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Candidates for Ward 10 Providence City Council Special Election answer questions at community forums



Over 70 people crowded the gymnasium of the Washington Park Community Center on Tuesday evening for a forum featuring the five people running for the open seat in Ward 10 on the Providence City Council. The seat was vacated by former City Council President Luis Aponte as part of a plea agreement with the Rhode Island Attorney General‘s office on charges of embezzlement.

The Providence City Council Ward 10 Primary will be held on October 10. The General Election will be held on November 5.

The candidates are:

Orlando Correa, a member of the Building Trades
Pedro Espinal, who lost to Aponte in the last election by 24 votes
Monica Huertas, a social justice activist who leads NoLNGinPVD
Jeffrey Lemire, who ran for Mayor in the last election, running as an Independent
Natalia Rosa Sosa, a former member of the Providence School Board under Mayor Angel Taveras

The event was organized by the Washington Park Neighborhood Association (WPNA). Here Linda Perri, who leads the WPNA, introduced the event:

Each candidate introduced themselves:

Orlando Correa:

Pedro Espinal:

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Monica Huertas:

Jeffrey Lemire:

Natalia Rosa Sosa:

One of the big issues confronting Ward 10, during a time when the people of that Ward have no representation on the Providence City Council, is the issue of nightclubs and the violence that sometimes takes place in and around them, spilling into neighborhoods. A controversial proposal to establish some sort of 24/7 nightclub zone in Ward 10 has angered some residents, who point out that such an idea would never be floated for the wealthier East Side of Providence.

Once again, Ward 10 has become a “dumping ground” for businesses no one wants in their neighborhoods.

Below, Linda Perry phrases the question much mor delicately:

Orlando Correa:

Pedro Espinal:

Monica Huertas:

Jeffrey Lemire:

Natalia Rosa Sosa:

A question about the enforcement of property maintenance, loud noise, parties and the insistence by police that reports not be made anonymously allowed the candidates to talk some about their ideas regarding policing:

A question about community development and community building:

A concern about the candidates. How many have been long enough in the work and long enough involved in local politics to really look at the problems of Ward 10 from the perspective of homeowners?

This gets to another big concern for Ward 10 residents: Gentrification. Houses are being bought up throughout the ward and quickly converted into student housing for Johnson and Wales. Renting to students is much more profitable than renting to low-income families, and this is changing the neighborhoods.

Linda Perry notes that on her street, she now has eight homes that rent by the room to students. Those apartments used to house families.

Providence resident Lisa Scorpio took Jeffrey Lemire to task for what she saw as his negativity. She asked if he could say three nice things about Providence.

“Me,” began Lemire, perhaps joking.

Providence resident Dion Baker noted the presence of at least ten people who don’t live in Ward 10. “They have special interests inside this neighborhood,” said Baker. “And I have a problem with that.”

This prompted Correa to defend himself, noting that he is being supported by his union.

Baker’s main question however, was about gentrification:

A comment from a woman who works in affordable housing.

Rob challenged Espinal about his claim that he has the “experience” to do the job of City Councilor from day one. None of the candidates have been elected to public office before. Rob also challenged Espinal on his claim that former Ward 10 City Councilmember Aponte was corrupt. Aponte made have pleaded guilty to embezzlement, but that does not make him a corrupt public official, maintains Rob. Espinal spent some time defending himself.

Turns out, Rob works for Luis Aponte’s brother, Alberto Aponte Cardona, Esq, in his law office:

The candidates are given a few seconds each to wrap up for the evening.

Politicians ttending this forum include Providence City Councilor Carmen Castillo (Ward 9), Representatives Grace Diaz (Democrat, District 11, Providence) and Joseph Almeida (Democrat, District 12, Providence), Providence mayoral candidate Kobi Dennis and Rhode Island gubernatorial candidate Matt Brown, who both ran in the 2018 election.

Espinal renounced this support almost immediately.

On Monday, September 9, a “Super Board” coalition of neighborhood groups in Providence held a Ward 10 candidate forum at the Henry Lippitt House on the East Side. This forum was moderated by Ward 10 resident Linda Perri.

Only three candidates attended this forum, Monica Huertas, Jeffrey Lemire and Pedro Espinal. Orlando Correa and Natalia Rosa Sosa did not attend.

According to the organizers, “the meeting was open to the public and we encouraged people to invite neighbors to come in our communications.”

I was unable to attend this meeting but was provided video from the organizers, which I’m presenting below.

Each candidate introduced themselves:

Monica Huertas:

Jeffrey Lemire:

Pedro Espinal:

A question for Espinal: “What will you do to encourage communication between the bar owners, city leaders and the police?”

A question for Lemire: “What do you believe is lacking in Ward 10? Maybe three hot topics.”

A question for Huertas: “Based on your environmental awareness, what concrete changes would you suggest for Allens Avenue and the Port that could be achieved within the next five years?”

Back to the nightclubs issue: “I’m not talking necessarily about the violence, I’m talking about the non-violent noise. How would you work to ensure that businesses in the area are integral parts of the neighborhood and the quality of life, rather than a nuisance?”

A question about the employment of candidates, What do they do, where do they do it and what is their role? Then, what are your opinions on the approval of the Fane Tower, the takeover of the Providence Schools by the state, and the new the new real estate tax bills “that seem to be affecting people very differently in different areas of the city.”

“What are the platforms and structures you are putting into place to make sure that your constituents are being heard?”

“How many nightclubs are there and do we need more? Is this a serious issue for your community?”

The Providence Police say that covering potential crimes at the nightclubs is drawing away from their coverage of the residential communities. “Are you aware of that and how would you refocus opening of bars?”

Final words from Linda Perri:

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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.