A Guide to Who’s on the Ballot for the Providence City Council Race

Candidates vying for 15 ward seats weigh in on crucial issues

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Gearing up for election season, Providence Monthly reached out to the candidates vying for 15 seats on the City Council for their stances on five key issues facing the city. Along with their reasons for running, each candidate was asked to rank these issues by order of priority, with their first selection ranking highest. Read on to find their responses to these five questions:

PUBLIC SAFETY: What needs to change?

EDUCATION: Should the city take control or let the state fix it?

NEIGHBORHOOD AUTONOMY: Should there be more local say in issues like bike lanes, traffic calming, and zoning?

QUALITY OF LIFE: What needs to be fixed in your ward to improve quality of life?

CITY FINANCES: What cuts would you like to see?

 

WARD 1

John Goncalves (i)

Democrat, Age 31

Occupation: Educator and DEI Coordinator at the Wheeler School

I’m running for reelection because of my ability to be responsive, reliable, and effective for our constituents. I have continued to lead, build necessary partnerships, and have been a relentless advocate for what is right to move the city forward. I am also homegrown. I went to Providence Public Schools and grew up in the neighborhood I serve.

1. EDUCATION: As a graduate of the Providence Public Schools and an educator, I understand the importance of local education on the future success and well-being of our residents. These difficult times have caused incredible uncertainty and innumerable challenges to the school systems, teachers, parents, and students alike. The city should take control.

2. QUALITY OF LIFE: Our “Quality of Life” plan is a people-powered, living blueprint with a clear vision to improve the city for everyone. It includes solutions for everything from improving our schools to increasing housing affordability to targeting violent crime. To get the greatest quality of life for all, we need bold, proactive, responsive, and effective leaders.

3. CITY FINANCES: We must tackle underlying fiscal challenges, such as our unfunded pension liability, while being responsible with our investments. Prudent management will allow us to give property tax relief and lower the commercial tax rate to spur greater growth. The city’s elected must also hold large tax-exempt institutions accountable for their fair share.

4. PUBLIC SAFETY: Providence must be a city where everyone feels safe and lives in safe environments regardless of race, gender, class, zip code, or level of ability. One shooting, murder is one too many. The focus must be strengthening community/police relationships, building trust, and investing in youth. The police also need more resources to respond effectively.

5. NEIGHBORHOOD AUTONOMY: City government has many responsibilities, but managing smart development projects with a focus on resiliency tops the list. Decisions about new development are now made behind inaccessible and opaque discourse. A more transparent process improves accountability, and more say from our residents. I will reform these processes with a new approach.

 

WARD 2

Helen Anthony (i)

Democrat, Age 62

Occupation: Lawyer

I believe that if you have the opportunity, you should try to make the world better. For me, the best place to start was local government. I served on Town and City Councils in Needham, MA and Columbia, MO, and the Zoning Board in Providence. I’ve learned a lot about policy and governance, and when the Ward 2 seat opened, I decided to run.

1. CITY FINANCES: The city’s financial position is my primary short- and long-term concern. Our pension fund is less than 30 percent funded, which puts us on a path toward bankruptcy. Without a more stable financial position, our schools and quality of life are at risk. This is less about cuts and more about smart financial stewardship and greater transparency.

2. EDUCATION: Providence must regain control of its schools. Our state has no track record of turning around failing districts, and now we have more politics and less input from students and parents whose voices should be at the center. This is a long-term effort that should be a high priority for our next mayor, and must involve real, deep community engagement.

3. PUBLIC SAFETY: Safety is a common, fundamental need in every neighborhood. Everyone wants to feel safe. We need to keep a lid on crime while also insisting on accountability and transparency from public safety officers and a commitment to personal privacy in matters like surveillance. I am pleased the General Assembly is making progress on sensible gun safety.

4. QUALITY OF LIFE: We face a major issue with the increase of student housing developments, which presses on affordability for renters. This can also mean more trash and noise from dense buildings near families. I’ve proposed changes to the Student Housing Ordinance to limit the number of undergraduates living in a single unit, and I hope we pass that this year.

5. NEIGHBORHOOD AUTONOMY: I have fought for more public input in planning from our comprehensive plan to specific zoning requests. We need to ensure ample time for the public to be aware of the implications of proposed projects and opportunities to participate. The Ward 2 Letter has been a major channel to learn about proposed projects, and we’ll continue publishing.        

