Woonsocket Senatorial Contenders Speak, Answer Questions At Candidates Night

Crowd packs Chan's for chance to hear candidates make their case.


Woonsocket's state senatorial candidates made cordial arguments for voters' support Tuesday night during the Meet the Candidates forum sponsored by MyWoonsocket.com and 1380 WNRI.

The free, open-to-the-public event was held at , 267 Main St. at 7 p.m. The house filled up quickly in the minutes preceding the evening's start. 

Local journalists Russ Olivo of the Woonsocket Call, Sandy Phaneuf of the Valley Breeze and Woonsocket Patch editor Rob Borkowski each asked candidates questions.

The evening began with opening remarks by Sen. Roger A. Picard (D-Dist. 20), Woonsocket, Cumberland), running unopposed, and Sept. 11 primary opponents Sen. Marc A. Cote, (D-Dist. 24) and Lewis J. Pryeor. The winner of that contest will run unopposed in November.

"I want to be accessible to everybody," Picard told the crowd, inviting people to call him or stop by his front porch to talk. He noted his work on the hospital conversion act to aid the sale of Landmark Medical Center to Steward Healthcare. "I wish I had some ground-breaking news for you tonight, but I don't." He said negotiations between Steward and Blue Cross are continuing.

"Representing Woonsocket and North Smithfield in the senate for the last 18 years is a responsibility that I have always carried out with diligence and in the best interests of our community," Cote said, noting his work to secure toll free phone service to Providence for residents and support for pension reform, saving residents thousands and communities millions, respectively. He also noted his opposition to Gov. Lincoln Chafee's 2011 sales tax increase and this year's proposed 2 percent meals tax increase.

"My opponent is a good man," said Pryeor, "But after 18 years, I think you have to ask yourself, am I better off, is our community better off. I think we all know the answer is no."

Olivo asked Cote about his initial opposition to the supplemental tax bill, which he ultimately supported prior to the measure's defeat, and the reason for his switch.

Cote said he strives to represent the will of the majority in his district. "When the time came for the Senate to take up the bill, which was in early May, I did not feel that the majority of people in my district were behind the concept of voluntary receivership. A lot of people thought it was going to lead to bankruptcy, and we had not made our case strong enough to hold that position," he said.

Olivo's next question was for Pryeor, asking the recent Warwick transplant to outline his civic engagement in Woonsocket.

Pryeor said he's only been involved in Woonsocket for the last year and a half. "Right now I've just been active with the Sacred Heart Church and Fairmount, and over there I've been active with their festival. This year it's going to be October 13, 14, it's going to be quite big, we're going to have rides and everything. I got involved there because our church parish, the priest was not getting anybody to get involved." Also, he said, "I'm starting the Costa Park Neighborhood Association so our neighborhood will have a say in anything coming up in the area. That's really one thing I think we should really push throughout the city of Woonsocket, is neighborhood associations, so if something's coming into your neighborhood, you don't like it, you can have a meeting with the people, with your representatives, and say, 'Listen, we're having a problem here, help us out.' And that's one thing I've always been active in, in Warwick in the past, I was out there with every neighborhood association, working with the people, being out there. Right now as a CNA for home care, I go to all the houses and high rises and I meet with the people on a daily basis."

Borkowski asked Cote about his biggest accomplishment during his time in office, his biggest regret and how he'd handle similar future situations. 

Cote repeated his opening remark about toll free phone service for Woonsocket. Also, "I fought very hard to oppose the proposed state subsidy for what was being proposed for the Providence Place Mall," and "Ultimately, ended up reducing that subsidy." Also, he said, he fought to get approval for a bond to cover 81 percent of the cost for the city's new middle school, for the pension obligation bond, a bond that provided tangible property tax relief for the city's businesses, and helped secure more than $300,000 for the city's service organizations to improve residents' quality of life. 

Regarding regrets, Cote said he regretted voting for the updated fire code, "Which turned out to be draconian."

Borkowski asked Pryeor what his money-saving alternative to closing Fifth Avenue School would have been. Pryeor said there were two positions added to the Woonsocket School Department that cost the district the money it could have used to keep the school open. "Those two positions, I don't think were needed at the time, and I think right there we would've saved $200,000 to keep Fifth Avenue open, which is a local school, which we did need. I wish it was still there, but it's past, and you've got to look forward."

