Cyd McKenna announces for Providence City Council, Ward 13

Cyd McKenna

Cyd McKenna has launched her campaign to be the next Providence city councilor from Ward 13, replacing Bryan Principe, who is not seeking re-election. McKenna launched her campaign Saturday “in front of a blighted and abandoned property and surrounded by family, supporters and friends.”

“My whole career has been about empowering vibrant neighborhoods — as a city planner, as a historic preservation advocate, and most recently as chief of staff to the Providence City Council,” said McKenna. “Councilman Principe was a wonderful advocate for our neighborhood and our schools, and his replacement needs to be someone who can continue that legacy on Day 1.”

McKenna served as the Providence City Council’s the chief of staff under the presidency of Luis Aponte. “In that position, I played a vital role in developing legislation and policy that positively impact the daily lives of Providence residents, including the PCPRA, the Providence Community Police Relations Act; a community driven, landmark piece of legislation to build trust and transparency between the police and the Community,” said McKenna in her announcement speech.

“I worked to enhance enforcement of illegal dirtbike and ATV use on city streets, allowing police officers to seize vehicles and put them up for forfeiture when in violation of city law,” continued McKenna. “I worked to hire an independent consultant to review the policies and practices of the city’s board of licenses, resulting in the well known ‘Pine Report’ an analysis by former Attorney General Jeff Pine that served as a blueprint for ongoing improvements in the city’s licensing and hearing process. I also played an integral role in developing ordinances to crack down on illegal dog breeding. Additionally, I worked to secure money in the city budget for ward specific infrastructure, school building and public safety improvements, and negotiated fair leases on city buildings to outside investors.”

The Statewide Primary is September 12 and the Statewide Election is November 6.


Here’s McKenna’s entire announcement speech:

Good morning! Thank you all for coming out today, and it’s with great pleasure that I’ve invited you all here today to announce my candidacy to be the next city councilmember for ward 13.

I’m standing here with some important people that I’d like to introduce. My sons Eoin and Evan, and also my mom, Susan Anderson, who in the 1960’s was a VISTA volunteer in what was then known as the Roger Williams Housing Projects in South Providence. It was there that she met my dad, Len Anderson and they married and lived on Oxford street, which was my first home. My mom continued to work in the community, later doing fundraising for Bannister House on Dodge street, and I’m proud to make this announcement with her by my side.

My dad passed away eleven years ago, but I know he’s here with me in spirit. My dad had deep roots in Providence, particularly on the South Side where he was a well known community leader and champion of children and families. He ran a number of programs including summer camps and home economics workshops. His passion for the community and tireless engagement in helping folks reach their potential reminds me very much of this special person standing next to me, Ms. Barbara Thurman, a well known and widely respected leader in the community whose sharp mind, incredible passion for being a voice for the community and energy remind me so much of my late father. She is an advisor, friend and role model to myself and to my children and I’m very happy to have her here today as a stand in for my late father, as she truly embodies the best of what he worked to accomplish.

Many of you know my sister Ina Anderson, who was active in the Ward and the now lives in Kansas City. She couldn’t be here today, but I’m joined instead by her son Toby, his wife Flora and their 2 beautiful children, Sulo and baby Ina. I’m also joined by my campaign treasurer, Michelle Stephens who I’m happy to have on the team and want to thank her for her time and dedication to this Campaign.

My name is Cyd McKenna. I grew up here in Providence, spent my youth watching basketball games over at Central High School and doing dance and theatre programs at what’s now known as the Southside Cultural Center. After graduating from Hope High school, I started in junior college in Boston and later made my way to San Francisco, where I got my BA in Urban Studies.

After graduation I returned to Providence, bought my house on Bainbridge Ave., and worked for the state Office of Minority Health doing research on health disparities in minority and refugee populations. I later worked for the city where I played a critical role in the preservation and adaptive reuse of historic mill buildings, a particular concern for this area and its surroundings. I was very involved in the early 2000’s fight to save Eagle Square, a massive development project that was slated to level acres of mill buildings but ended up being a model for their redevelopment.

I later went to MIT and received a Masters in City Planning, followed by a Masters in Education from Harvard. I love learning and have an insatiable curiosity of how to improve our built and social environment, and the city is a complex organism that continues to fascinate me, so I’m grateful to be able to do what I love, which is work to find ways to make the city work for everyone, regardless of income level, background, or stature.

In the past 20 years I’ve seen the city from a number of perspectives; as a parent, a city employee, and even a small business owner-­‐ my sister and I had a small shop on Broadway for a few years across the street from the Columbus Theatre. Until recently, I saw it from the perspective as the City Council’s the chief of staff, and in particular, from working closely with Councilman Principe on matters relating to the 13th Ward.

In that position, I played a vital role in developing legislation and policy that positively impact the daily lives of Providence residents, including the PCPRA, the Providence Community Police Relations Act; a community driven, landmark piece of legislation to build trust and transparency between the police and the Community.

