Providence Mayoral Debate sparks teacher protests

As members of the Providence Teachers Unions chanted “We want contracts!” outside, the Downtown Neighborhood Association held a Providence mayoral candidate forum featuring Democratic incumbent Jorge Elorza, and Independent challengers DianeDee DeeWitman and Jeffrey Lemire.

The teachers could be heard through the walls of Grace Episcopal Church Pavilion as WPRI/Channel 12 reporter Dan McGowan expertly moderated the debate.

Below is all the video from the debate.

Opening statement from Independent candidate for Mayor of Providence Diane “Dee Dee” Witman:

Opening statement of Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza:

Opening statement from Independent candidate for Mayor of Providence Jeff Lemire:

Q1. The Providence Teachers have been working without a contract for more than 400 days. With teachers currently in “work to rule” can you say with confidence to this room that students are not being disrupted?

Q2. Mayor Elorza has offered to kick in money from the City in order to try to prevent the strike from going on further. What did you offer and is that offer still on the table? Do the bus drivers deserve pensions and if so would you kick in City money to make that happen?

Q3. For years we’ve seen many changes in Kennedy Plaza. What is your vision to continue to improve the area? What is your opinion of RIPTA moving many of their buses out of Kennedy Plaza?

Q4. Would you reappoint Commissioner Steven Paré as Public Safety Commissioner?

Q5. Would you support some form of a rent control ordinance in the City of Providence?

Q6. Would you be in favor of Congress abolishing United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)?

Q7. In the next year Providence is going to go through redistricting again. Would you be in favor of Downtown being turned into one City Council Ward?

Q8. Who are you voting for for Governor of Rhode Island?

Q9. As you know, Senate President Dominick Ruggerio has said that he’s going to submit legislation that would basically strip Providence of the authority to zone on the I-195 land. Do you support that proposal and if not, why not?

Q10. “The Superman Building has been vacant for about half the time I’ve been a reporter in this state,” said McGowan. “What would you do as Mayor to fill that building? What can you do as Mayor?”

Q11. The Downtown Neighborhood Association hosted a forum just a couple of weeks ago for all the neighborhood associations in the City. One of the concerns that came up was the results of the high turnover that happens in City Hall. There’s been a struggle to build and maintain healthy relationships with neighborhood groups across the City. So if elected or re-elected, how would you ensure that working relationship improves with all of the neighborhood groups across the City?

Q12. The Mayor has said that he wants to monetize Providence Water and pour that money right into the pension system, to shore up the pension system going forward. He’s also challenged his opponents to come up with their own ideas if they don’t like his. Let’s hear your idea for solving the pension problem.

Q13. We are nearly a year into the Providence Community Police Relations Act (PCPRA). Can you tell us one tangible difference you’ve seen since it was enacted? Do you support the PCPRA and if not, why?

Q14. Especially for young people, night life is very popular and certainly a booming business. How do you balance the need to expand that sector while preserving safety particularly in Downtown but across the City?

Audience Questions:

Q15. Why did the City agree to a contract that didn’t anticipate the possibility of a labor problem considering how many labor problems there have been? Why isn’t there a provision for the City to step in, especially in regards to special needs students who are required to have transportation by law?

Q16. What is the City spending the money generated by the speed cameras on?

Q17. Nordstrom is leaving the Providence Place Mall next year. Is this a problem only for the owners of the Mall, or can a political leader, a Mayor, get involved in trying to do something to save the Mall?

Q18. I keep hearing from Mayor Elorza that he wants something transformational to happen with our public schools. What are we doing to make this contract with the teachers but also to transform Providence Public Schools?


See: Providence mayoral candidates spar over school issues


Jorge Elorza
Dee Dee Witman
Jeffrey Lemire
Supporters of Mayor Elorza stand across the street from members of the Providence Teachers Union and/or supporters of Diane “Dee Dee” Witman.


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About Steve Ahlquist 658 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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