It’s discouraging to hear that some of our City Council
members are working to override my veto on a supposed “smoking ban” ordinance
for Kennedy Plaza.
While this ordinance is on its face about smoking, its true
target is the homeless and the poor. Homelessness is a serious problem in
Providence, just as it is in cities across the country. The causes are
multi-faceted and deep-rooted, often including substance abuse, mental illness
and, of course, economic challenges. That is why my administration, along with
some members of the City Council, have been working to address the problem at
Working together, we have invested in Amos House’s program,
“A Hand Up,” which creates work opportunities for homeless individuals and also
helps the city address blight; we are working collaboratively with House of
Hope to create a navigation center to connect homeless individuals to services
and ultimately to housing; we will continue to advocate for state Affordable
Housing Bond funds to go towards housing the homeless; and we will continue our
advocacy efforts with our partners. If we are truly going to address the
problem, we must address it at its cause and not criminalize behaviors
associated with it.
Aside from it being an inhumane and flawed philosophy
towards addressing social issues, this ordinance will put an undue burden on
our police force. This ordinance would be a waste of valuable police resources.
It is bad policy that will prove difficult to enforce and it will be
ineffective at addressing the real issue. We have been successful in
reducing crime city-wide in the past couple of years and I believe our officers
should be focused on serious crime, not criminalizing poverty.
We are working towards a Kennedy Plaza that is an inclusive,
thoughtfully programmed and welcoming space. I urge City Council members and
residents to work with us to create real solutions that will address the real
problem. This proposed ordinance, however, simply pushes the problem to other
blocks and to other neighborhoods. Because of that, I remain strongly opposed.