About 50 residents and candidates for local offices turned out for Thursday night's candidate forum sponsored by the local grassroots political group Tiverton Citizens for Change.
Incumbents championed the approval of the financial town referendum, the pay-as-you-throw program, the ratification of contracts with the local firefighters union, department heads and soon to be with the police union. They also prided themselves on creating a long-term financial plan for Tiverton and for supporting the Sing Out For Hunger project, volunteer appreciation night and town-wide rubbish removal services.
"The FTR was a key issue for us because it gave a voice to all taxpayers," said David Nelson, Town Council member and founding member of the TCC. "It multiplied by 10 the number of people participating in the process so in the end for me, to be able to drive that type of change and to be part of an organization like TCC is really quite satisfying for me."
In the next term, TCC candidates largely saw fighting tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge as the key issue. Expanding businesses to increase revenues and reduce the town's dependency on property taxes.
"I am committed to preserving that character and also to relieving its financial [strain]," said Nelson. "Ninety two percent [of revenue] comes from property taxes. We have talked for years about bringing business to town but we are actually seeing that slowly become a reality and we have numerous initiatives in play that we will cont to work out."
Town Council incumbent Robert Coulter also pointed toward the Bay Street cleanup and protecting Tiverton's industrial park from the original East Bay Energy Consortium proposition and eminent domain.
"I can't tell you we have on every fight on every issue, but when I think about how things were here four years ago, I say wow, what a difference," said Coulter.
Coulter, along with many of the otherTCC-endorsed candidates, pledged to remain open and transparent in their function in local government, if elected.
Overwhelmingly candidate stated that they wanted to continue to move Tiverton forward, through both financial and performance-based accountability.
"I will start analyzing school district spending so voters at the FTR have a very good idea of where [the money is going]," said Justin Katz, a School Committee candidate. He stated he would distill test scores and student performance data to make effective policy changes and keep the pressure on teachers to move learning forward.
He said that school district finances could be managed better and pledged that under his financial plan, threats of school closures and sports and music program cuts would not occur.
Katz indicated the TCC School Committee candidates have ideas to push many changes through to improve the management of Tiverton schools and urged voters to elect himself, Susan Anderson and Ruth Hollenbach to ensure that with a majority on the committee, changes could be made quickly.
The TCC-endorsed candidates are as follow:
- Jay Lambert
- Joan Chabot
- Peter Mello
- Nancy Driggs
- David Nelson
- Robert Coulter
- Joe Sousa - Sousa spoke at the forum, but in a recent email said he did not formally accept a TCC endorsement.
State Assembly District 71