Election 2012: Candidates expound on issues they’ll pursue if elected

EAST PROVIDENCE — With the Sept. 11 Primary Election now just over a week away, The East Providence Post and eastprovri.com has centered its campaign coverage on the primary elections in the city which residents will vote in on that day.
The latest in our series of questions to those office seekers for State House Districts 63 and 65 as well as City Council Wards 2 and 3, allowed the candidates the chance to touch on a specific issue that is part of their campaign agenda. The Post’s 250-word, no-edit policy remained in effect.
The Post: What is an issue you would passionately pursue if you are elected to the seat you seek?”
House District 63
Robert Britto, Democratic candidate: “In the most recent months the candidates for State Representative of D-63 had a series of questions pertaining to economic development, generating revenues and passing the first piece of legislation.  Over the past several weeks as I have walked the streets in District 63, one of the biggest concerns discussed by residents was TLA-Pond View. TLA-Pond View is a solid waste facility for construction and demolition debris which continues to be a burden for the residents of Rumford. As a property owner, a father of four, including two who attend Myron J. Francis Elementary School, today’s concerns are tomorrow’s problems. The solid waste that Pond View receives should be processed in accordance with the rules and regulations set forth by state and local agencies. These issues can have serious consequences for our community
“As a legislator, I will continue the fight against Pond View and work closely with the residents, DEM, the Environment Protection Agency and the city of East Providence. I would request that there be regular “air quality” tests, random unannounced site visits and develop a panel of concern citizens with local and state agencies to confirm that Pond View is in full compliance with local and state regulations.”
Katherine Kazarian, Democratic candidate: “It is no use sugar-coating what everybody knows to be true: We live in a world of ever-increasing violence, instability and general depression. I cannot help but think that many of our societal ills are exacerbated by our economic troubles.
“In this economic climate, Rhode Island simply cannot afford to increase the tax- payer’s burden. Instead, our state must decrease government spending and become more business friendly, which will in turn create more jobs. For, it is a responsibility of government to create and foster a sustainable economy that will not only provide for future generations, but also create a more peaceful and prosperous community for us today.
“As a state representative, I would work passionately to help our state improve its economy in the aforementioned ways. While improvements will not be instantaneous, they will they be gradual and sustainable, ultimately providing our citizens.”
Sam Lovett, Democratic candidate: “As State Representative I would actively pursue ways to cut state government’s operating costs by implementing innovative practices that simplify and streamline work, saving taxpayers money and improving services. Governments across the country are making smart changes to the way they operate, cutting out paper-waste and travel costs by digitizing communications, sharing data storage among departments,to eliminate wasteful double spending, and putting simple forms and registrations online to save time and processing costs. Having worked at the state level of government, I have experienced many of the issues that keep our departments from doing their best work. I consider myself uniquely positioned to see several meaningful cost saving changes through to fruition.
“I would also work to establish a Pathways Program by which Rhode Island can incentivize our talented university graduates and aspiring technical students to start their careers with a short term of service to the state. This ‘Fellowship’ type program would help Rhode Island keep its young professionals in-state, helping them receive quality training and public service oriented skills. It would also allow the state to test workers, and fully evaluate ability and potential before deciding whether it is a wise investment to offer someone a full position. Everyone stands to benefit by having our best doctors to-be working for the Department of Health before going to medical school, our information technology specialists contributing to the upgrade of our state’s infrastructure, and our new accountants tackling our state’s financial problems.”
Charlie Tsonos, Democratic candidate: “Put the Labor force back to work. The State is in the ICU bleeding badly.  We must take immediate action!!  The priority is to employ our labor force and bolster existing local businesses in order to stimulate our economy. Immediate action is needed because our situation is so critical. In the Depression, President Roosevelt put people to work.
“If we can bail out the banks and financial institutions, we should also “bail out” our middle class.
Where is the moral responsibility to rebuild our Economy? Government must play a role by funding initiatives which will reach the people who make our system work. By providing loans to existing local businesses, we will keep our labor force employed and keep our businesses in tact.
“By providing tax exemptions based on number of employees, we can encourage business and hiring. By eliminating unneeded administrative positions, we can give financial support back to the people at ground level who need it the most.
