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Ris ’05 officially enters Ward 1 race against incumbent Segal

Monday, October 24, 2005

Democrat Ethan Ris ’05 officially announced his candidacy for the Ward 1 City Council seat Friday – the seat is currently held by Green Party member David Segal. The announcement event took place in the backyard of Ris’ house on Hope Street.

Around 50 people, mostly Brown students and local politicians and activists, were present for the opening speeches. Ris later said that a total of about 80 people made appearances throughout the evening.

Speakers supporting Ris included Kevin Murphy, son of former councilman John Murphy and a Fox Point native; Kyle Diggins, who ran unsuccessfully for councilman in 2003; and Brian Bidadi ’06, president of the Undergraduate Council of Students.

Several Rhode Island politicians appeared at the event, including District 28 state Sen. Elizabeth Roberts, Ward 1 Democratic Committee head Barbara Poirier and Guillaume de Ramel, a candidate for secretary of state.

The Brown students present at the event were mostly friends of Ris; many knew him when he was president of the Brown Democrats and decided to show their support for his candidacy.

“I’m just glad that he stayed in Providence. I wanted to come out and show my support,” said Jeff Tiell ’06, who met Ris through the Brown Democrats.

“I think it’s wonderful that there are Brown students who actually get involved in public life locally,” said Michael Ruderman ’07. Ruderman came to the event with friends of Ris.

Michaela Labriole ’07, the current president of the Brown Democrats, knows Ris on both personal and political terms.

“He was a really great leader, which is important on a local level. He’s my friend, but also the most perfect person for the job. I’m excited to support him,” she said.

However, speaking as president of the Brown Democrats, Labriole took a more objective stance.

“As of right now, we’re not officially endorsing anyone, but we encourage everyone to get involved in the campaign process,” she said.

Some students present at the event did not know Ris at all, but were trying to get a sense of Providence politics.

“I heard Ris was a great candidate and I’m trying to decide what end of the spectrum I’m on politically, since I think Democrats are more liberal here than where I’m from,” said Curtis Harris ’09, who is from Georgia.

Ris himself hoped to use the event to show neighborhood residents where he stands on local issues.

“I was trying to show the coalition we’ve been building,” he told The Herald. “The residents of Ward 1 were split pretty badly in ’03. … We want to bring people back together.”

During the event, Ris also spoke about his goals for Ward 1 and his reasons for running against Segal.

“My opponent is a member of the Green Party, which has noble ideas but a bad track record,” Ris said. He claimed that the major issues in Ward 1 include the low quality of Providence public schools and the relocation of Interstate 195, which could lead to conflict over nearby real estate. Ris maintained that Segal has not given these issues enough attention.

Segal, who has been in office for almost three years, argued in a later interview that he has addressed the most important local issue: poverty.

“Since I was elected I’ve brought progressive energy to Providence – I’ve done a ton of work in the neighborhood that seemed not accomplishable,” Segal said.

Segal added that he couldn’t understand why Ris would run as a progressive when Segal was already doing progressive work.

“It’s ridiculous for people to undermine other progressives. I haven’t seen any good criticisms of me that would make me think he’d be an improvement,” Segal said.

Brown students at Ris’ announcement event disagreed that there was no room for improvement.

“I’ve been around for Segal’s whole term and don’t think he’s done a great job,” Tiell said.

Ris and Segal now have a year to make their respective cases; the election will take place in November 2006.

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