Bill Bartholomew welcomes Providence Ward 5 City Council candidate Aaron Jaehnig to the loft for a wide-ranging conversation ahead of the September 12th Democratic primary contest. The small business owner, arts community leader and Sierra Club Executive Committee member describes a variety of issues facing Rhode Island's capital city, and presents possible solutions to return power and influence to each neighborhood and community Providence.
Speaker 1:0:07Welcome to another edition of the Bartholomew town podcast. I'm your host, Bill Bartholomew from our Providence Rhode Island studios. I sit down with providence city council candidate Erin jaded.
Speaker 2:0:21Aaron Genie is a native Rhode Islander and is deeply connected to providence having lived in the capital city for nearly two decades. Earlier this year, the small business owner, day to day manager of the live music venue, the parlor, and the Rhode Island Sierra Club executive committee member announced his intention to run for the ward five providence city council seat. He now finds himself in a Democratic primary contest and it's built a grassroots following up support behind his message. Our conversation zeroed in on many of the key aspects of Mr j dot x platform, particularly issues surrounding affordable housing and generally how to return power to the neighborhoods and working class residents of Providence. Alright, a shout out now to those of you have been sending email and text feedback to me about the podcast itself, about the issues that we're covering, the people we're talking to, giving your feedback on many of the discussions that we're having here.
Speaker 2:1:21So I appreciate that, but we want to take it a step further. Ladies and gentlemen, introducing love letters and hate mail saying your postcard to Bartholomew town. Six, six, nine Elmwood Avenue, suite c, five, providence, Rhode Island, zero to nine, zero seven. That's Bartholomew town. All one word six, six, nine elmwood avenue, suite c, five, providence, Rhode Island, zero to nine, zero seven. Hey, maybe we'll read your love letter or hate mail right here on the Bartholomew Tom podcast and yeah, really appreciate keeping it interactive. You may also follow me on twitter at Bill Bartholomew and tweet your feedback right there. All right, let's just get right to providence city council candidate in ward five. Mr Aaron.
Speaker 1:2:14Alright. So we're here at the Bartholomew town walk with a candidate for it or
Speaker 3:2:19ward five city council in Providence. And someone if you're familiar with music in Rhode Island, providence seen. Definitely. No, Mr Aaron J. Dot thanks so much for your time. Yeah, my pleasure. Thanks. Thanks for having me. So I saw a facebook post that you were, you had announced your candidacy. Have you gone through the signature phase, collected signatures, and turned them into this point that that phase ended? Signatures had to be in by Monday at 4:00 PM, I guess. I don't think there's the finalize everything until Friday officially, but they do keep track on the secretary of state's website, so it looks like we sufficiently met the requirement for ballot access.
Speaker 4:3:01So yeah, that we're moving forward
Speaker 2:3:03different than the situation over in more 12 when he fought three short.
Speaker 4:3:07It's a bizarre situation. I mean I think any change where you have a young person that's added excited about entering politics, young people entering politics
Speaker 2:3:20when the 21 year old now only candidate for the ward 12,
Speaker 4:3:25which is amazing. I have a lot of particular feelings about the way that council person acid is run the ordinance committee for the last few years too. So personally I think it's huge. I, I, I do also. He's been a public servant for a lot of years and at one time may have been slightly more productive and easy to deal with. Accessible type person. I know a lot of people that have a lot of respect from them over the years, but all of the interactions I've had over the last few years advocating for policy to the Ordinance Committee have been pretty obstructionist and inaccessible, so from from my perspective, it's a huge victory for the city to have a new voice and a new perspective in that seat. I mean who knows what's gonna Happen With Ordinance Committee, but it won't be under his control anymore. It seems like a weird way to end a political career. I don't know if it was a intentional right self inflicted or or just a representation of of the carelessness and lack of commitment that he was putting forth into position is represented in, in the the amount of effort he put into collecting signatures or if it was just sort of a way to sneak into the night. I tried. I didn't get them a guy got. I guess I gotta go guys. I don't know. It's a little weird situation, but I think overall it's a huge, huge victory to have somebody like that.
Speaker 2:4:46That's what I thought was interesting as well as how he basically conceded and is supporting cat Kerwin, you know, for that seed as well. And you know, sort of threw his hands up. Hey we, we, we fell three signatures short. Somehow you'd like you say could be a staged thing, but I'll tell you right now I've heard from different people about there's just been a lot of carelessness and all sorts of races with regard to signatures as far as getting them done, people being actually registered voters. You know, I've, I've had friends telling me that, that, that it, you know, the challenge to make it happen is a lot more significant than you would think. You know,
Speaker 4:5:18it's a bizarre process. Weird exercise for sure. You know, I submitted I think 110, the requirements 50, they tell you to get at least twice as much, which means they're going into it thinking they're going to invalidate a significant amount, but I don't know how accurate the tallies are on the secretary of state's site right now, but it says 68. They've authenticated. So I mean that's, that's a pretty large percentage if they maybe they got to a certain amount of gave up and said, all right, you're on, or if
Speaker 2:5:45that's a lot of reality and then get moving, keep moving. There's. And is that the secretary of State's office or is that sports of canvas? Through the
Speaker 4:5:52providence porter canvases and then is like officially they present it to the secretary state who officialized is all the election stuff. So it's, it happens at both levels. I submit you received the sheets and submit them back to the board of canvassers and then they submit their data to the secretary of State's office
Speaker 2:6:11procedure. You're essentially standing and eating insane happening, you know, with some last minute challenge those signatures in the urine. So let's go with
Speaker 4:6:22unusual. No, no, no, that does. That does happen. The people, I mean I guess it usually when it's a little closer to the, to the limit. I have seen people put forth pretty serious challenges to those signatures in front of the board. So. But no, I think we spent a lot of time talking, going door to door and talking to neighbors and making sure, you know, that they were folks invested in the neighborhood as voters, you know, we wanted to use it as an opportunity to talk to people that are invested in the election and in our community. So, I mean we're pretty certain that the people we talked to are represented on the signature pages virtually deliberately.