Phanuef asked Cote what he would say to people who suggest that the city and state has been headed in the wrong direction during his 18 years in office, and if there is anything he'd do differently during his next term.

"I think we've been impacted by a very terrible national economy, regional economy." Cote said, and that RI is perceived as a bad businesses environment. He said one way to fix that would be to do away with the requirement that businesses pay employees every week, as opposed to bi-weekly. Rhode Island is the only state in the union with that requirement, he said. "If we go into bi-weekly pay, it would create tremendous savings for business, and would contribute to making our state a better place to do business."   

Phaneuf asked Pryeor what his political adversaries in Warwick might say of him. "I was for the community. I fought for open space in Warwick," Pryeor said, along Rte. 2 near the malls. 

Pryeor said he worked with developer Nick Cambio to get $10,000 for Scott School, and 10 acres of open space set aside while he was working on a local development. 

Also, "I worked with the pedestrians of Shalom Apartments to get a street light, so they could cross the street safely," Pryeor said.

"I worked against some of the developers, but then I worked with them at the same time, for, there's a way around it. You work together, you talk together, and you can get things done, people and community and in business," Pryeor said.

In closing remarks, Cote said he would work to reduce the state's high unemployment rate, provide job training and work opportunities for the unemployed, work with the rest of the city's delegation to save Landmark Hospital and draft affordable city budgets.

"It's not enough for someone to step forward and say there needs to be a change," Cote said, but that person has to make a case for why they think a change is needed. "In my opinion, my opponent has yet to do that." 

"In closing I ask for two years to show the residents of Dist. 24 that I will work together with other general assembly members, not just Woonsocket, all of them so we can get things done in the General Assembly for the state and for the city of Woonsocket. I'll be in the community to see the neighborhoods of Dist. 24's needs. I will be talking, and also be listening to the seniors, veterans and disabled of Woonsocket to hear what their problems are and work diligently to resolve them. I'll work with our federal, state and our city leaders to get the best long-term solutions for our residents and our city," Pryeor said.

