Waterfront Commission - City Council Communication Breakdown?
Waterfront Commission (WC) Interim Chairman Bill Fazioli addressed the City Council at its November 21st meeting. Fazioli, a former EP City Manager, was obviously miffed at public comments made by some council members regarding the WC procedures and specifically the WC decision on waiving the previously approved "affordable housing" requirement.
"I gave this council a pretty comprehensive description of the role of the WC. The commission was appointed as independent from the city and state. This cooperative effort of city, state and private is considered as vital to our region," said Fazioli. "We receive no funding other than in-kind clerical type help. I've lived here 27 years and have been involved in many city services. I want to continue with his dialogue," said Fazioli.
"Since I brought this up, let me respond," said Ward 3 councilman Joe Botelho. "About a month ago there was a last minute, desperate appeal from the planning department regarding a vote on affordable housing by the WC. None of us had any information on this issue. I understand you want a dialogue, Bill, but there has been none," said Botelho.
"Well that got me looking into how the WC works," responded Botelho. The law states that the WC should have 19 members. Your minutes say that we have 6 or 7 at your meetings. You're not meeting your goals. I've heard reports that members stroll in late, cast a vote and stroll out as if to do just one thing. I find this concerning, Bill. I'm elected and nothing. How would you feel?"
Fazioli then explained that many of the 19 members of the WC are ex-officio and don't vote. Our appointed voting committee of 9 members needs a quorum of 5. This was amended in 2010. "I understand your differing with policy like the affordable housing issue. The affordable housing vote took place after four meetings and wasn't a rash decision," said Faziol
"Anytime an appointed group votes opposite an elected council, that raises my eyebrows. Do you understand that Bill," Botelho asked Fazioli.
"Yes I do, There is an explanation," replied Fazioli. "Which way did you vote," interjected Ward 4 councilman Brian Faria. "I'm speaking to the councilman (Botelho) now," said Fazioli. "I thought you were addressing the council," retorted Faria. "I'm speaking to Joel Botelho right now," said Fazioli.
"I'm not going to re-debate this policy decision but as a consequence of that vote (waiving affordable housing at Kettle Point) we're still supplying affordable housing, just not at Kettle Point. This will now be provided at the vacant lot across from City Hall on Taunton Avenue," said Fazioli.
"The WC should be commended for its affordable housing policy. I don't think the City has one, If it does, I'd like to see it," said Fazioli. We've done all of this legally. We gave all of this to your city solicitor."
Since former WC chairman Patrick Rogers resigned, Bill Fazioli was appointed Interim Chair. The Governor and Mayor are supposed to pick a chairman. It remained unclear why the chairman's seat has been vacant since 2009. "I have the highest respect for Bill Fazioli. I have submitted Mr. Fazioli's name to the Governor, but a chairmanship hasn't been selected. "I have been found wanting by three Governors," quipped Fazioli. "They won't appoint me."
Councilwoman Anna Sousa questioned the need for more transparency from the WC. "I've had residents and businesses ask me questions and I don't have any information. Nothing is brought to the council. We don't know your votes, no one knows what is going on," Sousa told Fazioli. People feel that this is a group who may have their own personal agenda for their own issues," continued Sousa.
"I don't know how to respond. You've accused me of not being transparent and using my own agenda. I've volunteered for over 13 years. I'm accused of serving my own self-interests and being a shady figure," replied Fazioli.
"I'm not accusing you of anything. Don't put words in my mouth," interjected Sousa. "I never said you were shady."
"This cloud that you've created, it impairs the ability of the WC to work with developers when they see this," continued Fazioli. "We've sent all of our meeting notices to the City Manager. I invited all of you to a meeting last week. I don't know what else to do," he said.
"This isn't personal," said Joe Botelho. "We're in the dark. There is a communication breakdown. We have to duke these things out in public due to the open meetings laws. It's not personal." "I wish we had this discussion earlier," said Fazioli. "Is it aired out now," asked Botelho. "I think so," answered Fazioli.
New EP Mayor to be Paid $90,000 Salary plus Benefits
The City Council approved a $90,000 salary for the City's first-ever elected Mayor. The vote during the November 21st meeting was unanimous. Some potential candidates for Mayor were awaiting the decision on salary, before they announce for the job. Two citizens have already announced, Bob DaSilva and Nicholas Oliver.
In addition to a $90,000 annual salary, the full time Mayor will receive essentially the same health and retirement benefits of other city department heads. The council will soon prepare a budget for the office of Mayor and the newly elected Mayor will then put together an administrative staff that fits within that financial structure.
