POLITICAL

Political Winds: Archetto plans citywide council bid

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Paul Archetto, who represented Ward 3 on the City Council for five terms before winning a seat on the School Committee in the 2018 election, has announced his candidacy for a citywide council seat.

“There’s kind of some unfinished business I had that I want to get through,” Archetto, a Democrat, said Monday.

Archetto, 59, is a professor at the Community College of Rhode Island. He has served in a number of elected offices during the past three decades, including as a member of the state House of Representatives from 1991 to 1997.

He was elected to the city’s School Committee in 2004 before winning the Ward 3 council seat in 2008. Unable to seek reelection in 2018 due to term limits, he successfully sought the Ward 3 seat on the School Committee.

In a Sunday statement announcing his candidacy, Archetto points to various issues and accomplishments from his time in public office, including work “on reforming a corrupt Cranston Police Department” in the wake of the so-called “Ticketgate” scandal in late 2013.

“Paul also sponsored and passed an ordinance allowing disabled Cranston Veterans additional property tax deductions,” the statement reads. “Paul also prevented valuable historic Civil War Cannons from being removed from The Governor Sprague Mansion Museum and sent to The R.I. Armory by The Rhode Island National Guard.”

During his most recent term on the School Committee, the statement reads, Archetto “voted to consolidate and downsize the number of school buildings saving the Cranston Taxpayers around $550,000.”

“Paul is committed to helping small businesses succeed in Cranston,” the statement reads. “Also, to having a cleaner city by reducing the amount of debris along our city sidewalks, parks, and bike paths. To funding education for our children properly and continuing to support our outstanding city services.”

During a brief interview Monday, Archetto also said he hopes to focus on renegotiating the city’s contract with Waste Management if reelected to the council. He specifically criticized the cost associated with the disposal of large, bulky waste items, which he said is lower in other Rhode Island communities.

Archetto said he also hopes to play a role in overseeing the ambitious five-year facilities project proposed by Cranston Public Schools. A $147 million bond question to fund the plan is slated to go before voters in November.

“I think there’s going to be some oversight needed on the council’s end to see how that money's being spent,” he said.

Archetto becomes the first announced Democratic candidate for the three citywide seats on the council. Republican Robert Ferri announced his candidacy last year.

All three citywide seats figure to be open in November, with all of their current occupants – Republican Council President Michael Farina, Republican Citywide Councilman Ken Hopkins and Democratic Citywide Councilman Steve Stycos – have declared their candidacy for mayor.

Stycos is the only announced Democratic candidate for mayor at this point, although Maria Bucci, a former Ward 4 councilwoman, is believed to be eying a run.

Archetto on Monday said he is unsure whether there will be a Democratic mayoral primary, and he is not yet backing any candidate.

“I’m just going to wait it out a little bit,” he said.

Donegan outlines legislative priorities

First-term Ward 3 Councilman John Donegan has not yet made a formal announcement regarding his reelection plans.

But whenever that comes, he said, it will not change what has been a consistent approach – one focused on responding to the needs of constituents, and which he has ramped up since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“To be honest, I don’t think I stopped running … I feel like I’ve continuously been in campaign mode,” he said.

Donegan has proposed a slew of legislation related to the current crisis, including several measures developed jointly with other members of the City Council from both sides of the aisle. He recently released a video on social media outlining the various proposals and call on elected leaders at all levels of government to take action that will help those most affected by the pandemic.

In the video, he says: “To all of you who are suffering, and I know that there are many, you need more than thoughts and prayers. You need action. And this crisis requires a robust response at every level of government.”

During a Monday phone interview, he added: “One of the silver linings of this is … I’ve had a lot of time to read and write and research. There’s a lot of people struggling throughout the state and here in Cranston.”

One measure, which received the unanimous backing of the council’s Finance Committee last week, seeks to waive interest, late fees and penalties for fourth-quarter city tax and sewer payments. That proposal, which was drafted in consultation with the administration and other council members, is poised for passage before the full council later this month.

Another proposal heard before the Finance Committee, which Donegan cosponsored with Citywide Councilman Steve Stycos, seeks to provide one week of sick time to all city employees, including part-timers. It was continued to next month’s committee meeting.

“Every worker deserves paid sick time … I think that this pandemic has highlighted that,” Donegan said, noting that paid sick time guaranteed through the federal CARES Act comes with an expiration date.

Other proposals will be heard during upcoming committee and council meetings. Donegan and Ward 4 Councilman Ed Brady have cosponsored a measure that would cap the fees that third-party food delivery services can charge restaurants at 10 percent. It was also require that such services disclose the availability of any in-house delivery options. It is scheduled to go before the council’s Ordinance Committee on May 14.

Donegan said the issue of service charges from apps such as Grubhub came onto his radar after a discussion with the owners of Bowntown Burgers & BBQ. As it stands, he said, the fees can be as high as 30 percent – a major expense for eateries, and which precludes some establishments from using third-party delivery services.

Donegan said he reached out to Brady, who is a restaurateur, to help develop the proposed ordinance. He has also received support from other business owners and the Rhode Island Hospitality Association.

“[Brady and I have] become close over the last year and half … I’m glad that we can do something together to try to help local businesses,” Donegan said.

Donegan and Stycos have also teamed up for another proposal meant to support local businesses – one that would establish new rules providing preference to Cranston-based businesses in the city’s purchasing and contracting. The councilman said it is based on a similar measure adopted in Cleveland, Ohio, and it would also incentivize the city to do business with enterprises owned by women and members of minority groups. That proposal has yet to be formally introduced.

In his video, Donegan – who is among the growing ranks of progressive elected officials on the municipal and state levels – called on the state’s leadership to take more significant action to assist those affected by the pandemic and its economic fallout.

“People are suffering, and we need our state leaders to take action. That’s why I’m calling on the governor and our General Assembly to take action to suspend rent, mortgages and student loan payments,” he said.

Regardless of where residents stand politically, Donegan said he hopes the public is active and engaged locally in what promises to be a highly unorthodox campaign ahead.

“Wherever you fall on the spectrum, I think it’s important that people pay attention to local elections … Everyone should find someone who’s running in Cranston and give them a call and talk about the issues,” he said.

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