Portsmouth Town Council Candidate Statements

All seven endorsed Democratic candidates and one Republican candidate for the Portsmouth Town Council responded to the questionnaire sent two weeks ago, and their answers follow, unedited other than punctuation and proofreading changes. One unendorsed Democrat, four Republicans, and all four Independents did not respond.


DENNIS CANARIO (D)
Town Council — incumbent

1. Why should the voters of Portsmouth elect you to the Town Council?
Basically, I want people to vote on my past 4 years performance.

I believe I have demonstrated, through my level-headed, honest approach to all town issues, that I am a proven leader for the town. I have always strived to find that common ground and proceed on issues that benefit the entire town and not just a small group.

2. Describe 3 things you have done in the past to support the Town/Schools.
I have always supported the elderly and keeping taxes affordable. I always stood firm in NOT exceeding the tax cap. I supported the wind generator project, open space, education, and keeping the trash compactor open — I believe that giving people a choice on how to dispose of their household waste was very important.

3a. You are running as a Democrat -- Why? What is the importance or impact of this affiliation?
There has never been a time more important for Portsmouth that the Democrats succeed in this election. We have substantial issues that will come before us, like wastewater management. The Council is elected in November will be forming the path to the future for this town. As Democrats, we look at needs, requirements set forth by the state, and we take everything into account; we carefully consider what something costs, but we look at need and the importance for the people of the town. That's why it's so that the people need to vote us Democrats back into office.

4. If you were to be elected, what would success look like after your term?
Politicians always say, we want change, and people know it's the same old baloney. I'm not that kind of politician. I don't promise things I can't deliver. I want the people of Portsmouth to vote on my past. Vote on what I've done. People know me well enough to know my position as a level-headed guy.

5. What is the biggest problem facing the Town/Schools and what would you do to solve it?
The biggest problem is S3050 [the legislation which reduces the cap on the tax levy by a quarter point each year], and that's going to be a challenge, restricting how the town maintains sensible growth. We're going to have to be creative. We have major issues, like the proposed Fire Department expansion to better serve the Southern end of town, and keeping up our school buildings, and it's really going to be a challenge. I want to keep taxes down, don't want to exceed the cap. We're going to need to all work together. [See question 6]

6. What is one new idea you bring to the table?
We need to get creative in our financing without putting a burden on taxpayers, and the only way to do this is a group effort. I have already got the ball rolling with the Town's department heads, telling them each that they need to come up with their own plan. Starting this Fall, I'd like develop a five-year plan, looking at what each department can do to help us all budget for this. What can you cut, what could you do differently so we can put money in the bank. You can only borrow so much — yes, we need to do that sometimes for education to keep our buildings up — but we can't borrow for everything.

And I want to involve not only the department heads, but I want to get public input also. I would be happy to turn to any community groups, like the PCC, and say, suggestions please? I don't care what group you're from, anyone who has ideas to help us as a community, I will welcome.

7. Anything else you would like to add in support of your candidacy?
My style is that I like to listen to everyone to help formulate my decision. I think there's nothing worse than walking into a meeting with my mind made up. I don't care who you are, I value your opinion. I take all these opinions and that helps me formulate my final decision. I think that's important in politics. That's who I am, and I want people to vote on that.


DAVID CROSTON (D)
Town Council

1. Why should the voters of Portsmouth elect you to the Town Council?
I am humbled to be a candidate and honored to be running with so many talented residents who want to make Portsmouth the best it can be. Portsmouth is a great town and it deserves pro-active leaders to preserve our way of life, to develop long-term capital plans, to tackle difficult problems, to guide solutions for seniors, and to manage growth. I believe I bring a set of skills to this race as a private businessman, past School Committee member, past elected Planning Board member in Hanover, Massachusetts, and active volunteer throughout the community. Together these skills define an experience, but I am not shy to lead and to debate what is best for Portsmouth.

2. Describe 3 things you have done in the past to support the Town/Schools.
My most visible accomplishment for Portsmouth certainly is the new high school gymnasium. I assumed a set of approved plans and enough money to construct in Mrs. Edwards' words, "an empty shell" — No money for lockers, showers, baskets, clocks, Booster Room... nothing. I, thanks to the incredible support of donors big and small, an incredible fundraising team and an exceptional contractor, delivered a complete gym on time and with hundreds of thousands of dollars in the bank. In the process I donated over 300 hours of project management, saving Portsmouth over $60,000.

I was the founder of Save Our Schools in 2004 to bring attention to the disparity in State funding of Portsmouth schools and our declining per-pupil expenditures. I strongly believe that our educational plant drives the Portsmouth economy. Most wealth in Portsmouth in held in real estate and poor school performance will directly impact the value of our land and wealth.

