How can people who work in the city afford to live in the city?


Just over 50 people attended a forum at the Jewelry District Association (JDA) meeting featuring the three declared candidates for a special election to replace Democrat Seth Yurdin for Providence City Council Ward 1. Yurdin did not attend the forum, but former Ward 2 City Councilmember Sam Zurier was in attendance, and Providence City Councilmember Nirva LaFortune (Ward 3) made a brief appearance. The forum was moderated by JDA President Sharon Steele.

Also attending was Matthew Shumate, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza‘s Chief of Staff.

Nirva LaFortune

Below is all the video from event, broken down by question asked.

The forum began with each of the three candidates introducing themselves:

John Goncalves is a Fox Point board member and co-founder of the Providence Coalition of Neighborhood Associations, as well as an educator at Wheeler School in Providence:

Nick Cicchitelli is the President of the Fox Point Neighborhood Association and a real estate agent:

Anthony Santurri is a boardmember of both the Jewelry District Association and the Downtown Neighborhood Association, as well as the owner of several nightclubs.

Questions:

City councilmembers representing Ward 1 have been somewhat marginalized, said the first person to ask a question. “Fox Point and College Hill are looked at as being quite different than some of the other neighborhoods.” Given this, and the fact that the council will be facing a major turnover in about two years as six of city councilmembers are term limited, “How do you foresee bringing some of the work [the neighborhood associations and the coalition] have done to the City Council?”

A question about the $1.1B pension liability that looms over the city. This lead to a discussion of bankruptcy, which none of the candidates think is a good idea.

A question about the Fane Tower, which all three candidates are opposed to.

JDA President Sharon Steele delivered an update on the Fane Tower lawsuit:

The candidates were asked for their views on sea level rise and climate change.

A question about increasing the population of Providence and affordable housing. “How can people who work in the city afford to live in the city?”

A question from Councilmember LaFortune, “How do we balance our taxes so that the burden isn’t necessarily on the residents, but there’s a way we can attract more development to the city?” This question also relates to affordable housing, because without a sizeable tax base, developers aren’t finding that building affordable housing is profitable.

Attracting young people, businesses and jobs to Providence means having better schools. What advice would you give Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green as she runs the state takeover of Providence Schools? Only John Goncalves answered this question.

A comment, not a question, regarding the empty Industrial National Bank Building downtown.

A question about electric car charging stations. Only Nick Cicchitelli and Anthony Santurri answered this question.

“It seems to me that being on the City Council is actually a full time job.” How are you going to have the time to do both your day job and be a City Councilor?

Along discussion about the optimal number of city councilmembers a City the size of Providence should have, whether or note some of the councilmembers should be “at-large” rather than representing a specific Ward, and about the prospect of redistricting in 2022.

A question about the proposed construction debris transfer station in the Port of Providence.

Very revealing responses from the three candidates when asked about the Providence City Council Ordinance committee hearing from the night before that dealt with source of income housing discrimination. Santurri was unaware of the issue and Cicchitelli confused the issue with homestead discounts for property owner. Only Goncalves was on point and understood the issue.

Former Councilmember Zurier wrapped things up by giving his advice to the future City Councilmember on stage.

John Goncalves and Nick Cicchitelli
Nick Cicchitelli and Anthony Santurri

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