Elorza delivers State of the City address

Mayor announces $500 million in new construction projects as part of ‘resurgence’

Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Mayor Jorge Elorza gave his annual State of the City address Tuesday night, focusing his speech on educational reform and business development.

Thirty major construction projects in Providence totaling almost $500 million in expenditures are expected to break ground in 2016, Elorza said. These developments include the construction of downtown hotels and apartments and the building of an “innovation economy” on the I-195 corridor, he added.

The revenue from these projects will serve to counter the deficit inherited from the previous administration, Elorza said, adding that he is “committed to being fiscally responsible to fix the city’s finances.”

A number of cost-saving measures have also been introduced. These initiatives include efforts to save $15 million over the next 10 years by buying streetlights back from National Grid, $9.5 million over the next 20 years from the renegotiation of a contract with the Roger Williams Park Zoo and $5 million annually from the restructuring of the Providence Fire Department, Elorza said.

But reworking the structure of the Providence Fire Department has proved quarrelsome for Elorza’s administration. Claims of savings in that field have yet to be corroborated, leading to tension with local firefighters, firefighter Tom Kenney wrote in an op-ed in the Providence Journal.

Nevertheless, Elorza commended Providence’s men and women in uniform, who he said are “the finest … any city can have.” He specifically praised the Providence police force for preventing “many of the issues other cities have had to endure in the past couple years.”

Elorza has pledged to lead an administration that is devoted to government transparency. “There is no tolerance for corruption,” Elorza said, adding that under his supervision, “we will establish ethics and transparency as hallmarks of City Hall.”

Elorza also discussed his EveryHome initiative. Launched this past fall, the project will “revitalize and rebuild” every vacant and abandoned home in the city within six years, Elorza said. He added that the move is important for Providence, a city the Brookings Institution listed as having the fourth-highest income inequality in the country. In an effort to further combat this inequality, the mayor’s office has engaged in projects like the creation of a grant program for the RI Black Business Association and the creation of a Latino Merchants’ Association, Elorza said.

Education was another major topic of the address. An educational overhaul will include an investment of $20 million within the next two years for repairs and maintenance of school buildings, Elorza said. He also described a “12-month learning calendar” that will make learning tools accessible to students at any time of year. This “Summer of Learning” campaign will “close the achievement gap and turn the summer from a time of learning loss to a time of gain,” he said.

Despite the fiscal deficit and other challenges his administration has faced, Elorza promised that Providence has grown in recent years and there is still more to come. “We are ready for a resurgence, Providence,” Elorza said, “and that resurgence begins now.”