Next Tuesday is Election Day, and it’s a chance for voters everywhere to choose which political figure best represents their views for the future of the town, state, and country. We at the Sun Rise strongly urge those who are eligible to exercise their rights and make their voices heard at the ballot box.
It’s also that time of year when newspapers across the country endorse political candidates. Newspaper endorsements like ours are designed to help the community make informed choices regarding important political decisions. We also prepare ourselves to hear the valid concern from our readers about how we can fairly cover candidates and an election if we’re endorsing one person instead of another.
The reason we make endorsements is because we’re trying to help people understand complicated political questions. Our staff meets regularly to discuss town news, events, and concerns. We spend most of our time consuming and reporting on local news, and interviewing candidates. As politicians now become the center of the attention, we take our jobs seriously, look at all the facts, and try our best to see through the rhetoric to determine what’s best for the town.
This year, Johnstonians have a choice for the town’s top office at Town Hall, longtime Mayor Joseph Polisena, or newcomer Brenda Lynn Leone. We’ve had the chance to speak with each candidate to get insights on their thoughts about the town along with a picture of what their vision is for the Johnston of tomorrow.
Regarding town issues, both candidates talk about improving social services, being fiscally responsible, creating a better educational system for our children, fostering confidence in local government, delivering better infrastructure, protecting the taxpayers, and being responsive to constituent concerns.
Both Leone and Polisena have long ties to the town, and we believe that their campaigns and ideas are earnest ones. Their backgrounds, however, are starkly different.
Leone is a longtime real estate broker and identifies as a businessperson, not a politician. However, her lack of government experience is a hindrance on her professional resume. It is unclear how she would effectively manage a more than $110 million town budget, or the personnel required to deliver town services.
She states that she’s funding her campaign mostly by herself. She’s put her name and reputation out there for all to see, and that’s an extremely difficult task in this toxic national political atmosphere-one which we giver her credit for doing. The depth of her support locally, however, remains unclear. While Leone makes valid points regarding issues surrounding the town, such as outstanding lawsuits and concerns regarding recent economic incentives given to businesses and corporations, one is left wondering if her personal and professional experiences would provide what’s really needed to offer something better to residents.
Polisena, on the other hand, is a political powerhouse. He has spent many years serving and representing the town as a member of the Fire Department and as an elected official. As the longest serving Democratic mayor in the state currently, he has name recognition that is hard to beat and connections that match.
The mayor’s economic and social initiatives, from newly constructed athletic facilities, a new library and courthouse, and town wide building renovations, to economic developments in the form of the new FM Global site, the Citizens Bank campus, and a cumulative surplus of $25 million, make his a formidable and proven resume.
That’s not to say we agree with all of his decisions. Is it possible that recent economic arrangements could have been more beneficial to the town? Yes. Have projects he’s recently initiated provided major inconveniences to residents, particularly along Greenville, Brown, and Hartford Avenues? Absolutely. Does Polisena sometimes go too far in his methods and delivery, which can sometimes be off-putting to constituents? Definitely.
However, we believe that Polisena remains the best candidate to continue the job of mayor. He has led the town through the Great Recession and its aftermath while building a solid foundation for economic growth-a necessary transition from the bedroom community Johnston once was but can no longer afford to be.