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Candidates for Senate Districts 5 and 6, and House District 8, take questions at WBNA forum

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No one in Rhode Island does candidate forums quite like the West Broadway Neighborhood Association (WBNA). The questions are pointed, direct and tough. This year the event was online due to the pandemic, but it was no less interesting and revealing.


The West Broadway Neighborhood Association (WBNA) held the the first of two WBNA candidates forums on Tuesday night in advance of the November election. The forum, which could be viewed on ZOOM and Facebook, included Democratic candidates running for Rhode Island General Assembly seats within the WBNA focus area who will be on the Democratic Primary ballot on Tuesday, September 8.

The following candidates were in attendance:

  • State Senator Samuel Bell (District 5), the incumbent;
  • Providence City Councilmember Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5) who is challenging Bell for his Senate seat;
  • Senate District 6 Candidate Tiara Mack, who is challenging the incumbent, State Senator Harold Metts. Metts declined the invitation to attend;
  • State Representative John Lombardi (House District 8), the incumbent. Lombardi’s challenger, Darwin Castro, declined the invitation to attend.

House District 9, a seat currently held by Representative Anastasia Williams, is uncontested in the Primary and therefore she was not invited to participate.

There will be a second second WBNA Candidates Forum on Tuesday, October 6, that will include independent and Republican candidates, ahead of the general election.

In the videos below, UpriseRI has written out the questions, and edited the video so that each candidate’s answer is separate. We are appreciative that the WBNA allowed us permission to use their video.

Opening statements:

State Senator Samuel Bell:


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Providence City Councilmember Jo-Ann Ryan:

Candidate Tiara Mack:

Representative John Lombardi:

Today in the Boston Globe Dan McGowan ran a headline that reads “When it comes to voting laws, Rhode Island looks more like parts of the deep south.” How will you ensure that all Rhode Islanders have access to casting their ballot?

State Senator Samuel Bell:

Providence City Councilmember Jo-Ann Ryan:

Candidate Tiara Mack:

Representative John Lombardi:

It seems like we must be heading toward a fiscal disaster given corona, the shrinking tax base, and increased costs. How can perennially cash-strapped Providence cope? What specifically would you do to help balance the budget in this challenging time?

State Senator Samuel Bell:

Providence City Councilmember Jo-Ann Ryan:

Candidate Tiara Mack:

Representative John Lombardi:

Will you vote to Defund the Police Department and reallocate the money to other necessary services? What do you plan to do to help this process?

State Senator Samuel Bell:

Providence City Councilmember Jo-Ann Ryan:

Candidate Tiara Mack:

Representative John Lombardi:

Have you signed the petition urging the Governor to release $125m for small business grants? The $50m is not enough.

State Senator Samuel Bell:

Providence City Councilmember Jo-Ann Ryan:

Candidate Tiara Mack:

Representative John Lombardi:

Do you support reparations? Why or why not? And if so, in what form?

State Senator Samuel Bell:

Providence City Councilmember Jo-Ann Ryan:

Candidate Tiara Mack:

Representative John Lombardi:

I have a daughter of color who is a senior in high school. The state has taken over our city schools, essentially saying this city is incapable of managing a school district – a school district that is primarily serving poor students of color – especially in our neighborhood. What are your thoughts on the takeover and how we can stop failing our BIPOC kids, depriving them of the decent education that they deserve?

State Senator Samuel Bell:

Providence City Councilmember Jo-Ann Ryan:

Candidate Tiara Mack:

Representative John Lombardi:

For the Senate candidates: If Dominick Ruggerio is re-elected to his state senate seat would you support re-electing him as Senate President? Likewise for the House candidate: If Nicholas Mattiello is re-elected to his seat, would you support re-electing him as House Speaker?

Providence City Councilmember Jo-Ann Ryan:

Representative John Lombardi:

State Senator Samuel Bell:

Something came up today with the fake Twitter account Friends of JoAnn, creating fake endorsements for Jo-Ann Ryan. Can Senator Bell and Councilmember Ryan give a definitive answer as to their relationship to that Twitter account, and get them to either own or disavow it. Have you looked into getting this account deleted?

Providence City Councilmember Jo-Ann Ryan:

State Senator Samuel Bell:

Last year Speaker Mattiello said the state was too small to do anything on climate. What would you say in response, and what would you say is the most important policy Rhode Island should pass on climate?

Representative John Lombardi:

Candidate Tiara Mack:

State Senator Samuel Bell:

Providence City Councilmember Jo-Ann Ryan:

The Providence Public School Department has a horrendous record of transphobia and trans people have a 25% drop-out rate in Providence. How would you support trans rights in the public school system? Would you support the ability to emancipate yourself as a minor in any way, or allow youth homeless shelters to be created?

Providence City Councilmember Jo-Ann Ryan:

Representative John Lombardi:

State Senator Samuel Bell:

Candidate Tiara Mack:

For Councilmember Ryan: Senator Bell is ranked the number one Senator by RI Rank. Why are you running against Rhode Island’s most productive Senator?

State Senator Samuel Bell:

Could each candidate please described their coronavirus safety plans for schools. What measures would you propose to encourage mask wearing and other safety measures in schools and generally?

Candidate Tiara Mack:

State Senator Samuel Bell:

Representative John Lombardi:

Providence City Councilmember Jo-Ann Ryan:

Do you believe systemic racism exists in Rhode Island? What work have you done – or will do – to try to eradicate it from our policies and procedures and ensure that people are judged equally?

Representative John Lombardi:

Candidate Tiara Mack:

Providence City Councilmember Jo-Ann Ryan:

State Senator Samuel Bell:

Property taxes in Providence are overburdening homeowners, increasing rents, and contributing too gentrification. Income taxes overburden working people and are a great deal for high income people. Meanwhile, developers, schools and other wealthy nonprofits get lots of tax incentives. How will you work to make the income and property tax system better for our neighbors?

Candidate Tiara Mack:

Providence City Councilmember Jo-Ann Ryan:

Representative John Lombardi:

State Senator Samuel Bell:

Peaceful youth led protests around Black Lives Matter and Police Defunding are still ongoing. Many peaceful protests, including one this past weekend, have been met with violent arrests and threats of tear gas. Do you support these methods by the police? What approach will you take to support peaceful protests while in office?

Candidate Tiara Mack:

State Senator Samuel Bell:

Providence City Councilmember Jo-Ann Ryan:

Representative John Lombardi:

Closing Statements:

Providence City Councilmember Jo-Ann Ryan:

State Senator Samuel Bell:

Candidate Tiara Mack:


Not sure who your candidates are? New to voting in Rhode Island? Want to update/verify your voter information, or register to vote? Get it all done at the Secretary of State’s Voter Information Center here: vote.sos.ri.gov

To vote in the Party Primaries held on September 8, you must be registered to vote by August 9, 2020, or at least 30 days before a primary or election in which you wish to vote, according to the Rhode Island Board of Elections website. Register to vote here: vote.sos.ri.gov