Stenhouse looking to build bridges

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Running for mayor of Warwick is not a whim for Sue Stenhouse. She was prepared to run in 2010 and, in fact, laid out her campaign to the point of designing signs, identifying those issues she wanted to focus on and developing a website.

That didn’t happen.

“Then Scott [Avedisian] realized there were some other initiatives he wanted to take to the finish line, like Rocky Point, things with the airport. He then decided to stay, and I totally supported that,” Stenhouse said in a recent interview.

There wasn’t any such advance warning this year when Avedisian resigned as mayor to accept the lead post at the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority.

Stenhouse was surprised and soon found she was being urged to run by friends – many of who had supported her in her bid for City Council (she was elected in 2000 and served three terms) and that for Secretary of State in 2006.

The Warwick City Republican Committee was also looking for a mayoral candidate. Along with Stenhouse, Anthony Bucci and Thomas Stone considered running, but didn’t throw their hat into the ring. Stenhouse will not face a primary as the case with the four declared Democrats: Joseph Solomon, who is completing Avedisian’s term, Richard Corrente, Vincent Ferla and Gerald Carbone.

Stenhouse is already revved up for this race even though she doesn’t expect to start a sprint to Election Day until after the primary on September 12.

With unabashed enthusiasm, she starts the interview saying, “I just knew I had an incredible résumé for being a mayor.”

Indeed, Stenhouse’s governmental experience is extensive, first as a legislator on the City Council and then working as director of community relations for former Governor Donald Carcieri. She talks about her involvement with the initiation of the United Way 211 information service, emergency preparedness work that started with the Station Nightclub fire and later being in charge of evacuees from Hurricane Katrina.

Stenhouse considers bringing people together to bridge their differences and cooperatively work together as one of the strengths she would bring to the mayor’s office. Following her work with Carcieri, Stenhouse worked for the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce.

“I was instrumental in a series of programs to make them [businesses] feel more connected. I feel like the Chamber was being viewed as being big-business oriented, so I started all new programs for small businesses down there. It was all started from scratch, and that’s what I love. Getting a problem and figuring it out through people I know, partnerships, and then making something happen,” she said.

One of her efforts to bring people together, later as director of the Cranston Enrichment Center, is certain to haunt her campaign.

As the Cranston director of the department of senior services, Stenhouse looked to showcase a new program where youths would help seniors by shoveling snow. With a lot of ballyhoo, Mayor Allan Fung and a lineup of officials posed in front of the senior center. Stenhouse had not found a senior to join the group, so a staff member dressed as an elderly woman. The stand-in was quickly exposed, making for amusing national and international stories and just as quickly ending Stenhouse’s Cranston job.

Since 2016 Stenhouse has worked as the director of partnership development and community outreach at Mulligan’s Island Golf Entertainment.

Stenhouse is not naïve. She anticipates the Cranston incident will be brought up by her Democratic opponent, but she looks for voters to measure her accomplishments and what she would do as mayor.

How would she handle the city’s current budget situation where, despite a raise in taxes and $1.5 million in additional school funding, the schools are faced with making more than $6 million in cuts in their requested budget?

“If I were the mayor, I’d be looking at those kinds of budgets very differently,” she said.

Leaning on the side of schools, she adds, “I’m always going to be an advocate for making it easier to do business and to streamline the process, but businesses are not going to come to Rhode Island if we don’t have a properly trained and educated workforce.”

She expands her thoughts on education later in the interview.

“I think if we don’t invest in education, it has a trickledown effect,” she said. “Young families won’t want to move here, which impacts enrollment and educational opportunities for teachers. To me, it’s education, education. Businesses want to invest in communities where their employees can bring their families and become part of the community. Community development starts with the schools. With our aging community, we need to incite young families to move here.”

Until recently, a member of the Warwick Zoning Board of Review when she resigned after declaring her candidacy for mayor, Stenhouse is an advocate of City Centre and creating a district of business, residential and hospitality uses at the confluence of highway, rail and air transportation.

“I love the City Centre project near the airport; I love the energy,” she said. “And that’s what I would want to see. Because I’ve worked on the comprehensive plan for that area, I would love to shepherd that as mayor and make sure it comes to fruition as envisioned. That is going to be a vital and energetic project.”

Stenhouse favors a charter review commission and advocates four-year mayoral terms and term limits.

Stenhouse doesn’t go into too many specifics, saying it is still early in the campaign and she is working on a detailed platform. She has started to assemble a team, the first of who is Janet Russell. Russell and her husband, Mark, worked with Avedisian since he first ran for office. Janet Russell is her campaign treasurer.

As for what it will take to run a viable campaign, Stenhouse put the cost at $150,0000. She didn’t appear perturbed by the amount. Rather, her focus is on what she feels she could bring to Warwick.

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WwkVoter

A question of judgement?

http://turnto10.com/i-team/only-on-10-stenhouse-resigns-after-dressing-man-as-woman

Tuesday, July 17
CrickeeRaven

WwkVoter, it will be interesting to see how much that incident counts against her, in light of the current budget situation that Mayor Solomon and the Democratic City Council are in, due to their own decisions.

