Featured

In Their Own Words – Sept 2022

Motif has been publishing “In Their Own Words” each election cycle for the past 8 years, and readers have told us they find it useful. We edit responses for punctuation and spelling. Little changes are made to conserve space – for example, we usually replace Rhode Island with RI.

We reached out to every candidate, by email, by phone and through social media. We kept trying over the course of a month until we reached them, and then posed the same set of questions to each. We want to express our gratitude to our very busy candidates, most of whom also have day jobs and have taken on the full-time task of campaigning. The response rate this year was almost universal, and we appreciate it.

Governor 

Candidates Ashley Kalus (R) and Jonathan Riccitelli (R) were contacted, but were unable to answer the questions in time for publication.

Candidate Paul Rianna (I) was also contacted but unable to answer in time. We reached out to Mr. Rianna very late in the game as he was, for a time, ineligible because some of his signatures were disqualified. He was put back on the ballot after winning an appeal to the board of elections, but at that point had minimal time to try to answer us. 

We were unable to reach candidate Zachary Baker Hurwitz (I).

What do you feel is the biggest single challenge facing RI right now? 

Jim Aubin (L): High taxes & poor business climate, which then offers few high-paying opportunities or upward mobility for citizens. 

Matt Brown (D): The single biggest challenge facing RI is that people are struggling to provide for their families. And that’s because the cost of the basic things that people need – like housing and healthcare – has gone up hundreds of percent over the last few decades while wages have stayed essentially the same. And that’s not going to change with the people in power. They’re the ones who got us here in the first place. That’s why I’m running for governor alongside State Senator Cynthia Mendes for lieutenant governor and dozens of candidates – nurses, teachers, social workers – from all across the state. We need to elect not just a new governor, but a whole new government. And when we do, we will enact a $19 minimum wage, get a Medicare-for-all style healthcare system and ensure everyone who needs an abortion can access one, tax the rich and fund our schools, and pass a Green New Deal. 

Helena Foulkes (D): As our kids start a new school year, COVID learning loss remains a daunting challenge. Only 33% of RI public school students are meeting grade-level expectations in reading and 20% in math. We’ve never had a governor who has committed to be personally accountable for the results of our education system – it’s time to change that. I’ve promised a single term as governor if school test scores don’t improve. Our kids are our future, and we have a moral and economic responsibility to give them the amazing education they deserve. My plan calls for more teaching assistants in K-8 classrooms, universal pre-k, and expanding the RI Promise Scholarship to cover four years of tuition for education students at our state colleges. You can read my full plan to address public education at helenafoulkes.com/education. 

Nellie Gorbea (D): RI is facing a major housing crisis and I am uniquely suited to solve it. I will be the Housing Governor. I come prepared because of my work as the first executive director of HousingWorks RI. I have a deep understanding of the issue. I know where the solutions lie. I’ve built and worked with coalitions that know how to get housing built. I know who to bring to the table to make sure those solutions are implemented, and how solving the issue will make our economy thrive. While housing is the single biggest challenge RI faces, improving public education and tackling the urgent crisis of climate change will be key priorities of my administration as well. We also have to be growing our economy in a way that is equitable and just. Our best solutions lie in connecting these issues. Our kids cannot succeed in school if they do not have a safe, stable place to live. I know that we have an excellent opportunity to address climate change through new construction and rehabilitation of housing. Building homes with the climate and environment in mind, helps Rhode Islanders today and tomorrow. We can become regional leaders in building and retrofitting sustainable housing that’s affordable in New England. By working to improve our housing, education, and climate challenges, we set the stage for strong economic growth. 

Dan McKee (D): Like many states across the nation, RI is facing an affordability challenge. Costs are rising, and we need to make sure families, individuals and businesses can continue to afford to live or operate in our state in the long term. So that means we need to raise people’s incomes – we’re working towards that by investing in workforce development and education that connect working Rhode Islanders to good-paying jobs and careers that can earn them a living and support their families. We’re continuing to create construction jobs – I budgeted $300 million for school construction, as well as investments in other infrastructure and economic development projects. We’re making it more affordable to live, work, and raise a family here — we ended the car tax, cut taxes for seniors, ended the taxation on military pensions, and are sending $250 per child to families. And — something I’m very proud of — is our historic investment in housing. We’ve directed $250 million to address the affordable housing stock so that no Rhode Islander has to struggle to pay their rent. 

Dr. Luis Munoz (D): We are in the midst of both a pandemic and recession, and we continue to face opponents of change, represented across the entire political spectrum, who wish to maintain a culture of politics that favors corporate subsidies, wealthy donors, and privatization of public sector systems, all of which have contributed to diminishing access to affordable housing, expensive healthcare, environmental injustices, unlivable wages, poor health outcomes, and ever-widening educational disparities.

The RI Cannabis Act was landmark legislation passed in 2022. What do you think we need to keep an eye on while it’s being implemented?

Aubin (L): Prevent monopolization by the 3 medical providers and encourage equity and competition to provide best product at lowest prices. 

Brown (D): I will be watching closely to ensure that automatic expungement for past cannabis convictions happens, and happens in a timely manner. There shouldn’t be people in prison for using cannabis. Beyond that, we need to bring an end to the larger, racist war on drugs, which means freeing all non-violent drug offenders. 

Foulkes (D): I support the legalization of marijuana, but it’s important that we continue studying the health impacts, specifically studying the long-term impacts, and keep an eye on public safety. We also must make sure that the revenue from marijuana is distributed equitably, and that communities that have been disproportionately impacted by criminalization see the benefits of legalization. 

Gorbea (D): While the RI Cannabis Act is being implemented, it’s crucial that we make sure licensing is done in an equitable way — a way that includes people of color and women business owners. I was pleased to see some of the issues that I’ve been concerned about included in the laws that passed. I’m glad to see that there will be an automatic expungement of convictions for possession of cannabis, it will now be decriminalized by July 1, 2024. There’s also an expedited process for persons to apply for expungements sooner. I believe it’s important for people who aren’t familiar with the legal system, to know they can have their record expunged earlier. Appropriately, the money that comes from cannabis licensing fees will go to a Social Equity Assistance Fund. Among other things, the fund will provide grants for social equity applicants to establish a cannabis shop, and waive or reduce licensing fees for social equity applicants. Also, the law reserves one license in each of the six geographic zones for a social equity licensee and another in each district for a worker cooperative.

McKee (D): As I said when I signed the Rhode Island Cannabis Act, we must make sure the law creates a process for the automatic expungement of past cannabis convictions. That was a key provision in my original cannabis proposal to the General Assembly and I am glad the Assembly recognized its importance. The courts have until July 1, 2024 to automatically expunge those convictions, but they may be expunged sooner if requested. 

Munoz (D): I believe that RI should have embraced a cooperative business model

approach to legalization of cannabis, which would have been an economic justice measure to give back to communities who have historically faced higher rates of criminalization for possession of cannabis. The current licensing system will not equitably benefit families and communities who have been set back by a flawed criminal justice system, and it is my concern that criminalization will take on another form in this area: the enforced criminalization of “bootlegging” of cannabis, when those looking for a means to pay rent, and who do not have the insider connections to access a license, choose to participate in an economy that was not designed to provide them with opportunities.

