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Polisena Discusses Re-election Platform

The three-term incumbent spoke about the upcoming race, his opponent, and his record during an interview with JohnstonPatch.

 

Following his formal reelection bid announcement on Sept. 27, Mayor Joseph Polisena hosted JohnstonPatch for an interview at Johnston Town Hall covering his accomplishments as mayor, the work he feels is still ahead, and his opponent in the race, Peter Filippi.

We've transcribed excerpts from the coversation below.

Making the announcement, campaign message:

We had over 150 people show up, which was great — volunteers and supporters — and we had Sen. Whitehouse and Sen. Reed and several other state dignitaries.

We're moving forward — I think the town has come around since I took office in 2007, our economic development has exceeded my expectations, we're looking at $550 million in new business. I know people say "you keep saying that about Stuart's," but Stuart's is happening, there's no doubt about it. There's going to be a supermarket there, there's going to be a bank and some other businesses that I can't say at this point in time. We've got Sims metals recycling coming in, they're going to be spending about $60 million [and creating] 100 jobs, Johnston residents will have preference.

I just spoke with a company that's looking to locate in town. It's called NeoEnergy; they're going to employ 10 people and spend $25 million, and what they do is they get the expired food and food scraps and they turn it into energy.

You just look around the town, and we've got cranes and construction going on, and everybody else has basically got vacant buildings.

On Republican opponent Peter Filippi:

I think my record speaks for itself; I'm a person who gets things done — I've had my political enemies come up to me an and say: 'I don't like you personally, but you're doing a damn good job with the town,' and that makes you feel good.

As far as me running, when you have an opponent who has a criminal record, like Mr. Filippi who's been arrested several times — he's a naysayer on everything. I know he attacked us on the dog park, the man just hates everybody and everything, and I think he should just take a look at himself — he has a criminal record, not only in Rhode Island, but Massachusetts, he experiences deviant behavior and dangerous behavior being drunk all the time.

He's got the right to run, but I think people see when they look at my record and they look at his criminal record, they're going to see what I've done as mayor, and basically what he's trying to push, his 'Johnston Taxpayers' group that he can't get members for.

When I see the arrest reports, and I see this foul, vulgar language and disrespect to the police and that he's got a criminal record — and it's Massachusetts, it's not just local — the guy's got some issues he needs to deal with, and frankly, I think he's an embarassment to the town and to his family.

If I had a criminal record, I wouldn't be running for public office.

[Read more — Filippi's blog post on prior arrests, Aug 25, 2012.]

He's made a lot of enemies, he's attacked municipal workers, he's attacked the teachers, he's attacked the gay and lesbian community, he's just a venomous person, but he really needs to look at his own life. Quite frankly, he goes to strip clubs, I think he's a sexual deviant, myself. You're not supposed to go in and handle the dancers, but that's why he was arrested.

I think people know that we do the job, and I've still got the will to ensure everybody gets represented. When I get elected, I don't just represent the people who voted for me — I represent everybody, and if you're a taxpayer and you come to me, even if you're not a supporter, I'm going to help you because that's what I'm here for. The purpose of the mayor here is to run the town but also to fix peoples' problems.

Pension reform:

As we move forward, the herculean task we have ahead of us is pension reform, we have to fix the pensions, and I'll be honest with you — if the union's don't come to the table, there will be no pensions. That I can guarantee. There's going to be no government bailout, at least with the Johnston taxpayers, to fund pensions. It's unsustainable and unfixable, and the only way it can be sustained and fixed is if the unions come back to the table, and you look at the benefits that are being doled out at this point in time.

That's going to take time — I know there are people out there who think you can just take things away, [but] there are laws, whether you look at fortunately or unfortunately, there are laws in this state that you can't just take things away, you have to go through the process — this is a strong labor state, there's no doubt about it, the rules, obviously, are not made for the cities and towns, so you have to negotiate.

Financially, the town's in good shape, but we have a $96 million — we thought it was $90 million, but it's a $96 million unfunded pension liability.

We fixed our OPEB [Other Post-Employment Benefits], which is healthcare after retirement, by switching about 177 retirees from Blue Cross to Medicare, we saved about $750,000 to $800,000, and we knocked our OPEB number from about $229 million to below $100 million, just in one swoop of the pen.

Moody's downgraded us by a number, not a letter, and I know that an 'A' is still better than a 'B' — and that's because of the pensions.

I have to make decisions that are financially correct, not politically correct. I'm willing to do that, and we'll see. I'm hoping that the unions come to the table and that they come with meaningful negotiations. We can't put a Band-Aid on an amputation, as I've always said.

How being mayor has drawn on his past experiene:

It all kind of folds together. I think the experience I got in the General Assembly as a Deputy Majority Leader, it gave me a lot of insight not only on how to run government, but how to stay close with the department heads.

We had an issue a couple of minutes ago with DOT — I called the right person, and it's resolved.

It's taught me how to navigate through bureaucracy, and one thing I hate in this job is bureaucracy — I want to get things done yesterday. If someone comes in and says 'I need this to get done, can you get back to me in a week,' I say 'no,' and I'll make the phone call right then, because I want to get things done now, so that's off the plate and I can move onto the next challenge.

It's also given me patience to deal with people — and you have to have patience; people have problems, and they want you, as mayor, to correct them. Some things you can't correct, but if you can fix it a little bit for them, I think they feel a little bit better.

