Politics

"Hard" Questions with PVD's Mayoral Hopefuls

Five men running for Mayor talk about the Superman Building, what the three most pressing issues facing PVD are right now, plus FOOD TRUCKS and more

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*UPDATE: Brett Smiley no longer running -  supporting Jorge Elorza

WHAT ARE THE THREE BIGGEST PROBLEMS FACING PROVIDENCE?

Buddy Cianci:Lack of jobs. The crime rate. The need to create better opportunities for learning for our Providence public school students.

Jorge Elorza: Our three greatest, most fundamental needs are better schools, a stronger economy and safe, vibrant neighborhoods.

Daniel Harrop: Finances (the collapse of the pension fund), education and safety (police reductions).

Brett Smiley: The struggling state of our public schools, the crime and violence in our streets, and the lack of job opportunities for neighbors in every corner of Providence.

Michael Solomon: The next mayor of Providence needs to focus on three things – creating jobs, improving our schools and revitalizing every neighborhood in the city. These three issues are the focus of my campaign.

Chris Young: We need to eliminate the car tax and lower residential and commercial property taxes, rebuild Providence’s financial foundation and restore and rebuild the collapsed functions of Providence city government like public safety, education and job creation.

WHAT ARE YOUR PROPOSED SOLUTIONS?

BC: To nurture the job base already in place in areas of culture and tourism, and to create new areas of job growth, such as in bioscience and pharmaceutical manufacturing, by forging a stronger partnership with our great colleges and universities. To reverse the under-investment in our police department that has taken place during the past decade.

JE: I don’t claim to have all the answers – no one person can – so I will bring people together from every neighborhood in the city to work on creative, collaborative solutions. I’ve got a track record of this: as a Housing Court Judge, I pioneered a process to hold the big- gest banks in the world accountable for the abandoned properties in our neighborhoods. This had never been done before, and there was certainly no roadmap for how to achieve it. That’s the same approach I will bring to City Hall.

DH: The city needs to enter bankruptcy (technically called “receivership” when dealing with a city) now, not later, to try to save what is left of the pension fund (now at 31% funded and sinking) and stabilize city taxes to attract business.

BS: For schools, my plan involves giving more autonomy and career development opportunities for teachers, fixing our crumbling infrastructure and conducting a biannual performance review to ensure we’re spending our money in ways that most directly benefit our students. On public safety, my plan involves putting more officers on our streets, strengthening the community policing model, being proactive about illegal guns, and improving data and technology. And my jobs and economic development plan includes changing the culture in City Hall, focusing on our arts, culture, design industries, investing in a working waterfront and playing a larger role in the regional economy.

MS:
The foundation for addressing these problems is improving our schools, because strong schools lead to strong neighborhoods. I have a $250 million plan to rebuild our worst schools. Some of our schools are over 100 years old and it shows. My 10-year plan would make our schools first-rate learning centers and create 2,000 jobs. Our neighborhoods also need to be safe. Our police force is the smallest it has been in decades. My first act as mayor would be to call for a new police academy to train 40 more officers.

CY:
Eliminating the car tax and lowering property tax is a two part plan: first, together we can generate the revenue to offset the taxes by taxing Brown University; second, we need to reduce the city’s bond indebtedness by having a statewide bond issued at a lower interest rate. We can rebuild Providence’s economy by generating new sources of revenue and equally applying taxes. We will reduce the city bond debt, bring in state and federal money for jobs projects. We must rebuild our infrastructure of our schools and education system through the budget. We need to push for more state aid and federal grant monies through a larger grant writing process with a focus on students getting the skills needed for employment. Finally we need to focus on rebuilding jobs in Providence through state and federal jobs projects but also by creating business incubators for those with similar talents.

GIVEN INFINITE RESOURCES, WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH THE SUPERMAN BUILDING? WHAT ABOUT IN REALITY?

BC: Ideally, find a single user to reha- bilitate it as a headquarters for a national firm employing 5,000 people. In reality, make it an economic hub by attracting businesses to employ 5,000 people.

JE:
Given infinite resources, I would turn the Superman Building into a mixed use space, including residential and retail along with thriving office space designed as an inno- vation center for eager entrepreneurs. In reality, it’s up to the market to decide what happens.

DH: Turn it over to a private development firm, whether or not we have infinite resources – we can let a free market decide. In reality, the city could take a percentage interest in the business depending on the need to delay tax payments the developers might need.

BS: The Superman Building is an important commodity and I will work hard to see it put to good use. When it comes to public subsidy, this can only be justified for something in the public interest. I would be open to exploring options for affordable housing, live/work space, and alternatives that provide an important resource for our community. I’m also interested in developing short-term strategies to enliven the space, such as lighting the building or holding public art displays that involve everyone from RISD students to professional artists.

