The candidates for Ward 6 City Council point to commercial development at Sockanosset Cross Road, small business growth, and school improvements as key challenges they’ll be face if elected.
Incumbent Councilman Michael Favicchio, who serves as the Council’s Vice President and is seeking his fifth term, is being challenged by 23 year-old Stephen Tranghese, a graduate student studying international relations at the University of Rhode Island who says he’s looking to bring a fresh voice to Cranston politics.
“I really think that if people go out and work hard and campaign, you can get the change you want,” said Tranghese about deciding to run. “I wanted to go out and do it myself.”
Favicchio said he’s running for a fifth term to “finish what he started,” pointing to a few actions he’s taken on the Council, including passing a $5,000 tax exemption on tangible business property, like computer desks and copy machines, for small businesses in the city. He said he’d like to increase that exemption to $10,000 in the hopes of creating a more friendly small business environment in the city.
Favicchio also pointed to the “anti-solicitation” ordinance that currently sits in court, which would ban panhandling in the city, which he said he wants to keep “fighting for” because he believes his constituents to be “overwhelmingly against panhandling.”
Tranghese said he disagreed on this point, asserting that banning panhandling doesn’t “improve the lives” of homeless people, it’s “just a way of keeping them off the streets.”
Commercial development in the Sockanosset Cross Road area, specifically in Chapel View and the former Citizens Bank site, is also a hot-button topic on the minds of Tranghese and Favicchio in this election season.
Tranghese believes that some of the zoning decisions made by the City Council in regards to Garden City were made without truly hearing the concerns of residents, and said that although he thinks it’s important to attract developers, it shouldn’t be “at the sacrifice of the people.”
He added that he doesn’t think, in general, that the Councilors in the city are as responsive as they should be.
“We need people who are willing to go out and do the groundwork,” he said.
Favicchio, meanwhile, said the influx of business into that area is a good thing for the city, and for the state, but one of the challenges that comes with it is traffic.
“The biggest thing I’ve heard, and that we all feel, is we don’t want to be Bald Hill Rd., to be like Warwick and have tremendous traffic jams,” Favicchio said.
He said that the Carpionato Group will “probably come in with a mixed-use proposal for the Citizen’s Bank site.” He added that before they moved to Johnston, there was “2600 cars that came in at 9 and left at 5” and that created a bigger traffic issue on Sockanosset Cross Road. Now, he said, a different type of development “might eliminate some of that problem.”
Favicchio also said that a long-range goal is to get another ramp off of Rte. 37 going into Chapel View, which would help alleviate traffic on the highway. He also said he’d like to see the intersection on Route 2, next to Chapel View, get enlarged and “re-envisioned,” with possibly another right hand turn into Chapel View to “eliminate some of the traffic jams that occur at rush hour.”
He said overall there were a number of road improvements that have been applied for in order to accommodate for the business and traffic in the area.
School safety and building improvements, much like many of the other politicians in this year’s elections citywide, dwells on the minds of Ward 6’s candidates going into the election.
Favicchio said he’s been part of accomplishing certain things on this front already, including forming a school safety sub-committee that he thinks has “familiarized everyone in the city with what’s going on, what’s been done, and what’s on the table.”
He said he’s in agreement with Mayor Allan Fung’s proposal to put a school resource officer in every school because it would “give you a lot of protection,” and he’s happy with the additional social worker and additional resource officers that have already been added into the city’s budget for this year.
Favicchio said that rebuilding the physical structures of the schools is also important for school safety, and in the long-term that needs to be done. However, he said he doesn’t necessarily support the $250 million bond on the ballot this election that would use taxes to help rebuild schools around the state. He said that with 306 schools in Rhode Island it is going to be hard to portion that money equally throughout the state, and that might not even be enough to fix the issues.
“I think we should explore some public-private projects,” he said. “Some different creative ways to finance construction rather than just putting out bonds.”
Tranghese, conversely, said he supported the $250 million bond and is in support of any increased school funding that could come Cranston’s way.
Tranghese also mentioned the carbon monoxide debacle at Cranston East, and used it as a reason why the schools needed to be upgraded as soon as possible.
He also talked about safety in schools, saying that he believes in schools being “gun-free zones,” and he thinks they can be made safer by “increasing funding, making buildings more secure, and bringing in social workers and psychologists.”
In general, Tranghese said he believes the budget could by managed better by the city.
“I think the budget in general needs to be reworked toward things that taxpayers get direct benefits from, like infrastructure, schools, and roads,” he said.
As for the state of the City Council right now, Favicchio thinks there’s certainly some differences between the two groups, but the Republicans and Democrats have “worked well together.
“There’s some partisanship and ideological differences,” he said. “But I don’t think it plays into everything we do. I like being in the majority because you can accomplish certain things you want to do without fear of just being shot down completely. I’ve been on both sides, an extreme minority and a slight majority.”
He added that despite their differences, the Council has a “pretty good group of level-headed people” that have “worked really well together for the last few sessions.”
Tranghese said he’d like to see more Democrats on the Council, not necessarily because he believes the Republicans have done a bad job, but because he thinks the Council isn’t as accountable as they should be, and thinks that Democrats would be more accountable than the Republicans.
In that vein, Tranghese believes that the city needs a more up-to-date website and easier ways for residents to keep in contact with city officials.
As for his plans to beat out Favicchio for Ward 6, Tranghese said he wants to keep developing relationships with the residents in Ward 6.
“I’m going out there and trying to knock on every door and hear everyone’s opinions,” Tranghese said, adding that he’s scheduled all his classes and work on Monday and Tuesday so that he can canvass the rest of the week.