Politics & Elections

Ward 14 City Council debate showcases sharp differences between candidates

Candidates responded to questions about economic development, campaign contributions from real estate developers, funding public libraries, housing, policing, “green living,” education, and more.
Photo for Ward 14 City Council debate showcases sharp differences between candidates

Published on August 22, 2022
By Steve Ahlquist

Community Libraries of Providence and Wanskuk Library in Providence hosted a Providence City Council Ward 14 debate featuring the three Democratic candidates in the race, Patrick Griffin, Shelley Peterson, and Andrew Poyant.

Incumbent Ward 14 City Councilmember David Salvatore is term limited and primarying progressive State Senator Samuel Bell (Democrat, District 5, Providence) for his seat.

Since there are no Republicans or independent candidates in the Ward 14 city council race, the next city councilmember from Ward 14 will pretty much be decided by the September 13 primary results, as they will be running unopposed in November’s general election.

Following the Uprise RI format, each question is written out as asked by the moderator, followed by video of each respondent’s answer. There were some issues with the library’s sound system, which have been edited out.

The first three questions were prepared and presented to the candidates beforehand. The rest of the questions were submitted by audience members.

Each candidate provided an opening statement:

Patrick Griffin:

Shelley Peterson:

Andrew Poyant:

Question 1: Much of the economic development of Providence has been focused on revitalizing downtown. What concrete measures would you advocate for economic development in the Wanskuk/Elmhurst area?

Patrick Griffin:

Shelley Peterson:

Andrew Poyant:

Shelley Peterson and Patrick Griffin react to Andrew Poyant noting that they accept campaign contributions from real estate developers benefitting from millions of dollars in tax breaks.

Shelley Peterson:

Patrick Griffin:

Question 2: While volunteers, state aid and private donations are all indispensable for paying or Providence Community Libraries, there are no substitute for city dollars which fund the lion’s share of our budget. Every year the community libraries of Providence lobby for sufficient funding to maintain our current library programming services. Despite reciting a grant to increase staffing, programming and course at our three largest libraries, there wasn’t enough money to do the same for our smaller libraries, which included this one, the Wanskuk Library. What steps would you support to increase revenues for Providence Community Libraries, particularly the Wanskuk Library?

Shelley Peterson:

Andrew Poyant:

Patrick Griffin:

Question 3: Wanskuk and Elmhurst residents have watched as Providence College has expanded into our neighborhoods. At the same time, one developer [Strive Realty] is buying more and more properties throughout our area, primarily to rent to short term tenants, including college students. What is your opinion about these incursions into Wanskuk and Elmhurst? Is there anything the city can do yo ensure this expansion doesn’t change the community for mostly long time renters and homeowners to a neighborhood characterized by transient renters, many of whom are college students?

Andrew Poyant:

Patrick Griffin:

Shelley Peterson:

Andrew Poyant responds to Shelley Peterson’s assertion that he publicly stated that Providence College’s incursion into the Wanskuk and Elmhurst neighborhoods was “irrelevant.”

Andrew Poyant:

Question from an audience member to Shelley Peterson and Patrick Griffin: “Just so I’m clear, you two are for Strive, that I see all over the neighborhood, and Andrew Poyant is not?”

“I didn’t say that,” said Patrick Griffin.

“I didn’t say that either,” said Shelley Peterson.

“But you’re for those types of people coming into our communities and buying up our properties? On my street they’ve bought a whole bunch. The people that live there now pay rents that are higher than my parent’s mortgage,” countered the audience member. “I understand that you want to work with everyone, including Strive. Is that correct?”

Shelley Peterson:

Question 4: Focusing on what you have done over the past ten or so years, rather than what you want to do, what have you personally accomplished to benefit the residents of the 14th Ward?

Patrick Griffin:

Shelley Peterson:

Andrew Poyant:

Question 5: Some residents are concerned that the police have unfairly targeted Black and brown residents, especially teens and young men and have called for a reorganization of the police department and a modification of the Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights (LEOBoR). Others are more concerned about crimes in their neighborhoods and call for an increase in the number of police officers. What’s your opinion?

Shelley Peterson:

Andrew Poyant:

Patrick Griffin:

Question 6: What will be done for the residents of this neighborhood, the Wanskuk side of Admiral Street? When walking through Elmhurst, the streets are cleaner, there are less abandoned houses, and snow removal is also improved. Representation is needed on this side as well. The sidewalks right outside this library are a disgrace, there’s litter everywhere – the list can go on an on.

Andrew Poyant:

Patrick Griffin:

Shelley Peterson:

Question 7: How will you create green living for everyone?

Patrick Griffin:

Shelley Peterson:

Andrew Poyant:

Question 8: If elected would you commit to holding regular community meetings with constituents here in the library?

All candidates responded yes:

Question 9: Upon receiving the city budget, what are three items you would like to erase, and why?

Andrew Poyant:

Patrick Griffin:

Shelley Peterson:

Question 10: Two years after the Providence Schools takeover by the state, many parents continue to complain that schools in the city are dysfunctional. What, if anything, can you as a city councilmember do to help to improv the situation?

Patrick Griffin:

Shelley Peterson:

Andrew Poyant:

Question 11: Do you have a library card?

All candidates:

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