 

WARD 3

Sue AnderBois

Democrat, Age 39

Occupation: Climate Policy Advocate

I am committed to Providence and know we can do great things as a city. I have a strong track record of effective, ethical, and collaborative policy advocacy and implementation. I want to leverage this for the residents of Ward 3 and get things done in this city. 

1. EDUCATION: As I talk with teachers, parents, and others involved in the schools, I hear a consistent message: the schools need the resources they’ve been asking for (such as counselors to provide support for students) and they need stability – time to actually implement the plans. When the schools are returned to Providence, we need a solid plan and implementation.

2. PUBLIC SAFETY: Increases in crime are linked with increases in poverty and economic and racial injustice. We need to focus on building more opportunities in our city – and also more programs for our youth to recreate safely and have access to the emotional and economic supports that they need.

3. CITY FINANCES: There are no specific cuts. The health of the city’s finances undergirds so much of what the city can accomplish through programs and services. The city’s budget is also a moral document; where we invest our funds shows where our priorities are. We consistently miss our goals for things like contracting with women- and minority-owned businesses.

4. QUALITY OF LIFE: The thing I hear most frequently is improving the sidewalks. People love this ward. They enjoy their neighbors, the small businesses, and the parks. But they can’t access them if they have any mobility restrictions because of the uneven quality of our sidewalks. These are serious problems that affect how people enjoy the city.

5. NEIGHBORHOOD AUTONOMY: Residents should be given ample opportunity to both comment on overall city strategy and plans and also to advocate with their Councilors on how things affect them. However, the city should be given leeway to implement plans that have undergone feedback processes. We need to actually build housing, bike lanes, etc. all across the city.

Mike Fink

Independent

I was invited, asked, to run for the Council as an independent. I hope to combine curiosity by listening to my friendly neighbors as I have since 1936 (I was aged 3 then) and to add whatever wisdom remains with me as a child of Depression, Duration (World War 2) and then REpression (the HUAC loyalty oaths that curbed the freedom of artists and exiled creative souls instead of welcoming them into the realm of our founder Roger Williams who supported “soul liberty” – freedom of beliefs, both of and from religion) and who endeavored to be at peace with the indigenous people as well as newcomers in Ward 3.    

*PUBLIC SAFETY: We need more respect for police as well as sympathy for the person under arrest.    

*NEIGHBORHOOD AUTONOMY: As for neighborhood issues, I believe the bumps are a pain and counterproductive – well-intended, perhaps – but like the camera indictments, rather insulting in a democracy that should assume personal responsibility, not just brute crude force to keep folks in line appropriately. Our Ward 3 is an ideal community of differing kinds of persons who
celebrate both their community and their privacy and personal responsibility.  

*CITY FINANCES: Being a professor throughout my long career at RISD, I believe in words rather than weapons, persuasion instead of insistence, and know too little perhaps about the financial woes of Ward 3. 

Corey Jones

Democrat, Age 25

Occupation: Chief of Program Development at the RI Department of Labor and Training

After losing eight friends and family members to gun violence, I decided enough is enough and it’s time to put an end to gun violence in our city. [This can be accomplished] using programs with restorative practices that get at the root causes of crime, like creating a better education system, jobs, and supportive services for our citizens that need it most.

*PUBLIC SAFETY: We need to provide our first responders with resources like jobs, therapies, and supportive services to increase opportunities. We need to ensure our Greater Streets plan includes plans for crime reduction through environmental development. Add lighting in dark areas around hot spots and trees as well. Lastly, fully fund our crisis response team.

*EDUCATION: State takeovers have never worked, and I don’t expect this one to work either. We need to ensure the people who have the skin in the game – parents and students – have power in the decision making. We need an education system that serves the students.

*NEIGHBORHOOD AUTONOMY: Absolutely, and it should be the job of a City Councilor to create buy-in for these different proposals. I think community-centered decision-making should be codified in law.

*QUALITY OF LIFE: Sidewalks in Ward 3 are in desperate need of repair. I’ve seen sidewalks that look like a ramp at the skatepark. It’s dangerous and harms our residents.

*CITY FINANCES: I think we could make our local government more efficient, which could create some long-term savings. I would also be focused on finding programs that have some duplication at the local and state level and work with our state partners to save money by combining programs. I would use that savings to increase contribution into the pension fund.

Bradly J. VanDerStad

Democrat, Age 27

Occupation: Assistant Editor

Providence needs and deserves authentic community leadership.         

