As a 25+ year resident of this Ward, my values are reflective of the community’s values. As this campaign listens to your stories, we look forward to further shaping these ideas.
We will build a movement where EVERYONE in our Ward matters and EVERYONE counts.
These policies, which are a work in progress (based on your voices), reflect a deep understanding of my values, my passion, and my love for our community. If there is an issue that we haven’t covered here, please reach out/text John personally at: 401-227-5056. This campaign will be about accessibility, not politics as usual.
Most importantly, the values of this campaign will be putting COMMUNITY FIRST.
WORK TO IMPROVE RESIDENT SERVICES
Together, we will…
- Make government work for constituents
- Support budget investments in taxpayer services (trash collection, snow removal, potholes)
- Create efficiency in using taxpayer dollars without cutting services
- Create policy and ordinances that would improve city services
FIGHT FOR QUALITY K-12 PUBLIC EDUCATION
Together, we will…
- Fight tirelessly for universal, quality education that all children in Providence’s public schools deserve. This issue is of utmost importance to me as an educator and as an alum of Vartan Gregorian (Providence Public Schools)
- Ensure a city budget that invests in public school teachers and classrooms, improving research-based educational practices and pedagogy, and supporting school infrastructure improvements, academic achievement, and wrap-around partnership services to strengthen the bond between schools and their communities in light of the recent John Hopkins report
- Champion the implementation of social-emotional learning, teaching the “whole child,” and a culturally responsive curriculum while fostering an environment to best help teachers facilitate these goals
- Recognize the true potential of our students, teachers, and unions by providing resources for cutting-edge, quality professional development
FIGHT FOR ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE
Together, we will…
- Expand and promote investment in renewable energy in recognition of our role in fighting against the climate crisis, while creating positive economic growth for the City of Providence
- Fight to ensure that every Ward 1 resident has access to healthy food options, clean air, and clean water. Additionally, let’s continue to advocate for sustainable green spaces such as the Fox Point Community Garden and India Point Park
- Lift the voices of and protect communities who are most at risk for exploitation and environmental racism (learn more here.)
ENHANCE PUBLIC SAFETY
Together, we will…
- Advocate for better ways to keep our community safe
- Support the use of restorative justice & community policing, and continue to foster positive relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve
- Through legislation and city ordinances, advocate for the creation of services for crime and violence prevention in our community
ADVOCATE FOR SMART DEVELOPMENT & ZONING, AS WELL AS AFFORDABLE HOUSING
Together, we will…
- Encourage robust economic development that increases jobs and municipal revenues for public schools, roads, and other city services (while also making sure that projects have the support of neighborhood residents)
- Encourage more union jobs that prioritize our workers
- Facilitate development, but enforce and apply fair, inclusionary, and equitable zoning principles that truly reflect the historic vibrancy and character of our Fox Point, Wayland Square, College Hill, Jewelry District, and Downtown neighborhoods
- Fight gentrification and prioritize the expansion of more affordable housing options FOR ALL both in our Ward and in the greater city of Providence
- Finally, we have great property managers and landlords in our Ward but not all of them are created equal. It’s time to finally hold some of the negligent college landlords accountable
TRANSPARENCY ON PROPERTY TAXATION
Together, we will…
- Critically analyze the property tax system and inequities in the system, working with economists, tax/ data experts, and lawmakers to further study and properly vet the short and long-term implications of tax policy changes
- Ensure predictability for ALL taxpayers by addressing the dramatic, sudden, and burdensome swings in property valuations
- Enhance constituent transparency and visibility by being fully transparent about any proposed property tax changes and work with legislators to figure out alternative solutions to generate enough municipal revenues and mitigate the burdens on all communities, especially for the most vulnerable (low-income, elderly/senior citizens on a fixed income, those who are disabled) in our city without having to shift additional tax burdens on our Ward/The East Side. An example of this are “curuit breakers.” We should further study and evaluate exemptions for residents earning below a set income level (rather than providing exemptions based on percentage of income devoted to property taxes) and see if implementing “circuit breakers” so there is a limit on the percentage of income any resident pays in property taxes, is something worth studying
- We should also further study and evaluate other successful local policies, property tax markets, and models around the country
- Ultimately, let’s fight tooth and nail to support hard-working renters and homeowners in our Ward who simply are trying to do right by their children and families
WORK TO PROTECT CITY ORDINANCES
- eScooters, Bike Sharing? The myriad benefits of bike-sharing, such as the positive health, financial and sustainable environmental impacts, as well as the reduction in congestion and vehicle emissions, should be embraced, but not at the expense of public safety. I will work with city leaders to strengthen legislation and the implementation of strong coherent plans that will allow us to enjoy these benefits, all while maintaining public safety
- Parking Issues? ATVs? Noise? Litter? Graffiti? I will be very responsive to constituents and work closely with city departments to ensure that we enforce city ordinances
FIGHT FOR ECONOMIC JUSTICE & JOB EQUITY
- We have to raise wages to meet the current cost of living. Someone working for $10.50 an hour isn’t living well in this city, and we all know it. That’s why I support a higher minimum wage with no exceptions, indexed to inflation, and phased in gradually so business owners and workers can plan, budget, and adapt.
