By EMMA BARTLETT Cranston's current City Council members took office on Jan. 2, 2021, and their terms are set to expire on Jan. 2, 2023. With the end date closing in just under a year, the line up of candidates for City Council is taking shape. Two
Cranston’s current City Council members took office on Jan. 2, 2021, and their terms are set to expire on Jan. 2, 2023. With the end date closing in just under a year, the line up of candidates for City Council is taking shape. Two incumbents, Robert Ferri and Nicole Renzulli have formally declared their candidacies.
Ferri announced his bid Oct. 13 at an event at the Santa Maria DiPrata Club. Ferri, who has lived in Cranston for over 35 years, was first elected to the council in the November 2020. Always having the goal to run for local office, Ferri took that leap after assisting in Ken Hopkins’ 2016 campaign. Ferri currently serves as one of three city-wide Council Members and ran as a Republican during his first term. With the past year of experience behind him, Ferri hopes to continue the work he has done on the council. He did not declare what party label, if any, he would run under.
Ferri said one of his greatest attributes is that he looks at the issues presented to him and makes decisions based on the facts, stating in his Oct. 13 speech that he “never makes a decision based on pressure or party.”
In an interview on Jan. 6, Ferri explained that when he sees an issue or an ordinance coming up, he talks to friends and constituents around him to form a better idea of how others feel about the topic. Usually, this includes calling two other council people (commonly Jessica Marino and John Donegan).
“I’ll ask them their opinions on things and they’ll ask me my opinions, and we try and give each other an education on how we feel about something ahead of time without breaking open meeting violations,” Ferri said.
Additionally, while City Council members belong to different parties, Ferri says he focuses less on the political affiliation and more on accomplishing tasks and making the city a better place for people to live. This leads to Ferri voting on Republican issues 50 percent of the time and Democratic issues the other half.
“I don’t look at them [council people] as ‘you’re a Democrat and I’m a Republican.’ I look at them as someone who has the same goal I have,” Ferri said.
For Ferri, an average day as a councilman starts with checking his email and texts to answer messages from constituents and repeating that process later in the day. During the week, he usually receives 10 to 15 calls concerning issues such as trash, snow plowing, street paving and sidewalks; Ferri also gives the public community updates on Facebook.
“I don’t let things go more than twenty-four hours without being answered,” said Ferri. “Every call I get, no matter what it is, who it is, how silly it may seem, I answer everyone’s call and I try to help them as much as I can. Sometimes I have to tell them that I am unable to help them, but they always appreciate that you look into it or call them back.”
Ferri is also on five City Council committees including Safety Services, Ordinances and Claims; he is the Public Works Committee Chair and Finance Committee Vice Chair.
If re-elected for City Council, Ferri would like to achieve a good solid budget.
“The budget process last year was new to most of the council people and although we did do a thorough job, we made some changes. I really want to do a deep dive this coming budget and make sure we’re spending the money on the right things.”
Ferri is also looking to make sure the $42.6 million ARPA (American Rescue Act Plan) money that the federal government gave Cranston is spent on the right things. He introduced a resolution which has passed and involves constituents in the decision making process on how the ARPA money will be spent.
“This is like a once in a lifetime thing that the government gave the city. We got to make sure we spend it on what is really needed and what people want,” Ferri said.
Additionally, the council is looking to make improvements to the bike path, and Ferri is advocating for putting crossing signals on the bike path. Making sure playgrounds are in good condition and tended to regularly is a topic he’d like to address as well as letting people know which city roads are being paved.
“I feel as an elected official that when someone calls you up when they have a problem, you have to do everything in your power to drag them across the finish line,” Ferri said.
Overall, Ferri is passionate about his position on the council.
“I cherish the responsibility that has been put upon me, and it means a lot to me that I’m in a position that helps affect the lives of 80,000 people…I really feel that it’s important you take it as a commitment and I never take it for granted,” Ferri said.
Growing up in Providence, Rhode Island, Ferri graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a business degree and earned a master’s in teaching from Johnson and Wales University. Ferri and his wife, Denise, raised their family in Cranston – with their kids attending Cranston Public Schools. Ferri also coached the CLCF recreation league, and prior to his position on the City Council, Ferri ran his own business (Town Hall Lanes) in Johnston. Ferri hopes to see future generations of Cranston families enjoy the same quality of life he had over the last three decades.
