Providence

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Rhode Island has a storied haunted history, from Mercy Brown, the 19th century "vampire" in Exeter, to H.P. Lovecraft, the author of weird and spooky tales who called Providence home. The new "Guidebook to Haunted and Strange Places in Rhode Island" is out just in time for Halloween,

Ward 14 Providence Councilor David Salvatore joins Bonus Q&A to talk about city finances, the proposed agreement with city firefighters, whether Providence's influence at the legislature is waning, and other topics.

Manton Avenue Project

Live theater is thriving in Rhode Island, and one program may inspire a new generation of playwrights. The Manton Avenue Project has kids write the plays and adult actors bring them to life. Rhode Island Public Radio intern Tarpley Hitt went to a performance to check it out.  

On a Saturday evening, kids race around a small stage in Roger Williams Memorial Park, fighting for the best patch of grass. Parents lean back on beach chairs as two performers enter with microphones.

RIPR FILE

Citing the city's tight financial picture, Finance Committee members decided Tuesday to withdraw support for a $40 million infrastructure bond proposed by Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza. 

The money was intended for several projects including street and sidewalk repairs, as well as improvements to city sewer systems and parks and recreation facilities.  

Members opposing the measure cited unfunded pension liabilities for retirees, and a poor rating from the credit ratings agency Moody’s.

Your humble correspondent is back on the beat after taking most of last week off. So thanks for stopping by. As usual, your tips and comments are welcome, and your can follow me through the week on the twitters. Here we go.

Providence Planning Department

Urban planning think tank, Grow Smart RI, is applauding a plan from Providence officials to replace the interchange between Routes 6 and 10. The aging highway corridor cuts through several neighborhoods, and transportation advocates wanted to replace it with a pedestrian-friendly boulevard. The State Department of Transportation has proposed rebuilding the highway roughly as is.

Scott Wolf, head of Grow Smart RI, said the city’s alternative plan is an acceptable compromise.

How Providence is working to get more kids to school every day; and what happened to the $75 million Rhode Island spent in federal Race to theTop funding?  Rhode Island Public Radio’s Elisabeth Harrison looks for answers from Providence Superintendent of Schools Chris Maher on our weekly Bonus Q&A. Political reporter Ian Donnis returns next week.

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

Analysis by Rhode Island Public Radio finds urban and middle class students in Rhode Island have lower test scores than their peers in Massachusetts; and the state’s ambitious goal to improve 3rd grade reading skills in less than a decade. We discuss the top issues in public education on a special education edition of our weekly political roundtable. 

Sixty Rhode Island teachers are heading back to college to learn how to teach English as a second language. The program, a collaboration between urban school districts, the state and the Rhode Island Foundation, will cover the cost of tuition so that more teachers can gain certifications to teach English Language Learners or teach in bi-lingual programs known as dual language classrooms.

John Bender / RIPR

The Providence Police hope to outfit all officers on patrol with body cameras within the next several months. But a new federal grant will only cover half of the cost.

The Providence Police department has received $375,000 in matching grants from the U.S. Department of Justice. But city must come up with an equal amount of money to outfit all 250 of its patrol officers with body cameras.

In addition to the cost of the cameras, the department must also pay for digital storage of the video.

John Bender / RIPR

City officials in Providence are considering an ordinance aimed at racial profiling by the police. The measure is known as the Community Safety Act. And advocates say it’s needed to address discrimination against minorities, especially in heavily policed neighborhoods. 

RIPR file photo

Providence city officials plan to create a "day center" where homeless and others in need can seek assistance. Mayor Jorge Elorza made the announcement Thursday, as the city seeks to address complaints about panhandling and drug use in downtown.

“The issues we are addressing today are not unique to Providence," Elorza said. "They are complex and multifaceted, but by coming together as community, we have the opportunity to make lasting change."

RIPR FILE

There have been three press-conferences over the past two days offering competing plans for dealing with homelessness, panhandling, and drug use in downtown Providence. Thursday, the mayor offered his vision.

Ian Donnis / RIPR

The new contract would move city firefighters back onto a four platoon shift schedule. Last May, Elorza announced he would reduce the schedule to three platoons. At the time, he estimated the city would save some $5 million dollars on overtime.

The plan was denounced by the firefighters’ union, which said the schedule would require firefighters to work dangerously long hours. The union has sued the city, claiming the schedule improperly calculates overtime, leading to lower pay for firefighters. That dispute is currently in arbitration.

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