Cranston’s newly elected Democratic City Council members met in caucus on Sunday and elected citywide Councilman-elect John Lanni as the new council president. First-time Councilman Michael Farina, also from a citywide seat, was elected as vice president of the council.
Come January, the Democrats will have a 7-2 majority of the council, giving them the votes to appoint a president and vice president of their choosing. That majority increases the party’s presence on the council, which is currently made up of six Democrats and three Republicans.
Democratic City Committee Chairman Michael Sepe said the decision to elect Lanni was not a difficult one. Ward 5 Councilman Richard Santamaria made the initial nomination, and support was unanimous among caucus members.
“There was a lot of bickering going back and forth; we want to see that stopped,” Sepe said. “I think John will be a calming force. We had two turbulent years, and I think now it’s going to be stable as far as the council meetings.”
Lanni takes the place of current Council President Tony Lupino, who decided not to seek reelection. Lupino’s second-in-command had been Robert Pelletier prior to his resignation. In the wake of Pelletier stepping down, Councilman Emilio Navarro had assumed the role. Pelletier did not win his bid for a citywide council seat, and Navarro also opted not to seek reelection.
John Lanni served on the Cranston City Council for 10 years, ending his tenure as the president. Term limits prohibited him from running again in 2010, but after watching what he believes was a two-year term characterized by infighting, Lanni decided to jump back in the ring this year.
“I’ve always had the approach of working with people instead of against them,” he said. “I think we will have less internal squabbling now. I intend to make sure that everybody’s voice is heard.”
In addition to working with his bipartisan colleagues on the council, Lanni said he looks forward to working closely with the administration to tackle some of the major issues ahead, including pension reform.
“I know the city has some serious problems, and I will work with the administration to the very best of my ability,” he said.
Despite his two-year absence, Lanni is confident he can pick up where he left off and said he is ready for the job. The council president runs meetings and is in charge of keeping members on task and in line with Robert’s Rules of Order.
“I think my record as council president speaks for itself. I have the experience. I think I did a good job when I was council president,” Lanni said.
The newly elected president is also looking forward to working with his vice president, Farina. Although Farina is a first-time council member, he drummed up overwhelming support on the campaign trail. The top citywide vote getter, he earned 15,845 votes – nearly 2,700 more than the next highest candidate.
Sepe said those numbers contributed heavily to the caucus’ support of Farina. Moreover, he sees Farina as a long-term asset for the city’s Democratic Party.
“I think Mike Farina is a comer in the future. He’s one of the building blocks for the Democratic Party down the line,” he said.
At just 34 years old, Farina is the type of candidate Sepe would like to see represent Cranston taxpayers for years to come.
“Mike Farina is young. We have to look to the future to build the party. Some of us have been around an awful long time,” he said.
Farina doesn’t want to get ahead of himself, but he does hope for a future in Cranston politics – potentially even a stab at the mayor’s seat down the line.
“I think they’re trying to grow me as a candidate. I think they see leadership potential in me,” Farina said. “Right now I’m going to do the best I can as a councilman. I think the other goal will, over time, take care of itself.”
Farina believes it was his strong showing in the general election but also his professional background that made him an appealing candidate for vice president.
“I think it’s the fact that my background is corporate finance, I’ve done well in my career and I helped run the campaign for the citywide team,” he said.
Joining the council’s leadership team in January will be Paul Archetto, veteran councilman from Ward 3, who was elected majority leader. As of press time Tuesday, the council’s two Republican members, Don Botts in Ward 2 and Michael Favicchio in Ward 6, had not yet met to name a minority leader.