1. NEIGHBORHOOD AUTONOMY: Every major local infrastructure decision should incorporate feedback from residents, and the city should invest appropriate resources into outreach to ensure residents are given ample opportunity to do so.        

2. CITY FINANCES: I’m more interested in growing our tax base than making budget cuts, through workforce investments and exploring a sales tax revenue-sharing model with the state.

3. PUBLIC SAFETY: We need a greater emphasis on community policing and improving police/community relationships.        

4. EDUCATION: While the state is in control, the city needs to develop a vision and plan for how it will do better. Then it should resume control after an elected and empowered school board is at the helm.

5. QUALITY OF LIFE: Streets, sidewalks, and parks. We need to activate our public spaces, particularly crafting and executing a vision for the future of North Main Street.        

WARD 4

Justin Roias (Democrat) did not respond to Providence Monthly’s questionnaire.

Joe Casoli

Democrat, Age 70

Occupation: Special Assistant to the Governor

Because I feel that I have to contribute to the community on the ground level. Right now a major portion of my job is to work with people across the state, particularly during the pandemic. I have been able to help so many and I look at the council position as a venue to help my community by helping to provide a hands-on approach to city services.

1. PUBLIC SAFETY: We must increase the number of police officers to the number approved of in the city budget. We in government must show support for our police officers and stop the chatter which undermines their morale. More importantly we have to better train our police candidates and hire men and women who show empathy and understanding of the human condition.

2. NEIGHBORHOOD AUTONOMY: Yes, absolutely [there should be local say].        

3. QUALITY OF LIFE: Accountability will create respect and pride to our community. Inclusiveness is a top priority.

4. CITY FINANCES: [I would like to see] fiscal responsibility.

5. EDUCATION: No comment provided.

 

WARD 5

Jackie Goldman

Democrat, Age 28

Occupation: Program Manager

As a former AmeriCorps member and a public health researcher, I have witnessed first hand what corrupt policy making can do to a community, both abroad and here in Providence. Our city deserves an accountable and transparent government that speaks directly to the people in order to solve problems.

1. QUALITY OF LIFE: I plan on leading with fully transparent and open processes so that we can directly address problems like the lack of housing, crumbling infrastructure, and lack of timely city services. We need to fix how we finance the city so we have enough funds to fix the city and take the financial burden off the people of Providence.

2. EDUCATION: So far, the state takeover has been ineffective. There has been little oversight, which has resulted in scandal and continued poor performance. I want to create an elected school board that will work directly with the community to determine what students need most. The people of Providence should control their schools.

3. CITY FINANCES: What we need to cut most are corrupt deals with luxury developers that take opportunities away from Providence residents. These large corporate entities buy local land and then pay far less than their fair share in taxes. This is not the way to improve our city.

4. PUBLIC SAFETY: Every Providence resident deserves to feel safe. In order to achieve that, we need to focus on solutions that prevent crime – increasing affordable housing to lower homelessness, as well as expanding mental healthcare. We need to improve community trust in public safety systems and create non-police response options for non-violent crime.

5. NEIGHBORHOOD AUTONOMY: Absolutely! I believe that Providence needs to become a more walkable and bikeable place, in order to curb the dangers and cost of high traffic commuting (both financial and environmental). The people in our communities know what they need and what structures will work best for them.

Jo-Ann Ryan (i)

Democrat, Age 63

Vice President, Customers Bank

Representing the neighborhoods I grew up in has been an honor. I care very much about the greater good, which impacts all of us. While we’ve made progress, we continue to face serious issues from protecting our environment to addressing financial obligations. I’m qualified, experienced, and driven to continue finding solutions to improve our city.

1. CITY FINANCES: The city’s finances are our greatest challenge. It is difficult to
improve quality of life issues if the finances are not properly addressed. While we have come back from the dark days of struggling to make payroll or even having a rainy day fund, we are not out of the woods yet. Our unfunded pension liability and PILOTs (Payments in Lieu of Taxes) must be resolved.

2. PUBLIC SAFETY: People need to feel safe in their homes and in their communities. We need to return in earnest to community policing that is adequately staffed and appropriately funded. We need to focus on relevant training, diversion programs, and youth programming. Officers must reflect the neighborhoods they patrol.

3. EDUCATION: The state takeover of our schools has failed to date. While we need to hold the state accountable, we must now plan for our schools to be returned to the district. We need to properly fund our schools and create a governance model that supports our teachers, engages our community, and focuses on student outcomes.

