Solomon outlines plans for Warwick's 'transformation'

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Mayor Joseph Solomon, in his first speech after being officially inaugurated as the city’s first new mayor in nearly two decades, could have easily spent his moment in the spotlight – with cameras and the eyes of hundreds of Warwick’s most politically and civically engaged individuals trained on him – thanking people and serving up vague platitudes about service and what it means to be mayor.

There was some of that, but the meat and potatoes of his inaugural address, true to his mantra throughout the past eight months since he was thrust into the starring role following the departure of Scott Avedisian last May, was all about getting to work to improve the city – and even further – to see the emergence of a brand new, even better Warwick.

“It is not lost on me just how meaningful this job is,” Solomon said from the podium in the grand ballroom of the Crowne Plaza. “To me, being elected as mayor stretches far beyond the title and the office. The people of Warwick have entrusted the city in my care. Over the course of my term, it is my goal to lead Warwick through a transformation.”

Solomon wasted no time getting down to brass tax, listing off a long series of ongoing initiatives he looks to see through to completion, cataloging improvements that are already complete or underway and thinking big about what needs to be done moving forward in order to position the city for success long-term.

Economic development

Solomon said, first, that he will look to “build on momentum” that has been established through his one-on-one business visits, which has enabled him to see the needs of local businesses and think about how to better help them through legislative policy. He said he would continue these visits throughout the new year.

Looking to the health of Warwick’s economy, Solomon pointed out completed construction projects, like the $25-million Hyatt Place hotel on Jefferson Boulevard and the first phase of the Pontiac Mills mixed-use redevelopment that has opened the banks of the Pawtuxet River to businesses such as Apponaug Brewing Company. In addition, Solomon mentioned several anticipated projects that have recently been announced, such as the $30-million Marriott Residence Inn and Ortho Rhode Island, a four-story medical office and surgical suite that looks to be approved for a plot next to the Crowne Plaza.

Solomon mentioned the expansion of Greenwood Credit Union, which has been a Warwick institution for 70 years, currently expanding in the shadow of its original location on Post Road, the renovation of the Radisson Hotel and the continuing advancement of City Centre Warwick, the commercial-industrial, transportation-centered development zone that centers around the airport and train station.

On City Centre, Solomon said he was promoting the development of an “innovation hub” that would “combine medical, healthcare, and technology companies within a concentrated area supported by City Centre, further increasing economic development and creating high-paying jobs.”

Whether businesses are big or small, Solomon said work from his office and the City Council would be essential to continuing prosperous economic growth in the city.

“With economic development, we know that time is money. My commitment to making Warwick an easy and convenient place to do business is unwavering, and we can do better,” he said. “My first action will be to implement new policies to expedite the plan review process so developers and individuals aren’t experiencing unnecessary and costly delays to bring their projects – and the jobs and tax revenue that come along with them – to fruition.”

A look ahead

In a relatively short amount of time, Solomon went over several specific items that he feels will improve the quality of life in Warwick. These included things like strengthening minimum housing requirements in order to “more effectively address issues of blight and public health concerns to make our neighborhoods safer, more attractive and welcoming.”

He mentioned switching the city’s streetlights to LED lighting, which would not only provide better illumination but be more energy efficient and save money in the long run. He emphasized this would be done through a competitive bidding process, no doubt referencing a past effort the city took to look into the LED lighting issue that brought about only one bidder – a development that ultimately wound up with Solomon, at the time acting as Council President, tabling the bid offer indefinitely and subsequently going back out to a new round of bidding this past October as mayor.

Solomon put a focus on the city’s parks and recreation facilities, highlighting improvements underway at City Park, Rocky Point and Salter Grove. He mentioned the city would “soon” implement an “adopt a playground” program to “make modest aesthetic improvements and bring new equipment to our smaller neighborhood playgrounds and fields.”

However, perhaps one of the biggest issues Solomon has faced in his tenure so far, and will continue to face, is in regards to the city’s infrastructure. He has already been tested in his response to burst pipes that caused extensive damage to the municipal annex building (which remains closed without a permanent solution in sight). Elsewhere, sewer pipe and water line failures have brought widespread, comprehensive infrastructural issues to center stage. Solomon said he was proud that repaving of city roads has at least been given a new sense of priority, but emphasized a long-term infrastructure repair plan was a crucial part of his plans for his first term in office.