Speaker 2:6:59Yeah. And that's something I've heard from, from some candidates as well at different levels, not just profit and city council, that you could use this opportunity as a chance to interface with community members and you probably wouldn't, you know, you would canvas, but what, you really have that same motivation to really knock on those extra 10 doors to get. Maybe not if the
Speaker 4:7:16teachers weren't required, you know? Yeah. And it's a good icebreaker to especially like early on in the campaign that, you know, a lot of people aren't prepared. It's only July. They're just getting into their summer. I don't want to hear the spiels from, especially in a ward like mine where there's three very active candidates, um, that all seemed to be out knocking doors so, you know, it gives you a, Hey, I'm just, we don't have to get deep into stuff. This is me, this is who I am. We can talk later, but, you know, could we just, you know, it's a good icebreaker with folks to sort of prepare them to for the election season and also to Sorta, you know, have that initial conversation without having to bear down too hard on them with the heavy political content. Totally.
Speaker 2:7:57All right. Let's get right into eight. Your Lifelong Rhode Islander, longtime resident of Providence, small business owner. You're heavily involved in the arts community as both a proprietor and, uh, also an artist yourself, uh, and your, someone who else was involved in youth sports, you know, which is actually a critical element of communities in Rhode Island. And, uh, something that's to me anyway, uh, I've been involved in for a long time and so it's a surprisingly great way to get a message out. Um, but what, what, what was it that, you know, what was the straw on the camel's back or what was it that made you decide to write, I'm going to throw my name into this maddening process and hopefully take a seat on the providence city.
Speaker 4:8:42So mean it certainly, it certainly wasn't an easy deliberation. Um, you know, I have a young family too. My daughter just started providence public schools. I have a son who's still a year away schooling. So with the small business and a lot of the advocacy work that I'm involved in with Sierra Club and jobs with justice and whatnot. I mean, I have a full plate. I wear a lot of hats as you've introduced some of them, but it's, it's the sort of thing. There were people from that perspective. I mean, we've had, our city government is full of, of lobbyists, lawyers, state employees, um, you know, sort of represent representatives of the establishment politic that has sort of left a lot of people behind. And as I look out at the city from all of those, wearing all those hats, as somebody who's involved in the arts community and you watch the city sort of capitalize on pvd fest is a great event.
Speaker 4:9:43I don't want to diminish that. But in order to be able to do something like that, I think the city could do it a lot better if they integrated in, took into account all the folks sort of at the grassroots level who have created an environment in this, in this city and in this state to be able to offer things like that. You know, like I don't see a lot of credit being given to the folks that, you know, the community, the arts communities and only bill and the ones over here and onward and, and all over the city. And the small clubs and the bands and the painters and poets that have been doing this stuff without anybody paying attention for decades now. Right? Or paint them as well for very little recognition for very little money and creating an environment in the city that now allows the city to try to use that as a, the creative capital, which is great.
Speaker 4:10:35I mean, anything that's gonna bring resources and, and, and money into the city is good. But to be, to take credit for that and to use that platform without sort of also creating support systems for the businesses and the people in the artists that have created that environment I think is sloppy and, and, and sort of, you know, a perspective that. So that's the sort of the perspective that I think I can bring to the council because I, I've watched the city from that ground level, you know, I'm not a lawyer. I'm not a lobbyist, I'm not a banker. I've been a musician, I've been a social worker. I've been a truck driver, I've been a bartender, I've been a bouncer. I, you know, I've lived in every corner of the city, not necessarily because I was trying to. It's good to look at it from different viewpoints, but mostly because I couldn't afford the place I was at or I needed to find somewhere else to live for affordability reasons or access to a job reasons or whatever, you know, it's so, um, and then having to deal with the city as a small businessperson and a sort of the barriers you've come across and see the difficulties I faced it from that perspective.
Speaker 4:11:44And then having two young children just starting their careers in providence public schools. I think I just don't see a lot of voices on the council and in city government that, that have that perspective. Um, you know, when I built a lot of relationships through, through that work and also through the advocacy work I've done with the Sierra club and jobs with justice and other groups like that where, you know, I recognized as I got involved in that work as someone who had stepped away from that I wasn't really active in high school in college and the environmental scene in the Sierra Club and the Green Party and stuff like that and moved away for um, from that work for a long time. And as I came back into it, the like recognizing the immediate access I had to resources and politicians and conversations and, and activities that some of the groups that I was trying to support and the grassroots organizations doing the frontline work being led by, you know, black, indigenous women of color who aren't being invited to those conversations and aren't, don't have access to those resources. I know it was. I'm, and I know I've, I've witnessed in and tried to do what I can to, to battle these systemic issues. But until I was like put myself in a position to, to be active again and do this stuff and realize
Speaker 3:13:09the immediate access and credibility that I had by just being, you know, save 40 year old white male business owner in the city and then watched sort of the groups who had been doing this work and fighting for their lives for all these years, who, who didn't have that access and we're fighting for the resources that were immediately offered to me. It was like, I messed up, you know, and shit is what it isn't. It's a systemic, you know, fear and ignorance oriented and driven mindset that, you know, you seem to want to just go right in there and break apart. Well man and I do, but I don't do it haphazardly either. You know, and I think the important part of doing this stuff because I
Speaker 4:13:56struggle with, you know, in this teenage, regardless of, of, of the incumbents politics and an obstructionist in and sometimes seemingly overtly racist behavior as a councilperson. I still struggle a lot with, you know, as, as challenging a woman in to today in, in our, in the world that we're in because I, I think more women and people of color should be running for office. I, I don't, I don't, I'm not, I'm not excited about grasping at power, you know, it, it's, it's something that I'm doing very hesitantly. But because um, you know, through that work I have built a lot of relationships in the community and, and I've created a network of accountability for myself to groups and people that I've been working with and trying to support their movements. And, and when you, you know, I've tried to recognize the privilege I have and when you offer it up and folks say the most useful thing that you could do right now is trying to change the culture on the city council then.
