Mayoral hopeful Chris Young looks like a balloon about to burst. “I don’t want to intimidate you by looking at you,” he practically shouts to an already agitated audience, “but I can humbly say there is no better fighter for [Providence].”
Frustrated laughter ripples through the basement of the Rochambeau Library where the second of three mayoral forums is taking place. Six men, all hoping to be the future mayor of our city, sit facing a substantial slice of Providence’s public – older citizens from the East Side mixed with a handful of bright young things – and no one seems impressed.
We are deep into the second hour of a question and answer session covering topics ranging from crime to universal pre-k to exposed power lines, and the current issue under discussion is the 195 relocation project. It’s become blatantly clear that no matter the question, most of the candidates echo the same themes: community engagement (we can’t get development done if we don’t work together!), making the city more enticing to outside investors (how can we expect to boost the city’s economy and build a beautiful space if businesses have to pay ridiculously high property taxes?) and ending the “know-a-guy” kind of corruption that often makes Providence into a national joke. Even Dan Harrop, the sole Republican candidate, agrees that political transparency and public involvement is key to the 195 development initiative.
So if all of the candidates share the same basic ideals, how are we to differentiate between them? From this writer’s observations, it seems Lorne Adrain is a schmoozer – he can charm an audience with personal anecdotes. Michael Solomon, City Council President, has experience and a loyal following but who knows what he actually plans on doing? Judge Jorge Elorza is passionate about investment in the city’s future as is evident by his reliance on young campaigners. Harrop is typically Republican in an economic sense (cut spending, deal with our deficits); Brett Smiley continues to point to programs of his that are already in place and pushes the idea of longevity in the position; and finally, there is Chris Young. Young, who screams and threatens the audience, interrupts his fellow candidates and who blames us all for the sad state of Providence. Why? Because we keep refusing to vote him into office.
Hey, after a few hours of circular conversation in a crowded space where the key words from the evening are “potholes” and “corruption,” Young is a welcome form of entertainment. But Providence’s future is not a laughing matter... and one of these men will one day run this town.