Mark Lucas has lived in Cranston since 1999 and is a Realtor with Prudential Gammons Realty. He is pictured above with his wife, Meg, and their children, Ryan and Caitlin. Regarding this survey, Mark prefaced his responses by saying, “Decisions cannot be made in a vacuum. Each of these scenarios would be subject to a number of conditions that would need to be considered before deciding on the most viable and appropriate course of action. That being said, Iâ€™ll be happy to give you my hypothetical responses.”
1. The school department, which got a 7% increase in funding from the city this year, is still short $2.6 million for the 2006/2007 budget after receiving its state aid. In January of 2007, they approach the city council and ask for $2.6 million from the city’s surplus in order to cover their costs. As a member of the council, how would you deal with this request?
A performance audit of the Cranston Public Schools has identified over $1.68 Million of cost savings that could be realized by making changes in how the school system is managed. These cost savings would not impact the children in any way.
The Cranston Public Schools should implement every cost-saving measure before seeking help in paying their bills. The city surplus exists in case of catastrophic events and serves as a health indicator for the bond rating agencies. It is not a safety net for poor management decisions.
I would caution anyone who wishes to raid the city surplus to remember that it is precisely this type of action that nearly bankrupted Cranston only five years ago.
2. Although next year’s school budget is funded with another 7% increase from the city, they still do not have enough money to cover their costs and announce that they are going to have to close Daniel D. Waterman Elementary school unless the city comes up with more money for the schools. How would you handle this?
As a parent of a Horton Elementary student and one of several who led the fight against closing the school, I have a personal stake in this issue.
The neighborhood school system is a big part of what makes Cranston such a great city. Closing a school should be the option of last resort, not a quick budget fix.
The operating budget for Waterman is approximately $1 Million. There are a number of cost-saving measures that could be implemented (referring to the performance audit) to free up more than enough money to keep Waterman open (and Horton, too.) I would expect that the School Department, working in conjunction with the School Committee, explore all other cost-saving options before attempting to close yet another high-performing elementary school.
The school funding and budgeting process here in Cranston appears to be broken. If elected, I will introduce a resolution calling for changes in the way the school system is funded. Either 1.) the Cranston School Committee must be subject to the control of the Cityâ€™s taxing authority (the City Council) or 2.) the Cranston School Committee must have its own taxing authority.
Our children must not be used as bargaining chips in the school budgeting process.
3. In March of 2007, the new Mayor announces that he has reached a contract with the police department, long overdue from 2006. This contract includes yearly raises of 3.5%, 4.5% and 4% for each year of the three-year contract. There is a 3% copay for healthcare. There are no provisions for increasing the number of officers or for minority recruitment, although both were recommended in a 2003 audit. Would you approve this contract?
Recently, the Mayor asked for recommendations from the City Council as the contract season began â€“ a sort of â€œwish list.â€? Only 2 of the 9 Councilors responded (Allan Fung and Jeff Barone.)
Regardless of which side of the aisle the Mayorâ€™s administration sits, I would ensure that my â€œwish listâ€? as well as my rationale are provided well before contract negotiations are under way.
As a graduate of the Cranston Citizenâ€™s Police Academy, I know that the Police are underpaid, understaffed, and in need of minority recruitment. As a Cranston resident, I know we are overtaxed at the local, state and federal level. As an elected official, it would be my job to provide a balanced solution; advocate for improvements where needed as well as provide a return on investment (ROI) analysis to ensure that the taxpayer is getting the most from their tax dollar.
4. 2007 brings more floods, including flooding again on Fordson Ave and some surrounding areas. Would you advocate for the city to help residents in flooded areas? If so, what kind of help?
All Cranston residents in areas prone to flooding should own Flood Insurance to protect themselves from loss (floodsmart.gov is a great source of information and has a web-based tool to determine if your property is in a high-risk area.)
The City should do everything within its power to ensure that its infrastructure (storm drains, etc.) is performing at peak efficiency. The City should also ensure that waterways are clear of debris that would contribute to flooding.
Additionally, I support the creation of a revolving fund that provides rapid, zero-interest loans to residents to cover immediate needs in the event of flooding (acting as a type of â€œgap insuranceâ€? between what one would recoup from insurance and oneâ€™s deductibles, incidental expenses, etc.)
5. The New Mayor announces that he has gotten letters from Rep. Langevin and Sen. XXX asking if there are projects that the city would like to seek federal funds to pursue. These include projects for economic development, parks and facilities improvement, safety, education, and social services. What projects, if any, would you suggest for Ward 2, or for the city as a whole?
Itâ€™s important to understand that federal funds are not â€œfree moneyâ€? â€“ we provide that money via those taxes that are imposed on us. We need to balance what we want with what we can afford and explore all funding sources, including private citizens and industry, local and national foundations, and volunteer organizations.
That being said, in Ward 2 we need to:
Revive the Rolfe Street business district (Cranstonâ€™s â€œMain Street.â€?)
Build or upgrade childrenâ€™s parks in each neighborhood â€“ Forest Hills, Auburn, Auburn/Friendly, South Auburn, and Eden Park.
Create a more comprehensive and effective program for neighborhood traffic management. (Applicable to all of Cranston.)
Ensure that businesses do not unnecessarily encroach upon residential neighborhoods.
Preserve our neighborhood school model. (Applicable to all of Cranston.)
Ensure that those who may benefit from social service programs have access to those programs. This could be done through satellite offices staffed by volunteers. (Applicable to all of Cranston.)
Create and foster the continued development of community organizations to spearhead neighborhood revitalization/growth. (Applicable to all of Cranston.)
More information on Mark Lucas is available at his campaign website, electlucas.com.