2012-09-06 / News

Candidate statements: Democrats make their case for your vote


Bob Bowen Bob Bowen The Jamestown Press asked each of the nine Democratic Town Council candidates one question: In 500 words or less, why should Jamestown voters check the box next to your name on Sept. 11’s ballot?

Each candidate’s response appears below. Registered Democrats and unaffiliated voters will have the option to choose five of the following nine names to advance to November’s general election.

BOB BOWEN:

I decided to step into the Town Council race for the first time in August 2009 out of a desire to continue to serve Jamestown. At that time I had spent the last five years on the Harbor Commission, and more than four years working to bring a wind turbine to the town, two of those years on the town-appointed Wind Energy Committee. I was elected in November 2009 and now, after spending almost three years as vice president of the council, I am running for a second term.

I was born in Hawaii to a Coast Guard family, grew up in Connecticut and Rhode Island, and am a New Englander at heart. I graduated from URI and worked as a research chemist in the EPA for 17 years before transitioning into an information and communications technology position with the university.


George Levesque George Levesque Managing the island during the past three years has been an incredible experience for me. I have learned a great deal about the quality and dedication of people here in Jamestown to the preservation of our quality of life. Our town volunteers – whether they are working with the Jamestown Education Foundation, on our town-appointed committees like the Jamestown Tree Committee or Conservation Commission, or are entertaining us as members of the Jamestown Community Band or men’s chorus – make serving on the council an honor.

We have been presented with some challenges these past three years. The state fiscal situation resulted in less support coming from Providence and we worked hard to maintain a good level of service to our town. In doing this we have been good stewards and succeeded in keeping our tax rate at a sustainable level with only minimal increases. We did this by reducing some town positions, merging others, and negotiating town contracts wisely and with respect for our employees.


Mary Meagher Mary Meagher While we did this we also increased support to paving our roadways. In the past we had not been putting enough effort into it. We maintained, and in some places increased, maintenance budgets for town buildings and replaced some aging vehicles and equipment. We also increased our contribution to the Fort Getty fund from income generated by the campers and other users at the park. This additional money was used in part to repair the boat ramp and rebuild the pavilion. Previous councils had focused on using the campgrounds at the park as a cash cow for the town and had not put much money back into it.


Eugene B. Mihaly Eugene B. Mihaly If elected to a second term on the Town Council I will take advantage of both the knowledge and experience gained during my first term to continue efforts to preserve our quality of life in Jamestown. Our school systems, accessibility to parks, open space and the waterfront, and support of the downtown businesses deserve our best efforts.

Let’s not limit our vision, but think broadly and long term about what is best for our town. You can learn more about me at BobBow en.com.

GEORGE LEVESQUE:

When I moved to Jamestown in the winter of ’79, both children and dogs ran free. Now neither does. Lest it be thought I am just a wistful anachronism, I do understand the need for change. But there is the change that is forced upon us, and that which we plan for. When it is available I would choose the latter.


Bill Murphy Bill Murphy The job of local government is to recognize the changes that should occur and make them as palatable to the citizenry as possible without trampling on the rights of the individual. I have enjoyed watching three generations of young people grow up on the island and for the most part leave because Jamestown is too expensive for young adults. We cannot change this, but we can see to it that at least with public lands we leave a softer footprint than when we arrived so that when these youthful travelers do return, they will find something that reminds them of home.

To distill my life into 100 words is something someone with a lot more intelligence and a lot less affection for the subject could easily accomplish – but I am neither. I have had many jobs that required skills I did not possess: quohogger, carpenter’s assistant, mason’s assistant, legal assistant.


Mike Schnack Mike Schnack For the last 12 years I have been the transportation coordinator and then transportation director for the James L. Maher Center, providing transportation to the elderly, physically challenged and developmentally challenged. I also before and during the first part of this period worked as a teaching assistant for the alternative-learning program for the Middletown School Department.

From 1997 to 2001, I was the state representative for Jamestown and Newport. I served over a decade on the Jamestown Housing Authority and coached, played, refereed and umpired both softball and basketball – although the coaching was the only part I was good at. I have spent most of the last decade out of public life, nursing too many private losses and trying to nurture the friends and family I have left. I have tended my own garden too long and now is the time to go forward, once more into the breach.


Tom Tighe Tom Tighe

MARY MEAGHER:

Why should you vote? We need a Town Council that will: listen to each other and to you, encourage people to participate, be responsible for management of the town, engage the community in a conversation about our future, lead us to our best choices, and make informed decision.

Why should you vote for me? Because of what I want to do if I’m elected.

Council matters: Adopt a code of behavior for Town Council meetings. Reorganize the agenda to promote public participation. Improve the town’s website to facilitate better town communication.

