Election 2012: East Providence Ward 1 Council candidates Briden, Lynch answer queries
EAST PROVIDENCE — With the primary season over, the East Providence Post and eastbayri.com turns campaign coverage attention to the November General election.
The Post continues its series of questions to those candidates involved in contested races on Nov. 6, this week focusing on the Ward 1 City Council election between unaffiliated office-seekers James Briden and Edward Lynch. The candidates were asked three questions. Their responses were limited to 250 words each. A no-edit policy remained in effect unless respondents strayed from point. Their answers follow.
The Post: Aside from tax policy, what are some ways the city can increase revenues?
James Briden:“An essential objective is to expand our city’s tax base. This will happen over time and will be the result of numerous factors which are related to our national economy in general and to changes that are specific to East Providence. A primary goal is to become financially stable.
This will be accomplished by following certain recommendations which include having a multi-year budget plan. Otherwise, companies, investors and prospective homeowners will avoid our city if there is a perceived risk of a significant tax increase in the future or if we do not implement plans for necessary and foreseeable infrastructure and capital improvements.
“Another way of looking at this issue is to also define our objective as including the need to prepare for the opportunities that will exist when the economy improves. This may involve new approaches to marketing our city that generate a greater awareness of the existing programs, incentives and advantages of living and doing business in East Providence. At the same time, we need to optimize our collections and to periodically review the municipal fee structure based on a comparison to other cities.”
Edward Lynch:“East Providence needs to first complete an asset report as outlined by the City’s auditing firm. In Ward I alone, the City has the ability to sell the old Union Primary School and the Rumford Library.
The old Union Primary School on Pawtucket Avenue is handicap accessible and has ample parking. It would make an excellent location, for example, for possibly a physical therapy office or a rehabilitation center. The Rumford Library would be a good location for a law firm or another small business.
“I have been in contact with three local realty women who could appraise these buildings and put them on the market. Michelle Rockwell, Kathy Pierard, and Jean Clarke would have the knowledge and experience to sell these buildings. My main concern is the former FRAM building on Pawtucket Avenue, which has parking for at least 200 vehicles. The building, which has been boarded up for years, has asbestos in it and should be demolished. It is nothing but an eyesore for the people living on Campbell Avenue and the surrounding area. Recently I have been in contact with several investors in the Rumford area who might be interested in buying this property. I believe the location would be ideal, for example, as an assisted living facility. But in this day and age with the economy being so strained, developers could contract to have the building razed, and the cost would likely be less as contractors are anxious to get the work. If this building was replaced, it would greatly improve the image of our city.
“I am aware that selling city surplus will only generate one-time revenues; therefore, I pledge to work with the budget commission, council members and, most importantly, city residents to develop a long-range financial plan that reviews and identifies current and future budgetary revenue enhancements. I will be proposing that the City create a new Economic Development Commission position solely dedicated to putting East Providence back on the map. We need to hire a leader who will promote the City to reach a targeted business audience that will support good, clean economic development (such as, healthcare facilities, restaurants, industry and professional office space) in an agreed effort to re-build and increase the current tax base. If not, we will be forced at looking at the continued elimination of city services and school programs or the undesirable issue of raising taxes, something I have no desire to do.”
The Post: What tact would you take in solving the TLA-Pond View situation?
JB: “At the DEM hearings in 2010 and following, numerous residents who live close to Pond View have testified about their very similar respiratory problems and the dust, noise and odors emanating from this facility. Notwithstanding these unresolved issues, the company’s objective continues to be to expand its volume of business to ten (10) times the level approved by our zoning board in 1998. The expansion of this facility will adversely affect our health and quality of life in Rumford and degrage our community in a way that is unacceptable. We cannot allow this to happen. I have worked with other residents in strongly opposing the expansion of Pond View.
“My efforts have included advocating for our cause on a regular basis at City Council meetings, devising strategy, writing letters, helping to organize rallies, testifying at the State House, and serving as a liason between the city and residents. As a member of the City Council, I would closely monitor the pending legal actions and make sure that we have strong legal representation so as to enable us to win this case. If at any point in time, we are not being well represented, then I will react. I have the expertise to take the lead on this most important issue and my presense on the Council will empower Rumford in a way that is now necessary.”
EL: “Due to recent financial troubles, TLA-Pond View was forced into receivership in late March 2012. Unfortunately, that process stalled several legal cases in the Superior Court involving the City’s determination that Pond View is violating zoning laws and must be shut down if it doesn’t cease its allegedly illegal operations. Also, the DEM has moved to suspend the company’s license for failing to obtain a letter of compliance from the City. My support of these legal procedures will run alike with my personal request to call upon the Governor’s office and the Attorney General for their full support on these issues.
“I will continue to order unannounced inspections of the facility by the City and DEM and will have the City clerk post all matters involving TLA-Pond View on the City web-page for full disclosure. My first order of business on the council will be the introduction of a new resolution requiring TLA-Pond View to meet all the DEM compliance issues together with the city zoning regulations. Hopefully, this will set the stage for the new council to once and for all work as a team to resolve this annoying issue.”
The Post: Do you support the charter amendment creating a “Rainy Day Fund” and why?
JB: “I support the ‘Rainy Day Fund’. In evaluating this issue, I reviewed certain publications and the consensus is that municipalities need both a budget reserve fund and a multi- year budget plan. It is necessary to have a contingency fund when revenues fall short of estimates. Furthermore, the combination of this fund and a multi-year budget will have a positive impact on our city’s credit rating and will likely reduce our cost of borrowing . This will not be easy to implement in the short run, however, it will ultimately benefit East Providence and lessen the possibility of our recent financial history repeating itself in the future.”
EL: “I will be supporting a charter change on this year’s ballot that establishes a ‘Stabilization Fund’ commonly referred to as a ‘Rainy Day Fund’ to establish a cash reserve for our financial future. The Rainy Day Fund is a savings fund that allows communities to set aside excess revenue for use in times of unexpected revenue shortfalls in the most dire of financial circumstances. This concept is seen in just about every state and the vast majority of municipal governments as a necessary financial position.
Michael O’Keefe presented the entire Commission with a resolution according to Rhode Island General Laws Section 45-9-6(d) (7), for an ordinance to create a Budget Reserve Fund and a Capital Fund. This provision will allow the City to enhance our bond rating with the goal of re-financing short and long-term bonds at a lower interest rate. Many bond rating reporting authorities like to see that local communities maintain a cash reserve of up to 15% of its operating costs.
“I have previously reported to the Post my full support of this amendment. It is simply a good financial tool in our goal of establishing a long-range financial plan for our City’ s future. If this provision is passed, I will call for the development of a formal policy to provide the taxpayers with an explanation of why financial resources have been set aside and the conditions under which such resources will be used. This will safeguard future generations from unauthorized expenditures.”