- We also know wages are just one part of the equation. I will work hard to ensure Earned Sick and Safe Time is effectively implemented and enforced, and I support updating our work-hours standards as well as all workers’ rights to organize in labor unions.
- Finally, we will work hard to support Downtown businesses as well as small mom-and-pop businesses in Fox Point, College Hill and Wayland Square
Underlying all of these policies requires a system that is truly inclusive and understands the diginity of ALL people. Our diverse coalition and campaign will tirelessly advocate for:
HUMAN RIGHTS & SOCIAL JUSTICE
- Women’s Rights
- LGBTQ Rights
- Disablity Rights
- People of Color & Native American Rights
- Immigrant Rights
Please check back for updates, as our policy platform will be informed by your voices!
HOUSING & HOMELESSNESS POLICY PLATFORM
These priorities were identified and developed through partnership with HOPE, community organizers, academics, researchers, and service providers in the state of Rhode Island.
As Ward 1 City Councilor, I will…
- Pass Councilwoman Rachel Miller’s ordinance that legally prohibits landlords from denying housing based on an individual’s source of income, including possession of a Housing Choice or “Section 8” Voucher or other government rental assistance.
- Recognize that a city council ordinance alone will not fully address source of income discrimination. In a rental market where many low-income and marginally-housed renters are priced out of Providence and forced to rent outside of the city’s bounds, it is critical that we pass statewide source of income discrimination legislation. The State House must pass Senator Metts’ S2134 to outlaw source of income discrimination throughout the state, and I will do whatever I can–in partnership with Homes RI–to make sure that this critical legislation is passed this session.
- Fight against Rhode Island’s ongoing and largely unaddressed eviction crisis. On an annual basis, 85 East Side families are evicted. Even when renting families are not evicted, court proceedings with landlords–even those decided in the tenant’s favor–often “blacklist” families from renting in the future. As City Councilor, I will introduce, in consultation with the Rhode Island Center for Justice, a city council ordinance similar to Rhode Island H8085 that seals all city court files related to housing cases which were resolved in the tenant’s favor.
- Introduce legislation, similar to Washington D.C. ‘s 2017 Expanding Access to Justice Act (B21-0879), that funds a pilot project to study the impact of civil right to counsel for low-income Rhode Islanders in housing cases. Too often, low-income Rhode Islanders face evictions without proper legal counsel while their more-resourced landlords can afford effective legal representation. Carrying out a pilot study to demonstrate the effectiveness of legal counsel in keeping families in their homes is an important step in addressing housing instability in our city.
- Support calls for city-wide rent stabilization, led by Direct Action for Rights & Equality (DARE), and its corresponding legislation. Solving our city’s housing crisis requires that we get at the crisis’s core: rent increases have outpaced wage increases for too long. We need a city ordinance that limits how much rent can increase each year.