Mr.Sluggo August 29, 2012 at 04:56 PM
Supplemental senators willing to set a dangerous precedent.Too bad Picard's running unopposed,he really needs to go.
Mr.Sluggo August 29, 2012 at 05:09 PM
Is Chan's really fine dining?
English first August 29, 2012 at 05:46 PM
It is for most of the people in the world.
Steve August 29, 2012 at 06:42 PM
Where's all the accusations that were to be asked of Brien and Hunt? No mention of any of this dialoge? Where any of these questions asked by the UNION posters and bloggers of the Patch? James Thomas, whats up?
Russell Archambault August 29, 2012 at 07:18 PM
EF chans is a great place to eat. But" in the world". A little bit overdoing it, EF. as usual get your facts correct. Now I understand why you cant have any good advice on anything!
Russell Archambault August 29, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Steve well put. as usual people running their mouths but when have to stand they wimp out when its time. very few of us left.
Rob Borkowski (Editor) August 29, 2012 at 08:03 PM
The evening was a long one, and the portion of it involving Reps. Brien and Hunt and the rest of the candidats for that matter, is coming up in a later report.
Rob Borkowski (Editor) August 29, 2012 at 08:13 PM
Russell - I believe English First is referring to the 1.3 billion people in China, who represent 20 percent of the world's population. EF - If I'm not presuming, I think it might be more accurate to say it's fine dining for 1 out of 5 people in the world. I like your comeback, though.
John August 29, 2012 at 08:34 PM
I was at the forum at Chan's last night. I didn't like the format. The audience was not allowed to submit or ask questions of the candidates and the candidates were not allowed to ask questions to one another. What we really need in order to make an informed decision at election time is a true debate not a few reporters throwing out softball questions for the people to hit out of the park. I was extremely irritated by Baldelli-Hunt's arrogant and smug demeanor. She was constantly rolling her eyes and making faces at the other candidates when it was their turn to speak, very immature. She claims she is accessible to her constituents but she doesn't return calls and her e-mail does not work (even though she stated last night that her e-mail works fine).
Rob Borkowski (Editor) August 29, 2012 at 11:19 PM
Mr. Sluggo: Please, stay on topic. Feel free to leave your reviews of local restaurants on their listings.
la_mouffette August 30, 2012 at 12:34 AM
You called into WNRI today to make the same complaints, didn't you? This wasn't a debate, though, John. It was a "meet the candidates" event. It gives the individuals running for office a chance to tell you a little about themselves and their platforms. They weren't taking questions from the audience. It'd be nice to see a formal debate between candidates, though! Ordinarily, you wouldn't do that for a primary, but in this case, the primary is almost more important than the Nov. election!
la_mouffette August 30, 2012 at 12:49 AM
btw, i'm not responding to Baldelli-Hunt "making faces" because, not being there myself, how could I have an opinion? =) I know the other callers on the radio (and the host) certainly argued with the one person who said Baldelli-Hunt and Brien were being very arrogant, juvenile, etc. But then, interpreting tone is really subjective.
David T August 30, 2012 at 12:52 AM
I attended the forum. I'm new to the city (compared to most of the people who attended) and even newer to Woonsocket politics. One minute to tell the voter about yourself isn't enough. Some of the incumbents didn't even bother to tell us their backgrounds or their occupations and instead and went right into defending why they were against the supplemental tax. So, if you are like me you left feeling like you knew more about the new candidates than the ones who have been around. That's great if you're friends and family members of the incumbents and life long residents. I thank the sponsors for making this happen but it left me wanting more.
Russell Archambault August 30, 2012 at 01:05 AM
LA as usual I always learn from you. thanks. I agree things are so delicate right now, and so many things seem to go wrong for the taxpayer. Lets hope someone will do good for us, who ever that will be. I always look forward to hear what you have to say and do think about it and learn .
David T August 30, 2012 at 01:14 AM
There were two moments at the forum that really struck a cord for me having a child in the public schools. I am worried about the quality of education after elementary school. I have been trying to figure out how I am going to afford the tuition for Mount St. Charles. I do wonder if the GA really cares about improving our education. Casey actually said he wants to make this his priority because a good school system is an economic engine. He is right. Roberts also talked about his plans to improve education. It would be sad to see him leave the school committee. Why didn't Jon and Lisa express the same sentiment? Where do they stand on our education department? She went out of her way to tell us that her job in the GA isn't to fix the local city government problems. We knew that, but there is much you can do at the state level for education and, please, at least tell us what you think, as a city resident about how to fix things on the local level. I'm one of their "tax payers". Represent me!
David T August 30, 2012 at 01:34 AM
La, I was there and could see that Lisa was full of expression, lets say. It was very off putting for a non-debate format or any format for that matter. Her demeanor and statements were full of anger and something more than arrogant at times. Jon, I thought did come off as arrogant at times, but in a way that made him appear more confident. Long time residents and friends and family said they were never prouder of them. I'm guessing other people saw things differently. I think it really depends on whether you are a fan of them. I don't really know them like some of you. Their controversial or if you prefer, direct approach did set them apart from the rest of the candidates, who were collectively much less controversial and generally more appropriate to the non-debate format.