Third, my time on the School Committee was very special for me. I was engaged with parents, grandparents, teachers, administrators, and residents. I, together with my fellow members, took this position very seriously. As Interim Finance Sub-Committee Chair I wrote a full report detailing the 2005 deficit and its causes within my first month in office. I didn’t look beyond the leadership I could provide to help build a better financial foundation for our schools. I led the discussion of the effects of tax legislation (often referred to as Bill 3050) on our community. I strongly fought for proper school funding for its critical benchmark year.

3a. You are running as a Democrat -- Why? What is the importance or impact of this affiliation?
I proudly run as a Democrat, a party which I have represented for 30 years. I believe our Portsmouth Democrats are true leaders, accepting challenges and leading Portsmouth progressively. Our slogan is "Yes for Portsmouth," and I believe that encompasses the positive approach we have for Portsmouth.

4. If you were to be elected, what would success look like after your term?
Success would be a financially stable Portsmouth with residents feeling they have been treated fairly and equally. True success would be lessening the tax burden on seniors who have lived in Portsmouth over 30 year, using new development to shift burdens. True success would be a capital plan across all segments of the town, addressing needs of the schools, public works, fire, police, and recreation for the next five-plus years. True success would be a strong recreation department for seniors and families that will utilize our collective town assets. True success would be a timely and comprehensive decision on wastewater treatment that best addresses the specific population it affects.

5. What is the biggest problem facing the Town/Schools and what would you do to solve it?
There are many major issues facing Portsmouth in 2009 and beyond: the Sakonnet River Bridge, wastewater treatment, our aging schools and their fire code upgrades, the West Side Master Plan, West Side residential growth, the difference between favorable and unfavorable commercial growth, tax burdens, and funding a budget in the era of 3050.

Selecting the most important, it is probably wastewater treatment. We need to quickly complete the expanded review and develop a timeline to bring options in front of Portsmouth residents. This process will take all my collective experience and knowledge. A final decision must be comprehensive and must take into account solving the problem at hand while exploring possible benefits to the Town long term. How does Island Park affect the West-Side? How does a decision affect future development and do we have the proper zoning and controls in place? Decisions of this magnitude require comprehensive project management and constant communication; and, I would be honored to help drive that effort.

6. What is one new idea you bring to the table?
My new idea isn’t so new in other communities and I can hardly claim it as my own, but I promise to be well studied and bring successful models from other communities to Portsmouth. There just may be a silver lining to the burdens of 3050 (legislation limiting the expansion of the tax levy), I wish to bring to the Council a proposal for tax relief for seniors who have paid real estate taxes to Portsmouth for thirty plus years. 3050 defines our tax levy growth at a time our tax base is actually expanding, thanks to the residential expansion on the West Side. I wish to explore shifting the burden from our seniors to our newest residents. As new property comes to the base, a small fraction would come off providing needed relief for many seniors. Clearly there would need to be guidelines and possible caps, but it’s an idea worth looking at!

7. Anything else you would like to add in support of your candidacy?
It would be easy to paint me with a big brush, as the PCC has. I challenge residents to talk directly with me, engage me, test me, educate me, and I think that that monotone stroke becomes a colorful set of brush strokes. I agreed to run because I thought I could help, I will leave it to the voters to decide. 



KEITH HAMILTON (R)
Town Council

1. Why should the voters of Portsmouth elect you to the Town Council?
I believe I can bring a new attitude and vision to the Town Council. For the past ten years, the town seems to be caught in a rut and unable or unwilling to move forward. We have no long-term plans to deal with our schools or town infrastructure and we need to stop putting band aids on problems that need surgery.

2. Describe 3 things you have done in the past to support the Town/Schools.
I have been a loyal volunteer coach over the past few years for Little Baseball, Pop Warner Football and Youth Basketball. I have also volunteered time with the Hathaway HPA and led a group of parents to replace the playground mulch at the school (at no cost to the town) to help make it safer for our children.

3a. You are running as a Republican -- Why? What is the importance or impact of this affiliation?
I have decided to run as a Republican because I have watched the Democratic Town Council raise our taxes over the past 4 years without any plans on how to fix the underlying problems in town to help control them. We have continued to lose our business tax base; that increases the tax burden for the homeowner. We have seen our normal budget get subsidized by user fees and the forecast for more like mooring fees and possibly beach fees. We need to stop nickel and diming the residents of town.

4. If you were to be elected, what would success look like after your term?
Lower taxes for homeowners, a growing business community, and stopping of warrant items to pay for town operational needs.

5. What is the biggest problem facing the Town/Schools and what would you do to solve it?
Our biggest problem is our failing school buildings. We need to fund a new single Elementary School for our town. We already have the land for a school and fixing the current buildings to bring them to code is not a good use of money.

6. What is one new idea you bring to the table?
New Elementary School to consolidate services, lower class size, and have a more energy-efficient school. Right now, most of the months of June and September are only half days in our schools because the buildings get so hot the kids can't concentrate. We also see classrooms with the windows open during the winter because the teachers can't control the temperature in the rooms. Building one new school could possibly cut 50% in utilities alone.

