Candidates speak out on important election issues
Michael White- Democrat
If elected to the council, Michael White promises to aggressively pursue funding that is due Jamestown through state and federal sources for everything from infrastructure to education.
He also said the next council should focus on water management, affordable housing, infrastructure and education as issues that require immediate attention. For the long term, White believes controlling development and overbuilding are absolute necessities. He also feels the town must continue to be diligent in providing good education, affordable housing, and keeping the island affordable for those who live here and whose children want to continue to live here.
Fiscally, White believes that responsible spending is more important than trimming the budget. He also believes it is important to pursue all available resources for additional funding for town projects and infrastructure needs.
White earned a bachelor's degree in English from Cal State, in Los Angeles. He was in charge of public contract and benefit information for the Veterans Administration for 14 of the 30 years he worked for the organization.
"My inspiration to be elected comes from my desire to preserve this beautiful community where my family and I have chosen to live. It's a neat place and I want to help keep it that way," White said.
White ran for town council once before and was 22 votes short of being elected.
Ellen Winsor- Independent
Ellen Winsor is hoping to ride a wave of concern over Jamestown's water supply to election next month. "I hope to educate islanders completely on the need to protect our island's water supply, so Jamestown citizens are comfortable and accepting of the facts that the water district, the reservoir through the municipal wells, and private wells, all access and depend on the aquifer to one degree or another. The aquifer and the reservoirs must be protected," Winsor said.
Running as an independent, Winsor brings with her a diverse background that includes a bachelor's from Wells College, and a background as a Supervisor and Clinical Instructor of Boston's Beth Israel Hospital Respiratory Therapy Department. However, Winsor is better known around town as a vocal proponent for classifying the island as a sole-source aquifer. Her involvement in that issue is what inspired her to run and it's that issue that she believes is the most urgent matter the next council should address. "Protecting our water supply, bringing it online and making drinkable the water in the second reservoir, expanding water tie-ins through grants to existing residences to generate revenue, education about our aquifer and protection through The Clean Water Act," are all important steps that need to be taken in the next two years according to Winsor.
In addition, Winsor cites the need to generate additional revenue to offset the town's water and sewer debts as well as creating more affordable housing on the island in the hopes of "holding gentrification at bay." In the longterm, Winsor is cautious about the impact global warming could have on the island's wells, while energy issues including the possibility of facing a shortfall in natural gas also must be considered. As for why Jamestown voters should elect her, Winsor was succinct. "I'll do the right thing by the community," she said.
Barbara Szepatowski- Republican
Councilwoman Barbara Szepatowski is running for her second term in office. If elected, she wants to establish a Jamestown Juvenile Hearing Board that will couple with a volunteer corps to complete a community service project each month. The volunteer corps would join responsible adults with Jamestown kids who have been arrested for non-drug related crimes. She said the hearing board would provide the kids with new role models. She also said that she was granted money in the town's 2007-2008 budget for supplies for this board.
According to Szepatowski, the main challenges facing Jamestown during the next council term are affordable housing, water and sewer costs, the state budget crisis, and inspiring more people to become involved in town government.
In the long term, she feels that funding the town's needs if the state budget crisis is not resolved, addressing fluctuating school enrollments, keeping our seniors on the island, and maintaining a vibrant downtown business district will be the major challenges.
Szepatowski said that she believes people will vote for her because she listens with an open mind, is capable of making a decision, is patient but passionate, able to keep things in perspective, and volunteers a lot of time for kids and animal projects. "Most importantly, I have a good sense of humor so I don't take myself too seriously," she said.
She believes that trimming the budget will depend on how the state proceeds. "No one account sticks out as having too much fluff," she said.
"Good government listens, and is responsive to the needs of the residents while providing the highest level of services and care for its residents that is affordable," Szepatowski said.
Councilwoman Szepatowski earned a bachelor's degree in environmental management and engineering from the University of Rhode Island. She also took graduate level courses in hazardous waste management.
Her prior government experience is one term on the town council.
Szepatowski's inspiration to run for re-election stems from her desire "to make our town the best it can be, while appreciating everything we have been blessed with."
She ran for the council in 2005 and tied with David Long for the most number of votes.
Bob Sutton- Democrat
Challenger Bob Sutton looks through the lens of sustainability. From maintaining a fiscally responsible budget to developing a comprehensive plan for protecting and utilizing the island's natural resources, the former town administrator-turned council candidate is running on a platform of "sensible government and a sustainable economy." On managing a fiscally responsible budget, Sutton cautioned "the state can't provide financial support in the future. People have reached their limit on what to pay in local taxes." Sutton said that the challenge for councilors going forward lies in "both maintaining and creating a higher level of service without overburdening the taxpayer." Among Sutton's hang-ups with the town over the last several years is the pace at which government moves. "Things don't seem to get done in a timely manner," Sutton said. When asked why voters should vote for him, Sutton was low-key. "I don't feel like I should tell people how to vote," he said. "What I will say is that I am committed to Jamestown...and I feel I have experience that could be helpful to the people.
