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2014 Mayoral Candidate Survey – Chris Young (D)

Chris Young (D)

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Survey

1. Other Cities
It isn’t always necessary to reinvent the wheel when it comes to best practices. Across the globe small cities like Providence are doing amazing things to make their cities more livable, increase their tax base, and improve services. What city (or cities) do you look to for inspiration of what you would like Providence to be like or to strive for? What are the characteristics of those cities that you think Providence should emulate?

I have the highest aspirations for Providence and this is one of the core reasons I can keep running for public office. I have run now 4 times for Mayor of Providence receiving 26% of the vote in 2006. Our campaign has incorporated ideas for economic development from cities all over the world. I as a candidate believe in taking the best of other cities successes and using them for the benefit of Providence residents. Life is both the physical and spiritual, for what would life mean without both of these? We must not forget God has a role in our success for with God all things are possible.

The first thing we can do for economic development In Providence is we can offer tax incentives like repealing the car tax and also offering businesses, the Universities, hospitals and non-profits the ability to participate in a zero tax program, much like New York state is offering. New York state is offering a zero tax for businesses willing to locate in certain areas when they do co-ventures with the Universities.

The city of Providence will develop and adopt a comprehensive, long-term (at least ten years) fiscal program and vision for the city’s future so that its current and prospective residents, businesses, and institutions will have the confidence to invest in and grow within the city. This program must take into account expenses, revenues, capital and infrastructure needs, the benefits of regionalization and privatization, and future growth. The plan will also establish a strategy for bringing real estate and other taxes in line with comparable regional cities. A residential and commercial property tax reduction will occur. Hospitals and Universities that offer job and business development opportunities for companies who are willing to locate to Providence and bring with them 500 new jobs would get tax abatement opportunities.


2. Snow Removal
The city has an ordinance that states that the abutting property owner must remove snow from sidewalks. This ordinance has gone under-enforced for years creating a major public safety issue for the city’s residents every time it snows. The city and the state are notable offenders in not clearing snow from sidewalks abutting their property (sidewalks abutting parks, public buildings, on overpasses, etc.). How will you hold private property owners, the state, and the City itself accountable for removing snow in a timely fashion, and how will you ensure that snow removal ordinances are enforced?

The state can be fined and cleanup costs can be issued for intentional neglect and the state’s sovereign immunity would not protect the state on intentional neglect.

The city will plow streets and sidewalks in the future much like what is done in New York state. A fee will be assessed on private or public property that has received 3 or more warnings in one season. The fee will act as a lien after three years of non payment but will be waived for good cause. We will have citywide sidewalk plowing after the city is solvent.

The City of Rochester provides supplemental service to help property owners clear their sidewalks during a substantial winter storm and we can adopt some of it’s practices. Rochester is one of the few cities in the United States to provide this service to its residents and it is outlined as follows from Rochester city government.

Sidewalk Snow Plowing Facts

  • The City begins plowing sidewalks once new snowfall exceeds 3″.
  • The City plows all sidewalks that are at least five feet in width.
  • Each sidewalk plow run takes about five hours to complete.
  • The City plows 878 miles of sidewalks. These miles are divided into distinct sidewalk plow runs of approximately 15 miles.
  • Depending on the severity of a storm, sidewalk snow plowing policies must sometimes be altered meet the needs of the situation.
  • The City uses private contractors to plow sidewalks.
  • Sidewalk plowing usually happens in the evening and early morning when pedestrian traffic is lowest, but this schedule is modified to respond to actual storm conditions.

Fees

  • Sidewalk snow plowing is financed by an embellishment fee on your property tax bill that is based on the front footage of a property.
  • Embellishment fees, charges for specific services, are included on the annual property tax bill. The fees are based on a property’s front footage. To figure out an embellishment charge, the embellishment rate is multiplied by the property’s front footage. For corner properties, the front footage comprises 1/3 of the longer side’s footage plus the full footage of the lot’s shorter side.

3. Street Parking Permits and Snow
The City recently ended its longtime ban on overnight parking introducing a permit system for City residents to park on the street overnight. Allowing residents to park on the street relieves the need to provide off-street parking in paved lots and yards. Reducing this paved area has numerous environmental and quality of life benefits. Unfortunately the City bans parking during heavy snow with no options for people parking on the street, forcing the need for off-street spaces during these storms. Other cities, including Boston, allow street parking during storms, banning parking only on designated emergency snow routes. Would you support allowing people with permits to park on designated streets during snow storms?

Yes, our campaign would adopt the Boston parking policy during snow storms and we support allowing people with permits to park on designated streets during snow storms. I lived in Boston during my college years at Boston University and found the parking program easy and effective.