Fort Getty: Develop a real management plan. Reduce the current 105 RV sites by one-third. Raise rates by one-third, making them comparable to Middletown’s Sachuest campground. Write new rules. Enforce the rules. Clean it up – repair the entry pillars, organize parking for the pavilion and the boat ramp. Once management and revenues are stabilized, encourage the community to develop a longrange plan for this incomparable asset and beautiful place.


Kristine Trocki Kristine Trocki Golf course clubhouse building: Promote lots of public discussion, but do so within a six-month time frame. Develop a program of uses defined by the community and our current tenant. Begin the design process, so a building is ready a year before the lease is up in 2016.

Affordable housing: Promote existing strategies for development of affordable lots. Encourage the development of a Jamestown housing trust. Pass an accessory apartment ordinance. Develop a secondary structure ordinance.

My list is longer but space is limited.

I hope you do vote for me. I have lived and worked here for 25 years. You are my neighbors and friends. If I serve on the council, I will respond to you with the courtesy neighbors deserve. This is a wonderful place to live because it is both a beautiful island and a resourceful, thoughtful, energetic community. We need that energy to maintain what we have, protect our resources and share them with others who are not as blessed as we are to live here.


Mike White Mike White And you should vote for George Levesque, because he will be the conscience of any Town Council, with a heart as big as Narragansett Bay and a great sense of humor. You should vote for Gene Mihaly, because he will bring leadership born of experience, a wealth of knowledge and ideas, and the ability to bring people to consensus. You should vote for Kristine Trocki, because she is full of energy and enthusiasm, with wisdom beyond her years (she’s only 42 or something) with training and experience in conflict resolution. And you should vote for Tom Tighe, because he is a good and decent man, who knows more about this town than anybody, and is always willing to listen and learn. They are each remarkable. Vote for five from the bottom up. And thanks.

EUGENE B. MIHALY:

Jamestown is an easy place to love. The challenge is keeping it so in a tough economic and political environment.

We have pressing issues that need resolving to preserve and protect the island today, and we have issues for the future. Regrettably, our Town Council has lost its way on the road to addressing the shorter-term questions and has given no serious thought to the longer term.

The Town Council has not built consensus on any serious issue. And actions in the absence of consensus are no more than community irritants. Further, for me, it has been a shock to go to Town Council meetings or to watch the sessions on the Jamestown Record. The proceedings are disheartening and not representative of this community.

Fort Getty is a case in point. After more than three years of meetings, in anticipation of upcoming elections, the incumbent council leader made a last-minute, backof the-envelope proposal in late July that virtually ignored all the input from the community. He simply moved the deck chairs (some of the RVs) around the property. The discussion was chaotic. And the result will have no significant impact on the overcrowded, disorganized, unmanaged RV park that is the current state of this valuable and beautiful asset.

We have a spectrum of additional issues on our table: preservation of the aquifer and closure of the dump, the future of the golf course clubhouse, and police and community relations, to name just a few. All are manageable, but they do require deft and competent management.

Our current Town Council will argue that is precisely its approach. But the outcome tells a different story. They tackle issues piecemeal (very wasteful of time and limited resources) and when they bring in expert volunteers and paid advisors, they typically ignore the advice.

I have extensive experience in consensus building and management. The first thing I would tackle is the establishment of a five-part government process:

• Mobilize our vast community talent and, where needed, outside skills to define the problem, analyze and assess all options. Task forces will be given clear instructions and will be part of an ongoing dialogue with the Town Council.

• Build a working consensus around an approach or option.

• Formulate a clear plan of action that includes all key elements, such as assignment of responsibility, budget, timelines and estimated burden on town departments.

• Propose a plan to the town, answer all questions, cementing consensus, and come to a decision.

• Implementation by the town administrator under council supervision. This includes course correction if needed.

An effective Town Council ensures maximum public input into this process. It oversees the town administrator’s, and, through him, the departments’, role in the planning element. It builds the consensus. It decides. It does not meddle or micromanage.

I would be honored to bring my experience in government, the private sector and the nonprofit sector to the people of Jamestown as one of your next town councilors.

BILL MURPHY:

As a member of the present Town Council, I have been a strong advocate for energy conservation, improvements at town buildings, conservation easements of townowned shores lots, affordable housing, in-law unit ordinance, and properly maintaining town buildings.

We increased the budget for the window and roof repairs at Fort Wetherill, new handicap doors at the Town Hall, and the East Ferry seawall. The Racquet Road seawall and bulkhead at West Ferry have been repaired. New handicap doors have been installed at the library. We have increased road paving by $50,000 a year, built restrooms for West Ferry guests, and completed planning and construction of the Fort Getty pavilion.

Fort Getty is a great asset for Jamestown. Jamestown residents are able to fish, boat, walk, bike, camp and use the pavilion. I worked to increase Jamestown residents’ use of Fort Getty by the installation of picnic tables, rebuilding the boat ramp, renovating the restrooms, and reducing the campground footprint. The town has spent little to maintain the park, but has invested over the last three years. There are improvements we still need to make. The parking issue has been reviewed and we are making progress.

