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Smiley announces mayoral candidacy

Brett Smiley emphasized public safety, education and an extra sales tax on guns and ammunition

Democrat Brett Smiley announced his candidacy for mayor yesterday, promising to be a “get-it-done mayor” focusing on public safety, education and implementing an extra sales tax on guns and ammunition.

A crowd of nearly 50 supporters gathered at the Mount Hope Neighborhood Association to hear Smiley, a small-business owner and political activist, make his announcement. Smiley moved to Rhode Island in 2006 to work on former Lt. Gov. Charles Fogarty’s gubernatorial campaign and has since been involved in activism for Marriage Equality Rhode Island and Rhode Island Communities for Addiction Recovery Efforts with his husband, Jim DeRentis.

Among Smiley’s campaign platforms, “a supplemental sales tax on all gun and ammunition sales” is one of his defining proposed policies. “The proceeds of (the tax) will go into a restricted receipt account to support anti-violence efforts,” Smiley said. “Just like we expect the tobacco industry to pay for public health initiatives, the firearm industry and those who prop it up should be supporting anti-violence efforts.”

Smiley emphasized Providence’s strong connection to the sciences and the arts due to the city’s many hospitals and higher education institutions.

“We will grow our economy by focusing on our strengths,” Smiley said, adding that Providence has the potential to become a global leader in entrepreneurship, design and medicine.

“We need to not just applaud but invest in our arts and culture sector,” Smiley said. “It is an economic engine in its own right and supports our tourism industry and the thousands of service sector jobs that go with it.”

Smiley also addressed the issue of public school reform, which he said always seems “one year into a three-year plan.” Constantly changing education plans does not allow the time necessary to realize goals, he said.

“Imagine a process of real collaboration with everyone — parents, teachers and students, union leaders, members and community stakeholders — together, where we stopped treating one another like enemies and slinging politically charged labels at one another,” Smiley said. “Imagine providing clear instruction, continuity and support to ensure our teachers aren’t getting whiplash from constantly changing direction.”

Smiley said he looks forward to changes in the way the state handles standardized testing. The New England Common Assessment Program “is the wrong test,” he said.

Smiley’s supporter and friend Cathy Lund told The Herald that Smiley is an ideal candidate because “he gets things done,” adding that he has great ideas to improve Providence and a “very good” chance of becoming mayor.

Democrat Jorge Elorza, former Housing Court judge, and businessman Lorne Adrain have already declared their candidacies for mayor. City Council President Michael Solomon is expected to formally announce at the beginning of 2014 and Rep. John Lombardi, D-Providence, is also a likely candidate.

Daniel Harrop is the only Republican to have announced a campaign.

Current Mayor Angel Taveras announced in October that he will run for governor.


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