Projo Interviews Mayoral Candidates on Cranston Finances

When taking on the role of campaign coordinator for Cindy Fogarty, she and I discussed how to handle my role on this blog. Cindy was concerned that I maintain my credibility on the blog, and suggested the best way to do this would be to avoid commenting on this blog about political issues in Cranston for the next 14 weeks. This restriction seems to me like a good plan — an appropriate way to separate my opinions from the political issues that our mayoral candidates need to address.

However, to continue fostering community discussion (because we know the community discussions here on Kmareka can be helpful at times), I will still post links to news stories that are about important issues in Cranston. One such article was published today in the Projo and is entitled “Neither Cranston Mayoral Hopeful Rules Out Tax Increase.” I invite readers to share their thoughts and concerns as they relate to the issues described in the article.

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44 thoughts on “Projo Interviews Mayoral Candidates on Cranston Finances

  1. it seems like a good sign. if we are going to be grown-up citizens we have to be willing to elect politicians who tell us that sometimes a tax increase is necessary. the governor thinks he is getting around this by cutting sevices. he has cut off health insurance for some poor children, but he will have a much more difficult time when he tries to apply his triage system to the elderly. i talk to them every day and they are not happy, they have lots of relatives, and they vote.

  2. Nancy, sometimes grown up citizens also need to face the cold hard truth that ‘we just can’t afford it anymore’. Raising taxes is definitely not always the answer.

    I’m sure those that were raised in the 20s,30s, & 40s have a very good understanding of what it means to not be able to afford something. Our generation seems to be the only ones who are addicted to borrowing against our future and then complaining about it when we max out our credit.

    Again, as a grown up citizen I understand that there will be times when taxes must be increased, but I definitely want to elect people – grown-ups – who also understand when there is a need to cut services simply because from an infrastructure standpoint, we cannot afford the programs any more. Putting blinders on and raising taxes on further hurts the populous at large and again, the money will at some point run out.

  3. I’m a worker, a home owner and a taxpayer. I don’t want a penny of my tax money wasted, such as when Governor Carcieri spent $15,000 for a lawyer’s opnion on gay marriage, or when he needs more consultants to consult with him. But if my tax money was spent on restoring health care to children in our state then I would consider it well spent, because when I am old (well, older) they will be in charge.
    And many of my Depression era clients are worried about the children.

  4. Which service should be cut, first?

    Police, Fire, School, Garbage?

    How far do we trim?

    Until Cranston starts to collapse due to neglect?

    When our streets look like war zones?

    When our children cannot receive an adequate education?

  5. Nancy, I think the Gay marriage is a bad example. It’s an issue facing our state and if the Governor wanted to make an informed decision on it, that seems like money well spent.

    We’re not talking about 15 thousand dollars. We’re talking about a half billion dollar deficit. Heck, if all we had to complain about was 15,000 we’d be looking good.

    I just have no trust in a GA that has shown no fiscal restraint to continue to raise our taxes. Where will it end?

    And I’m not saying healthcare is wasteful, it’s not. I am saying that if we cannot afford certain services we can’t just keep raising taxes. The money will run out. And we’re already one of the most overtaxed states in the nation.

  6. Don:

    You seem to be reading a lot into the rather meager quotes attributed to the candidates, i.e., that they’re proposing “putting blinders on and raising taxes.”

    That said, neither is offering a realistic financial plan for the short term. So I can see how you’re reaching this evaluation.

    I foresee another round of “raiding the surplus” scare tactics from Fung, and a response from Fogarty that amounts to half-hearted support of Nap (“the Napolitano administration has not made any major financial gaffes” is not a particularly ringing endorsement) and constant dodging on just how much taxes will go up.

    So far, there’s still no real distinction between the two. We might as well call this the “Coke vs. Pepsi” contest, except I don’t expect the results to be that close.

    The real point is, sounding like Fung hurts Fogarty. As I’ve argued previously, he’s been in the news more frequently and has a better organization with more money, so if the election comes down to who people know more, Fung takes it.

  7. Jesse,

    I’m not chastising the candidates, moreso I was responding to Nancy’s reply.

    In the past, Fung has shown support of raising taxes and so has Fogarty. And back then, I agreed with the Laffey tax increases earlier this decade. They were smart for the city.

    What I am saying is that raising taxes shouldn’t be the first answer to any deficit. Instead, we should also look to see if the spending is justified and if it’s going to be level year over year or increase and by how much. Because eventually it will run out.

    And during such an economic time as this, I’m leary to put more burdens upon the taxpayers.

  8. Don, our tax money is supposed to be spent on services that benefit the common good. our state has a lousy record and a history of corruption, so it’s understandible that people see taxes as money thrown away. we need to address the misuse of our money, and not fall for politicians who cut some taxes, neglect their responsibilities, and carry on favoring their friends and patrons.

