Politics & Policies

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by Josh Wood Tuesday October 13, 2009

Providence Looks to Regionalize City Services

Metropolitan Consolidation

Providence Mayor David N. Cicilline plans to submit legislation that will enable seven Providence metro communities, Providence, Cranston, Pawtucket, East Providence, North Providence, Johnston and Central Falls, to explore ways to consolidate city services.

Cranston mayor Alan Fung said he supports of the initial concept but is reserving judgment until he sees the language of the bill. Six of the other town and city leaders are on record supporting the idea.

Consolidating some of these services seems like a feasible possibility, especially given the fact that 43% of the state’s population lives in such a tiny footprint. The impoverished State has drastically cut the flow of cash to its communities, while the cities and towns face severe budget shortfalls of their own. Add in the recent Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council report listing Rhode Island in the top states in the nation for spending on various services such as elementary and secondary education (8th), fire protection (1st), government administration (5th), and police (8th), and you’ve got a pretty good case that something could be done.

But how much can be feasibly consolidated? Police and fire seem like the natural places to start. But what about school districts? Or administrative services? How do you reduce costs without sacrificing quality? And how desperate do things get before we consolidate borders into some sort of borough system?

[where: 02910]


  1. One problem is that school district consolidation should be done with an eye to desegregation by poverty. Wake County NC is not much smaller than RI, and they’ve successfully established a policy of keeping the poverty rate in every school under 40% using an aggressive magnet/choice strategy.

    If we’re going to do a once a century reorganization of RI’s schools, desegregation should be a priority, not just lumping the cities together for cost savings.

    Tom Hoffman · Oct 14, 07:37 AM · #

  2. I agree.

    Consolidation of school districts offers the chance to reorganize the student makeup of the schools in the Providence metro area (Providence, Pawtucket, CF, Johnston, EP, NP, Cranston) for the better.

    The Wake County example you cite is interesting because it it isn’t an example of the racial desegregation that’s been the norm since the 70s, but class-based desegregation. This relatively new approach to integrating schools has apparently yielded impressive results.

    Josh · Oct 14, 07:55 PM · #


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