2006-11-02 / News

Candidates for top seats hope to get nod from Jamestown voters

By Donna K. Drago

The Jamestown Press invited the candidates running for governor and U.S. Senator to interview with us and share information that may be of significance to island voters. Former Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse, running for the Senate, came to the office for a face-to-face interview with our staff. Sen. Lincoln Chafee, the Republican incumbent, granted the Press a phone interview, as did Charlie Fogarty, Democrat, who is hoping to unseat Gov. Donald Carcieri. The governor, despite repeated attempts to speak with him, did not respond to the Press' request.

Senator Lincoln Chafee- Republican incumbent for

U.S. Senate

Quality of life issues

U.S. Senator Chafee said that while serving in the Senate three of his initiatives have contributed in a positive way to the life of Jamestown residents.

The first was "getting down the old Jamestown Bridge," for which Chafee sought and received some $20 million in federal funds to bring down the bridge, which had been closed for 14 years. "I always considered it an embarrassment," Chafee said about the decrepit bridge.

The second was his work on water quality issues, including the sewer overflow project, now being constructed in Providence, for which Chafee received federal funding. The project will ensure that Narragansett Bay will stay clean, "which is important to Jamestown," Chafee said.

The third item Chafee mentioned as being important to island dwellers is his involvement in promoting the defense industry on Aquidneck Island during the last round of military base closures. Chafee said that not only did the Naval War College or any other military institution remain in Rhode Island, but there are now more than 500 additional jobs in the area than there were before the threatened base closings.

On Iraq

Chafee is quick to point out that he was among the minority in Congress who voted against going to war in Iraq.

"Now that we're there," Chafee said he believes that involving the countries that border Iraq in a solution to overall stability in the region is the key to solving problems in Iraq. Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Iran, as neighboring countries, need to be "involved in the discussion" to bring solutions that will ultimately allow us "to get our troops out," Chafee said. Pulling out U.S. troops without having a regional stability plan could possibly put Israel at risk, Chafee said.

On energy independence

"Gaining independence from Middle East oil" should be a goal of ours," Chafee said. He said since some 65 percent of all oil is used in the transportation industry, the focus on conservation and innovation should fall there. "The American car manufacturers fight it," Chafee said about GM, Ford and other auto giants who have consistently resisted pressure to increase the mileage standards in American-made cars. "Senators from states with auto-manufacturing plants vote against "any measure that would require the auto makers to retool their plants, at a cost," to increase the miles per gallon that cars typically get, Chafee said.

The healthcare system

"It's time to revisit universal health coverage," even though the persistent argument will be that there are mandates on individuals and businesses, Chafee said. "Everyone will have to pay something," he said about a nationwide coverage plan. The senator noted that the state of Massachusetts has recently enacted a statewide health plan that could serve as a model for the country, but he does not want healthcare to be controlled by individual states. "It's time to look at it nationally," Chafee said.

Environmental issues

Climate change is the biggest problem facing the country, Chafee said. Adding carbon dioxide, the source of global warming, to the list of three other airborne pollutants would make a difference in the amount of the product being pumped into the atmosphere, he said. Strict government standards are already in place for nitrous oxide, sulfur dioxide, and mercury, Chafee said, adding that he wants to control carbon dioxide emissions in much the same way. The first way to do that is to target coal-burning plants that provide much of the electricity that is used in the U.S. Looking to the future,"we need to change the way we make electricity," Chafee said. "Natural gas is cleaner burning," he noted, adding that wind power and geothermal power are also options to consider. On the wind farm being sought for Nantucket Sound, the senator said he personally visited the area, and "I don't see the visual pollution argument" coming from residents of Cape Cod.

Education funding

Chafee said he is one of only five senators who have also served as mayors of their communities, so many of his colleagues "don't understand the burden" that unfunded mandates put on cities and towns to provide education for all their children.

"I have firsthand knowledge of the problem," Chafee, who served as the mayor of Warwick, said.

"I have been a champion on this issue" during his career in the senate, Chafee said, adding that the burden of the unfunded mandates cannot fall on property taxes. "Instead of making tax cuts, we should be fulfilling our pledges," Chafee said about funding for IDEA, which was pledged in 1975 to be federally funded at 40 percent, but three decades later is still only funded at 18 percent.