MS: Any use associated with the Superman building should build upon the growing work/live community downtown. Providence is developing an identity as an entrepreneurial hub. I would like to see the Superman Building revitalized as an entrepreneurial partnership between the city, state, and our colleges and universities.

CY: The Superman Building would be best in the hands of a private developer who is given tax, zoning and state aid help. If the Superman Building goes into the hands of the city through tax sale or even if it does not, the city will help bring in a national business to locate on the first floor like a financial services company or a national restaurant chain like the Hard Rock Café. This will help to bring the heart of the city back to life and beating again.

WHAT'S THE CITY'S NEXT GROWTH INDUSTRY?

BC: Preserving the base we have and expanding into jobs development with our med/ed communities, as well as developing our terrific natural asset, our waterfront.

JE:
Exports. I have proposed a plan to double our export economy over five years, which has the potential to produce over 1,500 jobs. The Port of Providence is one of only two deep water ports in New England, and it has tremendous growth potential. We also have to think of exports not just in terms of manufacturing goods and shipping them through the port – our creative services, consulting expertise, innovative technologies and culture are all highly in demand in emerging markets around the world.

DH:
Medical technology in the newish “Knowledge District,” although the arts have been growing slowly and can be expanded as well.

BS:
The three areas for growth that I’ve focused on are our growing our “meds and eds” economy by working in closer partnership with hospitals and universities, investing in our arts, culture and design industries, and finally creating a thriving, working waterfront.

MS:
We are perfectly situated to grow our arts and healthcare industries. I strongly supported the development of the URI/RIC Nursing School to ensure that Rhode Islanders would be prepared for job growth in the healthcare industry. This is also why I strongly support more arts and science in our curriculum. We need to be preparing well-rounded high school graduates, because they are the workforce of tomorrow.

CY:
The city will not grow under the leadership of my opponents, all of whom are linked to either this administration, a prior administration or Brown University. If we the people are elected, the growth will come in every direction and in every field, including the colleges, hospitals, corporations etc. In Mathew chapter 7 it says, “You will be able to tell them by their fruits. Can people pick grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, a sound tree produces good fruit but a rotten tree bad fruit. A sound tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor a rotten tree bear good fruit.” I am the good tree.

WHY ARE YOU THE BEST CHOICE FOR MAYOR?

BC: Proven leadership.

JE:
Because the important issues we’re discussing in this campaign – the need for better schools, a stronger economy, safer, more vibrant neighborhoods – aren’t just talking points for me. They’re the experiences that have defined my life. I’m the only candidate who understands the struggles of a working family one paycheck away from eviction just as well as I understand the struggles of the business person one tax bill away from closing up shop. I have a bold, creative vision for our future, and a pragmatic, results-oriented approach to achieving it. Plus, I’m the only candidate who is building the broad coalition of support in every neighborhood of the city to beat Cianci.

DH:
I have realistic, if somewhat unpalatable, solutions to the city problems. I am the ultimate outsider (a Republican!) to clean up city hall.

BS:
The people of Providence deserve to know exactly what their next mayor plans to accomplish and exactly how we’ll do it, and I’ve consistently been the one to tell them with detailed, substantive plans to address the important issues facing our city. I’ve been a leader in progressive causes throughout my career. I’ve worked for the last two mayors, chaired the Providence Water Supply Board, and have experience up at the State House. And I’ve built a citywide coalition with support in every neighborhood and the type of wide reaching ground game necessary to beat Cianci in November. When it comes to the City of Providence, I know what needs to be done, I know how to get it done, I know how to get it done the right way.

MS:
I have spent the last three years pulling Providence back from the brink of bankruptcy. Now, with our financial footing regained, we need to move forward with a bold vision. I have a vision that will make Providence a city of opportunity for all. I want to be a mayor for every family in every neighborhood.

CY:
My mother was an immigrant factory worker who came home with her hands colored red from making roses in the mills. After losing both my parents at an early age, I went from being an orphan to going to Classical High School to graduating from Boston University with an Electrical Engineering degree. Together, we will serve the people of Providence to bring about the city of God.

WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE AT A FOOD TRUCK?

BC: A hot dog at the mother of all food trucks, Haven Brothers.

JE:
A chimi from Johnny’s Chimis on Broad Street. I call them the “Dominican Whopper.”
They’re so good!

DH:
Johnny cakes at a farmer’s market at breakfast in Narragansett

BS:
A coffee shake from Like No Udder (which was absolutely delicious).

MS:
Empanadas on Broad Street.

CY:
Alligator at the Charlestown Seafood Festival.