Voters in Warren will head to the polls Tuesday not just to vote for in several statewide primary races, but also for a local representative. John Hanley, a former Warren Town Council member, will take on Bristol resident Kenneth Marshall in a Democratic primary election for House of Representatives, District 68.
The seat is currently held by freshman representative Richard Morrison, who announced several weeks ago that he will not seek re-election to a second term. Mr. Hanley thinks the time is right to make a run for the seat, despite the fact that his opponent, the current Bristol Town Council chairman, is endorsed and has a larger pool of constituents in Bristol than Mr. Hanley does in Warren. Whoever wins will face Republican Michael Donahue, a Bristol resident, in November.
Though he said he likes Mr. Marshall and has worked with him in the past, Mr. Hanley said he is anxious to get to Smith Hill. His campaign slogan, “Common Cent$,” says it all.
“There are a lot of financial problems in the state, things that could be done differently,” he said.
One of Mr. Hanley’s main issues will be to help change the state’s new education funding formula, which is heading into its third year and over the next seven, will see the Bristol Warren Regional School District lose more than $7 million in state funds it would have received under the old formula.
“It’s bad now, but as it goes on it’s going to be devastating,” he said. “The property taxes are going to be ridiculous. I would be fighting to get that changed and to get the regionalization bonus (given to the district every year since its creation 20 years ago) reinstated.”
“If the state wants to encourage regionalization, (taking away that bonus) isn’t really a good way to promote it.”
Mr. Hanley said economic development is the state’s biggest challenge, and working to improve the business climate here is essential. Looking north to Providence, he’d work to ensure that the state’s economic development funds are spent more wisely than they were when the state approved $75 million in loans for Curt Schilling’s former 38 Studios video game company, which went belly up earlier this year.
“If you took 100 businesses and gave them each $1 million you would have created many more jobs than Schilling’s company ever would,” he said. “Let’s leave venture capitalism to the private sector.”
Mr. Hanley is the building official for the City of Pawtucket, and decided to run long before he knew Mr. Morrison wasn’t interested in a second term. Emphasizing that as a public sector worker with private sector experience, he said he has a unique perspective on many of the issues facing Rhode Island. Similarly, Mr. Marshall sees his familiarity with the struggles and successes of small business, as well as his role as town councilor in Bristol for the past 10 years, as a good foundation on which to open lines of communication between business and government, and knowing where each side’s responsibility begins and ends.
“There is a need for government. There’s a role for government to play,” he said. “One of the things I hope to champion is a better link, a conduit, between the decision makers at the state house and the people on the street.”
While serving in Bristol, Mr. Marshall recognizes that the town’s success has been a result of foresight and planning, as well as a shared sense among local elected officials to maximize the town’s assets for sustainability over the long term. As a newly elected councilor in 2002, Mr. Marshall’s tenure began as the real estate market was soaring.
“I recognized that the boom would not last forever,” he said.
Instead, he pushed for the town to maintain and increase the employment base in Bristol.
“Government doesn’t create jobs. Government creates the environment for jobs to grow and flourish,” Mr. Marshall said.If his principles worked in Bristol, he believes they will work at the state house, and that success can foster success.