All Stenhouse has to say is "they didn't raise taxes to cover the budget last year and your taxes went up by the maximum allowed by the state this year as a result" and put Solomon on the spot to explain it.

He won't be able to blame Avedisian anymore, and his hands-off approach to the FY19 budget won't somehow let him avoid blame for it.

If she makes it a pocketbook election -- one focused on peoples' money and how the city is spending it -- she has a chance to make it close.

This will already be the closest vote in a generation, after Avedisian's record of thoroughly defeating every challenger since 2000 -- but I wouldn't be surprised if the final margin is fewer than 200 votes.

Wednesday, July 18
WwkVoter

raven, understood, and once again u make insighful comments. but that bizarre cross-dressing stunt dressing an older male bus driver as an elderly woman for the news cameras, was engineered by stenhouse to deceive the cranston public! and it was in outrageously bad taste and speaks to ethics. her stunt also made a mockery of rhode island (once again) nationally. I'd be surprised if, one way or another, it isnt used against her in a campaign communication.

as to those pocket book issues, well we'll see just how little the average primary voter understands how this all works. we have deferred maintenance (roads and buildings) and didnt build new modern schools because it was hard enough to keep tax rates modest and cover long-agreed obligations such as "police/fire 1" pension, and opebs. Now, it isnt enough to not maintain our city assets, had a maximum tax increase (still only about 3%) and yet it looks like we still cant cover the teacher raises let alone these brand new dpw/police raises.

I would guess that we will see them squeeze the school dept as much as possible, eventually relent to a degree, and cover the budget with some funds from the "rainy day fund" for this year, while going for max tax increases each subsequent year trying to play catch up, while, of course, still under-funding school and road and other Warwick infrastructure.

BUT, that's just me, joe citizen and I dont have all the information about options that Mayor Solomon does.

Wednesday, July 18
CrickeeRaven

Thanks, WwkVoter. I agree, we will see how Mr. Solomon and the city council decide how to handle the issues facing the city.

I also agree that the Cranston incident will be used against Sue Stenhouse, although I hold out hope that voters will not get caught up in the circus-type elements of the mayoral election.

By the way, you may be interested to know that the make-believe mayor -- who continually touts how he spent [wasted] $40,000 on his first failed campaign -- put nothing into his current campaign during the second quarter of 2018. Here's the link to his Q2 campaign finance report: https://bit.ly/2mzuMSh

No contributions, no loans, no fundraising, just $34.13 after paying $9.99 per month for three months for bank fees and $38,772 in outstanding loans.

Looks like the make-believe mayor is managing his campaign finances the same way he runs his personal finances -- trying to get a free ride while running up huge debts that he doesn't pay back.

Thursday, July 19
JohnStark

I applaud Ms. Stenhouse' candidacy, as I do all declared candidates. But a variety of questions emerge.

First, she desires to "invest in education". Ok, fine. How much, specifically, should be "invested"? Warwick presently 'invests' about $19,000 per student. In exchange for this "investment" we are treated to the following deplorable outcomes, courtesy of the State Department of Education 2017 data:

21.9% of Tollgate students earned a level deemed proficient (a very low bar) in Math

12.7% of Pilgrim students earned a level deemed proficient in Math

33% of Pilgrim students earned a level deemed proficient in Language Arts/Reading

30% of Tollgate students earned a level deemed proficient in Language Arts/Reading

Hence, an overwhelming majority of Warwick high school students are deemed to be Not Proficient in very basic skills, in exchange for a $19,000 "investment". How does Ms. Stenhouse plan to bring some semblance of accountability to a clearly failing school system?

Given the broad and much glossed-over failure on the part of Warwick's schools, would Ms. Stenhouse support some type of school choice initiative, allowing families to choose the best educational location for their children; be it public school, private school, or parochial school?

Finally, and still for starters, would Ms. Stenhouse support a plan that transitions the existing unsustainable defined benefit pension plan to a defined contribution plan?

Bottom Line: How does Ms. Stenhouse distinguish herself from the other candidates who fully endorse whatever can be captured on a bumper sticker? Come on, Ms. Stenhouse. I'm rooting for you. Take a stand!

Thursday, July 19
Cat2222

There is no guarantee that if backed into a corner she wouldn't try to do something similar again.That is the thing about integrity - once lost, it is hard to get it back.This is a hard NO for me.

Friday, July 20
Phil31

I am.pulling for her. We need some nee blood. Talking anout integrity. I would argue that Solomon helped get Warwick and the Warwick schools where they are today. The fact that he tries tok act surprised and blame Avedisian while he was on the citu council for What 17 years means he is either a liar or clueless. Neither are good qualities for being a mayor.

Sunday, July 29
WwkVoter

Joe Solomon is a straight shooter. Heard him on WPRO today. There is only one way forward and that's with compromise all the way around, and he knows this. He also has accounting and legal degrees so he understands the options best.

Not to denigrate Sue Stenhouse BUT she DID dress a male bus driver up as a woman and hold a press conference presenting her as a "senior citizen" to us taxpaying public! If that's not a lie and colossally bad judgement, then I don;t know what is. Imagine if she was in office, she'd say ANYTHING true or not, expecting the public to believe it. This, as another reader said, is a hard NO for me,.

Monday, July 30