Fung, Fogarty, and Nap Debate Cranston’s Past and Future

The Projo had this to say about the debate:

CRANSTON — City Council members Cynthia M. Fogarty and Allan W. Fung sought credit for the city’s fiscal turnaround at the first mayoral debate last night, lauding the improved bond rating and a pension fund they say they helped rescue.

Michael T. Napolitano, the third mayoral candidate, was not impressed.

The former municipal court judge said Republican Mayor Stephen P. Laffey and the council presided over stifling tax increases, as municipal services and infrastructure declined.

“People have told me they’ve been taxed out of their homes,” said Napolitano, 49, who is facing Fogarty in a Sept. 12 Democratic primary. “I believe we can do better.”

Napolitano, whose well-financed candidacy was endorsed by the Democratic City Committee last month, emphasized his outsider status throughout the 90-minute debate at Hope Highlands Elementary School.

Fung, a Republican ally of Laffey, said the tax increases helped end a fiscal nightmare that left the city’s rating in “junk” status and its pension fund nearly bankrupt. Napolitano assailed them as unfair to the elderly, citing real-estate data he said reveals an exodus of homeowners.

Fogarty boasted that the city made Money magazine’s list of the top 100 places to live in the United States. It continues to improve, she said, citing the planned redevelopment of the former Park Cinema, a long-stalled project she said is “moving forward.”

Again, Napolitano disagreed, and he threatened to seize the cinema property by eminent domain if elected mayor.

Napolitano, who has never held elective office, also assailed the atmosphere in City Hall, telling the packed auditorium that local politics had become needlessly confrontational.

“The bickering must end,” he said, alluding to the multiple feuds between Laffey and the Democrat-controlled City Council. “I will change the tone in leadership.”

Napolitano was not, however, the only candidate promising change in Cranston. And in his broad themes — economic development and more efficient city services — he echoed many of his opponents’ proposals.

Fogarty, 50, called for stricter enforcement of the building code to improve the city’s increasingly “run-down” appearance. And she called for consolidating municipal and School Department services to slow budget increases.

Fung, 36, pledged to use his business contacts to recruit companies to Cranston and to aid existing small businesses with new tax incentives. The commercial tax base, he said, must grow to reduce the property-tax burden on homeowners.

“We can bring in more businesses,” said Fung, a lawyer and State House lobbyist for Metlife Auto & Home. “My goal is to make the city more affordable.”

But unlike Napolitano, neither Fung nor Fogarty described the city as particularly troubled or in need of radical change.

Instead, they argued that the strategies instituted during the financial crisis in 2002 have been wildly successful, and they asked voters to reward the architects of that turnaround.

The two council members so rarely disagreed that after the debate they lingered on stage together, even posing arm in arm for a photographer.

“We cannot return the city to the practices that were in place when I joined the council,” Fogarty, a lawyer in private practice, remarked during the debate. “The initiatives we put in place have fixed the problems.”

Fung agreed. “We righted the ship,” he said in one of several transportation metaphors. “It’s a train that’s on the right track.”

Due to my work schedule, I was not able to attend. The characterization above doesn’t really tell me much, other than that Napolitano is trying to use the tax increases as his big axe to grind. Anyone else out there attend? I would like to hear more about what went on.

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19 thoughts on “Fung, Fogarty, and Nap Debate Cranston’s Past and Future

  1. I wasn’t at the debate, either. However, it sounds like the upshot is that Napolitano has no ideas. His schtick is going to be that taxes are too high. OK. Granted. Now what does he intend to do about it? Is he going to lower them? If so, what services is he going to cut? He needs to be asked these questions. Repeatedly. (And kudos to anyone who has asked him.)

    Complaining about the status quo without offering a viable alternative is empty rhetoric. At least Fogarty and Fung recognize that we need a bigger business tax base.

    And taking over the Park Cinema via eminent domain is a bankrupt idea. That’s not the way to foster a better business climate.

  2. Napolitano looks to be an opportunist. He thinks it is his time to run, since the Democrats couldn’t muster up anyone better. But the opportunist doesn’t have any fresh ideas. People can complain all they want about the high taxes, but, how do you lower them? You can’t. The mismanagement of this city by the previous administrations prior to Laffey won’t allow it. Now with a new police contract with pay raises (well deserved), and a pending fire contract coming, there is no chance to lower them.

    It will also be a huge mistake for the city to allow a Democratic mayor be voted in with a Democratic city council. While the two parties have been contentious lately, the checks and balances are necessary.