7. Anything else you would like to add in support of your candidacy?
When elected I promise to bring a voice for all the people in town and not just special interest groups that have more time than the normal Mom or Dad to make it to meetings. My cell phone number is 401-480-6648 and can be used by any town citizen to call me to discuss the issues that concern them.


AL HONNEN (D)
Town Council

1. Why should the voters of Portsmouth elect you to the Town Council?
The voters of Portsmouth have an opportunity this year to elect a team that will work for the betterment of the whole town. The past several years have not been good economically for almost everyone. Portsmouth officials have had to make some hard decisions, but in my opinion, have made some good ones. For example, alternate energy sources are being developed, land use is being monitored and hopefully with the release of the Navy land, a better economic future may be at hand, and finally the sewer dilemma that we have had for years may come to a vote and possible resolution. Why should the voters vote for me? Because I believe that I have the experience, dedication, time, and common sense to deal with the upcoming problems we will be facing and I will work with my fellow Councilpersons to make decisions in the best interest of all of the citizens of Portsmouth.

2. Describe 3 things you have done in the past to support the Town/Schools.
As for supporting the town, I have served on several committees including the Tax Assessment Board of Review, the Conservation Committee, and the Land Use committee. I have also been a board member of Portsmouth Action for Youth, Portsmouth Pirates Soccer Association, the Portsmouth Lions Club, and coached for the Portsmouth Little League. I was also a Town Council Member from 2002 to 2004, when illness caused me to not run for another term. I am well now and seek your support in my quest for a council seat.

I am a former principal of Elmhurst Elementary, teacher at Portsmouth Middle School, and Assistant Superintendent of Schools in Portsmouth. I was very active in completing several bond issues to upgrade our school facilities as well as the recent gym project at PHS. I supported, and continue to support, a reasonable budget for our schools. It is my belief that a "better" than average school system is the key to a vibrant and educated community. At the State level, I have worked with the Superintendents Association to support better funding and a better formula that will bring a fairer share of our tax money back to our town.

3a. You are running as a Democrat -- Why? What is the importance or impact of this affiliation?
In this day and age I don’t believe anyone is a 100% party loyalist. I will not be defined by my party affiliation. I think people choose and run on a party ticket because they wish to serve with men and women who are like minded in order to get programs and goals accomplished. I have chosen the Democratic Party in Portsmouth because I am convinced the individuals running think and believe in this town and are willing to put party politics aside and make decisions based on what is best for its citizens and I believe the platform we have endorsed is a worthy one. While we may not always agree on all the issues, we have a common interest in seeing our town balance growth and open space and be a safe and secure place for our children and citizens.

4. If you were to be elected, what would success look like after your term?
If I can look back on my previous term on the Town Council, and if I am fortunate to be elected again, I would measure success by how we have controlled growth and stabilized our economic situation at the end of my term. Financial stability, controlled spending, and responsiveness to our citizenry are not just goals of our administration, they are an absolute necessity.

5. What is the biggest problem facing the Town/Schools and what would you do to solve it?
Coping with a declining economy in our personal and community lives. It will be some time before we can support the activities of the town in a manner in which we have in the past. It will be important for us to manage our financial resources in a very frugal way. Realizing this problem we still must provide adequate services to our citizens including fire, police, town management, and our schools. In addition, we must reach resolution to a problem that should have been resolved years age, sewers and water pollution. We need to address the alternatives to a town-wide sewer system and decide upon the creation of a wastewater district or a limited sewer system. Something needs to be done and the new council will be charged with this task.

So I guess what I am saying is that with our limited resources, we need to be very creative in our approach to funding our town and keeping our taxes affordable.

6. What is one new idea you bring to the table?
The time has come for us to redefine our town services and how we might be able to partner with our neighboring communities in ways that will be beneficial for all. We can not force consolidation, but need to create a workable process in Newport County that will allow us to coordinate our public services in a better way. We need to study the services we are currently funding including fire, police, and schools and try to bring a cost/benefit approach to the table. It is imperative that we bring economic stability to our town. We will either have to reduce services or find a way to maximize what we have. This situation is not unique to Portsmouth. We need to explore and develop a plan to consolidate services, either internally or with our neighbors.

7. Anything else you would like to add in support of your candidacy?
I believe that as a lifelong resident of Portsmouth I bring to the table a unique understanding of the problems facing our town. My work experience in a variety of cities and towns in Rhode Island gives me a perspective that will guide my decision making. I also pledge to do what I believe is right for all the citizens of Portsmouth and enthusiastically endorse the platform (can be seen at www.portsmouthridemocrats.com) of the Democratic Party of Portsmouth and believe in its vision:
"To promote the positive growth and well-being of our community through open, reasoned and courteous communication with our citizens, to improve the quality of life in Portsmouth"


LEONARD KATZMAN (D)
Town Council — incumbent

1. Why should the voters of Portsmouth elect you to the Town Council?
I was inspired to run for office in 2004 because I saw the majority of the Town Council members at that time so fundamentally out of step and out of touch with the needs of the town. I saw elected officials who listened to and seemed to represent only the desires of a vocal few. I saw apparent disregard for the open meetings laws. I saw irrational cuts made to the schools while town-side spending was allowed to grow unchecked, as members of the public were kept from speaking. There was rampant lack of simple, decent civil discourse among members of the Council.