Speaker 2:15:05Yeah, exactly. You've got to maneuver. Yeah. You can either walk around in and feel a certain level of guilt or you know, kind of just disorientation and how you should go about trying to impact change or you can just do the thing that your gut tells you to do right now.
Speaker 4:15:23But I do that. I do do it, like I said, hesitantly, but also with accountability to folks in the community. I mean very, very pointedly. I don't want to. I wouldn't do something like this without sort of that support
Speaker 2:15:38but, but isn't that the point? You know, you think about the, the East Providence City Council fiasco here, you know, I can't think of his name, the, you know, the whole story with the badge where, you know, you got pulled over and flashed his badge, used altering the facebook page of obviously different city. But the idea is, isn't the council's supposed to be just a representative of people in the neighborhood gain their collective ideas to a policy table for debate? And ultimately the way this city works, you know, for essentially, you know, hopefully backroom quick discussion with the mayor's office and just making things happen. Isn't this supposed to be just a pipeline from each and every kitchen table to follow what's going on here? Then why isn't it
Speaker 4:16:22in theory that, that. I mean that is how democracy is supposed to work.
Speaker 2:16:26Yeah. Particularly at the municipal level, you know, what you mean, where the filters should be almost the power grabs. She'd be the last thing on a city councilors mind, you know, it should be completely back of mind if you will. You know what I mean?
Speaker 4:16:41It is unfortunately on the issues that I've been involved in, in trying to advocate for at the municipal level over the last few years, I've found the council to be incredibly disingenuous about scoping and, and using community input to, to build those policies. Um, and it's the same as anything to, you know, where, who are you accountable to and why. And, and if, if, if your day job is as a state level lobbyists for the real estate industry, are you really approaching this responsibility as somebody who's trying to uplift community voices, especially in a community. The entire city is struggling with outrageous, affordable housing, low income housing scarcity. And even middle class families are being pushed out by, by attempts to gentrify and redevelop
Speaker 2:17:40construction. Right now we're here in would you know, this is a neighborhood that, you know, all of the sudden here they are, you know, there's, there's some measure of happening even out here. And this is where I'm out here as in, to me anyway, you know, it's, it's a place where over the last five to 10 years, people that I know are starting to move out here. It's slowly, you know, sort of going into communities that already exist, if you will, you know what I mean. But in a, in a natural process, now it's being sped up because of a lack of available housing on the West End, you know,
Speaker 3:18:15which already had a lack of affordable housing and the fact that folks are using this opportunity to redevelop it for, for not the historical represented folks in that community. I mean, and that's the problem with a lot of this. The same thing. If you go a few blocks over down into Washington park where there's, there's folks and families that have been, have been invested in this neighborhood, and if you look at the longterm history of Providence, segregated into the neighborhoods that they're in very, very, very deliberately when we built 95, when we built route 10 though, these decisions were made for very specific reasons to upset very specific communities. Even when you look at that Little Hill on the east side, which, um, you know, federal housing laws in the sixties, which we're supposed to be anti segregation laws and to actually desegregate our neighborhoods. We're used to target, um, thriving black neighborhoods that the federal government now had the authority to call blighted and, and, and take 'em.
Speaker 3:19:28That's where we're whole foods. Plaza in university heights are on the east side, was actually one of the most thriving communities of color in the city of providence at that time. And, and they use those, those laws to really located, disrupt that community. Um, and, and at that time, the only place that folks were, you could talk to anyone who would, who would rent to your cellular home was, you know, on the south side or, or only bill in some of these outlying communities which had been purposely purposely separated by highways and other development and, and we've really isolated and segregated communities of color and now that sort of, that welfare that folks took in were able to build in the things that were offered to, to white folks in the suburbs at that same time right now that, that a lot of that wealth is going as the manufacturing and working class jobs in the suburbs have disappeared. Those folks are coming back to the city and really extracting from the same folks we displaced 50 years ago. The, the, the, you know, from those same folks in the communities that we forced them into in the first place. I mean, it's a really ugly, it's really ugly cycle in and you don't necessarily, you know, the reason that folks in the suburbs don't have jobs anymore either is another ugly conversation about the way that all of our money has been extracted to the top, but I think
Speaker 3:20:56it's just tough. And then you watch, uh, you know, there's development companies buying up houses and Washington Park with the sole purpose of letting them go into disrepair in order to drive out the working class families that lived there so they can redevelop them, not for those communities to be able to live in a, in a, you know, well-maintained house put in then to be able to sell those apartments to Johnson and Wales students whose families can afford to pay top notch, top dollar rents.