In a Jan. 4 press release, Nicole Renzulli announced her re-election bid to Cranston’s City Council. As a city-wide Councilwoman who was elected in November 2020, Renzulli is running as a Republican.
Renzulli’s original decision to run for a spot on City Council came during the start of Covid-19. She thought the virus might become a crisis and, with people continuing to ask if she’d consider running, Renzulli determined the timing was right and was ready to take on that leadership role.
“The pandemic has created uncertainty and economic worries for so many,” said Renzulli in her Jan. 4 press release. “As a single mother of three, I understand the day-to-day challenges of navigating through these uncertain times. I believe that now more than ever, we need leaders who show compassion, understanding and innovation to see us through to better days.”
During her time on City Council, Renzulli has worked with Mayor Hopkins to help deliver a balanced budget that held the line on taxes and controlled spending. She also noted working well across the aisle on projects, and her priorities include maintaining the City’s sound infrastructure and fiscal integrity while effectively delivering quality, inclusive public education, superior public safety, suitable housing and enhancing Cranston’s special quality of life.
She has also strongly advocated for students, taxpayers and business owners.
“I was the first council member to speak in favor of masking in schools,” Renzulli said.
Believing that constituents want council members to have a relationship with the school department, Renzulli attends school committee meetings and has developed a relationship with the committee. Renzulli has been involved with youth sports and worked with the Parks and Recreation Department on aspects such as upgrading playgrounds.
As for taxes, Renzulli works with the administration and hones in on what money is being spent on by researching it and never being afraid to ask questions.
While day-to-day tasks as a councilwoman change, Renzulli spends time responding to constituents’ emails and phone calls – using Facebook as a means to communicate with the community. As the Chairwoman of the Safety Services & Licensing Committee, she will also receive many questions from businesses and clerks. Treating the position as a fulltime job, Renzulli is present for ribbon cutting ceremonies, school award ceremonies and is an active member in the Cranston community.
“I really think people are looking for leadership and real people to do it,” Renzulli said.
If re-elected, Renzulli would like to continue working across the aisle and be heavily involved in how the ARPA money is spent. She wants to ensure that the city has a good return on investment from these funds.
Renzulli wants to help Cranston businesses recover economically from the pandemic and maintain the City’s strong financial position and top credit rating. Additionally, she is looking at upgrading technology within many of the departments and concentrating on the residents’ daily needs.
“I would love to see a 311 in Cranston,” Renzulli said, explaining how 311, the non-emergency phone number for local government, now comes in the form of an app and is popular in other cities, like Providence. The app works two ways, allowing users to fill out information for permits and find out more about the city – it’s like an extension to a city’s website. Additionally, cities can send out alerts for things like trash delays, and anyone with the app will receive the messages.
“More people are involved on the internet and looking for information that way,” Renzulli said.
Mayor Hopkins has also endorsed Renzulli.
“Throughout our time in office, Nicole has been an incredible partner on the City Council. Nicole represents a new generation of leadership in our City. I know that Nicole works tirelessly to serve all Cranston residents, and that’s why I am proud to support her for re-election,” said Hopkins in a statement on Jan. 4.
Renzulli is a life-long Cranston resident, who attended Stone Hill and Hope Highlands Elementary Schools, Western Hills Middle School and Cranston High School West. Renzulli graduated from Florida State University in 2005 with a bachelor’s in English and a minor in Communications. She worked at Rhode Island’s health Insurance Commissioner where she learned more about government and working with different state departments. Renzulli now raises her three children in Cranston as well and is a track and cross-country coach at Western Hills Middle School and Cranston High School West.
“It has been an honor to serve Cranston residents over the past year,” said Councilwoman Renzulli in a press release. “I’m proud of what we have been able to accomplish together during my short time in office, but I also believe there is much more work that needs to be done, which is why I am excited to announce that I will be running for re-election. I’m nowhere near finished.” According to City Councilman Matthew Reilly, there are several individuals contemplating running for City Council as republican candidates; more information is to come with announcements most likely occurring in February or March. On the Democrat side, Maria Bucci said there are a lot of people reaching out and who would like to run – especially new individuals. Jessica Marino will also be running again.
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