These things were going on in Portsmouth, the town that I love so much, and I realized that I could help make things better if the people of Portsmouth would give me the chance. By a margin of 16 votes in 2004, the people of Portsmouth allowed me to serve them and I'm grateful. Things are better now. Civil discourse has returned to Town Council meetings, and the rancor that tore our town apart has largely subsided. We are forward looking. We are exploring wind power and keeping big box stores out. The tent meeting, the key source of divisiveness, was, by overwhelming popular vote, replaced by a more democratic process — an all-day vote. Our future, once mired in partisan bickering, now looks promising indeed.

But our work is not over yet. When I first began, I wanted to return Portsmouth government to the people of Portsmouth. We have come a long way but our work is only just beginning. Portsmouth is well positioned to deal with the challenges yet unseen of the 21st century.

I was born and raised here, in Portsmouth, and I've lived here nearly all of my life. I love my town and now am privileged to have served the people of our town on the Council since 2004. I am asking the voters of Portsmouth to elect me for Town Council so that I can help build on our success and see through to the finish the initiatives I started.

2. Describe 3 things you have done in the past to support the Town/Schools.
My accomplishments are many, but to name three I'm proudest of would be (1) the replacement of the tent meeting with an all day vote, (2) my vigilance to see that the High School Gymnasium that people voted for was built and (3) my commitment to keep out big box stores by the adoption of zoning ordinances that make sense for Portsmouth.

Regarding the Town's charter change that replaced the so-called tent meeting with an all-day referendum vote, this was not easy. We on the Council received directly letters from well over 550 people calling for the charter change. We had countless hours of public input and deliberation on the topic. Despite that, there were some who accused the Council of not having input from the people and there were many procedural attempts to derail the process. But, listen to the people we did, and we asked Portsmouth citizens to vote on it and they passed it commandingly. Today, if a Council's budget is challenged, I will rest easy knowing our elderly, our shut-ins, our deployed military, parents with small children or those who work — all will have the opportunity to vote by mail ballot.

Regarding the gym, it isn't a university-class athletic center or anything else. It's just a gym that's big enough for the whole school population to fit in. For many technical reasons, it isn't exactly like the pictures that were drawn up as a concept prior to the 2004 vote. But it gives Portsmouth High School the gym the kids have long deserved. This was largely a School Committee project, not a Town Council project. But, the Council had a certain degree of fiscal control and there were relentless attempts to thwart the vote of the people by stopping the funding for the gym. My role, along with my Democratic Party majority, was to keep faithful to the vote of the people and see to it the gym was built. It was built on time and on budget. If you haven't been inside it, you should arrange a visit or take in a game sometime. It's plain, simple and beautiful.

On the big box zoning issue, Portsmouth dodged a bullet with the Target proposal. We were lucky they pulled out. But we knew we wouldn't be lucky again, so I'm proud of my accomplishment on the Council to enact zoning appropriate to keep Targets and Wal Marts and the like out of town. Some called for us to do nothing. Others advocated draconian measures that would have hurt our local Mom and Pop businesses. My role was to pay attention, learn the facts, analyze the options and make sure we adopted something right for Portsmouth.

Although the question only asked for 3 things, I'll add a quick 4th: In 2007, during an off-year election, record numbers of citizens came out to vote on the charter change, the wind tower and open space, all supported by a strong majority of voters. Overall, my Democratic majority on the Council and I have engaged more voters in the political process.

3a. You are running as a Democrat -- Why? What is the importance or impact of this affiliation?
My heritage is in the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party of my family and my upbringing stands for so many things that I cherish. Among these are strong civil rights (Kennedy's Civil Rights Act of 1964), equal access to education (Pell Grants), a dedication to public service (Peace Corps, Americorps), a commitment to not let our elderly pass into poverty (Medicare, Social Security) and a strong national defense (Roosevelt's defeat of the Nazis).

These national issues and history may have little to do with the day-to-day concerns of local governance here in Portsmouth. But, I embrace the Democratic Party label as being consistent with a strong and free America and the values I hold dear. I appreciate that Independents, Republicans and others hold equally cherished values, or even the same values. Yet the Democratic Party most consistently represents my values. I'm proud to call myself a Democrat.

4. If you were to be elected, what would success look like after your term?
My wish list would include a fix of some outside factors, such as diminishing state mandates and a school funding formula that is fair to Portsmouth.

As for the Council – what will success look like?