Speaker 2:21:31Yeah. It's absolutely striking. I mean, for sure when I first, Gabriella, my wife is now going to raise the. So I started, I guess it was last fall I would take her up. Actually last summer she began. So I started taking her up from Newport, you know, and I'd be going into providence to pick her up at like five and I noticed everybody, every artery was clogged up, everyone trying to get out of downtown Providence, but you could easily make your way into the city at that time. The would no night activity. And then similarly the divide between the river and downtown and then broad street is just so striking when, when we now living here on and in Elmwood on Elmwood avenue that drive the drive from our place up elmwood avenue to broad street across the highway downtown and then up college hill through wristy and just if you want to take a pick a, a micro chasm of disparity, just take a look at it there. So what do you do as a city councilor to what? What can we do that is actually would make some impact in this area?
Speaker 3:22:39There is no equity in zip codes in the city and that is without question. And I think largely that's because what the council has done is, you know, with the access to that a small handful of well-connected developers have had to the council, we focused, you know, you go back to the mall and that deal and then you look at the tax stabilization agreements that have been given to a lot of these luxury condo developments downtown. And then we've been waiting, you know, 20, 30 years now for this sort of the people getting priced out of Boston to move here in, buy these luxury housing situations and then have this, this wealth miraculously trickled down to the rest of the city and it's, it's not working. And
Speaker 2:23:29No, the train is not reliable enough. That's one aspect of it. You know, for sure then that that's just not, it's just not gonna work. It's the same pathway in New York. You know, people would probably live in Rhode Island, commute to New York a few days a week. The rail system work.
Speaker 3:23:43And even if those people did come though there, they're not going be invested in the city. They're not going to be spending money here. If you're, if you're sleeping here because it's affordable and commuting to Boston every day, I mean, you're not going to be invested in, in the city in a way that creates community, that respects the culture that's here and, and actually does follow the sort of that mythological trickledown theory that, that building up downtown is going to support the rest of the city. And it was, we've been waiting 20 years and we did. That's not, that's not avid. Let me take a look at like Stanford, Connecticut or a place like that. You know what I mean? These places do have robust buildings and so forth for people to live in commute to New York. But I mean, what kind of culture is really there?
Speaker 3:24:22You know, the, I don't mean to offend anyone who's there at, but you don't. It's certainly not a mecca of ideas. That's for sure. It's, it's, uh, it's a bedroom and an in a shower for people to go to New York and that's. And so, but we do that. That's the difference about providence is that we do have that thriving cultural underbelly, belly of music and arts. And the history of the folks that the multigenerational stories of of immigrants and families and and I mean there's a rich cultural history and that shows in our arts community and it shows all over the place. So I mean if imagine if we stopped and I and I, I understand the importance of, of putting people to work and building things like I am. I'm on the board of Rhode Island jobs with justice. I support a lot of the movements to, to create jobs in construction.
Speaker 3:25:14But imagine if we had these tax stabilization agreements at the city council keeps extending, the jobs are gone, like the construction's over and we, it just because this private investor created a project that nobody wants to live in. It's not. And especially if you look at our schools and you look at our neighborhoods, it's not the responsibility of, of all of the other taxpayers in the city to make sure that that buff chase and Joe Paleo, no, don't lose a little money. I mean it's, it's really disgusting. And I think that's the culture that needs to change on our council. That we need new voices. Who aren't, who aren't, um, aren't beholden to the old establishment politics of where those voices are valued. The voices of those developers and those lobbyists are valued significantly more than the community groups who were, who were fighting for their lives in, in, in these neighborhoods.
Speaker 3:26:06And there's no question, what's your take on the scrap yards and Joe Paleo and then Clinton should, should that be cleaned up, down, down on the waterfront. And you know, what's, what's your take there? I have a lot of takes on the port of Providence for sure. Primarily I spent you can ask my wife a very significant amount of my free time the last few years trying to support folks live in, in Washington Park and on the south side dealing with, uh, you know, the traumatic effects on the, on their life that exists because of the pollution and the, the dangers of, of living that close to a toxic port. And you know, it's, it's, it's the same thing. Yes or well, it's zoned industrial. Where else are we supposed to put this stuff? And usually you need to unpack this, like why is that zone industrial? And why is that?
Speaker 3:27:03Why next to that toxic infrastructure as we talked about, these housing issues are a little earlier, like why is that neighborhood the place that we segregated all of the working class communities of color to next to this toxic infrastructure? So yeah, maybe this is an industrial port, you know, I understand the value of the industrial port, but we also need to understand the value of y, the people that live next to the port. We're pushed to live next to the poor and, and why we also need to value the health and of their, of those folks and create something that works for, for everyone. Yeah. The, you know, national grid is not just going to disappear overnight, but to continue to double down on this toxic infrastructure and build dangerous facilities and, and allow these scrapyards to keep getting fined. It's cheaper to pay the fines than it is to clean them up.