    Finally, if threatening eminent domain gets the work jump started, I’m all for it. It is an embarrassment that that property stays the way it is.

  3. I attended the debate with my family. What a great turnout on a beautiful evening.

    Fung and Fogarty did very well. Napolitano, not so good, although it appeared he had been prepped like there was no tomorrow. He could not articulate his positions without many glances to his prepared script. His delivery was choppy and he often ran out of time. Toward the end of the debate, he actually started talking about his credit card and how it had a zero balance. How is this relevant to anything?

    Out of the blue my 7-year old son asks me today “Do we want the guy who couldn’t turn on his microphone (Napolitano) as Mayor?” I asked him what he thought. He said that the other people had no problems, so no. It’s amazing how children can grasp things.

    Klaus, I spoke with a friend who spoke with Napolitano while going through the area. He asked Napolitano how he was going to lower taxes. Napolitano answered that he was going to talk to the state Auditor General and the rating agencies and then tap the city surplus.

    Raiding the surplus…seizing private property via eminent domain…oy vey!

  4. Thanks for your comments. Don, I agree that without speaking to the history of fiscal mismanagement issues in the city, it seems like complaining about the tax increases is just taking pot shots. Unfortunately, I don’t think most people understand the history, so Nap’s shtick will likely have broad appeal. Also, while he claims sympathy for the elderly who are having difficulty affording the taxes, he does not propose anything to address it (at least not that people have spoken of here or that is evident on his website).

    I hear people saying on other blogs that he is a tool of both Traficante and of O’Leary, coining the epithet O’Trafitano. He’s also taken some bad publicity for his pony issues, and now also bears the name No-pony-tano. However, I find it hard to believe he is that much of a tool for old boy politics. Sheldon Whitehouse is supporting him as the mayoral candidate, which I would like to believe suggests he is a person of some longstanding good character, but if there is evidence to the contrary, I would like to hear it.

  5. BTW, seizing any property by eminent domain is a bad idea, I don’t care how much of an eyesore it is. It sets a precedent for government control of private property that is dangerous for everyone. It scares me that Nap, a lawyer, would be throwing this idea out there. To me, more than anything else, this is a telltale sign of someone who wants to seize and possibly abuse power.

    Other options would need to be explored fully before eminent domain seizure should even be on the table.

    Also as an aside, Patel stated the reason he has had trouble securing financing for the project is because of the proposed casinos in the state.

  6. Hello everyone,

    I also attended the debate with my family. The one thing that everyone took away from them was Nap’s “eminent domain” comment.

    Having been at odds with Domestic Bank’s property encroachment into my backyard for the last few years, this scares me.

  7. i responded on another blog about the debates, so this is cut/paste with a few additions, but what the heck, since Kiersten asked…

    after taking notes on all the questions & answers, i think i could go on & on, but here’s my general take:

    Fung seemed to have the biggest turnout of supporters. he’s got a really efficient machine behind him from what I can tell. his presentation was a bit ham-fisted (loud proclamations of “I AM THE LEADER CRANSTON NEEDS!”) and repetitive. he concentrated on his immigrant status and his “loveâ€? of cranston and what the city has done for his family a little excessively, i thought. he also talked too much about his “connectionsâ€? and how he would bring more law firms to cranston. we want more businesses here, to take some of the tax burden off the residents, but do we want it to be all of allan fung’s lawyer friends? i really appreciated his ideas about encouraging diversity and minority businesses, something the others didn’t mention. Fung was a forceful speaker, more so than other times i’ve seen him, so i hope he can learn to elaborate/expand his points without repeating himself over and over. I got the impression he knows his stuff and has his heart in the right place.

    Cindy Fogarty was plain-spoken, direct, and came packing a wealth of statistics and data to support her assertions. i found her to be less show-y than Fung, and a million times better informed than Nap. she needs to work on her cadence and breathe more from her gut, in order to command attention from a large audience. but her responses were knowledgeable and realistic. and she didn’t fall back on her “middle-classâ€? “regular joeâ€? blah blah blah background as much as the others, when arguably, as somebody who put herself thru law school while raising a family in a very modest section of inner cranston, she is the “every(wo)manâ€? of the 3. instead, she focused on her 4 years of City Council, her position as Finance Chair, her membership in the Cranston Chamber of Commerce and other groups & boards, personal management & education experience, her attendance/participation at School Board Mtgs, etc. the Park Cinema reference was a nice touch, i thought, since it really is a shame to see a cool landmark like that fall to ruin. i can’t figure out how it was useful for Nap to threaten “eminent domain” over it. that brings us to…

