WOONSOCKET – With the help of a new coalition group of city residents, candidates for City Council in the Nov. 5 election got the chance Thursday evening to express their views on how to pull the city from its current economic crisis and also finding ways for achieving a common ground plan for the future.
Thomas Gray, a member of the city’s St. James Baptist Church on South Main St., told the gathering of about 60 people in the church sanctuary that the Black Initiatives Group was formed two years ago “in a spring board off a very successful Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. weekend,” and aims to bring together as many different people in the city as possible and engage them in issues of politics, education and community.
All fourteen candidates on the ballot attended the forum and Gray told them “we are excited to have you here and look forward to having a great night.”
A similar forum is planned for Friday, Oct. 18, at the church for the two candidates in the mayor’s contest, incumbent Leo T. Fontaine and his front running challenger, Lisa Baldelli-Hunt.
The Council forum included a wide-ranging assessment by the candidates of how the city became mired in its current financial downturn and what they would do to find solutions to the crisis if elected. They also were each given a chance to respond to one specific question posed to them individually.
The candidates were seated in a half circle in front of the audience by their places on the ballot, Christopher A. Beauchamp, Albert G. Brien, Eric R. Cartier, Marc A. Dubois, Kathryn M. Dumais, Richard J. Fagnant, Daniel M. Gendron, Roger G. Jalette Sr., Garrett S. Mancieri, Anita Ann McGuire-Forcier, Robert R. Moreau, Melissa A. Murray, Christopher M. Roberts and John F. Ward.
Each was first given a period of one minute by Moderator for the evening, the Rev. Jeffrey C. Thomas of Seekonk, to give a brief opening remark about themselves and why they wished to be elected.
Gendron, selected to start out by a drawing, pointed to his four years on the City Council ability to work “cooperatively” with his fellow members on the issues before them.
Dubois, also a Council incumbent, thanked the Black Initiatives Group for hosting the forum, as did the other candidates, and pointed to his experiences as a lifelong city resident, a former member of the police department and prior member of the School Committee as helping him in his role as a council member.
Roberts, who serves on the School Committee noted his family's longtime role in running a local business for over 80 years and his attendance at Mount St. Charles Academy and Bentley College as making him qualified for the council role.
Jalette noted he is currently the longest serving member of the City Council and keeps a focus of helping business in the community as a business owner himself when making decisions. He added he also always considers the view that taxes are “way too much” for the city’s property owners when making those decisions.
Brien, an incumbent, maintained that the city of Woonsocket is facing a “huge, huge financial crisis,” that will take the involvement of everyone to solve.
Moreau, a retired city police officer like Dubois and an incumbent, said “Woonsocket is my life,” and that he wants to do what is right for the city all of the time.
Beauchamp, an incumbent, said that by holding the forum, the members of the Black Initiative Group were showing that “you want to get involved,” and added that the city needs that help in solving its fiscal crisis.
Murray told of how she graduated from Woonsocket High School in 1992 and left the city for a time before coming back home and starting her own business, a decision that has her now working to better the city’s future.
McGuire-Forcier pointed to her role on the School Committee and her efforts to create new programs against bullying and also to seek greater school funding from the state as showing her commitment to working to improve Woonsocket.
Cartier, a department head and manager at CVS, said that he was running because “we do have problems and we do need some people who have solutions.”
Fagnant said he too is qualified for the council, and hopes to work on behalf of the people of Woonsocket.
Dumais she see has been in the city all of her life and noted her past role on the School Committee and current as a zoning board member like Fagnant for giving her the experience need help the city while serving on the council.
Ward, council president, pointed to his past role a School Committee member and interest in working for the people of the city, even if that at times makes him an inept politician.
Mancieri said he hoped to curb the blight of vacant properties in the city while help to spur a city revival if elected.