the fire fighters’ contract and the proposed overnight street parking program.

My July 17 letter (link here:  7-17 ward letter msw.pdf ) discusses the recent legislation enacted to remove the Providence School Board’s authority to approve collective bargaining agreements.

My July 12 letter (link here: 7-12 ward letter.pdf ) describes the budget that the City Council Finance Committee approved, which changes the tax structure proposed in the Mayor’s budget.

On July 6, I wrote a letter to Governor Chafee asking him to allow the Providence School Board and the Mayor’s office the maximum opportunity to resolve their differences before signing the General Assembly bill that removed the School Board’s power to enter into collective bargaining agreements.  Here is a link to that letter: governor chafee 7-6-11.pdf

My July 8 letter (link here: 7-8-11 letter.pdf ) describes the options for the tax side of the budget, as well as my proposed ordinance to limit the homestead exemption to people who comply with State law concerning the in-state registration of their automobiles that are in Rhode Island for at least 30 days.

My June 21 letter (link here: 6-21 ward letter.pdf ) describes a problem our public schools had this year in failing to provide adequate instruction time to our children, and my efforts to prevent this from happening again next year.

My June 17 letter (link here: 6-17a ward letter.pdf ) answers the question constituents have asked me about whether municipal bankruptcy is a feasible option for restructuring the City’s finances.

My June 16 letter (link here: 6-16 ward letter.pdf ) discusses the police contract negotiations.

My June 10 letter (link here: 6-10 ward letter 2.pdf ) provides a further update on the Mayor’s progress in achieving budgetary savings for the 2011-12 fiscal year.

My May 22 letter (link here: 5-22 ward letter.pdf ) provides a budget update, as does my May 27 letter (link here: 5-27 ward letter.pdf )

My May 15 letter (link here: 5-15 ward letter.pdf ) describes the Mayor’s plan to rescind the dismissal notices sent to teachers in March and to assign them to classroom postions.

My May 10 letter (link here: 5-10_Budget_and_Dog_Ordinance.pdf) describes the Mayor’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year (due to begin on July 1, 2011).

My April 30 letter (link here:  april 30 letter.pdf ) discusses the need for more constructive engagement on the part of teacher union leadership.

My March 22 letter (link here: March 22. 2011: A Letter to My Constituents) describes the findings of the Mayor’s fiscal oversight commission and its implications for the current and upcoming fiscal year budgets.