So far it’s been the non-campaign for mayor.
Yes, there is a race for mayor, although, other than roadside signs, predominately those of incumbent Scott Avedisian, one wouldn’t guess it. While there hasn’t been much buzz about this race yet … voters will have a choice when they go to the polls on Nov. 6.
Jack Kirby, who is running as an independent, is no stranger to the contest. This is his third bid for the office; he carried the Democratic nomination in 2008 and again in 2010.
Saying he received little support from the Democrats – the city committee wouldn’t endorse him in 2010 even though he was the only one to step forward – Kirby said Friday he thought he would be better off on his own. He said he is running because he is a lifelong Warwick resident and that “the community has been good to me and I want to give back.”
Avedisian has been mayor for 12 years. His campaign ads highlight his leadership and accomplishments of his administration, including contract agreements that hold the line on salary increases and revisions in pension benefits projected to save the city $32 million in unfunded liability in years to come. He notes that, during 11 of his 12 years in office, the city ended the fiscal year with a surplus and that Warwick has one of the highest bond ratings of any city in the state.
In the weeks ahead, he will also remind voters of his work to preserve Rocky Point, Morris Farm, Barton Farm and Ives Bluff; that the city is designated as the 16th Safest City in the country by Morgan Quitno Press; and that MONEY Magazine has twice named Warwick as one of 100 best places to live in America. He will also turn the spotlight on economic development, citing the Warwick Station District and some of the larger retail outlets that have opened in Warwick in the past three or four years.
Kirby’s low budget campaign carries no theme.
There are about two-dozen signs around the city that carry his name and that he is running as an independent. In fact, when reached Friday, he was at the city yard hoping to find a sign that had disappeared from the intersection of Sandy Lane and West Shore Road. He believes the sign was on city property but he didn’t suspect that would be a problem, as there were signs of multiple candidates of both parties. All the signs disappeared. He didn’t find his sign and was left to speculate who might have removed it.
Signs have troubled Avedisian, too. He’s not worrying about lost signs, but concerned that it would be questioned whether he received preferential treatment if bus shelters carried his message so, as chairman of the Rhode Island Transit Authority, he scrapped plans for the shelter signs. But cable TV and newspaper advertising starts this week. Avedisian will also do direct mailings, door-to-door campaigning with council candidates and clam cake and chowder luncheons at elderly housing complexes. He expects to spend about $40,000.
As for the contest, Avedisian said he hasn’t seen or heard anything from Kirby other than the signs.
“We’re just putting together our campaign and going with it,” he said.
No mayoral debates, which have been organized by the Warwick Beacon and the League of Women Voters in the past, are planned. In past campaigns, the candidates have also been asked to participate in high school forums. Avedisian said he has been invited to speak at Toll Gate. Teacher Thalia Wood, who is organizing that event, said she would be delighted to have Kirby attend but, as of Friday, hadn’t been able to reach him.
But when reached, Kirby isn’t lacking on ideas of what the city needs.
Taxes are on the top of his list. He would freeze property taxes and work to remove the motor vehicle tax. To make up for the loss in revenues, Kirby looks to the Rhode Island Airport Corporation to reimburse the city for taxes lost when it acquired homes and businesses around the airport.
Kirby would also like to see the Warwick Area Career and Technical Center expand its program.
“There are some great stories out there,” he said citing his daughter, Kaitlyn, as an example. She studied nursing at the center and now has a good paying job.
Kirby has found jobs difficult to find. His company does sewer connections, but he said, with passage of state legislation lifting mandatory connections for Governor Francis Farms homeowners, he lost between $30,000 and $40,000 in work.
As for his campaign, Kirby won’t be spending much. How much?
“Not a lot, that’s for sure,” he said. “You have got to have it to spend it.”
He won’t be doing any advertising or printing of flyers, nor, for that matter, will he hold any fundraisers. He has been walking neighborhoods to get his message out.
Apart from taxes, Kirby is critical of the plan to relocate the Winslow Park playing fields to RIAC-owned land next to the airport off Lake Shore Drive.
“If it [RIAC] took the houses for a reason, why put the kids there playing baseball?” he said. He says children, who are more vulnerable than adults, will be breathing in soot and fine particles from aircraft engine exhausts.
“Those pollutants are even worse than noise,” he said. He would like to see the fields at the Community College of Rhode Island, even though that has been ruled out as too small to accommodate all the fields needed.
Avedisian believes the Lake Shore Drive location is good.
“I think that the new ball fields are a win for both leagues. People from both leagues were part of the discussions, as was the City Council. The Airport Corporation worked to see if CCRI was an alternative and in the end decided that was not viable,” he said in an email yesterday.
On the possibility that the Leviton manufacturing building on Jefferson Boulevard will be torn down to save on taxes (with the loss of the historic Elizabeth Mills), Kirby suggests the city “make a deal.” He would reduce or abate taxes on the condition that the owners of the building create jobs.
“What kind of tax deal would Mr. Kirby propose for the Leviton site? Since there is no manufacturing going on there now, I am not sure what jobs he would be looking to protect. We will continue to work with the owners and potential buyers for a positive resolution to the dispute,” Avedisian responds.
So far, that’s been the extent of the exchange between the candidates.
Kirby says he has no plans on being a career politician. He wants “to fix things” and then retire. He may well become a career candidate. He has run for council, senate and for mayor and will probably be back running in another two years.