4. QUALITY OF LIFE: We need an administration to commit to delivering city services with alacrity. That also includes being diligent about monitoring vendors and enforcing contracts to ensure deliverables are furnished professionally and timely. Trash pick-up and snow removal need to happen like clockwork. Streets and sidewalks need to be maintained regularly.

5. NEIGHBORHOOD AUTONOMY: Yes, we need genuine community engagement across all areas. Residents need to be engaged in policy decisions. The Council voted to put several Charter Amendments before voters this fall to address community engagement issues, including a hybrid school board change providing for both mayoral appointees and publicly elected members.

 

WARD 6

Jorge Porras (Republican) did not respond to Providence Monthly’s questionnaire.

Joseph Giampietro

Democrat, Age 57

Occupation: Maintenance         

To improve people’s lives with education, better jobs, and literacy; address safety concerns; improve community identities; and bring back community involvement to allow people to feel they have equity in their community. My goal is to stop the division and hate by bringing people together with a common goal by making them feel they have equity in their area.        

*PUBLIC SAFETY: I feel trees need to be manicured, there’s too many dark areas – street lights are covered with trees blocking any light.        

*EDUCATION: The closer you are to the problem, the more you should know how to fix the problem. I’m not sure about what the state can do differently than the city, but to me it’s a people problem that needs to be fixed by the right commitments by teachers and parents.        

*NEIGHBORHOOD AUTONOMY: I feel not every wish list can be accommodated; money and logistics play a big part in the outcome, but people’s ideas should always be heard. I myself have three areas in my ward that I’d like to see look more like a Federal Hill in some aspects. If you reflect the community, the community will take pride in that area.        

*QUALITY OF LIFE: Education, safety, and a sense of community are all aspects that need to be addressed.

*CITY FINANCES: I would have to really have to sit down and look at the books and hear justifications for things we are paying for to make a knowledgeable determination.

Miguel Sanchez

Democrat, Age 24

Occupation: Constituent Services Associate

I decided to run because I have both lived and professional experience that will give me a unique perspective to advocate for my
neighbor’s needs at the city level. I am prepared to put in the work. This includes cleaning up our streets, improving our public education system and fighting for a fair tax system that doesn’t hurt working families.

1. EDUCATION: A good public education is the foundation of any prosperous municipality. I believe the city should take control of PPSD sooner rather than later, but we need to make sure the city has an effective plan. Until then, we need to make sure there are accountability mechanisms in place.

2. CITY FINANCES: I would like to see the big wealthy nonprofits pay their fair share in taxes so we are not pushing everyday folks out of our city. Almost 40 percent of our property is tax exempt; this is not sustainable for any city. With rising property values, we need to drop our tax rate by a significant amount that actually helps working and low-income families. 

3. QUALITY OF LIFE: More frequent street sweeping, elevated crosswalks where there is heavy foot traffic, hold Waste Management accountable when necessary, build sidewalks on streets that don’t have them, redesign some streets to deter folks from speeding, and make them more pedestrian friendly.

4. PUBLIC SAFETY: We need to start addressing poverty, which is the root of all crime. Anything else is a band-aid solution.

5. NEIGHBORHOOD AUTONOMY: Real concrete community engagement should be at the center of any new development.

 

WARD 7

David Marshall

Democrat, Age 64

In 2018, I ran for City Council but was defeated by Council President John iggliozzi. However, that did not stop me from continuing my love for the neighborhood and I continued to support the residents of Ward 7.

*PUBLIC SAFETY: We need to have active community policing. This would mean
police officers on foot as well.

*EDUCATION: I believe the city can handle any education issues that arise. Let’s have the city control our schools by giving them the support they need to give the best education to our children. If this can’t be completed within a certain time frame, then let the state attempt to correct any issues.

*NEIGHBORHOOD AUTONOMY: Yes, the community should have a say as to what takes place in their neighborhood. Some of these issues are creating problems in neighborhoods and need to be discussed and planned out before approved.

*QUALITY OF LIFE: Sidewalks, rodent issues, clean properties, and absentee landlords are issues that need to be addressed.

*CITY FINANCES: I would have to be able to review the finances of the city to make that judgment and see who is awarded how much money.

Ana Vargas

Democrat, Age 49

Occupation: Former Customer Service Clerk for the School Dept.

I decided to run for City Council to fulfill the needs of my community; to be their voice to defend the rights of our neighborhood and improve our quality of life. I want cleaner streets, paved roads, and a better educational system.         

