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2014 State of the City Address

Mayor Angel Taveras delivered his final State of the City Address last night at City Hall:


angel-twitter

Image from Angel Taveras Twitter feed


Working and Investing in Providence

Mayor Angel Taveras – 2014 State of the City Address
Tuesday, February 11, 2014

(as prepared for delivery)

Mr. President, honorable members of the Providence City Council, distinguished guests, and fellow residents of our great Capital City –

In April, I had the pleasure to be present for the Omni Group’s purchase of the C.J. Fox factory. Anyone who drives on Route 95 South through our city knows the Omni Group has been hard at work renovating the complex at the entrance to historic Federal Hill.

The Omni Group is a homegrown company, headquartered in Providence. Like most businesses, they went through some tough times beginning in 2008. Financing their project became a major challenge when Wall Street imploded and the economy went into a tailspin.

But the Omni Group made it through the hard times, and now they are moving forward and investing $5 million to convert the old factory complex into office space. Bill DiStefano, Omni’s President and CEO, told me they decided to expand their business again because they believe Providence is heading in the right direction.

I tell you this story because it speaks to the overall state of our city. The state of our city is improving.

We’ve been through the hard times of the Great Recession. But we never lost hope. And we never stopped believing that better days were ahead. We are working hard and making investments that will propel Providence into a future of greater economic strength and prosperity.

I want to talk to you tonight about all we’ve done to move Providence forward in the past year. And then I want to talk to you about what we will do in the coming months.

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News & Notes

Transportation Act Projects announcement

Governor O’Malley and Lt. Governor Anthony Brown announces improvement to Marc train Red Line by Brian K. Slack at Baltimore, MD. Photo (cc) Maryland Gov Pics.

→ The Baltimore Sun: O’Malley to announce $1.5 billion for Baltimore-area transportation projects

Gov. Martin O’Malley plans to announce $1.5 billion in new state funding for the Baltimore Red Line and more than a dozen other transportation projects in the area Wednesday, officials said, outlining for the first time how the state’s gas tax increase will be tapped to improve local infrastructure and mass transit here.

O’Malley also plans to discuss the state’s interest in attracting public-private partnerships to help fund the Red Line project, and a Dec. 7 start date for weekend MARC train service between Baltimore and Washington, which has never been offered before.

[Baltmore Mayor Stephanie] Rawlings-Blake said the new funding “says that the state is serious about being a partner with Baltimore” to improve connections between transportation options.

“They’re putting their money where their mouth is,” she said. “They’re recognizing that for the state to be strong, Baltimore has to be strong, and it has to be strong as a connected city.”


→ The Boston Globe: Menino pushes plan to boost housing

Mayor Thomas M. Menino is proposing to reach his ambitious goal of building 30,000 homes in Boston by allowing taller structures with smaller units, selling public land to developers at a discount, and using subsidies to spur development of more affordable housing, according to a blueprint to be released Monday.

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Statement regarding the tragic death on a RIPTA bus today

EastBayRI reports on the domestic dispute that played out this morning on a RIPTA bus in Portsmouth, tragically ending in the stabbing death of the victim.

RIPTA has release the following statement.

February 27, 2013

It is with a heavy heart RIPTA acknowledges that an incident onboard Route 60 Outbound, which occurred early this morning, resulted in the death of one of our passengers. At present, there is an ongoing criminal investigation being conducted by the Portsmouth Police Department. This was an isolated incident and passengers should still feel safe using RIPTA’s services. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victim and family.

Joint Statement from Governor Lincoln D. Chafee, RIPTA Chairman & Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian, and RIPTA Interim Executive Director & State Police Lt. Col. Raymond Studley:

“We first want to express our condolences to the family of the victim and our support for the passengers and driver who witnessed this troubling incident. This was an isolated event and Rhode Islanders should continue to have full confidence in their safety while using RIPTA. We have full confidence that the Portsmouth Police will conduct a full and thorough investigation and we will assist that investigation in any way possible.”

EastBayRI reports that the perpetrator was arrested this afternoon.

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Real life Frogger

2013-0131-atwells-dean

This police officer on her phone in her cruiser was no help to me as I was forced to play a real life game of Frogger crossing Atwells and Dean this morning when the traffic lights were out due to the storm.

The officer at Atwells and the Service Road was only slightly more helpful.

