Guest MINDSETTER™ Michael Long: Taveras’ Blatant Failures in Public Safety
Thursday, October 09, 2014
While attempting to pat himself on the back in what may be his last published media piece before he disappears from the public eye, Mayor Taveras credits himself with changing the organizational culture within the police department. In truth, the only thing that he has been able to change within the police department is the dangerousness of an already tumultuous profession. He is quick to point out that the department will soon be graduating the most diverse academy class in the departments history, yet he neglects to mention that these brave new officers are the first to be hired since he took office in 2010. Serving the city that they have sworn to protect, the brave officers of the Providence Police Department risk their lives without adequate staffing levels on a daily basis. Neighborhood beats go unfilled, and calls made by officers for back-up take an extremely long and unsafe amount of time, solely due to a lack of commitment by Mayor Taveras.
Along with refusing to hire more officers, all the while putting the lives of residents, business owners, and city servants at risk, Mayor Taveras has not purchased the bare minimum amount of equipment needed to effectively patrol and police the City of Providence. He wants you to think that the long-overdue delivery of the new vehicles the department is about to receive is completed on a regular, annual schedule, but this is hardly the case. The current, heavily-worn police vehicles barely work, their suspensions frequently failing as they travel at high speeds across Taveras’ pot-hole ridden streets as the officers answer their calls for service. The members of the Providence Police have been driving the same vehicles for the four long years Taveras has held office. Living up to their motto of being “always watchful”, the valiant few of the Providence Police Department continue to fulfill their duties, having seized the highest amount of firearms in 15 years in 2013, and just this past summer, they seized 12 firearms in just 7 days.
But Taveras would have you think that his failed leadership has made the city a safer place to live and do business, stating that the city has seen a 20 percent reduction in violent crime. He must have forgotten about the stabbings and shootings that occurred in just 19 short hours a little over a week ago, the wild drive-by shooting and ensuing car chase that occurred early on a Tuesday morning, and the continuance of violent incidents on Federal Hill. The funny thing about statistics is that they do not show the psychological effects violent crimes have on those who inhabit dense areas. I’d like the mayor to ask how safe the residents of these areas feel after these violent crimes, and how likely potential business owners and entrepreneurs are to establish their businesses here in Providence after these less-than-comforting headlines make their way into the media week after week.
In support of mayoral candidate Jorge Elorza, Mayor Taveras displayed the reasons why he was not entrusted with the opportunity to hold the highest office of our state. He is incapable of ensuring the safety of our states capital city, and to think he could do any better with control of our state is laughable. Elorza’s welcoming acceptance of the support of Mayor Taveras would lead a reasonable person to believe that the police department would be equally neglected if he (Elorza) would get elected. Clearly, the police union, F.O.P. Lodge #3, are tired and battered by a negligent mayor, and they have chosen to support a candidate that they believe will treat them better than Taveras, and his equally inadequate predecessor, David Cicilline, whom Taveras has refused to blame for the dismal financial abilities the city has.
Providence is currently in a dismal state of violence and disrepair, yet Chief Clements and the men and women of the Providence Police Department work tirelessly. With the few resources the city leadership has afforded them over the past decade, they complete a job that a very small percentage of people could do, day-in-and-day-out. I applaud their dedication to duty, all the while working under unnecessarily dangerous conditions. I hope that after the General Election, they have leadership that they can trust, and proudly work for, in the service of their city.
Related Slideshow: 5 Ways Taveras Could Have Grown Jobs in Providence
During Angel Taveras' tenure as Mayor of Providence, the unemployment rate ballooned. According, to US Department of Labor statistics, Providence hit a 12.5% unemployment level in the spring on 2014.
Hispanic unemployment is among the worst in the United States. GoLocal looked at tangible, revenue neutral ways Taveras' Administration could have grown jobs.
Enforce First Source
1) Failure to Enforce First Source
DARE recently filed a lawsuit asking the court to appoint a moderator so that the Taveras administration would comply with the law that states that companies that get funding or special deals from the City of Providence make a best effort to employ people from the City.
A GoLocal investigation found the program is in chaos -- companies ignore the requirement (or claim that they they did not know about it). Worse yet, the City never enforced it.
Jobs Lost: 1,100 estimated
2) Providence Economic Development Partnership
All the problems with PEDP began before Taveras took office, but the "reforms" did little to improve the performance of the federally investigated and federally fined City agency. As GoLocal's Kate Nagle reported last October - three years into Taveras' administration:
"The Providence Economic Development Partnership (PEDP), which came under a federal investigation following a series of GoLocalProv reports, is still facing $2.8 million in loans past due according to documents secured by GoLocalProv through an access to public records request.
According to documents provided by the city to GoLocal, of 136 current loans with a total principle balance of $16.5 million, more than one-third -- 48 in total -- are more than 121 days past due.
The PEDP had voted to write off $2.1 million on loan debt in June 2012, but financial problems continue to persist as the city -- and its federal oversight agency -- determine how to proceed."
Jobs Lost: If the $2.8 million was collected and loaned, an estimated 80 to 120 additional jobs would have been created.
Port of Providence
3) Port Financing Delayed
The Port of Providence/ProvPort received a $20 million federal grant to add cranes and barges to the Port. The application was submitted by ProvPort in conjunction with the Cicilline Administration. The U.S. DOT awarded the grant to the City at the end of the Cicilline administration, but the Taveras administration dragged their feet and delayed the project until the State had to step in and take over the project.
The project was one year delayed and the barges are still not on site four years later.
Jobs Lost: 400 estimated
4) Providence Police
May be one of the biggest mistakes of the Taveras administration was his devastating cuts to the Police Department and the impact has not only been the number of police jobs, but the impact to police response and enforcement.
As GoLocal's Stephen Beale reported in 2012:
As of last week, the number of sworn officers stood at 428. A year and a half ago it was 494.
Joe Rodio, chief legal counsel for the police union, warns the city does not have enough officers. “The rank and file feel the strain because there’s not enough officers on the street,” Rodio said. “We’re feeling the hit from the number of people on the job.”
The numbers of sworn staff peaked at just over 500 during the Dean Esserman era. But during the 1990s the department functioned with a smaller complement, generally hovering around 440 officers. That makes the current force level the lowest it has been in two decades.
“It’s fair to say the numbers are the numbers. The staffing is at the lowest it has been in years,” said Chief Hugh Clements. “I would agree we need to start beefing up our numbers again.”
Jobs Lost: 80-95 Police Officers
(note: Taveras finally started a police academy class in May of 2014)
5) Businesses in Downcity
Providence now suffers from the 4th highest commercial real estate tax rate in the U.S. - a minimal improvement oover the last ranking. This is a fact not lost of businesses looking to locate in downtown. Providence is a long way from a city that was the HQ to Fleet Bank, Amica Insurance, Citizens Bank and hosts of others.
The Superman building is just one of the under-utilized office spaces downtown. According to CBRE's New England Report, "Overall, there was 81,000 of square feet of negative absorption, but 59,000 square feet this came from the vacancy at One Weybosset (Superman)."
Jobs Missed: 89,000 square feet of leased office space would deliver 445 jobs.
(Average manager position requires 150 office sq. ft., plus 50 feet common space)