For the last 12 years, it has been my great honor to represent our district on the Providence City Council. I know and have worked closely with many of you. For those I have not yet met, I hope we can meet during this campaign but, in any case, please do not hesitate to reach out with your feedback or to share concerns.
When I first ran for city council in 2006, it followed my work as a grassroots organizer and attorney protecting voters’ rights in the Presidential Election. After advocating for the rights of those around the country, I decided to put what I learned to use to run for local office. My first campaign was an uphill battle. The local political establishment endorsed my opponent. But we won decisively because we demonstrated a commitment to progressive politics, to bringing the community together, and bringing ethics, transparency, and honesty to local government.
Since then, I have been fortunate to be able to bring together coalitions of residents, activists, and other stakeholders to make progress for our city. I’m writing today to ask for your support for my re-election because even though we have accomplished so much, I know that, together, we can accomplish even more.
PROGRESSIVE SOLUTIONS TO OUR CHALLENGES
I have tackled the difficult legacy of corruption and insider politics by passing laws to increase transparency and to require lobbyist registration and reporting. As many of you know, when the former City Council President and Majority Leader were indicted for criminal felony offenses, several councilmembers and I immediately called for them to step down. And when the local political establishment endorsed a Trump supporter over Democrats and bypassed legislators with strong Progressive records, I joined with a handful of other elected officials calling for their accountability.
I am proud of our work with members of local labor unions and student advocates pushing for living wage jobs for Providence workers. I have stood with food services and library workers when they pushed Brown University for fairer pay and benefits. I partnered with the hotel workers and trade unions to improve laws requiring developers who receive special tax-treatment from the city also hire qualified city residents. And, working with other city council members, created the Equal Pay Task Force to close the wage gap between men and women of all backgrounds in our city.
I am also proud of our efforts to make sure that all Providence residents are treated fairly and with respect no matter their background or gender. I have stood with our immigrant families by calling for the City and State to withdraw from participation in federal ICE detention programs and passed legislation to prevent racial profiling and improve police policies regarding treatment of youth and LGBTQ individuals. I have supported Marriage Equality from its outset and enacted laws to protect pregnant women from discrimination in the workplace.
We continue to stand up for the environment, our climate and environmental justice. Working with neighbors and others from around the state, I have repeatedly opposed the transfer of the Scituate Reservoir, the water supply for Providence and much of Rhode Island. I have stood with environmentalists and social justice activists to oppose expansion of the Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) just steps from residents in South Providence, opposed the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and successfully pressed for the city to divest funds from fossil fuel companies. I also worked other members of the City Council to create the Energy and Sustainability Task Force to support a wide range of environmental initiatives for energy conservation, recycling, reduction of the City's carbon footprint, zero waste strategies, energy efficiency, food security and land development.
I have supported our local advocates for common-sense solutions to address gun violence by endorsing state legislation to prohibit assault-weapons, improve background checks and mental health screens, ‘red-flag’ laws, removing guns from the hands of those convicted of domestic violence, and prohibiting guns on school property.
FOR OUR NEIGHBORHOOD AND CITY RESIDENTS
We have worked for safer and more affordable housing - fighting lead poisoning in the city’s housing stock, reducing citywide blight and creating affordable housing through the rehabilitation of abandoned property and fought housing discrimination. We’ve made Providence Public Housing facilities safer for residents through federal grants. And as housing costs have continued to rise, we have established a commission to improve city-wide affordable housing policy - examining policies for additional protections for renters and incentives for construction of more affordable apartments.
Over these years, I am proud of the work we have done together with the Fox Point, Wayland Square, Downtown and Jewelry District neighborhood associations along with Wickenden/Ives other merchant organizations. Together we have improved our neighborhood commercial areas and many new businesses are thriving. At the Gano Street Gateway we have successfully obtained funding to repave, improve traffic flow and expand pedestrian and bicycle access. Together we’ve worked to ensure safer and more responsible nightlife. We have joined with others around the city in opposition to the Fane Tower on land designated as a park on the I-195 district.
I am also proud of our work to support our public schools and libraries. Working with state legislators and other cities, we successfully advocated for a state public school funding formula to account for English Language Learners and address the achievement gap between wealthier and less-economically advantaged students and between white and non-white students. And recently we have pressed with many others for funds to repair and refurbish our public-school buildings (a $250M state-wide school construction project will now be on the ballot in November).
In the neighborhood, I successfully obtained funding to restore the historic building adjoining the Vartan Gregorian Elementary School. The Fox Point Bath House - built in 1926 to provide hot water and bathing facilities for area residents without indoor plumbing - has a new life as the elementary school's library and community space. This project won an award from the Providence Preservation Society. Working with parents and neighbors, we secured funding to install wheelchair-accessible play equipment at Cabral Park/Vartan Gregorian Elementary School and new children's play equipment at the Preston/Ives and Brassil Parks.
At India Point Park, working with park advocates, we have obtained significant funding for repairs of the seawall, reconstruction of the fishing dock, advocated for reuse of the adjoining 'Shooters' site as a community-based development and burial of the power lines. And at Gano Park, I supported the Fox Point Community Garden with twenty-four new plots, cleanup and restoration of the Gano Street Park & Seekonk Shoreline and worked with state partners to obtain funding to complete the new boat ramp to improve public access to the Seekonk River
MOVING PROVIDENCE FORWARD FOR ALL OUR RESIDENTS
While we have made real progress, we have serious challenges ahead. We need strong independent leadership to challenge our troubled political culture. Together, we need to address the increasing pressures of development with progressive solutions to create living wage jobs, affordable housing for city residents and tackle challenges of racial justice and inequality. And in our neighborhoods, we must continue our work to support our local businesses and ensure sustainable development that improves our quality of life in our neighborhoods.
We will need to work hard to meet these challenges, but as I have learned from my experiences, it is meaningful work. It would be an honor to continue to represent you. And so, I respectfully ask for your vote in the Democratic primary on Wednesday, September 12th.