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Providence 2013 State of the City Address


Mayor Angel Taveras

2013 State of the City Address

Providence Is Recovering

Tuesday, January 29, 2013 • (as prepared for delivery)

Photo of the Mayor delivering the State of the City from the Mayor's Office.

Photo of the Mayor delivering the State of the City from the Mayor’s Office.

Governor, Mr. President, honorable members of the Providence City Council, distinguished guests, and my fellow residents of our great Capital City –

One year ago I stood before you in this Chamber with an urgent message for our City and the entire State of Rhode Island. Providence was in peril. Despite many difficult decisions and painful sacrifices made to pull Providence back from the brink, we were still $22 million short of closing a $110 million structural deficit.

Crucial steps necessary to navigate our City safely through our Category 5 fiscal hurricane had not yet come to pass. We still needed to reform our unsustainable pensions. And we needed Providence’s large, tax-exempt institutions to contribute more.

As I stood before you on February 13, 2012, Providence was running out of cash, and running out of time. In the months that followed, there were some who said Providence could not avoid filing for bankruptcy.

BACK FROM THE BRINK

Today it is my privilege to deliver a much more hopeful report on the State of our City: Providence is recovering.

Through collaborative efforts and shared sacrifice, we have all but eliminated our City’s $110 million structural deficit, and we expect to end this year with a balanced budget. Working together, we have accomplished what few believed possible.

We were determined to address the root causes of Providence’s fiscal emergency and prepared to act unilaterally if necessary. And we knew our City would never achieve a lasting recovery without addressing our unsustainable and spiraling pension costs.

In April, following months of actuarial analysis and public testimony, this City Council unanimously approved a pension reform ordinance that put Providence’s pension system on a sustainable path.

We recognized that passing the ordinance would likely lead to a high-stakes lawsuit with no real winners – because a decision in favor of the status quo would push our City over the brink. However, faced with the challenge of negotiating pension changes with more than 2,000 retirees who were not represented by a single entity, we saw no alternative.

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→ The Huffington Post: A. Taveras – What the Fiscal Cliff Could Mean for My City

The fiscal cliff would have profound and draconian consequences for the City of Providence. If we go over the cliff, federal support for 21st Century Community Learning Centers will be cut by 20 percent which could force Providence to close up to four after-school programs that serve our highest-poverty neighborhoods. More than 100 young children could be denied access to Head Start — an early education program that helped me and so many other poor, young children start school ready to learn. More than 150 teachers could be locked out of high-quality professional development, putting our students at a disadvantage.

Beyond our schools, the fiscal cliff would cut energy assistance, elderly and handicapped transportation services, employment training and other vital services the newly reorganized Community Action Partnership of Providence provides.

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Mayor announces layoffs at Providence Police


Photo (cc) appleswitch

City Hall press release on Providence Police cuts:

FACING FISCAL CRISIS, PROVIDENCE TO LAYOFF 60-80 POLICE PERSONNEL

Commissioner of Public Safety to oversee staff reduction, identify best strategies to minimize impact on public safety in Providence

PROVIDENCE, RI – Facing a $110 million structural deficit, Mayor Angel Taveras recently submitted a budget to the Providence City Council that recommends $64 million in spending cuts across City government, including a 10% cut to police and fire budgets.

Following the release of the budget, the Taveras administration continued negotiations with union leadership to realize $6 million in cuts to the police department budget. Union leadership and representatives from the Taveras administration both approached the bargaining process in good faith but have regrettably not been able to achieve these savings without layoffs. Beginning next week, Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare will begin proceedings to eliminate 60-80 positions within the department.

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Mayor Taveras’ Budget Address

Update: Video of the Mayor’s budget address.


Press Release from Mayor Taveras’ office regarding tonight’s budget address (See below prepared text of the Mayor’s Address):

Mayor Taveras Delivers Fiscal Year 2012 Budget to City Council

Shared sacrifice is major theme of Mayor’s first budget submission

PROVIDENCE, RI – Mayor Angel Taveras today delivered his proposed 2012 budget to the Providence City Council. The budget reflects the many difficult decisions the City faces to address a ‘Category 5′ fiscal emergency and to restore financial stability to Rhode Island’s Capital City.