The council will vote on a financial allotment which the Mayor will have the option of proportioning throughout the office. "I'm not comfortable with voting for benefits without knowing what they are specifically," said Ward 2 councilwoman Anna Sousa.
"The benefits will be what every department head receives now," said at-large councilman and Mayor Jim Briden.
Mayor James Briden Statement on Utilities Ordinance
At the November 7th East Providence City Council Meeting, amendments to our "Utilities" ordinance relating to the topics of water bills and creating the remedy of an appeal to the City Council were introduced and discussed. The proposed amendments will be reviewed again.
I appreciate the work that has been done thus far, however, this topic is far more complicated than it appears to be at first glance. For this reason, I recommend that the Council spend more time on this matter and consider the following:
(1) Focus initially on the administration's current policy and examine the facts which have existed when shutoffs occurred this year. This is what I recommended in August. After doing so, we can then work on policy change recommendations and possible ordinance amendments.
(2) When reviewing the policy, topics such as allowing for a payment plan even if a previous plan was breached and allowing tenants to send rent payments directly to the city to prevent a shutoff can be examined. If we amend our ordinance, then perhaps a tenant might also have standing to appeal to the Council.
(3) The shutoffs are discontinued now from November 15th to April 15th and so we can evaluate the need for and the contents of possible ordinance amendments shortly after the policy is reviewed. Changes to the policy might result in slightly different ordinance amendments (e.g. a tenant having standing to appeal). We can also research if the remedy of having an appeal to a City Council exists in other municipalities.
(4) If we amend our ordinance, then we need to work with the Administration on provisions that make sense from both operational and efficacy standpoints. Note that we are in a sense shifting a burden to others, many of whom are of limited means, when we afford relief. Our Legal Department will also need to ensure that there are no conflicts with existing state or local laws.
(5) Having a periodic review with a fiscal impact analysis might make sense.
(6) The proposed ordinance amendments require better definitions. Perhaps having one comprehensive definition of Financial Hardship would suffice. We might seek input from a social service agency on this part and on the availability of other assistance.
(7) Examine having a volunteer liaison who could help guide the property owner (or tenant) through the process.
(8) An ordinance amendment which creates an appeal to the City Council would require a standard of review and a "bright line rule" so the Council could issue a stay of a shutoff when it determines that the Administration was erroneous in applying the existing written policy. Otherwise, the City Council can make arbitrary decisions which over time would be detrimental to both residents and our municipality.
(9) Can the Council abate or modify the dollar amount of the water bill or interest accrued if either or both are contested or is the remedy simply to issue a temporary stay of a shutoff?
(10) Need to limit and define the Council remedy. Clarify that the shutoff can be stayed and perhaps establish the # of days and the maximum number of stays that can be granted to an appellant/property within a certain period of time.
"These are just some of the topics that I believe need to be examined in order to properly evaluate this issue," James A. Briden, Mayor & At-Large Councilman.
M.J. Francis Playground Effort
So proud of the Myron J. Francis Elementary school PTO for the amazing work they did to build a playground for their students! I am happy I had the chance to volunteer at the build and give them a $5,000 grant towards phase two of the build! Representative Katherine Kazarian.
Holiday Chorus Concert
The Chorus of East Providence, under the direction of Beth Armstrong, will perform its winter concert, Gloria!, featuring Vivaldi’s GLORIA and soprano soloist Yohji Daquio, on Saturday, December 2 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, December 3 at 2:00 p.m. at St. Martha’s Church, 2595 Pawtucket Avenue, East Providence. Tickets are $15.00 at the door. Senior and advance tickets are $13.00. College student rate is $5.00 at the door with student ID. Children under 12 are complimentary. The Chorus will also perform other traditional holiday music, accompanied by an orchestra. This will be a performance you do not want to miss and a wonderful opportunity to begin the holiday season! Advance ticket sales can be made by contacting Judy Antonio at 508-889-6211 or through http://coepgloria.brownpapertickets.com.
City Boards and Commission Rosters Now on Web Site
I am happy to announce that at the City Council’s request all the Boards and Commissions have now been added to the City’s webpage including all current members, appointments, term dates and expired appointments. This provides for a more open and transparent process. If there is an appointment that interests you, make an inquiry to your council person for more details. All appointments will now be based on merit "and not who you know".