“By consolidation of city and school department admin services (We do not need 37 Superintendents of Schools, for example) we will save money on both the State and City sdes. Admittedly, there exists a real shortage of qualified administrators, especially at City level.
“Our General Assembly holds the future of RI in its hands. We cannot be a successful State without taking the actions which are necessary. We hold the future in our hands on Sept. 11th.”
House District 65
Gregg Amore, Democratic candidate: “Nothing is more closely aligned with economic growth than an educated and skilled workforce. If I am fortunate enough to be elected to serve the people of East Providence, I would prioritize improving upon our education system in three key ways.
“I would propose immediate and full implementation of the state’s school funding formula. The state must take on a larger role in funding public education in order to offer a world class education to Rhode Island’s public school students and begin to ease the burden of the already overburdened property tax payer.
“I would also propose that Rhode Island act on the recommendations of the 21st Century Workforce Commission and create additional certification programs at CCRI which align the college’s curriculum with the needs of Rhode Island businesses. Rhode Island businesses should not have to look out of state for qualified workers.
“Finally, Rhode Island must embrace a targeted public pre-K program in order to improve educational outcomes of the state’s “at-risk” student population. Special education costs are the driving factor behind the dramatic increase in education spending. A targeted pre-K program would go a long way in reducing those costs by providing “at-risk” students with the same opportunities that their middle and upper income counterparts enjoy. Similar programs have produced dramatic results in Florida, Maryland and New Mexico. They produce lower retention and special education referral rates and higher graduation rates. The foundation of our economic growth is based on the next generation’s ability to successfully compete. Implementing a quality pre-K program for “at-risk” students represents real and tested education reform.”
Tim Chapman, Democratic candidate: “I think that the duty of every elected official is to relentlessly pursue policies that foster the creation of jobs for our citizens. Our state cannot return to any degree of financial health until our neighbors are gainfully employed. All the resources of government must be harnessed to this end. Every assistance possible must be given to jump start our economy. The future of our families is at stake.
“We need to retrain our unemployed workers for 21st century positions. We must streamline permitting, licensing and assist with the creation of jobs. This will be my focus as it must be for everyone involved in the government.”
Jim Miller, Democratic candidate: “Having been an emergency dispatcher, there is an issue that is near and dear to me that I would pursue if elected to the State legislature. I would look to pursue laws that would eliminate the “look-back periods” for all DUI/DWI offenses. Under the present Rhode Island law, a second or third (or more) offense are limited to a look back period. I would propose changing the laws to end the look back period altogether, and instead look at the entire driving history. Some states have enacted similar legislation and removed any look back period for DUI/DWI offenses —  so that these become permanent in a drivers history for sentencing guidelines. The goal of this legislation would be to discourage repeat offenses and keep the public safe. There have been far too many incidents where innocent people have been harmed or killed due to actions of repeat DUI/DWI offenders. I would also suggest increasing the fines for repeat offenses, both as a source of revenue and a hopeful deterrent to repeat violations.”
City Council
Melissa Abbott, unaffiliated Ward 2 candidate: “So many issues plague our once great city it is very hard to choose just one; but if I had to choose one, it would be our city’s debt. We cannot fix any other issues in the city if we are in debt and have no revenue. In order to fix this issue we need to create a unified team between the city council and the school committee and we need a quarterly budget break down from every department as to how the money they get in is being spent. If our budget was broken down, better we would be able to see where our deficit is and take necessary action, like trying to get more revenue in the city. More revenue means we will have more money in the budget to fix other issues like, keeping up with the maintenance of all of our schools, lower taxes, and being able to put middle school sports back in our budget. Our citizens deserve to live in a city that works hard for them. If I were to be elected I would do everything in my power to reduce our city’s deficit and regain our financial bearings.”
Helder Cunha, unaffiliated Ward 2 candidate: “The overriding message of my campaign boils down to restoring our city’s ability govern itself once again. As part of this goal, economic development stands as one of the core issues that I believe will lead us into this direction. Attracting new businesses and making sure existing ones continue to do business in our city will allow us to regain financial autonomy, as well as the ability to make smart investments that improve the quality of life for all residents of the city. I will bring a strong work ethic and common sense to this effort.”