Biggest accomplishment

in public service

Chafee said the initiative to bring a rail station adjacent to T.F. Green Airport, which he began as mayor of Warwick in the 1990s, is finally coming to fruition during his career in the senate. Recently, Chafee attended the ribbon cutting

ceremony for a rail station that will take people from the airport into the city of Providence. "The rail tracks were only one-quarter mile from the airport," Chafee said, and "I wanted to take advantage of that situation." The rail station should be completed in about four years, Chafee said.

Why vote for Chafee?

The senator said that whoever gets the vote will have to serve until January 2013. "Issues will change over time," Chafee said, noting that it is important to vote for a senator who is "honest, has the courage to make the tough votes," and has "a proven ability to work with everybody."

The "quality and abilities" of the candidates are what Rhode Island voters should consider, Chafee said.

Sheldon Whitehouse- Democrat for U.S. Senate

Quality of life

for Jamestown voters

Whitehouse said he would improve everyone's quality of life by establishing a firm energy policy that would "get us off foreign oil by 2020," which he called a "reasonable amount of time." Whitehouse said he would do that using conservation strategies along with government investment in technologies for renewable sources of energy from wind and solar power. "This can be a huge growth sector for American business," Whitehouse said, adding, "We should be exporting energy technology" rather than importing foreign oil. Along the same lines, Whitehouse assailed President Bush's position on the environment, which he called "the worst ever." Whitehouse said that much of the asthma and respiratory illnesses people suffer from are directly related to the Bush administration's turning a blind eye to industrial polluters who are continually putting huge amounts of mercury and other poisons into the environment without penalty. "It's time to do the right thing," Whitehouse said.

The war in Iraq

Whitehouse said that the US is over in Iraq as a result of "irresponsible decision making," and that his strategy for extricating American forces from Iraq is to make a firm decision to announce that we are withdrawing our troops and then to go to the military powers and tell them to come up with a withdrawal plan. "Let the plan form from the decision," Whitehouse said, adding,"It should all take six months" to complete. By leaving Iraq, Whitehouse said, "insurgents lose their argument that we are there to occupy their country." He said that once the U.S. is out, the solutions can be left to an international community of countries who have an interest in trade with Iraq. "No one wants to see the situation further break down," Whitehouse said, or see a possible pan-Arab civil war between the Sunnis and the Shiites. "We need to give the Iraqis some incentives" for keeping things peaceful, and "put some structure around the incentives."

Reducing the need

for foreign oil

On reducing the need to purchase foreign oil, Whitehouse said that he is modeling his ideas on those of former President John F. Kennedy, who decided to put a man on the moon in a decade "when we didn't even know what the technologies were" to do such a thing. He said he wants to reduce the foreign purchases to "zero" by investing in energy technologies by both the government and the private sector. "There's plenty of technology out there," Whitehouse said, citing a turkey farm that not only produces food, but also then uses all its waste products to produce fertilizer, biofuels, and water. Because the U.S. is not vigorously supporting and encouraging energy technologies, Whitehouse said the next plants, like the turkey plant, are being built in France and Ireland using American ingenuity. Whitehouse added that his wife drives a hybrid car to save on gasoline.

Healthcare system

On the national healthcare system, Whitehouse said, "It is broken and nonsensical." He said the U.S. has the best technologies, but the worst outcomes. "There are 46 million uninsured" and "more than 100,000 people are killed each year due to medical errors," Whitehouse said. In the medical field, "We have the worst information technology than any industry except mining," the candidate said, noting that the U.S. should be investing in IT at the national level so everyone's medical records can follow them wherever they go. He said the Rand Corporation, a think tank, estimated a savings of $162 billion by improving IT.

Reforming how decisions are made to either pay or not pay for a particular medical procedure needs to be done, Whitehouse said. "There are too many individual battles" over payment happening each day, and people on both sides of the issue - hospitals and HMOs are "just furious with each other" over compensation. "If we standardize the process, we have a better chance of getting the right answers," Whitehouse said. Standardization should be done at the regional level, using a combination of experts at medical societies, the health department, and the HMOs to come up with the right answers "instead of having to make 50,000 individual decisions a month," Whitehouse said.

