EAST PROVIDENCE — The second of two League of Women Voters-sponsored candidate forums in city took place Wednesday night, Oct. 17, at the Riverside Congregational Church where office-seekers for General Assembly Districts 65 and 66 as well as City Council Ward 3 and At-Large School Committee squared off.
The forum was a bit more lively than a similar event held two days earlier for candidates from the northern have of the city.
The largest audience of the evening actually turned out for the first debate of the night between Council incumbent Thomas Rose and his challenger Candace Seel. Folks were right to be there on time as their forum had the most heat.
Mrs. Seel, considered the underdog by many observers, was the more aggressive of the candidates. She attempted to paint Mr. Rose as an ineffective insider, and she landed on a few occasions.
She blasted the incumbent for proposing and voting to implement a $25 registration fee on city businesses, a measure the Budget Commission overturned, which prompted Mr. Rose and the Council to also do soon after.
Mrs. Seel called the 3-2 majority on the Council, of which Mr. Rose has been a part along with Bruce Rogers and Katie Kleyla, intransigent and unable to work with the minority. She deemed the early-term focus of Mr. Rose and Mr. Rogers on time clocks and badges foolhardy, efforts that should have been directed towards important budgetary matters. She tied those moves and the Council’s inaction as the reasons that led to the state take-over.
Far from a great public speaker, Mr. Rose passably acquitted himself in a couple of his responses to Mrs. Seel’s shots, but offered up meandering answers to others. His best retort actually came when talking about the time clocks, saying that action was about “accountability” in regards to the performance of city employees and the use of tax-payer dollars.
Next up, At-Large School Committee candidates Ronald Warr and Joel Monteiro engaged in a much more low key debate. There is little disagreement on many of the pertinent issues between the two first-time office seekers, who are vying to replace the retiring Luisa Abatacola.
The main gist of Mr. Warr’s responses were focused on the need for fiscal responsibility. Mr. Monteiro’s answers seemed geared towards the need for better overall management of the department.
The most voluble of the night’s forum followed, the lively debate between Democratic primary winner Gregg Amore and Moderate Party candidate Joe Botelho for the redistricted House 65 seat.
Both candidates expressed mutual admiration, but did differ on some of the substance of issues. Mr. Botelho, a former City Councilman, said after 58 years of Democratic control of the State Legislature it was time to try something new. Mr. Amore, a first-time candidate, agreed, saying his approach was a fresh one.
Both agreed the State Ethics Commission needed to be re-instituted. Mr. Amore said it was important for the Legislature to accelerate the implementation of the new school funding formula. Mr. Botelho said a stagnant State House just needed to get something of merit accomplished.
Due to the remaining time and the shortness of some of the answers, the last forum of the night among the District 66 candidates was the longest though it was conducted for the fewest audience members.
City resident and Independent Eugene Saveory and Republican Manfred Diel took turns directing missives at two-term incumbent Democrat Joy Hearn. Mrs. Hearn did well to repel most of the verbal shots.
Mr. Diel repeatedly and lengthily attempted to tie Mrs. Hearn’s vote to support the $120 million Economic Development Commission package, which led to the ill-fated 38 Studios loan, as a show of her support for what became the $75 million boondoggle. Mrs. Hearn, like so many of her brethren, said she was unaware of the specific plans for the funds and would have been unwilling to give such a staggering amount of money to a start-up venture had she’d known that was the intent.
All three were in favor of re-establishing the Ethics Commission. Mrs. Hearn acknowledged being the only pro-choice candidate of the trio. Each also agreed with the need to find greater sources of consolidation to help save money, Mr. Saveory saying he would support the regionalization of schools in all facets.
Mrs. Hearn was the only dissenter in her disapproval of Voter ID laws. She was also the only one of the three to support same-sex marriage. All agreed the Estate Tax limit needed to be raised, Mr. Deil saying it should be eliminated in total. Mr. Diel supports school vouchers, his two opponents do not. The debate then ended with the three House 66 candidates expressing their support of the Question 1 casino gambling measure on the Nov. 6 ballot.