Burton Plamondon, unaffiliated Ward 2 candidate: “An issue that I, as a councilman, would passionately work towards rectifying is the city budget and the elimination of wasteful spending. Almost everyone that I have spoken to while going door to door during my campaign has mentioned that they believe the city is not properly managing its tax dollars and that it is time to change the present leadership. The city council has the responsibility to manage, and when necessary condense city departments and to reduce city costs. Unfortunately our present council have put us in the position of ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ and it’s not getting us anywhere except to be overseen by an outside third party.
“Our city needs to be better managed, in a way that allows us to fully function while updating our system to work more efficiently, and lower the functioning costs of the city. Becoming more self-sufficient is the only way to take us out of this mess we are in and strengthen our city’s financial structure and entice new people to our city. As councilman I will make every effort to strengthen the cities ability to make decisions that will be held up whether they pertain to school department, city employees and our unions.
“I am passionate about our need to take a new path to create more revenue with the least amount of cost, some ideas of which I have mentioned in previous issues of the Post. If we are able to institute new ideas and successfully attract new business into our city, and turn our budget around we can straighten out the city’s fiscal future and create a strong viable path towards an independent attractive place for families, education and businesses. We are the fifth largest city in our state and we need to find a way to be the best run city in Rhode Island. When we can achieve this status, our stability, our taxes, our educational system, our growing business’ and our appeal to families will be reflected in our cities success. I am a life long city resident and I am passionate in my desire to work towards a solvent self sufficient East Providence.”
Bruce Rogers, unaffiliated Ward 2 incumbent: “While there are many initiatives and programs in the city which would more than warrant a response to this question, I feel there is one which has the ability to bring needed funding to existing and new projects from infrastructure to funding for Middle School sports. I would like to see the city hire a city grant writer. The grant writer would receive a salary based on the funding they secure for city programs new & existing.
“Grant writing is an arduous task. It involves time consuming searching, creativity and in these tough economic times, strong competition. While several staff & departments write grants, with the city’s Planning Department successfully writing many, there simply is not enough time to successfully research all types of grants.
“A professional grant writer would have this as their main and only duty and would be paid for their services upon finding funds which would be well in excess of their salary, funds the city otherwise would not have received via it’s regular paid staff who have to juggle the task of grant writing with their many other duties.”
Thomas Rose, unaffiliated Ward 3 incumbent: “If I am Re-Elected I would passionately pursue the following to increase business development in our city. First, I would implement a Business Attraction Program that offers discounts on city fees and provides other incentives in order to give new businesses reason to relocate. Second I would continue working on Streamline city approval and permitting processes by creating a ‘one-stop’ shop for business interests looking to relocate or expand to East Providence. Included with this approval process, provide a sense assurance to business interests, and avoid permit approval where extra unnecessary months are added to the permit process costing the new business time and money. Third set up a Buy Local or Shop Local Programs to promote the value of supporting local businesses and driving economic growth in the city. This also provides the business community with an opportunity to advertise their products and services to consumers as well as other businesses.”
Candace Seel, unaffiliated Ward 3 candidate: “This week’s assignment is to discuss the one issue about which we feel most passionate. Needless to say, there are many, many issues facing our community that elected officials will need to tackle: State takeover, looming pension problems, bringing in new business, keeping taxes in check, reining in spending while not devastating our quality of life, holding our municipal employees at all levels responsible for doing their jobs well and efficiently. Not to even mention Pond View, crumbling infrastructure, paying for special education and the like.
“Pick one? Where do we start? The one overlying issue for me is restoring integrity and transparency to our municipal government. Time and again, we have to wonder what motivates some officeholders to do what they do. Who’s supporting him or her? Is it for the public good or for some special interest? Are we getting the facts or just some spin?
“I am passionate that we have to bring back to East Providence good governance for the benefit of our entire community – not just the insiders, not just the connected, but all of us. And to do that, we have to bring to the table people we can trust; people who are open, candid and consistent about their views; people who enter public service for the good of the public, not for themselves and their friends.
“If elected, the issue I will pursue above all is opening our municipal government to public scrutiny and honest discussion among us all. We can then face all the other issues competently and fairly.”


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