Mayoral, gubernatorial hopefuls talk local issues

Gun control and economic development emerge as key topics of discussion at MLK Day forum

Contributing Writer
Thursday, January 23, 2014

With election season shifting into full force, gubernatorial and mayoral candidates articulated their visions to reduce violence through poverty alleviation, nonviolence education and an increased police presence to a packed audience at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day forum hosted by the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence Monday.

The gubernatorial candidates present at the forum competing for the soon-to-be vacated seat of Gov. Lincoln Chafee ’75 P’14 P’17 were Mayor Angel Taveras, General Treasurer Gina Raimondo and the lesser-known candidate Todd Giroux, who currently works as a contractor.

Republican candidates Cranston Mayor Allan Fung and Ken Block and Democrat Clay Pell — political newcomer and grandson of U.S. Sen. Claiborne Pell — were not in attendance. Pell is expected to formally announce his candidacy next week.

Both Taveras and Raimondo emphasized their support for increased gun control during the forum.

“The majority of murders in our state are committed by people in possession of illegal weapons. We must do everything in our capacity to rid our state of these,” Taveras said, referencing the statewide gun buyback program he initiated last spring. Raimondo spoke of her Crime Victim Compensation Program — which provides financial support for crime victims and their families — and of her efforts to rid the state pension fund of a $20 million investment related to a weapons distribution company as examples of her previous support for gun control measures.

The mayoral forum included former Housing Court Judge Jorge Elorza, City Council President Michael Solomon, lobbyist Brett Smiley, businessman Lorne Adrain and fourth-time mayoral candidate Chris Young.

Economic development, particularly through increased educational opportunities, was emphasized throughout the forum. Candidates discussed integrating nonviolence courses in school curriculums, expanding pre-kindergarten and afterschool programsand strengthening recreation centers, among other ideas.

Candidates examined the drop in the number of city police officers as a contributing factor in rising crime rates and considered increasing the size of the police force. The number of officers has dropped from 487 to 412 over the past five years.

Deviating from the majority of policy proposals, Smiley announced that if elected mayor, he would work to institute a 10 percent supplemental sales tax on guns and ammunitions that he expects would raise approximately $2 million. Proceeds would be distributed to regional police departments according to the amount of crime reported within their jurisdiction, he said.

Elorza applauded the fact that Providence currently has the most diverse police department in the state, but said he would strive to promote further diversity to match the composition of Rhode Island’s population.


A previous version of this article misstated the party in which Ken Block is a gubernatorial candidate. He is running as a Republican, not a Moderate. The Herald regrets the error.

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  1. For the record, Ken Block is running in the Republican Primary for Governor. He is not seeking to be the Moderate Party nominee.

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