1. EDUCATION: Control should return to the city.

2. PUBLIC SAFETY: More community policing.

3. QUALITY OF LIFE: More job opportunities.

4. NEIGHBORHOOD AUTONOMY: Yes, [locals should have a say].

5. CITY FINANCES: I would have to review the budget.

 

WARD 8

James Taylor (i) (Democrat) did not respond to Providence Monthly’s questionnaire.

 

WARD 9

Gerard Catala (Democrat),  and Jose Perez Corporan (Independent) did not respond to Providence Monthly’s questionnaire.

Juan M. Pichardo

Democrat, Age 55

Realtor

My family has lived in Ward 9 for 43 years and raised our kids here. We love Providence and our neighborhood! I want to serve, be a stronger voice, through my life experience, knowledge, and leadership gained over the years as a Senator for 16 years and 22-year Veteran of the Air Force/ANG. We’ll work together for cleaner, safer streets and improve city services. 

  1. EDUCATION
  2. PUBLIC SAFETY: We need to continue to increase civic participation with our police and fire fighters, encouraging more to reside in our neighborhoods.
  3. CITY FINANCES
  4. QUALITY OF LIFE
  5. NEIGHBORHOOD AUTONOMY

Diego Tomás Arene-Morley

Independent, Age 28

Social Worker and High School Teacher

I’m skilled at connecting people to services and advocating for smart laws. As a social worker, teacher, and recovery coach, I’ve walked hundreds of people along their journey from the streets, court, and hospitals back to school, home, and meaningful work. My public policy education equips me to legislate from the perspective of those most impacted.

1. EDUCATION: I come to this issue as a parent of a Providence Public School student. The city should take back control of the school system and establish a healthier dialogue between parents, students, teachers, and administrators. My job will be to foster that dialogue in good faith and work to fund the programs that our students need.

2. QUALITY OF LIFE: Ward 9 neighbors want cleaner, safer streets and sidewalks. We need slower streets and ways of addressing noise pollution with community buy-in. A central part of my campaign is community clean-up events across all Ward 9 streets. This is the service mindset I will bring to our City Council.

3. PUBLIC SAFETY: Police tell me they can’t solve cases of major crime because people in our neighborhood don’t trust them. Until this changes, nothing changes. We must end the failed War on Drugs to focus police work on real public safety threats. This is a first step towards rebuilding trust between our community and public safety officers.

4. NEIGHBORHOOD AUTONOMY: Of course. When neighbors directly participate in their government, the rules they design work better and are easier to follow. My independent community campaign is about putting people before
politics. I will donate at least half my official salary to fund a platform for direct community decision making open only to Ward 9 residents.

5. CITY FINANCES: Providence’s finances will be stronger when we grow city revenue and create new jobs. We must attract new industries like electric vehicles and psychedelic therapeutics. I will advocate for City Council to reassign funds to hire more social workers and teachers aides in schools. My goal is not to cut budgets but to reinvest funds in our kids.

April Brown

Democrat, Age 56

Occupation: Non-profit Director

The reason I want to run is because Ward 9 is my home and has been my home for 48 years. I feel that we need to strengthen our neighborhood connections. A few of the ways I plan to do this is by reactivating community meetings with the City Councilor, strengthening the ward through business investments, and making people proud of their homes.        

*PUBLIC SAFETY: We need to bring back real community policing to build on the relationship between public safety and Ward 9.        

*EDUCATION: The city should not relinquish its control of the public schools to the state nor should they abandon their duty to provide
quality education to the children of Providence to ensure a sustainable future.        

*NEIGHBORHOOD AUTONOMY: Yes, Ward 9 residents deserve safety in all areas; we must make changes and implement calming
measures, but this should be focused on the success and health of the neighborhood. These matters of neighborhood invigoration should start and end with all of those that live in Ward 9, making sure those most impacted are priority.        

*QUALITY OF LIFE: We need to focus on environmental justice, housing security, and job equity.        

*CITY FINANCES: Our neighbors who are continually placed in the margin need our support as they grapple with mental, physical, and financial turmoil in our city. I would like to see more investments in resources that change the way residents are able to access and utilize housing, green jobs training, and public education for all of us.

Miguel Quezada

Democrat

Occupation: Sales

I love Providence for what it is and how much more it can be. I grew up here and want my daughter and all our children to grow up here, too, but we have our challenges, especially in Ward 9 on the Southside. We will fight for what is right and demand equity in all decisions. I bring a new vision and leadership to affect change for a better tomorrow.