    Michael Napolitano was a train wreck, sorry. i’ve read in the herald about his “professional� demeanor as a public speaker, but man! he has all the candidness of a wind-up action figure. no kidding–he had to start his opening remarks over 3 times because the mic wasn’t projecting, and each time he began in the same EXACT way! same inflections, same words, like a robot. the man was ice cold. he, like cindy and to slightly lesser extent allan, had a lot of stats to share, but unlike cindy or allan, nap’s data was canned and sometimes didn’t directly relate to the question at hand, so these stats would be left hanging there amongst the question marks over the heads of all the audience. on a personal level, he should stay away from claiming “working class roots� etc., when the prevailing rumor (I don’t if it’s true) is that he married into a wealthy family and is now a skillionaire at a pretty young age. i think he might have misrepresented his views a couple times, too. 1) he said he would renegotiate contracts, to bring city worker insurance in line with the “private sector.� his campaign is being significantly funded by unions and special interests that would probably not fund him if he were serious about changing these cush insurance provisions. 2) he said he’s against the casino in warwick, when my understanding (maybe i’m wrong) is that his backers are largely pro-casino.
    OH, right, and like mark lucas said, what’s this about credit card balance?! uh, Nap, it’s not so hard to pay off your credit cards when you’re a skillionaire. and that’s supposed to impress middle-class debt-holders like me how?? since yours is all paid up, does this mean you have some extra $ to come pay mine off?

    ultimately, i think it would be tough to call a “winner.� Fung and Fogarty have different approaches, but they are both smart and well-intentioned candidates with fairly similar views on issues facing Cranston going forward. i think it might come down to party-affiliation… or personal reactions to their respective styles… things like that…

  8. i responded on another blog about the debates, so this is cut/paste with a few additions, but what the heck, since Kiersten asked…

    after taking notes on all the questions & answers, i think i could go on & on, but here’s my general take:

    Fung seemed to have the biggest turnout of supporters. he’s got a really efficient machine behind him from what I can tell. his presentation was a bit ham-fisted (loud proclamations of “I AM THE LEADER CRANSTON NEEDS!”) and repetitive. he concentrated on his immigrant status and his “loveâ€? of cranston and what the city has done for his family a little excessively, i thought. he also talked too much about his “connectionsâ€? and how he would bring more law firms to cranston. we want more businesses here, to take some of the tax burden off the residents, but do we want it to be all of allan fung’s lawyer friends? i really appreciated his ideas about encouraging diversity and minority businesses, something the others didn’t mention. Fung was a forceful speaker, more so than other times i’ve seen him, so i hope he can learn to elaborate/expand his points without repeating himself over and over. I got the impression he knows his stuff and has his heart in the right place.

    Cindy Fogarty was plain-spoken, direct, and came packing a wealth of statistics and data to support her assertions. i found her to be less show-y than Fung, and a million times better informed than Nap. she needs to work on her cadence and breathe more from her gut, in order to command attention from a large audience. but her responses were knowledgeable and realistic. and she didn’t fall back on her “middle-classâ€? “regular joeâ€? blah blah blah background as much as the others, when arguably, as somebody who put herself thru law school while raising a family in a very modest section of inner cranston, she is the “every(wo)manâ€? of the 3. instead, she focused on her 4 years of City Council, her position as Finance Chair, her membership in the Cranston Chamber of Commerce and other groups & boards, personal management & education experience, her attendance/participation at School Board Mtgs, etc. the Park Cinema reference was a nice touch, i thought, since it really is a shame to see a cool landmark like that fall to ruin. i can’t figure out how it was useful for Nap to threaten “eminent domain” over it. that brings us to…

    Michael Napolitano was a train wreck, sorry. i’ve read in the herald about his “professional� demeanor as a public speaker, but man! he has all the candidness of a wind-up action figure. no kidding–he had to start his opening remarks over 3 times because the mic wasn’t projecting, and each time he began in the same EXACT way! same inflections, same words, like a robot. the man was ice cold. he, like cindy and to slightly lesser extent allan, had a lot of stats to share, but unlike cindy or allan, nap’s data was canned and sometimes didn’t directly relate to the question at hand, so these stats would be left hanging there amongst the question marks over the heads of all the audience. on a personal level, he should stay away from claiming “working class roots� etc., when the prevailing rumor (I don’t if it’s true) is that he married into a wealthy family and is now a skillionaire at a pretty young age. i think he might have misrepresented his views a couple times, too. 1) he said he would renegotiate contracts, to bring city worker insurance in line with the “private sector.� his campaign is being significantly funded by unions and special interests that would probably not fund him if he were serious about changing these cush insurance provisions. 2) he said he’s against the casino in warwick, when my understanding (maybe i’m wrong) is that his backers are largely pro-casino.
    OH, right, and like mark lucas said, what’s this about credit card balance?! uh, Nap, it’s not so hard to pay off your credit cards when you’re a skillionaire. and that’s supposed to impress middle-class debt-holders like me how?? since yours is all paid up, does this mean you have some extra $ to come pay mine off?