Speaker 3:27:49I mean, that's a system that's not working. Right. And Save the bay will tell you, you know, the amount of pollution that has occurred from those scrapyards just seeping toxins into Narragansett Bay. I mean, it's just disgusting and then that issue alone, I don't see how every Rhode Islander, every person wouldn't just say, wait a second, let's, let's figure this out. Let's come. We've got to find a way to do this year saying the long term plan to develop or redevelop the port of Providence. Maybe get rid of the scrap yard, maybe move national grid out of there. We need to develop a just transition plan in which the folks who are invested in living in that community have a say in developing wealth generation for themselves. I mean that's, it's. We can't just keep coming up with solutions that benefit the corporations and the, you know, there are people that live there who are invested in these communities who can have plenty of powerful, profitable, useful ideas to things that could happen in that poor and, and nobody's listening to them and, and a lot of the time, the WHO's got time to talk about the plans for the future when you're too busy fighting to stop the things that are going to kill your kid.
Speaker 3:29:02Right now. I know folks that the folks I know in the Washington Park, some of them are taking weekly trips to the emergency room with their kids because of the asthma problems there. I mean it's one of the worst asthma hotspots in in the northeast, if not the country, and then you look at the Manchester Street power station. Dominion a project is is one of the biggest air polluters in the city and we're talking about giving them another tax stabilization. There's a public hearing on Monday, which it makes, I believe seeing people argue the upside of some of these things and I understand where they're coming from this. This one blows my mind. Several years ago the city gave dominion attack stabilization deal at Manchester Street power station, valued at about $4 million for the life of the project and as part of that deal, the city was supposed to acquire some property there along, I think coreless landing, that demeaning owned and there was a clause in it I believe, which is already a really bizarre situation in which the city just giving away money that if the property transferred never occurred, the city would receive payment from dominion and the amount of $300,000, which still leaves it at a three point $7,000,000 giveaway to a to a fossil fuel fracking energy company whose, whose revenue I believe in 2017 was three point $9 billion dollars.
Speaker 3:30:39And now there's a proposal, there's a hearing on Monday about a new tech stabilization that would only require demeaning to pay half of that $300,000 or 150,000. So it's actually at three thousand eight hundred thirty three million. Eight hundred $50,000 give away. But so as you know, we shut down central high school for two weeks because there was a mold situation was so bad that kids couldn't go to school anymore and you know, we have folks being pushed out of the neighborhoods or homeless shelters, a full crossroads is full. People are out of work and we're given, we're already supposed to be taking this menial fee from dominion for not following through with the property transfer that we were supposed to receive. And then we're just going to give away another $150,000. I can't even,
Speaker 3:31:35I can't even look at any potential upside to this, especially in this environment where like everyone's talking about the city and just declare declare bankruptcy. The city needs to sell the water, the city needs to stop. Coal is no more pensions and it's like, why are we, how can we possibly justify any even having any of those conversations when we're just giving money away to billion dollar fossil fuel companies in relationships in mass that are masquerading as public utilities and consumers expensive. It's, it's, it's mindblowing to me. And these giveaways are coming from the Providence General Fund, the city of Providence is general fund or are they also coming from state funds as well? Well, I mean that, that particular deal is just a tax stabilization. So it, it was a reduction in property taxes due to the city of Providence, which there are, there are also state subsidies in a lot of these development projects as well. And with, and even when the city tries to do slightly responsible things, they don't have the oversight or capacity or interest or knowledge or awareness to, to properly monitor them. I know one of the current developments downtown that received
Speaker 3:32:55a pretty large tech stabilization, one of the hotels that's being built, I forget the name of the project now, originally included a clause in which the developers were required to hire, um, predominantly if not entirely a union labor force, which should be mandated in any deal that we, we hand out. Um, but then the project was sold to another developer and that clause didn't, wasn't transfer, wasn't transferrable. So then, you know, now they're, they're hiring day laborers in unsafe conditions. And, and you know, the, the, I know the Luna and the painters union went down there in March and the other day to try to get these folks a fair wage and to draw attention to this stuff because nobody's paying attention that the city council is signing off on this stuff and then not watching what's going on, you know, so if you're going to, so they don't have the capacity or like I said, who knows the willingness to understanding of it all to, to even to even monitor these deals and if we're gonna invest taxpayers' money and I understand and creating opportunities to put people to work too, but we need to do it in a responsible way that, that keeps union labor employed in safe conditions.
Speaker 3:34:09You know, it's, they're just not doing it. And that say you're going to be an advocate for these positions and in, in, if you're on the council at least introduce what you can to try to make it change. You know, the only one there doing it 100 percent. I mean, we at least need to have these conversations in the light of day. You know, and it's a wear these,
Speaker 3:34:32the, the counselors so reticent to take public input on this stuff or to have these conversations out in the backroom deals. They show up to a committee, go through the motions to approve it. It's in front of the full council and there was no, you know, there's, there's no alternative presented, there's no opposition. There is no real scoping of public input or, or alternative ideas. And then it's a, people are too busy leveraging for their own power amongst the body to really invest any time in taking any real solid policy positions. Which is the exact opposite of the way you describe sort of this trickle up democracy that municipal governments are supposed to operate under. Absolutely. What's the biggest or most common theme you've heard from people you've met in ward five? What's their biggest need or their biggest complaint about the functionality of city government right now and put they, they would look for you to, to do when you got there? I think accessibility, responsiveness, um, you know, and in five overall is, is, is uh,
Speaker 4:35:39one of the, I mean with all the neighborhoods is struggling, but at comparatively, if, as we look at the city as a whole, most of ward five is, is, is doing better than a lot of the other parts of the city. And even still, there's folks there that are our people are moving out because the housing market is so out of control there. And, and the jobs that working class folks are working, don't come with retirement plans that they don't come with pensions anymore. They don't come with sustainable longterm benefit packages. Is it when people are looking at this market and they're selling their houses and their bail and um, you know, and then that's not the way that we build community and, and, and, and have a city that people want to live in is to have people run away to try to secure their futures.
