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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. This disclosure came in a report from the city’s Department of Planning & Devel¬opment to the community activist group Direct Action for Rights & Equality (DARE).
But mirroring the agonizingly slow birth of the “First Source” jobs program, even that upbeat progress report seemingly had to be pried from city officials. It was written after about 20 DARE member visited the city’s plan¬ning and law offices on July 24 to de¬mand answers to an earlier public records’ request.
DARE says that Stephen A. Vadnais, the planning unit’s director of compliance and monitoring, promised then to get as many answers as he could by the end of that week. And he made good on the pledge four days later, in a letter to DARE, a copy of which Deputy City Solicitor Adrienne G. Southgate provided to the Phoenix.
Sara Mersha, DARE’s executive director, 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.
Mersha also says some who wanted Renaissance Hotel jobs may not have been interviewed. “That said, if close to 100 people were hired from the list” for the hotel, she says, “that would be a good thing, and we are pleased.”
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.
The city has named state Representative Anastasia Williams to coordinate the program, which has advertised for job-seekers, building a hiring list Mersha says numbers 2000. And the First Source program is featured on the planning department’s Web site,
The department’s letter to DARE disclosed new specifics:
• A total of 194 persons have been hired, including 46 at the Renaissance Hotel and another 48 at the hotel’s restaurant.
• The city has contracted Groundwork Providence and the Dorcas Place literacy program to train would-be workers in construction and hospitality fields.
• Potential jobs could come from a Capitol Grove residential development on Canal Street, city school renovations, a proposed Rhode Island Blue Cross & Blue Shield building and the American Locomotive mill conversion project.
  Topics: This Just In , Anastasia Williams , David N. Cicilline , Stephen Fortunato ,  More more >
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