In April, RI signed the Act on Climate into law, setting mandatory, enforceable climate emissions reduction goals leading the state to achieve net-zero emissions economy-wide by 2050. What do you believe is the single biggest change RI can make to meet this goal?

Aubin (L): Removing restrictions on solar such as basing system size on historical 3-year usage, excessively large 3′ fire setbacks, & difficult-to-qualify-for incentives. Allowing nuclear electrical power to be generated safely, cleanly and efficiently locally to stabilize power costs. 

Brown (D): We need to shut down the fossil fuel polluters in our state. Let’s be clear – the climate crisis is primarily a fight with the most powerful industry in the history of the world, the fossil fuel industry. We cannot solve the climate crisis unless we take them on and shut them down. We’ve had the fossil fuel industry lined up in the Port of Providence for decades, poisoning the families and children in that mostly Black and brown community. Drive down Allens Ave with your window down and you can feel it in your lungs. The people who live there choke on that air every day. I’m the only candidate in the race for governor committed to shutting down the fossil fuel polluters in the Port. 

Foulkes (D): RI took a big step forward by passing the aggressive “Act on Climate” legislation to make our climate commitments legally enforceable, but the governor has no plan to actually meet these goals. The state is already showing signs of falling behind. Rhode Islanders need leadership and action. We need a governor who will be hands-on and establish a clear plan for keeping our promises. That starts with investing in reliable and timely emissions data, so we are no longer making decisions based on three-year-old data. My climate action plan will make RI a leader in clean energy, support local resiliency efforts to communities on the front lines, and provide real accountability for meeting our “Act on Climate” goals.

Gorbea (D): While our biggest immediate challenge in RI is housing, the climate crisis is our largest looming long-term problem. Climate challenges are interconnected with many issues in our state. We need to make sure that we are thinking about the climate implications of every piece of public policy that we make. In RI, our largest source of carbon emissions is the transportation sector. The single biggest change RI can make is to rethink how we get around our state and region. Thankfully, we already have plans for this – the Transit Master Plan and the Bicycle Mobility Plan – which, when implemented, will improve and expand our public transit system, create the EV infrastructure we need to wean ourselves off of fossil fuel-powered cars and trucks, and reimagine our streets so they can be safely and conveniently used by pedestrians and bicyclists, too. Climate change challenges are interconnected with many others that we face. If we produce more densely situated housing, we make it easier to get from place to place without relying on a car. If we modernize our electric grid, we will have a reliable means of powering our EV infrastructure. If we reduce emissions from the transit sector, we improve public health, particularly in communities of color. And as we build a renewable energy economy, we create high-paying jobs for Rhode Islanders. 

McKee (D): There is no ‘one’ change — the Act on Climate mandate requires a combination of bold changes. We have passed historic legislation and made investments in our budget to achieve the net-zero emissions target, including expanding access to electric vehicles, investing in the green and blue economies, and doubling down on renewable energy with historic legislation requiring that 100 percent of RI’s electricity be offset by renewable production by 2033.

Munoz (D): There is no single change. We need a comprehensive approach, which I’ve detailed in the recent environmental forum and across two op-eds, which can be accessed here – luisdanielmunoz.com/publications. Summary points of forum and articles: reform regulatory bodies like the CRMC, incentivize residential solar through credits and rebate programs, power municipal buildings with solar, expand wind, incentivize green housing development, establish legislation to incentivize environmentally friendlier supply chain decisions by hospitals and other industries, establish municipal trolley systems, increase funding for alternative transportation initiatives (e.g., biking lanes), permanently ban pyrolysis process from RI, transition to electric vehicles and support families who cannot afford those vehicles with safe, reliable, and alternative means of transportation, and further tax pollution-generating industries (“Harm Tax”).

What specific steps can we take to improve public education in RI? Is this an issue that should be addressed at the state or local level? What change, if any, would you seek in the contract with the PVD Teachers Union. Would you seek to return local control of the PVD school system?

Aubin (L): Returning control of schools to local communities, teachers & parents will solve many issues. PVD should control its own schools and more school options should be allowed for PVD and other communities. $60 million for a soccer stadium could instead give every teacher in the state a $6,000 raise. 

Brown (D): 15 years ago, the people in power slashed taxes for the richest 1% and it cost our state $1 billion dollars. They left our school buildings crumbling, our teachers under-resourced, and our students without a quality education. Now, the top 1% – people making over $450,000 per year – pay a smaller portion of their income in state and local taxes than everybody else. As governor, I will raise taxes on the richest 1% to fund our schools, raise the starting salary for teachers to at least $60,000 a year, and make class sizes smaller. I will also pass a constitutional amendment guaranteeing every child gets a quality education. Massachusetts guarantees a quality education to all its residents and just across the border they have some of the best public schools in the country. And it’s time that we return control of PVD schools to the people of PVD. The state takeover of PVD schools has been a complete failure – teachers aren’t being treated well and resignations increased 50% in the 2020-2021 school year, and the schools haven’t gotten any better for students either. As governor, I will end the state takeover.

Foulkes (D): I’m tired of hearing politicians talk about how much they value education while failing to give schools the funding and support they need. We not only need a leader who is willing to hold herself accountable, but we also need a leader to give 100% to solving the education crisis in our state. I do think ultimately the district belongs in city control, but it’s important that before we end the state intervention, we address the structural issues that led to the takeover in the first place. As governor, I will work closely with the next Mayor on a smooth transition plan. PVD Public Schools is full of many incredible teachers, but the current contract is missing one important tool to advance student achievement: Principals should be able to hire teachers based on performance, not just seniority. 

Gorbea (D): I believe that public schools are great equalizers, and I applaud the work educators, administrators, teachers and faculty have done for our kids, especially through the COVID-19 pandemic. One way that I believe we can improve public education in RI is with a constitutional amendment valuing a quality education for our kids. A governor needs to ensure public servant leadership in PVD Public Schools and in the RI Department of Education. We have been in a logjam for years. We need to bring teachers, principals, and school committees together to find the best and fastest way forward to improve our schools and our kids’ futures.

Munoz (D): We should transform the education funding formula – bostonglobe.com/2021/10/13/metro/ri-needs-an-education-funding-formula-future-generations. We should establish a statewide after-school program and leverage relationships with universities and colleges to supplement accelerated coursework to students. We should expand RI Promise to non-traditional students and pull all retraining programs under RI Promise. We should replace SROs with mental health workers, and streamline integration of Medicaid billing into school systems to expand health resources for students. We should support teachers who wish to innovate around the curriculum. We should increase teacher diversity, especially in urban core communities. We should reduce cost barriers to certification, and replace some teaching professional development requirements with community service time. We should also make it easier for experienced teachers moving to RI to start at their appropriate step level. The policy-related issues can be addressed through RIDE, but we need to work with parents, teachers, and students to heal historical wounds and to work collaboratively to advance the public school system. Youth voices must be centered in these discussions! 

Of note: It is important that we remove any and all procedural barriers that might delay the firing of instructors who have used racial slurs or in any way verbally and/or physically assaulted students, staff, or other teachers.

RI proved prescient in passing abortion rights protections well before the Supreme Court reversed its position on Roe v. Wade. What other policies do you think might be reconsidered by the current Supreme Court, and are there measures you think should be taken on a local level in anticipation? 