We have been faced with severe reductions in state aid to our community by the loss of the car tax offset. However, during these tough economic times, we kept the tax increases at a minimum while increasing spending on facilities. We have reduced staffing and negotiated favorable labor contracts with all three employee unions. We have a good working relationship with our unions and have benefited from their efforts to reduce costs.

There is unfinished business that I would like to complete. We need to update town ordinances to include a provision for auxiliary units, or in-law apartments. We need to finish ongoing projects, such as replacing the golf course building and improving the community center for the recreation department.

I have served my country, town and state over my lifetime and wish to continue. I have been a state representative, town councilman (1997-99, 2009-12), enlisted in the U.S. Army, served 20 years and retired as a major. I have successfully owned and operated four small businesses. Volunteering is another way I am committed to giving back to the community. I am currently a member of the Jamestown Volunteer Fire Department, Jamestown Lions Club, St. Mark Knights of Columbus, the American Legion, and Disabled American Veterans. In the past I served on the Jamestown Affordable Housing Committee, Jamestown Emergency Medical Service Association, Jamestown Community Theater, Jamestown Shores Association, and on the board of directors of the East Bay Community Action Program.

No one can question my integrity, honesty or hard-working attitude. I am available to discuss whatever a constituent wants to know, or research any issue. My friends will tell you I have no hidden agendas and will always do what is in the best interest of Jamestown as a whole.

MIKE SCHNACK:

To ask for a clean slate implies that either you are dissatisfied with the results of a group or that the incumbent group has been negligent. I am asking for another term on the Town Council because I believe that neither is true and that the current council has done an admirable job at managing the town during difficult times.

This council, elected in November 2009, started during a national recession, which the state was disproportionately experiencing. We had the prospect of super LNG tankers making regular trips up and down the bay past our shores. We expected huge declines in both general and school state aid. We inherited a plan to erect wind turbines on our shores. And we took on the long overdue initiation of the Fort Getty Master Plan. What did we do? Hide? Back away from tough decisions? No and No.

This council appointed a special committee to follow and fight where appropriate, the Hess LNG plan. We joined with other cities and towns around the bay in concerted opposition. In light of these efforts and a changing natural gas market, Hess abandoned their plan.

During many open and public budget discussions, we examined expenditures and income, looked at the agreements with our employees and staffing, and found ways to maintain our services while incurring minimal tax increases. We actually became free from reliance on state aid and masters of our own financial destiny during this period.

Over the course of the next two years, we further improved our financial condition by reducing staff, changing our health care plan structure, restructuring the EMS and Fire Department through merger, while at the same time maintaining our infrastructure including roads and public buildings. We also helped to preserve open space and environmentally sensitive lots in the shores by permanent conservation easements. And finally, after careful examination of the financial risks and rewards, we voted to discontinue the Taylor Point wind turbine project that was approved through bonding referendum two years before by the voters.

Some have pointed to an uncivil atmosphere at council meetings as a reason for a “clean slate.” Having presided over the council for more than two years, I can say that this is an inaccurate claim. The council has debated many diffi cult issues. The council is made of five very passionate individuals who care deeply about the state of our island home. Strong, passionate debate can be construed to be “uncivil,” but the outcome is most important. This council has hotly debated issues, but at the end of discussions we remain amicable and committed islanders. No decisions are rubber stamped or made behind closed doors – if that was the case, the issue of “civility” would never come up. This council has welcomed spirited public criticism and debate. While not always agreeing with the loudest voices, we have listened respectfully.

I am asking for your support for another term on the Town Council. I can promise you that I will listen and make informed, fiscally responsible decisions.

TOM TIGHE:

I first thought about running for Town Council because I know I can do better. I worked for the town of Jamestown for 44 years, under 22 different Town Councils. During that time I witnessed effective councils, comprised of people who listened to each other and the citizens, worked together and got things done. And I also witnessed Town Councils made up of personalities, people who didn’t listen, couldn’t work together, and didn’t get a lot accomplished.

I decided to run because I know I can have a positive impact. I know this community. I served as a police officer, chief of police, and, in 2004 and again in 2005, as acting town administrator. I realize that as a police officer and then as chief, I did not please everybody. Sometimes police officers have to do difficult things. But I always tried to treat people with respect, to listen to them, to help to resolve their concerns. I have worked for a better Jamestown for 44 years. I want to continue to do that. That’s why I am running. That’s why I want your vote.

