A standing room only crowd of Ward 3 residents converged on
the Rochambeau branch library to listen to the candidates running for the
vacated Providence City Council seat set for special election on August 12th.
The four candidates that appeared were on the same page as it was on a few
neighborhood issues. The hundred or so residents raised questions about street
and sidewalk repair, integrity and liberty versus privacy. The forum that was
hosted by Rhode Island Rights an ad hoc group of concerned citizens provided
the opportunity to ask the candidates questions regarding civil liberties and
Democratic candidates Nirva Lafortune, Mark Santow and Chris
Reynolds showed for the event along with Republican David Lallier Jr. Questions
regarding conflicts with the poor, homeless and street panhandling were raised
with regard to the new smoking ban in Kennedy Plaza. Candidates Lafortune,
Santow and Lallier supported the smoking ban while Reynolds talked about
utilizing compassion centers. When asked about a plan to address street and
sidewalk repair Lallier and Santow had no plan, however Reynolds mentioned a
Bond issue to meet the costs and Lafortune suggested a critical mass approach
for the whole city to address priority repair plans. The recently passed CSA
was raised as a conflict between Police and the people, Lallier referenced the
fact that because police are not required to live in the city relationships are
strained a point that was joined by Lafortune. However Reynolds referred to new
technology like cameras as the answers to conflicts and Santow raised the issue
of the need for more diversity. Which led to the issue of privacy or public
safety when it comes to cameras. All of the candidates agreed to the need of
safety and that cameras do help but all expressed concern over monitoring by
police and government.
The City Council seat vacated by the recall of long time
Councilor Jackson is up for grabs. However of the candidates that appeared at
the forum Lafortune and Santow seemed to address the questions more succinctly
and appropriately. The difference in the candidates’ responses was clear.
Reynolds appeared to be the least informed with Lallier focused on less
government as the answer to many of the questions asked. Lafortune and Santow
appeared to be the best prepared for the forum and had the more inclusive
responses to the questions.
Lafortune had workers at the event with handouts, fliers and
her biography for participants to take home. It appeared to this reporter that
Nirva Lafortune a Brown University employee and a lifelong resident of the city
after coming to America from Haiti is an excellent candidate. She was right on
target with her answers and is a product of Providence Public Schools as is her
children. She is vested in the Ward and brings an educated and informed voice
to the issues.
Mark Santow an educator also appeared to be prepared for the
forum and supports the creation of an ethics board separate from the state’s to
monitor the Councilors’ and hold them accountable. He to looks like a strong
candidate for the vacated seat. While we are not endorsing a candidate
Lafortune and Santow look like the best choices for the seat. Lallier did not
seem to have sufficient experience and Reynolds did not respond to the
questions with any clarity.