Providence Mayoral Candidates’ Top Priorities
Saturday, April 19, 2014
As the 2014 campaign season is well underway with less than seven months until election day, candidates are pushing out policy platforms, engaging in community forums, and hitting the trail, in an effort to garner support -- and turnout -- come November.
With numerous policy positions put out by the candidates on such issues as education, crime, and economic development, GoLocal asked the candidates what takes top importance to them.
See Candidates' Top Issues BELOW
So what are the candidates top priorities, what differentiates then from the field, and what is tops on their list if elected to office? According to one seasoned political observer, the traditional ground game still trumps all.
"Providence is a relatively small city (both in terms of population and geographic area) so, while it may be difficult to get the media to pay much attention to them (unless they are one of their favorites) most voters will probably not pay an awful lot of attention to broad, sophisticated policy statements--so it doesn't matter much so long as the media pay some attention to them as candidates," said veteran political pollster Victor Profughi. "Far more important, will be how effectively candidates work the field game and identify voters."
Parsing the Field
GoLocal asked the candidates how their vision -- and experience -- sets them apart from their competition.
"My depth of experience in supporting and creating an entrepreneurial economy will help accelerate our City's economic recovery," said Democrat Lorne Adrain. "My vision is directly influenced by my experience in bringing people together to realize goals in the private, non-profit and public sectors."
Fellow Democrat Jorge Elorza explained what he saw as his unique perspective.
"My vision sets me apart because it's one based on having seen firsthand both how providing an opportunity can be a blessing and how denying an opportunity can be fatal," said Jorge Elorza. "The issues that I'm talking about in this campaign aren't just talking points to me; I have lived them."
Democrats Brett Smiley and Michael Solomon offered their views on what set them apart.
"What we need is a progressive mayor who clearly articulates the problems Providence faces and offers specific, comprehensive strategies to address them," said Brett Smiley. "I have already published a detailed plan to make our streets safer, proposed a bill that funds anti-violence efforts by taxing gun and ammunition purchases, suggested reforming the Providence Economic Development Partnership (PEDP) to remove the politics from the loan-making process, released a 17-page plan to create jobs and grow the economy, and unveiled 14 innovative environmental commitments (all of which can be read at SmileyForMayor.com). My campaign has been about setting clear goals and getting things done, and my administration will be no different."
City Council President Michael Solomon volunteered the following. "I have a bold vision for Providence that will create 2,000 jobs and rebuild our schools, which are in dire need of repairs. Many of our schools are more than 50 years old and some are more than 100 years old. Strategically investing in education and jobs are the two keys to expanding opportunity and rebuilding our city's middle class," said Solomon. "Rebuilding our schools will create first-rate learning environments for our children, transform our facilities to encourage increased technology use by our teachers, and create 2,000 good jobs for people in the community by utilizing First Source, apprenticeship programs, as well as local, minority and women contractors."
Students to Weigh In
Chris Gomez with Young Voices, who is a senior at Dr. Jorge Alvarez High School in Providence, told GoLocal what he viewed as the top issue facing the candidates -- and what he'd like to see once the new Mayor is elected.
"In my opinion, as a student in Providence, a problem facing the city is our education system - and not having a student centered education system," said Gomez. "We need more hands-on learning, and better personalized learning around a student's needs and interests. We need a better tech proficiency -- we're relying too much on standardized testing."
Gomez offered what he thought the next Mayor should address in the schools
"One really big policy that can be beneficial is "restorative practices," said Gomez. "It's the policy that instead of punitive punishment -- taking students out of the classroom, and earning time -- it keeps them in the school instead."
Gomez, who has been accepted at Rhode Island College and will begin summer classes, said he was looking forward to the candidate forum.
"What I want to get out of the forum is to see the candidates taking the students' point of view on the education system, and help them communicate with our city's youth," said Gomez.
Related Slideshow: Providence 2014 Mayoral Candidates’ Top Priorities
See the issues of top concern to Providence Mayoral candidates Lorne Adrain, Jorge Elorza, Dan Harrop, Brett Smiley, and Michael Solomon -- and if elected, what their highest priority would be.
Harrop - Top Issue
"City finances: $600 million deficit in pension plan, $1billion deficit in benefits plan, reductions -- because of finances -- in police causing public safety concerns (down 75 from several years ago, when the academy graduates at the end of the year, given further retirements, we will really only be back up about 20-25 new officers), reduced ambulance runs, potholes, crumbling schools, etc., etc."
Harrop - Administration
"Getting the unions into the office and reminding them, again, the city cannot pay the pensions it has promised. Again, the GOP said this 8 years ago, and we were right, the Democrats wrong. We are saying this again (this time, the Dems are silent -- interpret that as you will -- I interpret it that they know we are right, but they have problems admitting their complicity in this problem). We can further negotiate reductions, or move to receivership. Until we acknowledge we cannot pay the pensions, we will be unable to come up with the money for any and all of the spending programs the Democrats are proposing. Further increasing the highest commercial tax rates in the nation is not the answer, and only further depresses the city's economic fortunes."
Smiley - Top Issue
"The most pressing issue facing Providence is our economic well-being, and that's why I've made job creation and economic development a centerpiece of my campaign. We've certainly made progress over the past few years and I'm grateful for the work Mayor Taveras has done to bring us back from the verge of bankruptcy, but we're not out of the woods yet."
Solomon - Top Issue
"The most pressing issue is economic development, and there are several components to this: creating jobs, growing our middle class and ensuring that every child has access to a good school. As a small business owner, I understand the challenges of running a business. I want to make it easier to do business in Providence. As City Council President, I've taken on those challenges by supporting a freeze on the commercial tax rate and moving the permitting process online, making it easier for developers to do business. I also want to rebuild our middle class and improve education, goals that can be achieved through my plan - "Rebuilding Providence" - which will invest $250 million to create 2,000 jobs and rebuild our schools."
Solomon - Administration
"As Mayor, my top priority will be creating a city with opportunity for all. I will work together with everyone in the community to rebuild Providence's middle class, create jobs and strengthen our schools. I believe the people who know best how to improve our neighborhoods are the people in living in them. As Mayor, I won't be stuck behind a desk at City Hall. I'll be a Mayor in the neighborhoods, working hand in hand with the community to rebuild Providence."
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