Politics & Elections

Candidates for RI governor tackle question important to BIPOC communities at forum

“The outcomes for people of color, people from BIPOC communities, are significantly lower,” said United Way Rhode Island’s Kyle Bennett. “And they’re significantly higher for our white counterparts…”

Rhode Island News: Candidates for RI governor tackle question important to BIPOC communities at forum

August 25, 2022, 12:19 pm

By Steve Ahlquist

Wednesday evening’s Rhode Island Gubernatorial Forum at the John Hope Settlement House in Providence took up issues of importance to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.

Kyle Bennett, director of policy and equity at United Way Rhode Island, served as moderator.

“The outcomes for people of color, people from BIPOC communities, are significantly lower,” said Bennett. “And they’re significantly higher for our white counterparts. We’ve been funding solutions based on income level, and that hasn’t significantly solved the problem. So we decided to take a look at income, but also look at race, place, gender and every other demographic that allows us to think differently in the way we invest, the policies we advocate for and the way we engage our folks.”

The forum was sponsored by the NAACP Providence Branch, Providence Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc, Rhode Island Coalition of Black Women, Kappa Phi Zeta chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc, and Mentor Rhode Island.

Just before the forum began, members of the Providence Student Union entered the gym, having marched from their offices on Westminster Street. The students were there to protest School Resource Officers (SROs), police officers in schools, as part of their Counselors Not Cops initiative.

Providence Student Union

The candidates attending the forum included Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, former Secretary of State Matt Brown, Dr. Luis Daniel Muñoz, former CVS Executive Helena Buonanno Foulkes, and Republican candidate Ashley Kalus. Incumbent Governor Daniel McKee is recovering from COVID and could not attend, but sent a video message:

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Following the Uprise RI format, each question is written out as asked by the moderator, followed by video of each respondent’s answer. Because of the heat in the gym at John Brown Settlement House, fans were placed throughout the room and provided a hum that Uprise RI did its best to downplay in the audio.

Each candidate provided an opening statement:

Matt Brown:

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Helena Foulkes:

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Nellie Gorbea:

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Ashley Kalus:

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Luis Daniel Muñoz:

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Question 1: HousingWorks RI reported in its 2021 Fact Book that white households experience among the lowest rates of cost burden and severe cost burden, where individuals or households spend more than 30% of their income on housing related expenses. Black and Latino households experience the highest rates of both. Particularly concerning is the 40% of households experiencing cost burdens, with 20% of Black homeowners who are severely cost burdened. 1 in 5 Black homeowners is paying more than 50% of their income on housing costs. One household emergency puts them at risk of delinquency or foreclosure. How do you propose addressing these disparities in housing cost burden and who would you partner with to do so?

Luis Daniel Muñoz:

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Ashley Kalus:

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Nellie Gorbea:

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Helena Foulkes:

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Matt Brown:

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Question 2: If you are elected governor, what would you do to make this state more supportive of small business? And as a reference, the latest CNBC ranking listed Rhode Island as #45 in the best states for business. [Editor’s note: It should be noted that these kinds of state ratings are bogus. See: State rankings, like the one CNBC released today, are essentially meaningless, except as tools for pro-business extremists to hurt us]

Ashley Kalus:

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Nellie Gorbea:

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Helena Foulkes:

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Matt Brown:

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Luis Daniel Muñoz:

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Question 3: Rhode Island Kids Count reported the following in its 2022 Fact Book: In Rhode Island, in 2021, 40% of first graders met expectations on the comprehensive assessment, the [RICAS test] in English language arts. For Black students in Rhode Island, the percentage of youth meeting expectations is a mere 24%. How do you propose increasing literacy rates among Black children in Rhode Island and what organizations would you partner with to do that work?

Nellie Gorbea:

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Helena Foulkes:

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Matt Brown:

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Luis Daniel Muñoz:

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Ashley Kalus: 21

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Question 4: Law enforcement officers in 16 states are shielded by statutes called the Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights (LEOBoR), which provides law enforcement officers facing investigations and disciplinary actions for alleged incidents of misconduct with procedural privileges and protections that are not afforded to civilians accused of crimes. Rhode Island is the only New England state to have LEOBoR. As Governor, are you willing to sign into law a bill on reform or repeal of LEOBoR? And if so or not, please describe you position.

Helena Foulkes:

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Matt Brown:

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Luis Daniel Muñoz:

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Ashley Kalus:

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Nellie Gorbea:

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Question 5: It is important for Rhode Island to have a fair and balanced judiciary that reflects the diversity of our state. There are only 8 judges of color out of 63 judges on the Rhode Island State Supreme, Superior, Family, District Court, and Worker’s Compensation Courts. As governor, what would be your vision and strategy for securing strong, diverse representation on the courts and assuring that everyone gets a fair shot at justice no matter the color of their skin, their background, or their bank account?

Ashley Kalus:

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Nellie Gorbea:

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Helena Foulkes:

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Matt Brown:

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Luis Daniel Muñoz:

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Question 6 was from from Paul Rianna, Jr who had qualified to be on the ballot for the position of Governor in Rhode Island as an Independent during a hearing before the Rhode Island Board of Elections earlier in the day.

“Do you believe that every candidate should have the right to debate with you on the stage?”

All candidates responded in the affirmative with Dr. Luis Daniel Muñoz giving a more expansive answer:

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Question 7 was from reporter Pat Ford. The audio cut out occasionally, so the question below is slightly edited.

“The State of Rhode Island is currently in violation of something the United Nations has called the Mandela Rules which governing the behavior of the state with regard to solitary confinement. What’s incredible is that Nelson Mandela was caged in an 8 by 10 box. The box at the ACI is only a foot longer. As governor, will you end the process of solitary confinement?

Helena Foulkes:

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Nellie Gorbea:

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Ashley Kalus:

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Luis Daniel Muñoz:

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Matt Brown:

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Question 8 was from Narragansett Tribe member Bela Noka:

“Never once do I hear, on these platforms, anything about the Narragansett Indians. Every single one of you I hear through the blood of my people. All this land is soaked in the blood of my people. We don’t have anyplace to have church. You have your moose, your church, your temples. The stripped us from the ocean. That is our church. They took it from us. We have the 1978 compact that is the knee on our neck. We don’t have any economic development because you keep us from it.

“If elected, are you going to build a relationship with the tribe? What are you going to do to assist us and please don’t say a pass to the beach. We want ocean front property so we can pray.”

Nellie Gorbea:

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Ashley Kalus:

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Luis Daniel Muñoz:

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Matt Brown:

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Helena Foulkes:

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