I am a big fan of City Councilman James Diossa – 1 of 5 candidates running in the November6th non-partisan primary for Mayor of Central Falls.
Here are 10 reasons that you should vote for him, volunteer for him and donate to him between now and Tuesday.
1. Honesty matters. As we have seen with Mayor Angel Taveras in Providence, it is critical for elected officials to be honest with the people. When you are honest, you are able to bring people to the table and accomplish tough things. James is that kind of elected official. He his honest, humble and in politics for the right reasons. He wants to improve his community; not pad his wallet or get jobs for his friends or contracts for his buddies.
2. He is Young, Progressive and Latino. Diossa has the right stands on the right issues and he is not shy about stating it. I have spent my political career trying to level the playing field for candidates who do not look like me – women and people of color – and James represents the best of his generation.
3. He brings people together. A cadre of unusual suspects from Sen. Betty Crowley to Rep. Gus Silva to United States Senator Jack Reed have endorsed Diossa. They see the promise and hope in a new leader. And with the new leader relatively hamstrung by a 5 year budget plan with little discretion, the next Mayor is going to need to rally support from all corners of city, state and federal circles. Diossa is well-situated to do that.
4. Cracking down on Corruption matters. Diossa recently announced that on Day One of his administration he would submit a comprehensive ethics package to the City Council for their approval – banning pay to play and instituting tough new regulations for lobbyists. Former Common Cause director Phil West issued a statement of support and said that these kind of tough positions on corruption are a bold step in the right direction. For those who want to see Rhode Island city governments ‘disinfected’ by the ‘sunlight’ of ‘transparency’ then Diossa is your candidate.
5. A Role Model. The young people of Central Falls need role models in positions of power that they can emulate. James will inspire young people to do their homework, to stay in school and to shoot for the stars. He sat in the same seat that they did. Young people will see that they too can be Mayor one day if they work hard.
6. The Power of the People. James ran an upstart and grassroots campaign for City Council against an entrenched incumbent and won. Then, he worked with community leaders and the people and organized against the closing of the post office, the closing of the public library and a proposed ban on overnight parking. He knows that the power of government sits in the hands of the people and he’s eager to engage the people in the work of government. That’s refreshing.
7. Past v. Future. The special interests in Central Falls who have seen their favored Mayor go down on federal corruption charges are uniting to stop James Diossa’s candidacy. They have sent out false and illegal flyers. They are doing everything they can to keep their grip on City Hall. These figures of the past need to go the way of the past. James is the candidate best situated to bring new ideas and a fresh vision to a city moving out of bankruptcy
8. Lazieh used to be Mayor. As the Providence Journal has pointed out, Lazieh’s track record as Mayor is filled with decisions which put Central Falls on a path to bankruptcy. He underfunded the Central Falls pension system by millions of dollars. In fact, in 1991 the City’s pension Annual Required Contribution (ARC) to the Police and Fire Fund was 54% of the recommended amount. By 1995, Lazieh made only 22% of the ARC payment and the auditors noted that there was a history of underpayment and that “failure to make adequate funding results in a shifting of plan costs to later years.” By comparison, Buddy Cianci’s lowest ARC payment ever was around 60% of the recommended amount. But, that’s not all. Lazieh was fined by the state ethics board for unethical management practices, including using the City’s purchasing process for personal gain. (Source: Cooper, Helene. Providence Journal 10/11/1991, Lazieh admits ethics violation Panel fines mayor for billing goods to city.) Finally, after he lost reelection, Lazieh created a new city policy that allowed him to pay himself more than $17,000 in “back vacation pay.” (Source: Sabar, Ariel. Providence Journal 3/28/1998, Ethics panel: ex-mayor’s vacation pay is OK.) You get the point. Not a model of fiscal responsibility or ethical government
8. Joe Moran used to be Police Chief. Moran “retired” at age 47 from city service with a taxpayer funded pension worth more than $61,000 (second highest pension in the city) – and then was rehired the very next day by corrupt Mayor Charles Moreau (Source: Hummel, Jim. Hummel Report 4/15/2010, Cashing in.) On top of his pension, Moran negotiated a backroom deal that left him with taxpayer benefits like health care with no co-pays, a city matched 401(k), a clothing allowance and bonuses all worth nearly $160,000 a year. (Source: U.S. Bankruptcy Court 11-13105-FJB and Central Falls Personnel Records.) After his contract was voided, Joe Moran sued Central Falls taxpayers for over $550,000 and won a settlement over $75,000 – all while the City was declaring bankruptcy! (Source: Welch, Catherine. WRNI 08/16/2012). Aren’t you sick and tired of public servants who care more about their own personal wealth than the welfare of all of the people?
9. Bruce Corrigan and Tia Ristaino-Siegel. These other two candidates on the ballot will get some votes, but will not compete for the December run-off. Of these two, I actually like Tia quite a bit and hope that she does not give up and perhaps seeks another run at office -maybe City Council. She is smart, eloquent and has some interesting ideas. Corrigan is another voice from the past seeking to maintain hold on the strings of power.
10. “A City with a Bright Future.” This is the city’s motto. It seems sad considering everything that has happened. And who better to become mayor of a city emerging from bankruptcy than a hometown hero – scoring the winning goal for a soccer championship, leaving for college and returning home to serve his hometown with energy and passion? James represents a bright future and will be the force to bring one to Rhode Island’s city of one square mile.
As Tip O’Neill said, “all politics is local.” That means that changing Rhode Island means that you start at the local level. And, if you are a progressive or you believe in reform, then you need to get involved, get local and support James Diossa for Mayor of Central Falls!