Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze Woonsocket North Smithfield 10-15-2020

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 23 of 47

24 CAMPAIGN TRAIL OCTOBER 15-21, 2020 | VALLEY BREEZE | NORTH SMITHFIELD BLACKSTONE WOONSOCKET EDITION plishments in paving roads, demolish- ing blighted properties, improving the city's bond rating and revitalizing city parks as examples of her leadership. All of these, she added, were com- pleted without taking on new debt or raising taxes over the past five years despite predictions by the Budget Commission the city would have to raise taxes. "We came into office knowing that we were facing deficits from years past, debt that was nearly a quarter of a billion dollars, the fact that the fleet within the Public Works Department, it was all depleted," she said. "We knew that we had a huge task in front of us." Brien, on the other hand, has accused his opponent of trying to get residents to settle for the bare mini- mum, saying those accomplishments are nothing more than the basic ser- vices taxpayers expect. Despite the improvements, he said, people outside Woonsocket still see the city negative- ly, viewing it as the "city of the dollar store" rather than a destination. "You don't come to Woonsocket unless you live here, you work here or you know someone here. And that's the problem. You can't change the stigma unless you attract people to the city," he said. In recent weeks, he's laid out a plan to court the state's burgeoning craft brewery industry as an eco- nomic driver that could find a home in the city's old mills. He pointed to Pawtucket as a community that has successfully recruited independent breweries and distilleries to remake its image as a depressed former mill town. "That brings about 150,000 people into Pawtucket every year," he said. Brien also took aim at the tense relationship between Baldelli-Hunt and a majority of city councilors, accusing her of using her position to put up roadblocks to ideas that don't originate within her office. In 2018, Brien and four allies gained a veto- proof majority on the City Council. That dynamic allowed them to have final say on the city budget and other legislative matters, but the five coun- cilors and Baldelli-Hunt have contin- ued to compete for control on every- thing from solar energy proposals to the reopening of City Hall. Baldelli-Hunt painted a different picture of the relationship, saying it's the councilors who have failed to work with her administration and not the other way around. She said she's been able to develop strong relation- ships on the state and federal level and pointed to the state's decision to locate a new higher education center on Main Street and the recent reloca- tion of RESH Inc., a manufacturing company, to Park East Drive as exam- ples of those relationships. "My door is open, my administra- tion is open," she said. "This is all orchestrated because they were pre- paring for Jon to run." Baldelli-Hunt also responded to the accusation that her improvements were little more than basic services, pointing to cost-saving measures in the Public Works Department initiated under her leadership. Both candidates have deep politi- cal roots in the city and follow in the footsteps of family members with their own aspirations to Woonsocket's top office. For Baldelli-Hunt, it was her uncle, Charles Baldelli, who served as mayor from 1985 to 1989. For Brien, it was his father, Albert Brien, who challenged Baldelli-Hunt unsuccessfully for the position in 2018 at the age of 77. Though the two families were once allies in the city's political scene – the older Brien backed Baldelli-Hunt for mayor when she ran in 2013 – in recent years, they've found them- selves on opposite sides of conten- tious divide. As the relationship has dissolved, the criticisms have grown more targeted, often straying from policy into the personal lives of can- didates. Baldelli-Hunt, citing her opponent's 2014 bankruptcy, questioned last week whether Brien had the financial prowess to run the city, an attack she also levied against his father in 2018. "Jon Brien cannot even balance his personal budget. How are we expect- ing that we're going to put $152 mil- lion in his hands and have faith that he will be able to handle a checkbook of that size?" she said. Brien, in response, acknowledged his 2014 bankruptcy and said it was the result of a difficult divorce and had nothing to do with his time in public office. "Who hasn't had a difficult divorce, or struggled financially, or lost a job, or lost a home?" he said. "That just makes me one of the people who struggled in this city and came back all the more." Both candidates acknowledged the city has a hard road ahead recover- ing from the economic impact of COVID-19 but expressed confidence they can continue with their goals. Baldelli-Hunt said she's already prov- en she could stabilize a city "that was on the brink of bankruptcy," while Brien presented it as an opportunity to be on "equal footing" with other cities and towns. Baldelli-Hunt also criticized Brien's approach to campaigning during the pandemic. While both candidates have been out knocking on doors, the mayor said she's received com- plaints from residents whose homes Brien approached without wearing a face mask. Brien, in response, said he always maintains six feet of distance and keeps a mask on his person but takes his cue from the resident in whether he should put it on. The two have also clashed over the location of a debate WNRI has proposed for Oct. 21. As of last week, both candidates had agreed to participate but had not yet reached a consensus on the place. Brien sup- ported holding the debate in Harris Hall, the location favored by WNRI, while Baldelli-Hunt said she preferred a restaurant location where members of the public could attend. MAYORAL RACE From Page One 'We came into office knowing that we were facing deficits from years past, debt that was nearly a quarter of a million dollars ... We had a huge task in front of us.' LISA BALDELLI-HUNT Mayor of Woonsocket 'Who hasn't had a difficult divorce, or struggled financially or lost a job or lost a home?' JON BRIEN City Council vice president and mayoral candidate Roofing - Windows - Siding FREE INSPECTIONS & ESTIMATES 401-537-7014 East Providence, RI RI REG 43222 LICENSED INSURANCE REPAIR SPECIALISTS INSURED COMPETITION SHOOTING SUPPLIES New & Used Firearms | Shotguns • Pistols • Rifles Bought • Sold • Traded | New & Reloaded Ammo Available Blue Card Test Available | Glock Stocking Dealer Ruger • Glock • S&W • Sig Sauer Dillon Precision • Springfield Armory 435 (Rear) Benefit Street, Pawtucket, RI 401-727-1716 Gift Certificates Available AN ACTIVE ADULT COMMUNITY • Heat, Hot Water, Gas And Snow Plowing Included • Granite Countertops • Walk-In Closets • Plenty Of Parking • Friendly On-Site Staff • Pet Friendly • 800 Plus Square Feet, 1 Bedroom • 1200 Plus Square Feet, 2 Bedroom • New Pool Area Coming Soon! PLEASE FEEL FREE TO VISIT OUR LEASING OFFICE LOCATED AT 1565 DOUGLAS AVENUE, NORTH PROVIDENCE, RI. WE ARE OPEN MONDAY-FRIDAY FROM 9AM-5PM AND BY APPOINTMENT ONLY ON SATURDAY AND SUNDAY.

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Valley Breeze - The Valley Breeze Woonsocket North Smithfield 10-15-2020