November 29, 2014
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Council candidates answer questions
DANNY HALL

The candidates for city council were asked to answer the following two questions:

1. Name the top issue facing the city and, if elected, how you would address it.

2. Who would you like to see as next council president and why (or) are you considering running for the spot?

Here are their answers:

WARD 1

Steven A. Colantuono
251 Country Club Drive
Age: 49
Education: Juris Doctor Graduate of Roger Williams University School of Law; Master’s degree in Psychology from Rhode Island College; Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Rhode Island College
Party Designation: Republican
Occupation: Attorney
Have you held an elected office before? If so, when and for how long? “I am ending my second term on the council - just shy of 4 years. Prior to that, [I held] no elected office.”

1. “The top challenge the City faces is to stay competitive as a desirable place for people to live, work and recreate. To accomplish this we must to work to keep our tax rates low, and to engage in economic development that encourages people and businesses to relocate, and stay in our City. We must continue to deal with economic realities and continually provide exceptional services. Our schools, public safety and municipal services must continue to meet the needs of the people who live in the city while enticing those thinking about living in the city. This infrastructure investment, along with major developments we have secured, are the driver to ensure future fiscal health. These developments, including a well negotiated airport expansion, the creation of the Warwick Station District and a promising partnership related to the acquisition of Rocky Point, place us strategically and uniquely in a position to be a viable destination for temporary and permanent visitors.”

2. “I have given very little thought to this and await the outcome of the election.”


Sharon Jesse-Ahearn
315 Columbia Ave.
Education: Attended the Community College of Rhode Island, as well as the University of Rhode Island part-time in the business field
Party designation: Democrat
Occupation: Retired Veteran of the U.S. Air Force
Have you held an elected office before? If so, when and for how long? No.

1. “I believe Economic Development is a key issue. We definitely need to bring business and revenue to the city. As a candidate walking the Ward, I have listened to my constituents on their concerns. I believe if elected my job is to work for the people of Ward 1 and along with the other City Council folks. I would like to work with the state legislation on renovations, i.e. Pawtuxet Village bridge, traffic studies, community service and helping our Veterans. The folks have made it clear regarding the speed of the traffic on Post Road, and other cut through roads, Spring Green and Harrison.”

2. “I am not able to answer this. I, along with the other folks running, have not been elected. I would have to work and get to know all the candidates when the time comes to vote on this.”

WARD 2

Tom Chadronet
117 Elberta Street
Age: 73
Education: Studied business at Johnson & Wales
Party designation: Democratic
Occupation: Property manager and bookkeeper for Providence Capital Group; U.S. Army Veteran
Have you held an elected office before? If so, when and for how long? Chadronet ran for council in 1996 in a primary against John Lyons, who beat him by 110 votes. He also ran for state representative two years ago.

Chadronet failed to respond after multiple attempts to contact him via phone and e-mail.

WARD 3

Camille Vella-Wilkinson
Address: 786 Church Ave.
Age: 55
Education: Juris Doctorate; Master’s degree of Labor Relations in Human Resources; Bachelor’s degree in English and Psychology
Party designation: Democrat
Occupation: Career Consultant; Retired U.S. Navy Officer
Have you held an elected office before? Yes
If so, when and for how long? Jan. 2011 to Dec. 2012

1. “Economic Development/Growth impacts the future of our city and the quality of life for our residents.
* Create legislation/streamline processes to establish Warwick as business-friendly.
*Budget and hire a fulltime Director of Economic Development and one part-time staff member.
*Meet regularly with small to medium- sized business owners, Central RI Chamber of Commerce and our local Rotary for feedback on their needs.
*Develop business incubators supporting strategic business clusters.
*Continue supporting programs to promote minority-owned businesses such as “Warwick Means Business for Veterans.”
*Create a “Warwick Works” Program for workforce development. Establish agreements with businesses to voluntarily begin job recruitments with the first two weeks devoted to search/interview qualified Warwick residents.
*Educate financially distressed homeowners on State programs such as “Those Hardest Hit” to help them keep their homes.
*Continue to revitalize low-to-medium housing by supporting programs to refurbish/resell foreclosed and abandoned houses.”

2. “I am not interested in running for Council President. I enjoy debating issues and participating in the discussions too much to facilitate the meeting.”

WARD 4

Joseph J. Solomon
180 Shawomet Ave.
Age: 55
Education: National Judicial College UNLV-Reno Nevada; Juris Doctorate from New England Law Boston; Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Providence College
Party Designation: Democrat
Occupation: Accountant, attorney and businessman
Have you held an elected office before? If so, when and for how long? Solomon has served as Ward 4 Councilman from 2002 to present. He served as council president during a portion of that time.