1. EDUCATION: Our schools are in bad shape and we all have a responsibility to our children. At this point, we have to give the state time, but their process should include the city and all of its stakeholders, including residents in this transformation. We should not wait until the end of the takeover to pass the baton to the city as that will be too late.

2. PUBLIC SAFETY: Let’s reimagine public safety to reflect the needs of the community. For example: add other professionals, i.e. mental health, that can respond to calls that do not require police; more training in areas of implicit bias and deescalation; reintroduce community policing; and offer incentives/recruit more police members to live in our community.

3. QUALITY OF LIFE: Our neighbors are telling me that we need true representation for our community. We want someone that understands and cares but can also effectively negotiate, strategize, and advocate for us. We need a safe and clean environment, quality schools, and affordable housing, among other concerns. I bring new leadership and a new vision for a better tomorrow.

4. CITY FINANCES: Before considering cuts, I’d like to see ways of increasing revenues. For example, let’s discuss and negotiate PILOT agreements. We also need to reexamine TSAs to ensure projects are beneficial to the community and not a “give away.”

5. NEIGHBORHOOD AUTONOMY: Participation is important within all of the included issues. Neighborhood engagement is a top priority during my campaign and will be in my tenure on the council. I will ensure that I fight for what is right for us all and demand equity in all decisions. Thus this ranking is a moot point as engagement will be included in all these issues.

 

WARD 10

Pedro Espinal (i)

Democrat, Age 57

Occupation: Real Estate Investor

I am running for Providence City Council to amplify the voices of so many neighbors who wanted trust restored in their local leaders. I have fought to put laws in place that protect the health of our children and families, support tenants and homeowners, as well as laws protecting our workers to ensure they are receiving fair wages.        

1. PUBLIC SAFETY: We need to restore the trust in our local police, so I believe community policing is the first step in fixing that relationship. Additionally we need to create a system that holds officers accountable when their actions violate their role in the community and they abuse their power.

2. EDUCATION: I believe our education system needs to be put back into the hands of our city leaders.

3. QUALITY OF LIFE: Pollution in our ward is one of the most pressing issues. We need to stop the dumping and invest in improving our quality of air through more green and sustainable projects.

4. NEIGHBORHOOD AUTONOMY: Yes, because these are issues that impact everyone’s daily lives.

5. CITY FINANCES: I believe that at the moment all the investments in our city are key to the everyday lives of our constituents. If we are going to make cuts, I believe it’s a decision that must be made after looking at the whole budget and attempting to consolidate before making permanent changes.

Natalia Rosa Sosa

Democrat

Occupation: Education

I decided to run because of my passion to serve the community. Over the years I’ve been fortunate to serve the community in different capacities. As a mother, daughter, sister, and partner, I understand the struggles that our community faces. I earnestly believe that I represent what Ward 10 needs.        

*PUBLIC SAFETY: We as a community need to ensure our neighborhoods are safe with culturally competent law enforcement officers with a focus on local neighborhood needs. 

*EDUCATION: The Providence school district is under state control. We should give the state an opportunity to improve the educational
system with an agreed upon timeline. If student achievement does not improve, return the district to Providence. Our children are our future; it’s time to make a real investment in our children’s education.

*NEIGHBORHOOD AUTONOMY: Absolutely. A global view to community changes leaves people with angst because they are not included in the change or heard in [discussions about] what is better for our neighborhoods.  

*QUALITY OF LIFE: As I walk and knock on doors today, our residents state that we need clean streets, new sidewalks, speed control, and plowed streets curb to curb. These simple things are immediate to those who live in our ward. 

*CITY FINANCES: In business, there are two ways to make ends meet: increase revenues or cut expenses. Our most recent census indicates a growth in population, so cutting expenses through reduction of services becomes a bigger challenge. Simply put, I would like to see additional revenues and effective spending more than just cuts.

 

WARD 11

Mary Kay Harris (i) and George Lindsey (both Democrat) did not respond to Providence Monthly’s questionnaire.

Cedric Martin Russell

Independent, Age 33

I’ve been on dialysis for 18 years. I’ve watched how policy shapes the outcome of so many lives. Running for City Councilman would allow me to give people like me the opportunity to shape policy for our safety and protection.         

*EDUCATION: I believe the city is capable of coming together and working on a strategic curriculum that will [encompass] all the necessary factors in order for our children to succeed.        

*NEIGHBORHOOD AUTONOMY: I believe [there should be more local say]. The locals live in the community as well. They also pay taxes, just like everybody else.

