September 19, 2014
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Mayoral primary race heats up
Warwick Beacon photo
SIGN OF A RACE: A volunteer crew erects an Avedisian sign on Hardig Road Tuesday afternoon about 5 p.m.

Mayor Scott Avedisian is in a race that’s going to come sooner than the November election. He’s taking it seriously.

Avedisian for Mayor signs are sprouting on lawns and crews of volunteers are traveling throughout the city to erect larger signs. The mayor has ramped up the number of public service press releases issued by his office and he’s holding informational press events, such as one recently held at Rocky Point, to inform people that a portion of the city walk is closed during the demolition of the Shore Dinner Hall.

His campaign manager, Chris Allen, is sending out frequent campaign updates, and City Republican chairman, Michael Penta, has also weighed in.

Penta issued a statement this week critical of Stacia Petri, Avedisian’s challenger for the Republican Party nomination. And, in an email exchange late last week, Avedisian gave a point-by-point response to a release issued by Petri.

Petri is doing more than sending out press releases.

While not as well financed as Avedisian, Petri has used social media, and in particular Facebook, to get out her message that 14 years of Avedisian, and as many years of tax increases, is enough. She’s out meeting voters. She has affiliated herself with Ken Block, who is in a Republican primary for the nomination for governor.

She has a strong following from a group disenchanted with the administration that has been especially vocal during city budget meetings and hearings over the expansion and funding of the sewer system. Roy Dempsey, a faithful at council meetings and outspoken on the issue of sewers, is her campaign manager.

Republican voters will get to decide the contest in the Sept. 9 primary. The winner will appear on the November ballot in a three-way contest, between independent Kevin Eiseman and the winner of the Democratic primary between John “Jack” Kirby and Carel Callahan Bainum.

Some pundits say the Avedisian-Petri race is the one to watch.

Avedisian has consistently demonstrated his popularity in general elections, winning as much as all the polling places and more than 75 percent of the vote. With the Democrats not even endorsing a candidate and Democrats capable of launching a formidable campaign are sitting on the sidelines, Avedisian is not thought to face a serious contest in the general election, but he has to win the primary to be on the ballot.

Petri is making a case for a change. In a release on July 22, she hit the mayor on a range of topics, from the condition of city roads, to concerns raised by firefighters over the age and condition of equipment, the condition of recreational facilities, school funding and pensions.

“Not only are Warwick roads lined with dangerous pot holes, Warwick’s most precious resource, our children, are entering school buildings crumbling from neglect with leaky roofs, and some still are not fully compliant with stringent fire safety standards that the mayor promised to pay for with $25 million in bonds approved in 2006,” she wrote.

In a point-by-point response, Avedisian said his budget allocates $450,000 for road repairs and that the council is considering legislation that would put a $5 million road repair bond issue on the ballot.

As for schools, the mayor writes, “My opponent fails to mention that the current city budget allocates more than $4.7 million to pay for bond interest and principal for the schools. Further, earlier last week the Superintendent and I had a discussion about future bonding and what the schools’ overall needs are. I would also note that the actual cost for new tracks would be approximately $360,000. The School Committee Chairwoman and I are also convening a commission to improve communication and ensure that our children are receiving the education they deserve and in good facilities.”

On the issue of the budget, Petri takes Avedisian to task for dipping into reserves as well as raising taxes to come up with a spending plan.

“One-time tricks and kicking the can down the road isn’t the way to solve Warwick’s problems,” she asserts.

Avedisian counters, “Contrary to this erroneous, amateur assessment that the FY15 budget relies on a one-time, quick fix, my administration places a tremendous amount of stock in Standard & Poor’s Rating Services, which affirmed the City’s AA- long-term rating. This assessment cited a number of factors, including our strong economy, adequate management conditions and budget flexibility, strong budgetary performance with consistent operating results, very strong liquidity, strong budgetary performance, and very strong debt and contingent liabilities position.”

GOP chairman Penta has also gotten into the exchange.

Penta questions Petri’s Republican credentials. Penta said her voter history shows her voting in the 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012 general elections, but not in a party primary in any of those years.

"I find it amazing that she can try to paint herself as ‘the Republican’ when she never took a stand on behalf of then-Senator Chafee or his rival Mayor Laffey. Never chose to support Mitt Romney, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani or any other Republican running for President. Never thought it was important to choose Mark Zaccaria, John Robitaille, Bill Clegg or any other Republican running for office," Penta said.