  • Success will include bringing the question of sewers to the people for a vote before the end of the next term and hopefully within the next year.
  • Success will include continued careful management of the budget and maintaining our good bond rating.
  • Success would include wise stewardship of the open space bond money the citizens voted for last year. The window of opportunity to preserve remaining open spaces is fast closing and we must move fast as opportunities arise.
  • Success will see my recently proposed Portsmouth Arts and Culture Committee bearing fruit as firm design plans for a multi-purpose Arts Center takes shape and funding sources are identified.
  • Success will look green, as the wind turbine generator becomes the model for other Rhode Island communities and our electric costs plummet.

5. What is the biggest problem facing the Town/Schools and what would you do to solve it?
This is a question that is asked every election year. I will mention a couple of issues that I believe are indeed quite pressing and share my thoughts on how to solve them.

There are several "biggest problems" that the Town Council will face in the near term. Among them are the budget, wastewater disposal (i.e. sewer and septic issues) and the Navy surplus of land on the West Side.

The budget is the overarching issue because it touches every other issue. Under the state tax cap law, our growing community is constrained to deal with the impact of that growth with less and less money each year. The great challenge of the Council will be to find ways to continue to fund those town services that people need and want with diminishing resources. My solution is to (1) continue fiscal strategies set in place by our Finance Director to build the fund balance up, (2) advance our regional community partnerships to more cooperative endeavors where ever that makes financial and community sense and (3) keep constant pressure upon the Governor and the General Assembly to enact appropriate funding formulas and reform our unfunded state mandates.

The wastewater issue is most vexing because it is the issue most rife with misinformation, misunderstanding, and mistrust. More than any other issue, this one seems to have more people who are inclined to make baseless assumptions about people's motives than any other and deliberations often turn acrimonious between neighbors. At the same time, this is one of the most complex issues we have, not easily lending itself to short discussions, let alone newspaper soundbites. My solution is very simple — let the people of Portsmouth vote. This has always been my position.

But, this is not a simple issue so we can't just open up the polling places tomorrow and say, "Have at it." The Council has a lot of work to do and decisions to make in order for there to be enough information laid out so the people know what they are voting on. This is a process, and there are state laws and regulations to be mindful of in leading up to a referendum. It will take time and all people of Portsmouth should have the opportunity to participate in Council deliberations as they choose. If I am honored to serve on the Council again, I will work to make sure all are heard and the referendum question, once fully defined, promptly finds its way to the ballot box.

Finally, the West Side is one of Portsmouth's "biggest problems" although it is really our biggest opportunity as well. The surplus of Navy land and its transfer to private or public ownership is a process that could take years. But, it has the potential to make a dramatic impact on the character of a large part of our town, either for the better or for the worse. My solution — I intend to be vigilant in ensuring that the plan developed by the Portsmouth Redevelopment Agency speaks to the varied needs of the town's future and provides necessary protection of the nature of our community. At the same time, the Town Council and our town's administration must work closely with outside interests such as the Governor and the state Economic Development Corporation. These outside interests may have their own agenda and Portsmouth can best keep control of the West Side development by working well and forging trust relationships with them.

6. What is one new idea you bring to the table?
New ideas are everywhere and all the time. It is impossible to predict. For example, how could I know the governor would veto the expansion of citizen rights under the Access to Public Records Act?

But his veto spurred my recently proposed new idea, "Why not do it on our own in Portsmouth?" So I recently proposed that our town departments be made to respond to public records requests as though the state law had been enacted.

Another new idea I am championing is the Portsmouth Arts and Culture Committee whose ultimate goal will be to build a Portsmouth Arts and Culture Center. This will provide a space, on a scale appropriate for Portsmouth, for gallery works, theater productions, music, dance, maybe a kiln for fired pottery and more. One possibility is a rustic barn-like structure on the Glen Farm property. This is a grand undertaking that will take years to shepherd through the exploratory phase and identify grant and other private funding sources. There will be plenty of time for lots of public input. When complete, it will enhance the quality of life in Portsmouth. I'm quite excited about the possibilities.

7. Anything else you would like to add in support of your candidacy?
It is important to pause here and understand that these questions serve a purpose, but reflect a short-sighted view of the demands of serving as a member of the Town Council. It is not possible to anticipate future turns of fate when running for office. The primary qualification for office, in my opinion, is not one's position on particular issues, but rather what problem solving and decision making skills one brings to the table. To name a few:

  • The Council is a body of seven, so consensus building is a crucial talent. I'm proud to have a track record of working well with my council members.
  • Our challenges are not simple, so a Council member must be able to understand and interpret complex information in order to form an opinion and determine the best way forward on any given matter. I am consistently well versed on all the facts, having spent the time to do the homework.
  • A Council member must represent the people, so listening — really listening — is paramount. I listen to all: fellow council members, members of the public and our professional administration. I have on several occasions changed my position during Council debates after listening to the views of others. A Council member must have the desire to be open minded at all time, listen to all views, and then make as informed a decision as can be made, and this is the approach I take to all issues facing Portsmouth.