  9. Cuts? How about manage better. How many DPW employees does it take to clean a drain? Three? Four? There is waste everywhere. Heck, John Lanni in his infinite wisdom has called for an in depth audit of the school committee. How much will that cost? Gee John, why not just pull out the old one and see what was recommended and what wasn’t implemented. Probably the vast majority of the recommendations? I guarantee the issues put forth then are the same today. If we want better services without breaking the bank, I’d suggest one of our elected officials grow some stones and do what’s right for the citizens, rather than their party. I suggest this city start running itself like we run our own households. Otherwise, we’re all heading towards the fiscal abyss. This year is truly time for a change. Let’s hope we get more than sound bites. Something that is much to prevalent in this city’s political arena. Words without substance.

  10. Nancy says we need to “…not fall for politicians who cut some taxes, neglect their responsibilities, and carry on favoring their friends and patrons.”

    Well, that effectively covers every City Councilor who is running for re-election.

    Does anyone pay attention to what little is accomplished by our elected officials here in Cranston? Or how many campaign promises are broken? Anyone? Bueller?

    So, what are you (the readers of this blog) prepared to do about it?

    Are you ready to vote out the one who orchestrated the current teacher’s contract (which directly benefits he and his wife) that put the entire city behind the 8-ball? (Lupino)

    How about the one who thinks it’s OK for a city employee to use a city car for personal business, wreck it, and have the taxpayers foot the $9,000 bill? (Lanni)

    How about the one who doesn’t show up 40% of the time? (Livingston)

    Or the two who come down on the wrong side of every budget or spending initiative ($850,000 plus interest for artificial turf is but one example)? (Santamaria and Navarro)

    We’ll see if Nancy’s friends in Cranston have the presence of mind to vote them all out.

  11. Exactly, keep only those able to run a private business, household or checkbook to overseeing the commodity. Once it is gone, we are all in trouble. So I agree with March and GCF – we cannot afford more stupid comments and inaction with those on the council.

    After all Lanni said, Lanni saying “What’s the Big Deal” (unethical – commenting to that demolition truck) and the Rat problem has been a problem as long as I have been on the council…along with a scroll of other ineffective nods from Mr. Lanni whose wife I understand is a City employee.

    Mark, you mentioned Lupino – he’s just plain rude….because I will never forget his answer to Jessica Marino, representing the Natick Bridge folks…in talks about them wanting the bridge fixed. Lupino said “Be careful what you wish for … there will be more traffic then.” DA, and in an emergency people CAN get in and out of their houses.

    Let’s not forget who pushed for the Cullion swampland purchase and what a great deal this is….

    The 40 and 37% missed meetings by Livingston & Bucci I am told is due to Aram calling special Council meetings sometime 2-3 days before it…and that was piggybacked on a regularly scheduled upcoming Council meeting. I do feel Livingston has had some good points. Bucci was good on the Flooding stuff, although the folks of Natick Avenue felt she was inept and absent to their pleas.

    I’m not even going to address Mr. Confrontational and his inability to help his Ward.

    Let’s face it, they get paid little to change and have a vote FOR US. However, there are a few of us watchdogs and residents whom do care…we don’t get paid to do what we do. We do it because we want to live in a better place that gives us the respect we give and pay to those running the place.

    Nancy has nailed it though – it’s a statewide thing. But we have to start somewhere.

    BTW, I understand Cranston will be seeking:

    “Wanted, Pied Piper and Terrier Sought to Hunt Rats out of Cranston [Not meant to mean Politicians?]”

  12. Suzanne,
    I know I’ve steered threads down this road before (apologies to all offended), BUT… On paper Livingston’s and Bucci’s council meeting attendance percentage looks pathetic, but given the absolutely ridiculous amount of meetings called this past year
    I can empathize with both.
    In your post you mention the various “watchdog” groups around the city and the work that we/they do, the hours we/they log without any compensation. As much as I would like to attend every council meeting, I quite simply lack the time, energy, and stamina to do so.
    Which brings us to the questions “Why are there so many meetings?… Why are there so many citizen watchdog groups in our city?” answers: The Planning Department and The Planning Department. From Phenix Terrace, to Mulligan’s Island to the Dog and Pony show that is the Comprehensive Plan meetings, citizens from every part of our city have had to literally fight to maintain their quality of life. Out of town developers and their narrow interests are cottled and appeased by our city planners at the expense of our city’s residents. The planner’s claim that they “have” to give due diligence to the various ill-conceived projects that have been proposed over the past few years is simply spin.
    Yes, I am aware of the complexities that would be involved in demanding a residency requirement for city employees, but… who wouldn’t sleep better knowing that the principals involved in determining the “landscape” of Cranston, now and in the future, had more invested in our city than a paycheck and benefits package? To papaphrase Councilperson Lanni, the Planning Department is using it’s “sledgehammer” and meeting fatigue to wear down Cranston’s City Council and Cranston’s residents…
    Subjecting Stadium’s rats to one of the Chief Planners tutorials on the history of Braintree, might just be enough to send the vile rodents on to 95 South in search of on coming traffic.

  13. “I’m not even going to address Mr. Confrontational and his inability to help his Ward.”

    I wonder who she is talking about.