I worked to enhance enforcement of illegal dirtbike and ATV use on city streets, allowing police officers to seize vehicles and put them up for forfeiture when in violation of city law. I worked to hire an independent consultant to review the policies and practices of the city’s board of licenses, resulting in the well known “Pine Report” an analysis by former Attorney General Jeff Pine that served as a blueprint for ongoing improvements in the city’s licensing and hearing process. I also played an integral role in developing ordinances to crack down on illegal dog breeding. Additionally, I worked to secure money in the city budget for ward specific infrastructure, school building and public safety improvements, and negotiated fair leases on city buildings to outside investors.

This next term in the council is an important one. Councilman Principe was an incredible advocate for our neighborhood schools, and the pressure must stay on as we continue to face financial constraints in our school budget. The current school budget projections show a 3.5 million dollar deficit next in the upcoming financial year, and that number balloons to a projected 21 million dollar deficit by year 3. Our next councilperson needs to hit the ground running with the experience to be able to effectively present our unique case to the state to increase school funding, and simultaneously prevent the siphoning off of existing school resources.

We are entering year one of a five-­‐year city capital improvement plan that maps out important infrastructure improvements across our ward. Our next councilperson needs to understand the fluidity of this plan, and be ready to ensure accountability in getting projects done completely, on time, and on budget. The next term will also include redistricting, and our next councilperson needs to understand that process and fight to preserve the boundaries of our ward to ensure that our collective voices are not diluted. With my on the job experience in municipal budgeting and negotiations, and knowledge of the inner workings of city government, I am uniquely qualified to represent you in this work.

The ward has seen a lot of improvements under Councilman Principe and I am grateful for his work and tireless pursuit of investments in our neighborhood, including his advocacy for the home repair fund, a loan program for homeowners that’s a last stop for emergency repairs that may otherwise lead to home loss or condemnation. With his exit, we must focus on the work that remains, and I’ve gathered you here to this house as an example of the challenges ahead of us. This house, 18 Tell street is a microcosm of the challenges we face in the ward.

Two years ago my car was stolen from my home a few blocks from here, and it sat right in the backyard, stripped bare from the inside out, covered in rat excrement, drug paraphernalia and garbage and abandoned for nine months. The city department of inspections and standards had been to this house to issue a code violation and even photographed the car, but it wasn’t for almost a year that a cleaning crew was dispatched and the car was towed. In fact it was the tow truck driver who called me after finding my business card in the car before towing it. He told me the address of where he found the car, so I took a ride over here. The first thing I thought was oh my gosh, what a nightmare this must be for the folks who live in this house right here, the house next door, to have to live day in and day out for years, next to this kind of filth and blight.

How frustrated must they be that this house is standing here empty, used for criminal activity, posing a constant threat of fire to their homes. I thought of the investments made at Zuccalo recreation center across the street, and the park next door to it, how that’s a point of pride for the community yet it’s bookended by this blight, that children have to stare at as they play in the pool in the Summer.

I thought about the neighborhood’s tight housing market, how we are clamoring for affordable housing, yet we can’t seem to move these abandoned properties to the market and turn them into homes for folks who need them. And these are literally the types of things that keep me up at night, and as your next councilwoman, I will work to create even tougher legislation to move the needle on these types of properties, so that banks and absentee property owners do not have the option to leave blighted properties as a scar on our neighborhoods, because we know how this story ends and you only need to look around the corner to Carpenter street, to see the recent fire that tore through a vacant property to agree.

Throughout my time at the city council and in all my years of experience in forward thinking urban policy and planning, one thing I’ve learned is that vibrant neighborhoods are built on the diverse voices that live in them, and effective leadership and advocacy is the best way to empower those voices to affect real change.

The residents of the 13th Ward, whether they just moved here, have lived here for years, or have been here their entire lives, they have so much heart. They work hard, they care, and they give much back. And they don’t deserve this (points to house), They deserve a quality of life that returns that effort. They deserve clean and safe streets that are easy to traverse by foot, cycle or car.

They deserve homes that are peaceful and free of excess noise, vandalism or crime, and good schools in sound buildings that create an environment conducive to the success of the hard working students and teachers that enter them every day. They deserve safe, clean, and well maintained parks, and a recreation department that gets the necessary support to provide community the services it needs. They deserve to have all of their voices heard, not just the loudest, and to have access to, and accountability from their elected officials.

I know that the city has limited resources, which is why, as someone with experience in city government, budgeting and municipal operations, I am well positioned to advocate for the ward and fight for smart solutions to pressing problems on a small budget. We are constantly told to do more with less-­‐ that’s the reality that we live in. But this doesn’t mean we need to compromise our standards for what we expect in return for our taxpayer dollars. It means that we need a council person who will keep thinking, keep working and keep figuring out ways to maximize what we have, leveraging philanthropic dollars and public/ private partnerships to keep the focus on steady improvements across the ward.

I stand before you today to pledge to be that person. I have the experience, the tenacity and the drive to keep moving the ball to get this done. I look forward to working with you, I look forward to talking with you, I look forward to hearing your concerns about our ward, brainstorming solutions and working on your behalf to get the job done. I appreciate all of you for coming out this morning, I appreciate your support, and I look forward to a busy summer of hitting the pavement to the road to being your next councilwoman!


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About Steve Ahlquist 601 Articles
Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for half a decade. Uprise RI is his new project, and he's doing all he can to make it essential reading. atomicsteve@gmail.com

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