Citywide Councilman Steve Stycos announced his candidacy for mayor during a Facebook Live event on March 24, citing education, government transparency and accessibility, open space preservation and diversification of the city's
Citywide Councilman Steve Stycos announced his candidacy for mayor during a Facebook Live event on March 24, citing education, government transparency and accessibility, open space preservation and diversification of the city’s workforce as among his top priorities.
“I am running for mayor this year, and I’m running for mayor because we need competent leadership in City Hall that listens to people’s concerns, gets people together, and comes up with an approach to attack problems and come up with ideas to make our city better,” Stycos said at the start of the online broadcast, during which he was joined by his wife, Christine Herbert.
Stycos, 65, is in his fifth term on the City Council. A Democrat, he spent four terms representing Ward 1 before winning his citywide seat in 2018 as the top vote-getter in the field.
Prior to his time on the council, Stycos spent 10 years as a member of the Cranston School Committee. According to a biography on his website, he has resided in Cranston since 1984 and helped to create the Friends of the Pawtuxet organization and the Pawtuxet Village Farmers Market. He currently works as farm manager at Westbay Farm in Warwick, which grows fresh produce for local food pantries.
Unable to seek reelection to his current seat due to term limits, Stycos has long acknowledged mulling a mayoral run and been expected to make a bid for the city’s top elected office. Earlier this month, prior to the emergence of the COVID-19 crisis, he had scheduled a campaign announcement for March 24 at Pub on Park.
That gathering was called off due to the current social distancing mandates, and he announced the campaign kick-off would be held instead via the Facebook Live event on the same day.
After the announcement, Stycos took part in an “ask me anything” session in which he and his wife, Christine Herbert – who is a physician – fielded questions about the campaign, the city and the current crisis.
In terms of specific priorities, Stycos said he intends to “make sure that our schools remain strong.” He noted that both of his children attended the city’s public schools before graduating “with degrees from good colleges, and that’s in large part due to the Cranston schools.”
“We also need to improve our after school programs and our preschool programs so that every child in Cranston gets a good education,” he said.
Stycos also said he is focused on preserving the city’s open space, which is “getting smaller and smaller.” He criticized Mayor Allan Fung’s administration for not pursuing open space grants in recent years and said he additional wants to “improve our parks and to protect the farms that remain in Cranston and the forests.”
Regarding diversity, Stycos noted that people of color make up approximately 23 percent of Cranston’s population but just 3 percent of the city’s workforce.
“We need to encourage and recruit qualified candidates for city jobs from all parts of our city,” he said.
A former chairman of the council’s Finance Committee, Stycos additionally spoke of his intention to “carefully watch how our money is spent … so that every dollar gets a maximum impact in providing services to the residents of our city.”
At other points during the “ask me anything” session, Stycos cited climate change as a “huge problem” that should be addressed locally through the use of electric vehicles when possible and energy efficiency improvements for municipal buildings.
He described himself as a “big advocate of small business.” He said he believes there have been “major problems with code enforcement” in the city in recent years, particularly in cases where residents in specific neighborhoods have experienced quality-of-life issues due to nearby commercial operations.
“We also need to maintain our zoning so that every time some big business comes into town and says, ‘We want to run a Costco,’ or something, and run small, local businesses out of business, we shouldn’t make it easy for them,” he said.
In terms of transparency, Stycos said: “I would work much more closely with the City Council. The current administration, if you raise a question, whether you’re a citizen or a city councilman, it’s referred to different staff members, and you don’t have communication with the mayor … I would hold office hours where people could come in and talk about the problems. And I would go after the problems and either days to people, ‘I don’t think there’s anything we can do about this,’ or come up with a plan to solve them.”
He also spoke of efforts to establish a “cross-Cranston bus” through RIPTA, which he said “would really be a big plus for us.”
Asked how he would run a political campaign at a time of social distancing, self-quarantines and stay-at-home orders, Stycos said: “That’s a really good question, and if you have any ideas, let me know … The mainstay of local campaigns has been door-to-door contact, and of course we don’t want to do that.”
He added: “Tonight, for us – I’ve never done this before. This is an experiment to see what kind of response we get and what kind of interest. I think there’ll be other things online.”
In terms of the current crisis, Stycos said he believes City Council meetings can be held virtually, citing a similar approach in Providence. He reiterated his opposition to the recent indefinite extension of the mayor’s emergency powers and his concern over the council’s role moving forward.
“Currently, I think the mayor is doing a good job … but I also think that in our system of government, we have a balance of power, checks and balances, and it’s important for the council also to be involved,” he said.
Stycos spoke highly of the way both Fung and Gov. Gina Raimondo have handled the COVID-19 crisis.
“I think both the mayor and governor are treating this with the severity it deserves,” he said.
Stycos is the second announced candidate to succeed Fung, who was first elected in 2008 and is also barred from seeking reelection due to term limits. Council President Michael Farina, a Republican announced his bid for the mayor’s office during a January event at Twin Oaks.
Whether Stycos will face a challenger in the Democratic primary remains unclear. Maria Bucci, a former Ward 4 councilwoman, has been raising funds for an expected bid, while state Rep. Charlene Lima, deputy speaker in the House of Representatives, has said she is considering a run.