Aubin (L):The Supreme Court is returning these decisions to the states. Our state should have enshrined the rights to an individual’s bodily autonomy, equal marriage, & right to self defense in our state constitution years ago. This will be a top priority to protect our residents from future tyrannical decisions by the federal government branches. 

Brown (D): First we need to ensure that all Rhode Islanders have access to an abortion, something the people in power have refused to do. We need to pass the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act (EACA), which would end the ban on abortion coverage for Medicaid recipients and people on state insurance. When Roe was overturned, the legislature was still in session. But they didn’t act. And Governor McKee refused to put the EACA in his budget, leaving tens of thousands of Rhode Islanders without access to an abortion. As governor, I will pass the EACA and enact abortion safe haven laws – like what’s been passed in Connecticut and Massachusetts – to protect abortion providers from lawsuits and investigations from other states that have banned abortions. Beyond that, we need to ensure that the rights of women, the LGBTQ+ community, and RI’s Black and brown communities are codified in state law.

Foulkes (D): The Supreme Court has hinted that marriage equality might be the next decision they return to states. If Obergefell v. Hodges were overturned, I would protect RI’s current state law guaranteeing marriage equality. As a fierce advocate for the LGBTQ (IA+) community, I will support a constitutional amendment here in RI that would specifically protect marriage equality. RI has a thriving and vibrant LGBTQ (IA+) community, and I will do everything in my power to protect and support LGBTQ (IA+) rights. 

Gorbea (D): I will not speculate on what further actions this Supreme Court will take to remove protections that have been in place for decades. What I will say is I am so proud of the work we have done in RI, much of which I’m proud to say I’ve been involved in advocating for, such as protecting a women’s right to choose, enacting common sense gun reforms, same sex marriage, and campaign finance reforms. Although the court’s action has called some of this into question, I will continue to lead on these issues as governor to represent Rhode Islanders regardless of what the Supreme Court does.

Munoz (D): I think this SCOTUS has proven to be radically conservative, and SCOTUS could go after same-sex marriage next, and contraceptive use. It is important to take steps to ensure that these rights are protected in RI, but we continue to face reproductive health access challenges in the state of RI. We should pass the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act, in order to ensure that women and transgender men who receive coverage through medicaid are able to access abortion care. There is no reproductive health justice, without access.

RI is one of only 15 states with a Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBOR). What is your position on LEOBOR repeal specifically and police/criminal justice reform generally?

Aubin (L)

  • No law that restricts public access to or creates separate standards for public servants should exist.
  • End cash bail. 
  • Automatically expunge all non-violent drug charges & release all currently jailed “offenders.”
  • End jail for child support or any other debt.
  • Remove all “crime prevention cameras” & police state sponsored surveillance.
  • End no knock raids if currently allowed. 

Brown (D): As governor, I will repeal LEOBOR so that police officers are held accountable the same way everyone else is under our laws and constitution. Recently, a PVD police officer was caught on video slamming a young man’s head into the pavement while he was handcuffed. He was charged with assault. The police chief wants to fire him, but he can’t. LEOBOR won’t allow it. We need to repeal LEOBOR so that law enforcement officers can be held accountable like everyone else. My plan to more fundamentally change the criminal justice system includes banning cash bail, banning for-profit prisons, banning solitary confinement, and freeing all non-violent drug offenders. 

Foulkes (D): Public safety is an issue that I take very seriously, and we cannot excuse racism and violence from our officers. I am in favor of reforming LEOBOR and investing more resources in community and behavioral health support. Too often we have “nibbled around the edges” when it comes to accountability in policing, and that is why I’m proposing meaningful reform. Police chiefs should be able to fire bad actors. I’m also a proponent of more community policing, meaning that officers come from the communities they serve and focus on building trust with the community. 

Gorbea (D): Everyone deserves to feel and be safe in their community. It is a false choice to pit safety and accountability against each other. I’ll be a governor that values the safety of our people while also working with community groups to modernize our approaches. That means improving and expanding access to wrap-around services including mental health care, addiction treatment, and social workers. It means ensuring equity of resources in our inner city communities. As part of this reform, the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights needs to be reformed, and that is just a start to improving police and criminal justice reform. 

Munoz (D)

Policing:

– REPEAL LEOBOR!

– Participatory budgeting programs to empower communities to shape innovation

diversion programs.

– Expanding state accreditation system to exceed national assessments, and to include

audits for hiring practices, mental health programs, and racial justice trainings.

– Nothing changes when accountability is displaced and/or delayed.

– Stop criminalizing homelessness. People experiencing homelessness and mental health crises are 16x more likely to be arrested, and BH Link as a support program is underfunded and incapable of adequately supporting this issue.

Criminal Justice Reform:

– Expunge records for individuals convicted of drug charges related to cannabis

– Increase diversity of judges

– Assess the potential for municipal community-based committees that could participate

in the narrowing down of potential judge candidates, with measures in place to ensure that such bodies are diverse and proportionately representative of the demographics represented in prison systems.

– Ensure that those charged with crimes can have access to court hearing video recordings.

Prisons:

– End Solitary Confinement

– Expand education opportunities for inmates (e.g., software development)

– End contracts with ICE

Who would win in a fight: Roger Williams, Buddy Cianci or the Big Blue Bug?

Aubin (L): The big blue bug would destroy any human that tried to fight it.

Brown (D): The Big Blue Bug.

Foulkes (D): This one is easy – the Big Blue Bug. 

Gorbea (D): 🤷🏻‍♀️

Munoz (D): One could say that Big Blue Bug is the second largest property-eating parasite relative to the largest, which is Roger Williams. I’d root for the underdog, the Big Blue Bug.

Secretary of State

Candidate Stephanie Beaute (D) was contacted, but her team was unable to provide responses by press time.

What’s the biggest single problem facing RI right now?

Greg Amore (D): The greatest challenge facing our state is polarization in politics which leads to voter apathy. Voter apathy leads to low-turnout elections. Low turnout elections consolidate power into the hands of the few. Politics should be the art of the possible. The exchange of ideas. A debate about the best path forward. Too often we hear politicians talking past each other, unwilling to listen. I have always been someone who looks to build consensus and to listen to differing views. We can maintain our core values and beliefs while also working together for the betterment of all Rhode Islanders. We must remember that everything about our elections should focus on what voters need to build greater participation in the process and trust in the outcome. Politicizing elections for the benefit of those in office turns democracy on its head. Good candidates can win elections so long as we are all playing by the same rules, so our policies and laws should reflect what will lead to greater participation and overall trust in the process.

Pat Cortellessa (R): The economy, day to day living expenses, housing/ rents.

The RI Cannabis Act was landmark legislation passed in 2022. What do you think we need to keep an eye on while it’s being implemented?

Amore (D): We need to make sure that the expungements of those with marijuna-related charges are being executed as intended in the legislation. We want people to have the best opportunity in life and we cannot get this wrong.

Cortelessa (R): How to enforce compliance, underage use, effect of young adults.

In April, RI signed the Act on Climate into law, setting mandatory, enforceable climate emissions reduction goals leading the state to achieve net-zero emissions economy-wide by 2050. What do you believe is the single biggest change RI can make to meet this goal?