    Suzanne,

    That seems a little mean to say about someone who has done a great job representing his ward, all but you. I told you from day one, do not vote for me, and do not call me because I will not return your calls. I don’t like you and don’t want your support, do you remember me saying that to you. People like you have too much time on their hands, complain about everything and everyone. I wonder if your boss at your big law firm knows all the time you spend on blogs and emails. If you have so much to say, why the hell don’t you run for office? You won’t because everyone feels the same way, they just don’t have the guts to tell you, but I do. You won’t run because you will loose, you will loose because you don’t have a clue as to how city government runs.

    I must tell you that I will miss not being able to represent Ward 6 but will not miss hearing your complaints or whining. The best thing for you to do is move back to Mass or where ever you came from.

    You can’t even make up your mind, you were against the concrete plant and now you are against the Mayors settlement. There is no pleasing you, is there?

  14. Thank you Richard Brown for your continued efforts in our fight against Phenix Terrace, its too bad we dont have more citizens like you, and I like your reference to the “Dog and pony show” I was there and witnessed it for myself.

  15. As much as I’m enjoying the spat over the Council, I’d like to steer the thread back to the mayor’s race, if I may.

    RI Future has a new entry on the Fogarty campaign.

    Read it here: http://www.rifuture.org/showDiary.do;jsessionid=81AB6340036875ADDB9EB5D2A0C8F670?diaryId=3547

    My take:
    1. The idea of giving up the mayor’s vehicle is noble, but may be (ironically) illegal, since it’s provided by Charter, the license plate (we are in Rhode Island, after all) is issued to the car, and the city is on the hook for any damage or other costs. Not to mention, I don’t think a Ford minivan is exactly the vehicle that should represent the office.

    2. Going “paperless” will have little effect, if any, on the money spent by the tax division — although I concede that an updated permit process would be helpful. I have my doubts that the large population of older homeowners would want to give up a paper receipt for their payments. Other homeowners with escrow payments (the majority of all homeowners) already have their tax bills applied paperlessly.

    3. It’ll be at least 10 more years until solar and other renewable sources of energy will be affordable enough for even a city like Cranston to pay for it alone. And if the city has the choice between solar panels on City Hall and additional spending for schools, recreation, etc., solar loses.

    Oh, and the location of the new HQ? Next door to Ed DiPrete’s former insurance company.
    “The change you want to see”? Not me!

  16. To the man who sports shirts with is name embroidered into them, of course I remember that ridiculous statement. I also recall hearing from a Cranston Official last term that you were most concerned about the possiblity of me running. For the record, I don’t run because I dedicate time to raising a 5 and 6 year old. This may come as a surprise to you, but I have the mindset and work ethic that you ask everyone and ensure there is “no work” and then instead of shopping for dressing or reading garbage like celebrity who’s who on line or the just surfing the net ~ I am dedicated to the few causes I am a watchdog to. If you don’t like the facts, maybe you should scurry a little faster so my watchdog fangs don’t getcha (HA)

    Seriously, what a cellophane argument to provide. Your pot shots to me over the years have gone no where except stroking your ego. I really wish you would put as much effort into “doing”, hence giving me less reason to provide research, quotes and blatent disregard for the solution. I do not see this as perpetual whining, and I have never “flipped” as you infer on the Concrete deal. The fact remains, first off the City Council and Planning Board failed the people back in 96 of rezoning that land. I’m not going to get on the Cullion soap box.
    There have been a handful of times I have agreed with your decisions or statements and I have acknowledged that. You once said we would be friends, and I told you never. I told you that because I don’t play with unethical, underhanded, arrogant people. I’m sure Mr. Barone you will be volunteering somewhere and doing some other community service. Enjoy your time off with your family.

    Politicians that have a difference of opinion, yet, are respectful and objective to individual perceptions are someone who’s got my vote. I agree with Rick’s observation. Here is a perfect example. Myself, Rachel McNally/SCOS and Rita Holahan worked together to get a $6,000,000 bond for Open Space passed. Pathetically, the Planning Board didn’t know anything about this. This same Planning Board is one that developes and pushes the City to be in compliance knew nothing. Why. Because the City Council and Planning Board are not communicating as well as they should be. This is exactly what Aram Garabedian has been asserting about the School Committee and Council. I do agree in combing those two Committee’s, but that is not what I am inferring with the Plannig Board – rather there is better notice of such cross-linking of such information, including the Conservation Commission.

    The candidates have to face the fact that leadership / restructuring is what is desperately needed.

  17. “Character is doing what is right when nobody’s looking.” ~J. C. Watts, Jr., Politician

    What’s so hard to understand about that statement? This is woven into my belief and how I live. I have the highest set of ethics and I won’t apologize for having these expectations.