- Support Governor Raimondo’s efforts to add a permanent funding stream for the construction of affordable housing to the state budget. Addressing our city and state’s housing crises requires adequate funding, and Rhode Island has lagged behind our New England peers in affordable housing investment for too long. We must also recognize that the funding the Governor proposed is not enough: to fully address our state’s affordable housing needs, a $25 million funding stream is needed, rather than the $10 currently proposed.
- Lower barriers to accessing stable, affordable housing for people experiencing homelessness. As City Councilor, I will introduce legislation, in consultation with House of Hope CDC, similar to California’s 2014 AB 1733, that waives fees for securing government IDs and vital records for individuals experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
- Support calls by the DARE’s Tenant and Homeowners Association of DARE to permanently include a low-income renter on the Providence Redevelopment Authority’s governing board of the Providence Housing Trust Fund. Including representation from low-income tenants is critical in ensuring the judicious and effective use of housing funds for those who most need them.
WARD 1 SUBSTANCE USE POLICY PLATFORM
These priorities were identified and developed through partnership with Substance Use Policy & Education Recovery PAC (Super PAC).
- Substance use is a public health topic, and should be treated within the public health realm
- Providence has among the highest rates of overdose in our state, and Ward 1 contains overdose hotspots
- Decades of the criminalization of people with substance use has not been effective: furthermore, it has been inequitable and has left people with felony barriers that have prevented people from accessing supports to help people with their recovery (e.g. jobs)
- Public health and public safety should work together to find solutions that support people who use drugs and those in recovery
People Who Use Drugs Should Be Treated With Compassion:
- As a community, we must treat our friends, family, and neighbors who use drugs with compassion.
Investing in What Works:
- Improving access to treatment, especially medically assisted treatment (MAT) such as methadone and buprenorphine (Suboxone).
- As a community, we need to work to ensure that there are ample places where people can access treatment, including in Ward 1.
- Treatment should be made more easily accessible, including low-threshold access to MAT.
- Increase access to naloxone, a drug that reverses an overdose and can save lives so that people can access recovery
- Explore expanding options to locations where harm reduction services can be supplied, expanded, and distributed
- Evidence-based drug education programs that are based on science and evidence, rather than the abstinence-“just say no” model
Understanding the Root Issues:
- Increasing access to affordable housing, well-paying jobs, high-quality education, childcare, health care, etc. are all resources that can help people access recovery and prevent problematic substance use
- There are racial inequities in how people who use drugs have been and are treated and that we need to ensure we are created systems and policies that work for each and every person
SMALL BUSINESS PLAN
As Ward 1 City Councilor, I will:
- Support small business growth so they can thrive and generate more municipal revenue
- propose a tax reduction for any business that is willing to implement a charging station in their parking lot
- Help small businesses in the 21st century
Support Small Businesses – The cornerstone of a healthy Providence economy is small businesses. John wants to ensure that all small businesses in Ward 1 have the support they need to thrive and expand.
An example of what John has done for small businesses….
John organized East Siders and small business owners to help fight against the permanent closure of the Gano Street Exit. This had and continues to have a very positive impact on our community especially for our small businesses who rely on this exit for consumers to use. Without doing this, it may have been detrimental to our small business community.
Support A Green Economy – On the campaign trail one topic that often is brought up by community members is the lack of electric car charging stations in the City and State. As a way to encourage these important stations becoming available and to help small businesses gain “traffic” in its stores at the same time we will propose a tax reduction for any business that is willing to implement a charging station in their parking lot or business space for a minimum of two years. By doing so this will not only help small businesses with attracting customers who need to charge their electric vehicles – it will also help bring new possible consumers and residents into our City – not to mention it will help our environment at the same time.
Support Smart Economic Development – Since announcing my campaign, and well before then I have talked about how I support development, but we need to have smart development. What this means is that instead of big developers coming into Providence marking all the legal check boxes and then being allowed to build whatever they want, there is a process built into the system that requires developers to hold community forums. This will allow community members to share their concerns about certain developments and will allow community members to have a say as to what comes to our City. While working and living in Minnesota I saw this systematic process and saw the positive it had on the community.
