As Michael Favicchio pursues a second term as the Ward 6 City Councilman, he is being challenged by first-time candidate and lifelong Cranston resident Stacy DiCola.
Favicchio defeated incumbent Michelle Bergin in 2010, winning nearly 53 percent of the vote in a series of significant wins for Cranston Republicans. In that election, Allan Fung defeated opponent Richard Tomlins in a landslide, and the council picked up three Republican seats – including Ward 6.
Favicchio hopes to hold on to his seat, pledging to address constituent issues as they arise. He has found that constituents are most concerned with day-to-day operations of the city, including city services and the maintenance of neighborhoods.
Keeping the ward clean and safe, in particular, has been a concern for Favicchio.
“Minimum housing is something I’ve been trying to work on consistently, trying to impact the fines that are imposed on minimum housing violations,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of constituent complaints about property not being kept up. I've sat down with the director of minimum housing and the administration to work on solving that problem.”
While even finding a responsible party can be a challenge, Favicchio has had some success on implementing and collecting fines. Still, he says the city has roughly $800,000 in uncollected fines due its way, hence a resolution the council passed that urges Congress to pass legislation allowing tax refunds to cover municipal and state court fines. Locally, he would also like to appoint a board in the near future to oversee appeals of minimum housing issues, helping to speed up the process.
If re-elected, Favicchio said this issue would remain a priority.
“I would continue in my minimum housing issues and budgetary issues will be critical. Those are behind the scenes issues but they're pretty important to a lot of people,” he said.
Other perceived victories for Favicchio have included creating diversity on boards and commissions, and holding the line on taxes this year. In his first term, he learned quickly that cutting costs is easier said than done.
“It’s difficult to find ways to cut expenses. I think you learn quite a bit about finances once you sit through 10 or 15 finance committee meetings,” he said.
Consolidation is likewise challenging to implement, he added.
“It’s easy to talk about, it's very difficult to implement,” he said. “Sometimes it isn't cheaper. That's probably something I realized early on. It's a great idea but you have to really research the issues.”
In terms of cost cutting, however, the councilman believes the city needs to carefully review contracts as they come to the table, and also needs to keep a handle on pension costs.
“We want to try to work on the pension issues for the long-term. That’s going to stay with us for a while so we have to try to attack that and maintain the budget at level funding if we can,” he said.
Favicchio says a positive aspect of the budget has been commercial growth, and in Ward 6 in particular. He recognizes that more can be done to make the city and state business friendly, but believes Cranston is headed in the right direction.
“With the commercial development in my ward, we're fortunate to have some really good things coming into play with Garden City and Chapel View. There is some good news coming as far as more commercial tenants,” he said.
Favicchio cited Alex & Ani, Cadence and Taco, Inc., as examples of positive business growth. He hopes that keeping these manufacturing companies in the state will spark additional development down the line.
“That’s one of the key areas, is making our community business-friendly. In the end, it provides more jobs for local people and it also keeps property values up because of the desirability of living here,” he said.
Favicchio added that the city must play to its strengths, emphasizing its central location, quality services and amenities. He would like to continue working with the city’s Economic Development department to promote local business. He has also networked with contacts in education in the hopes of setting up a partnership in the future between the city and Rhode Island colleges.
“I’d like to bring the Economic Development Department together with the various colleges and universities in Rhode Island to see if we can get the business community in Cranston active in bidding for projects and bidding for jobs,” he said. “Their budgets are huge and they're granting business contracts to many businesses out of state for services that can be rendered by local companies.”
DiCola is new to politics, but the 35-year-old has a solid idea of what she believes is right for the city. She wants to preserve the quality of life that her family and neighbors have become accustomed to in Cranston.
“I grew up loving Cranston. I still love Cranston. I want to make sure our money is spent wisely and the future of Cranston is still there,” she said. “It is time for me to give back.”
Preservation of services is one of her major priorities, but DiCola said this must be done in a cost-effective way. In her campaigning so far, she has found that taxes are a constant concern for constituents.
“Every time I knock on a door, I hear about spending in the city and how we can shrink down spending on our city. I would like to try to ensure that our tax money is being spent wisely,” she said.
DiCola doesn’t know the ins and outs of the budget yet, but she pledged to examine city spending and consider any cost-saving proposals as long as they did not diminish services like snow plowing or public safety. While Dean Estates is not the first Cranston neighborhood to come to mind when considering crime risk, DiCola said people should not be so quick to judge based on the socioeconomic status of homeowners there.
“That doesn’t mean they don’t need a police presence,” she said.
Also among the concerns of the constituents she has met so far is the growing rat problem in Cranston. While Ward 6 has not faced the severity of problems seen in Ward 2, she says neighbors are concerned that if left unattended, the infestation could spread.
City infrastructure is another priority for DiCola and the residents of Ward 6.
“The paving of roads is a big concern. I have a lot of constituents down by the prison area that feel that their roads are neglected and haven’t been maintained – same thing in Garden City,” she said.
In Garden City in particular, not only the condition of roads, but also the traffic on them, is a sticking point. The more she hears from constituents, the more ideas DiCola has to bring to the City Council.
“My agenda is based on what my constituents have been telling me as I’ve been walking,” she said.
DiCola works as the director of public information for the Secretary of State’s office. Her experience there has shown her how important transparency is, and she wants to bring those policies to local government.
“I am a big proponent of making [sure] that everything on our local level is open to the public. If we’re doing things the way we’re supposed to, there shouldn’t be anything hidden,” she said.
DiCola suggests making a City Council email newsletter that gives residents the highlights of what is happening in the city, and also gives them the chance to offer feedback. If the council better engages constituents, she believes these residents will be more active in the process.
“It’ll give [people] the opportunity to see what’s going on,” she said. “It’ll prompt them to come, hopefully, and give witness to what they care about.”