Democratic primary to decide Ward 8 council seat

Posted 7/23/20

City Councilman Anthony Sinapi will face a two-time candidate for state representative for the Ward 8 position on City Council. Sinapi and Dan Elliott are running as Democrats, and are the only two candidates in Ward 8. Voters will elect

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Democratic primary to decide Ward 8 council seat


City Councilman Anthony Sinapi will face a two-time candidate for state representative for the Ward 8 position on City Council.

Sinapi and Dan Elliott are running as Democrats, and are the only two candidates in Ward 8. Voters will elect one of them as the Democratic nominee during the Sept. 8 primary, but there are no Republican or independent candidates challenging them in the November general election. As such, the Ward 8 council member will be determined during the primary.

Incumbent Councilman Sinapi won the Ward 8 election in 2018 unopposed, and now wishes to earn a second term. He is a certified lawyer in Massachusetts and a paralegal in Rhode Island. He has served as a pro hac vice lawyer in Rhode Island, however, in a medical malpractice case. He said that his background studying psychology, sociology and political science in college helped him develop his political philosophy.

“The approach I've taken is merging old and new,” Sinapi said. The old way of politics is to resolve private issues privately, but now it’s often publicly, which can be good but do a great deal of damage. You have to be respectful, but make opinions known too.”

Elliott, a former small business owner and school services administrator, ran for the General Assembly as an independent in 2016 and 2018. He lost to Rep. David Bennett for the District 20 seat both times. However, he earned over 40 percent of the vote in both years.

 Now running as a Democrat for City Council, Elliott has turned his attention to the city instead of state because of issues that he found particularly pressing at the local level.

“I decided that we just needed a better leader in Ward 8,” Elliott said. “We have a lot of work to do in Warwick. We need to restore jobs, restore schools. We need a real strategy to recover the city after COVID-19.”

Sinapi believes that the city has overall changed for the better under the current council, although he thinks there’s more work to be done.

“We have one of the best fire contracts,” Sinapi said regarding the contract that passed in a 5-4 council vote. “We have a new roadworks plan, and we are getting better streetlights. People tell me ‘I can’t actually find a house in Warwick because the market is so good.’ But that’s a good sign for how we’re doing. We’re in a much better place fiscally.”

One of Elliott’s concerns is the city’s infrastructure. He said that unsafe, bumpy roads were one of the biggest problems in his ward specifically.

“I keep hearing about the condition of the roads, streetlights out and grass growing in the middle of the streets.” Elliott said. “I feel like there’s neglect in this area, especially Greenwood, where there’s streets that haven't been paved since the mid 70s. [The city keeps] saying it's coming soon, but it’s not getting fixed. It’s little issues like that.”

While serving Ward 8, Sinapi said that he has been responsive to his constituents’ infrastructure concerns. Many of the complaints he receives regard neighborhood distractions.

“Cable wires keep getting knocked down, and I know there’s been beeping noises from a landscape company that are bothering residents in Ward 8,” Sinapi said. “We can do more to address that.”

Sinapi has an 11-year-old son attending Warwick schools, which is one of the reasons he got involved in local politics in the first place. He wants to improve the council’s relationship with the school committee, but he believes that progress has been made over the past few years. He said communication issues were the biggest issues, and he will continue to resolve them if he is reelected.

According to Elliott, the state has not given Warwick sufficient funding for its schools, hence previous proposed cuts and declining reputation. According to the Rhode Island Department of Education, Warwick received over $38 million in state aid during the 2020 fiscal year, while neighboring Cranston, which has a similar population and demographics, received more than $64 million. 

“We need to work more with our state representatives and state senators to put together a fair funding formula for Warwick, instead of only city funds,” Elliott said. “Cranston has twice as much school funding as Warwick even though we have a similar population. I feel like we haven’t funded our schools.”

Sinapi believes the greatest challenge the city faces is bridging the gap between community members and businesses. He believes this is especially important in Ward 8 because many residential and commercial areas are located right next to each other in the ward.

“Right now, I’m working on a lot of acute conflicts, or issues where a small thing creates friction,” Sinapi said. “But I try to fix those before they get worse than they already are. That’s the important part.”

Sinapi also wishes to address property vacancies. He said that he would like to implement tangible tax exemptions for businesses who need it, particularly for businesses that open briefly before closing shortly after.

“We’re working on a bill to address unused commercial property,” Sinapi said. “Sometimes there’s a good reason for it, like there’s one property in my ward in a legal suit, but sometimes the property owner just doesn’t care. And that hurts the city and the surrounding area.”

Elliott owned the landscaping company Greenwood Professional Services, so he is passionate about small business in the city. He said that the city needs to invest more in businesses, and he is open to using alternative solutions to do so.

“When I walk around the district, I hear a lot about vacant properties up and down Warwick Avenue and Post Road, and it doesn’t seem like the city is trying to do anything to make the city more business friendly,” Elliott said. “We need to try to do something with these underutilized parcels on main streets. I don’t know if that’s going to all be commercial, residential mixed with commercial, but something needs to be done.”

As a result of more business development, Elliott believes that more businesses and residents will come to the city, which can help earn the city more tax money without raising individual rates. 

“If you rebuild the tax base, then we’re not going to be facing maximum tax increases every year,” Elliott said. “With new tax revenue coming in the city through business development, I think that’s going to put us in a great position.”

When asked the difference between himself and his opponent, both Sinapi and Elliott claimed they were focusing more on their own platforms and less on his opponent’s. Sinapi said Elliott has not reached out to him, while Elliott said he ran because he felt he was a good fit for the position. 


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