I believe this will have a long term positive impact on our business community because it will likely prevent numerous residents from leaving our community due to their frustration with the direction our City is going in when it comes to big development -or the possibility that they may be forced out of their home due to the ever occurring tax burden put onto our residents. While one of my opponents has been on record as saying “the only way we can get ourselves out of this is through more development,” I know this isn’t the case and that is not the way I will govern when elected because I know that isn’t what is best for our community!
Help Small Business In The 21st Century – Many of our small businesses have been family owned for decades and we are very fortunate to have them in our community still and seeing them doing well.
While many business practices continue to succeed with tradition such as good customer service, family recipes, and a strong work ethic, we know that it’s becoming harder and harder for small businesses to compete against emerging technology and corporate giants like Amazon.
In order to make sure our small businesses can continue to survive and thrive in the 21st century and beyond, I will propose a small business development center in our City. This can be something that helps small business owners learn how to use technology like Facebook ads, learn about how to use simple but yet complicated for non tech savvy generations things like four square for credit card transactions or simply a way for struggling business owners to seek guidance from a business professional who understands the needs and concerns of small businesses.
For many years, our small businesses have invested heavily in our community in order to keep it thriving and the time to invest in our small business community is now!
STUDENT HOUSING ORDINANCE & PROTECTING OUR RESIDENTIAL NEIGHBORHOODS
John Goncalves supports the student housing ordinance as a way to protect our residential neighborhoods. The ordinance is necessary to prevent developers/investors from buying up family homes and converting them into mini dormitories, in order to generate high rents. While John Goncalves welcomes student renters in our neighborhoods, these developers are creating what are essentially private dormitories, which do not belong in residential neighborhoods, particularly in single-family zones (R1 and R1A).
The problem arose because the city won’t enforce an existing zoning density ordinance that allows no more than 3 unrelated persons to occupy any rental unit. (The city’s rationale is that this ordinance could be challenged in court as potentially discriminating against nontraditional families, though that is not its intent and, as far as I know, it was never used to do that. Unrelated persons rules are successfully used elsewhere to regulate student housing.) By not enforcing the rule, the city has given developers the green light to proceed with home-to-dorm conversions, at the expense of neighbors.
In 2014, City Council passed a new, narrower ordinance, specifying that no more than 3 students may live in a non-owner occupied, single-family house in the R1 and R1A zones. However, it left open a loophole: nonconforming 2- and 3-family homes in the R1 are not covered; as a result, developers have been targeting these nonconforming homes because there is no limit on how many students they may house in these dwellings. This creates a very high return on investment.
In 2018, former Ward 2 City Council member Sam Zurier proposed an ordinance extension to close the loophole: no more than 3 students would be permitted to live in a dwelling unit of a non-owner-occupied nonconforming, 2- or 3-family home in R1 or R1A.
However, the proposed ordinance extension has been blocked by the City Council Committee on Ordinances, apparently in deference to special interests. The landlord lobby, including the Apartment Association, is opposed to any density restriction, even this narrow little ordinance extension.
The Council SAYS their waiting for the court case to be resolved, but in the years it has been pending, developers have been running rampant in the R1 zones, buying up nonconforming multifamily houses not covered by the ordinance. Of course, they buy in the other R zones as well.]
ACLU challenge: It is important to note that the ACLU challenged this student housing ordinance as “discriminating” against students; the rule was upheld and it is now under appeal, results pending. But while admirable, the ACLU is not always right. This rule is meant to be anti-exploitive developer and pro-neighborhood, not anti-student. It is also important to point out that, unsurprisingly, many landlords support the ACLU case; clearly this support is rather self-interested since they stand to gain if the ordinance is overturned. It seems quite cynical to hide behind a civil rights argument when what you are really concerned about is the bottom line.
The issue has been extensively studied by the City’s Department of Planning and Development (Robert Azar’s office) and the City Plan Commission (CPC), and they determined that the student housing ordinance is the best way to address the issue. They considered a broader ordinance, but that generated too much opposition from landlords, so they settled on the narrow ordinance extension, as a start. However, even this tiny ordinance is opposed by the landlord lobby and is being blocked by City Council members beholden to the special interests.
