What would you say are the three issues that are priorities for you and Ward 3?
During the ‘undebate‘ one of the things we heard was a division in the ward and throughout my campaign I have said that we as a community need to come together.
You have a very diverse community, which is the beauty of Ward 3. You have some of the wealthiest people in the city, you also have people who are in public housing who receive voucher who are low income. You have diversity in terms of culture, you have one of the oldest free black communities in the country, you also have a large Jewish population and so we need to find ways to come together and talk about the issues… around violence which is plaguing Mount Hope. Not too long ago we had a shooting memorial day weekend with kids at the park, right next to where the shooting took place… This is one of the reasons I am part of the East Side Community Alliance. The Alliance is trying to bring the community together. We have been talking about these issues for over a year and we have been actively trying to come up with solutions to resolve them.
I think the issues around the sidewalks – everyone suffers and it impacts the elderly and people who are disabled and that is an issue for people in Summit as well as parts of Blackstone that are in the ward.
Honest government, with everything that happened in city council we shifted away from the issues that are impacting the community and we have been focused on these past few months on scandals. We need to refocus on issues that impact on our ward and on our community.
And three priorities for Providence?
We have a significant amount of younger families who are moving into the ward and they want to make sure that their kids can receive excellent educational opportunities in our public schools, so we need to figure out as a community, because it is a systemic issue – it is not just the schools in ward 3 but all the schools in Providence. How do we make sure that we can find resources or funding to fix our buildings and to get our city council people to work with our state legislators? Education is an economic investment. Investing in the kids is making sure that young people that are graduating from your schools are either college ready or ready for the workforce and have some form of training because not everyone wants to go to college. How do we make sure there are adequate opportunities for these individuals?
We have one top performing high school in the city – lucky for me my son goes to Classical High School. I went to Mount Pleasant, I was in a magnum program, there were academies when I went to school, but I think we need stronger schools for our kids. We have a bunch of schools that are doing great things, Nathan Bishop has an excellent theater program, MLK – the arts, their basketball team is so strong, they have great families who attend the school. Now that the Superintendent is offering more advanced academics to more schools, I think all of those things will improve opportunities, but we need to invest in our buildings. We don’t have anyone on our city council right now who is actively working with our state reps to figure out how to get funding for our schools.
Providence does get more funding than some other districts but the needs are higher, with more ‘English as a second language’ students. We have more students that receive free and reduced lunch, which is a measurement of poverty, and we have a diverse population and people with multiple cultural language backgrounds. So we need to figure out how, regardless of our race, regardless of our socioeconomic background that we can find ways to navigate through those barriers so that every single one of our kids is successful.
Other things to think about are how we stabilize the city budget, it has been an issue for many years.
There are some that advocate for bankruptcy. If the Mayor was to come and say we have to accept this what would say?
I would want to find another avenue… the mayor’s office have just approved a new budget. It looks ok, they have increased funding for education, but one of the things that has been happening that elected officials think about the next election rather than having a 10 or 20 year plan.
What about selling off the water utility?
Our water is precious. One of the great things about Providence is that you can turn on the water and drink it. I am not a supporter of selling our water.
In America, working class people feel alienated from the political process. In this election the Republicans have a candidate who is a trucker in a working class job. The Democrats are putting up a lawyer and two people from an academic background. You work for Brown University, which has a positive and negative impact on the community – on the negative side an impact on rental prices and gentrification…
I am not a professor. The work I do is solving problems, providing access and resources to students and supporting students in making sure the resources in the University work for them. So my work is a little different (from academics), coming up with solutions to make sure each child that goes through those gates are able to graduate after 4 years.
I have been active in my community, in the East Side Community Alliance. We have been looking at how to get more resources into the community to support education and resources for our youth whether it is after school programs, job opportunities and training for people that are not in college, providing resources to support our community. I am also on the YMCA advisory committee where we are looking at issues around access, because if you go into the YMCA there is a wall that separates race and class. We have been thinking about how do we get more membership to low income families, how do we get more membership to the elderly, how do we make sure more kids are accessing resources that are at the Y.
Even my role at Brown, before I moved into this current position, I used to see academic programs in student affairs for the school of engineering. One of the things we were looking at was how do we get our engineering students to do work in the community? So we have engineers, scientists and researchers who might come up with a prototype. One of our engineering students did that with rape kits for people that have been assaulted. So they looked at issue that has been impacting our society and how do you use technology and research to address that issue.
I think, what ever role I have been in, or what my profession is, I have always wanted to make sure I am involved in the community that I have been living in. Growing up I was part of the the city year’s young heroes program, one of the Feinstein leaders, where we would do community service at soup kitchens, so no matter what you are doing, no matter how your professional trajectory goes, you always have to figure out how to connect what you are doing with the things you care about.
The Community Safety Act – it is not just about passing it, is it?
No, it is implementation that is important.
If you were to get on the council, what steps would you take to make sure that happens?
The CSA is very dear to me. These issues impact me and my family directly. I have been racially profiled. I have to remind my son things like ‘don’t wear a hoody’. I have seen how growing up, my father was stopped constantly.
There are a lot of great police officers in our community but we need to do more to protect the most vulnerable. So in terms of implementation I think the steps to take are engaging with our police on training. One of the things that is missing is a process so that if you stop someone, pull someone over, there wasn’t anything written about when do you use excessive force, when do you taser someone? We need to establish a process, a specific timeline that all police officers will be trained, and an outline everything in detail in what needs to be done, how we are going to do it – and hold them accountable.
What is your feeling about the Democratic Party nationally?
What happened in November was a blow to the party. I think right now they are trying to rebuild. What I am seeing is more people encouraged to run for office. What we need is more people from diverse backgrounds to be in leadership, government roles. It is important to have people that can bring fresh perspective, people who have lived experiences, because the groups of people that are creating that legislation need to understand how it is going to impact people. If you don’t understand how it is going to impact, you are going to get push back.
We need people who are going to be strong voices for the communities they are representing and really advocate for that community. I think the party is seeing that. We need more diversity, we need more women, people with progressive views and people who are going to stand up, speak up and take action and it seems they are working towards that and it is one of the reasons I decided to run. Because not only do we need work at the federal level but we also need to do work in our immediate communities at the city level.
And how do you feel about Trump?
The Trump Administration needs to work harder in understanding the people he was elected to serve.
One of the issues he might come into conflict with Providence is whether it is a sanctuary city. Is that an important role for the city to take?
It is an important role for me, I am an immigrant. I came to this country when I was three. Part of the CSA is that if you are arrested, our police officers are not necessarily co-operate with ICE. The Mayor said ‘we will protect our vulnerable immigrant population’ and I think for Providence we need to make sure that our city is welcoming city for all people and that no matter where you are from and what ever your legal status may be, you feel protected, if you are not doing anything illegal. There should be a process to get you legal status and I would work hard and advocate to make sure our city is welcoming and all people feel safe, regardless of their race, regardless of their background, regardless of their immigration status.