A voters’ guide to the special election in Providence’s Ward 3
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The race to replace recalled Providence City Councilman Kevin Jackson in Ward 3 is fully underway, with three Democrats, a Republican and an independent candidate all running in a special election this summer.
Democrats Mark Santow, Nirva Rebecca LaFortune and Daniel Chaika will compete in the Democratic primary on July 12, with the winner taking on Republican David Lallier Jr. and independent Chris Reynolds in the general election on Aug. 16.
So where do the candidates stand on the key issues? Eyewitness News asked each of them to respond to 12 questions. (Note: Reynolds did not respond to phone calls, a text message or several emails.)
David Lallier Jr.
1. Why should you be elected to the City Council?
I bring to the table the average person in our city. I currently live check to check, dollar to the dollar just hoping that my checking account won’t overdraft. I know how hard it is to live on under $300 a week. I don’t have normal health insurance because I can’t afford it. I am on Medicaid because of my income. Unlike the other candidates, I don’t have the college education. I don’t have money to even enjoy life like I want to. I know the struggles financially and in education. I grew up in the special education system in Providence. I know how hard it is to learn and understand, even into my adult years and as I run for office I continue to struggle personally and now publicly. I am not proud to be low income and to have a learning disability, but if I am elected into office I can help those families and children who struggle as I do. I bring the perspective of an everyday person who wants a better life and just brakes even.
2. Ward 3 is one of the most unique neighborhoods in Providence because its constituents include some of the city’s wealthiest residents as well as some of the poorest residents. What is your plan for balancing the needs of everyone in the ward?
Every person in our ward has a different perspective regardless of income and education. We need to focus on the poorest residents. We need to create jobs and find new better ways to educate our residents of ALL ages. I am happy and proud of those who are the wealthiest, they have done great for themselves. But our focus needs to be on those who are left behind. Those who go to sleep worrying how they will feed their children and if their children will even have a future. I want to focus on the poorest community and I have intentions to place an office in or around the Camp Street area. I don’t want to hide behind the walls of City Hall every day. If problems are going to be solved our next city councilman needs to see and experience firsthand where help is needed the most.
3. How would you have voted on the Providence Community-Police Relations Act?
As much hate as I am going to get, I would have voted against this act. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for protecting the community from abuse from Police. However, the only way I would have voted for the act is if we had an exasperation date that once it is up for renewal we could see the impact it had on our police force and community. Most of the bill is common sense and I could get behind. I do believe that parts of the bill give criminals more freedom to get away with crimes. Parts of this act hinders the Police Department from doing their jobs. I fear that the brave men and women will cut back and won’t be able to do their jobs correctly because of fear of being fired, arrested, sued and more. I think this act was rushed without finding a ground that everyone is happy with. This bill will increase the time it takes to complete stops and add paperwork that our men and women will have to work on instead of protecting our community. I just think there is a better way to get these same requirements this act demands then we currently have. I firmly believe this will do more damage to our community and will increase crime.
4. Providence’s unfunded pension liability is approaching $1 billion and the system was only 25% funded as of June 30, 2016. What steps would you support for stabilizing the pension system?
We have very few options, 1 is bankruptcy, 2 is higher or new taxes, 3 is cutting back in every department to the point that it would disrupt our city and do more damages then the liability itself. The 4th option buying out these pensions and our 5th option is all 4 options.
As much as I hate taxes, I think the city will need to find a new tax that we earmark 100% of to reducing our liability. An option would be a $0.05 transaction tax on each transaction within the city. $0.03 will go toward paying down our pension liability and $0.02 goes to an Interest bearing trust. The city would only be allowed to withdraw the interested earned on the account and 100% of the interest must go towards the pension. The city would not be allowed to touch the balance in the account other than the interest. We would have to require 2 thirds of the voters to approve to withdrawal from the account and no more than 30 percent may be touched.
5. The City Council recently approved a smoking ban throughout part of downtown. The mayor vetoed the ordinance. The council is currently considering an override. Would you vote to override the mayor’s veto? (Note: the council voted to override after this survey was sent out.)
Yes, I would have voted for the ban and voted to override the mayor’s veto. As someone who used to take RIPTA daily, I know what it is like. On my way to and from Central High, I would have to walk around Kennedy Plaza and stand around people who smoke. As someone who doesn’t smoke this made me sick and small like I smoked. I would hold a shirt over my face at times to avoid second-hand smoke. It’s not right that our teens and adults have to breathe in others’ choices. Second-hand smoke is very real and hazardous to our health. Our school children should not have to hear the Cancer word because they decided to get an education and not smoke.
6. The vast majority of major development projects in Providence in recent years have received a tax-stabilization agreement from the city. Developers argue TSAs provide predictability in a city with a high commercial tax rate. But critics say those subsidies come at the expense of homeowners and those who pay the full commercial rate. Do you support offering TSAs to developers?
I support tax breaks for everyone who builds and makes Providence better. However, after construction has been completed and income is established there is no reason why everyone shouldn’t be paying their fair share in property taxes. Everyone including the ‘Non-Profit’ schools which make billions of dollars should be paying. The only people who pay taxes are those who can’t afford to live and work 2-3 jobs just to make ends meet.
7. What is one piece of legislation you would like to see the General Assembly approve to help Providence?
To allow Providence to collect taxes from nonprofits and groups that avoid paying taxes by hiding behind their nonprofit status. These groups buy up land in Providence and force homeowners to pick up the tab.
8. Mayor Elorza has been advocating for the state to approve legislation that would allow Providence to generate more revenue from the city’s water supply. Would you support a sale or lease deal for the water system?
No, I would not support giving up our water. Providence Water is a huge asset to the city and lets us control cost. It would cost taxpayers more in the long run if we give away our water. Selling our water would only solve problems in the short term. We need to think about the long run.
9. The teachers’ union contract is set to expire shortly after you’re elected to the City Council. What is one provision you would like to see added to the contract?
We need accountability in our public sector. Teachers, Police, Firefighters, and all other city employees need to fear being fired and suspended without pay. I support our teachers, but we need more room to be able to do what is best for our children and not the individual and unions who has no consequences. If there is someone else better for the job then we need to get them in.
10. Councilman Sam Zurier has proposed an amendment to the city’s code of ethics that would require members of the council to resign from any of their committee assignments or leadership positions if they’re indicted on a felony charge. Would you support this proposal?
YES! I would support this. Anyone who holds the position of power should step aside until all charges have been cleared. If cleared they should resume their position. We need a clear and present trust of voters in Providence. How can we trust people to run our government if they can’t give up power, even for a short time?
11. Name one thing Mayor Elorza has gotten right and one thing he’s gotten wrong since he became mayor in 2015.
Wrong: I think he was wrong on signing the PCPRA. I think it was rushed and will hurt the community more than it will help.
Right: getting the ‘nonprofit’ businesses who buy up land to pay taxes. Providence has too much land owned by nonprofits and pay little to no taxes but use our resources. (Editor’s note: the mayor has proposed legislation that would require nonprofits to pay taxes on certain properties, but it has not been approved by the General Assembly.)
12. Budget negotiations for the 2017-18 fiscal year are just wrapping up. What is one thing you would have liked to see in the budget that isn’t?
The budget only calls for $287,000 for training our Police. We just passed the PCPRA and people want the police to be better trained but we only budget $287,000 to train a department that needs to keep up with the changing times and laws.
I would like to see tax breaks for the elderly and those who have hit had financial times. I would like to see persons over the age of 75 who have retired and live on a low fixed income to not have to pay taxes for homes they live in.
I am still currently reviewing this budget and will have more to say at a later time.