Happy New Year!
Happy New Year. I hope you had the opportunity to spend time with family and friends during this holiday season.
Dear Ward 3 Residents,
Thank you for re-electing me so that I can continue to serve as Ward 3’s City Councilor for the next four years. My first year on the Council has been a spirited one, including two bone fractures, a 600-foot tower proposal and requested zoning change, school bus drivers and teachers’ contract deliberations, and of course elections.
This past year I have learned a lot. Ward 3, and the broader city of Providence, consist of deeply rooted residents from diverse backgrounds and this is what makes our city so unique. The needs of our residents vary from neighborhood to neighborhood and even block to block. I had the opportunity to meet with various residents, community members, and leaders to discuss issues and share ideas to help mitigate concerns. In the next four years, I hope to work with you and my City Council colleagues to bridge the communication between city government and the community and to develop policies to tackle issues such as affordable housing, education, economic development, and urban infrastructure and the pension.
Nirva R. LaFortune
City Councilor, Ward 3
City Council Meeting Docket and Notes can be found on the City of Providence Open Meeting website here: http://providenceri.iqm2.com/Citizens/Default.aspx
Please share this newsletter with neighbors! Encourage others to sign up here: electnirva.com/contact.html,
NEWS FROM THE CITY COUNCIL
I was selected as one of 11 leaders out of over 1000 nominations from across the country to join the NewDEAL (Developing Exceptional American Leaders): The NewDEAL facilitates the exchange of ideas by bringing together leaders focused on expanding opportunity, and helps them develop and spread innovative ideas to spur sustainable opportunity and development in local communities.
Introduced changes to the Providence Police Department’s high-speed pursuit policy: Last November after a fatal shooting on I-195 I introduced a resolution requesting an evaluation of the Providence Police Department’s shooting pursuit/high-speed policy and de-escalation practices and training. Although the resolution received criticism and push back, a few weeks ago a report from the Providence Police Department has recommended a host of changes to its high-speed policy and improvement in communication and training between public safety agencies that interact frequently.
Investment in our community: This past Spring I raised concerns about the condition of Vincent Brown (VB) Recreational Center and other centers throughout the city. Vincent Brown has undergone updates that will continue in 2019. I also hope to work with the City’s Director of Operations to develop a strategic plan to invest in our City’s rec centers, as they are used to serve our communities.
Last year I allocated over $70,000 to improve and replace the playground at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School.
I have also been working closely with the City’s Department of Public Works to update Ward 3 roads and sidewalks, and to improve communication strategies so I can provide the community with an annual work schedule.
Hope (Fane) Point Tower zoning ordinance:
First Student, Inc:
- Amends the City zoning policy to allow the developer to build a 600-foot tower in an area zoned for development at 100 feet high.
- Ordinance dismisses the public input and effort that created our City’s comprehensive zoning plan.
- Fails to mitigate the City and state’s affordable housing crisis by refusing to include an affordability component (which I introduced but was voted down).
- Supports spot zoning.
- Does not include a market study for the feasibility of a luxury apartment development in a city where the median household income is approximately $32,599 (not including the East Side).
- The developer qualifies for an I-195 TSA, which grants a 20-year tax stabilization agreement which would save the developer over $81 million on a $300 million project; and, the developer may qualify for the Rebuild RI incentive, which could offer the developer redeemable tax credits covering up to 20% – and, in some cases, 30% – of the project cost.
- Yes, this development would bring employment opportunities for our hard-working local laborers, but so would any development that adheres to our City’s current zoning policies--spot zoning is not necessary. There is a significant equity issue in this circumstance as the developer is receiving all the benefits outlined above, which is why I voted “no” on the zoning change and made a motion to include an affordability component and sunset clause.
The City Council voted to approve the contract based on the following reasons:
Providence Teachers’ Union Contract:
- Although the renewals contain the same “force majeure” clause excusing First Student from responsibility for a future strike, such a strike is unlikely because the bus drivers signed a new three-year collective bargaining agreement with First Student, so any strike over the next two years would be illegal. This would enable First Student to seek a court order requiring the bus drivers to return to work; that was not an option during last year’s strike.
- The contract will provide two years for the school district and board to look at other transportation options and develop a comprehensive contract that not only holds our transportation provider accountable but also keeps our students safe.
- Resolve a labor dispute that has been in place for over a year
- Include a modest raise of 2% retroactive to September 1, 2% on the first day of the 2019-20 school year, and 1.25% on Jan. 1, 2020.
- Provide more flexibility in school day schedule, increasing autonomy at the school level.
- Create a reduction in health care costs for teachers.
Some of my concerns include:
- Lack of additional mandatory professional development opportunities
- Lack of accountability measure to address absenteeism
I hope to continue to work with the school department and administration to help gather community input to ensure that these contracts also align with our students’ and families’ needs.
Providence Student Union (PSU):
Last month, PSU launched its Counselors Not Cops Campaign. The campaign calls for a decrease of SROs in Providence schools and an investment in social-emotional support (e.g.: guidance counselors, mental health providers, and school nurses). It is important for our city to provide for the education, health, and safety of our students in many different ways. I look forward to working with all parties involved, including Providence Student Union and Providence Public Safety, to submit an ordinance that addresses Providence Student Union’s concerns and invests in a holistic strategy for our students' health and safety.
Things to Look for in 2019:
- Last year I hosted about 10 community meetings and met with individual groups and community members. I also tested various forms of communication and outreach, which included a newsletter and social media. It seems like communication needs vary due to accessibility concerns. In response to these needs, I have developed a communications strategy, which I am in the process of rolling out. At the end of the year, we can assess it to determine what did and did not work. As always, I am open to suggestions and appreciate your feedback.2019
Communication Strategy: to provide regular and sustainable opportunities for community stakeholders to share information, deliver important city and community updates, solicit feedback on community and policy/legislative initiatives.
- Communication Platforms:
- Monthly Newsletter
- Quarterly Community Meetings (Dates to Follow):
- Q1: February/April
- Q2: June/July
- Q3: September/November
- Q4: December
- Bi-monthly Coffee Hours:
Providence City Council Inauguration
Date: Monday, January 7, 2019
Location: Providence City Hall, (25 Dorrance St.)
Providence Public School Choice Fair 2019-2020
Date: Saturday, January 12, 2019
Location: Providence Career & Technical Academy, (41 Fricker St.)
Appreciation Celebration for Councilman Sam Zurier
Date: Saturday, January 12, 2019
Location: Rochambeau Library Community Room, (708 Hope St.)
Honoring Mount Hope Cowboys
Date: Thursday, January 17, 2018
Location: City Hall, Alderman Chambers, (25 Dorrance St.)
Ward 3, Community/Interfaith Potluck
Date: Thursday, January 24th
Location: Martin Luther King Jr, Elementary School, (35 Camp St.)
Councilman Philip Addison Street Honorary Naming Ceremony
Date: Sunday, February 3, 2018
Location: TBA (Camp St.)