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News & Notes

→ Sidewalk Rage: Mental Illness or ‘Altruistic Punishment?’ [Time Magazine | Healthland]

While it sounds like an oxymoron, altruistic punishment is basically how social norms get enforced. So when you expel a huffy “Excuse me!” to the rude sidewalk clogger in front of you who has stopped midstride to check his BlackBerry, you’re trying to discourage behavior that endangers other members of the society. It’s called “altruistic” punishment, because your efforts to protect civility come at personal cost with little chance of personal benefit: you are far more likely to get an obscene gesture or even a punch in the mouth than a thank you.


→ Nonprofit group wins funds for Olney Village rehab project [The Providence Journal]

Olneyville Housing Corporation has received key financing assistance from Rhode Island Housing that will permit the nonprofit organization to move forward with its Olney Village project.

The $10-million development project will turn 11 foreclosed properties and a large vacant lot in the Providence neighborhood into 39 affordable apartments, plus spaces for two organizations: the food pantry formerly located at St. Teresa’s Church and the Manton Avenue Project, a youth arts and theater program.


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Public Service Announcement about roof collapse risk


Photo from WPRI

Reports are coming in from around the region of roof collapses caused by the combination of previous heavy snow and large amounts of rain, including a collapsed roof yesterday in Pawtucket.

The City of Providence has issued a Public Service Announcement about the risk:


***PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT***

A MESSAGE FROM COLONEL PETER GAYNOR, DIRECTOR OF PROVIDENCE EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY

ROOF COLLAPSE CONTINUES TO BE OF HIGH CONCERN IN PROVIDENCE

The amount of recent snowfall that is piling up could weaken roof structure and cause a collapse. Homeowners and business owners should be mindful of the risk of personal injury to themselves and occupants before removing snow from roofs. A contractor could be helpful in assessing the need for snow removal. Most tree removal companies will do snow removal from roofs.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Be on the alert for large accumulating snow build-up or snowdrifts on your roofs. If roof snow can be removed with the use of a snow rake (available at most hardware stores), do so. Use caution, as metal snow rakes conduct electricity if they come into contact with a power line.

WARNING SIGNS OF A POTENTIAL ROOF COLLAPSE
Prior to a roof collapse, buildings generally exhibit signs that the roof is in distress and action should be taken to mitigate a roof collapse. The following are some of the symptoms that have been reported prior to roof failure:

  • Sagging roof steel – visually deformed
  • Severe roof leaks
  • Cracked or split wood members
  • Bends or ripples in metal supports
  • Cracks in walls or masonry
  • Cracks in welds of steel construction
  • Sheared off screws from steel frames
  • Sprinkler heads pushed down below ceiling tiles
  • Water in ponds where it never has not formed ponds before
  • Doors that pop open
  • Doors or windows that are difficult to open
  • Bowed utility pipes or conduit attached at ceiling
  • Creaking, cracking or popping sounds

TIPS FOR SNOW REMOVAL FROM ROOFS

  • Try to avoid working from ladders, as ladder rungs tend to ice up. Snow and ice collect on boot soles, and metal ladders.
  • Flat roofs can be shoveled clear, but only if it is determined that the roof is safe to stand upon. Exercise care when on the roof to avoid potentially dangerous falls.
  • Flat roof drainage systems should be kept clear to minimize the risk of excess roof ponding in the event of subsequent heavy rainfall or melting.
  • Large icicles can form on roof overhangs, but do not necessarily mean ice damming is occurring. Icicles overhanging doorways and walkways can be dangerous and should be carefully removed.
  • All of the mentioned actions should only be performed by able-bodied adults, as the snow is heavy, and roofs and other surfaces may be slippery. Protective headgear and eye protection is recommended.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU SUSPECT AN IMMINENT ROOF COLLAPSE

  • Evacuate the Building
  • Call 911

Helpful Links: weather.thefuntimesguide.com

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Announcement from the Mayor’s Office regarding snow removal

Announcement from the Mayor’s Office regarding snow removal:

Public Service Announcement: Snow-Covered Sidewalks Pose Signficant Safety Hazard

Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Providence community urged to follow City Ordinance on Snow Removal

The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for a potent, fast-moving storm forecast to affect Providence this afternoon and tomorrow morning. The storm is expected to cause 6 to 10 inches of heavy, wet snowfall. Snow removal on City sidewalks continues to be a challenge for our community.

