Democrats make case ahead of mayoral primary

Posted 9/3/20

The three Democratic candidates for mayor shared their thoughts on a range of issues and outlined their respective visions for the city during a livestreamed debate last week. The 90-minute forum, held at the Cranston Public Library's

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Democrats make case ahead of mayoral primary


The three Democratic candidates for mayor shared their thoughts on a range of issues and outlined their respective visions for the city during a livestreamed debate last week.

The 90-minute forum, held at the Cranston Public Library’s Central Library, showcased the differences in style – and, in several instances, the similarities on policy – among Maria Bucci, Adam Carbone and Citywide Councilman Steve Stycos ahead of the Sept. 8 primary.

Carbone’s unique approach to the race was on full display, as he wore a hot dog costume and bright yellow hat during the event. The colorful presentation – punctuated by frequent puns – gave way at times to a more serious message about voter engagement and bridging partisan gaps.

“I’m an entertainer. I’m an actor, a comedian, a film producer, a nobody. But I’m going to be honest, modest and fair as mayor,” he said, adding: “Why am I running? Well, the city, frankly, is in a pickle. As mayor, I can turn all this around and have fun while doing it. This is what being mayor means to me – it means leadership, it means transparency, it means authenticity, it should mean no empty suit, it should mean no political correctness, it should mean no false promises.”

Bucci, too, framed herself as a consensus builder, saying she has spent the campaign hearing directly from voters and hopes to chart a new course for Cranston. “What sets me apart from the other candidates,” she said, “is my ability to build teams.”

“From my first days on the council as a young woman with ideas on how to improve Cranston, I heard, ‘That’s not how we do things.’ And on too many of those issues, we are still facing the same problems as 15 years ago,” she said, adding: “Cranston deserves better, and this year, we have an opportunity to set a new direction.”

Stycos, meanwhile, touted his nearly 20-year record in local government and said that experience will allow him to guide the city through difficult financial times ahead.

“I’ve followed policy and attempted to shape it, and I want to very much support the public schools,” he said during his opening remarks.

Later, during his closing statement, he recounted some of his family’s history, including the stories of a grandfather who immigrated from Turkey and several relatives whose lives were touched by World War II. That, he said, instilled in him a sense of how deeply people’s lives are “shaped by politics.”

The Democratic race has lacked the kind of sparring that has often characterized the Republican contest between City Council President Michael Farina and Citywide Councilman Ken Hopkins. That largely remained the case during last week’s debate, with the candidates overwhelmingly focusing on their own case to voters and withholding overt criticism of their opponents.

There were some subtle barbs, however.

“Being mayor is about more than a set of policies and proposed ordinances. It’s about fighting for the city’s success every single day,” Bucci said during her opening statement.

In her closing, she added: “There can be no doubt that we are facing difficult times. While some candidates may consider using property taxes to avoid difficult decisions, this is just not the time to talk about raising taxes.”

Stycos, meanwhile, said in his closing pitch to votes: “Do not judge people by what they say. Do not judge politicians by what they say. Judge them by what they’ve done.”

Carbone – who described himself as “Libertarian at heart” and a “political outsider” – offered a broader critique, reiterating his plans to create a new political entity known as the Bagel & Cream Cheese Party. He spoke of “smashing the duopoly” of the two major political parties, even as he pledged to “ban pasta salad from the city” and “fill the Budlong Pool with Jell-O.”

“I come into this race with totally outside views – views of the disenfranchised youth, views of the ignored citizens of Cranston. People who felt like politicians don’t give them the proper time of day … I’m not the most experienced, but I’m the most real,” he said.

The candidates responded to questions on a long list of issues, including the city’s financial standing, renewable energy, affordable housing, zoning enforcement and concerns among some residents over the effects of 5G technology.

There was wide agreement over the need to make the city’s workforce more reflective of its diverse population. Bucci and Stycos also each called for the hiring of additional Spanish-speaking staff at City Hall.

“If you go in the post office, there are all kinds of people working there. If you go in a bank, there are all kinds of people working there,” Stycos said. “But if you go in City Hall, it’s a very limited segment of the population that’s employed there. And the same goes for the public schools.”

All three hopefuls said they have concerns over the reopening of public schools. Stycos spoke of potential issues with ventilation in many of the city’s aging school buildings, and Carbone called for “distance learning until we can figure out a solid plan.”

“We have to make sure we get this right,” Bucci said, calling for a plan that provides more certainty for families and educators.

Bucci and Carbone both said bringing a Costco to Cranston would be an economic boon to the city, although each acknowledged they view the current Mulligan’s Island property as the wrong place for such a development.

“Let’s find a place for Costco. Let’s find a place where they fit,” Bucci said.

Stycos reiterated his previous criticism of the proposal as presented, describing it as the “opposite of smart growth.”

Asked about the pay raise the City Council approved last year for the next mayor – which will bring the mayor’s compensation from roughly $80,000 to $105,000 – Stycos said he would decline the increase, which he opposed during the council’s debate. Carbone went a step further, saying he would return the increase along with half of the current salary.

Bucci said she believes the increase should have gone before voters as a ballot question.

“I don’t understand how three of the candidates running for mayor are voting on a pay raise,” she said. “I think the simple solution for that was to put it on the ballot.”

One exchange toward the end of the event perhaps best highlighted the unique dynamic Carbone’s presence brought to the proceedings. At one point, Carbone questioned Stycos about an ordinance the councilman proposed several years ago regarding the keeping of backyard chickens.

His concern? That the measure did not include provisions for ducks. After all, Carbone said, he has received the endorsement of the “Meshanticut Lake duck union.”

Stycos responded by saying the ordinance, which was vetoed by Mayor Allan Fung, would have created formal guidelines for an activity that is currently unregulated. Bucci, when asked, declined to weigh in on the topic.

Last week’s debate was cosponsored by the Cranston Herald and the Cranston Public Library. Both it and the Republican primary debate can be viewed on the Herald and library Facebook pages, as well as the library’s YouTube channel.


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