Amore (D): We must do everything we can to achieve the goals set forth in the Act on Climate. We can start by including an expansion of our renewable energy sources, increasing electric car charging stations throughout the state to incentivize people to begin phasing out gasoline-powered vehicles, and completely electrifying the state’s fleet of vehicles.

Cortelessa (R): having the general public embrace the changes needed to achieve the goal in 2050.

Does RI face a bigger threat from too permissive or too restrictive access to voting and registration? What changes do you favor in how RI conducts elections? 

Amore (D): Among all the responsibilities of the Secretary of State, I believe our role in the administration of elections and pursuing policies to improve our elections is one of the most important jobs in all of government. We are seeing record low levels of trust in our government and widespread belief that our elections are neither free nor fair. These trends continue to be a risk to our democracy, and I take seriously the need to build trust in the community, regardless of who wins any particular contest. I see the role of the Secretary of State to be the educator-in-chief for how we run our elections and why there are, in fact, so few examples of voter fraud. We employ some of the most cutting-edge cybersecurity and election security measures, modeling our work after the same security measures used by other sensitive industries such as banking and law enforcement. My belief is that better communication to the public about what is currently in place can build trust and faith that our election results are the will of the people. 

There are a number of changes I believe will improve our elections: First, we should create a permanent mail ballot list, where individuals can elect to participate in all future elections by receiving a mail ballot without having to apply each and every year. Second, with the growth in unaffiliated voters, we should simplify the disaffiliation process so that voters do not unknowingly become members of a political party solely by the act of voting in a party primary. Third, I believe we should pursue same-day registration so that people can choose to participate in an election right up until election day, rather than having to decide months in advance potentially before they know what is at stake. Finally, there is a lot we can do to make it easier for a more diverse group of people to be able to run for office. This includes the need to expand our public financing of elections, so that the ability to serve your community is not related to personal wealth of the candidate or that candidate’s personal network. The fundraising burden on candidates keeps too many people from seeking office and leads to a lack of diversity in experience and perspectives in the elected office in RI.

Cortelessa (R): Permissive, voter registration do-over as removing gym membership, utility bill, credit card, putting birth dates back on the information of voter. These types of identification w/o photo are problematic to get on the voter rolls. 

Who would win in a fight: Roger Williams, Buddy Cianci or the Big Blue Bug? 

Amore (D): Roger Williams is a pioneer of religious freedom, the separation of church and state, and maintaining “a lively experiment that a most flourishing civil state may stand and best be maintained with full liberty in religious concernments.” That said, there is but one lone survivor and this has shown that while there is staying power for all three contenders – the Big Blue Bug just might outlive us all.

Treasurer

Candidate Stefan Pryor was contacted, but was unable to provide responses by press time.

What’s the biggest single problem facing RI right now? 

James Diossa (D): The economy. From the cost of rent to the grocery store, everyday Rhode Islanders are still feeling the pinch of rising costs. They need someone who has been there before, someone who knows and understands the obstacles and choices they face. And if we are headed towards recession, Rhode Islanders need a tried and tested leader. As Mayor of Central Falls, I assumed control of a city that had just declared bankruptcy. Our pension system was underfunded by more than $80 million. But through transparent, responsible management — and by engaging with those most affected in the community – I was able to set my city on the path to strong financial footing. I’m proud to say RI’s Comeback City is doing better today than ever before. In the race for General Treasurer, I am the only candidate who has managed a pension fund, and did so successfully under the worst of circumstances. 

James Lathrop (R): Bringing back hope and trust in our government. It is hard to live in RI, as opportunities for our children and young adults are fewer and fewer. This is creating an exodus from our state of many talented individuals.

In April, RI signed the Act on Climate into law, setting mandatory, enforceable climate emissions reduction goals leading the state to achieve net-zero emissions economy-wide by 2050. What do you believe is the single biggest change RI can make to meet this goal? 

Diossa (D): I believe the most significant challenges resonate from local zoning and building codes. That’s why we have to work with our municipalities to address zoning and land use restrictions and streamline arduous and complex approval processes — both at the state and local levels — that increase project costs and often deter green development projects. During my time as Mayor of Central Falls, I also served as the President of the RI League of Cities and Towns. In that capacity, I developed close working relationships with municipal leaders around our state. I know the challenges facing local leadership. I’ve experienced them firsthand. As we undertake this investment in our future, I can approach our cities and towns from a place of understanding, and work collaboratively to find solutions that balance local interests with the urgent need to act.

Lathrop (R): Renewable energy is currently more expensive than traditional sources. We are also facing increasing demands for electricity. It is hard to require families and businesses to purchase energy at higher prices. This needs to be individual choice allowing them to opt-in to support these efforts. Energy demands will continue to grow, the NIMBY of many will make it more difficult to develop sites for renewable energy infrastructure.

RI has used its investment practices to support non-financial public goals such as encouraging lending to local small businesses. How would you expand this, and what risks do you anticipate from the national economic climate (such as inflation)?

Diossa (D): Small businesses are the heartbeat of our economy, and we must continue to support them – especially if a recession is coming. Many are still recovering from the pandemic, and the Treasurer office’s BankLocal program has been a powerful lifeline for many. We can expand this program further by getting some of our bigger banks and financial institutions on board to also loan to our small business. Using my many relationships formed while previously leading the RI League of Cities and Towns, we can also partner with municipalities to further educate small businesses about this program and other opportunities for them to stay and grow in our great State. And if the resources that small businesses need don’t exist, we need a leader who is creative and values the ideas of all to find ways to meet those needs. That is what I did in Central Falls, and what I will do statewide. 

Lathrop (R): Often non-financial goals do have positive financial impacts long-term. An example is funding pre-k education. Studies have shown that getting children into schools early (3 & 4 year old) reduces the need and cost of special education later in their development. Special education is a significant cost for our schools. There is a product called a social impact bond that has been used in other States to fund non-financial goals. As Treasurer I would work with the Department of Education, Department of Environment Management, and Department of Health to develop opportunities to use this tool. Inflation will be with us for the next 12-18 months. Economics is often cyclical. As a trained and accomplished professional, I will be able to manage the state’s funds in a manner that we weather the storm, and prepare to raise sails as the economy improves. 

In July, RI decided to move forward with public financing for the controversial Tidewater Landing development, a professional soccer stadium on the Seekonk River. Would you have supported this move?

Diossa (D): We were devastated after the loss of the PawSox, and that really left a hole in the heart of the Blackstone Valley. This community does not often see this type of investment, and I believe this soccer stadium and surrounding development will be an economic catalyst for this area, especially with the World Cup coming to the United States in 2026. But the second phase of development – which includes residential and commercial space — has always been crucial to the economic viability and success of this project. As the project moves forward, we need to ensure we keep that ultimate goal in mind. I applaud Governor McKee and Pawtucket Mayor Grebien for all they have accomplished so far, and remain confident that there are measures in place to protect both the taxpayers and the state’s investment as the project gets underway. 

Lathrop (R): No, I have years of real-world business and financial experience. Experience where I had my own funds on the line. As Treasurer I will bring that same mindset to the office. It is what I have used in my career in government finances. Any TRUE financial professional would have walked away from this doomed project. 

RI experienced an unusual one-time injection of money from federal pandemic relief, but soon will revert to its usual budgetary challenges and constraints. How would you allocate the inevitable pain of some combination of spending cuts and tax increases in coming years? What is your view on future federal aid for public health, education, affordable housing, and infrastructure, and where would you prioritize such funding?