1. “The top issue facing our city and its taxpayers is the ability and/or affordability of our residents to be able to remain in their homes and receive good city services that they deserve and are entitled to. In order to accomplish this there must be no tax increases and economic development to help provide jobs for our citizens to earn a decent wage so that they are able to support themselves and their family. By utilizing my accounting and business background, I will continue to save taxpayers’ dollars in the operation of city government. I have a proven record of saving millions of dollars in city expenditures and extending car tax exemptions over the years. This results in less taxes that would have been paid by taxpayers. I will continue to look at all expenditures to make sure the citizens are getting the best deal for their hard earned tax dollar.”

2. “[I’m] unable to address this until the citizens of Warwick cast their votes.”

Michael Penta
30 Dayton Avenue
Age: 46
Education: 12 years of education
Party designation: Republican
Occupation: Self-employed contractor
Have you held an elected office before? If so, when and for how long? He has never before sought political office.

1. “I feel that Warwick is a great place and always will face issues as any city/town, however I feel that most issues facing all cities would be jobs, businesses, taxes, schools, roads, etc. and if I were to be elected on Nov. 6th, I would work with small businesses both existing and bringing in new, making it easier for them to open there doors and creating new jobs. I will work with our school systems to ensure our children get the education and safety they need. I will ensure our tax dollars are spent properly. Most importantly, we need to listen to our constituents and be responsive, [as well as] work with all members of the council and Mayor Scott Avedisian so we may accomplish our goals. In my opinion, [we need to] work together [so] we can face any challenge that may arise.”

2. “I would like to see Stephen Colantuono as council president. [He has] proven [his] leadership, [is] very conservative [and] someone who cares about the City of Warwick.”

WARD 5

Edgar N. Ladouceur
106 Channel View # 2
Age: 61
Education: Smithfield High School
Party designation: Democrat
Occupation: Owner, President of StormTite Home Improvement Co.
Have you held an elected office before? If so, when and for how long? “I have not held an elected office in the past.” Ladouceur has run for office before, as he sought to be a state representative.

1. “Taxes and jobs. I will work hard to make Warwick the most pro business community in the state. We need to encourage and support new business in Warwick if we hope to bring about any stability in taxes. The way to increase jobs is to increase businesses. I plan to fight for sewers for Riverview Terrace and Highland Beach along with any other areas that do not have sewers. I will also oppose mandatory hook ups for any approved septic system that continues to pass required inspections. Equally important is that the thumb of the City Council must be on the pulse of the State to ensure that the recent proposal for Rocky Point is an affordable, sustainable and responsible approach to achieve and maintain balance between open space and density while providing the proper police and fire protection.”

2. “I will vote for the person that I feel is going to work with all council members in the best interest of all taxpayers.”

Danny Hall
176 Lewiston Street
Age: 30
Education: Associate’s degree in Political Science from the Community College of Rhode Island.
Party designation: Republican
Occupation: Correctional Officer at the Rhode Island Department of Corrections
Have you held an elected office before? If so, when and for how long? Hall has never held political office before. This is his second bid for the seat, as he ran last term.

1. “As in most years, the most important issue facing Warwick and any city is its fiscal strength. To ensure that we are protected against any future economic downturns, we must identify more diverse business prospects and work to bring them here to build a broader-based economy. Those new businesses must bring well-paying jobs: the kind of employment opportunities that will allow people to work in our city and also let them afford to live and raise families here. We can accomplish this by refining business attraction and retention strategies. This election shouldn’t be about being a Republican or Democrat, It’s about who will fight for your family. I will fight for the hard working middle class families because it’s the middle class families that keep the economy moving and struggling the most. Middle class families can’t afford to elect another wealthy politician that spends hard earned tax dollars freely.”

2. “Councilman Steve Colantuono would make a great council president. He has proven leadership and has shown he can work with any political party to improve the quality of life for people of Warwick.”

WARD 6

Donna Travis
733 Oakland Beach Ave.
Age: 63
Education: Attended Warwick Public Schools and obtained a GED
Party designation: Democrat
Occupation: Senior Date Entry Clerk at the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal; part-time employee at the Don Rodrigues Karate Academy
Have you held an elected office before? If so, when and for how long? Travis has served as Ward 6 councilwoman for nine terms, from 1992 to 2000, and again from 2002 to the present.

