Stuart Gitlow Makes Second Run In Dist. 49 Primary
Challenger has similar view to Baldelli-Hunt on taxes, new economic development ideas.
For the 2012 primary, with greater name recognition, a similar stance on the supplemental tax issue as his opponent and new ideas about economic development up his sleeve, he likes his chances a little better.
Gitlow, a psychiatrist and addiction medicine specialist, has been living in Woonsocket for nine years now. He and his wife, Heather, lived in Providence 14 years ago when they got married, and couldn't find a bigger house in Providence they could afford.
Their solution came with a move north to Woonsocket, "...and it was a far nicer house than we could find in Providence," Gitlow said. The neighborhood was friendlier, too. People asked them out to dinner, helped them move things in, and one guy mowed their lawn for them while they were away. "It was everybody helping out everybody," Gitlow said.
It was a marked switch from Providence's east side, where the only contact they had from neighbors was a note asking them to clean out their gutters.
They didn't know much about the city then, but there were positive signs: Stadium Theatre had just been redone, The Railroad Station had been restored, and the bike path was on its way. "It seemed as though things were starting to pick up," Gitlow said. People were putting additions and decks on their houses, too.
"Then, all of a sudden, that stopped. And then the 'For Sale' signs went up," he said. That was followed by a decline in services, higher water and sewer rates, and rising property taxes. Even so, the city's situation didn't seem quite so dire in 2010, he said, when he ran on a healthcare platform.
Now, Gitlow said he wants to turn the city's fortunes back toward the promise it showed when he moved in. He said he's lived in Petersburg, New York and Boston, all cities that have methods of expanding services without relying on the taxpayers, and he's learned from that experience.
First, Gitlow said, the city needs to increase home values, and increase the number of people living and working in the city able to pay taxes. "It doesn't mean they have to pay high taxes. It means they have to pay reasonable taxes," Gitlow said.
Gitlow repeated the commuter-city idea he mentioned during Candidates Night at Chans. The city is ideally positioned as a spot for commuters to Boston, Providence and Worcester, he said. With the state's help to bring train service to those cities through Woonsocket, he said, the city would be attractive from a commuter's perspective.
Gitlow also agrees with fellow Dist. 49 primary candidate Mike Morin's idea to restore the historic tax credit. He said the city's historic properties could be transformed into tourist attractions, restored to their old glory and marketed as an example of 1940s America to vacationers.
Another feature of the city is the river that runs under buildings on Main Street. The river used to run hydraulic power for those buildings, Gitlow said, an interesting attraction for the curious.
Also, Gitlow said making the RI park service's investment in the city a permanent one would improve Woonsocket's appeal to tourists and potential residents.
"All of this would require some state assistance to make that happen," Gitlow said, "We need the state to back our plan."
Gitlow said when he talks to people about the city's challenges, he hears comments that strike him as signs of depression, that people are disappointed in the system and they're giving up. "We need to turn this around and we need to work together," Gitlow said, "We have to have something to look forward to."
One question Gitlow intends to answer if elected: 'How do we make it so people pay less and get more?' He said he thinks his economic development ideas will do the trick, "But I'll need everybody behind me."
Gitlow elaborated on his Candidates Night statement that he agrees with Baldelli-Hunt on the supplemental tax issue. "The supplemental tax should not have been passed if indeed there was no plan in place to prevent the supplemental tax from being the first of many supplemental taxes," Gitlow said.
Instead, there should have been plan that spelled out what would happen for the first year to improve cash flow, then again at 5 years as the city improves and 10 years as the city is doing well again.
Gitlow said though he agrees with Baldelli-Hunt's stated reasons behind not backing the supplemental tax pitched by city officials, he said he doesn't agree with her decision to do so without telling local officials first. He said that he would have only agreed with city officials to go to the state house if he'd seen the plan. "But I can't go to the State House having made that agreement with the city and then change my mind," Gitlow said, "I have to do what I said I would do. That's the basis of trust."
If there really was no plan for the supplemental tax, he said, "Then pledging support for the supplemental tax doesn't make sense," in the first place.
Healthcare is another aspect of city life Gitlow said he's interested in. Healthy and productive residents will also be important for the city to thrive, he said. A more immediate concern on that front, however, is the perpetually pending sale of Landmark Medical Center to Steward Healthcare.
Gitlow said the dispute between Steward and Blue Cross Blue Shield over compensation glosses over an important point: The insurer's agreement to pay isn't with the healthcare provider, it's with the patient. "It's up to Blue Cross to pay for the healthcare when they need it," Gitlow said, "And the patients should be the ones speaking up in dissent because they have not been able to obtain what they have paid to obtain."
Instead of Steward, "It should be the legislature going after Blue Cross Blue Shield," Gitlow said, "They should do whatever appears to be in the best interests of the people they represent."
Baldelli-Hunt faces two challengers in the Sept.11 primary: Gitlow and Mike Morin. Whoever wins that contest will face Independent candidate Michael E. Moniz of 429 East School St. for the seat Nov. 6.