  18. Jesse,
    We are entering the dog days of August now… the heat and the humidity can be oppressive. So isn’t it time to drop the whole “wet blanket” persona. Being the good democrat that you are, it is surprising that you are seemingly employing “Karl Rove” tactics on a local level.
    Initially you critized the Fogarty campaign for a perceived lack of visibility and for operating in relative silence. Now when Cynthia issues a short overview of potential cost cutting measures, you dismiss these plans as potentially “illegal”. If indeed the city charter “demands” that the Mayor be issued a leased vehicle at a considerable cost to the residents of our city—then steps need to be taken to amend/alter this ourdated charter. Given the ridiculously short terms (2 years)for the Mayor’s office and City Council seats it will be very difficult for the City of Cranston to become a “green city” overnight. But if we as a city are ever going to seek sources of renewable energy to power our city’s building and facilities, and there by save thousands of dollars per year in utility costs, I must ask “What better time than now?” Jesse, you and I have differed on a few issues in the past, but we have always managed to respect each others views and considered these views on their merit. I do not know whether or not there is a “history” between Cynthia Fogarty and yourself, and perhaps if there is it could serve as the basis for your less than enthusiastic opinion of her chances this fall, but I do feel that you may be adopting a rather contrarian stance to her campaign and her issued statements. Please comment…

  19. Richard:

    First, let me correct an error I made: Fogarty HQ is IN Ed DiPrete’s old office, not next door.

    Now, as to your reply: Yes, I did criticize the campaign for its lack of visibility — and if anything, my underlying point supports that argument: How is a campaign going to succeed in getting attention with impractical ideas?

    Not to mention, the only ProJo coverage (apologies to my fellow bloggers, but it’s still the widest circulation news source in the city) she’s garnered is the article where she and Fung are essentially saying the same thing.

    Fogarty has to distinguish herself from Fung — that’s the real issue here. Offering populist-sounding ideas that won’t see the light of day (sorry) after Jan. 1 is not the way to do that. If anything, that’s precisely what Fung is doing, in his own manner.

    Also, I don’t see how pointing out impracticalities and using facts to dispute Mrs. Fogarty’s campaign promises amounts to “Karl Rove” tactics. If I were trying to be Rove, I’d just make stuff up.

    To the car issue, maybe the Charter should be changed. But finding a cheaper vehicle would accomplish roughly the same thing, wouldn’t it? And don’t you think Cranston’s mayor deserves a respectable-looking vehicle that’s maintained properly? For better or worse, the Charter provides a vehicle for the Mayor as a symbol of the office and, by extension, the city. I’d prefer that our city is represented by something other than a minivan, is all I’m saying.

    On the solar issue, I agree that now is the time to go green — but I stand by my argument that Cranston can not afford to pay for it alone, not until the cost drops drastically, and even in the best estimates, that’s 10 years from now. Granted, there could be a major change in federal/state funding, but again, I don’t see it happening.

    As for the end of your reply, I have every right to poke holes in Mrs. Fogarty’s campaign stances — and I would only add that, if I’m finding these problems, I can’t be the only “good Democrat” who is. I didn’t blindly follow Nap in 2006 (nor did a good number of Dems, given the slight margin of victory), and I’m not going to blindly follow Fogarty this year.

    Finally, to the hint of a “history” between Cindy Fogarty and me, there is none. I base my opinions on my own observations and research. I would appreciate an end to the attempts at attributing my opinions to anything else, and more consideration of my statements on their merits, which, as you pointed out, we’ve been able set as our standard for debate.

  20. GCF:

    I already have, namely eliminate the school committee and consolidate departments properly. A Charter change could be on this November’s ballot, and the next Council and Mayor will have two budgets to oversee to make it happen. Minimum savings would be on the order of $2 million the first year alone. Probably more, with the elimination of duplicative jobs in the city and school department. Plus no more Caruolo actions or city-funded school audits.

    You’ve no doubt seen my replies spelling this out previously. Next time, please resist the urge to add such posts — unless you really are looking for me to repeat my previous statements. If that’s the case, keep it up.

  21. Wow, we can’t have the mayor drive a minivan or employ solar power at the municpal level, but we can get those two bodies merged.Damn, you’re good.Sorry I missed your previous posts regarding your ideas.

  22. GCF:

    Thanks for summing up my point perfectly: A successful referendum vote to eliminate the school board would hold the next Mayor and Council to actually do it. None of Fogarty’s ideas are binding in the same way. So, yes, we can get consolidation done easier than giving up the
    mayor’s vehicle or placing solar cells on city buildings. You’re certainly better at the simple terms and short sentences than I.

    And thank you for admitting that I am good at thinking these things through, even without the benefit of reading previous posts.

    By all means, please reply again and make me sound even more sensible.

  23. While the original string was about the Mayoral race, it is refreshing to see so many comments not forgetting the inadequacies of our City Council.

    I am, however, concerned by comments stating that this administration has not done a bad job financially. While the Administrations frivolous spending on legal settlements, and contract give aways should be enough to convince all that the current rubber stamp Council has to go, the current Caroulo Action should be a glaring example of city government gone wrong.