"Follow what's going on. Have a sense of how Jamestown works. Things don't seem to get done in a timely way. The community has to start thinking about future work in the community that moves us into the future. We have to actively look for ways to be part of the solution," Sutton concluded.
As to what he hopes to accomplish should he be elected, Sutton urged that consensus be achieved earlier. "Whoever the five are," Sutton said, "we would need to sit down and quickly determine what should get done... If we don't have a lot of agreement, very little gets done."
Regarding the budget, Sutton didn't see much overspending, however saw some potential savings coming from a decline in the school-age population. "As the school population goes down, there should be some savings to be had. I believe the most important thing is to fund education, but when the population drops, you have to look at funding."
Michael Schnack- Democrat
"Jamestown is becoming a community of million dollar homes and absentee landlords." And that's the most pressing challenge island residents will have to face in the long-run according to incumbent council candidate Michael Schnack. "We have to address growth and development on the island," Schnack said.
In the short term Schnack said he sees the most pressing need for council action in tackling the island's water rates. "It's definitely on the water side," he responded. "We need to figure out a way to spread the cost around more... possibly take a look at our regulations."
Schnack sees improvements to the town infrastructure, including the construction of the island's water pipeline, second water tower, and renovations to the town's treatment plant as an added, however valuable expense. "The whole water equation has changed," Schnack continued.
Also on the councilor's mind: tackling Jamestown's affordable housing issue and what he described as the "issue of the day." As for why Jamestown voters should give him a second term, Schnack responded that he felt his approach to issues was a valuable asset for town government. "I think
try to come to the table without preconceived notions, or biased opinions," Schnack said. "That's what people are looking for...I'm not locked into political solutions." Schnack noted that while he doesn't shy away from speaking his mind, at the same time he said "you can't go out and make enemies... It's a small island." Touching on what he hopes to accomplish in the next two years, Schnack focused on continuing the work of the present council. For instance, "working through the downtown vision process" in order to manage the island's future growth will be at the forefront of the next few years Schnack said. Along with that process, Schnack said that the town's zoning ordinances need to be fixed in order to meet the comprehensive plan. And finally, the town water rates will also need to be addressed.
Speaking about the budget, Schnack noted that the council has been "taking care of things that need to be taken care of." From addressing failing highway equipment to building the new Town Hall and approving the location of the town's highway garage. While "there are always going to be expenses," Schnack said. "Can it be trimmed? Yes; there's always ways we can trim." As for specifics, Schnack deferred to the expertise of the town's full-time administration. "That's why we have a professional town administrator...I don't want to micromanage the process. I don't think that's the council's role." Schnack, who views good government as a government that listens, is open, honest, responsive, and responsible has enjoyed his first term on the council. "I've met a lot of good people" he said. "I like the activity of working to make the town run better...and I've been able to see the process differently to get some jobs done."
Sav Rebecchi- Independent
Water is on the mind of Independent council candidate Sav Rebecchi.
Rebecchi, running for the third time for council, stressed that Jamestown's most important issue centers around getting a grip on the town's water and sewer rate structure.
According to Rebecchi, the town council doesn't spend enough time on water and sewer matters. "It's a huge problem," he said. Rebecchi said that he wants to create a users' task force which would be attached to the Water and Sewer Commission to meet weekly or as needed in order to come up with solutions for the town's rising water rates and declining revenues. Rebecchi, a Shores resident, notes that the issue does not just impact municipal water customers. "The financial stress affects everyone on the island," he said.
Other challenges Rebecchi sees on the island: making Jamestown more affordable through alternate means other than solely mandated affordable housing. According to Rebecchi, "the town needs to promote 'little a' affordable housing." Rebecchi, a fixture at Jamestown town meetings, says that he has "been training for the job for the last six years," through his experience on the Board of Directors of the Quonset Development Corporation and the over 250 town meetings he estimates that he's attended over the last six years. "I think I understand all of the major issues and a lot of the minor issues." One of those issues is the town budget. While Rebecchi acknowledges he is "a little concerned over compounded spending," he has confidence in Town Administrator Bruce Keiser. "I'm confident in the management of Bruce Keiser...I can't think of one glaring issue where we're overspending. However I would like to see a couple of years where you don't have any increases."
Bill Kelly- Democrat
William "Bill" Kelly believes Jamestowners should re-elect him to the town council because of his track record during his last term on the council, and because he has over two decades of solid experience in municipal operations.
"I am a proven watchdog of the budget," Kelly said. "I eliminated $30,000 in unnecessary police overtime during my two years on the council." He also said that he initiated $600,000 in grants over the last four years, even before he was elected to the council. He believes that town expenditures and budget should always be questioned.
"Good government functions for the good of the entire community and not for self-serving interests," Kelly said. He said that the immediate major challenges facing the council are affordable housing, protection of the Shores' water from overdevelopment, and East Ferry infrastructure improvements.
