Providence Police Union Slams City Over New Festival Permits

Friday, August 08, 2014


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The Providence police union is continuing to battle the city on issuing festival permits to groups with outstanding detail debts, this time taking the administration to task for a communication providing for the Department of Tourism to issue permits.

An email sent on August 4 from city solicitor Jeff Padwa to members of the administration and community outlined the process by which the Department of Tourism can issue permits to groups who are past due over 60 days on outstanding detail debts -- which union head Taft Manzotti with the Fraternal Order of Police and City Councilor Michael Correia say is in direct violation of city ordinance.

"This is the complete opposite of what this ordinance is supposed to be about," said Manzotti of the city ordinance that states that permits can be denied to organizations for not being fully paid for past events. "They're playing games.  The whole time that document was put together -- what was it for?  If I was on the Council, I'd be upset about this.  They're saying the process [to get a permit], which should be issued by the Board of Licenses, can be bypassed and decided by Tourism."

Police Concerns Persist

Manzotti noted that the Dominican festival was recently paid in full, but that that upcoming Puerto Rican festival still was not current.

"They're in arrears but they've got an agreement to move forward," said Manzotti of the Puerto Rican festival.  "And the taxpayers are footing the bill. They're getting money from the city council, the Mayor's office, the Tourism department to put this on.  The Mayor told us we had to sacrifice, and he's pushing through these festivals for votes. At a time when the city is hard pressed for money, why are taxpayer dollars footing these festivals?"

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Providence police -- and city hall -- continue to be at odds over unpaid detail, and issuing new event permits.

City Councilman Michael Correia, who recently requested a hearing with the Board of Licenses to require that all entities with outstanding detail debt -- both nonprofits and private businesses -- not have new permits issued until they are current. 

"This is taxpayers' money.  Taxpayers shouldn't be footing the bill," said Correia.  They owe us money, the ordinance should be followed.  My constituents get notices that the Narragansett Bay Commission will shut off their water in 72 hours.  This is about fairness."

Correia said he plans to address the process with the Board of Licenses -- and City Council.  "It's just not these permits -- these groups that get special payment plans, it's illegal.  The Waterfire contract that lets them pay a fraction of what they should for detail -- that should have gone through Ways and Means, and it didn't."

Regarding the city's decision, Correia said, "I'm not singling this festival out.  But I'm going to work to close this loophole now."

City Responds

"Events like Waterfire, the Saint Patrick's Day Parade, the Puerto Rican Festival and the Dominican Festival are grassroots efforts that have celebrated community and culture in Providence for decades. The Mayor’s Office, the City Council and the Providence Tourism Council have historically supported these and other events with grants that promote tourism and economic activity in our city," said David Oritz, spokesperson for Mayor Taveras.  "The Puerto Rican and Dominican festivals each received $5,000 grants from the Mayor’s Office this year."

Ortiz said he could not speak to financial support for the festivals from other departments. 

"I would refer you to the City Council and to the Providence Tourism Council – a quasi-public agency not to be confused with the city’s Department of Arts, Culture and Tourism – for questions regarding their support of the festivals."

In total, unpaid Providence detail bills currently stand at close to $2 million.


Related Slideshow: 10 Questions Taveras Has to Answer When Running for Gov of RI

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In America today, one issue that is a factor in nearly every election is fundraising. To date, Taveras has yet to demonstrate any consistent ability to keep up with the leading fundraisers in RI.

Taveras will have to compete with General Treasuer Gina Raimondo, who has $2 plus million on hand and a likely run from Clay Pell (grandson of US Senator Claiborne Pell and whose wife is Olympic skater Michelle Kwan).

Raimondo is on pace to raise $5m and Taveras presently has just $692,000 on hand and would be on pace to raise less than $2 mliion. 

Pell's family has access to nearly limitless dollars - back in the 1990's Pell's grandfather was ranked as one of the wealthiest members of Congress.

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Can Taveras Break the Providence Mayor's Curse?

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Since Roberts, a number of Providence Mayors have taken their shot at running for Governor and each has failed mightily.

Most notably, Buddy Cianci's run against J. Joseph Garrahy - Cianci got less than 30% of the statewide vote.

Joe Paolino was expected to win the Democratic primary in 1990, but was beaten badly by Bruce Sundlun and then Warwick Mayor Frank Flaherty.

Sundlun went on to win the general election and Flaherty was later named to the state Supreme Court.

Taveras will have to break a very long curse.

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While Taveras can rebound and the impact may be large in the primary, the percentage of voters who are Hispanic in the general election is just 7% according to Pew Research:

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#6 Temperament

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Taveras had no experience as a chief executive in business or government before taking office in 2011 in Providence. He has increasingly gotten into some very non-productive scrapes.

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In 2013, Taveras has tried to demolish a commuity swimming pool in South Providence because, according to Councilman Danian Sanchez, Sanchez would not vote for Taveras' tax increase.

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It is well known that both Democratic Mayors in North Providence and Johnston have had a strained relationship with Taveras.

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When Taveras ran for Mayor he won the critical block of East Side Democratic women. Part of his success with this critical block of voters was the support he enjoyed from Democratic power Myrth York. 

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The Superman building's closure happened on his watch, technology company Dassault Systèmes is moving out of Providence, and no major employers were recruited into the city other than the scrap yard on Allens Avenue.
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#1 Crime and Education

Can Taveras Explain His Record on Crime and Education?

The biggest problem for Taveras is his record in Providence.
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According to GoLocal's study of the FBI crime data, Providence is ranked #2 for violent crime per capita in Rhode Island.
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