“[It] has become abundantly clear to me in the past six months that our work to fix our aging roads and infrastructure is certainly far from complete,” he said. “To address this, using the five-year capital improvement budget as a foundation, we will develop a comprehensive, 10-year plan that takes a thoughtful, effective approach – with real costs and funding sources attached – to fixing these issues and protecting the city’s assets.”

Also looming large in Solomon’s mind is the next budget, which isn’t as far away as it may seem. Solomon took office in May, right as the FY19 budget process was kicking into gear. In just a few short months, that process will start back up again. Actually, according to Solomon, the process may start even sooner.

“We’ll be starting the internal budget process earlier so that the fiscal plan my administration presents is thoughtful and reasonable, meeting the diverse needs within our community while keeping Warwick an affordable place to live,” he said, adding that input from the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council has helped the city reorganize its finance department with a proper succession plan and that employees are being “cross-trained” so that the city “can meet its financial obligations and state requirements on time.”

Briefly mentioned was Warwick public schools. Solomon said that “the relationship between the City and the Schools has often been tumultuous,” but in recognizing the three new members of the School Committee, he is committed to working with the schools, department heads and city council to continue to push towards a better partnership. His comments on schools were followed by applause.

“I have great faith that with new energy and enthusiasm, we will return our educational system to one that is the best in the state, where students and teachers alike are reinvigorated and work side by side to ensure that our children are given the resources and experiences they need to lead successful lives,” said Solomon.

Solomon closed on a message of cohesion and collaboration, while not shying away from the tribulations that likely await him as the newest, duly-elected mayor of Warwick.

“To be sure, many challenges lie ahead of us in the next two years,” he said. “But I know that every person here tonight is invested in helping our community to succeed and transform. Because we live here. Because we work here. Because here, we have experienced great joy and even times of sorrow. Because it is the place we call home. Because I know each of you share my vision for a reinvigorated Warwick. Because like me, you know Warwick can be transformed into the best version of itself yet.”

Comments

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PaulHuff

"Solomon wasted no time getting down to brass tax"

Is the mayor creating a new tax on brass or did he waste no time getting down to brass tacks?

Come on Mr. Hartley....lets up your journalism game.

Thursday, January 10
John Simoneau Sr

Travis to chair new Economic Development Committee... lmfao.

She can't even pay taxes she owes City, and has been using scam nonprofits to defraud City from tax money for years. She couldn't even complete the simple State Financial and Campaign finance reports properly. So she was found guilty just last year of both violations. Closed JONAH building, but kept nonprofit, because couldn't even run that properly.

Council made up of other Democrats, for years, that are lawyers and even CPA'S, and some both, that couldn't find WFD Scams being run. It took a private Citizen with no legal or financial expertise to do it. These 3 scams are just the tip of the iceberg, which they will keep trying to cover up. They are dopes that got us approaching BANKRUPTCY. City is run like a criminal organization and should lead to RICO Convictions hopefully soon.

OPEN YOUR EYES !

Thursday, January 10
JOHN

John Simoneau -- aren't you the guy who was in the back at the inauguration in pajamas booing like an escaped lunatic?

Thursday, January 10
John Simoneau Sr

Weren't you the guy up front on your knees, you pervert coward that can't use their real name?

I'll reply again when you do, but not until .... COWARD !

Thursday, January 10
PhillipDrummond

Solomon had ample opportunity to stand up and be a leader but instead chose to watch the city go down the drain and now he wants to make speeches about economic recovery and putting the city on the right path. I don't like seeing incompetence rewarded. I know if I was as clueless as Solomon was on the job I wouldn't have one yet this guy gets to be mayor. Absolutely priceless.

Friday, January 11
John

John Simoneau -- I'll take your response as a "yes, I was the idiot in sweatpants and a 'born to lose' T-Shirt booing in the back of the room."

Did you consider the people you victimized with your actions? Namely, the bartenders at the diviest dive bars in West Warwick and Coventry who were probably wondering where their best customer was. Next time be more considerate of the economic impact of your actions.

