Aspirants to be governor come to Summit seeking support at second political forum

Candidates, from left, Ken Block, Allan Fung, Todd Giroux, Clay Pell, Gina Raimondo and Angel Taveras appear at the second of two SNA-sponsored public forums.

See the video of the event by Steve Ahlquist…

On Wednesday, July 30, the six candidates from the two major parties vying for the opportunity to run for governor of Rhode Island came to Summit to ask for support.

On stage at Summit Commons, 99 Hillside Ave., Republicans Ken Block and Allan Fung joined Democrats Todd Giroux, Clay Pell, Gina Raimondo and Angel Taveras in a question-and-answer forum sponsored by the Summit Neighborhood Association and attended by about 135 residents, supporters and news-media members.

Introduced by SNA President Dean Weinberg, board member and moderator Thomas Schmeling, assistant professor and chair of the political science department at Rhode Island College, posed a series of questions developed by SNA with input from residents and audience members. The forum, which came a week after one featuring Providence mayoral and District Four General Assembly hopefuls, began at 7 p.m. and lasted until about 9 p.m.

The candidates were allowed two-minute opening statements as well as two-minute closing statements. In the opening salvos, Block stressed his intention to change the way the state does business, Fung emphasized his financial stabilization as mayor of Cranston, Giroux noted his working-class origins, Pell cited his non-elected background and new ideas, Raimondo pointed to her problem-solving record as state treasurer and Taveras recalled his mobilization to stem a $110-million deficit in Providence.

The first question asked what the candidates would do in their first 100 days in office. Fung said he would surround himself with talent and tackle tax reform, Giroux said he would seek federal funds, Pell said he would invest in the port and education, Raimondo said she would bring in innovative outside talent, Taveras said he would emphasize work-force training to develop jobs and Block said he would fix the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Labor and Training.

In response to a question about state aid to cities and towns, Giroux said he would use federal funds to take pressure off the state budget, Pell said he would rely less on local property taxes and more on state aid, Raimondo said she would use state aid as an incentive to revise municipal financial procedures, Taveras said he had made tough choices to eliminate the deficit, Block said he would consolidate and share services and Fung said he would provide flexibility tools in management of local pensions and benefits.

The state’s reputation of corruption was brought up and Pell said the public has lost faith in government, so he is refusing politically connected contributions, Raimondo pledged comprehensive ethics reform, Taveras said he would restore the ethics commission, Block said he would seek to block legislators from bidding on contracts, Fung said he would restore the line-item veto and Giroux proposed a new office of inspector general.

On elementary education, Raimondo backed the Common Core curriculum and fair evaluations, Taveras supported a cradle-to-career focus on the first three years of life, Block applauded high-stakes testing, Fung proposed aligning the curriculum to train for jobs, Giroux suggested that each student have a $1,000 grant for higher education and Pell urged more exposure to diversity to restore creativity in schools.

After a short break, the candidates were asked about environmentally beneficial green energy and jobs. Taveras stressed the need for alternative energy and said he supported that as mayor, Block cited his background in manufacturing solar devices, Fung cautioned about the cost efficiency of alternative energy and backed land conservation, Giroux was wary of the cost of converting to new technology, Pell suggested bringing in the maritime industry to unify an approach across government and Raimondo proposed a “green bank” such as in Connecticut for project investment.

Addressing the increase in costs of health-care insurance, Block supported merging the Rhode Island market with other states to get industry to lower costs, Fung urged increasing competition among insurers while trying to reduce claims, Giroux suggested using a health-care trust fund and a single-payer system, Pell backed Obamacare with preventive education, Raimondo cited the Massachusetts system that limits cost growth and Taveras urged education to change conduct in poor lifestyle conduct.

In a “lightning round” of quick answers about legalization of marijuana, Fung said he would veto it, Giroux said he would sign it and Pell, Raimondo, Taveras and Block said they would wait and see. On the need for a constitutional convention, Giroux, Pell, Raimondo and Taveras said no while Block and Fung said yes.

In closing statements, Taveras said he is a proven manager who can make tough choices in a cradle-to-career environment, Raimondo said she has a track record of getting things done in infrastructure, domestic violence and manufacturing, Pell said he brings a fresh perspective in addressing the cost of college and women’s right to choose, Giroux said his working-class background gives him the ability to cut red tape and get things done, Fung said his record shows he can work with business to create jobs and reduce taxes and Block said he can help businesses look at Rhode Island as the place to be.

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