Touts investments in neighborhoods, education, job and business expansion and public safety, as well as the recent surge in citywide development
PROVIDENCE, RI – Mayor Jorge O. Elorza today delivered his annual State of the City Address in the Council Chambers of Providence City Hall. Attendees included local elected and appointed officials, as well as business, community, and faith leaders. The Mayor emphasized that unity is at the core of the capital city’s strength while making note of the national political landscape and recent controversial and divisive events.
“You voted for a city that listened and a city that worked. You voted for a better tomorrow and a safer today. But most of all, you voted for the promise of One Providence, a city with 25 distinct and different neighborhoods that come together as one community,” said Mayor Elorza.
“And so it is in that spirit – of coming together – that I deliver today’s state of the city. Over the past three years, we have been continually reminded of the power of ‘We the people’ and what we can accomplish when we are united,” the Mayor added.
Emphasizing the need of community participation in the planning of future investments focused on improving education in Providence, Mayor Elorza spoke of what has been accomplished since the City held the All In: Providence Education Summit in April 2017. Over 400 attendees participated and their input prioritized improved facilities; culturally responsive curriculum; equity and increased access to multilingual learning; and increased partnerships with community organizations.
The City hired school culture coordinators for all middle schools who will serve as role models and provide support to students. To answer calls for better facilities, the Administration also announced a plan to invest up to $400 Million in school infrastructure throughout the next 10 years. A yearlong public visioning process for school repairs, in which hundreds have already participated, was launched for a five year plan that will later be submitted to the State.
Providing students with tools and resources needed to succeed in the 21st century is also among the highest priorities. To meet a commitment to increase student’s access-to-technology, the Mayor announced that every Providence student will have access to a tablet, laptop or computer in the classroom by the end of this summer. To close the digital divide, the City launched a partnership with Sprint, which has committed to providing 600 kids from all ten high schools with free 24/7 access to high speed internet throughout their high school careers.
Considerable progress has been made to address summer learning loss with support from community partners such as Breakthrough Providence, BELL, PASA, Generation Teach, Providence Community Libraries, the Boys and Girls Club and the Providence Recreation Department. Participants of BELL’s summer program and their families were recognized in the address. Through BELL, 480 elementary students gained two months in literacy skills and three months in math skills over summer 2017. BELL CEO Dr. Lauren Sanchez Gilbert and two BELL scholars were in attendance. In addition to summer programs, the amount of youth summer jobs was doubled in 2017 with support from the City Council.
With the launch of the Office of Economic Opportunity in July 2017, the City undertook critical work to provide training, support and resources to residents, particularly those unemployed or underemployed, to connect them to employment or prepare them to launch their own business. The City also supported Amos House’s A Hand Up program, which has offered over 350 people experiencing homelessness daily work opportunities.
With regards to public safety, the Mayor highlighted the recent launch of Providence Safe Stations, a partnership aimed to address the opioid crisis that was inspired by a program launched in Nashua, NH. Through the program, anyone can walk into any fire station in the city at any time and be connected to recovery support. Other highlights included the graduation of the City’s largest and most diverse police class, the deployment of body worn cameras and the purchasing of 71 new vehicles for the department.
In addition to touting the more than 60 projects in construction or in the pipeline, the Mayor pointed to numerous businesses that have decided to make the capital city home to make the case that Providence is a place where people want to be. He recognized Carlos de Moya, a fashion designer from Mao in the Dominican Republic, who has been featured in New York Fashion Week and who decided to move to Providence after attending PVDFest, the City’s signature arts festival.
Direct investment in neighborhoods was a main theme in the address. The Mayor spoke of support for local businesses from the Providence Business Loan Fund (PBLF), which has provided funds for Raymond Brothers Tailor Shop, Geoff’s Sandwich Shop, and Los Andes Restaurant in the past year. The first five year, comprehensive capital improvement plan was also adopted with $45 Million in infrastructure repairs set to begin this spring. Through the PVD311 system, the City has also improved the way in which it services residents. The innovative system has helped the Mayor’s Center for City Services to close more than 25,000 constituent cases and downloads for the mobile application increased by 153% just this year.
The Mayor closed his address by thanking all partners for their support and work to place Providence and its residents on a path to success. He expressed incredible enthusiasm, to continuing to work collaboratively on some of the biggest priorities for the capital city.
“We have done so much together as a community, accomplished so much together as neighbors. But we have so much left to do. Over the next five years, I look forward to rebuilding our schools so they inspire our kids to learn. To resetting our relationships with our universities to invest in our city of the future. To rethinking transportation to better connect people to opportunities. To re-envisioning Kennedy Plaza to be our central meeting space. To redeveloping vacant properties to build strong and vibrant neighborhoods. To recommitting ourselves to our artists so they can unlock our creative potential,” stated the Mayor.