Providence Takes its Message to Other Communities of Pay-and-Go-Away to a New Level

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.

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Thomas
Thomas
13 years ago

I’m not sure what to think about this. In terms of being able to hire the best people, and abstract equality of opportunity for all Rhode Islanders, it seems like a bad idea.
However, aren’t there a few more things we would want to know before concluding that the flow of benefits is unfair?
What percentage of state income tax receipts are generated by Providence Residents?
What percentage of state income tax receipts are generated by jobs in Providence, regardless of the residence of the wage-earner?
What percentage of other state business tax receipts are genrated by Providence busisnesses?
Obviously, there’s a lot more to this, but I’d love to know these amounts. Does anybody know where to get these figures?

SusanD
SusanD
13 years ago

Here’s how it works, Thomas. If you want to make such an assertion, you do the research and tell us what revenue Providence generates that exceeds the statewide revenue that goes into the city.
Until then, my conclusion is that your comment is baseless and simply a reflexive defense of Democrat politicians, because if there was such revenue, they would not go crying to the state every year for ever bigger tranfer payments.
“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”
None of this had occurred to me. Great post, Andrew.

Thomas
Thomas
13 years ago

Dear SusanD,
I am puzzled by your comment.
I did not defend any party, official or policy. In fact, the only value judgement I made was to say that, at least on its surface, the proposal seemed both inefficient and unfair!
I also made no assertions of fact at all. I stated my belief that before we can reasonably conclude whether Providence benefits unfairly at the expense of the rest of the state, we should probably know not only how much money is being transfered TO Providence, but also how how much money flows OUT of Providence. I’ll be surprised if you disagree that’s a valid question.
I did not claim to know the answer to that question. I did spend some time trying to find it out, but. so far, I’ve come up empty. That’s why I asked if any of the readers here had an idea where it could be found.
Thus, I am puzzled as to how you reached the conclusion that my post was “baseless” and a “reflexive defense of Democrat politicians”. I hope it is not the rule here that this happens unless one agrees unquestioningly with any assertions that conform to some approved line of thinking.
It may surprise you to know that, if the imblance of money flow that Andrew’s post seems to asssume is really present and significant, I would agree with him that,
“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”

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