Q&A: Johnston Mayoral Candidate Joe Polisena Jr. addresses six hot town issues
Joe Polisena Jr., candidate for Johnston Mayor
Joe Polisena Jr.'s answers to six of Johnston's burning questions:
Are you worried about increased traffic in town? More of a concern than traffic is speeding, particularly in residential neighborhoods. I think it’s imperative to continue to work with the police department to strategically place officers in high speeding locations and deploy speed calming devices in neighborhoods that need them.
How do you balance business development in town with resident concerns? I will continue to make responsible economic development my top priority. The two main forms of revenue for the town are residential and commercial property taxes. As we all know prices of goods, wages, and services, even without the record inflation we see now, always increase over time. Rather than go back to the residential taxpayers, I would prefer to get the revenue from businesses. Our robust economic development has allowed our town to maintain stable taxes while continuing to provide town services not seen in more rural communities.
How would you spend/invest the town’s growing reserve fund? It’s always easier to spend money than accumulate it. The surplus should not be treated like a slush fund. A municipality should always maintain 3 months operating expenses in their reserve fund, which amounts to around $30 million for Johnston. If reckless spending of the surplus takes place it will negatively affect our bond rating and the rate of borrowing if the town needs to float a bond in the future. Any leftover money in the surplus should only be used for one time improvement projects, such as road, parks, and recreation improvement. It should not be used to create positions or programs with recurring expenses.
Do you support opening retail recreation cannabis shops in Johnston? Yes, if it’s in a proper commercially zoned area and not in a residential neighborhood. Cannabis should be treated and controlled in the same manner as alcohol and cannabis shops like liquor stores.
When Rhode Island’s landfill reaches capacity, how will you ensure the best deal for Johnston residents (and the rest of the Ocean State)? After multiple conversations with management at Rhode Island Resource Recovery, due to improved technology, there is confidence the landfill will continue to operate for the next several decades, anywhere from 25-35 years from today. However, the next mayor needs to ensure Johnston is fairly compensated for being the host community for the landfill with compensation in addition to no tipping fees and no curbside trash limit, which we presently have.
Is Johnston heading in the right direction and why? Johnston is headed in the right direction. When other towns are using federal funds to plug deficit holes, enacting residential property tax increases of multiple percentage points, and starving for economic development, Johnston has maintained steady growth all while keeping taxes stable. The key is to continue responsible economic development and spend within our means. However, we still have much to improve on. One of the last big projects we must undertake is management of school construction bond, funded by our business growth. Public education is the backbone of any municipality. Not only do our children and teachers deserve state-of-the-art facilities, but a better school system leads to higher property values and as I’m sure for many of you, like me, the biggest investment you’ve made is in your home. Additionally, we must continue to upgrade our infrastructure by paving roads and enacting efficient storm water management to prevent flooding that affects so many of us from the increase in severe storms we've seen over the years.