1. “The top issues facing the city are the economy and holding the line on taxes. We need to bring jobs to Warwick and be more business friendly. By requesting the Finance Department to send monthly reports from department heads, I can help ensure that they are staying within their budget or spending less than their budget. I’d also like to sponsor legislation to the General Assembly to work for a better school formula to ensure that Warwick has sufficient funding from the state for education. This would help take a burden off the taxpayers. I also want to look into ways of funding state and federal mandates that are required but are expected to be paid by local government after these agencies stop funding them.”

2. We have to see who the people elect first. Hopefully, it will be someone with good sense who can positively lead the City Council.

Catharine Leach
104 Hazard Ave.
Age: 30
Education: Attended Katharine Gibbs School and earned a certificate in Visual Communications
Party designation: Republican
Occupation: Office Manager for a Department of Homeland Security Contractor in Quonset
Have you held an elected office before? If so, when and for how long? No.

1. “High taxes in the city of Warwick is the biggest problem facing our city. The main reason for this is the city’s spending and liabilities. Our City’s pension and healthcare costs are growing at an exponential rate that cannot be sustained. Tax payers are being asked to pay more and more, but are getting less and less from their tax dollars. City spending grows while public services shrink. Car taxes were introduced. Property taxes for business owners in Warwick are at an all time high, essentially forcing them out of our city. Our nation’s economy has caused us all to tighten our family budgets, yet as taxpayers we are expected to pay more each year. Nothing is free, it is taxpayer funded. I would not support any tax increases. I would work to repeal the car tax.”

2. “Anyone willing to hold the line on tax increases and tackle the unfunded pension and healthcare liabilities of the city. I’m not considering the position.”

Ward 7

Councilman Charles “C. J.” Donovan
Address: 346 Potters Ave.
Age: 42
Education: University Exchange Oxford College, England; Graduate of the University of Rhode Island
Party designation: Democrat
Occupation: Senior House Policy and Oversight Specialist for Coastal Resource Management Council, Narragansett Bay Commission, RI Clean Water Finance Agency and RI Water Resource Board.
Have you held an elected office before? If so, when and for how long? Donovan was elected as Ward 7 councilman in 2000 and continues to hold the seat.

1. “A top priority is maintaining quality services and reinvestment in our infrastructure. Reinvestment in infrastructure such as roads, schools, playgrounds and parks will further help make this wonderful city we all call home. The challenge is to accomplish this while keeping our taxes at the least possible level. I will continue to vote to reduce budget items that are not essential, enforce bidding procedures, consolidate resources and work with the business community. The city employees have demonstrated their concern by agreeing to givebacks in their contracts. I commend them on this effort. It is important that the city council and administration work together to accomplish these goals. It is also important that the mayor, city council and school committee exercise close cooperation to ensure the quality of education needed for our children. I will remain committed with all stakeholders regardless of political party to bring the city forward.”

2. “I am considering running for Council President if I am re-elected. I have the experience, temperament and ability to work with all council members.”

Al Gemma
Address: 310 Natick Ave.
Education: Providence College; Brown University
Party designation: Independent
Occupation: Small Businessman; employed by: Gemma’s Auto Body of Warwick; served in the U.S. Army
Have you held an elected office before? If so, when and for how long? Gemma served as Ward 7 Councilman from 1992 to 1998. He also served as a Rhode Island State Constitutional Convention for District 35 and Rhode Island State Representative for District 20 in the past.

1. “With one municipality after another in Rhode Island facing default on its obligations, Warwick must pursue intensive expansion of its commercial base to ensure there is ample revenue to create a first class public school system. Low property taxes, good quality of life in our beautiful City of Warwick. We must maximize the potential of the Airport Station Development District, where over $300 million has been invested. Nearly 100 acres has been set aside for development with stores, hotels, the arts and other venues, like Harbor Place in Baltimore, Maryland. With the expansion of T.F. Green, Warwick will be a destination city with this, ‘new’ downtown creating jobs and prosperity for our people through the private sector. There is no time to lose to guarantee permanent fiscal stability to the city we call home.”

2. “Premature.”

William Russo
Address: 31 Tex Court
Age: 69
Education: Master’s degree in public administration from the University of Rhode Island; Associate’s, Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Administration of Justice from Salve Regina University; Associate’s degree in business administration from the Community College of Rhode Island.
Party designation: Independent
Occupation: Retired Warwick Police Officer; U.S. Air Force Veteran
Have you held an elected office before? If so, when and for how long? While Russo has never held political office, this is his third attempt for the position.

