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Mayor Taveras Delivers 2014 State of the City Address: Working and Investing in Providence
"The State of our City is Improving"
Bankruptcy averted, Providence is responsibly managing finances, stepping up its investments
PROVIDENCE, RI – Delivering his 2014 State of the City address this evening at Providence City Hall, Mayor Angel Taveras spoke of a city that has weathered hard times and is improving with hard work and new investments in city services, public education, public safety and quality of life.
"We've been through the hard times of the Great Recession. But we never lost hope. And we never stopped believing that better days were ahead," Mayor Taveras said. "We are working hard and making investments that will propel Providence into a future of greater economic strength and prosperity."
During the 30-minute speech, which was delivered to the Providence City Council and other elected officials, dignitaries and stakeholders from across Providence and the state of Rhode Island, Mayor Taveras discussed his administration's successful effort to address a ‘Category 5 fiscal hurricane' that he faced when taking office in January, 2011.
"It's difficult to believe that just three years ago Providence stood at the abyss, as we worked to address a $110 million structural deficit and keep our Capital City out of bankruptcy," Mayor Taveras said. "But we pulled together – all of us here, and many others throughout our state – to save Providence. We rolled up our sleeves and we got to work. From our labor unions to our tax-exempt institutions and our taxpayers – everyone pulled together. We turned a $110 million structural deficit into a $1.6 million budget surplus."
Mayor Taveras also provided an update on his economic development action plan, Putting Providence Back to Work.
Action steps taken since the plan was introduced in March 2013 include:
• Freezing the city's commercial tax rates;
• Moving the city's plan-review and permit-application processes online through a new system, "ProvSmart";
• Removing barriers to redevelopment for the city's significant buildings, including the Providence Gas Building and the Arcade;
• Taking steps to reinvent Kennedy Plaza, the gateway to Providence;
• Actively marketing and promoting vacant and available properties;
• Undertaking a comprehensive update of the city's existing zoning ordinance;
• Working to raise student achievement and put children on a path to success, supported by the launch of Providence Talks and Providence Reads;
• Investing in the city's infrastructure, including vacant and abandoned properties, as well as the city's roads through the Providence Road Improvement Project; and
• Launching a regional marketing and advertising campaign that encouraged visitors to "Come to Providence"
Mayor Taveras announced the launch of a new website that will allow the public to track the city's progress toward completing the goals of the economic development action plan. The website is available at providenceri.com/ putting-providence-back-to-work.
Mayor Taveras also detailed the outcomes of investments his administration has made in public education, public safety and quality of life for Providence residents.
In the coming months, Mayor Taveras plans to continue taking action to spur economic development and improve the quality of life for Providence resident, including:
• Launch a new grant program for small businesses to invest in storefront improvements;
• Continue a comprehensive update of Providence's decades-old zoning ordinance that will guide future development and support smart growth, sustainability and public transit;
• Propose another $1 million investment in the Innovation Investment Program (IIP) to fund a second round of startup companies;
• Complete the job of fixing 62 miles of road in Providence by the end of this year;
• Begin training 60 recruits this spring in a new Police Academy class. It will be the most diverse class in the history of the Providence Police Department and the new officers are expected to be on the streets of Providence before the end of the year;
• Implement a program this spring to target criminals who use guns by deploying the Neighborhood Response Team – a program established nearly a decade ago to leverage state resources in partnership with our Police Department;
• Receive national accreditation for the Providence Police Department by the end of this year;
• Work with the City Council to pass legislation that addresses abuses in the adult entertainment industry, including "one strike" legislation that would revoke the license of an adult entertainment club for any finding of prostitution or employing a minor. The legislation also bans private booths in strip clubs, where prostitution flourishes.
"Not all moments in history are created equal," said Mayor Taveras. "Some moments are momentous – shaping the course of future events for years to come. These past three years have been a momentous time for our city. Providence was at a crossroads. We chose the path toward a brighter future. It was up to us, and we did what we needed to do to move our city forward. And today I can say that because of us, Providence is better off than we were not long ago. We are restoring hope in our beloved city."