Carousel Tree Lighting Event Canceled This Year
As many of you know the carousel closed early this season to make some adjustments and begin our 2017 off season restoration projects. One of the projects is mechanical and was scheduled to be completed this week, due to unforeseen circumstances this project will not be completed on time. As you can see in the attached photos several components of the ride have been dismantled to gain access to the center mechanisms. Due to the state of the ride and the safety concerns it creates, we have no choice but to cancel this year’s tree lighting event. This is a great disappointment to us all, as this has become a wonderful tradition for so many, but we must put safety first. Safety to the public as well as the ride. The carousel will be decorated and lit as scheduled thanks in part to our wonderful sponsor Mega MTG Disposal! Please check back often as I will continue to post photos and updates as the 2017 restoration projects continue. On behalf of the Carousel Park Commission and myself, we wish you all a wonderful holiday season. Sincerely, Tracy Johnson
2017 EPHS Graduates Accepted at Many Colleges & Universities
East Providence High School 2017 graduates were accepted at dozens of post-secondary schools across the country. Principal Shani Wallace released a list of schools were Townie graduates are attending. "Our students continue to attend some of the nation's best schools," said Principal Wallace.
Here is the list:
American International College, American University, Arizona State University, Assumption College, Automotive Training Centre (Canada), Baypath University, Becker College, Bridgewater State University, Bryant University, Bunker Hill Community College, Castleton University, Colby-Sawyer College, Community College of Rhode Island, Curry College, Dean College, Eastern Connecticut State Univ., Emerson College, Emmanuel College, Ferris State University, Fisher College, Fitchburg State, Hampshire College, Hellenic College, Hofstra University, Howard University, International Air and Hospitality Academy, Johnson & Wales University, Lasell College, Lesley University, Lourdes University, New England College, New England Institute of Technology, Norwich University, Providence College, Quinnipiac University, Rhode Island College, Roger Williams University, Saint Mary's Universit, Saint Micheal's College, Seattle University, Simmons College, Southern New Hampshire University, Springfield College, Suffolk University Universal, Technical Institute University of Hartford, University of Massachusetts Amherst, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, University of Massachusetts Lowell, University of New England, University of New Hampshire, University of New Haven, University of Rhode Island, University of Rochester, University of South Dakota, University of Southern Maine, University of Tampa, Wesleyan University, Western Michigan University, Wheaton College and Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
Holiday Carriage Rides, Hunt House Tour and more
The East Providence Historical Society is planning a lovely afternoon on December 10th filled with horse & carriage rides, baked goods, and tours of the Hunt House in Rumford. Mark your calendars for this festive event.
Martin Middle School Band News
In case you didn’t already know, MMS has one of the most successful music programs in RI thanks to the effort of Mrs. Pimental and Mr. Rappa. Several music students auditioned last weekend for All-State Band and Chorus. Here are the results!
The following students prepared for the last two months for the All-State auditions that took place last month at Moses Brown. This year, nearly 2,000 students from around the state auditioned for the very limited spots in these ensembles, and we are extremely proud that our students were selected as among the top music students in Rhode Island!
Liliana Bolarinho, Billy Roche
Junior All-State Mixed Chorus:
Rami Aldine, Elijah Barber, Tommy Cox, Jacob Langille, Ethan Lathrobe
Junior All-State Treble Chorus:
Gayatri Buchta, Abigail Leite, Nini Mai, Thaliah Resende.
(Riverside Middle School participants will be identified next issue)
Holiday State House Concert Tradition Continues
The East Providence middle and high school music groups are once again involved in performing holiday concerts at the Rhode Island State House. A couple concerts may be taking place at press time:
- 11/28/2017 at 11:30am, Riverside Middle School 7th & 8th grade chorus. from Riverside Middle School in Riverside, under the direction of John Baldaia.
- 12/1/2017 at 11:30am, Riverside Middle School Concert Band from Riverside Middle School in Riverside, under the direction of Mark Maguire, Band Director.
- 12/15/2017 at 10:00am, Martin Middle School Wildcat Concert Band from Edward R. Martin Middle School in East Providence, under the direction of Mrs. Susana Pimentel.
- 12/15/2017 at 10:30am, Martin Middle School Chorus from Martin Middle School in East Providence, under the direction of Robert Rappa.
- 12/15/2017 at 9:30am, East Providence Wind Ensemble from East Providence High School in East Providence, under the direction of Marisa Silva-Band Director.
- 12/15/2017 at 11:30am, East Providence High School Concert Choir from East Providence High School in East Providence, under the direction of Maryann Lasorsa.