I meet with other mayors, managers and town administrators, and there is nobody that I speak with — whether it's North Providence, Cumberland, or Cranston, Providence, where you can just walk in and seeing the mayor, and that's an open-door policy that I've had since the day I was elected.

Supporting term limits for Mayor:

As mayor, people think I'm crazy, but I'm supporting term limits for the mayor's seat. There will be two four-year terms, then out.

I out in term limits when I was a senator, and it got crushed. If you have an agenda when you're running for office, and you can't get your agenda completed in eight years, then you've got more than an agenda.

You don't need someone here for 20 or 30 years. That's not good government — people get stale, they run out of ideas, some people get tainted.

Favorite memory:

On a personal note, I think the biggest thing I've ever done is bring a former First Lady and Presidential candiate to town, and that was Hillary Clinton. That was one of the proudest days of my life. She came to Johnston, she respected Johnston, and the community came out in force — I don't think that I've ever seen more people out in the streets, inside the restaurant, outside the restaurant waiting for her — the town was in the spotlight.

Bringing a former First Lady and Presidential candidate was just pehnomenal, it's just unfortunate she didn't win, but that's okay.

On 'moving away from the past':

I think when I'm gone [from the mayor's office], some day, I can look people in the face and say that I was never a thief, that I did the right thing, that I did things that were morally correct instead of politically correct, and I can hold my head up high.

People say 'You're going a good job,' and I say I have good council members, good school committee members, and I've got some good department heads.

Anthony Ursillo October 04, 2012 at 12:00 PM
Carry on Mayor Polisena- You are doing your very best to help the town of Johnston and "fix" the pension problem. With the support of the Town counsel and Johnston residents you will achieve your goals !!
Frank Leone Sr. October 04, 2012 at 04:06 PM
Why are you still underfunding the pensions ? Weren't you on the job both as firefighter and mayor when the pension benefits were negotiated?
Peter A. Filippi III October 04, 2012 at 05:04 PM
When Polisena ran for mayor, after serving 12 years in the legislature, he said he would conduct a forensic audit of the departments and today we’re cash strapped. Our state is ranked 45th for highest state and local taxes, 50th for being worst state for businesses to come to and 43 for spending per pupil etc.; so what was he doing all those years? Our town needs to provide forums for candidates in which voters would be better served... I hope readers will click on to my explanation of the facts pertaining to my so called arrest record in which there had been hundreds of anonymous flyers distributed around town that our deviant dictator was behind; I can prove that and eventually will. The man is as low as low can be. Bottom line; if I’m elected I’ll run the unions out of town that have the mayor “Mr. Hypocrisy” in their back pocket… He never talks about the endless provisions or early retirements that continue to rob us especially our children tomorrow. Mr. Mayor, why don’t you challenge the Johnston Sun Rise and Johnston Patch to provide a forum in which we could debate that could be televised for all the residents to see? I’d love to talk about the annual $millions that could be saved via privatization and only paying prevailing wages and benefits that reflect the private sector. Please log onto Http://patch.com/B-crC5 and see my People’s Platform” that our mayor doesn’t want you to know. Proud Republican Mayoral Candidate Peter A. Filippi IIII
Rhodeworrier October 05, 2012 at 10:26 AM
Mr. Filippi says he`s gonna run the Unions out of town.Who does Filippi think he is Wyatt Erp in an old TV Western.If this is best choice the GOP in town can come up with its no wonder why I vote Democrat. If Mr.Filippi doesn`t like Unions he should go to a Country that has no Unions and no Freedom like China,Indonesia, ect.Thats where all the GOP`s Big Buisness Backers send all their work.
Peter A. Filippi III October 08, 2012 at 02:10 PM
I fully stand behind my statements. When I read the hypocritical signs that these government labor union loyalists carry like, "Protect Workers Rights" what about the rights of taxpayers? What about the rights of those who care about our country who don't want to belong to these unions who are bankrupting our state and local governments? At the end of the line we will all be praying that God is alive and well but remember Heaven isn't a place where people go who never cared about their follow man especially their own flesh and blood...
Robert "Bobby" Giarusso October 08, 2012 at 05:21 PM
Amen Peter. As taxpayers, we should be running the show. We offer jobs with salary and benefits we feel are appropriate. We set the rules we feel are in the best interest of our town. If a prospective or current employee doesn't like the salary, the benefits, or the rules they can seek employment elsewhere. Residents in Johnston are already stressed and cannot afford higher taxes. Johnston needs to attract more businesses to the town and look for efficiencies to cut cost. Consolidating services between the town and the school department would be a good first start. Too many services are duplicated even within Johnston and this hurts taxpayers.
Robert "Bobby" Giarusso October 08, 2012 at 05:33 PM
And as far as a supermarket going in Stuart's plaza, I'll believe it when I see it. Shaw's was directly across from Stuart's before it closed a few years back. If a supermarket was thinking about building in Stuart's, why not simply take over the Shaw's that was remodeled just a few years before it closed. It already have the infrastructure such as coolers and loading docks. Shaw's left because they weren't making money. And there are only a few other grocery stores in the area. Stop&Shop which has a location less than a mile away, Aldi's which can hardly be called a "supermarket" as there is no produce, deli, or meat. There's Dave's which tends to be a more expensive market but they have two locations in Smithfield, and then there's Walmart who has a supercenter in Cranston. We've been hearing about something being built on that site for years and nothing has come to fruition.

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