With additional accumulations expected this week, it is important that everyone take responsibility for making sure sidewalks are safe and passable. This is especially important to ensure the safety of children who walk to school, and the many pedestrians who regularly walk in Providence.

Providence City Ordinance requires that property owners must shovel sidewalks within eight hours after snow stops falling. The fine for failing to shovel the sidewalks ranges from $25 to $500.

Snow-free sidewalks are more than a convenience; they are a matter of public safety. Property owners are urged to shovel sidewalks as soon as possible. For fire safety purposes, property owners should not rebury fire hydrants after they have been dug out.

Residents concerned about unsafe sidewalks should call the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services at 401-421-2489, or report their concerns directly via the City of Providence’s website, at ProvConnex. ProvConnex is the City’s online dashboard that provides residents with access to dozens of City services.

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Clearing snow from sidewalks

As I impatiently wait for the first real snowfall of the season, let’s take a minute to talk about removing snow from sidewalks, my favorite topic here on Greater City: Providence.

Back in February, the City Council updated the snow removal regulations, I was somewhat non-plussed by their action. My issues with the update were two; the DPW was given the authority to write citations, then immediately said they did not have the manpower to do so (the Police who originally had all the power here have been saying pretty much the same for years now), and the amount of time to remove the snow was increased from 4 hours after sunrise after the end of the storm to 8 hours.

As I outlined in the post in February, this extension to 8 hours could potentially create a situation where property owners are within the law not clearing their sidewalks for up to 24 hours. Were the roads not even attempted to be cleared for 24-hours, the citizens would rise en masse and burn down City Hall. And as I always say, at some point, every motorist leaves their car and becomes a pedestrian. So why have regulations that are so lax on snow removal when pedestrians are effected, but call out the National Guard if we have to to clear the roads?

In Cambridge, MA, a city with an online tool for reporting unclear or icy sidewalks, they are clear about when snow and ice need to be removed.

City Ordinance requires property owners to remove snow from sidewalks next to their property or business within 12 hours of daytime snowfall and before 1:00 pm when it has fallen overnight. They must also remove or melt all ice within 6 hours of the time it forms.

Public Works and the Traffic Department work together to enforce this Ordinance. Parking Control Officers in the Traffic Department conduct enforcement on priority pedestrian routes throughout the winter, and Public Works Compliance Officers investigate all complaints received of uncleared sidewalk.

We all have a shared responsibility for keeping our community safe and accessible during winter weather. For you, your neighbors, people with strollers or using wheelchairs, and the many people in Cambridge who walk, please do your part.

That 12 hour window seems excessively long to me, but the other part, the “remove or melt ice” bit is really the major problem in Providence. This week we’ve had two minor little dusters, the streets were barely impacted, but their was enough snow to make the sidewalks slick in some areas, however, I saw no evidence of anyone treating the sidewalks. This is a condition that repeats all winter. Just enough snow to make the sidewalks slick, but not enough where anyone bothers to clear it. And of course, we have absolutely no one doing enforcement because they have all begged off that they don’t have the manpower.

Cambridge also steps up to the plate and addresses the issue of the elderly or disabled who are unable to clear their own sidewalks:

If you are a homeowner on a low income and/or you are elderly or have a disability, you may qualify for the City’s Snow Exemption Program, in which case the City will shovel your sidewalk. To find out whether you are eligible, please call the Cambridge Council on Aging, 617.349.6220 (voice) or 617.349.6050 (TTY).

If you do not qualify for an exemption, the Council on Aging can provide you with a limited list of professional snow removal companies and a list of students who want to earn money by shoveling – you contact the student yourself and negotiate a price.

That’s what civilization looks like folks. A city that realizes it is located in a geographic area that has seen snow for millennia somehow manages to find itself unsurprised by this climatological situation and has created regulations and programs to deal with it.

We have a new Mayor, and largely new City Council, and importantly a new Public Safety Commissioner starting work in under two weeks. It can never be too soon for them to get to work ensuring that our city is navigable for all citizens all year long. The Public Safety Commissioner should work with the Mayor and the City Council to determine how to tackle the public safety threat which is snow and ice covered sidewalks. The answer cannot continue to be that it is the responsibility of a department who cries that they do not have enough manpower.

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