2017-08-10 / Election News

Candidates Weigh In on a Few Local Topics

On Tuesday, August 22 On Tuesday, August 22 The four candidates were asked to answer the following questions in 750 words or less. Below are the responses.

Q1 With the upcoming move and probable closing of Twin Rivers' Newport Grand property, what do you feel is the best use of that site? Would you advocate that the city or state try to acquire the land, and if so, why?

Q2 In R.I. there are 39 municipalities and 32 school districts. Considering that most school districts and municipalities are facing financial challenges, would you recommend more school regionalization statewide and, more specifically, give your opinion regarding the schools in District 13.

Q3 Would you work towards foregoing the taxes on citizens' pension incomes in order to keep retirees from leaving the state?

Q4 What sets you apart from the other candidates?

From Dawn Euer
Dawn Euer appreciates Gooseberry Beach and the owners’ commitment to maintaining public access to the water. Dawn Euer appreciates Gooseberry Beach and the owners’ commitment to maintaining public access to the water.

1 Newport is facing one of the largest development opportunities of my generation, due to the realignment of the Pell Bridge ramps and the relocation of Newport Grand. The city has been looking towards developing that area as an ‘Innovation Hub.' Simply put, the vision of the Innovation Hub is to create good paying, year-round jobs for our community in existing and emerging industries. Examples of some of the potential jobs would be in the alternative energy and cyber technology fields, and with companies that would help communities recover faster from natural disasters. While this project has been underway for some time, we need to have an open and thoughtful dialogue with local residents and business owners to ensure the project moves forward in a way that is transparent and most beneficial to our community. If such discussions take place, I think the Newport Grand property would be ideal for inclusion in that vision. Since part of the Newport Grand property served as a former landfill, there will be serious challenges and risks to redevelopment. I would only advocate for the city or state to acquire the property if local residents, business owners and the City support that decision.

2 We need to approach regionalization with our eyes wide open, and learn from the communities that have implemented this idea. We need to ensure that regionalization is what works best for our kids and is the best way to provide a high quality public education and sets our young people up for success in a changing economy. Rogers High School and Middletown High School both need to be

replaced and we should question if it makes sense to build two new school buildings within five miles of each other. Both districts are also facing declining enrollment, which has the potential to reduce course offerings. Middletown already sends students to Rogers for the Career/Tech program. Regionalization could be an opportunity to improve services and course offerings and broaden opportunities for all.

We would also need to consider how the funding formula would work in a newly regionalized district. Other regionalized districts have been in lawsuits with each other over the distribution of funding. That is something that must be avoided.

Regionalization could be an opportunity to coordinate resources and provide better services and education for our kids. Ultimately, this conversation should be driven by a variety of perspectives – not just elected officials, but also, parents, teachers and community leaders.

3 I’m committed to reducing the tax burden on our seniors as well as our working poor and middle class families. Rhode Island has a higher percentage of older citizens than other areas, primarily because people love to live here. We enjoy a great quality of life thanks to the natural beauty and close-knit community. People are trying to stay here if they can, but we need to create policies to allow them to do so. I think that reducing the tax on pensions is a good start and we can explore what else should be done. We need to make sure we’re approaching this conversation in a holistic way so we’re not putting forward short-term tax cuts that would negatively affect services and cost seniors more money in the long run.

4 I’m an attorney and I run my own law practice where I work with small businesses, social enterprises and nonprofits. Because of my commitment to public service, I’ve spent my life involved with community organizations and volunteering my time. I’m also very familiar with how the State House works. I was a leader in the marriage equality movement and played a key role in passing one of the most historic pieces of legislation my generation will likely see. I know it’s important that we not focus on the "quick fix" or the "silver bullet." We need to have tough conversations and we need to be willing to listen to each other and understand why we think the way we do. I have experience working at the State House on public policy and understand the work it takes to make change. With my experience and background, I’m ready to hit the ground running as Senator for District 13.

Mike Smith at home with the newest family member, Winston. Mike Smith at home with the newest family member, Winston. From Mike Smith

1 There are several options I feel would work best for this land. The greatest option would be an expanded P-Tech School (vocational school covering trades), combined with a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, math) Education Center. This would prepare our students for these high demand, high paying, future careers. Its location is great, as the vast majority of youth are living nearby. The approximation to the Navy, marine, and tech companies also make it a great location as the future high tech business hub, which will occur with bridge ramp re-development. This will help encourage growth of family population in Newport, and help foster a year-round economy, which has been declining for years. We can do this, and I'm excited to make this a reality.

2 Yes, I do recommend more school regionalization statewide. As a father of children in public schools, this is very important. The large drop in year-round families in our area is staggering. We need to look at the possibilities of consolidation and/ or modification. I believe we need to model the success of Massachusetts, who is now first in education, compared to RI's rank of 33rd. They have combined public, magnet, and charter schools. The results have been a win for all parties, especially the children. Newport area school rankings have continuously dropped each year, despite annual funding increases. We need to work towards more options for kids, parents and teachers. Expanded Vo-tech (P-Tech) options, and more emphasis on STEAM academics are the keys. We must prepare our children for the future. This is the major combine in the machine that will turn our economy around and bring year-round residents and families back to our area.