    ultimately, i think it would be tough to call a “winner.� Fung and Fogarty have different approaches, but they are both smart and well-intentioned candidates with fairly similar views on issues facing Cranston going forward. i think it might come down to party-affiliation… or personal reactions to their respective styles… things like that…

  9. I have heard that Napolitano hasn’t even gone to ONE city council meeting. For a man who wants to run the city, why doesn’t he show enough concern to go to a council meeting? How disgusting!

  10. henry’s mom: Great analysis. I have met all three candidates, and I’m a bit surprised at your description of Fung. I wouldn’t have suspected that, but it’s probably a good thing that he can be animated, even if he needs to learn to moderate his delivery. I’m also a bit surprised that he has the machine. From the signs around,it seemed that Nap had that sewn up.

    Honestly, IMHO, the best thing for Cranston would be a Fogarty/Fung general election. Either one would be a huge step up from Napolitano, or even Laffey.

  11. Apparently a machine is exactly what he has. I saw him walking through my streets and surrounding streets today at both 10 AM and 5 PM with about 5 volunteers each time. Let the fung begin! Say NO to NO-Pony-TaNO!

  12. I take exception to putting all three of them on stage for what should have been a primary debate for the Dems. Having Fung there only clouded the issue and gave him free PR time. Poor decision on the Chamber’s part, I think.

    Other than that, I thought Nap’s harping on the bickering at City Hall showed how little he has in the way of actual ideas. Although, as I think about it, watching Fogarty and Fung try to take credit for (essentially) raising taxes was not exactly inspiring.

    Laffey is running a US Senate campaign by claiming he made all the good things happen — and here these two are, claiming the exact same thing. I’m not sure Fogarty’s buddy-buddy moment with Fung was necessarily a good thing, either. It could actually play into Nap’s strategy (such as it is) to cast himself as the outsider. How are Democrats going to vote for Fogarty in September if she’s so much like Fung? I could be wrong, but wouldn’t that turn off Dem voters?

    Debates are usually decided by how the candidates are different — not how they’re the same. Fogarty and Fung looked and sounded just too much alike. Voters may just wonder, what’s the difference?

    Don B may be on to something… people may just decide to take the Republican for Mayor and keep the Dem council — especially because Fung and Fogarty seem so similar. Why risk an unchecked Democrat regime (like during the O’Leary days)? And remember, too, it’s been the Dem Council that has reined in Laffey these last couple of years — could you imagine what the city would be like if Laffey had a majority? (He proposed budgets with higher taxes in 2004 and 2005, by the way. Fung voted against the Council’s eventual lower-taxes budgets.)

    I agree with Don B — a balance is the right way to go.

  13. Thanks for your comment, Speedway Ray, and for everyone who took time to participate in the discussion on this thread. To me, this is an exciting new way to engage in a community and hear other people’s voices on important matters. Even though our readership is small (although it’s growing, we’re now averaging 889 visitors a day, up from the 500 range a month ago) I cannot tell you how empowering it feels to know that I am reaching fellow citizens and perhaps helping people to pay closer attention to what is going on.

  14. Speedway Ray is incorrect in his claim “Fung voted against the Council’s eventual lower-taxes budgets.”

    Mayor Laffey’s budgets passed the council by the following votes:

    ’03 9-0
    ’04 8-1 (Jackvony dissenting)
    ’05 9-0
    ’06 7-0

    I attended the debate. Like many of the earlier postings, I noticed how unpolished, unprofessional, and robotic No-pony-tano appeared.

    Cindy and Allan did a great job and that should come as no surprise since they were both part of the recovery. However, at the end of the day, I will entrust this city to Allan Fung!

  15. BTW, the 2006 7-0 vote was a result of either Livingston or Pisaturo leaving the room. Maria Bucci did not vote on the budget since she left earlier in the evening.