Whether the issue is crosswalks or sewers or the transfer station or mosquito larvae, these personal skills and characteristics are much more important to look for in a candidate than any specific position.

I came into office in 2004 because people wanted change — change from the divisiveness, fiscal chaos and back room dealings. Somewhat corny, given the slogan of this year's Democratic Party Presidential candidate, but I came to office because people wanted change — change they could believe in.

I am still the candidate representing change from that 2004 past, but change does not happen overnight. It takes careful planning and work. So our changes are working, our future looks solid and I am running again so that I can work even harder to see our changes through for the benefit of all people of Portsmouth.

I ask for your support and vote for Town Council on September 9th and I ask that you vote for all the Endorsed Democratic Party Town Council candidates. Together, the Endorsed Slate represents the continuation of the principles and values that have put to rest the discord of the past and moved us to a sound and promising future.


MARK KATZMAN (D)
Town Council

1. Why should the voters of Portsmouth elect you to the Town Council?
I am a life a life-long resident of Portsmouth. I was a Cardiac Intensive Care Unit Nurse and a Professor of Nursing. I now work as a Registered Nurse/Legal Consultant, analyzing medical negligence claims and serious personal injury cases. From my career I bring experience at thoughtful, rational analysis of complex issues. I have attended most Town Council meeting during the past two years and am extremely well informed regarding the issues and challenges facing Portsmouth.

I believe Democrats Dennis Canario, Len Katzman, Jim Seveney and William West have demonstrated a commitment to open government and a thoughtful, rational analysis of complex issues. I believe that the town would benefit by the addition of more individuals on the council who are, as I am, committed to non-partisan rational decision-making, and decisions that reflect the needs of the greatest number of residents possible.

2. Describe 3 things you have done in the past to support the Town/Schools.
In addition to attending most Town Council meetings for at least the past two years, I have gone to a great number of School Committee meetings. I have spoken out frequently at these meetings, asking probing questions and making considered suggestions. I have also not hesitated, when necessary, to point out when remarks made by either members of the public or members of the Council/Committee do not accurately reflect the facts that are before them.

I have also not hesitated, in the face of remarks to the contrary, to thank the members of these bodies for a job well done. It goes without saying that being on the School Committee is even more thankless of a responsibility than being on the Town Council. Fortunately, the Democratic majority on both the Council and the Committee have shown a willingness to compromise and craft a budget that keeps us within the Paiva-Weed tax cap even when, as is inevitable, this means making decisions that will make some people unhappy.

3a. You are running as a Democrat -- Why? What is the importance or impact of this affiliation?
For most of my life I have considered myself an independent. My goal was to vote for the person, and not the party. However, like many Rhode Islanders, I found myself generally voting Democratic, though I supported people like John and Lincoln Chafee.

On a local level, I have been happy to see that the Democrats in public office in Portsmouth, while far from being always in agreement, have (as I have stated) been committed to thoughtful, rational, fact-based decision making. I believe in the goals and commitments of the Democratic Platform.

4. If you were to be elected, what would success look like after your term?
Success after my first term would not look dramatically different from how things look right now. In a time of economic stress and uncertainty, maintaining the status quo can be a considerable accomplishment. Budget discussions would continue to be an area of vigorous debate, but in the end we will have a budget that does not require asking for an override of the state cap on municipal taxes. We will have helped preserve open space, preserved the quality of our school and the beauty of our community, and will have made significant progress towards getting all the data needed for us to make economically sound, socially responsible, and forward-looking decisions about how we will deal with our solid waste and wastewater issues.

5. What is the biggest problem facing the Town/Schools and what would you do to solve it?
The biggest problem facing the Town and School is the ever-increasing costs of everything. Some of these problems, like the cost of energy and health care can only really be effectively addressed at the state and national level. On the local level, we must be frugal and accept that we may not be able to support the activities of the town in a manner which we have in the past.

I would make a greater effort to see how we can cooperate with Newport and Middletown to create economies in the provision of public services.

6. What is one new idea you bring to the table?
I am not satisfied with the increasing costs of disposal of solid waste. We should not be paying someone to take away scrap metal. In an age when copper gutters are being stolen off of home, the town should be paid for the scrap metal. The greatest sin is what we spend, per ton, to have biodegradable yard waste and recyclable construction debris hauled away. While I’ve always enjoyed the freedom to just throw things into the pit, our current disposal method is increasingly economically unsound and environmentally dangerous. We can do better. We have a proven record of innovation. In a vote by the residents of the community to build the first in the State municipal electricity-generating wind turbine, Portsmouth has shown a willingness to embrace forward-looking progressive solutions. We need to look beyond the status quo and study alternative that will serve our disposal needs in a manner that is mindful of both our pocketbooks and our planet.

7. Anything else you would like to add in support of your candidacy?
I am passionate about Portsmouth. I will do everything I can to help those who seek to preserve and enhance the quality of our community whether I am elected or not, but I can do more if I am on the Council. I will study matters vigorously before voicing a opinion, but I will remain open minded, and willing to change a stated opinion, when new ideas or new information come before the Council.