Education

On Education, Whitehouse said he wants to review the No Child Left Behind Act mandates to "see which are sensible and which just harass and burden" school districts. "Bush broke a promise," Whitehouse said about education funding, "and schools are suffering." With so many unfunded mandates, Whitehouse said that things like science labs and the arts are going "over the side" to fund the mandates. "We shouldn't have to raise property taxes to pay for federal irresponsibility," Whitehouse said. "Jamestown is on the right path," Whitehouse said about the local school district, which has been at the forefront of the movement to consolidate services and administrative functions to reduce costs and make the system more efficient.

Biggest accomplishment

He said his biggest accomplishment as a public servant is the establishment of the Rhode Island Quality Institute, which he started about five years ago while serving as the Rhode Island attorney general. The institute is looking at ways to reform healthcare, "which is a big concern of mine," he repeated.

Why vote for him?

Whitehouse wants voters to know that they are in "an incredibly critical role to deliver the future of the U.S." by casting their votes on Nov. 7. "The U.S .is going in a horrible direction," Whitehouse said, and by not voting for the Democratic Party "we will be condemned to more of what we've seen in the past six years."

"A Democratic senate will be a platform of new ideas, and an opportunity we cannot miss. There's just too much at stake," Whitehouse said. Lt. Governor Charlie Fogarty-

Democrat for Governor

Quality of life for Jamestowners

Fogarty said that the economic health of the state, providing good jobs, making college and healthcare more affordable are the strategies he will try to focus on if elected governor.

On college education, Fogarty said he wants to push his "Rising Star," plan, which would freeze the cost of tuition for students who maintain a B average at the cost they paid when they first entered school. He said he wants to double the amount of scholarships that are given to Rhode Island students and provide no-cost education to those students who meet certain income requirements. "My goal is to make sure that every student with talent and ability can go to college," Fogarty said.

On the environment, Fogarty said he has worked hard while a legislator from Gloucester to push through legislation that benefits the environment. He worked with Sen. Teresa Paiva Weed to establish a habitat restoration program, he said, and he worked to preserve open space. "Jamestown is a beautiful place," Fogarty said, "we want to make sure it stays that way for the next generation."

On a LNG terminal in Fall River

Fogarty said he is "absolutely opposed," to a plant in either Fall River or Providence. "We need LNG, but need to find a remote location that's not densely populated," he said. New England needs to look at a regional approach to siting facilities, Fogarty said, adding that it cannot be in a location where there are potential health and safety hazards, or where people will be exposed to harmful situations. Fogarty noted that some 40 percent of the Narragansett Bay watershed is located in Massachusetts and it is important that Rhode Island have a say on keeping our watershed safe.

Education

On state unfunded education mandates, Fogarty said he would "absolutely" support full re-imbursement for state mandates. "It's not fair" to cities and towns to pay for state mandates, Fogarty said, adding, "Property taxes are already well above the average."

"Education is the prime responsibility of state government," Fogarty said. "We need to make sure the resources are there and properly funded," he added. He planned to look at the state's educational funding formula and find a way to make it fair and equitable, He said. "Being from Gloucester, I recognize the needs of small towns that can't bring in enough taxes," he he noted.

Healthcare system

Fogarty said that he wants to establish a healthcare plan that small businesses, with up to 50 employees, can buy into that will be "20 to 30 percent below the cost of current premiums." He planned to do this with the support of businesses, employees, and the insurers, he said.

Fogarty said he wants to insure more people in the state to cut down on the $100 million spent annually on uncompensated healthcare. "We all pay for that," he said about how the cost of uncompensated care ends up in the premiums paid by the insured.

"We used to be a national leader in covering kids," Fogarty said, "but now we're in 14th place." Parents of older children will soon be able to cover them on the family health plan until the age of 25, under a bill that passed in the most recent legislative session. The law takes effect in January, Fogarty said.

On government corruption

Fogarty said that people's confidence has been zapped by the "corrosive effect" that corruption has on government.

The state has been let down too many times by people who put personal gain before the public, Fogarty said. "We have to deal with this once and for all," he added.

He outlined several steps for thwarting corruption in the state. Setting term limits for elected officials, insisting on full financial disclosure for all elected officials and full disclosure by all state lobbyists are some of the "bold steps" Fogarty would like to see to restore confidence in government.

Message to voters

With just a few days left before election day, Fogarty said he believes that Rhode Island has unlimited potential, but "needs leadership that demonstrates an ability to tackle the challenges." Of great importance to Fogarty are making sure people have good jobs, affordable healthcare, and assistance with college costs. "We want our young people to stay here," Fogarty said.

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