Tag: Providence RI

The differences between similar cities

So if you aren’t aware I’ve been working in Cambridge, MA. Cambridge and Providence have a lot of similarities. And quite a few differences. 

We’re similar in the fact we’re both college cities. Cambridge has both Harvard and M.I.T., Providence has Brown University, Johnson & Wales University, Providence College, Rhode Island College and Rhode Island School of Design aka RISD. 

Both cities have major bodies of water that cut through them. The population of Providence is larger than that of Cambridge. 

Cambridge has a rapid rail system called the Red Line that runs through it – Providence is still stuck with stinking diesel buses that pretty much serves Providence and Pawtucket and everything else is on their own. 

Now at first I thought it was the tax rates, those in Cambridge are approximately what they are in Providence. But no, while taxes may be a component they’re not the major factor. 

The major factor is this – in Providence we do everything half ass. From road paving – the street I live on connects Atwells Avenue to Broadway and then further to Westminster St. The section from Atwells to Broadway was completely stripped down to the gravel base, repaved and then re-striped. But the half that runs between Broadway and Westminster has been stripped, and primary paving done. But there are still manhole covers that stick up some way because the second layer of paving hasn’t been done yet, and it’s been this way for weeks. 

Typical half ass measure. 

Then there’s the fact that I had to bitch to my city councilor about snow on city owned overpasses of I-95. Or that the current snow removal ordinance lacked any enforcement teeth. I worked with my city councilor and the law was changed – now if you refuse to clear your sidewalks the city will fine you, refuse to pay the fine and a lien will be placed against your property. And if it’s really annoying, the city will clear the sidewalks and bill the property owner. Refusal to pay also results in a lien against the property. Those are teeth my friends but I shouldn’t have had to agitate for it. 

It even extends to stores and restaurants. There’s a place near me – I won’t mention it by name but they’re also opening a pizza place on Westminster Street, that their food is awful. Yet people beat a path to their door. It’s like because our city and state government has accepted just good enough, so too the business community. 

In essence the key difference between Providence and Cambridge is the half measure. 

In all communities in Massachusetts at the beginning of the month all the streets are cleaned. In Providence it’s a rare occurrence. In Providence we muck out the storm drains just before all the leaves fall off the trees. I’ve made a racket about that one because I’d much prefer to have clean storm drains in the winter, spring, summer and fall. Wait until the leaves are off the trees, then muck out the drains. But in Cambridge, not only do they muck out the drains, they also scrape the stickers off utility poles, re-mulch around trees and the list goes on. Their DPW actually works. 

Part of the problem in Providence is that back in the 1980’s they moved everything to contractor basis. It’s time to bring it back home. 

So there’s my rant for the holiday weekend. 

 

Shitty roads in Providence, RI

So today I did something I haven’t done in a long time, buzzed around the city of Providence proper from Federal Hill over to Cranston, and then from Cranston back to Charles St. in Providence and then North Main St. 

I notice something. The roads throughout this part of Providence are rutted and cratered. They need desperately to be repaved. 

But then I noted something, Charles St. is smooth as glass, so too North Main. What the bloody hell? Did it not snow there or has Federal Hill been mostly neglected for many years? I’d go with the latter. Oh sure, Broadway from Olneyville to the intercept with I-95 is all repaved. But all the secondary and side streets – it’s like a fucking lunar landscape. 

Now the street I live on, it was scheduled for repaving. Over a year ago. They went so far as to spray mark all the utilities underground and to put 2×4 protective rings around the trees that border the street. And then winter got here, all sorts of snow, no repave. 

I did see where someplace in Pennsylvania they leased a half dozen pot hole filling trucks for about $300K. Thing is the trucks are highly automated – they can patch a pothole in 30 seconds versus 30 minutes for the manual method. Well worth the $300K per year if you ask me. Find the money! 

And let’s do some math – say it takes 30 seconds to fill a pothole then a minute to drive to the next. So 1.5 minutes per pothole. 8 hour day has 480 minutes, divided by 1.5 is 320 potholes filled per day. This versus 30 minutes + a minute to get to next pothole, comes out to only 15.5 potholes filled. You see where I’m going here. With the automated rig you’d fill approximately 20 times more potholes per truck. A half dozen trucks would fill 1,920 potholes in a day. Even if you only use them for a month and it’s $300K it’s worth it. 

The Solution Regarding Property Taxes in Providence

So I read this article where it predicts doom and gloom because 40% of the properties in the City of Providence, Rhode Island are non-profit and therefore not subject to property tax. It includes schools, hospitals, civic organizations and churches.

Now the theory behind the whole non-profit thing is interesting. It was done to encourage those institutions to get a leg up. It was not intended for it to remain in place. This is particularly true of the hospitals and schools hereby known as meds and eds. They may still fly with non-profit but they’re making money hand over fist.

But here in Providence you have Johnson & Wales, my alma mater making threats that they’ll relocate the whole kit and kaboodle to one of the other four cities they have a campus in, and even allude to the fact that Charlotte made an offer and they refused. Thing is, the eds while for example Brown University complains that its endowment suffered from the stock market thing. Yadda yadda. You’re still making money and building all over the east side of the city.

And the hospitals – dear god the hospitals. Just near me there’s Roger Williams, VA and then the big complex with RI Hospital, Women and Infants, Hasbro Childrens. And need I mention RI Hospital is also a Level 1 trauma center. Ok, all well and good.

And the churches – there’s a church every couple of blocks.

The article in the link above also mentions that this problem isn’t just one we’re seeing here in Providence.

 

Now I’ll offer my solution. Stop with the Payment in Lieu of Taxes or PILOT. Stop with mayors always going begging to the  meds and eds. Instead why not tax them on the property regardless if it’s used for educational purposes or medical or church or not. Do it at a reduced rate. Right now the maximum rate is $36.75 per thousand. Why not start with the schools, charge them half that or $18.38. For medical let’s say $10 per thousand, and I’ll be graceful and say the churches pay $5. Just doing that would raise a whole lot of money.