JIM SEVENEY (D)
Town Council — incumbent

1. Why should the voters of Portsmouth elect you to the Town Council?
I care deeply about the town. I grew up here. I plan to spend my life here. My naval career (I'm a retired Commander) took me away for 20 years. In that time, I've lived in many places around the country. None compare to our community, and what it offers to our residents. To take some license on the famous line from The Wizard of Oz... "There’s no place like Portsmouth." Our town is a jewel. It deserves the very best stewardship to maintain, improve, and appreciate the quality of life we all enjoy living here. I take that stewardship obligation very seriously. It's a great responsibility, and I'm honored and humbled to be an elected official in Portsmouth.

Why should our voters re-elect me? I have eight years of experience now, 4 on the School Committee, going on 4 with the Council. I understand the issues facing us, and their priority. The specifics I hope voters consider as they make their choices on election day are outlined in the following responses. I am proud to say I strongly supported the actions, decisions, and votes to move forward on each of the items listed below. If elected, I will continue to support these initiatives and goals in the future.

2. Describe 3 things you have done in the past to support the Town/Schools.
I’m proud of the decisions the Town and School leaders have made over the past years. And we have seen the positive impacts of those choices. To describe a few (sorry, there’s lots more than 3):

  • We are actively engaged in strategic planning for the future of our community, and we have empowered citizen volunteer groups, like the Economic Development Committee and numerous others, to take the lead in these positive efforts;
  • We have taken a leading role in environmental stewardship with our open space acquisitions and fiscal policy, pursuit of alternative energy sources, and innovative community planning and zoning;
  • We have fought hard to ensure the continuing health and effectiveness of our school system, and we’ve prevailed in maintaining a high performing, cost-effective system... as evidenced by the positive results of the recent school performance audit;
  • We retooled our Town Charter to respond to our citizens' concerns and desire to expand and improve voter participation and align financial decision-making with our standard electoral processes;
  • We enjoy a strong and healthy working relationship with our town administration and workforce. There is an environment of respect, mutual understanding of issues, and a demonstrated ability to get things done... from win-win labor contracts — to balanced and effective annual budgeting &mdash: to growing community support for investing in our own future as we saw in last year’s special election;
  • We built a new gym at the High School, within budget and on schedule. The project enjoyed huge community support, the contractor did a great job, and we have a wonderful new asset the whole town will enjoy for decades to come.

And we’ve accomplished all this within the constraints of state law regarding property tax growth.

3a. You are running as a Democrat -- Why? What is the importance or impact of this affiliation?
The Democratic party in Portsmouth is a positive thinking, can-do group willing to work hard together to do the best we can for the town. I find my affiliation with this team rewarding, challenging and fun. I look forward to our continued future service as elected officials if the voters will it.

The effectiveness, quality and capability that our residents expect of their elected leadership cannot come from individual effort, it's the result of dedicated, inclusive and open-minded team effort.

The successes articulated in the previous question can come only from an effective team effort. It does not come from individual endeavors. It comes through cooperation, mutual respect, communications and teamwork. I think it's fair to say this is the strength of the Democratic team. Our voting records support this. Our residents should expect and demand more of it.

4. If you were to be elected, what would success look like after your term?
There are a number of important goals to be realized for the benefit of the town. Success, measured in 2010, can be defined in priority order (as I see it), as:

  • Continuing growth in our tax base balanced by significant contributions from resort-residential properties, new commercial businesses and reduced property tax pressure on our homeowners;
  • A high-performing school system that continues to offer a safe and effective learning environment for our students, and a strong return on the community investment to fund it adequately and produce graduates well prepared to pursue and achieve their life goals;
  • A well-informed decision rendered by Portsmouth voters on the best wastewater management solution for the town;
  • A wind turbine constructed safely and providing power for the High School and adding more than $200,000 in new revenue per year;
  • Firm plans for acquisition and development of the Navy Tank Farms being divested through the BRAC [Base Realignment and Closure] process;
  • Beginning implementation of the West Side Master Plan;
  • Continuing to improve the quality and tone of political dialogue. I believe we're on the right path, but we’ve got some major decisions ahead of us, with diverse views on how to proceed. That diversity of opinion is a good thing for the town, and we all must nurture it and strive to maintain open and positive communication.

5. What is the biggest problem facing the Town/Schools and what would you do to solve it?
Our most compelling problem is keeping Portsmouth an affordable place to live, without sacrificing quality of town services, schools, infrastructure and character. Why is this a continuing challenge for us? Because the ratio of contributors to Portsmouth’s $3 billion tax base is out of balance, and overwhelmingly composed of individual homeowners. At the beginning of the current Council term in 2006 that ratio was 91% to 9%, homeowner vs. commercial property (as reported by the Portsmouth EDC).