    Currently our city cash reserve is around $15 million after the current council has approved raiding it on multiple occasions for nonemergency spending. If we round the current School deficit to $5 million and come to accept that the city will likely lose the suit, our rainy day fund will be drained to only $5 million. (Remember the schools are suing for operating capital for LAST year. This will have to be matched every year going forward; and, since the current year’s budget is finalized the additional $5 million will come from the cash reserve.) To maintain a healthy bond rating, the city reserves should be at about 10% of the total city budget (in our case this equates to over $20 million.) Once the bond rating drops, Cranston will again be in the same mess we found ourselves in several years ago.

    Why is this happening? Ineffective leadership. After virtually level funding the school department for two years, the City Council ignored notification of the Departments financial fiasco. Only now, after being chastised by the court judge, does the Council look for an audit. Where was the council a year ago and why are these type of audits not ongoing?

    It is time for accountability in City Government. Monthly Operational reviews must be required of ALL city departments. Budgets must be examined on a monthly basis and shortcomings adjusted for on an ongoing basis. This is a basic premise in all successful private businesses.

    Councilmen Lanni and Lupino again fall short and demonstrate no desire to fix the structural problems in our city by their reluctance to consolidate HR and Purchasing Dept. in City Hall and the School Dept. One small example of some simple steps that must be made to address our financial struggles.

  24. JFC, Actually, aren’t they Aram’s ideas.And thanks, simple is better than long winded.

  25. Jim Q ~

    Along with the many valid points you reference, the fact that these have by systemic for many many terms and little is done to make these departments work together better, hence, creating a more beneficial outcome and not waiting until your in the Fox Hole to find resolution. That’s a dumb strategy…which is one of the reasons I find myself totally annoyed with the “process”.

  26. GCF:

    Thank you for re-stating my sensible support of Aram Garabedian on his plans for eliminating school boards. And thanks for giving me the opportunity to remind other readers of a previous post where I, in fact, predicted that the issue would be brought forward.

    The thread announcing Aram’s proposal — and my prior prediction — can be found here: http://kmareka.com/?p=1696

    Nifty, too, that you allow me another chance to fondly remember how Kiersten offered me a pat on the back for the scoop.

    So thanks for the “simplicity.” I appreciate having your black-and-white outlines to fill with color. Certainly, please keep it up.

  27. Mr. Quinlan:

    I see you’ve found — or been issued — a copy of the GOP’s election playbook from 2006. You’re using exactly the same tactics that lost your party the Mayor’s race and all three citywide seats two years ago.

    To name just one: You’re filling in gaps of fact with scaremongering. As of today, there has been no decision on the Caruolo suit. Your demand that people “come to accept that the city will likely lose the suit” to believe the rest of your argument is not exactly a positive message: “Vote Republican because Cranston is a losing city.”

    I happen to think the city will win on legal grounds having nothing to do with the mayor. That you think Cranston will lose in court, caused in some way by Nap’s “ineffective leadership,” is proof that you’ve put on the partisan blinders.

    I’d invite you to read this previous thread, particularly comment #20, for a fuller understanding of my evaluation of the Caruolo suit: http://kmareka.com/?p=1792#comments

    And I don’t think having both sides ordered to negotiate an audit procedure can be accurately described as the Council “being chastised” by Judge Savage — again, unless it’s being cast through a highly partisan lens.

    My point is, without an actual decision and resolution of the pending suit, all this talk of “raiding the surplus” — not once for $5 million, but twice, by your thinking — is premature and designed only to scare those who don’t know better.

    And as for blaming Councilmen Lanni and Lupino for the failure to consolidate HR departments, it was the school committee that responded with the ludicrous idea of putting city personnel functions under SCHOOL control. The school department has employed its own special brand of stonewalling with regard to purchasing, as well. This is yet another typical Cranston GOP ploy — hoping people forget more than they know.

    Sorry, Mr. Quinlan. Your party had better come up with something better than reheated council-bashing and scare tactics if it intends to win anything this fall. You don’t even have Jeff Barone to count on anymore.

  28. Nothing is wrong with driving a minivan. I bet there are more of those on the road than any other vehicle. The charter should reflect what is financially sound for the city of Cranston. Leasing a vehicle does not make sense these days- look at how many Automobile companies are getting out of the leasing business. If we the charter can’t be changed, and we have to pay for a leased vehicle- make it a hybrid- stick with the “green” theory across the board.

    A vehicle is a mode of transportation. I would think most people would know by now that it is what is on the inside that matters- not the outer package.

    Going green is a good thing, eliminating paperwork will save money, both on the expense side, and the disposal side. Solar panels are only one option. Just think if we could harness some of the screaming going on in council chambers and direct at a windmill- City hall wouldn’t need to be connected to the grid. Yes- I have been on the receiving end of uncalled for tyrades from the current council president.

    As to choice of office location. Who cares? Both candidates have selected Reservoir Ave as a location for their office. If this was a one horse town, Rte 2 probably would have been named Main Street. Sounds like a good place for an office.

    I think it is up to council president, or committe chair to ensure there will be adequate attendance for all scheduled meetings. If the council president is going to call an emergency meeting- a few phone calls prior to the schedule can ensure attendance.

  29. JFC,

    “Vote Republican because Cranston is a losing city�

    Try this “the city council which has had a majority of democrats for years and years is driving the city in the ground”.