Speaker 4:36:20You know. And um, most of the alternatives that I've found that the incumbent to offer are, are largely face value off. Well, what we, you know, so there's, there's, there's, they're responding to poverty and, and, and the um, you know, the, the occasional criminality that comes from being joblessness and poverty and these things with, with additional policing being the be all and end all so tough on crime, right? That's their whole thing. But yeah. Well, you know, what could we probably, if you look at the city of providence as a whole over the course of the last 10, 15, 20 years, crime has reduced significantly. Access to information about crime has increased significantly and a lot of people, you know, with the way that the Internet works and just the access to information, people feel like there's a lot more crime. But if you look at the numbers in the city of Providence, crime has reduced significantly over the last two decades.
Speaker 4:37:20Um, and, and if there is no question, yes there are, there is homelessness, there is joblessness, there is, there are people who aren't being served by their schools or their afterschool programs and, and, and so the solution isn't to police them more. The the solution is to deal with the problems like this, let's let's create a educational programs that meet the kids where they're at rather than trying to box them into to the standards that that in and let's, let's make sure that they don't go to school, who wants, who's going to be invested in their education, when the, the asbestos is falling on their heads and then you're breathing in mold all day. I mean this to say that the solution to our problems is that we need to be tough on crime and increased police presence in ward five is, is a, is a lazy, is it lazy solution?
Speaker 4:38:10As far as I'm concerned, we need to. We need to look at those root problems and find ways to have the city invest in itself and bring some of that stuff that we've been waiting. All this investment we've been waiting magically awaiting for downtown to share with the rest of us into the neighborhoods, you know, and, and invest in, in creating more opportunities for, for business in ward five and it's largely a residential neighborhood in Rhode Island College. Takes up a big swath of land there, but there's, there's not a lot of small community businesses. And there is, there is opportunity to, to invest in a lot of that and just to, if we do share the wealth with all of this tech stabilization we've given these big developments with, with folks in the neighborhoods. I mean, you're going to get people who aren't going to have to leave.
Speaker 4:38:58We're going to have longterm residents invested in keeping the community safe themselves and, and, and, and create an environment that people want to live in and we can really address these problems at the root, you know, um, you know, with the colleges and with the high schools and the major traffic issues on Smith Street in mount pleasant through fruit hill, um, you know, and so there's winds up being. There's a lot of that. Honestly, the thing I hear more on the, on the doors walking around five from everybody is at the streets aren't safe for pedestrians, they're not safe for people on bicycles and, and we all know the unreliability and difficult pasts that are public transportation takes. Um, so people are driving and there's a lot of traffic and they're going through the side streets and, and, and they're creating dangerous situations in the neighborhoods.
Speaker 4:39:48So, you know, and that's part of the, I and I come, my interest in joining municipal government are largely based on some of these larger policy issues, but part of the job too is making sure you, that you're, you're involved in these, you know, down and dirty neighborhood. My sidewalks, streets aren't safe, I, you know, and it's part of that same problem where the money is just not making it to the neighborhood to deal with these problems and the council isn't interested in hearing. A lot of the people that I talked to you were saying that they haven't heard from their council person. They've called numerous times or you know, maybe they did get a response once and then the next time they had a problem they said, well, Hey, I did that other thing for you. Like,
Speaker 3:40:37no, we're good. You know, we're even now vote for a thing. How could you criticize me on this thing? I remember when when your streak up locked in and two days after your open heart surgery and you were worried you might have to go back to the hospital and your driveway was bloated, was plowed in and I got somebody to come out and clear it and now you're criticizing me on this other thing I'm doing. It's like, well, that was your job. What your role is as, as, as a council person is to respond to those situations. Favor the favor of being there and representing. It's privileged to represent your constituency. Right. You know, so I, I guess, I mean that's sort of what I'm trying to offer folks is that I do have an understanding of a lot of the larger city issues and, and the, the barriers to the community being represented in those conversations. But I also have a willingness to sort of spend the time listening to folks on the ground are worried about in front of their house, you know, and the conversations I have with folks in the neighborhood are going to be represented by my behavior on the council. Quick answers, if you don't mind. Just a few issues. The speed cameras in Providence, are you in favor of the speed cameras or do you think they should be removed? These aren't yes or no question.
Speaker 3:41:55I, it's the same thing. I think the process, the outreach, the implementation are terrible. I think that if we're gonna to these, like I just said, one of the largest issues I hear from people is, is, is safety on the streets? People driving too fast, people not being, being in danger, walking around their own neighborhoods. Um, is a speed camera the most useful traffic calming measure? Probably not. Is it trying to quick fix some financial problems in the city? Yes. Do I think we need to be creative about finding new revenue streams? Yes. Is that the best one? Probably not, but I think the bigger issue is that. But why? The thing that people aren't talking about is the mayor's former chief of staff is receiving $5,000 a month from the company who is, is set to make millions of dollars off this deal. I mean, every time you play one of those traffic camp tickets with a credit card, every they get a four 95, the transaction, you know, that adds up, you know, and the fact that we're.