What’s the solution? We must drive this ratio to a more balanced proportion. What this means to the taxpayers is they will shoulder less of the cost to run the town. I believe the goal we need to shoot for over the next two years is an 80/20 mix. Moving toward this goal, along with continued compliance with state law regarding tax levy increases (which eventually drop to 4%), will provide consistent tax rates, more closely aligned with inflation rates and income growth.

Our strategy is beginning to work. Our previous 2 annual budgets have complied with state mandated tax levy constraints, and have executed "in the black." Secondly, our tax base composition has moved to 88% / 12% this year (PEDC Annual Report). I cannot emphasize enough what a huge accomplishment this is. A 3% change in composition of a $3 billion tax base is not trivial. It means significant growth, and the right kind. It’s well documented that a single-family home costs [the town] more [in services] than the taxes paid. Commercial (and now "Resort-Residential" as well) demand less in town services for the taxes those high value properties pay.

How did this happen? We established a new zoning entity in the Comprehensive Plan called “Planned Unit Developments.” This allows flexible and effective “mixed use” planning for both developer and the Town. It has enticed new and expanded development, especially along the historically under-utilized west side of Portsmouth. This "Resort-Residential" development significantly increases the value of the land, with lower resource demands on the town, akin to commercial business.

6. What is one new idea you bring to the table?
Let's re-establish a town recreation department. I believe we can do this effectively, meeting the needs of all age groups, and running it as a cost-neutral town department. We have a broad array of resources, yet untapped or under utilized, which if organized and managed with a little innovative thinking can bring great value, and a lot of fun to all our residents.

Where are these resources? Just everywhere. We have seniors with huge experience and expertise in organizing and running businesses. We have over 200 prospective high school seniors, all looking for an interesting "Senior Project" to pursue (now a graduation requirement). This list can continue indefinitely. Our ability to tap the expertise and energy of interested residents, and create something special, is limited only by our imagination. And for a town the size of Portsmouth, we really should be providing an organized and affordable recreation program for our residents. As our Democratic platform states... "YES WE CAN!"

7. Anything else you would like to add in support of your candidacy?
First, I thank the residents of Portsmouth for their faith in me and their past support. I really enjoy serving on the Town Council, and I’m proud of my participation in the political process.

I have great respect for my fellow Councilors for their dedication. And I am especially proud of my fellow Democrats for their spirit, ability to frame the real issue, communicate it openly and clearly, and finally, to cast their vote to do the right thing for the town. It's been an honor to be a part of that team, and I sincerely hope the voters will choose to let this Democratic team continue into the next term. I believe our past performance demonstrates the quality of leadership our voters expect and demand. I ask that you vote for the Democratic team in November.


WILLIAM WEST (D)
Town Council — incumbent

1. Why should the voters of Portsmouth elect you to the Town Council?
For the past three years I have served on the Town Council, and in those three years I believe the majority on the Council has tried to present the voters with fiscally responsible budgets recognizing the needs and abilities of all the taxpayers in town to be able to finance them along with maintaining the towns infrastructure.

2. Describe 3 things you have done in the past to support the Town/Schools.
Prior to being elected to the town council I served on the Zoning Board of Review for five years. As a council member I am liaison to the Economic Development Committee and the Waste water Advisory Committee.

3a. You are running as a Democrat -- Why? What is the importance or impact of this affiliation?
I am a registered Democrat and proud of that affiliation. To be affiliated with a particular party brings people of like ideas together and helps accomplishing certain objectives one might have. It does not preclude a person from voting with people of other political affiliations on ideas that are beneficial to all residents of the town.

4. If you were to be elected, what would success look like after your term?
Hopefully, it would show that we were prudent in our budgets, but, at the same time, were able to increase our reserve, maintain our infrastructure and provide monies to responsibly run our schools to give our children a quality education and the tools to succeed in today’s world.

5. What is the biggest problem facing the Town/Schools and what would you do to solve it?
I believe one of our most serious challenges is the wastewater issue. Once the facilities study is received we will be able to make an intelligent decision how to proceed. Without this information, people on both sides of the issue do not have factual data but only their emotions in trying to resolve the issue. The council should not wait any longer than absolutely necessary to bring this issue to a final resolution.

6. What is one new idea you bring to the table?
One item I would like to present is the establishment of a Municipal Court in the town. I believe the court would be beneficial in expediting the enforcement of our zoning ordinance and some adjudication of minor infractions brought by the police department. Implementation of such a court would help lower police overtime.

7. Anything else you would like to add in support of your candidacy?
Over the past three years I have tried to bring to bring responsible government to Portsmouth. I was on the prevailing side to put the wind turbine and open space and recreation bonds on the ballot and worked for their passage. I hope to be able to continue with this effort if reelected.

Comments

Well done, John! Far more useful than the NDN write-up!

Hi, Eileen...
Thanks are really due to all the candidates who took the time and energy to respond. All I did was try to come up with a few interesting questions.

Cheers.
-j

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