EDITORIAL: Mayor Elorza’s War on Small Businesses

Thursday, March 22, 2018


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Elorza's strategies are devastating to small business

One thing for sure is Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza has never run a small business. He does not understand cash flow or making payroll. For the past three years, his lack of business experience has exposed itself in the cruelest expressions — a series of policies that have devastated small businesses.

In the course of three years, Elorza has crushed small businesses with three misguided policies. Never before have small businesses faced a more anti-business mayor. 

Parking Meters:

GoLocal has reported dozens of stories quoting an endless number of small business owners who have repeatedly stated that stores have closed in their business districts or that they have been forced to leave the city.

"For me, the issue isn't who's got them, and who doesn't -- the bottom line is that the meters and the boxes don't work and it's a disaster," said Kenny Dulgarian, who owns the Avon and multiple properties on Thayer Street and throughout the city, in 2006. "I've been here for 40 years, when I have vacancies, they fill up fast.  Now it's taking a long time, it's now a half a dozen stores to a dozen that are vacant."

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Parking meters

That year, Lois Hollingsworth, who had owned dress shop Zuzu’s Petals at 288 Thayer Street for over twenty-five years, told GoLocal that parking meters were the “last straw” in her decision to shutter the Providence location and focus on stores in East Greenwich and Barrington. 

“I’m so sad. When we opened on Thayer Street, we thought we’d be there forever,” said Hollingsworth. “I had no idea the meters would be like this. It’s terrible for small businesses. There’s absolutely no reason for them to be there.”

On Federal Hill, merchants say the meters have been devastating. Two business districts fought off the failed policy — Elorza was forced to abandon the implementation on Hope Street and in the Wickenden Street areas.

“The City of Providence is trying to tell us that parking meters will be good for our businesses. The truth is that it's just another tax that will harm our charming street,” said Harry Adler in 2016. His family’s hardware store has been on Wickenden Street for 99 years.

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Nearly 20,000 tickets in less than 3 months

Traffic Cameras

The chaotic traffic cameras were not tested. They were not rolled out with a public education campaign. They were not marked with proper signage. The cameras are just a money grab.

One of Rhode Island’s leading economists says the newly deployed traffic cameras, that have now issued more than 20,000 violation in two-plus months, is one of the worst ideas he has seen implemented in Rhode Island.

“This is a symptom of Providence's [fiscal] problem, not a solution. This is one of the worst things I've ever seen -- there's no reason for this,” said Len Lardaro, Professor of Economics at the University of Rhode Island. "Everyone knows there's no real surplus when you take into account overhead. Everyone knows Providence has fiscal problems."

Myrna George, Former Head of South County Tourism Council, told GoLocal, "Folks visiting with a car will certainly be compromised navigating the city and therefore consequently the entire state.  Wonder what the projected revenues are versus promoting tourism?”

The big winners for traffic cameras, however, includes Tony Simon, Elorza’s former chief of staff and political supporter who is now a $5,000 a month lobbyist at the State House for Providence’s traffic camera company.

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Parking bans

Parking Bans

Again, Elorza’s lack of understanding of business is so blatantly exposed when he implemented a parking ban to take effect at 11 A.M.

“I know multiple business owners who have had bookings canceled and staff no-shows because of the false panic created by overly cautious government officials, who do not seem to ever consider the harmful impacts on business,” said Mike Stenhouse with the RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity. 

"50% of workers are hourly wage earners. These four nor' easters in 8 days, the landlords are going to be banging on the doors for April's rent -- and there are thousands of people who aren't able to answer the door," said Bob Burke of Pot au Feu. "They've been feeding their kids cereal from now to the beginning of April because they have no money."

Most small businesses in Providence have less than five full-time employees and so when Elorza’s policies hit small businesses workers get hurt too. People are told to stay at home or a worker gets laid off or that extra worker is not hired.

In Elorza’s mind, the complaints voiced are all just naysayers. Or, it is the media. Or it is people who want to drive fast. Or it is the people with an irrational fear or parking meters. Or it is….

Elorza’s policies are anti-small business and anti-worker. The winners are the out of state vendors that run the parking meter and traffic camera contracts. 


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