Jorge Elorza (D)
Jorge Elorza is a Providence native, former Housing Court Judge, law professor, accountant, and community activist. He grew up on the West End, the son of Guatemalan immigrants, and graduated Classical High School before going on to URI and Harvard Law. The murder of a childhood friend brought him back to Providence from a promising career on Wall Street, and he has dedicated his life to serving the community ever since. He is running for Mayor to make sure that the opportunities that gave him a pathway out of poverty are passed on to the next generation of Providence kids.
1. Other Cities
It isn’t always necessary to reinvent the wheel when it comes to best practices. Across the globe small cities like Providence are doing amazing things to make their cities more livable, increase their tax base, and improve services. What city (or cities) do you look to for inspiration of what you would like Providence to be like or to strive for? What are the characteristics of those cities that you think Providence should emulate?
I look to many cities around the country as models for what Providence can and should do. One of the reasons why I want to be mayor in the first place is because I believe that the innovative leadership and substantive changes happening around the world right now are happening at the municipal level, and mayors are at the forefront of this.
Throughout this campaign, I have often referenced other cities as models for best practices and big ideas. In my plan for full service community schools, I looked to Cincinnati’s community schools model as an example for both engaging community partners, and management through its Local School Decision Making Committees. In that same plan, I also pointed to Chicago’s “Grow Your Own Teachers” Initiative as a model for encouraging diversity in our teaching force. Portland, Oregon was truly the model for my Export Providence Plan, which calls for doubling our export economy in the next five years; the Greater Portland Export Initiative was launched to achieve the same goal for that city, and there is much we can learn from it. I have often called for more police to live in the city, and Atlanta’s Secure Neighborhoods Initiative provides some great ideas for incentivizing officers to do so. My arts and culture platform calls for the creation of a weeklong festival in Providence that is directly inspired by Austin, Texas’ South By Southwest festival and the major impact it has made on that city’s economy. If I have the privilege of being elected, I have pledged to accept applications for my transition committees just as Pittsburgh, PA Mayor Bill Peduto has done. Even here in Rhode Island there are cities that inspire me: for instance, to address school funding, the City of Central Falls hired a part time grant writer for its school department at an annual salary of $30,000. In his first year, he brought in $600,000 in outside funding. I would like to add more grant writing staff across Providence’s many departments to help close funding gaps.
2. Snow Removal
The city has an ordinance that states that the abutting property owner must remove snow from sidewalks. This ordinance has gone under-enforced for years creating a major public safety issue for the city’s residents every time it snows. The city and the state are notable offenders in not clearing snow from sidewalks abutting their property (sidewalks abutting parks, public buildings, on overpasses, etc.). How will you hold private property owners, the state, and the City itself accountable for removing snow in a timely fashion, and how will you ensure that snow removal ordinances are enforced?
For private property owners, I will copy the successful example of other cities that maintain a “carrot and stick” approach to enforcing our snow removal ordinance. Exemplary businesses will be rewarded with certificates and neighborhood appreciation events. Businesses that frequently fail to comply with the law will be fined. And, as Mayor, I will ask the General Assembly to enact enabling legislation allowing the City to clear snow on pedestrian sidewalks and lien non- compliant property owners.
At the City level, I believe that many of the enforcement problems are due to the fact that the Department of Public Works has not had a permanent director for over two years. As Mayor, I would commit to hiring a permanent director in my first 90 days.
In general, we need to leverage better tracking and reporting technologies to identify problems, then empower the new Director of Public Works to track response times and manage workflow accordingly.
3. Street Parking Permits and Snow
The City recently ended its longtime ban on overnight parking introducing a permit system for City residents to park on the street overnight. Allowing residents to park on the street relieves the need to provide off-street parking in paved lots and yards. Reducing this paved area has numerous environmental and quality of life benefits. Unfortunately the City bans parking during heavy snow with no options for people parking on the street, forcing the need for off-street spaces during these storms. Other cities, including Boston, allow street parking during storms, banning parking only on designated emergency snow routes. Would you support allowing people with permits to park on designated streets during snow storms?
I am supportive of the idea. I would need to talk more with Public Works, and public safety agencies like the Police and Fire Departments, before committing to making this happen. I would want to know more about the potential problems that might arise and how this would impact efforts to clear snow. If this can be done in a manageable way, I will support it.
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