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Final debate between Woonsocket City Council candidates Kithes and Jalette airs on WNRI radio; Election date August 6

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Alex Kithes and Roger Jalette, the candidates for the Woonsocket City Council special election to be decided Tuesday, August 6, were in the WNRI radio studio Friday morning for a debate moderated by host Jeff Gamache.

There are a lot of differences between the 76-year old, conservative Jalette and the 26-year old progressive Kithes, but many of the issues that divide the two are not likely to come up during their tenure on the Woonsocket City Council. For instance, Jalette strongly maintains that abortion is murder, Kithes is pro-choice. It is unlikely that the Woonsocket City Council will have any real say over the issue, which will be decided on a Federal and State level.

One economic issues the candidates are closer, with both supporting local businesses, but there are still differences in approach, what the host, Gamache, termed “experience” vs “new vision.”

Kithes pointed towards Jalette’s long career as a politician in Woonsocket, including a long stint as a city council member, during which little was down to prevent Woonsocket’s long slide from industrial revolution powerhouse into post-industrial malaise. Kithes has proposals to change zoning laws, to build a thriving arts community as has been done in other post industrial mill towns like Fall River. He wants to take advantage of abandoned infrastructure and revitalize the City, turning it towards a 21st Century future.

Below is the entirety of the interview, divided by the questions asked. First up, the candidates introduce themselves, beginning with Kithes:


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Jalette then introduced himself:

The first question of the forum concerned PILOTs (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) and tax treaties. PILOTs allow nonprofits to pay their contributions to the City for the services the City provides. Tax treaties are negotiated by the City with corporate entities to give tax breaks to large corporations, keeping the business (and the jobs) in the City and encouraging expansion.

CVS: Are they paying their fair share of taxes? Should their payments be increased?”

Should the City sell Barry Memorial Field, which was deeded to the City to be used for high school athletics?

Should the Woonsocket Public Library get more funding? Do we even need libraries any more?

What are the future political ambitions of the candidates? How long do you expect to be on the City Council? This question was directed primarily at Kithes.

A question for Roger Jalette about his health. His mayoral bid was impacted due to pneumonia.

“Would you find it acceptable if an abortion clinic, that follows all regulatory and zoning guidelines, would want to come into Woonsocket?” What are your personal beliefs regarding abortion?

“Would you be open to the concept of Woonsocket becoming a Sanctuary City?”

Would the candidates be open to a cannabis selling business, for medicinal purposes, in Woonsocket?

Would you support a gun range in the City of Woonsocket?

A question about “experience” vs “new vision.”

What would you do to help the growth of existing small businesses in the City? Also, how would we attract new businesses?

Jalette instead decided to talk about the charge that he voted to cut funds to schools, and Kithes responded.

What would you do to help the growth of existing small businesses in the City? Also, how would we attract new businesses?

Closing comments from Jalette:

Closing comments from Kithes:


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Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade. atomicsteve@gmail.com