Diossa (D): We need to invest these funds responsibly, and in a way that will facilitate long-term economic growth. I believe in a bottom up approach, so to accomplish this growth, we should work with our municipal leaders to seriously consider using the bulk of these funds to support sustainable infrastructure projects, and to construct affordable housing. As a state, we never want to plan for or rely on federal aid. Our goal must always be self-sustaining growth. Because of our geography and natural resources, we are uniquely positioned to transition to a green economy in the Ocean State. It’s time for RI to lead. And with the proper investments, sustainable industries will help bolster our economy over the next twenty years and beyond. Access to affordable, stable housing has also proven to be a catalyst for economic growth and job creation. As a state, we must always look to the future – not the past, and as General Treasurer, I will deliver hope in all tomorrow brings.

Lathrop (R): As Treasurer my job is to manage cash and pension funds. Spending and taxes are a legislative issue. However, it is my understanding that in 2020, prior to COVID funds, the State was facing a potential cash flow issue. My experience in forecasting, projections and cash flow analysis will allow me to avoid such situations, regardless of action by the legislature. 

Who would win in a fight: Roger Williams, Buddy Cianci or the Big Blue Bug?

Diossa (D): Buddy always had some fight, and Roger Williams fought for our religious liberties, but I have to think Nibbles Woodaway is the odds-on favorite. 

Lathrop (R): Buddy Cianci, everyone knows don’t mess with Buddy. 

 

Providence Mayoral Candidates

What’s the single biggest challenge facing PVD right now?

Gonzalo Cuervo (D): PVD residents are faced with a choice: Do we continue to widen and reinforce the divide between the haves/have-nots in our city, or do we choose the harder path of creating real opportunity in all our neighborhoods, addressing root causes, and taking action to close that divide. The pandemic has exposed deep fault lines in our society and made it painfully obvious that we are resting on a shaky foundation. It is easy to ignore the deep inequalities and widening opportunity gaps by upholding the status quo or offering to “get back to the basics,” but that’s not what most PVD residents want for our city. They want a chance to live their best lives here. 

Nirva LaFortune (D): The failure of our city to provide its children with a high-quality education is the single biggest issue facing PVD. We need to take bold steps to transform our children’s education. This does not mean that we need to recreate the wheel. Instead, we need to take the goals that have been laid out in the turnaround plan and work to actually achieve them. I will go into more details in the following question since it is related to public education.

Brett Smiley (D): RI, like many states, is facing a housing crisis. Last year, one in five renters reported that they were unable to keep up with their rent. We know that our cities and our communities of color, renters and families faced the greatest hardships and COVID-19 has impacted every aspect of our lives. PVD residents experiencing homelessness require supportive services, not just temporary housing, today. Right now, we need to increase housing at all price points and we must strategically spend the millions in housing dollars the city and state have access to. We need to streamline our building and permitting so that we can build more units at an effective rate and ensure our WMBEs [Women/Minority-owned Business Enterprises] and local tradespeople have access to these projects. Lastly, we know that homeownership can impact upward mobility for generations. By incentivizing homeownership for sectors in-demand and educating residents on all pathways to homeownership, PVD can improve economic, health, social-emotional, and behavioral outcomes for families and children in every neighborhood.

What specific steps can we take to improve public education in PVD? Is this an issue that should be addressed at the state or local level? What change, if any, would you seek in the contract with the PVD Teachers Union, and would you seek to return to local oversight of the PVD school system?

Gonzalo Cuervo (D): The State takeover has succeeded primarily in creating additional layers of bureaucracy that stifle any possible reform. I will fight to get our schools back under local control and create structural changes that increase accountability and consistency among educators, elected leaders, parents, and students. As Mayor, I will work to direct greater resources to multi-language learners and incentivize the growth in the number of teachers with ESL certification. We will expand available before and after school programming to meet the real needs of contemporary working families and spark students’ creativity and strengths. Also, create a support network for students and parents that connects them with data on demand-driven career opportunities and local employers who can offer hands-on experience as they prepare for a future of success in the local workforce. We will prioritize hiring teachers that reflect the student body’s diversity and are committed to PVD, and incentivize teachers to become PVD homeowners through a forgivable down payment assistance loan program. Furthermore, we will advocate, organize, and lobby for an equitable state education funding formula that provides greater resources for our students, put an end to constantly changing, reactionary management plans and curriculums, and build trust and accountability through long-term planning and by sticking to the plan. We will also increase participatory decision-making at the school level by empowering principals to have greater budgetary discretion and establishing a formal, school-based parental advisory mechanism. Also, expedite the renovation of school buildings by leveraging state funds and bond money to construct buildings that aren’t just rehabbed but also adapted internally to meet the needs of 21st-century teaching and learning as well as out-of-classroom activities. We will ensure that teacher pay is competitive with surrounding communities to attract talent and provide alternative pathways (like the TAs to BAs program) to teacher certification. We will also rethink and redesign school transportation and shift towards community school models where appropriate to improve student, parent, and staff experience, as well as reduce neighborhood congestion and reduce the millions we currently spend transporting our kids across the city. 

Nirva LaFortune (D): The crisis of the PVD Public Schools is one that will require collaboration between the state, the city, and all stakeholders. As part of my plan to transition the schools back to local control, within my first 100 days, I would like to assess where we are at in the turnaround plan. We will create a timeline with benchmarks for the State to return our schools back to local control. We need to expand our partnerships with our universities and afterschool partners to ensure that every child has access to tools and resources to learn and thrive in and outside of the classroom. I will work to increase social-emotional support in the schools and launch an apprenticeship program for experiential learning opportunities for students. Changes to the union contract need to happen after consultation with the union.

Brett Smiley (D): I am proud to be the product of good public schools and every student deserves that opportunity. After letting down our students for decades, the State took a big step in taking over the PVD schools. Unfortunately, soon after, the pandemic hit and the takeover never really took off. We can’t wait for the State to fix this. As Mayor, I will hold the state accountable for the progress of this takeover and be the biggest advocate for our students and families. There are many things we can do at the city-level, despite the takeover to make real change for our kids while we do that. As Mayor, I’ll fight for high-quality schools in every neighborhood, including the high-performing public charter schools. I have promised to make Pre-K universal by the end of my first term and to focus on providing increased support outside of the classroom for our students in transition years (Grades 6-9) when our students and parents need extra support. Finally, I will fight to expand career and technical training to ensure our students graduate college and are career-ready. I believe that the real change we all know we need could be achieved with modifications to the contract. We should be providing our school and district leaders with autonomy in their classrooms rather than dictating the day in our contract. We can create a more equitable hiring and promoting process which will lead to consistent, high-quality applicants to our district. Lastly, we can recenter the contract to focus on students, rather than adults. 

In 2019, PVD finalized its Climate Justice Plan. What is the most significant part of this plan? How do you intend to implement it? 

