By EMMA BARTLETT
Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos hit the ground running with her LG campaign on April 14 — a date that had a particular meaning to her as it marked the one year anniversary …
By EMMA BARTLETT
Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos hit the ground running with her LG campaign on April 14 — a date that had a particular meaning to her as it marked the one year anniversary of her official appointment to office.
Matos’ schedule was already off to a busy start Thursday. The day began with an 8 a.m. breakfast at West Side Diner in Providence with supporters and friends, she was on air with La Mega Radio by 10:30 a.m. and made her way to Cranston’s Coffee and Crumbs for a one-on-one interview with the Cranston Herald. Walking into the coffee shop wearing a gray pantsuit and pearls, Matos had a confident yet humbling smile on her face. With her was Mike Raia of Half Street Strategic Consulting.
Over coffee, Matos shared her passion for the ocean state and spoke of her background.
“I never imagined that a girl from the Dominican Republic who spoke very little English and whose first job in the U.S. was working at a garment factory in New York would one day be the first Black woman to hold statewide office in Rhode Island,” said Matos.
When Gov. Dan McGee tapped Matos as lieutenant governor, she was the Providence Ward 15 councilwoman, which included neighborhoods of Olneyville and parts of the Silver Lake and Valley. She said she enjoyed the position and noted that historically Olneyville was home to generations of immigrants – whether Italians, Portuguese, Polish or Irish coming into the state – who were all trying to live the American dream. Today, Matos says she is living that dream. She lives in Providence with her husband and their two children.
Over the past year, Matos has visited the state’s 39 cities and towns discovering the diversity and style of the individual communities. From the urban and suburban areas to the farm lands, Matos saw the state’s beauty and spoke with people – realizing everyone was more alike than different. During her travels, such as going quahogging and seeing Rhode Island’s coastline from a catamaran, she said that finding a brewery in Burrillville surprised her the most.
Matos said during her time as LG, she learned there were individuals struggling and trying to make it in every corner of Rhode Island – which comes into her platform.
Matos’ LG platform will focus on affordable housing, access to education and job training, senior services and economic development and job creation.
Matos said one of her priorities is ensuring the development of affordable housing. This includes thinking about the aging populations who may be retiring and unable to live where they currently reside due to the level of expense. Therefore, the government needs to think about building alternative housing where people can age in place.
Matos spoke about the importance of making sure a city or town’s police officers, firefighters and teachers (to name a few) are able to live in the community they serve. She mentioned that housing is such a crisis that only three out of the state’s 39 municipalities offer affordable housing for individuals making less than $50,000 a year. These three areas include Providence, Central Falls and Burrillville.
“We need leaders who don’t just talk about housing, but have a track record of supporting real housing initiatives,” Matos said.
So far, Matos has led efforts to revitalize neighborhoods and build housing in Providence; she is also playing a central role in work to invest a quarter of a billion dollars to build affordable housing.
Economic development and job creation
Matos is also an advocate for small businesses.
“A lot of people are giving everything they have to the community and need support to do their job,” Matos said.
She noted that the pandemic has been difficult for small business owners and their employees which is why she is working with Governor McKee to reduce the state’s corporate minimum tax, make liquor-to-go permanent and give these owners relief on tangible taxes.
“And I’m fighting for minority owned businesses,” Matos said, mentioning that $10 million for a minority business accelerator to promote entrepreneurship in underrepresented communities has been proposed.
Access to education and job training
Access to broadband is something Matos would like to see all individuals have access to. During the pandemic, she said many individuals did not have broadband for education – especially in areas of Providence.
“The pandemic didn’t create gaps in our schools, but it made the gaps a lot clearer,” Matos said.
Matos would also like to continue McKee’s Lt. Governor's Entrepreneurship Challenge where high school students in grades 9 through 12 pitch their business ideas and compete for thousands of dollars in scholarships to post-secondary institutions; the challenge aims at encouraging entrepreneurship and promoting business ownership right here in the Ocean State.
“We also need to recognize that education doesn’t end in the classroom. We need to include job training in every conversation we have about our schools,” Matos said.
Matos noted that the office of LG Charlie Fogarty was a major advocate for the aging population and is looking to continue his work. She said Rhode Island has one of the largest populations of older adults but one of the worst states for retirees. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, as of 2020, there were at least 24,000 people over age 65 living with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia within Rhode Island. That number is expected to increase to 27,000 by 2025.
“Our parents are so important to all of us. They help shape our worldview and they were our first teachers. We owe them more as they age,” Matos said.
Matos also supports making the ocean ADA accessible and in favor of public access to the shoreline – mentioning that everyone has the right to enjoy the ocean.
Additionally, Matos said if she is elected LG and Rhode Island experienced a similar situation to former Governor Gina Raimondo leaving for another role, Matos would be “ready to go” and step in as governor. She noted that she has had the opportunity to work in partnership with McKee and be in conversations with cabinet.
McKee and Matos work closely together in their current positions and are running mates in the election.
Matos said if elected and McKee is not elected, she aims to work with whoever holds the post.
After a half-hour interview with the Herald, Matos was off to Farm Fresh RI in Providence to announce her reelection campaign. Later that day, she would find herself traveling all the way to Warren and Newport. With several handshakes with Coffee and Crumbs customers, Matos was off to her next endeavor.
She will now face Rep. Deborah Ruggerio (District 74 – Jamestown, Middletown) and Senator Cynthia Mendes (District 18 – East Providence, Pawtucket) in the primary for the Democratic nomination.
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