1. “I must first say that as a retired person, I will be able to work full-time as a councilman concentrating on all the issues that will come before the council. Addressing and maintaining our overall neighborhood quality if life Warwick is a top issues for me. Municipal Code enforcement will prevent blight, loss of property values and crime. As visitors, students, workers and residents traverse Warwick, they will be able to sense that Warwick is a good place to be. A reputation for having a good quality of life promotes an economic climate where businesses would want to locate and bring quality job opportunities. This would contribute overall well-being of the city.”

2. “With two-thirds of the council members having an opponent in the upcoming election, that decision will come at a later time. Secondly, I am not a candidate for council president.”

WARD 8

Joseph E. Gallucci
Address: 33 Gillmore St.
Age: 77
Education: University of Rhode Island, BS Degree in General Business Administration
Party designation: Democrat
Occupation: Retired 35 Years-Director of Marketing – ITT Corporation; Director of Elections, as well as Director of Department of Human Services for the City of Warwick; Army National Guard Veteran
Office: Served as Ward 8 Councilman from 1977 to1984, and again from 1990 to1994; was also council president from 1977 to 1984.

1. “Issues Facing the City of Warwick [are] balancing city budget and allocation to our schools without increasing the tax burden on our hardworking residents; consider “zero” base budgeting [and] instructing all departments to prepare budgets starting at “zero” rather than what was received in prior years; consider public health, safety and welfare of all of our citizens when addressing issues requiring zone change; consider addressing and expanding the needs of our expanding senior population, [which is] currently estimated at 37,000 over the age of 65 - approximately 44-percent of the 82,000 in accordance with the 2010 census; and expanding Services, such as sewer extensions, etc., to the western part of our city, [including] Wards 7, 8, and 9, which are responsible for 30-percent [or more] of our tax rate.”

2. “If elected, I would consider meeting with all successful candidates to achieve a consensus of the majority regarding the office of council president and council committees.”

Lyn Jennings
Address: 589 Providence St.
Age: 49
Education: Attending John’s School of Cosmetology; advanced Training at the Dermalogica Institute in Boston; an educator for Nails Systems international; founder of RI Salon United
Party designation: Republican
Occupation: Owner of L Skincare & Nails
Have you held an elected office before? If so, when and for how long? I have never held office before.

1. “Maintain and improve services for our city without increasing taxes. In talking with the people in my ward, they are proud of the city but are worn down by the annual increases of taxes. I believe that looking into each item in the budget, checking every nickel and dime we can avoid tax increases while better serving the people of Warwick. I was surprised when walking my ward from end to end how many sections do not have the simple access to sewers. This is part of the infrastructure along with our schools, streets and bridges our city has to addressed. One area outside the budget is the lack of maintenance and care of foreclosed and abandoned properties in my ward.
I will support legislation to increase penalties to get control of this situation. I want to see our tax dollars work as hard as our taxpayers do.”

2. “It would be premature to make a decision on this without knowing the outcome of the election, and what they would bring to the council.”

WARD 9

Steven Merolla
Address: 229 Castle Rocks Rd.
Age: 47
Education: Wesleyan University – Bachelor of Arts in Government 1987; Catholic University – Juris Doctor 1991
Party designation: Democrat
Occupation: Law Partner at Merolla & Accetturo
Have you held an elected office before? If so, when and for how long? Merolla has been serving as Ward 9 Councilman since 1999.

1. “The cost of unfunded pensions and healthcare is rapidly approaching $800 million. It is the largest deficit in the history of the City of Warwick and continues to grow. Following the bankruptcy of Central Falls and the threat of further bankruptcies by other cities and towns in Rhode Island, it is imperative that we control these costs. It is clear that we must consolidate and merge services with other municipalities for the benefit of our taxpayers and employees. We need to explore merging the following: joint bids for healthcare - the more subscribers the better the rate; merger of dispatch services for police and fire; merger of Computer Departments; merger of DPW Services - this could mean trash collection, as we explored with East Greenwich; joint bids for paving streets, consolidation of snow plowing services, consolidation of recreational services; merger of library services; merger of senior services; merger of school department services.”

2. “It is premature to discuss the council presidency until we know the composition of the council.”


Comments
2 comments on this item

what happen to TC can.t even say some thing that right it ws his turn to run. plus see when you a person from the other side running also. but that was notgoing to happen. 1 more vote for the mayor . good for scott. but Tc is a good dem been invold for over 20 ys . 1 more vote for the godfarther. for pres

Fred, its painful to even try to read your post. Try a little spellcheck/grammar....

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