Gonzalo Cuervo (D): As Mayor, I will update and act upon goals set by the PVD Climate Justice Plan to create an equitable, carbon-neutral, and climate-resilient future for our city – and allocate funds in the city’s annual operating budget toward the plan’s implementation priorities, starting with the Green Justice Zones. We will invest in green infrastructure in key sites throughout the city, through management of city properties, resources for partner organizations, and incentives for developers; identify & improve efficiency in the most inefficient city buildings; retrofit surface parking lots in important locations around the city with green infrastructure to mitigate stormwater runoff. Also, grow the urban tree canopy by planting 5,000 street trees in locations based on tree equity scores and the PVD Tree Plan being developed by the PVD Neighborhood Planting Program and Movement Education Outdoors. Work with partners to develop a long-term risk assessment of how larger-scale infrastructure and economic or social systems are at risk from changing climate conditions and to create, together, a risk mitigation plan. Review all City Hall policies, practices, and procedures through a climate lens, recognizing that climate will have an effect on every aspect of our city in the future. We will also ensure that large commercial properties carry out energy and emissions audits to develop a comprehensive plan to achieve zero building emissions by 2050, and help increase the energy efficiency of older homes by leveraging funding sources to broaden the eligibility for federal weatherization programs and handle home repairs that unlock larger state energy efficiency programs. We will develop resilient stormwater infrastructure and incentivize residential property owners to reduce stormwater runoff going into public waterways, incentivize implementation and expansion of residential and commercial composting efforts in partnership with neighborhood and advocacy groups, and begin the transition to an all-electric city vehicle fleet and install public charging stations in our commercial districts. 

Nirva LaFortune (D): I think the most significant part of the Climate Justice Plan is the concerted efforts to expand green space in PVD. The expansion of green space is critical to the built ecosystem of our city and the role that the city has to play in maintaining a canopy that serves as a tool of environmental mitigation. More than that, green spaces are critical to the development of safe, healthy, and connected communities. The presence of community gathering green spaces that are well-maintained and safe has always served as the bedrock of communities. I look forward to leading this effort as Mayor to build a more environmentally sustainable and just city, but also a more vibrant and connected city. We have also already introduced legislation to measure the amount of energy that our buildings are using and we need to make sure that new developments, including city buildings and school buildings, need to be efficient and accessible.

Brett Smiley (D): The Climate Justice Plan that the City released in 2019 was crafted with inclusive community feedback and resulted in a clear framework to move PVD towards carbon neutrality by 2050. In order to reach these ambitious and necessary goals and benchmarks, City Hall needs to lead by example. That includes converting our fleet, particularly our school buses, to electric vehicles. As Mayor, I pledge to convert 100% of our school buses to electric by 2040 and will start to convert our municipal buildings to renewable electrical and heating supplies. This will require major investments over time and retrofitting and rebuilding with sustainable solutions. There are other achievable goals outlined in the plan that I will work to implement with my team at City Hall. 

There has been talk of a “Night Mayor” position to work with the nightlife culture on behalf of the city. Would you support having someone in that position, and if so, how would you imagine that job and its responsibilities?

Gonzalo Cuervo (D): PVD’s nightlife is an important economic engine as well as a part of our city’s identity. As Mayor, I will appoint a senior official to focus exclusively on enabling and promoting a safe, economically and culturally vibrant night-time economy. The office will serve as an intermediary between nightlife establishments, residents, and the city and will lead efforts to partner with public safety and others to provide comprehensive training and certification opportunities for entertainment and nightlife venue staff around safety and risk management.

Nirva LaFortune (D): Yes, and I have been engaged in this conversation and think that it’s necessary to further enhance a safe, diverse and thriving night economy. They would be responsible for collaborating with night-time venues across the city to ensure that the city is doing all it can to support them, as well as enforce the responsibilities that the businesses have to the surrounding communities.

Brett Smiley (D): I am very supportive of the concept of a nightlife position to help better coordinate city services, public safety, licensing and other city functions. This role could help address a variety of gaps that the city currently has. Our inspectors, public safety, and licensing staff are not always available for our nightlife economy when they need it most. This position could work across departments to ensure that business owners and city officials have what they need in order to support a safe and thriving nightlife economy. 

What would you like to see happen to the Superman building?

Gonzalo Cuervo (D): I am excited that there are plans underway to convert that building into residential apartments and support this effort. However, I have been vocal about the City’s investment of nearly half of its new affordable housing trust fund dollars ($10M) into one project that, according to HousingWorksRI, will only generate 14 truly affordable units. That does not seem like a sound investment of our limited housing funds in the midst of a profound housing affordability crisis.

Nirva LaFortune (D): All of the Mayoral candidates agree that the Superman building project needs to move forward and eventually be completed. I would like to see, and will demand as a member of the City Council, that the affordable housing units that are allocated are truly affordable for the residents of PVD.

Brett Smiley (D): The best use for that building is residential. Over the years, we have tried to apply several different models in an effort to save the structure and boost our downtown economy but it is clear that converting it to residential is the most sustainable, and sensible, use given our housing market. Ultimately, my top priority is to save the building and ensure that it remains a productive property and part of our skyline forever. 

Who would win in a fight: Roger Williams, Buddy Cianci, or the Big Blue Bug? 

Gonzalo Cuervo (D): Roger Williams was a minister and theologian and, therefore, ill-equipped to get into any kind of physical altercation. The Big Blue Bug has been stuck on that roof for decades and is clearly in no condition to tussle with anyone. But Cianci was a notorious bully who, nearly 40 years ago, pled guilty to attacking someone with a lit cigarette, a fireplace log, and his fist. That would certainly make him the most qualified to win that hypothetical fight. Fortunately, he’s long gone.

Nirva LaFortune (D): The Big Blue Bug

Brett Smiley (D): Big Blue Bug, when he has his antlers on. 

Representative in CD-2

Despite our best efforts, we were unable to verifiably reach the Sarah Morgenthau campaign.

What’s the biggest single problem facing RI right now?

Omar Bah (D): The high cost of living. The American Dream is not accessible to those who can’t afford to live. Working families are struggling economically, but there are things that can be done on a federal-level to help, such as: making the childcare tax credit permanent, allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, expanding Head Start and providing more resources for those who want to pursue higher education or job training. To the other candidates, these things are soundbites. They say them, and then they go back to their comfortable, warm homes. I have a better understanding of these issues because for the past 15 years I have helped RI families to overcome these very issues. And still do, on a daily basis, through the Dream Center, the organization which I founded.

Joy Fox (D): What I hear when I’m out knocking on doors and talking to people in the Second District is they just want things to work in Washington. It’s often followed closely by, “I want to make sure people can afford to live, work, and raise a family here.” To do this we need to strengthen our economy and make sure people have access to affordable and quality health care, education, housing, and jobs. If you want things to work in Washington, we need to change the people we send there. I grew up in Cranston, I live in Warwick now. I served in government here and run a small business here now. It’s also time to send the first Democratic woman to Congress from RI. A woman who has been part of a team that has beaten Allan Fung twice. We can do it again. 

Allan Fung (R): The biggest single problem facing RI is the cost of living crisis. With inflation over eight percent, you lose an entire month’s salary this year just because things cost so much more than last year. I think you’d like your entire month’s worth of money back! Whether it’s the price of rent, food, cars, or even a night out, it’s so much harder to just survive. I want you to not only survive but thrive here in RI, and get our economy back on track. 

Bill Gilbert (I): Like every other state in the union, RI has challenges it faces. These challenges manifest themselves to RI residents in different ways depending on numerous factors such as age, income and education levels. Even the place or city of residence will affect what people find critical.

