Metro

Taveras delivers annual State of the City address

Continued improvement of education, public safety and economic progress receive top billing

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, February 13, 2014

Mayor Angel Taveras reviewed the progress of his 20-point economic development action plan, ‘Putting Providence Back to Work,’ and other city-wide initiatives focused on education, health and public safety in his State of the City address yesterday, emphasizing his prognosis — that “the state of our city is improving.” 

Some components of Taveras’ plan include streamlining the building permit application process, revamping Kennedy Plaza and investing in construction across the city.

Taveras also highlighted recent improvements to the city’s business environment, such as freezing Providence’s commercial tax rate, launching a regional center for EB-5 — a visa program to attract international investments — and providing low-interest loans to Providence businesses.

Gun violence is a major public safety concern in Providence, Taveras said, adding that “it is far too easy for young people to get their hands on guns.” He cited the role of the Providence Police Department in keeping crime rates down despite reductions in the force’s size.

The National Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, an organization that focuses on boosting literacy and graduation rates, recognized Providence as a 2013 Community Pacesetter, Taveras said. The Carnegie Corporation selected Providence as one of the three cities invited to apply for a $3 million education grant, Taveras said.

Taveras credited the city’s education accomplishments to its investments in adult education programs, and volunteers in elementary school classrooms as well as Providence Reads, a literacy program designed to “promote school readiness, improve school attendance and support summer learning,” he said.

Investments in a city-wide recycling program, a new Healthy Communities Office, a municipal compost program and a new bicycle master plan have improved the “quality of life” for city residents, Taveras said.

Taveras also discussed pension reform, saying “This was a crisis over 20 years in the making. It didn’t happen overnight, and it’s not going to be solved overnight.”

Taveras said he wants to increase investments in public safety, including hiring 60 new police officers before the end of 2014, acquiring national accreditation for the Providence Police Department and implementing the Neighborhood Response Team, which will work to eliminate illegal firearms in the city.   Other public safety initiatives include “one-strike” legislation for the adult entertainment industry, which would require the Licensing Board to revoke the permit of any establishment promoting prostitution or the employment of minors, and would ban private booths in strip clubs, Taveras said.

Providence has made fiscal progress over the past three years, including overcoming a $110 million structural deficit in 2011 and creating a $1.6 million budget surplus for fiscal year 2013, he said.

“Make no mistake … A negative fund balance created through several years of budget deficits will probably take several years to eliminate,” Taveras  said. “We are responsibly managing our finances while stepping up investments in our future.”

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