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Providence City Council wants more tax breaks for millionaires; Protest planned for Thursday City Council meeting

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Do councilmembers care about the working people of Providence as much as they care about bribing millionaires to beautify downtown? If so, the least they can do is require that developers provide high-quality jobs: decent pay, full-time employment, and access to a union.

If you want to make your voice heard, please come to City Hall on Thursday at 7 p.m., and call your city councilor at 401-521-7477 any weekday between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.


Last Tuesday, I and other members of the Providence DSA (Democratic Socialists of America) joined local labor unions on the 3rd floor of City Hall. Together, we filled the room where the Providence City Council Finance Committee was voting on whether to grant a 20-year, multi-million-dollar tax break to Jim Abdo, a millionaire developer from DC. We opposed a giveaway that would only guarantee low-wage, non-union, and mostly temporary jobs at Abdo’s Hotel Hive. Everyone applauded when the committee voted down the proposal by a margin of three to two.

Normally, death by finance committee is the end of the story. But the next day, word got out that Council President Sabina Matos was calling another vote to bring the tax break to full council, bypassing the committee altogether. This Thursday at 7 pm, the Providence City Council plans to ignore constituents and vote for more corporate welfare.

If this tax break were put to the people of Providence for a vote, it would probably not pass. That might be why the City Council rushed to schedule a new meeting right after the Thanksgiving break – leaving opponents little time to spread the word.

Abdo has vowed not to go forward with construction till he gets his cut from the city. Nevertheless, he already bought the downtown properties (which once housed The Providence Journal and the Kresge Department Store), and he has no intention of selling them. He’s applied for $4 million to $6 million in federal historic tax credits. The state of Rhode Island has also promised him a $6 million tax break.


Can we please ask a favor?

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Abdo’s additional demand is $2.7 million from Providence, though it could amount to more once he completes $39 million in renovations and the property value goes up. This humiliating, 20-year tax deal forfeits money that should be used to pay for schools, roads, public services, and relieving municipal debt. Yet the City Council is desperate to renovate the building, which it views as an “eyesore” not worthy of its proximity to City Hall.

Do councilmembers care about the working people of Providence as much as they care about bribing millionaires to beautify downtown? If so, the least they can do is require that developers provide high-quality jobs: decent pay, full-time employment, and access to a union. Otherwise, who do tax breaks benefit? The workers of Rhode Island, or wealthy businessmen and their politicians?

If you want to make your voice heard, please come to City Hall on Thursday at 7 p.m., and call your city councilor at 401-521-7477 any weekday between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.