Dave Fisher, former campaign manager for Congressional candidate Abel Collins, reporter for for EcoRI.org and restaurant worker, said he offers new ideas to revitalize the city if elected Woonsocket's Mayor.
Fisher, who grew up in Woonsocket, started his campaign in February. Fisher has worked in the restaurant industry as a chef and manager, though he recently left his job as chef at Vintage Restaurant to devote all his time to campaigning.
The challenger has presented a four-point platform for his mayoral run. If elected, Fisher proposes a long-term tax policy for the city, designating a full-time grant writer to take better advantage of federal and state dollars, investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy sources to aid the city long-term, and promoting more involved and engaged neighborhoods.
Economically, Fisher intends to focus on providing incentives for businesses that have stuck with Woonsocket during tough times, and rewarding business that stays here long-term. Fisher proposes a graduated tax incentive, providing 5, 10 and 20 percent tax breaks for businesses located in the city for 5, 10 or 20 years respectively. "Now you have a business that's been in your community for 20 years and you incentivize that," Fisher said.
Also, Fisher proposes offering tax breaks for properties that have 80 percent of their square footage rented out. "These are not fairly complex solutions, but they are simple enough that they just might work," Fisher said.
Fisher said he's in the mayoral race to halt what he says has been a long, slow decline including flat contributions to the school department over several years, an under-manned police department and lack of investment in infrastructure. "An it's led people to leave the city," he said, "The citizens of this city are tired of getting beaten up."
Fisher said a short-term fix would be to restore state aid Woonsocket's lost over the years. Fisher proposes working with the General Assembly to pass a bill to get 50 percent of the state's surplus to be delivered back to cities and towns. "That very well could save this city," Fisher said. "Encourage is not a strong enough word. I would demand that they sponsor the legislation."
Fisher also supports the tax equity bill that failed in the General Assembly this year. House bill (H-7729), according to Rhode Islanders Tax Equity (RITE), would have increased the income tax rate from 5.99 percent to 9.99 percent on individuals making more than $250,000 per year. The tax rate would have gone down 1 percent for each 1 percent reduction in the state's unemployment, until the tax rate returned to 5.99 percent. The effect on the state budget would have been an additional $118 million in revenue, according to RITE. More money in the state's coffers means more funding for local aid, Fisher pointed out. "Regardless of where you stand politically, that's good for Woonsocket," Fisher said.
Mayoral candidate Rep. Lisa Baldelli-Hunt, (D-Dist. 49), who signed the bill when it was first introduced, said she voted to table an amendment adding those changes to last year’s budget because its sponsor, Representative Maria Cimini, introduced an altered version she didn't have time to review in the heat of the legislative session.
But supporting Woonsocket at the state level requires more clout than the city's General Assembly delegation can muster alone, Fisher said. "You have to build a coalition to do that," Fisher said, "I think that our current leadership under Leo Fontaine has been lacking in that."
Another area the city has been lacking is in cooperation across all levels of government, Fisher said. "We have to present a united front," he said.
Fisher said he hopes to break City politics out of its current rut. "The way we've always done it is not working. It's not working," Fisher said.