    Take one from the democrat’s handbook, Just vote the same schleps in……. we’re friends with every union hack and insiders. Hell, in the end, it’s all about taking care of friends. We guarantee nothing will change, other than the diminishing size of you bank account. Oh and the ever widening tax burden……….

    If I’ve learned anything during my years, it’s vote for the person and what they stand for. Not because some political machine’s spin (I mean you Jesse) is telling you who to vote for.

    Moral: one’s affiliation, Dem, Rep or Ind, doesn’t make someone inept or evil

  30. GCF:

    I can’t thank you enough for repeating my very sensible summation of the local GOP’s strategy, right off the bat, with no contextual set-up.

    Or for recalling my well-established, unpaid support of my own volition for a Democratic majority Council that held taxes level this year, protected the surplus, and ensured better bond ratings for the city while standing up to the previously unchallenged spending of the school department. That’s the kind of “handbook” that Mr. Quinlan doesn’t have — and again, thank you for allowing me to highlight that point once more.

    I’ll also take this opportunity to note Tony Lupino’s support for “shrinking the local bureaucracy” and, presumably, cutting union jobs to provide more efficient funding of services that he stated here in comment #9:

    http://kmareka.com/?p=1687#comments

    This must be the idea behind that stirring point about the school committee: “We guarantee nothing will change, other than the diminishing size of you bank account. Oh and the ever widening tax burden.” It’s a perfect reminder of the school board’s selfish attitude in the face of the Democratic majority Council’s very sensible and well-planned tax freeze.

    And isn’t it nice? We have something in common: I vote for the person, too. For me, it’s after listening very carefully to the words coming out of his/her mouth and weighing them in light of facts. I also don’t think it’s right to use the terms “inept” or “evil” to describe someone’s political stance, just that when I can prove inconsistency with the facts, I won’t hesitate to do so.

    I should also commend you for breaking through your self-imposed 20-word limit, too. Good job.

  31. Just a couple of quick notes in responding to two rather unusual discussion points posed during a mayoral election.

    First, why does the mayor need a tax-payer funded vehicle? I’m sure whoever is elected, already has a reliable vehicle. Wouldn’t it be more cost effective to pay a per diem? Perhaps there is a liability issue that I’m unaware of?

    Second, solar panels in Rhode Island is a losing proposition. If you conduct a cost-benefit analysis, it would take more than 25 to 30 years to break even on the expense.

    RI gets very little sun year-round and getting completely off of the grid is not possible.

    Solar panels are not maintenance-free and require annual check-ups and component replacement many times during a 25-year period; all of this requires additional funding.

    RI is also one of the worst states in the country in terms of providing tax incentives for residents and businesses looking to use alternative energy sources.

    It is also my understanding that National Grid is protected (thanks to RI govt. officials) from lost revenue where anyone looking to get completely off the grid, still has to pay National Grid to some extent.

    Mini-vans and solar panels? Really?

  32. CT:

    The following Charter statutes govern use of city vehicles:

    1.) 2.80.050 Automobile reimbursement allowance, and
    2.) 2.80.060 Authorized use of municipal vehicles

    Going by these statutes, and the duties of the mayor which include “the enforcement of the laws of the state and ordinances of the city,” it’s clear that the Charter intent is to provide a vehicle to the mayor’s office for the mayor to use. As I mentioned above, if the Charter were changed, then obviously, there could be a different method for the mayor’s transportation — but not until that change occurred.

    We can certainly debate the cost-effectiveness of the different vehicles a mayor could use, but I don’t think there’s any wiggle room when it comes to the Charter.

    Beyond that, as I said previously, I think the mayor’s car is a symbol of the office and, as such, should present a good image. I’m just glad, frankly, that it’s not some huge Lincoln Town Car with a cop driving it.

    You can find the city charter here: http://municipalcodes.lexisnexis.com/codes/cranston/

    As to solar panels, I think you’re right to question the return on the investment. And you’re correct that “RI is also one of the worst states in the country” for reimbursing solar purchases — in fact, RI had a reimbursement but cut it to zero a couple of years back.

  33. CT,
    While RI may be “one of the worst states in the country
    in terms of providing tax incentives for residents and businesses looking to use alternative energy sources”,a recent Forbes magazine poll ranked RI at a lofty #8 in their “Greenest State Poll”. Apparently the lack of tax incentives you mentioned has not served as a deterrent to those seeking sustainable sources of energy here in RI.
    When one thinks of “sunny” locales in the US they probably don’t mention the greater Providence area, but according to the NOAA (Nat. Oceanic and Atomospheric Adm.)and their record keeping arm the National Climatic Data Center the Providence area has the same number of sunny days per year as Fort Myers, FL, 2 more sunny days per year than Brownsville, TX, 8 more sunny days per year than Honolulu, and a whopping 24 more sunny days per year than “sunny Miami, Florida”. Yes, I was surprised too. Portland Oregon, which is generally acknowledged as one of, if not the , greenest cities in America actually over the last 42 years has averaged 30 sunny days per year less than Providence. I recommend a visit to the City of Portland’s Office of Sustainable Development page which has several interesting links including Solar Oregon.com— solar technology is moving forward in leaps and bounds, what seemed impractical and costly yesterday, may in fact become more cheaper and more practical tomorrow. I am tired of simply throwing my hands up and yielding to obstacles (either real or imagined),we as a city need to find opportunities in these less than perfect times. We can no longer accept the status quo or to be fooled into thinking that “this too shall pass”.

