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Pawtucket City Council Candidate Forum: At-Large Candidates



Organized by David Norton from the Pawtucket Parents Alliance and moderated by Scott Rotondo, a forum held Saturday featuring at-large candidates for Pawtucket City Council showcased a range of diverse, plugged in a knowledgeable choices for Pawtucket voters. Democrats Jim Chellel, Janie Lee Segui Rodriguez and Emmanuel Echevarria were joined by Independent candidates Melissa DaRosa and Rodney Barber for nearly three hours of questions.

Incumbent Democrats Albert Vitali Jr and Michael Araujo, as well as first time candidate Mark Theroux and Pawtucket School Committee member Elena Vasquez did not attend the forum, which is too bad, because the candidates that did attend were very well received. A tenth candidate, Dana Drowne, will appear on the ballot but dropped out of the race after details of a 2016 domestic assault charge surfaced.

See: Candidates declare for Pawtucket seats

The Democratic Primary on September 12 will decide which three Democratic candidates will face the two independent candidates in the November 9 General Election.

You can watch all the video below:

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In the first four videos, candidates introduce themselves. Rodney Barber, who arrived a little late, did not get a chance to introduce himself.

Melissa DaRosa:

Emmanuel Echevarria:

Janie Lee Segui Rodriguez:

Jim Chellel:

Here are the ten questions asked by moderator Scott Rotondo:

Q1. What would you do as a city councilor to reduce the burden of taxes on our residents?

Q2. In terms of academic performance, many parents complain of our schools being inadequate. What actions would you take as a city councilor to help improve our schools?

Q3. What would you do as a city councilor to ensure that the diversity of our city is reflected in our municipal workforce?

Q4. The city council and school committee currently get health insurance from the city. Considering that the city council is supposed to be a part time position, and no other part time city employees get that benefit, would you consider ending that benefit? And if you were elected would you take that health insurance, or no?

Q5. What will you do to hold WCI accountable for the rodent control issues in Fairlawn?

Q6. How could you help under represented communities from the council?

Q7. What are you doing to ensure that our children and youth feel safe in public spaces. Specifically, what would you do to improve the Paine Park area?

Q8. What would you do to beautify our city and hold absentee landlords accountable both for vacancy and for blight?

Q9. How would you balance doing the right thing in your job as a city councilor, if dong so could affect your popularity, your finances or your career?

Q10. We’ve seen a lot of luxury apartment projects being proposed throughout our city. What would you do to expand access to home ownership and economic opportunity for all of our residents?

The next batch of videos are questions and comments from attending voters.

“The only thing I hate more than neglectful, absentee landlords is neglectful, absentee candidates…”

“I see four minorities sitting up there at the tables. What chance do you think, that you are going to be able to operate in that situation? You may be council-at-large, but there’s going to be clique. We’re not going to call it white power, or white privilege. When I grew up, we were one percent minority. Now it’s 46 percent. But you know what? Go to City Hall. Look at the City Hall. Do you see any minorities?”

“I live in Countryside. I may not live there much longer because of the taxes….”

“I think that this [forum] is very important for our Democracy and I think that the people who are here are speaking very loudly to us as well. I think that we really need to hold our elected officials accountable and hold them answerable to the voters.

“And it’s hard to hold them answerable if they don’t even bother to show up…”

“When you look around, I hear no talk about diversity… What are you going to do to change that?”

“When we talk about the the guys in the room who didn’t show up, it’s the government. It is the administration that has this city separated… they didn’t show up because they are puppets to the administration…”

It’s because of the income tax cuts for the rich in Rhode Island that cities and towns have been forced to raise the property taxes on the poor and middle class…

Closing comments from the candidates.

Melissa DaRosa:

Jim Chellel

Rodney Barber:

Janie Lee Segui Rodriguez:

Emmanuel Echevarria:

Emmanuel Echevarria, Janie Lee Segui Rodriguez and Jim Chellel

Melissa DaRosa and Rodney Barber

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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.