Elorza Unveils Five-Point Plan for Providence City Services
Thursday, May 15, 2014
Elorza's proposals include the appointment of a Chief Innovation Officer, the creation of a 3-1-1 City services hotline, and a more flexible car tax payment system.
“Paying taxes means that our citizens have a right to demand high-quality City services,” said the Providence native and former Housing Court Judge. “Our aim is to make these services more accessible, transparent, and easier to navigate. The overarching motivation behind our One Providence campaign is to make this a city that works for everyone.”
The five topics covered by the proposal are: the appointment of a Chief Innovation Officer, a cabinet-level “solution broker” for the City; moving the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services (ONS) into the community to provide an opportunity to voice concerns and resolve complaints; setting up a 3-1-1 direct hotline to make communication with City Hall more proactive and responsive; updating the technology and processes within City departments to make them more customer service oriented; and making the car tax payment system more flexible to ease the burden of four infrequent, but large payments per year.
"We need a mayor who understands what it’s like for people in the community to interact with City Hall. This plan demonstrates that Jorge Elorza not only understands it, but that he’s committed to taking action,” said Malcolm Reis, a board member for the Fox Point Neighborhood Association. “There are no pie-in-the-sky promises here – just real, implementable solutions.”
Updating City Hall for the 21st century
Under the topic of updating City Hall for the 21st century, Elorza proposed digitizing payments and records; adding credit card readers and online payment options; investing in a modern cash register that accepts credit cards; and putting licensing applications online. Currently, payments must be made in person by check or money order, and counting must be done by hand to determine how many licenses have been given out in a given time period.
The car tax is cited as an issue, as the current system administers the tax quarterly, resulting in infrequent payments of lump sums that make it difficult for residents to budget. Elorza proposes to not only initiate a monthly payment system, but to allow residents to pay the tax online, and even set up automatic monthly deductions. He notes that this is also good for the financial health of the city, as the cost of implementing it will be offset by the investment potential of more predictable monthly payments.
The improvements to ONS include providing opportunities on a regular basis for residents to engage directly with city officials at libraries, recreation centers, senior centers, and parks; and creating an ONS help desk on the first floor of City Hall to greet residents and help them take care of their business in a more quick and pleasant manner.
This customer service approach to services would also extend to the creation of the 3-1-1 hotline, a common practice in many cities, that would build on the existing framework of City Hall’s main phone line and the ProvConnex system to offer expanded services like paying parking tickets or obtaining vital records.
“Ultimately, I know that city government is about the nuts and bolts that make up the system,” Elorza said. “We can’t invest in the larger economic development ideas unless we are running an effective administration that is able to accomplish the daily business of our city and citizens. This is the low-hanging fruit of economic development.”
Related Slideshow: Providence 2014 Mayoral Candidates’ Top Priorities
See the issues of top concern to Providence Mayoral candidates Lorne Adrain, Jorge Elorza, Dan Harrop, Brett Smiley, and Michael Solomon -- and if elected, what their highest priority would be.
Harrop - Top Issue
"City finances: $600 million deficit in pension plan, $1billion deficit in benefits plan, reductions -- because of finances -- in police causing public safety concerns (down 75 from several years ago, when the academy graduates at the end of the year, given further retirements, we will really only be back up about 20-25 new officers), reduced ambulance runs, potholes, crumbling schools, etc., etc."
Harrop - Administration
"Getting the unions into the office and reminding them, again, the city cannot pay the pensions it has promised. Again, the GOP said this 8 years ago, and we were right, the Democrats wrong. We are saying this again (this time, the Dems are silent -- interpret that as you will -- I interpret it that they know we are right, but they have problems admitting their complicity in this problem). We can further negotiate reductions, or move to receivership. Until we acknowledge we cannot pay the pensions, we will be unable to come up with the money for any and all of the spending programs the Democrats are proposing. Further increasing the highest commercial tax rates in the nation is not the answer, and only further depresses the city's economic fortunes."
Smiley - Top Issue
"The most pressing issue facing Providence is our economic well-being, and that's why I've made job creation and economic development a centerpiece of my campaign. We've certainly made progress over the past few years and I'm grateful for the work Mayor Taveras has done to bring us back from the verge of bankruptcy, but we're not out of the woods yet."
Solomon - Top Issue
"The most pressing issue is economic development, and there are several components to this: creating jobs, growing our middle class and ensuring that every child has access to a good school. As a small business owner, I understand the challenges of running a business. I want to make it easier to do business in Providence. As City Council President, I've taken on those challenges by supporting a freeze on the commercial tax rate and moving the permitting process online, making it easier for developers to do business. I also want to rebuild our middle class and improve education, goals that can be achieved through my plan - "Rebuilding Providence" - which will invest $250 million to create 2,000 jobs and rebuild our schools."
Solomon - Administration
"As Mayor, my top priority will be creating a city with opportunity for all. I will work together with everyone in the community to rebuild Providence's middle class, create jobs and strengthen our schools. I believe the people who know best how to improve our neighborhoods are the people in living in them. As Mayor, I won't be stuck behind a desk at City Hall. I'll be a Mayor in the neighborhoods, working hand in hand with the community to rebuild Providence."
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