Really? August 30, 2012 at 01:36 AM
I was also at the forum and was hoping that they would allow questions from the audience like they did for the local races last election. No such luck ! I too was pretty disgusted with Baldelli Hut and her condescending responses. She even sniped at the Russ Olivo from the Call. And by the way... She blatantly lied. I tried to email her just the other day and got an undeliverable response. By the way couldn't bob Phillips show up on time ?
Misty Harbor August 30, 2012 at 02:18 AM
I was listening to the forum on the radio and was not surprised at Rep Lisa Baldelli and Jon Brien's statements. It's the same line of crap all the time. Lisa said she didn't vote for the supplemental tax because there was no plan. There was a plan, she didn't choose to read or understand it. Jon Brien is proud of pension reform. Yes, he's part of all union people not getting what they should when they retire. Proud of it??? sure he is...well where is he and Lisa on WELFARE REFORM? Both of them are afraid to support it. They are both good public speakers, that's about it...nothing more!!!!
DR August 30, 2012 at 03:12 AM
David the whole education system in RI needs an overhaul too many Chiefs not enough Indians.How many superintendents,curriculum development directors,school committees,etc do we need in RI? The State has been running the school system in Central Falls for about 20 years-it should be the best school in the State with the highest test scores.How is that working?
John August 30, 2012 at 12:01 PM
Hi La_Mouffette, I understand it was a meet the candidates and not a debate. I just think a debate would give us a better understanding of their intentions when and if elected. One minute is just not enough time to tell the public who you are and what your priorities are when elected. As for the call to WNRI, it was not me. I never call the local radio shows but I do listen. If you know enough people involved in city politics you'd know the incumbents have a team of their friends that call in on a consistent basis to defend them or dispute facts that are not in their favor. I did try to e-mail Baldelli-Hunt yesterday and her e-mail is still not working and has not for months. She outright lied!
DR August 30, 2012 at 12:05 PM
Misty Misty Misty if you want welfare reform here is a plan.Instead of complaining round up some of your friends in Jan or Feb and go to the State House with large signs WELFARE REFORM and stand in front of the senate and house chambers maybe they will get the hint.The next week call each of the reps(about 75)and senators(about 38) and remind them. People must get involved taxpayers and business owners don't let elected officials run you out of town.
Rob Borkowski (Editor) August 30, 2012 at 12:07 PM
The second part of the story on Candidates Night is up now, all: http://patch.com/A-xvRP
English first August 30, 2012 at 01:06 PM
Getting back to Chan's "Fine Dining". It is not my first choice in dining. But we are a bunch of snobs to think that the majority of the world is not eating as well. To those who think I am giving advice I apologize. I was giving an opinion. Thanks Rob for the clarification to Russ.
John August 30, 2012 at 02:00 PM
I can't believe after 18 years in office Senator Cote's main selling point for himself is toll free calls to Providence. You would think after almost two decades in office he would have a list of accomplishments that would trump that one. It may be time for the voters to retire him. He has become much to complacent .....and invisible until election time.
Mr.Sluggo August 30, 2012 at 08:07 PM
Ho Kong is better.
Still Hope August 30, 2012 at 08:54 PM
Chans tastes like a sewer, Ho Kong smells like sewer. Asia Grille to dine, King Wok for take out.
Mew August 30, 2012 at 09:01 PM
John you are so absolutely right!! free phone calls, Im so appallled at our Reps in Woon. It's just so disgusting for someone to be in the G.A 18 yrs and has nothing to talk about except free phone calls. You people out there better know who your voting for!!! What a travesty. We need new faces, and we need to get riod of John & Lisa, they are both arrogant, I have watched them in the G.A and there is nothing to be proud of there. We got rid of Jons Briens wife on the council, now it's time for him to go!!!!
Russell Archambault August 30, 2012 at 09:40 PM
(MS).Is Chan's really fine dining? (EF).It is for most of the people in the world.(RA)EF chans is a great place to eat. But" in the world". A little bit overdoing it, EF. as usual get your facts correct. Now I understand why you cant have any good advice on anything!(ROB)Russell - I believe English First is referring to the 1.3 billion people in China, who represent 20 percent of the world's population. EF - If I'm not presuming, I think it might be more accurate to say it's fine dining for 1 out of 5 people in the world. I like your comeback, though.(EF)back to Chan's "Fine Dining". It is not my first choice in dining. But we are a bunch of snobs to think that the majority of the world is not eating as well. To those who think I am giving advice I apologize. I was giving an opinion. Thanks Rob for the clarification to Russ.(RA)---CAN SOMEONE EXPLAINE ALL THIS TO ME IM CONFUSED.by the way this topic is alot more important to me than all the candidates.NOW...back to the story....(MS)Ho Kong is better.(HOPE)Chans tastes like a sewer, Ho Kong smells like sewer. Asia Grille to dine, King Wok for take out.(RA) --QUESTION well who's for the buffet at the plaza or diamond hill road?? lets all agree where and when !!!
DR August 31, 2012 at 11:17 AM
Russ I agree with you la does the research and is open minded. Good job la.
lewis Pryeor September 06, 2012 at 03:22 PM
Senator cote recently announced to sponsor a bill with Senator Erin Lynch that would help the labor market. The bill 2377 was sponsored back in February 2012 by Senator Erin Lynch . Senator Cote should not try to claim the bill when he did not even co-spopnsor the original bill.Good work for Senator Lynch though.


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