He believes the next five to ten years will require a watchful eye on exclusive overdevelopment that could turn the island into an elitist community full of mega-mansions, like Greenwich, Conn. "We must keep the island affordable for those who live here," Kelly said. "If reelected, establishing affordable housing will be my top priority."
Kelly earned a bachelor's and master's degrees in administration from Fordham University in New York where he was a certified New York State superintendent of schools. His 15 years in education were spent as a federal administrator for special education.
He also spent 15 years in municipal operations. During this time, he was commissioner of public works and a grants administrator in Yonkers, N.Y. Specifically, he spent six years in Yonkers, six years as a private contractor in Westchester County, two years in waste management in New York City, and one year as a grant writer in Westchester County.
"When we moved to Jamestown, I saw that we had a choice of being part of the problem or being part of the solution," Kelly said. "I chose to be part of the solution," when asked about his inspiration to run for office. Kelly was appointed to the planning commission for a brief time before being elected to the town council and serving for two years after the last election.
Fred Glomb- Republican
"Water management, affordable living, and homestead exemption for permanent residents should be the focus of the next town council," said 12-year Jamestown resident and town council candidate Fred Glomb. For the long term, Glomb believes growth, population density, and water are ongoing issues.
Glomb believes he should be elected because of his passion for the town and his financial background that will bring new perceptions to fiscal issues and spending. If elected he wants to implement a sensible water management plan and establish a homestead exemption for year round, permanent residents, he said.
"The town budget is lean," Glomb said. "However, I think it could improve if we coordinated with neighboring communities to reduce health care costs, like insurance for town employees. This would reduce costs to taxpayers and still sustain benefits."
"Good government provides services to its citizens at the best possible price. It requires a more businesslike approach to management," Glomb said.
Glomb earned a bachelor's degree in accounting from the University of Maryland, and a master's degree in business administration from the University of Michigan.
Although he has never held political office, Glomb has a strong background as a government consultant in finance and accounting on both state and federal levels. He feels his managerial experience in the world of finance could be put to good use.
Glomb's inspiration for running for office stems from "watching the council for years," he said. He feels he is a good arbitrator and his willingness to listen to all sides of every issue and belief in working together to get things done are good reasons to seek election.
Julio DiGiando- Democrat
Town Council Vice President Julio DiGiando takes a big picture view of the challenges facing the island, both the short and long-term.
"It's consistent," DiGiando said, "it's managing the growth of the island."
DiGiando describes the recently approved farmland acquisition plan as "a big step in the right direction." However, the island's continued growth has far-reaching effects. From schools, to water, and taxes, "everything is inextricably linked," DiGiando said. When asked why people should vote for him for a third term, DiGiando focused on his approach to town government. "I think I've been pretty effective on the council. People don't walk away angry; they've felt included." That, according to DiGiando, is critical when it comes to town governance. "Mostly, it's important to listen to people" he said. As for his list of things to do in the upcoming session, DiGiando said that several projects will need attention in order to come to completion, including the highway barn and the proposed downtown beautification project.
In addition, the town needs to come to grips with what to do with the old highway barn as well as to begin to sort through ways to protect the island's maritime interests and harbor infrastructure, such as the woodpile pier.
On the budget, DiGiando said the town could control either money coming in or how you spend it. DiGiando noted that Jamestown needs to do a better job maintaining fiscal discipline than other communities due to the perception of state lawmakers. "The state perceives Jamestown as a well-to-do community," DiGiando said. As a result, the town should not expect to receive a significant infusion of state funding to meet budgetary requests.
Finally, touching on why he decided to run for elected office, DiGiando said it was a matter of community. "Ever since I came to Jamestown, I've been volunteering. From the soccer program... and Jamestown Yacht Club. If I could make the community better, I knew my kids would be better."
David DeAngelis- Republican
If elected to the town council, David DeAngelis promises to be an authentic voice for the working people and families of Conanicut Island. "I want to create a nonpartisan relationship between the community and the government," DeAngelis said. "This is a family community, not a nation. We should think and work together like a family, not opposing political parties."
DeAngelis believes the next town council must come to terms with water rates, providing families with affordable housing, and "securing the future of residents who have invested in this community and established their homes and families here," he said.
He believes that over the next five to ten years, the town must be prepared to deal with long-term fiscal commitments, and control overdevelopment.
He believes the town should vote for him because, "I am a strong voice for the working people and families. I am a single father of three and I understand the needs of the community," DeAngelis said.
His idea of good government is based on fair, non-partisan communication that represents the needs of all the people, not special interests or special interest groups.
DeAngelis has two years of elective general business courses at the Community College of Rhode Island and Bryant University. His government experience was serving as director of operations and public building superintendent, as well as acting highway superintendent in Cranston.
"My children are my inspiration for running for office," DeAngelis said. "I want to provide a longterm, decent place for my children to live. Their roots are here. I don't want them dug up."
He has never run for office.