  16. Wow, excellent thread. Where to start? Heather, good info, and good point. Why should we take Nap seriously when he hasn’t been to a single meeting?

    henry’s mom: already thanked you.

    Don B: another good point. I’m a huge fan of divided gov’t.

    George, good stuff.

    Speedway Ray: I see your point about keeping it a Dem contest, but my gut reaction is the more exposure for all of them, the better. Let’s hear as much as possible. But if Fung has the machine behind him, maybe a tactical mistake by the Dems.

    Paul the Paperboy: really good info.

    Again, I feel like I’ve got a decent start on this election, thanks to all of you. Appreciate it!

  17. Paul the PB:

    I’m going to check my info — I’m fairly certain that I have the Herald articles to back up my statement, but I will double-check.

    If you have a link in the meantime, please post it.

    I’ll be willing to admit the error if it turns out I’m wrong.

    Thanks.

  18. So much for Napolitano buying the election…From Fung’s website:

    FUNG HAS FISCAL CLOUT IN MAYORAL CAMPAIGN

    01:00 AM EDT on Wednesday, August 2, 2006
    BY BENJAMIN N. GEDAN
    Journal Staff Writer

    CRANSTON — Allan W. Fung’s paychecks stopped coming on July 1, when he began a leave of absence from Metlife Auto & Home to concentrate on his mayoral campaign. That has not slowed his personal spending, however. From Jan. 1 to March 31, the Republican City Council member loaned his campaign about $40,250. On June 29, he injected another $50,000 into his war chest, according to a finance report he filed Monday with the state Board of Elections. The most recent loan left Fung’s campaign with $119,221, more than the two Democrats in the race combined. “I’m willing to put my life on hold and invest in this campaign,” Fung said yesterday, as he campaigned in long pants and a polo shirt in the afternoon heat. “I am very serious and committed to this race.”

    Fung, who has no primary opponent, spent $22,926 from April 1 to June 30. In that period, he brought in $28,960 from individual donors, much of it during an April fundraiser. “We’ve had a lot of grass-roots support,” said his spokesman, Gary Vierra. Fung is not the only candidate with a financial interest in the race. Cynthia M. Fogarty, a Democratic council member, had loaned her mayoral campaign about $20,000 by the end of March. She has since added another $5,000 in her effort to defeat Michael T. Napolitano for the Democratic nomination.

    In the last three months, Fogarty raised $10,065 in individual donations, collected primarily during two neighborhood fundraisers. In the same period, she spent $10,558, leaving $24,481 in her campaign account, according to her filing with the Board of Elections. Napolitano spent more than $40,000 in the same period, nearly four times more than Fogarty. “That’s even worse than I anticipated,” Fogarty said yesterday. “I’ve got people struggling to pay for food and taxes. I think they’d prefer a fiscally prudent person. “It seems to be an extravagant approach,” she said of Napolitano’s strategy. “Campaign money is other people’s money, too.

    That might be an indicator of how [Napolitano] might spend their tax dollars.” Although Napolitano’s spending has far outpaced his Democratic rival, he also leads Fogarty significantly in fundraising. His recent campaign finance report showed him raising $80,144 in individual donations, eight times what Fogarty collected. Including a $50,000 loan he made to his campaign earlier this year, Napolitano has $63,000 in his campaign account, according to Richard D. Raspallo, the campaign’s deputy treasurer. “I’m very, very happy,” said Napolitano, who officially opened his campaign headquarters last night at 687 Park Ave.

    “We raised the most money.” Napolitano’s campaign manager, Richard R. Tomlins, said fundraising has kept pace with campaign spending, adding that there are no plans for Napolitano to reach again into his personal bank account. At least three more fundraisers are planned this month, Tomlins said. “[Napolitano] has been walking for 20 days door-to-door,” he said. “The fundraising has a lot to do with the reaction he’s getting.”

  19. henry’s mom writes about Allan Fung’s business proposals and notes, “we want more businesses here, to take some of the tax burden off the residents, but do we want it to be all of allan fung’s lawyer friends?”

    Please review the list of contributors to No-Pony-tano’s campaign: https://secure.ricampaignfinance.com/RhodeIslandCF/ReportsScanned/6126-RICF2-69913-ea7318d7-f5da-4160-b4c5-fce434d876a9.pdf

    Lawyers, lawyers, lawyers, followed by court employees and several members of the O’Leary administration! They’re throwin’ big money behind this guy for what in return?

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