*QUALITY OF LIFE: [There needs to be] job opportunities for all walks of life, free health care for all, better nutritional food options at a low market price, better systems of education including cheaper college rates, and safer streets and family meetings.        

 

WARD 12

Seangsouk Keobouthanh (Independent) did not respond to Providence Monthly’s questionnaire.

Joe Cornwall

Democrat, Age 73

Occupation: Architect, property manager      

The opportunity presented itself. People feel disconnected. I want to address that. Only by getting my ideas about ward life out between now and September 13 will I know if my ideas have legs.

1. NEIGHBORHOOD AUTONOMY: Neighborhood autonomy goes way beyond bike lanes, traffic calming, and zoning – but that’s a good start. The ward is our most basic democratic unit and needs to be strengthened.

2. EDUCATION: Parents need to get involved. Once parents have control, then the proper city or state involvement, whichever is more practical, can follow.

3. PUBLIC SAFETY: A cop on the beat. To have a walking patrol person who knows you and your family and your neighbors would be ideal. Unfortunately, there is a lot to wrestle with to get this to happen.

4. QUALITY OF LIFE: What cries out is street, sidewalk, and vacant lot litter, debris, weeds, dead leaves, and broken sidewalks.

5. CITY FINANCES: The city does a pretty good job with the constraints it is under. It is really more a problem of allocation of what money we have. If the constituents of each ward had a better handle on city expenses and the means to address it, that would help.

Belen Florez

Democrat, Age 52

Occupation: Office Manager and Non-profit Founder

I have been a part of this community for 42 years. I believe we need strong and compassionate leadership at City Hall. I believe in people; I believe that, together, we can build a stronger community that is ready to face the challenges of the future. I will always communicate with my community and would be honored to be your voice in City Hall.

1. QUALITY OF LIFE: We need to increase access to quality education, careers, and housing. I think we can do this by advocating for increased support in City Hall for the needs that aren’t being met in Ward 12.

2. EDUCATION: I strongly express my full support for returning control of our schools to the city of Providence. Once oversight has been returned to the city, I will advocate
tirelessly, with my council colleagues, to ensure that our students and teachers have all necessary resources available to them to thrive and exceed regional standards.

3. PUBLIC SAFETY: I will work, together with my council colleagues and the incoming administration, to make sure we continue to graduate new diverse police academies that better reflect the communities they represent.

4. CITY FINANCES: I would like to see cuts in licensing fees and other cumbersome, unnecessary bureaucratic regulations that hinder our small business community from starting their ventures. I will work to ensure that City Hall works for our small business community as well as all residents.

5. NEIGHBORHOOD AUTONOMY: Yes, my job as City Councilor is to represent the needs and wants of my community. As such, I will always remain accessible to determine the will of my constituents.

Althea A. Graves

Democrat, Age 68

Retired

I am a lifelong resident of Ward 12; it is my home and I love it. I have a track record of fighting for resources and programs for the community. I have served on numerous boards and committees that help to improve, empower, and enhance my community and city. I can use that same dedication and the experience at a greater level as Councilwoman.

1. QUALITY OF LIFE: Stop the gentrification. Rents are high; many cannot afford to continue to live here. Lack of home security can affect all aspects of their lives.

2. PUBLIC SAFETY: Several things from the urgent and life-or-death situations, such as getting these unlawful guns off the city streets, to the basics, such as improved lighting, maintenance of sidewalks, and overgrown foliage (which cause people to be in the street with ongoing traffic) and other common sense and easy-to-remedy issues.

3. EDUCATION: The city needs to take control. Teach so students learn and comprehend not just to study for state tests.

4. NEIGHBORHOOD AUTONOMY: Yes. It should be transparent and real, not a rubber stamp meeting where a decision has already been made but you need to check the box that the community was involved.

5. CITY FINANCES: This is a very important issue; however, I have given it the number 5 slot.  This is because until I have sat down and looked over the books/budget, I cannot truly give a comprehensive answer.

 

WARD 13

Rachel Miller (i) (Democrat) did not respond to Providence Monthly’s questionnaire.

WARD 14

Patrick T. Griffin

Democrat, Age 67

Occupation: Businessman

With my years of service and experience with the City of Providence, I believe I am uniquely qualified to serve as the next Councilman from Ward 14. Constituent services was not only my career, but my passion. I am ready to carry on serving the city that has given my family and I more than I could ever repay.