3 Yes. We are ranked by AARP as the "Worst State to Retire in America." A major reason for that is we are still taxing pensions, which includes military benefits. We are losing

a vital sector of our community to states that are more affordable and friendly to seniors. Our state is creative in ways to tax and fee its citizens to the brink. I will work to cut those taxes, and move to becoming a state that earns revenue through becoming friendly to business, especially small business.

4 I am a husband, father, and a Newport small-business owner. I relate to the average Newport/ Jamestown resident. The needs of our state and city affect me and my family at every level. I have a child entering kindergarten at Pell Elementary next month, and I want her, as well as all children in our school system, to succeed. I also have a son graduating college next year, and want him not to be part of the 70 percent of college students that have to leave the state upon graduation. As a small-business owner, I see many businesses of all types struggle to survive in a state which is ranked near last for business. We must work to diversify our economy, and not just be dependent on seasonal tourism. It is time to drastically change course. It is time for good government, and an end to the failed tax and spend policies that are near bankrupting our state. We must change so that families and businesses can return, survive and thrive.

From Kim A. Ripoli
Kim Ripoli enjoys boating and fishing on the bay. Candidate Gregory Larson, a Green Party candidate, did not respond to Newport This Week's request for information. Kim Ripoli enjoys boating and fishing on the bay. Candidate Gregory Larson, a Green Party candidate, did not respond to Newport This Week's request for information.

1 The best use is possible expansion of the cybersecurity field via partnerships with the Navy War College and Department of Defense. We need reasons for young tech workers and cyber security will only become more necessary. It has a great possibility to slow any brain drain for students who are currently attending one of RI's 10 colleges and universities.

2 Regionalization has benefits, especially regarding the dissemination of state and federal financial support.

3 We need to stop taxing military retirement pay. The numbers are so small and the benefits so large. The VA benefits from VA home loans, GI Bill, disability payments would all be distributed not in Massachusetts, or Tennessee, or Kentucky, etc. There needs to be a serious review of the current size of RI state government. Pennsylvania has 16 million population that includes two major metropolitan areas on each side of the state, plus Harrisburg, and they have a smaller state government. Why?!!! Medical/recreational marijuana is not going to go away. We need to stop saying "we need more research" and speak directly with the states who have had legalization.

4 Many folks over these many weeks have told me that I do not speak much about myself. Well, I grew up the youngest of four in an Italian-Irish, Roman Catholic household filled with lots of love and discipline. My parents were very supportive and always instructed us to do our best, be proud of success, to learn from defeats and to never be a braggart who talks about themselves or their achievements. In politics, that is a difficult maneuver to accomplish. So here it goes, since childhood, I loved history, and growing up in South Jersey, I was able to visit historic sites like Independence Hall, Liberty Bell, Valley Forge, and the Battle of Trenton on a regular basis. However, it was the 1972 Munich Olympics that had a profound impact on my interests in international relations, government and politics. The hour-to-hour unfolding

of this international crisis was unbelievable to my 9-year-old mind. I was stunned and horrified when Arab terrorists held the Israeli athletes hostage and then murdered them. That was my first memory of witnessing terrorism.

After that it was the political fascination of Watergate from the investigation right through the hearings to Nixon’s fall-from-grace resignation. Those two seminal events captivated my interest in world affairs, my desire to study American history, western civilization and political science. My educational background is a Bachelor’s Degree from R.I.C. in history and political science; Master’s Degree from Salve Regina in international relations and homeland security; and now I am attending Roger Williams Schools of Law with my focus on national security law. My father was always my hero. However, the man I admired and tried to emulate in my public service career and in stoic philosophy is VADM James B. Stockdale, USN.

I believe that we are living in a time of social and political revolution and I fear for our republic, especially with the kakistocracy of Donald Trump. I have over 30 years of public service: 26 unique years as a Navy Fleet Marine Force Sr. Chief Hospital Corpsman with combat tours; advocate for Wounded Warrior Sailors and Coast Guardsmen. My 2007-08 tour at The Pentagon was intense and my VA colleagues proved invaluable when I was the associate director of Veterans Affairs for RI (2012-16). Those VA working relationships enabled me to negotiate a $60 million VA reimbursement construction grant for the new RI Veterans Home.

I know what it means to be accountable to constituents. I have a successful work record of being responsive to constituents’ concerns with truthful answers.

I am running as an independent for District 13. Politics involves personal compromise for the public good. What we witnessed from our state’s leadership regarding the FY18 budget was anything but that. We need political diversity at the State House to ensure we have a responsive state government of the people, by the people and for the people. My fellow candidates have experience in lobbying for causes and running a business, but I am the only candidate with federal, state and military public service experience. I am asking the citizens of Jamestown and Newport for their vote! And if I have the good fortune of being elected your State Senator, my state government experience makes me effective on day one. I am dedicated, reliable and someone who will voice your concerns ahead of any political party affiliation. Robert F. Kennedy during his 1968 campaign would often say, “Some men see things as they are and say, why; I dream things that never were and say, why not.” I ask that you consider my Independent voice on Aug. 22.

Candidate Gregory Larson, a Green Party candidate, did not respond to Newport This Week's request for information.

On Aug. 22 On Aug. 22

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