For example, city residents may struggle with transportation and parking issues while elderly residents may not be so concerned with parking as they are about rents rising faster than their fixed incomes. Young adults may be concerned with having viable employment opportunities that will allow them to afford home ownership while being able to save for retirement. Primary and secondary students should be provided engaging curriculum in a safe environment that fosters marketable and employable skills; this isn’t happening.

I think there are many looming issues facing RI and our country as a whole which are intertwined. This can be best described as a lack of Purpose, Vision and Inspiration (PVI). We need leaders that will devise and present an overarching purpose with grand goals, with the ability to present the vision of the future, and that can inspire the citizens to achieve that vision. Due to our lack of PVI, We have an educational crisis unfolding that is causing American students to be unprepared for life and untrained for gainful employment, a housing shortage that even construction of 1000 new units a year won’t solve and a hostile and untrusting electorate that is on the verge of a self-destructive revolution.

With true leadership, RI is in a very unique position due to its tiny size to be catapulted forward and lead the nation in most indicators. Our top 8 leaders, the Governor, Senate President, Speaker of the house, Attorney General, both US Senators and Congressmen all could be in the same room within an hour, and they should be! They should be sequestering themselves until they have formulated a long-term plan. They should be doing that now!

Our leaders need to craft and devise a comprehensive five-year and ten-year overall plan that:

1. Drives improvements in primary, secondary and post-secondary education, with the goal of placing in the top ten percent nationally within the next five years and the top ten globally within the next ten. Education isn’t just the great equalizer it has exponential benefits. Remember the old saying about teaching a man to fish?

2. Helps our manufacturers with employee staffing and to compete on a solid footing, create two secondary vocational schools, one for East Bay and one for West Bay, that graduate students with journeymen qualifications in plumbing, electrical, refrigeration and air conditioning, as well as machining and turning skills.

3. Helps our young residents find affordable housing and not flee the state, create a plan to increase the housing stock by 500 units per year.

4. Helps our elderly stay in their homes; eliminates the tax on social security benefits. 

5. Eliminates the judge-made doctrine of Qualified Immunity and the Officers Bill of Rights.

Patty Landy (I): Environment! We need to come up with a plan to coexist with our shore. Limiting building is a start, but why aren’t we using the corps of engineers to shoot sand back onto the beaches? It worked in Miami. Also, RI companies should be more reliant on renewable energy. 

Seth Magaziner (D): Too many working Rhode Islanders are struggling to make ends meet. People are making hard decisions between paying for groceries or gas, and cutting their pills in half because they cannot keep up with prescription drug costs. In Congress I will fight to raise wages, lower costs, and create good jobs in RI that will provide anyone who is willing to work hard with a stable pathway to the middle class.

David Segal (D): So much of it comes down to making the economy more fair, and there’s a lot embedded in that. We need a progressive response to inflation – that tackles corporate power and price gouging that’s helping to drive it, rather than throwing our economy into a recession. We need to expand healthcare access – I support Medicare for All. We need broader access to affordable housing. We need to break up the corporate monopolies that are taking advantage of consumers, workers, and small businesses. We need to raise the minimum wage and make it easier to organize unions. Just to name a few examples!

Beyond representing the needs of Rhode Islanders, is there a signature issue you would focus on in Washington?

Bah (D): Defending democracy. My perspective is unique, having been witness to the rise of an authoritarian state first hand, and actually standing up to try and stop it. I did so even though my very life was at risk, which is how I ended up in RI 15 years ago. Rhode Islanders can be 100% certain they are electing someone who has the experience, credibility and capacity to defend this country and our way of life from the fascist elements of our society who seem hell-bent on destroying everything this country was built on.

Fox (D): My signature issue is to provide better supports for our family caregivers. To do this, we need to expand access to community supports and we need to pass a permanent paid leave program that is accessible to all workers. We learned during the pandemic that paid leave works for employers and families. I know first-hand the challenges that family caregivers face. My mom is my dad’s primary caregiver as he struggles with Alzheimer’s. Paid leave is critical for the health and financial security of our families.

Fung (R): You’ll hear me talk a lot about economics, for sure, but I’ll also be doing a lot to continue and expand upon the work of Congressman Langevin to open up opportunities for adults with disabilities. Some of you might know my little sister Arlene, who was born with significant physical and cognitive challenges. You can’t spend 30 seconds with her without smiling and laughing – she’s just the best. I’ll be looking to expand educational and vocational opportunities for awesome adults like Arlene, so that they can live their best lives. 

Gilbert (I): The first and foremost issue Washington needs to work on is civility and collaboration. Without these positive personal traits every governmental action will be stalled by bickering and finger pointing. We all want to wake up next month and next year to a better and brighter future. The hyper-partisanship and obstructionist politicking that these two current parties have brought us must stop.We have serious educational and economic issues barreling down on us. The Russian invasion will not stop at the Ukrainian border and will soon be threatening our NATO allies. I will work tirelessly to bring back civic pride and participation. I will seek out and solicit the thoughts and solutions of those who hold minority opinions. I learn nothing when I only listen and talk to those who agree and hold my beliefs. Let the Socratic method be our guiding rule.

Landy (I): Education and Equal Rights. We haven’t amended the constitution since 1992, and it was to give congress a raise. Our last major amendment was the voting age. We need to draft an ERA that will be ratified in time. 

NCLB [No Child Left Behind] and its iterations need to reflect the actual needs of our children. No more regurgitation of facts, but true learning. 

Magaziner (D): We have a tremendous opportunity to lower energy costs, eliminate our dependence on foreign energy, and create thousands of good paying local jobs by transitioning to affordable clean energy like offshore wind and responsibly sited solar power. As Treasurer I launched a program to help municipalities and small businesses save money on energy bills by installing solar panels and wind turbines, and I want to continue this work in Congress.

Segal (D): I’ve had the opportunity to work on dozens of issues over my time as a lawmaker and advocate, from civil rights, to renewable energy, to pushing back against corporate monopoly power. Breaking up and regulating monopolies has been a major focus of my federal advocacy over recent years, and I’m sure it would be a focus for me in Congress – and it’s a broad-based issue that impacts everything from health care and Pharma costs, to energy markets, to making air travel less awful, to fixing all the problems with Facebook and internet service providers.

The RI Cannabis Act was landmark legislation passed in 2022. What do you think we need to keep an eye on while it’s being implemented? What changes do you favor at the federal level on cannabis policy?

Bah (D): I am in favor of legalization. What I am not in favor of is corruption and the inequitable distribution of recreational marijuana licenses. As we saw in Fall River (where the mayor was convicted of multiple felonies related to this issue), because of the vast sums of money involved in this new market, opportunities for bribery, pay-to-play and other schemes are ripe. Certainly we must be mindful of this possibility. We should also be ensuring that the rich, powerful and connected are not the ones getting these licenses. The process should be fair, transparent, and equitable.

Fox (D): That this legislation is implemented equitably and fairly. I support legalizing cannabis at the federal level.

Fung (R): With the Cannabis Act passing, I’ll be looking at two important aspects at the Federal level. First, we need to declassify cannabis as a Schedule 1 narcotic. Second, we need to reform our banking laws to allow the cannabis economy to participate in federally insured banking institutions. 