Speaker 3:43:01And I know that that company has, has a lot of contracts in the state. They handle a lot of the red light cameras too. But the fact that that we just, the process for this stuff is not transparent and it and it doesn't look good and I certainly couldn't support it happening the way it happened and I, I think we need, it needs to stop and we need to rethink it. Yes. Do we need traffic calming? Yes. Do we need revenue? Yes. But we need to have a lot larger clear or transparent conversations about how to make those things happen. And, and what was problematic about this, because I'm not comfortable with the mayor's form of chief of staff receiving $5,000 a month from the company that got the contract to do that seems a little strange in a way, a providence water supply being sold off any, any position on that other, you know, yes or no?
Speaker 3:43:49Yes or no. It's pretty straightforward. Yeah. I can't imagine that that would be a good idea long, longterm in any way, but it's also not a straightforward issue too. I understand the burden that the city of providence has in managing the water supply for largely for 60 plus percent of the state and with out the ability to, to generate any revenue through that management of the state's water system. And then to be able to hand it off to another municipality and allow them to benefit financially through distributing that water on their own. Um, is, is a difficult system. And it's the same thing. I understand why the city is trying to generate revenue in that manner, but to to leave any opportunity available to prioritize that, whether you call it a sale or a transaction. I'm not sure what the difference the. I know the mayor really focused on the wording saying that this isn't a sale.
Speaker 3:44:41It's a transaction. I don't know what that means is if I sold you a beer or we completed a transaction for a beer, I think once you've got that beer in your hand, you can do whatever you want with it, right? Yes. You can sell it to a Poland spring for all, you know, you know what I mean? So in, regardless of my intent, your actions after he drink that beer could be very, very have very ill effects on the, on the city. I mean not you as a beer drinker, but uh, at Nestle owning our water supply, which the city is being very clear that that's not the intention but intention versus what's intended and what's allowed. You know, there's, there's, just because it's not intended doesn't mean that it should be allowed and it doesn't prevent that situation from happening in any conversations about the water slot supply need to very, very clearly maintain that it cannot be controlled by a private company.
Speaker 3:45:46Any language and transfers thereafter, et cetera. Correct. What about the teachers? There's a, an ongoing issue here. I mean, it actually applies to other unions in the cities while, but I think the big one right now is the teachers. They're extremely upset with mayor Elorza. I personally had dinner with several providence teachers and got the feeling that there is a, you know, there's, there's a lot of the actual sadness emotion there. It's not just talking points. So how would you address that issue from the council? I mean, unfortunately the council doesn't have a lot of control over that negotiation itself. Uh, I would certainly encourage the mayor to participants in it and, and, or to find someone to mediate it and, and to, to put those teachers under a fair contract immediately. You know, and I think with all of the other issues facing our schools, I think just to the pressures we already have on these teachers.
Speaker 3:46:46I mean, my daughter literally just, she just completed her first year in providence public schools. She's, she's, uh, um, Robert F Kennedy elementary and we had an amazing experience. It was a fantastic program to the public pre k program, which I think needs to be extended to everyone in the city. Um, but you know, to watch the teachers there have to, you know, bring in a lot of the supplies they have, the supplies that are accessible to them through the school are dilapidated and incredibly old. And then to have to fundraise, you know, to go fund me's for the things that you need to operate your classroom. I mean these, these teachers are already demoralized, um, in and they're doing amazing work through a lot of the work I've done with the Sierra club and the organizing work I've done. And I've interacted a lot with the youth that at groups like prism and Psu and youth pride and city arts and a lot of these programs.
Speaker 3:47:47And you look at the kids that are coming out on the other side of providence public schools, the ones who are, um, who are met where they're at with an education that works for them. It is amazing. I mean, these kids are amazing. When I look back at myself, it's 15, 16, 17, 18 years, 18 years old. And look at the kids around the city and the art that they're creating and the voices that they're using to, to advocate for change in their communities. I mean, these are powerful people that I met there. The, the proof is in the look around the city. I mean, look at the youth in the city of what they're doing and what they're creating and what they're saying. And it's, it's amazing and it's very real. It's paying attention. It's tangible, you know, across different spectrums. It's across the political spectrum obviously in the conversations there, the advocacy spectrum.
Speaker 3:48:37It's into the arts, it's into shows, it's into they are street even, you know, it's kind of creeping back up there a little bit. It's real, you know, so I mean the teachers are doing good work and they need to be able to at the end of the day feel like they're being compensated fairly. I mean this isn't, it's not rocket science, but we are at, we're extracting resources into these. I think 26 charter school programs have opened in the last few years and the number sounds very close if not accurate. Yeah. And I understand the usefulness of a charter school, a small public charter school program as a, as a laboratory experiment to try new things within the school system that to incubate new ways of learning, which is how charter schools started. I understand the usefulness of that but to, to, to, to abandoned, to recognize the issues in the schools, the infrastructure issues, the, the, the teachers who don't feel appreciated or fairly compensated and then to run away from that and create a system outside it rather than deal with it is irresponsible at, at best.
Speaker 3:49:48And, and, and what it leaves behind is, you know, the kids that aren't applying for charter schools are English language learners and refugees and immigrants. And you know, we're leaving behind the, the, you know, it's an overburdened system in an under resourced system and we're leaving behind a lot of kids and, and yeah, we're lucky that there's teachers in there that are helping these kids come out on the other side as amazing people. But we need to create a system that could do that for everyone in and with teachers that, that feel, uh, appreciated and, and, and fairly compensated, you know? Yeah. Maybe with the pension system, it doesn't look good,
Speaker 4:50:28but the problem isn't the folks who are contributing and who we're gonna take out on the other side. I mean these are our teachers, our firefighters are first responders. These, these are people who are, who are putting their lives on the line for the public good. And, and for them to put in a fair days, work for a fair amount of years and coming out on the other side with a, with a reasonable, um, you know, after work income is, that's how the system's supposed to work. And because we've misused funds and allowed a, you know, wealthy developers and other people to extract wealth away from those places, it's not the fault of the firefighters and teachers and we need to, we need to maintain that system in fix the other problems rather than try to take away the fair things that are in place to support those people. Totally.