  34. JFC, Director Carlucci’s actions demonstrate that city ordinances really mean nothing, as pointed out by Councilman Lanni.(Really no big deal). As well as Nappy’s complete disregard to those actions.

  35. GCF:

    Thanks so much for allowing me to remind the readers of this thread that the City Council has authority to make decisions about how city vehicles are used, and to act, in its capacity as the Claims Committee (with Councilman Lanni a key voice on the board), to use their discretion in deciding how to handle accidents involving city vehicles.

    And you’re so kind to also let me note how Mayor Napolitano so rightly referred the matter to the Council so that the proper oversight function could be performed, and offered an explanation that the Council deemed appropriate enough to justify a paltry $9,000 payment.

  36. JFC,

    You must be a wealthy man – “a paltry $9,000″. $9k is big money to most of us. Also, isn’t it a matter of ethics. Breaking the law with no consequence.

  37. GCF:

    I’m grateful for the opportunity you’re giving me to note that $9,000 in the city budget is about 3 cents on the tax rate, and that the City Council has the sole authority to settle questions of use of city vehicles, as provided under the Charter. And I would be remiss if I didn’t also thank you for letting me repeat that the Council and Mayor followed their respective authorities under the Charter to resolve this issue legally.

    And thank you for asking, but I am not “a wealthy man.” It’s also nice of you to again let me state that $9,000 in the context of a $230 million budget really is not that much money.

  38. Jesse, I think what GCF is saying …principal. Carlucci said he would pay for the demolition discretion. Lanni states, “What’s the Bid Deal?” When you say you are going to do something…JUST DO IT, otherwise you lose credibility.

    As far as the “Greenest State Poll”, I did see that and couldn’t help but choke on my coffee that morning. I am also aware we were awarded the Geotourism Award by National Geographic and the Governor accepted last May 07′. I must say, we have quite a lot Brownfield’s, quite a lot of offenders for dumping toxins into the river etc. The General Assembly NIXED the theory of fining from $1,000 (1%) to $25,000 (25%) per day for violations or building schools on TOXIC grounds. We didn’t want these Green solutions. We hold truck emission standards in RI to poor levels and they stink!

    Our beaches have been closed a lot. How green is that. The solar is a viable and works fine for those in Cambridge, MA…other areas in Massachusetts that give a 50% return on your investment. Look at CT too. It’s a weak argument that it doesn’t work. I think Rick is right that we need to run with the titles and make good on them. But I have a problem with Comprehensive Plans that all municipalities take the time to map out (Cranston is 92 and is just now updating) and they don’t even make sure their zoning is in compliance with the Plan upon sale. Oh No, let’s not make that area we plotted as green GREEN – let’s repackage it and have some developer say I can make lots of money on it which will be taxes for you to collect. There are NO PENALTIES for such municipalities for NOT following any process in this area. Holy Bamboo Batman ~ take any one of our 50% structurally deficient bridges (yes, RI ranks worst in the nation) to the lovely beach that stink, jelly fish riddled and BTW…you can’t swim in it because it’s got a high fecal count. Just don’t take a wrong turn to Tiverton with you picnic basket and forget to Toxicmeter Pen (Batman pen that reads dirt that is toxic). Remember Tiverton is one of many….we just haven’t discovered the rest yet.

  39. Thanks for info. Jesse. I guess this takes us back to the heart of my question. Does the mayor NEED a car funded at tax payer’s expense?

    I would love to see at least one of two changes:

    1. Change the charter to remove the provision for a tax-payer funded vehicle and instead provide a stipend or per diem to compensate for the use of the mayor’s personal vehicle while on taxpayer business.

    2. Change in culture and a position of leadership by the current mayoral candidates. If any of them wants to be a TRUE leader and try something a little progressive for once, how about taking a stance and agreeing to forgo the use of the vehicle ‘perk?’ I’m sure Fung and Fogarty have their own personal vehicles, and in some cases they may even have more than one car.

    I’m not sure I understand your comment that the mayor’s car needs to be a ‘symbol’ of the mayoral office. What does that mean exactly? I think that kind of thinking is what is wrong with the city of Cranston. Why should someone in high public office have a car that is ‘nicer’ than what everyone else drives? Yes, it should be reliable and in good condition, but it doesn’t need to be a luxury vehicle.

    How about a mayoral candidate that will lead by example? How about a mayor with such strong leadership qualities, that they forgo the use of a taxpayer-funded vehicle because the city of Cranston cannot afford it. How about a mayor that instead of talking about being ‘green’ that he or she actually drives one of the most energy-efficient vehicles available?

