Over 60 people crowded into the Woonsocket Harris Public Library where the Woonsocket Republican City Committee was hosting a “meet the candidates” forum for the four people seeking a seat on the Woonsocket City Council. All the candidates were in attendance save for Michael Disney, who was described by Lauren Clem at the Valley Breeze as “a perennial candidate who has unsuccessfully run for nearly every seat in city government” due to strep throat.
The candidates who did attend were (in alphabetical order):
- Alex Kithes, a first time candidate who ran Rhode Islanders for Reform, seeking rule changes in the General Assembly and as a student successfully campaigned against budget cuts in Woonsocket Public Schools
- Roger Jalette Sr, who previously served as a City Councilor in Woonsocket
- Anita McGuire-Forcier, a former member of the Woonsocket School Committee, who voted for the cuts Kithes opposed
The best thing about off-season elections such as this one is that it allows the media the time to cover forums, debates and issues that would ordinarily be ignored by the press, given the larger races for Governor or President. The crowd gathered for this forum spanned the gamut from conservatives in MAGA hats to liberals, and everywhere in between. This made for lively and animated interactions between the candidates and the attendees.
Those in attendance got a good idea of who their candidates were. You may not agree with their opinions, but all three came across as authentic.
Below is all the video, starting with each candidate introducing themselves.
Roger Jalette Sr:
A question about Woonsocket’s water, referred to as “the Jewel of Woonsocket” and a vote Jallette made during his previous service as a City Councilor that helped put a development atop an aquifer. Jallette defended his vote.
Alex Kithes was asked if he “supports socialism.”
“I support policies that lift people out of poverty, grow our economy and protect our local environment” said Kithes. Kithes noted that he’s been referred to as a socialist in Facebook groups, but said he eschews such labels. “They can apply whatever labels they want because at the end of the day, the policies that I support are the ones that are going to work for the people of Woonsocket.”
A question from a new resident of Woonsocket who wanted to know what the candidates intend to do about all the empty storefronts in the City.
The Chair of the Woonsocket Republican City Committee, Martha Tetreault, said that what Woonsocket really needs is a supermarket. The conversation quickly turned into a heated discussion about the Super Walmart and who was responsible for the project leaving the City.
A question, of sorts, about what lessons, if any, Woonsocket can learn from the Providence Renaissance that period of time in which Providence pulled itself out of its post-industrial malaise.
A question to Kithes about cleaning up Woonsocket City Hall. Kithes said that there’s “too much nepotism and violation of process” in City Hall. Asked if this applies to the Democratic Mayor of Woonsocket, Lisa Baldelli-Hunt, Kithes said, “I think no politician in the City is immune to it.”
A question about selling the water to Invenergy, the company that sought to build a $1B fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant in nearby Burrillville, which the Woonsocket City Council voted against. If given a chance to build a similar power plant in Woonsocket or to help one be built, would the candidates vote for it?
“Absolutely not,” said Kithes.
Jallette tried to distinguish himself from Kithes, saying that he would “look at the circumstances behind the request and I would give them the respect of looking at the circumstances…”
But when McGuire-Forcier rose to say, “I will protect [our water] even if I have to tie myself to a damn tree,” Jallette applauded with the those in attendance.
A question to Kithes about how many City Council meetings he’s actually attended. Kithes is the only candidate on stage to not have served in a public office. Kithes said that he’s attended “dozens” of City Council meetings.
A question about the larger than life presence of CVS in Woonsocket. Woonsoket gives CVS massive tax breaks to stay in the City. Kithes thought it wise to re-examine the tax breaks CVS gets, but Jallete disagreed. These tax breaks, said Jallette, were necessary because, “CVS was leaving, they were on their way out.”
McGuire-Forcier sang the praises of CVS and the largess the company shows the City and the citizens they employ. “CVS comes before any council member,” she said.
Chair Tetrault pushed back. She noted the traffic on Route 99, which connects 146 directly to the CVS headquarters. “All the [employees] are coming from other places, not all of them live in Woonsocket,” said Tetrault.
“Look in the warehouse,” countered McGuire-Forcier. “Woonsocket people run that warehouse.”
A question about how the candidates intend to stay in communication with members of the public.
The first of at least three calls for more civility.
A second call for civility, but also a question about the opioid crisis, which is hitting Woonsocket very hard.
A question about charter schools, which draw money from public schools only to benefit a small number of handpicked children.
A third call for civility and for coming together as a City.
A question about dealing with the pension system and perhaps moving the present pension to a 401K system. Jillette spoke about moving the City’s pension system to the stock market and how, for the first three years, the market did very well, before wiping out City pensions in the crash.
An idea to centralize and streamline the business permitting process in Woonsocket to make it easier for businesses to start up in the City.
Closing statement from Alex Kithes:
Clsoing statement from Roger Jalette Sr:
Closing statement from Anita McGuire-Forcier:
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