Speaker 2:51:18Last question, on an infrastructural level, public transportation, bike lanes, things like this. Would you as a city counselor try to improve or even just beginning a regular dialogue with ripped a. I've heard someone proposed on talk radio a couple of months ago building a monologue, a monorail through town. I've heard about an automated vehicle that was supposedly driving on chalk stone avenue or something like that. But, but is that something that you think, you know, the council should address, um, immediately is, is looking at public transportation citywide?
Speaker 4:51:55Well, absolutely. And we've done a lot and that's, that's something that the current council person in ward five voted against some white blake clean expansions in the city. Which is, is ridiculous, especially considering from the people in ward five that I've heard about that don't feel safe walking around their own neighborhood because of the amounts of traffic and the people that feel that we need to encourage people to walk. We need to find ways to get people to be more comfortable or, or find that public transportation to be more useful. Uh, any opera we need to have these conversations all the time in the light of day with, with real scoping and community engagement. There are, I mean, I don't know about a monorail or or what, but there are, there are people in the city advocating for solutions that could very, very positively impact these problems.
Speaker 4:52:46And we need to listen to them. You know, I don't, I don't have the answers right now, but I certainly am going to spend a lot of time finding the ones that the community thinks would most benefit them and doing it, you know, through the, through the Sierra Club. But we have been in some conversations with ripped as they start to talk about electrifying their fleet. There is some money through the Volkswagen settlement money, I think that's gonna wind up at rip to in order to, to work on electrification of their fleet, which is huge. Um, and, and one thing that we're really advocating for us to make sure that those, those pilot runs in those tests, programs happen in the cities that are in the neighborhoods, in the little lines that are most impacted by issues of pollution and poor air quality and those sort of traffic creations.
Speaker 4:53:39You know, Alan's avenue, south side, Washington Park, and some of those other corridors that, you know, we need to make sure that we're, the electric buses don't all wind up on the east side because the environmentalist on the east side or advocating for it to go there. We need to make sure that these happen things happen equitably in the folks that have been most impacted by poor air quality based on these traffic and commerce issues and air pollution. That that's where we start with these solutions. That's one way that I've currently been involved in those conversations, but I will advocate for, for all those things. Absolutely.
Speaker 3:54:12Aaron, Jenny, thanks for your time. Board. Five City Council candidate and our primary battle, or how does it work? Is it just all at large candidates and province? Frankly, I don't know how it works. Yeah, all three candidates in the race. All running as Democrats. So basically the election is the primary subsidy. You will. There is no primary till November. No, no, no. The primary September. Now I understand you were. Yes, sure, sure. Yeah, the election. But then
Speaker 4:54:37whoever wins has no opponent is public. So yeah. Well, Republicans run as Democrats.
Speaker 3:54:43Well this rundown, right? Just look no further than our own general assembly right there. You can see it. So without question, I was a little hesitant, you know.
Speaker 4:54:54Oh, and I've, but we need this. We need to. If the Democratic Party is what's going to be in control than we need to make it a democratic party that works with the people. We can't just keep looking at it in recognizing the problematic makeup in this bizarrely humongous umbrella that includes some, some pretty, some pretty right wing anti people policy under this enormous umbrella. We need to, you know, that's why I'm, I'm running as a Democrat, is that we need to make a Democratic Party that actually represents the people and does the thing the Democratic Party says it does and not just let it be the sort of this, it's Rhode Island. We're all democrats and not have it mean anything.
Speaker 3:55:37Right? And do you see yourself as more of like a Matte Brown, Erin Reagan Berg, democrat or more of a nic know Maddie? Yellow is not, you know, we throw that name out there. Ramondo Mckean, democratic is damned keys. A pretty good example of a, of a moderate Democrat. I'm an Erin, Jane, Democrat. Beautiful. Best Answer. She could get know, you know, I, I don't know,
Speaker 4:56:02not really into pigeon holes. I'm not sure if any of those folks are the ones I would most try to, to, to emulate in my actions. And I have a lot of respect for some of the folks who just mentioned and very little respect for.
Speaker 3:56:16Um, but you know, I see myself as is even
Speaker 4:56:24different from those folks. As you know, I'm a paycheck to paycheck person trying to to doing this from a, from a perspective of really trying to uplift the voices of the community and I know every politician says that's what they're trying to do, but I just, I guess the level of accountability that I have for myself to make sure that that what I'm putting forth as a political figure is, is generated and accountable to the folks in the neighborhoods. It's something that I take very seriously. Maybe it's. It's not unique. I guess I wish I felt more people did that a little bit more deliberately, but so, so far I'm on my own kind of Democrat and I hope there are a lot of great people running. There's definitely some great people on the council too that I want to support.
Speaker 5:57:17Know Councilman Harris has done amazing, amazing work and I think you're bringing some fresh perspective to the council and I look forward to support them on some of the priorities they have to.
Speaker 1:57:33Hey, thanks so much for your continued support for the Bartholomew town podcast. You may now find us on Alexa. Simply say, Alexa Bartholomew town, and it will deliver you the latest episode of the pod. Until next time on Bill Bartholomew. We'll talk soon.