    How about an attitude from our candidates that says “do as I do, not as I say?”

    Jess, maybe this is what you meant when you said that the mayor’s car should be representative of their stature in office. If so, we are in agreement.

  40. I agree with JFC. $9,000 IS a lot of money and while it may not be a lot within the context of a $230 million budget, it is the collective amount of many $9,000 expenditures that add up. Even more likely are hundreds of expenses that are $5,000 or less. After all, what’s the big deal about a $1,000 expense when your budget is $230 million, right?

    Again, this is the kind of mentality that gets people into trouble fiscally. People, businesses, and governments don’t typically grow broke due to big-ticket expenditures. It’s always the multitude of tiny expenses that are often overlooked or dismissed as insignificant.

    I would like to provide a personal experience to support my comments. Please bear with me……

    I had a conversation with a neighbor a few years back and he had mentioned that he was having difficulties. I inquired about his expenses (he is a typical hard-working ‘blue collar’ kind of guy). He and his wife were both smokers and smoked a pack a day between the two of them. He bought two Dunkin Donuts coffees every single day and also bought lunch at least three days a week. They also subscribed to HBO at $15/month.

    Well, no wonder he was in such a financial mess! If a pack of cigarettes is $5.75, it adds up to $172.50/month. Two coffees a day (with tip) is $5.00, which adds up to $150/month. Lunch is about $5.00 (he said he typically eats at D’Angelos), at 3 days per week that adds up to $60 per month.

    OK. So, my neighbor is spending nearly $400 per month on cigarettes, coffee, and lunch. This equated to 15% of their family’s monthly net income. Is it any wonder why they cannot get ahead?

    My larger point here is that both negative and positive financial situations aren’t derived from large expenditures or big-ticket sales.

    In this case, my neighbor is becoming poorer one $2.00 coffee at a time, while Dunkin Donuts is becoming richer one $2.00 coffee at a time.

    Let’s change our mentality so that every $9,000 expense is treated with the same scrutiny as a $90,000 expense.

  41. One of the “duties” of the mayor is “the enforcement of the laws of the state and ordinances of the city,â€?. A minivan is the ultimate undercover vehicle. Maybe we won’t see so many illegal turns and accidents if people knew that the minivan behind them might have the authority to issue them a ticket. Does anyone have the history on how many Mayors actually issued a ticket? Did they actually pull the person over, or call in a “marked” vehicle?

    $9000 is not a paltry figure- http://cpsed.net/super/BUDGET%2005-06.pdf- link to the 2005-2006 school budget- (not sure where they keep the current budget)look at how many items are below the $9000 figure that the schools could not do without. Not everyone in the city may have followed the details or the reason for the $9000 expense, but go and tell the kids that their will be no coaches for baseball, or no cleaning supplies for schools, and I am sure a few more people will speak up.

    Here is a little saying I heard today “progress requires change, but not all changes drive progress”

  42. Ed:

    As far as I know, the mayor is not empowered with arrest duties, beyond those typically called “citizens’ arrest.” Though your idea of using a private vehicle for “undercover” work is intriguing.

    Also, using the school budget as basis for your stance on small-ticket items is somewhat beside the point. The reason school sports and cleaning supplies have been cut is simple: the school board negotiated a giveaway contract and kept its fiscal impact secret from the city until it was negotiated. The city is standing up to the spend-and-sue tactics of the school department (finally) and demanding better financial management.

    A $9,000 car repair bill was not what drained the school budget — and I hope “the kids” aren’t given the impression that the city is somehow to blame for the school committee’s mismanagement.

    And if I can add one more note, it’s unfortunate that the school committee elimination resolution will not make it to the ballot this November. Here’s the Herald story:

    http://www.cranstononline.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=6860&Itemid=30

    Still, it’s encouraging to know that Paula McFarland supports Council approval of school contracts — we’ll see if this interim measure can happen.

  43. Voltaire said “the perfect is the enemy of the good.”

    Jesse, by holding out for the big “pie in the sky” reform, you’re needlessly dismissing small, but valid opportunities. No, $9,000 ain’t gonna close the budget gap, but you got to start someplace. How many other such perks are we paying for? Start with the mayor’s car, move on to cell phones, office remodelings…at some point it will start to add up.

    And maybe it will set a tone. That’s the concept of “leadership.” As someone who works in the corporate world, I can attest first-hand that what the leader does–or doesn’t do–really sets a tone for the rest of the company. Leaders lead. They set an example.

    If Cindy wins and gives up the car, then she has moral leverage to go after others. $9k here, $10k there, it accumulates. And then maybe it starts putting other feet to the fire for the bigger stuff.

    Above all, it’s a change in attitude. In the “corporate culture” of the city. And this city desperately needs a change in its corporate culture. Changes like these can be powerful motivators, if used properly.

    I agree that your suggestions would save a lot more money. But your suggestions will never come to pass without a series–perhaps a long series–of smaller, intermediate steps. By holding out for the perfect, you’re precluding the good.

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