Had you been present at the November 16 Providence City Council Ordinance Committee meeting, you would have thought that the way was being paved for the successful passage of the Community Safety Act (CSA).
Committee Chair Terrence Hassett put on a good show, playing to the fifty plus supporters of the CSA crammed into the meeting room. Hassett made a big deal out of scheduling the next hearing as soon as possible, working to fast track the legislation so it could reach the full city council for a vote and be on Mayor Jorge Elorza’s desk for signing before the end of the year. The next meeting, the one where the CSA would be voted out of committee, was scheduled for this coming Monday, November 28 at 5:15pm.
The STEP-UP Coalition, a coalition of groups dedicated to passing the CSA, was cautiously optimistic about the bill’s chances. Over 100 people and possibly more were planning to cram themselves into the tiny Ordinance Committee meeting room to watch history being made.
Then on November 23 the meeting was cancelled, or in the words of Chair Hassett, “rescheduled for Monday Dec 5th, same time.”
In response to my inquiry about the “rescheduling”, Hassett wrote, “I have been discussing the ordinance and some of the changes proposed with various people. Any disagreements are not miles apart, they are equitably close. I have not fully discussed the ordinance and amendments with the Commissioner [Steven Paré] and Police Chief [Hugh Clements Jr.] nor with the FOP [Fraternal Order of Police]. As much information and understanding that can be achieved is imperative and fair to the process.
“The matter will be heard in committee on Dec 5th so I and others can observe what impact there is, what value there is and what can be fairly achieved,” continued Hassett, “I want to hear testimony from those mentioned here in order to balance what decision is ultimately made. The legislation remains active and will be decided once we receive additional testimony and understanding on the ordinance. Thanksgiving and the Friday extended holiday abbreviated the time needed to review the matter with all of the parties. The review continues and we are intent on moving forward.”
When I asked Hassett about the apparent change in attitude he’s expressed now when compared to what he showed at the last Ordinance Committee hearing, he answered, “The meeting is simply rescheduled, not cancelled. It remains active. This is not a ten items or less food market aisle. It is an important review that requires deliberation on additional testimony from parties mentioned. If anything has changed why is there a meeting Dec 5th? Other testimony has been encouraged and its fair to hear it.”
Here’s the video from the last Ordinance Committee meeting. You can contrast Hassett in the video to the Hassett in the comments above for yourself.
Council President Luis Aponte could not be reached for comment. Councillor Kevin Jackson, who can be seen in the video above speaking in favor of the CSA at the last Ordinance Committee meeting, when reached by phone said, “I’m not on that committee. I don’t know what’s going on,” but also promised to look into it.
Elorza’s communication’s director Emily Crowell said that my inquiry was the first the mayor’s office had heard about the cancellation. Elorza has been working on his own version of the CSA, one that is said to make significant changes to the protections the STEP-UP Coalition is looking for, but details are lacking.
STEP-UP Coalition campaign coordinator Vanessa Flores-Maldonado responded, “This is incredibly frustrating to hear. The community has been working so hard on this ordinance, asking for input from Mayor Elorza and discussing changes with PPD [Providence Police Department]. Ultimately this is about what the community needs to be protected from PPD so asking for their opinions will only get us so far in seeking community safety.
“We need the CSA now, especially with white supremacy taking national office on January 20th. Delaying the CSA any further is actually risking the safety of our community so to say that more information is needed when it’s consistently been given or to want to start a new CSA from scratch is a danger to our community. And a load of crap.”