(How this started: in 2017, a particular developer bought a 6-bedroom, 3-bathroom home in the R1 zone, and leased it to 13 students, charging a total of $9000 a month, way above market rent. The house is on the books as a nonconforming 2-family dwelling. After neighborhood opposition, he broke the lease but now has rented to a different group of students. While the ordinance has been languishing the Ordinance Committee, he has bought several more nonconfoming homes in the immediate neighborhood, with the goal of creating additional, private dormitories in the single-family zone.
It is just not safe for a big group of undergrads to live in wood-framed, 19th-century houses not designed for this use. In addition, landlords exploit students by charging far more than market rate. Such development also takes the homes off the market for ordinary renters and buyers; for example, one developer kicked out a retired couple and a pair of young teachers in order to make way for a large group of student renters, who generate far greater return on investment. Because the investor has little stake in the neighborhood, such homes often become run down and poorly maintained.)
SAVE NEIGHBORHOODS: ENFORCE ZONING LAWS
–The College Hill neighborhood is zoned for single-family homes (R1). In 2017, a developer purchased a 6-bedroom, 3-bathroom house, owner-occupied by a family for decades/generations, and rented it to no fewer than 13 undergraduate students starting Aug 1. The same developer then purchased an identical second house next door, and in 2019, he purchased two more nonconforming multi-family homes in the neighborhood, including 150 Lloyd, all with the intent to create private mini dorms. This sort of development is happening all over College Hill.
How This Happened
–The city won’t enforce an existing zoning density ordinance that says no more than 3 unrelated persons may occupy a rental unit. The rationale for not enforcing it is that this ordinance could be challenged in court as potentially discriminating against nontraditional families (though it has not been used to do that. This type of rule is successfully used in many places around the country to regulate student housing).
–While there is a 2014 ordinance prohibiting more than 3 college students from living in a non-owner occupied, single-family dwelling in R-1 and R-1A, these and other houses in the neighborhood are on the books as nonconforming 2-family dwellings and are therefore not protected. In other words, the ordinance has a loophole.
–Because the city won’t enforce existing laws, there is effectively no limit at all on how many tenants may live in such homes, a weakness that invites abuse. If 13 students in one house is ok, why not 20? Or 25?
–The City Council Committee on Ordinances has blocked the proposed ordinance extension
–The landlord lobby, including the Apartment Association, are against any limits at all on student housing.
–If density laws are not enforced and/or contain loopholes, the city gives real estate developers the green light to exploit our neighborhoods by buying up single-family homes and converting them into highly profitable dorms/rooming houses. (Packed with 13 students, the 6-bedroom house will generate $9000/mo in rent.)
–Since the proposed ordinance has been blocked, developers have continued to exploit the loophole and buy up additional family homes for conversion to mini dorms.
–Developers exploit their student tenants, stuffing them into houses not designed for such density and charging them high rent. It is not safe for so many students to be living in 100+ year old, wood-frame houses.
–While the neighborhood is happy to share its mostly single-family neighborhood with some condos and rentals, the conversion of these family homes into rooming houses for dozens of tenants undermines the integrity of our R-1 district. Nothing prevents the developer from buying up additional homes.
–Such high density student tenements are notable for poor upkeep, parking congestion, noise, loud conversation at all hours, loud music, and large parties with underage drinking.
–These de facto private dorms/rooming houses are commercial enterprises and don’t belong in residential neighborhoods, especially not in R-1 zones. They are no different from non-student rooming houses or B&Bs, which are restricted and regulated.
–Other cities preserve and protect residential neighborhoods from such development and the blight that comes with it. Why doesn’t Providence?
–The ACLU has challenged this student housing ordinance as “discriminating” against students; the rule was upheld but the ACLU appealed it; a decision is pending.
–While the ACLU is admirable, neighbors do not think the ACLU is right in this case. This ordinance is meant to be anti-exploitive developer and pro-neighborhood, not anti-student.
