Taxes, sewers in spotlight of Ward 8 campaign
Two campaign veterans – one who seeks to return to elective office and the other for whom this is her first bid for office – are vying for the Ward 8 council seat.
Joseph Gallucci is looking to win back a seat he held 18 years ago. He’s running as a Democrat. The Republican candidate Lyn Jennings is a self-employed salon owner who spearheaded opposition to Governor Lincoln Chafee’s tax plan two years ago and, basically, won.
“It’s going fabulous,” she said of her campaign. “I’m out walking, meeting everybody – there are so many constituents that have said, ‘No one’s ever knocked on my door.’ It’s really refreshing to see the interaction and people are involved and excited about voting in November. The vibe has been really good. I’m really excited.”
Gallucci served as Ward 8 councilman from 1977 to 1984 and again from 1990 to 1994, serving as council president for much of the time. In 1984, he ran for mayor, though lost in a primary to former Mayor Frank Flaherty.
This past February, Gallucci retired as the director of elections from the Board of Canvassers after more than 15 years of service.
These days, he said he’s been walking the ward, although he’s careful to time his sorties.
“I don’t go at suppertime and I don’t go when there’s a Patriots game on,” he said. “I don’t want to interfere with their privacy. For the most part, people say, ‘I’m glad you stopped by.’”
As he has said since he first declared in May, Gallucci plans to focus on public health, safety and welfare if elected, though he was mum on specifics.
He recently visited Sparrow’s Point, as well as Shalom Apartments, both elderly housing residences, for breakfasts and lunches to meet with residents. With 47,000 seniors in the city, Gallucci said he’s interested in lending them a hand.
Similarly, Jennings has also visited the complexes. Most recently, she said she accompanied Mayor Scott Avedisian to Sparrow’s Point a few times for a clam cake and chowder lunch.
In addition to seniors, Jennings said one of her biggest concerns has to do with sewers. According to her, constituents have been complaining about sewers, or lack thereof, extensively.
Also, she views the fact that Gallucci serves on the Kent County Water Authority as a conflict of interest. In a recent article that ran in the Beacon, she was critical of him, questioning his loyalty to taxpayers.
“I’ve lived in Warwick for 17 years and I never realized how many communities within my ward don’t have sewers,” said Jennings. “Some of the residents have owned their homes for 30 or 40 years and were promised sewers back when they bought their homes. These communities aren’t able to tie into sewers and after doing a little research with the Sewer Authority, there’s nothing even planned on the books until 2020. There’s a public need for sewers and they should have access.”
Gallucci is also interested in expanding sewer services to the western part of the city, including Wards 7, 8, and 9, with a primary focus on Ward 8 because the ward makes up at least 30 percent of Warwick’s tax base, he said.
“It’s all engineered and ready to go; they just don’t have the funds,” Gallucci said. “Water lines are in progress and will probably be finished before the winter. We’ll do the paving and maybe the sewer lines can be installed so the whole area can be taken care of.”
As noted, Gallucci is concerned about public safety and said potholes need to be addressed. Additionally, constituents have let him know that speeding is an issue.
For Jennings, she’s noticed some “pretty bad roads” that are “falling apart” during her walks of the ward.
“As far as I know right now, there’s no repaving being done because there’s no money being put away for infrastructure and to me, that’s a big issue,” she said. “We pay high property taxes and there should be money for infrastructure. If you can’t keep up with that, everything starts to crumble and some of these roads are doing just that.”
Other major issues, said Jennings, are car taxes and property taxes. During the summer of 2011, Jennings attended many of the car tax meetings held at City Hall and noted that many citizens “came out in droves” to voice their opinions.
The important factor, said Jennings, is for people to realize that the General Assembly and the state stopped giving each of the cities funding and left it up to the City Council to set the exemptions.
“Warwick, unfortunately, chose to set it at the bare minimum and people came out and expressed themselves,” she said. “They were highly irate. I feel that the mayor listened and raised the exemption to $2,000. I personally would like to see it raised to $3,000 next year and I think we really need to look at how the cars are valued. I don’t think that the value index that they are using is comparable to what people actually own.”
As far as property taxes, she said for all the years she’s lived in Warwick, 17 years to be exact, there hasn’t been a year without a property tax increase.
“This year, it ended up being about 1 percent of the total budget,” Jennings said, who moved to Warwick from Providence. “I honestly feel that that 1 percent could have been found within the budget. The taxpayers needed relief and that didn’t happen. I would like to see in the future the budget gone over, line by line, and where savings can be met so we can give the taxpayers some major relief.”
For Gallucci, the needs of veterans are paramount. Along with Ward 3 Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson, Gallucci is trying to better inform veterans about services that will benefit them.
At the top of their list is Homes for the Brave, a program in conjunction with Wells Fargo and Helping Hands Community Partners, a Massachusetts-based non-profit organization that aims to help veterans pre-qualify for loans and match them with refurbished Veteran Administration (VA) approved homes.
Additionally, Wells Fargo, the number one VA lender, has agreed to waive application fees.
“The program is excellent,” Gallucci said. “It’s an attempt to help veterans and returning veterans. We have about 4,500 veterans in the city who are veterans according to the tax status, and another 4,500 who don’t get a break and we’re trying to hold out our hands to try to assist them.”
Also, Gallucci doesn’t want voters to forget his track record. He is reminding them that when he was first elected in 1976, there was an $8.6 million deficit in the city and under the leadership of former Mayor Joe Walsh he helped eliminate that deficit.
Both candidates have completed their fundraising efforts and will continue walking the ward before the election.
“I just want to get out there and meet as many people as I can to get my word out,” Jennings said. “I’m excited and ready for Election Day.”
Editor’s Note: Sparrow’s Point, a polling location in Ward 8, is located on Hardig Road but is accessible via an entrance on Cowesett Road.