By EMMA BARTLETT Incumbent City Council members John Donegan and Jessica Marino have announced they are seeking reelection. Donegan first ran for City Council in 2018 at 27 years old. As one of the youngest people to be elected to the City Council in
Incumbent City Council members John Donegan and Jessica Marino have announced they are seeking reelection.
Donegan first ran for City Council in 2018 at 27 years old. As one of the youngest people to be elected to the City Council in decades, Donegan is currently serving his second term and will continue running as a Democrat in the upcoming election.
Donegan’s decision to seek office began with an open seat and the feeling that the city needed younger and more progressive leadership. Even before making a run for City Council, Donegan would knock on doors and talk with residents about their vision for the city and what they'd like to see for Ward 3 (which is where Donegan resides).
“If you talk to the people, they share a sentiment that it’s [Ward 3] a forgotten part of the city – not the same investment or attention,” said Donegan.
From going house to house, one doorstep conversation led to an hour-long talk, which sparked the idea for the splash pad initiative that Donegan introduced once he was on City Council. This endeavor includes a partnership with Cranston Parks and Recreation and Cranston YMCA, Cranston family Center and Cranston Health Equity Zone. Since its introduction, the project has gone through many locations and proposals and, if reelected, Donegan wants to see the project through.
Donegan also advocated for establishing a community garden at Arlington Elementary where residents could grow flowers and vegetables in order to give people better access to healthy foods – especially those in lower-income areas. He has added amendments for the rodent control enforcement and helped to secure money to help low income folks afford park and rec programs. More recently, Donegan and Councilwoman Marino worked on an ordinance to make Cranston’s street paving list public.
“People want to know this information,” said Donegan, saying at times it is difficult to find out which roads are being paved. When constituents asked which roads would be worked on, Donegan had to go through some hoops to figure it out. Since there is a sizable amount of money from the budget that goes toward road paving, Donegan believes the public should know what roads the money is going toward.
“Cranston has so much to offer and that's all well and great, but there is always more we can do. As great as Cranston is, there are many people in our community who are facing significant challenges,” Donegan said.
On a usual day, Donegan wakes up at 5 a.m. and goes to his day job where he works as a history teacher in Pawtucket. Before he leaves, he checks his email to see if there are messages from constituents. After returning from work, he spends a good portion of the evening researching proposals he’d like to work on and will draft legislation.
“A lot of my day – whether it’s being a teacher or on city council – it’s about serving our community,” Donegan said.
After all this, he ends the night with a walk with his wife and dog – followed by binge watching a show on TV.
If reelected, Donegan would like to continue ensuring equitable recovery from COVID-19 as well as ensuring the money the city receives is invested to address issues facing the city. One focus is on public health and investing in housing that is not just more affordable, but safer and up to code. This includes replacing things like lead piping and rethinking building and zoning codes to create healthy habitats.
“Our ward 3 has such a beautiful diversity of every walk of life and it’s those stories that you hear when knocking on doors that’s what keeps you going and being on the council is rewarding,” Donegan said.
As for what Donegan is able to bring to the table, he references his ability to listen consciously and act; he holds monthly meetings that bring neighbors together to discuss issues at hand. Donegan’s tremendous work ethic also plays a role in his ability to put forth a vast number of proposals that have been passed and implemented. He cites working hard and seeking compassionate solutions to help get things accomplished.
Donegan works as a history teacher in Pawtucket and has lived in Cranston since he was six months old -- moving to Ward 3 at age 10. After graduating from Assumption College with a degree in History and Philosophy. He went on to earn a Master’s degree in American and Modern European History at Providence College in 2016. Donegan and his wife decided to buy a home and grow their roots in Cranston. Growing up, Donegan was involved in CLCF sports, boy scouts and was a parishioner of St. Ann’s Church.
Jessica Marino is also seeking reelection. As a citywide councilwoman in her first term, Marino has always been an active constituent within Cranston and decided to run after seeing a number of vacant seats on City Council and being concerned about who would be taking their places. In the 2022 election, she will continue running as a democrat.
“I firmly believe that if you want better for your community, then you need to be an active participant in your community which is why I am seeking to run for Citywide City Council once again,” wrote Marino in a reelection announcement on Jan. 17.
In the past year, Marino sponsored legislation that promoted transparency in government. This included an ordinance requiring City Council meetings to be videotaped and made available online to the public since constituents may not always have the opportunity to attend meetings.
“Now they can see and hear it on their own time,” Marino said.
Marino also sponsored an ordinance, calling for a publicly accessible list that shows which city streets are to be paved. Additionally, she has fought for fiscally conservative spending and will continue this work to ensure that the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds are spent appropriately. Marino has already sponsored a resolution, which would engage the public on how the City allocates and spends the $42.6 million ARPA funds.
As a civil litigation defense attorney by day, Marino will respond to constituents’ messages in the evening or during the weekend. Finding answers to residents’ questions entails reaching out to the administration while other concerns can lead to creating ordinances that will help Cranston’s citizens. Marino is also a part of the finance committee, rules committee and public works committee.
“Being on city council is a part-time job that is essentially a full-time job,” Marino said.
Marino mentioned how she is always putting people’s needs first – whether it be in her job or as a mother.
“It is second nature to me to place others above myself,” Marino said.
Marino said that in the past constituents may have felt under-represented. Marino recalled how she has felt similar ways at times when she was a constituent. Therefore, she prides herself on echoing residents’ concerns. While not every question can be answered or solved, communicating, being honest and giving it your best effort together can be the best course of action.
If reelected, Marino’s biggest concern is making sure ARPA funds are spent in a responsible way. On top of this, she wants to continue being responsive and accessible to community members.
“I also do not want to see taxes increase. Right now there is enough unpredictability and inflation in the economy, and I don’t want to put more hardship on people,” Marino said.
Marino said the most memorable part of being on City Council was the creation of the diversity committee, which is to give advice on how the City can better reflect diversity in city policies and departments. At the same time, the committee has become a big frustration since Marino said the committee hasn’t done anything notable yet.
“Our community needs to have elected officials who respect the community as a whole and strive to make improvements in a fiscally responsible way. I am humbled and privileged that you chose me to serve as your Citywide City Councilwoman,” said Marino.
Marino has lived in Cranston with her husband and children for the past 23 years. Her kids attend Cranston Public Schools and Marino works as a civil litigation defense attorney. As someone who is passionate about her community, Marino seeks to represent the concerns of Cranston residents with dialogue, honesty, integrity and action.
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