–Unsurprisingly, landlords support and are a part of the ACLU case; clearly their support is self-interested since they stand to gain if the ordinance is overturned. It seems cynical to hide behind a civil rights argument when they are concerned with the bottom line.
SAVE NEIGHBORHOODS: ENFORCE ZONING LAWS.
THE PROPOSED NEW ORDINANCE EXTENDS AN EXISTING ORDINANCE:
Existing ordinance: In the R1A and R1 districts, a single-family dwelling, that is non-owner occupied, shall not be occupied by more than three college students.
Proposed extension: In the R1A and R1 districts, any dwelling unit in a two-family structure shall not be occupied by more than three college students unless the dwelling unit is owner-occupied.
RENEWABLE ENERGY, TRANSPORATION & GREAT STREETS PLAN
As City Councilor, John Goncalves supports:
When it comes to energy, I think we should:
Enforce the City of Providence’s Climate Justice Plan and go further to ensure the environmental protection of all Providence citizens.
Deploy local transportation funds to fully empower our cities’ public transit systems and walkable and bikeable communities.
Expand investments in clean, green energy. Reduce CO2 emissions with the goal of reaching net-zero by 2050 at the latest.
Transition away from fossil fuel energy and halt all new fossil fuel projects. We must eliminate all fossil fuel company subsidies and instead make massive investments in, and provide subsidies for, clean green solutions.
Mirror and imitate ambitious, but realistic, efforts that have been implemented in small cities across the country. Providence needs to set a goal to transition to cleaner energy ASAP and we need to reverse the trends at our Port of Providence.
We should expand energy and mileage efficiency investments. Conservation of energy and preserving our resources should not be a political issue. Everyone benefits from it. Extend local incentives and rebates for renewable energy.
Encourage the city to work with stakeholders to modernize our power grids immediately to pave the way for an increase in renewable energy sources. The electric power sector should be decarbonized sooner than the rest of the economy.
Providence should be required to adopt a renewable standard. Move towards decarbonizing buildings by 2050.
We should incentivize older buildings to be upgraded to higher energy efficiency standards appropriate for that building type.
Require each industrial corporation to commit to a series of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Targets phasing down to 0% emissions in 2050.
Each corporation should decide for itself how to meet those targets, and we should incentivize this on the local level at all costs. Increase and enhance research and development of new technologies. We do not need to wait for this research — adequate technologies are currently available to proceed to strongly mitigate our climate crises– but it is important for more research in the long-run so that we continue to move to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions and reverse global warming, as the situation gets worse and worse. Ensure that workers working in the fossil fuel industries be accepted first in new job training programs for renewable energy industries. We should work with our universities, community colleges, and trade schools to develop education programs to help bring in people for the new industries and jobs. When it comes to transportation, we should: Encourage the use of Electric Vehicles, invest in charging infrastructure, and continue efforts to maximize fuel efficiency until we can move away from internal combustion engines. We should shoot for all parking spaces on either private or public land to have access to electric charging stations by 2035. Set standards to that heavy-duty trucks either use electricity or more sustainable biofuels by 2035. All diesel vehicles will be retired by 2050.
As we are seeing with the Progressive Democrats of Rhode Island’s blueprint for 100% renewable energy by 2030, there are a lot of opportunities for job growth through a green economy and as a city councilor, it will be my pleasure to help show Providence how we can benefit through renewable energy. We also know that we need to tackle this issue by investing smartly in public transportation. As someone who shares a vehicle with my partner I know the realities of trying to coordinate the RIPTA bus schedule if my destination is even on the bus route. As a city councilor, I will work with our partners at RIPTA to look at ways we can create smart bus routes that will make it easier for people to commute by bus. Our City also needs to invest in innovative ways to incentivize ways for people to own and drive electric cars in Providence. On the campaign trail, one topic that often is brought up by community members is the lack of electric car charging stations in the City and State. One policy that we can potentially propose is a tax break for any business in Providence who has electric vehicle charging stations in their parking lots. By creating simple but yet important policies in our City that are both smart for the environment and economy we will be on the right path forward to 100% renewable energy by 2030.