For 20 years Solomon (and other councilors) were sounding the alarm about the way Avedisian was running the city. The Chafee run Projo protected him with their coverage and Warwick kept electing him. When he realized it was finally about to hit the fan, Scotty jumped ship into a nice buck and half do nothing state job to protect himself. Gotta hand it to the guy -- horrible manager but brilliant politician.

If you knew anything about politics, you'd know if you sound the alarm too much, the voters think you're grandstanding and posturing for a higher elected office -- and they throw YOU out for your efforts. Bob Cushman is a perfect example. He called this twelve years ago. You probably don't remember him because he was a one term councilman. As I said, ignorance is bliss and no one wanted to hear it.

If there's anyone with the brains and guts to help the city it's Solomon. If you think you can do better there's an election in less than two years. Put on your best pair of sweatpants and get out there and drum up some support.

Friday, January 11
John Simoneau Sr

COWARD .... COWARD ..... COWARD ........

Friday, January 11
davebarry

Cushman was the guy sounding the alarm about the FD and the FD took him out by canvassing door to door in his ward. Ironic, ain't it.

Friday, January 11
Cat

You can't help make a change by being overwhelmingly negative. Change comes from positivity. Hopefully, everyone will get on the bandwagon and work together to make a change.

Friday, January 11
richard corrente

Dear Cat,

Wise words as always. Why don't you disclose who you really are. Unlike many others, you make opinions that are sincere, gracious, and honest. (even when they are anti-me). Your comment of Friday 1-11-19 is spot on. Unlike others, you should have no reason to hide behind a fake name.

Just a thought.

Rick

Thursday, January 17
Cat

RC, for what is probably the 5th time: Cat Hayes. That is my social media account information. You can reach me there if you ever need to. I don't make myself public for safety reasons. I have every reason to be careful with my identity. I have had my friends stalked, harassed and men show up at their place of work because they found information online about them. You will never, EVER live in a world where you have to be careful every single moment of the day.

A girl was riding on a train home and a young man struck up a conversation with her. As far as she was concerned, the encounter was over as soon as she exited the train. Unfortunately, the young man didn't agree so he went on Facebook and Instagram to locate her. A quick search found her account so he messaged one of her friends (followers) who gave him her phone number. He stalked her relentlessly for months online and by phone. She was terrified he would follow her home and find out where she lived. All because she had her accounts public. The police had to get involved and she had to get a restraining order against a complete stranger so he would leave her alone. Has that ever happened to you? Are you afraid to have a casual conversation with someone?

My friend works in a banquet hall. She was serving and 4 guys at the bar tried to flirt with her. She was polite but firm that she was working. They wouldn't take no for an answer. She had to get her manager to walk her out because she was afraid they would be outside waiting . Guess who was outside? Two guys in the front and two guys in the back. They tried to get coworkers to give out her private information. One of them told them her last name. Do you know how ridiculously easy it is to search for people on the internet once you have first and last name? She had to block everything, close out all social media and they installed lights and cameras in the parking lot for her safety. Has that every happened to you? Are you afraid to walk out of work at night alone?

I once had a client that mistook my smile and laughter while I was printing out an invoice as out as showing my interest in him. He wasn't pleasant when I told him I was merely being polite and didn't wish to pursue a relationship. I was simply doing what is required in my job description and it was misinterpreted as flirting! All my contact information was on my business card. He emailed me a few days later to let me know he didn't appreciate me leading him on. He left a negative review on yelp and google because I didn't want to date him. He also called me until I had to block the number. Now my business card has no personal (private information), only an email and phone number specifically for work purposes. Nothing that will lead anyone back to me in my private life. Has that every happened to you? Do you have to have two sets of accounts for safety?

You just don't get it. You are totally ignorant to what is at stake. This will never be your normal. My safety means way more to me than an insult from you about being a coward. You want to call me a coward? Go right ahead Richard. I will smile every time I see it.

p.s. I don't need you to know where I live and what I do with my day to be considered valid. I already am valid. I don't need you to confirm it.

Thursday, January 17
wrkvoter

wow cat, I am so with you on that.

Thursday, January 17