Elorza Appoints Michael Stephens Providence Director of Recreation
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
“Michael Stephens is a community champion who has dedicated his career to providing quality sports and recreational opportunities to Providence residents,” said Mayor Elorza. “His accomplishments as one of our nation’s most esteemed NCAA basketball referees shows what can be accomplished when you follow your dreams and stay connected to your community. I look forward to working with Michael to make Providence the fittest, healthiest and most active city in New England.”
Stephens has worked for the City of Providence for 18 years, serving as the Deputy Director of Recreation since 2013. He is one of the founders of the Rhode Island Breakers AAU basketball program, coached at the Davey Lopes Recreation Center and has served as President of the West Elmwood Intruders Youth Football Team.
Stephens is a Providence native who grew up on Kenwood Street and graduated from Central High School. He has mentored Providence youth and led charitable work in the community including helping the city partner with the NCAA to provide support to those in need.
In addition to his work in the city, Stephens is an NCAA Basketball Official, who has made numerous appearances in Final Four games. Stephens was a referee in this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Game and was recently given a ‘Key to the City’ by Mayor Elorza.
Related Slideshow: 10 Questions Elorza Has to Answer as Mayor
Economic Development. Chief of Staff. Policy Director. Who will Elorza place in these key posts? Will former opponent Brett Smiley play a role? Will Elorza keep on any key Taveras staffers?
There are multiple questions in this category, and Elorza should be making moves shortly as to what his administration will look like. Will former opponent Michael Solomon be part of the team? Look to see.
Opponent Buddy Cianci famously said during the campaign that if there was a budget surplus in the City of Providence, he'd drop out of the race.
Councilman Terry Hassett told GoLocal that a close watch on the budget would be necessary in the coming year, as a "deficit exists." So how will Elorza tackle the fiscal challenge? He's talked about looking at city government department by department. Where will he make cuts if necessary? Or will Providence see taxes being raised?
The Providence Police Department recently graduated a new class of officers from its academy -- but council members to community leaders are pointing out the numbers are still below even minimum staffing levels.
Will Elorza look to push through a new academy when he takes office?And how will he handle issues surrounding the department -- which following the most recent graduation, was at the center of intense public scrutiny?
Car Tax Changes?
Elorza said during the campaign that he wants to raise the car tax exemption from where it stands at $1,000 back to where it once was at $6,000.
So how's he going to make this happen? He teamed with Raimondo at the Olneyville press conference to pledge that if elected they would work in tandem make it possible. Will Providence see more aid from the state to fill the tax revenue hole?
Tax stabilization agreements (TSAs) between developers and the City of Providence came under close scrutiny in 2014, as a report from City Auditor Matt Clarkin showed that the city wasn't collecting nearly what it was owed on the properties that cut special tax deals with the city in the name of development and job creation.
One council member -- Sabina Matos -- proposed putting a freeze on new TSAs until a full review was done, and a standardized process was put in place. Will Elorza continue to use TSAs as a tool in the economic toolbox?
The 195 land, while in the hands of the State -- and 195 Commission, rests squarely in Providence, and as such, its redevelopment will have a profound impact on the economic future of the city.
How active will Elorza be in the process of courting businesses to put their stake in the ground and be part of the urban renewal process in Providence? Lots of work is already underway with the roads and infrastructure -- how soon will shovels be the ground for tenants?
As part of his administration, Mayor Angel Taveras ushered through historic PILOT (payment-lieu-of-taxes) agreements with the city's nonprofits, in order to obtain some fiscal relief from the tax-exempt institutions at t time when the city desperately needed it.
Will Mayor Elorza look to go back to the colleges, universities, and hospitals should the city find itself in difficult circumstances once again?
Elorza's jobs plan as proposed during the campaign included such components a supporting entrepreneurs, women, and minority-owned businesses, and promoting a mentoring program with the city's colleges and universities.
One of Elorza's proposals included the doubling of Providence's exports over the next five years. How is Elorza going to make this happen? He mentioned used cars and design exports during debates on the campaign trail. What policy moves will Elorza unveil to make this prophecy a reality? And where will Providence see the jobs?
Central to Elorza's education plan is the concept of community schools, so that the buildings are utilized long after the school day for increased learning and recreation opportunities for the surrounding neighborhoods.
Elorza has called for less emphasis on standardized learning, and has proposed an investment in technology in the classrooms. Where will Elorza find the money to achieve these goals -- and will they translate into academic success?
In the next two weeks, Elorza will be making staffing decisions that will set the tone for the new administration. Elorza won overwhelmingly on the East Side -- will he cull his talent from the 02906, or will he reach out to leaders across the city to comprise an administration reflective of the entire city's population? How will Elorza achieve the vision of "One Providence?"
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