Gilbert (I): America’s war on drugs has been an abysmal failure. It has created a complete self-sustaining and self-dealing economy of criminalizing addiction and health issues while actually doing very little to reduce drug use. Incarcerations are at an all-time high at the same time the number of overdose deaths are breaking records. Our current policies clearly aren’t working. The only ones benefiting from this war are those working in the justice and penal system. We have decimated the inner city and minority communities with our heavy-handed policing and incarceration tactics under the guise of protecting individuals from the drug scourge. The current drug war has affected every sector of our economy and our financial markets. We have invited police into every aspect of our lives — giving up privacy at every turn lest someone smokes a joint. I lean towards the decriminalization of substances and would treat addiction via health care channels and high-profile marketing campaigns to reduce the demand of trying drugs in the first place. As your RI representative in congress and a person with 28 years sober recovery you can bet I will be fighting for your family members to have access to quality mental health and substance abuse care. This does not mean I won’t be tough on crime that comes with street drugs. We can do both.

Landy (I): We need to make sure we don’t rely on the money generated. It should be “rainy day” income. Definitely release and expunge marijuana criminals. We need to keep an eye on who is getting the okay to open shop. It can’t be only those who know a guy or support a politician.

Magaziner (D): It makes no sense that people are still facing criminal penalties for marijuana use. The time has come to legalize marijuana not just at the state level, but at the federal level as well. We also should expunge the records of those convicted of minor marijuana related offenses in the past, and ensure that everyone has a fair chance to share in the economic benefits of the marjuana industry; the benefit should not only go to those with political connections.

Segal (D): I support federal legalization of cannabis, and in line with the legislation that passed here. I did a bit of organizing to help with it, and sponsored or cosponsored a number of criminal justice and cannabis reform bills when I was a member of the House of Reps. In particular, what’s great about this bill is that it both reserves licenses for people who were impacted by unjust drug laws, and encourages the creation of worker-owned cooperatives so that the proceeds from legalization are spread throughout our communities — not just swallowed up by the big players that have entered this space over recent years. We should make sure that those efforts succeed and they should be a model for federal reforms.

RI proved prescient in passing abortion rights protections well before the Supreme Court reversed its position on Roe v. Wade. What other policies do you think might be reconsidered by the current Supreme Court, and are there measures you think should be taken on a local level in anticipation?

Bah: I think many rights related to bodily autonomy and freedom of choice, as well as the separation of church and state, are at risk. Clarence Thomas openly pined about revisiting same-sex marriage and even contraception. In what world is this ok?! Not this one. There are few mechanisms in place to hold SC justices accountable. One is impeachment, which would be fair to look at. We must also seriously consider term limits and the size of the court. None of these are ideal solutions, but neither is having a court that clearly has an “agenda.”

Fox: I am very concerned that the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade will have repercussions beyond a woman’s right to abortion. This is also a threat to a right to privacy, impacting our LGBTQIA+ community. That is why in Congress I will fight to codify the protections in Roe v. Wade. It’s time to elect the first Democratic woman to Congress from RI — a woman with deep roots in this district and the ability to get things done for you.

Fung: I would codify Obergefell, and reaffirm that same-sex couples have the same right to marry as heterosexual couples. 

Gilbert: The following cases could and may well be reviewed in today’s hyper-partisan Supreme Court environment:

Obergefell et al, v. Hodges, Director, Ohio Department of Health, et al. is a case which recognizes same sex marriages as a right. This could be overturned with the same legal arguments the court applied in their recent decision in Roe v. Wade.

Fisher v. University of Texas is the premier case that allows for taking race into consideration for college admission and possibly hiring. Should this policy and practice be protected or is it an over-reach and inadvertently discriminating while trying to prevent discrimination?

Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission dealt with a baker who refused to decorate a cake for a gay couples wedding. This case is at the intersection of a citizen’s right to practice their religion and another citizen’s right not to be discriminated against for being in a protected class. Watch for the court to start to narrow the protected classes. Should we expand protected classes to include weight? Behavior characteristics? Education level or work schedule?

Hopefully the court reverses the land stealing and wealth transferring case Kelo v. City of New London. In this case the court found that the government can take private property from one person just to give it to another private person for economic gain. This decision is bordering on making private ownership of land a permission-based privilege instead of a right.

As a congressman, I would submit a bill that would require both the Congress and Senate to review all precedent-setting court opinions and either repeal the underlying law or code or modify the law or code that was at issue and bring them into compliance with the Court’s opinion. For too long the Congress has hid behind the Court so not to have to make what may be a career-ending vote at the next election. I will have the courage to challenge the court’s opinions while removing ambiguity in our laws.

Landy: I think the justices should only serve an 18 year term. That way they won’t be dependent on who’s in office, they’ll overlap.

Magaziner: Republicans in Washington have packed the Supreme Court with extremists who are taking away fundamental rights and moving the country backward. Now Republicans in Congress are preparing to pass a national abortion ban that would overrule the state-level protections so many of us fought for. In Congress I will fight to codify the protections of Roe vs. Wade into federal law, and to establish clearly that there is a legal right to privacy. 

Segal: These attacks on choice and other fundamental rights are incredibly concerning. Thankfully Roe is codified here — a measure I co-sponsored as a member of the House — but there could be further attacks on it that impact even Rhode Islanders. RI should expand coverage to state employees and people who use Medicaid. Contraceptive rights and LGBTQ+ rights are potentially at risk under this Court. So are voting rights. So are various rules that act to prevent total corporate control over our economy. State lawmakers should do an analysis of any relevant gaps in our laws and try to fill them ASAP, and I’m sure many are looking at this right now. 

At the federal level we need to codify Roe, codify contraceptive rights, codify marriage equality, codify and expand LGBTQ+ rights more broadly. We should pass a variety of measures to protect and expand voting rights. And we must look at structural reforms to the courts that will make it less likely that they will run roughshod over fundamental rights and do the bidding of the world’s biggest corporations. 

Who would win in a fight: Roger Williams, Buddy Cianci or the Big Blue Bug?

Bah: Well, I still see banners of Buddy around. So somehow he can battle the Big Blue Bug.

Fox: Hopefully there is no fighting, and they would choose peace. But if it came down to it — Nibbles Woodaway has the size factor.

Fung: I’m on #TeamNibbles.

Gilbert: I recognize that Buddy Cianci has a cult-like following in RI and for some his persona is gregarious and larger than life. However, I wish we could remove him from current political discussions and leave him to folklore. For many like myself, we recognize while charismatic, he was a convicted thug of sorts. He shook down businesses, used his position of trust for personal gain and for special favors and exclusive club memberships. These are not traits or personalities that I hope our future leaders have. As for a fight? Got to give it to the Bug, it’s huge and has 6 legs. As for a champion of the people, Roger Williams is among our founding fathers, and …. A Giant of Men!

Landy: Hmmm, Williams was tenacious, but Buddy was handy with a log. The bug could just squash them; I’ll go with Nibbles.

Magaziner: Nibbles Woodaway’s sheer size gives him the clear advantage.

Segal: Well, only one of them is still standing. Big Blue Bug has already won.

Cianci: III
Williams: I
Woodaway: IIIIIIIIIIIIII

image_pdfimage_print