1. PUBLIC SAFETY: The City Council must ensure that the Providence Police Department is adequately staffed, that officers are walking the neighborhood and getting to know the communities they serve on a more personal level, that more full-time social workers are hired by PPD to aid in deescalating non life-threatening emergencies, and hiring a permanent fire chief.

2. EDUCATION: The state has proven to be a poor steward of the Providence Public School Department. PPS should be brought back under the jurisdiction of the City of Providence, and the transition must be led by educators, families, and members of the community.        

3. QUALITY OF LIFE: We need a City Councilor that is responsive to constituent concerns, and ensuring that taxpayers are receiving the city services that they’re taxed for. From ensuring catch basins are cleaned regularly to curb-to-curb snow plowing and regular street sweeping, Ward 14 is in most need of simple, routine services.        

4. CITY FINANCES: As City Councilman, I intend on thoroughly examining each and every line item of each proposed annual budget alongside the city auditor, the Chair of the
Finance Committee, and other city officials to make the right choices for our community.

5. NEIGHBORHOOD AUTONOMY: Absolutely. Residents of our neighborhoods know our streets best, and their input is vitally important to address these issues.

Shelley T. Peterson

Democrat, Age 41

Occupation: Grantwriter/Registrar

I am running for City Council because as a constituent over the last 20 years, I’ve learned there are some deeper issues that need to be dealt with by leaders who are willing to have difficult conversations to affect the change we’re looking for. As a Latina, mother, and advocate, I feel that I represent a large section of my ward and can do that.

1. EDUCATION: I believe that the city should have control of our schools. However, I believe that we need to have a definitive plan in place prior to the transition. Additionally, we need to give the superintendent the autonomy to affect the immediate impact and change we expect for our youth to thrive.

2. PUBLIC SAFETY: I think we need public safety officials to move back to our neighborhoods so that they truly understand the fabric of Providence. By understanding and supporting our communities, especially our youth, you’d see a difference in the way
people are treated and an opportunity to engage with civility and justice at the forefront.

3. QUALITY OF LIFE: Ward 14 is a tale of two neighborhoods. Elmhurst’s main concerns focus on road and sidewalk repair and traffic safety while Wanskuck has deeper needs like access to quality affordable housing and basic needs like landlords who tend to basic and essential quality of life issues on their properties, like having hot water, for instance.

4. CITY FINANCES: I don’t know how to answer that without having a full audit of each city department. It would be important for every incoming City Councilor to really understand city services inside and out before taking a stance like that. A unified acknowledgment of the need by all City Councilors is a great starting point in my opinion to then continue forward.

5. NEIGHBORHOOD AUTONOMY: 100 percent. How do we expect our neighborhoods to be on board with changes that significantly impact their day to day if we don’t have their input?

Andrew Poyant

Democrat, Age 35

Occupation: Environmental Scientist

As a father, a community organizer, and an environmental scientist, I have seen time and time again the people in power siding with corporations and the wealthy over the
majority of Providence residents. I want to bring a sense of urgency to the City Council to address issues that have been impacting Providence residents for years.

1. EDUCATION: My experience on the Community Design Team, providing input to RIDE on the Turnaround Plan, allowed me to see the limitations of our state’s ability to fix the PPSD. I want the city to take back control of our schools, increase transparency and public engagement, and have a fully elected school board that is accountable to voters.

2. CITY FINANCES: I would like to end tax breaks for luxury developers and increase taxes on private colleges. We can’t have the city services our residents deserve or address the pension deficit without creating and implementing a fairer tax system.

3. PUBLIC SAFETY: We must address the root causes of crime in our city by building affordable housing, investing in our public schools, funding after-school and summer programs and creating hundreds of good paying green union jobs for Providence residents. I will also support gun buyback programs to help reduce the number of guns in Providence.

4. QUALITY OF LIFE: Addressing disparities of investment, adding a splash pad and park renovations in Wanskuck, renovating and converting abandoned housing to affordable housing, maintaining clean streets, improving sidewalks, and ensuring high-quality education and living wage job opportunities in the neighborhood.

5. NEIGHBORHOOD AUTONOMY: I support creating community-driven planning of our streets to assure safe roads for everyone that are designed with the community in mind. My neighborhood is being bought up by a few corporations, leading to increased rents and making it harder for people to buy a house; addressing this is important for my neighborhood and our city as a whole.

 

WARD 15

Oscar Vargas (i) and Santos Javier (both Democrat) did not respond to Providence Monthly’s questionnaire.

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