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Jewelry District Association holds first Providence City Council candidate forum for 2018 election



The Jewelry District Association (JDA) held a Providence City Council Candidates’ Night moderated by JDA President Sharon Steele. Steele told me she invited every candidate the JDA knew of, including all the incumbents who have announced their intention to run for re-election. Twelve candidates, including Providence City Council incumbents Seth Yurdin of Ward 1 and Mary Kay Harris of Ward 11, attended.

Each candidate was given five minutes to say whatever they wished, and were asked for their up or down opinions on three questions:

  1. Should we sell our water supply to fund pensions?
  2. Should we allow the Fane Group [to] build a 600 foot tower on Parcel 42?
  3. Do we currently have an affordable housing and workforce housing shortage/crisis in Providence?

The answers were pretty universal. All candidates said yes to question 3, acknowledging the housing shortage/crisis in Providence.

All candidates are opposed to the Fane Group proposal except for Araujo, who argued that construction brings jobs and that local opposition is based on NIMBYism. Garcia said she needed more information before making the decision, but noted the need for jobs. Espinal also said he would need more information, and wondered if the Fane Group would pay 100 percent taxes, that is, receive no tax stabilization agreement from the city.

On the first question, the one about selling Providence Water to fill a hole in Providence pensions, all candidates were opposed except for Feinstein, who is in support of monetizing the water, just not in the way that Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza has most recently proposed. Holt also said he was opposed “at this point” leaving open the possibility that Providence finances might one day be bad enough that he would support such a scheme.

You can watch the video of the 11 candidates below, after the first video in which Sharon Steele lays out the format of the forum.

Providence City Councilmember Seth Yurdin, Ward 1:

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Candidate for Providence City Council Ward 1 Justice Gaines:

Candidate for Providence City Council Ward 2 Helen Anthony:

Candidate for Providence City Council Ward 2 Mark Feinstein:

Candidate for Providence City Council Ward 2 Ryan Holt:

Candidate for Providence City Council Ward 5 Aaron Jaehnig:

Candidate for Providence City Council Ward 8 Deya Garcia:

Candidate for Providence City Council Ward 10 Pedro Espinal:

Providence City Councilmember Mary Kay Harris, Ward 11:

Candidate for Providence City Council Ward 13 Mike Araujo:

Candidate for Providence City Council Ward 13 Cyd McKenna:

Half credit to candidate for Providence City Council Ward 7 Dave Marshall for not being able to attend the forum but answering the three questions the JDA asked. For the record, Marshall answers were no, no and yes.

One quarter credit to Providence City Councilmember Nirva LaFortune, Ward 3 and candidates for Providence City Council Ward 5 Steven Cianci and Ward 12 Kat Kerwin for not being able to attend the forum but responding to the JDA’s inquiry.

The candidates and incumbents who were invited, did not attend and did not respond to the JDA inquiry? No credit.

The last video is the question and answer portion, where all the candidates went to the front of the room and audience members could ask them anything.

Justice Gaines

Seth Yurdin

Helen Anthony

Mark Feinstein

Ryan Holt

Aaron Jaehnig

Deya Garcia

Pedro Espinal

Mary Kay Harris

Michael Araujo

Cyd McKenna

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About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.