In a recent interview Petri said she would run a “targeted” campaign aimed at reaching the city’s relatively small group of registered Republicans. Of the city’s 62,557 registered voters, 6,676 are registered Republicans. In the last Republican primary for mayor in 2010, Avedisian garnered 2,064 votes to 635 for Richard Langseth.


Comments
11 comments on this item

Mr. Penta maybe I missed something but you failed to mention that Scottie didn't endorse the republican candidate for Gov. in the last election.....he backed Chafee , worked on Gina's staff selection and is seen regularly at Democratic council members fundraisers.

As my dear would say.....people who live in glass houses shouldn't cast stones.

It's clear to me that if Mayor Avedisian supported John Robitaille - the Republican candidate for governor in 2012 rather than the independent Linc Chafee Robitaille would have had a very good chance of winning that crazy election.

Perhaps the mayor should be defeated in the Republican Primary just for his role in pushing Linc Chafee to victory over the Republican candidate John Robitaille.

I wonder if the volunteers putting up the avedisian sign are members of public unions?

I just do not get it Mr. Mayor.

You are allocating $450,000 to fix the roads this year. Is that enough to fix them completely or just an amount to spend and when it is gone it is gone, regardless of job completion? Or, how much do you need to fix them 100% this year? You also want to borrow another $5 million. So basically the taxes I am currently paying you are not enough to fix the roads?

You are allocating $4.7 million to pay for bond interest and principal for the schools. But how much do you need to get the schools up to 100% condition? Do you have a number for that?

I think that after 14 years of living the highlife, you have found yourself up against someone who is not afraid to ask you the tough questions.

road repair bond lol. as if $280 million a year isn't enough. he has to borrow money for basic repairs. what a joke he's become.

good union sheep out volunteering for "their" man, I see.

The unions aren't too happy with the mayor if you hadn't noticed folks and even if they were, union members are tax paying citizens who have every right to participate and volunteer their time, should they so choose.

Unions have that right, if you want to end that support you would have to end public sector unions.

I just thought of a great idea. End public sector unions. Yes I believe this is a good idea. Let us spread this good idea.

Let us put the political power back in the hands of the ordinary tax payer.

Didn't Avedisian just hand out $800,000 in bonuses above and beyond agreed payroll to Warwick employees? That alone should get enough party switchers to secure his primary win, I would think. A great and smooth politician he is. Not a bad mayor either. Not the best, but no scandals or major issues for the opposition to grab onto. Interesting situation.

Yes, a 1000 dollar, one time payment to employees after getting them to agree to 3 full years of no raises, which in turn had a big effect on lowering the unfunded liability. Wow!! Sounds like an awful Republican! Actually, most of you on here are far right tea party extremest for whom uber conservative House Majority Leader Eric Cantor wasn't conservative enough so it doesn't surprise me you think this way. You guys are out of touch and won't be happy until every city employee made minimum wage. Wack jobs.

@TheDeal you state that the "3 full years of no raises" had "a big effect on lowering the unfunded liability".

2008/2009 Actuarial Accrued Liability of all pension plans $550 million. In 2010/2011 $629 million. In 2012/2013 $664 million

2008/2009 Unfunded Liability of all pension plans $237 million. 2010/2011 $307 million. In 2012/2013 $328 million

2008/2009 Police/Fire I funding ration, 26.6%. In 2010/2011 22.3%. In 2012/2013 20.3%

2008/2009 Municipal funding ration, 79.2%. In 2010/2011 70.9%. In 2012/2013 69.5%

2008/2009 Police II funding ration 98.3%. In 2010/2011 86.5%. In 2012/2013 81.0%

2008/2009 Fire II funding ration 88.3%. In 2010/2011 78.0%. In 2012/2013 83.4%

2008/2009 combined pension funding ratio 57.0%. In 2010/2011 51.2%. In 2012/1013 50.6%

Keep believing what the mayor is telling you. The real explanation is that as a result of the police and fire active employees not taking raises for three years reduced, the increase in the pension unfunded liability.

The Mayor explanation is like saying the city budget spending is increasing by $10 million in the next fiscal year but as a result of $2 million in cuts I reduced spending.

Who is "out of touch"?

“One-time tricks and kicking the can down the road isn’t the way to solve Warwick’s problems,” she asserts.

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Well what IS the way to solve the budget problems?

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