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RI Candidates Speak Out on Nonviolence at Institute Forum

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


Teny Gross

Candidates for Governor of Rhode Island and Mayor of Providence took part in a panel discussion at the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to "articulate their visions for nonviolence.'"

"I believe this forum is the first of its kind in the country focusing on addressing nonviolence," Institute Executive Director Teny Gross told GoLocal. "This is just the start of the dialogue moving forward during the campaign season."

Gubernatorial candidates included Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, General Treasurer Gina Raimondo, and Todd Giroux. They were followed by a Providence Mayoral contender panel that included Brett Smiley, Lorne Adrain, Michael Solomon, Jorge Elorza, and Chris Young.

"Until recently, we weren't able to challenge our society as to what we're going to invest to get peace," said Gross in his opening remarks. "We almost don't teach nonviolence in schools, and we've never asked elected officials and others the serious questions. Everyone who gets a government job should get trained in nonviolence."

Gubernatorial Candidates on the Record

Todd Giroux, Angel Taveras, Gina Raimondo

Candidates were asked a number of questions, from general thoughts on addressing violence -- and nonviolence efforts -- to how they would address and fund each as Governor.

"Violence is a cancer -- if we don't focus on it, we'll see it spread," said Mayor Taveras. "What can we do? Jobs. Summer jobs -- at the state level, we can do more through the DLT." Taveras called for a doubling of summer job training funds from $2.1 million to $4.2 million.

Raimondo spoke on looking to support "results oriented programs" -- and called for a ban on assault weapons.

"I will commit myself to supporting and funding results-oriented programs we need to fund nonviolence training in schools," said Raimondo. "I did the training here for public officials. People don't just know this -- they need to be taught this."

Raimondo added that part of her focus was to "redouble out efforts" against domestic violence. "Let's keep people safe in their homes first," said the General Treasurer.

Giroux touched upon a personal experience to illustrate that "we need a different response -- education begins a new generation."

"I was bullied in school and sent to karate," said Giroux. "I came back and beat up the bully, and the teacher shook my hand. Would that happen today? I don't think so."

Mayoral Hopefuls Weigh In

Brett Smiley, Lorne Adrain, Michael Solomon, Jorge Elorza. Not pictured: Chris Young

"Gun violence is a two fold problem -- stopping the violence, and starting a new culture of nonviolence," said Smiley, who noted he would be introducing legislation for a 10% supplemental tax on gun sales. "The minimum [result] would be $2 million," said Smiley, noting as Mayor he would use the funds to support nonviolence initiatives.

City Council President Michael Solomon touched upon a proposal he would unveil to address nonviolence training in the public schools. "We rely too much on suspension policies as opposed to mediating conflicts," said Solomon. "Too much emphasis on high stakes testing, when we need to teach nonviolence to teach students to deal with conflict. I have a plan to work with the Institute to work with a 3 year plan," noting that it would involve 12 schools a year for three years.

Elorza articulated his vision for addressing nonviolence in schools. "I want to focus on the school to prison pipeline we seem to be forming," and pointed to the current initiative of "restorative justice" in Central Falls as an example to "hold students more accountable."

"Out of school suspension doesn't work," said Elorza. "It takes students out of classroom, when they should be receiving instruction. This has shown to be a way to show students the harm they've caused the community -- and gives them a way to restore the community."

Adrain focused strongly on the notion of community. "I will say that we all as a community need to think about who we are. The culture has to be lead by City Hall, and seen in what's said and done. I started National Neighborhood Day, to take the time to meet the folks across the street, around the corner, so we come to know each other, and care about each other. How do we think about this place that we live in -- wouldn't it be great if people chose this place."

"We are all the Mayor of Providence," said Adrain.

Young, spoke to the issue of the Davey Lopes pool closing, said it was a "systemic way to deconstruct a community."

"Summer jobs should provide skills to kids that they can use in the future, practical vocational training is the priority," said Young. "Summer jobs were a start, but they needed to be tied to something."

Next Steps?

Institute co-founder Sister Ann Keefe said was heartened by the discussion -- but wanted to see the talk put into action.

"I want to hear what the Governor-elect -- he or she -- will say in the State of the State address when they take office," said Keefe. "Only then we will see that their nonviolence priorities outlined in the campaign are given the support that they spoke to."

"Let's not go through another election...let's give ourselves as the peace community," said Gross in closing. "We're a strong community, but we need determination as tough as those who cause the violence." 


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