By ARDEN BASTIA Warwick's Mayoral candidates, incumbent Mayor Joseph Solomon and independent challenger Frank Picozzi squared off in the second debate on the mayoral campaign Friday on WPRI's Newsmakers hosted by Ted Nesi and Tim White. The debate was
Warwick's Mayoral candidates, incumbent Mayor Joseph Solomon and independent challenger Frank Picozzi squared off in the second debate on the mayoral campaign Friday on WPRI's Newsmakers hosted by Ted Nesi and Tim White.
The debate was held virtually, and the candidates joined via Zoom, a change from the first debate sponsored by the Warwick Beacon and hosted by the Warwick Public Library on Oct. 6.
On many of the issues, the candidates maintained their positions and views from the first debate. When asked if the mayor should be doing more regarding Warwick Public Schools, Mayor Solomon stood his ground, reiterating that the school committee has "always been elected and autonomous," and outside his jurisdiction. "Who's to say I did not do more?" the mayor said citing the $40 million bond he helped to secure to improve the schools, and the $6 million added to school’s 2019 budget. When asked about the Bayside sewer project, the candidates were consistent about their positions. Picozzi, said he's "heard two versions about what it will cost," and was unable to answer the question. He said this issue "has to be further looked into."
As he did on Oct. 6, Solomon referenced the petition Picozzi signed in favor to move the sewer project forward. The mayor still stands by his plan to deliver the "most cost effective solution to homeowners."
The second debate brought up a variety of questions that were not addressed earlier, such as the candidates' views of legalized marijuana, police body cameras, and COVID vaccines for school children. Picozzi and Mayor Solomon both agreed on needing more legislation before legalizing marijuana. Both candidates also supported body cameras on police officers, and Mayor Solomon mentioned a statewide initiative that would take place in all municipalities. Both candidates were asked their views on this hypothetical situation: If a parent refuses to let their child get immunized for COVID when there is a vaccine, should the child be refused access to the school? Mayor Solomon said it would not be his decision, but instead left up to the school department and school committee. Picozzi stated that he thought it was a health risk, and supported the issue.
Additionally, in this debate, voters had a chance to hear each candidate's views about Warwick's roads. Mayor Solomon was questioned about Councilman Ed Ladoucer, who took it upon himself to fill in potholes in Angelsea in Warwick Neck.
"The councilman was disingenuous or mistaken," Solomon said. The mayor pointed out that he has met with independent engineers to address the streets. "It's not about advertising what I'm doing, it's about getting results," he said. He mentioned the three-year plan to spend $10 million in road repairs using a low rate bond.
When asked about a plan or program he would initiate as mayor, Picozzi said, "That's a very broad question...There's a detailed plan on my website. I'm not going to be able to answer the question." Instead, Picozzi changed the subject to his stance on other hot topics, like small businesses. Also addressed during the debate was the letter from George Shuster published in last Thursday’s Beacon charging Solomon of fear mongering to hold power.
"I do agree with a lot of what is said."
Picozzi brought up empty school buildings around the city and the cancelled plan to sell Aldrich to a charter school.
"People are unhappy, and that's why I have the support that I have."
Mayor Solomon took issue. He said his administration has consistently provided services throughout the COVID pandemic.
"Had [Mr. Picozzi] been around for the last two years, not the past twenty years his family ran the city, he would see there is optimism and hope." The candidates reiterated their passion for the city.
"I'm here because people want better. [The Mayor] keeps saying he has the tools for the job, but the tools are compassion and honest caring for the people. It's not about politics. I can go out and buy a scalpel but you don't want me to do surgery on your heart," said Picozzi, who made it known that he's "here for the people of Warwick."
Mayor Solomon stood by his delivery of results.
"If you can't take care of your own finances, I ask, how can you take care of a $300 million budget city? It's a matter of getting things done. I've delivered new roads, new lights, additional funds for our seniors, and additional funds for our schools."
The first debate from Oct. 6th can be viewed on the Warwick Public Library and Warwick Beacon Facebook pages. The second debate from Oct. 9th can be viewed on WPRI’s website.