Brian C. Jones reports in this week’s Providence Phoenix on efforts by the city of Providence to enforce local-residency hiring preferences that can extend to privately-owned businesses…
It’s been nearly a quarter-century since Providence enacted an ordinance giving city residents the first crack at jobs from companies and organizations benefiting from grants and other financial arrangements with the city.
Now, the law is beginning to help substantial number of workers get jobs. Almost 200 residents have received jobs, about half at the Renaissance Providence Hotel, which opened this year in the former Masonic Temple near the State House [but Sara Mersha, executive director of Direct Action for Rights and Equality,] questions whether the city is fully implementing the program, requiring that all businesses doing work with the city be included in the program, not just those receiving grants and tax breaks….
At issue is a 1985 city law creating a First Source program, in which organizations benefiting from city funds try to fill jobs from an official list of job-seekers before recruiting outside Providence.
Mersha says DARE discovered the dormant ordinance before Mayor David N. Cicilline took office in 2003, and urged him to start it, which the new administration did.
But dissatisfied with the city’s progress, DARE, Rhode Island Jobs with Justice, and five city council members sued, winning a ruling from Superior Court Judge Stephen J. Fortunato that led to a 2006 consent agreement pushing the program forward.
But because of the structure of Rhode Island’s finances, where a large chunk of state tax revenue is used to subsidize the city of Providence, First-Source raises serious fairness issues. Providence is basically telling the rest of Rhode Island…
- You’re going to send us a big chunk of your tax payments to subsidize our city…
- …while we’re going to use the power of city government to send you to the back of the line, as much as we get away with, if you come to apply for a job here.
Though Providence’s pols may have decided that big cities have a special right to ignore principles of fairness and providing equality of opportunity
, the rest of the state doesn’t have to agree. The treatment of non-Providence residents as second caste citizens is a perfectly valid issue to be raised when Providence officials put forth their various plans to shore up city finances by increasing taxes on non-Providence residents (via statewide tax increases) so that bigger transfer payments can be made to Providence.