Q&A: The race is on for Johnston's Ward 5 Town Council seat
In the race for Johnston's Ward 5 Town Council seat, incumbent Robert J. Civetti, at left, will face Independent candidate Jeanette A. Scarcella, at right. The Johnston Sun Rise asked each candidate six questions.
In the race for Johnston's Ward 5 Town Council seat, incumbent Robert J. Civetti will face Independent candidate Jeanette A. Scarcella. The Johnston Sun Rise asked each candidate six questions.
Robert J. Civetti
Are you worried about increased traffic in town? "My concern is not so much about the increased traffic but rather the safety of those that travel the roads in Johnston. If re-elected I will be working with my colleagues on the Town Council, the Administration, and the Johnston Police Department to explore the installation of traffic cameras along Route 6. Those that travel route 6 know that it is a very dangerous road and we often see vehicles running red lights at the intersections of Bishop Hill, Brown Avenue, Hopkins Ave, and Reservoir Ave. I am currently working with some residents to gather information about the traffic cameras so that I can review with the Police Chief and my colleagues to try and increase the safety for those that travel Route 6 in Johnston. I am also concerned with the proposed placement of the traffic signal for the truck entrance to Amazon. I believe that we need to closely monitor this traffic signal especially during winter storms. We need to ensure that route 6 is plowed and sanded at all times if we expect vehicles to stop along route 6 at this traffic signal."
How do you balance business development in town with resident concerns? "Continued business development in Town helps to stabilize the tax burden on the residential property owners. We need to update the Town’s comprehensive plan so that we can properly identify the sections of Town for development. I am opposed to the changing of residentially zoned property to business or special use zones. Property owners acquire property in residentially zoned neighborhoods and should not have to worry about industrial or business development coming into their neighborhoods."
How would you spend/invest the town’s growing reserve fund? "The Town’s currently has a very healthy cumulative fund balance in the General Fund. During fiscal 2022 and 2023 the administration and the Town Council has approved utilizing approximately $6 million of this fund balance for infrastructure improvements, funding of a compensated absence reserve fund, and appropriation to balance the fiscal 2023 budget. I believe that we should continue to invest these funds back into the community by acquiring open space, updating and maintaining parks and recreation areas, and additional funding of some of the unfunded obligations of the Town."
Do you support opening retail recreation cannabis shops in Johnston? "No, I am against recreational use of cannabis and do not believe that we need these types of establishments in the Town of Johnston. I know that the recreational use is going on throughout the country but I wished that the State of Rhode Island did not follow this trend. I worry about the impact on the youth of our community."
When Rhode Island’s landfill reaches capacity, how will you ensure the best deal for Johnston residents (and the rest of the Ocean State)? "My concern is more about what happens to the Town of Johnston and how do we fill the hole in the budget when the landfill reaches capacity and is closed. Currently the Town’s annual operating budget includes approximately $5Million per year. How do we make up this lost revenue when the landfill closes? The Town should be establishing a tax stabilization fund so that resources are set aside to absorb some of the loss of revenue which will occur when the landfill closes."
Is Johnston heading in the right direction and why? "The Town of Johnston has seen a great deal of development over the past several years and now we need to focus on the preservation of our residential communities and improvements to the infrastructure in our Town. The most important project at hand is the construction of schools. The School improvement plan will impact all students attending public school in Johnston and will help to increase the safety of our children and enhance their educational experience. These new schools will not only help the students but will help the values for residential property owners."
Are you worried about increased traffic in town? "I am not worried about the traffic in town right now. Traffic is very different since COVID. People are working remote and / or hybrid so it’s manageable. As for Rt. 6 West, I will admit I am concerned about motorist safety. It is a dangerous road and construction brings hazards. With Amazon coming, we will see how that goes. For now, I will be hopeful that the road enhancement adds structure to safety, speed and traffic."
How do you balance business development in town with resident concerns? "The key to balancing resident concerns is communication, transparency, relevancy and information sharing. When it comes to business in the middle of a residential neighborhoods, it is not a good mix. People expect quiet enjoyment, safe environments and increasing property value. Changing zones in a residential neighborhood to accommodate business disrupts this."
How would you spend/invest the towns growing reserve fund? "Growing the reserve is essential for a municipality to be able to act fast during a crisis. If we allocate funds to spend, it should be for emergency, essential and necessary purposes. As far as an emergency, given harsh economic times, we should consider a reasonable tax/fee credit to seniors on fixed incomes who do not get extra help or live in subsidized housing. We should see how we can help them heat their homes. As far as essential, I would seek funding to extend the sewer line in West End. This will provide residents access to an essential, public resource that adds value to their home and the community. Recently, the council voted to approve a $3M reserve fund transfer to fund road improvements and maintenance projects during a time when it comes off as self-serving. Spending of reserve, in my opinion, should be brought to public hearing. The bottom line is we need structure on how, when and why we spend reserve. Road repairs should be a continuous improvement effort managed by Public Works and a budget line item. No one should have to wait until election to get roads fixed."
Do you support opening recreation cannabis shops in Johnston? "Strategic business alliances that drive taxes down, build community, enhance safety and property value up would be my approach to economic progress. I don’t see how retail cannabis would be fit for a community focused youth development and recreation. I understand Rhode Island may be making investment into Life Sciences and that will be something I’d like to see Johnston get involved with."
When Rhode Island’s Landfill reaches capacity, how will you ensure the best deal for Johnston residents (and the rest of the Ocean State). "The landfill will reach capacity in 2034. Four options (1) Expand the current site (Expensive and involves land acquisitions, wetland relocation, etc), (2) find a new location (no one is jumping at this), (3) haul trash out of state or (4) incineration. These options, no matter what is selected will be expensive. Expansion would not be welcoming to the residents living here. For the short term, it would be best to invest in sustainable and advanced technologies to reduce greenhouse gas. Waste to energy is known to turn greenhouse gas into renewable energy sources such as electricity, fuel and natural gas. As far as incineration, I read about an advanced technology that is a sustainable, safe alternative and may be worth looking into. Health of people and environment are central focus and there is to be no compromise. Guaranteed protections and assurances, operational and institutional controls and plenty of non-negotiables would be involved in any deal or option. I hope discussions on what is next have started."
Is Johnston heading in the right direction and why? "I believe we are on to something for sure. This is a good time to start thinking about the future and get more visionary, strategic and complimentary with what we have already. Let us definite what Johnston will be and look like in 5, 10, 15, 20 years down the road. Tax relief is something we should explore as well. Most people feel we should not pay taxes at all. Develop a vision, mission and strategy along with long and short-term plans that identify objectives, goals and actions that serve as the “basis of business” for all to work toward. I am running for re-election to the Johnston Town Council, District 5, so that I can continue to work for, serve, and represent the residents in District 5 and throughout the Town of Johnston. Over my time in office, I have always stood side by side with the residents to represent their best interest and do what is best for our Town of Johnston. If re-elected I vow to continue to fight for all residents and work to stabilize taxes not only today but for the future. We need to develop an economic plan for the future of our Town."