I am running with Kristine Trocki, Gene Mihaly, Mary Meagher and George Levesque because we have made a commitment to listen to you and to each other, to treat everyone with respect and to work together. We recognize that there is much to do. We need to support our education system. We need to make sure the closure of the landfill is done properly to ensure no contamination to our north-end drinking supply. We need to be better stewards of town property and facilities like Fort Getty. I was amazed to hear the current council describe the lack of management of the campground as if they were surprised. They have been in control of Fort Getty for three summers now. If, as the Town Council president said, “it is not managed well,” then whose responsibility is that?

We need a Town Council that will be accountable to the citizens for the management of the town. We need a Town Council that sets goals, recognizes the chain of command and provides strong direction to the town administration. We need a Town Council that then follows through and makes sure the work gets done. And we need a Town Council and a town government that communicates clearly. Making speeches in front of a crowd is not my favorite thing to do, but I can and will get my message across. We will do the work that needs to be done today and plan for the future so that my granddaughters can enjoy living here as much as Anne and I have. I appreciate the opportunity Jamestown has given me and I want to give back. Thank you.

KRISTINE TROCKI:

I would sincerely appreciate your vote. As a member of the Town Council, I will:

• Listen to the community and solicit input;

• Research and prioritize issues;

• Implement and manage shortand long-term solutions;

• Set clear goals for our town administrator and staff, committees and consultants;

• Be accountable;

• And make information more accessible;

I am a small businesswoman, community lawyer, trained mediator and an energetic leader. I take pride in my relationships with others and being a team player. I treat all people, including my colleagues and adversaries, in a respectful and professional manner. My skill-set, education and experience will be helpful in tackling many of the town’s issues.

As an attorney, I understand the complexities of municipal contracts and how to evaluate and analyze long-term leases. I see the need to conduct assessments to determine each of our town’s assets fair-market value, but also the necessity to balance the needs of long-term residents and business owners who have committed their life’s work to Jamestown. Thus, I will strike the proper balance and establish middle ground that’s in the best interest of both the town and its most committed residents.

I will develop a stronger relationship between the Jamestown Chamber of Commerce, the Town Council and the community. I hope to provide incentives for people to sustainably shop, eat and live locally. I believe we can implement better “green” initiatives to reduce environmental impacts and increase community awareness so that we are collectively reducing, reusing and recycling better than any other town in the state.

As a single woman, I cherish being able to walk out my front door at midnight into town to water my office flower boxes without having to worry about my personal safety. I hope to promote respectful and informative public conversations, creating a more positive relationship between our public safety offi cials and Jamestown residents.

I also want to address the issues of maintaining our infrastructure; creating a long-term plan for Fort Getty that balances the revenue and resident use; working for better affordable housing and senior living; protecting our natural resources; and, as always, striving to make improvements in education and our young people.

All the things that make this community so special, unique and even quirky can be protected with smart, strategic, open-minded leaders who are capable of working together.

Finally, I strongly believe in the future of Jamestown and the need to keep the island young, affordable and diverse, while maintaining its raw beauty and the collective talent of its residents. It is why we live here. I love this “rock” and its residents. I want to give back to the community that has given me and my son, Teddy, so much. I’d like to be able to look back and know that I did all I could to help keep this community as a place our kids and grandkids will be able to call home.

MIKE WHITE:

When I first thought about running for Town Council, I thought it would be fun and interesting. It has been. I also thought it would be relatively simple. It hasn’t been.

My life journey, like most, has been one of many twists and turns. From my time in the service and my experience in Vietnam, to my 30 years working for the Department of Veterans Affairs, to my marriage and the births of my sons and granddaughters, I have learned much.

My experience for more than a year on the Planning Commission and the last five years as a member of the Jamestown Town Council has been eye opening. Every meeting is an adventure.

We have a town that ends each fiscal year in the black.

We have the fifth lowest tax rate in the state.

We managed each year’s budget with minimum increases in the taxes.

We have a new updated water system that saves us tens of thousands of gallons.

We have a sewer treatment plant that is used to irrigate one of our gems, our golf course.

We have protected farm and neighborhood land so when people come from other places in the Northeast, they wonder at the fact that “developments” haven’t sprung up on that farmland they saw as they drove into town.

We have begun the process for upgrading the facilities at Fort Getty, which will provide more pleasant surroundings for both Jamestown residents and our island guests.

We are implementing a plan for the improvement and maintenance of town buildings and properties.

We are looking to continue our search for renewable energy sources that will serve our community buildings.

We have a wonderful town here. As citizens we want those we elect to be honest and forthright people that we can trust. Elected officials that will preserve the richness of character that is Jamestown. Sometimes we differ in how to do this. Sometimes we forget that we are a town that welcomes visitors and makes them feel at home. As a professional in managing and controlling meetings, I have used my expertise to gather everything my associates say and attempt to summarize and clarify.

The job of this council and the next council is to help our fine town administration with legislative guidance for the future to protect the improvements of the past. With dedication and vision we must become stewards of the fine community that we live in. I have done this in the past and will continue in the future.

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