4. Street-sweeping
Street-sweeping in Providence is extremely infrequent, largely focused on clearing sand and road salt at the end of the winter. While it is everyone’s personal responsibly to not litter, not everyone is that responsible. Many neighborhood streets are strewn with litter, covering vacant lots, and blowing into storm drains which exacerbates street flooding during rain events and eventually fouls our rivers and the bay. Will you increase the frequency of street-sweeping in the City and how can the City afford that expense?

Our campaign supports an increase in the frequency of street-sweeping in the City of Providence. We can afford that expense by using equipment that has dual purposes such as sidewalk snow removal and street sweeping capability. We can also build these machines through a business incubator program the city will co-fund with investors through stock and bond sales. Littering fines must be issued and enforced. Improved maintenance of equipment and open publicly viewable bidding will allow us to purchase equipment at the most affordable price.

Rochester outlines it’s street sweeping as follows:

All arterial and residential streets in the City of Rochester are flushed and swept. Early season sweeping begins in the spring, as sweepers clean the debris that accumulated during the winter months.

How often are streets swept?

From May until October, streets are swept on a designated schedule:

  • Arterial streets are swept twice a week.
  • Residential streets are swept at least once monthly.
  • Streets in the central business district are swept daily.
  • State highways are usually swept by other municipalities. However, in a few instances the City has this responsibility.

Can I request a certain street be swept?

  • For a street that needs particular attention, requests can be made online.

Fees

  • Street sweeping is financed by an embellishment fee that is based on the front footage of a property. The charge is included on the City property tax bill for those willing to participate in the program.

5. 195 Land
The 195 Commission is a state agency and that agency will be driving the development of this land. What is the city’s role in developing the I-195 Land and the surrounding area in the Jewelry District and East Side?

The city and state must offer income, property, and corporate taxes set to zero for the first 10 years in this zone for companies who locate over 500 new jobs. I have been in contact with out of state hotel developers who have shown interest in development of the 195 land or Allens Ave land with proper city planning. This would have to include port access points but also hotel and business development. This is similar to the New York state tax plan for business and job development the 195 land will be an economic empowerment zone.


6. Property Taxes and Tax Stabilizations
How should property tax stabilizations and exemptions be used, if at all? What criteria should be used to offer an exemption? Furthermore, how will your administration prevent further increase in residential property tax rates?

We can offer tax incentives to businesses and the Universities and hospitals can participate. The city will develop and adopt a comprehensive, long-term (at least ten years) fiscal program and vision for the city’s future so that its current and prospective residents, businesses, and institutions will have the confidence to invest in and grow within the city. This program must take into account expenses, revenues, capital and infrastructure needs, the benefits of regionalization and privatization, and future growth. The plan will also establish a strategy for bringing real estate and other taxes in line with comparable regional cities. A residential and commercial property tax reduction will occur. Hospitals and Universities that offer job and business development opportunities for companies willing to locate to Providence with over 500 new employees would get tax zero abatement tax opportunities. However, Brown University must begin to pay taxes on it’s 1.4 billion dollars in property and the city will tax Brown and use the money to reduce commercial and residential property taxes and eliminate the car excise tax.


7. Development Costs
Property taxes are one part of the high costs of developing property in our City, along with that our construction costs are near or equal to the costs in Boston, but the rents developments can achieve here are much much less than Boston. How can the City help stimulate development to increase our population and tax base when these costs make development so difficult?

The city will offer free on street parking without any fee. Lower taxes will off set the rental price loss. Vouchers will be issued for renter as well, by using money generated from taxing Brown University and by lowering the cities bond indebtedness by refinancing the bond debt with a statewide bond at a lower interest rate. The city will create business incubators that the city will help incorporate and the city will own stock ownership in the companies until they go public. The days of insider deals are over with open viewable bids.


8. Transportation
The current administration has taken small steps toward improving accommodations for cycling in the City, how will your administration expand those measures to build-out a City-wide system of bike lanes and cycle-tracks?

How will your administration work with RIPTA and RIDOT to improve bus transit and possibly introduce other modes like streetcars to our City’s public transit system?

What role does the City play working with the federal government, the state government, and Massachusetts to improve commuter rail services both to Boston and within the State of Rhode Island?

How will your administration work with RIDOT to ensure that road projects within the City support full access for pedestrians and cyclists and adhere to Complete Streets philosophies?

We will develop new forms of cycle pathways linked with smart phones and advanced materials on sidewalks and roads that would bring the cyclists to the business’s front door. What business would not want a customer coming to their front door?

In addition, together we can bring the heart of Providence back and beating with life. We can further work with RIPTA and RIDOT to build a subway and better hybrid hydrogen electric street car system in the city with federal grant money that will connect all neighborhoods to the downtown area. We can actually build these system through business incubators. We can stop insiders from rebuilding Kennedy plaza over and over to get the contracts for the work, and use the money for the whole community in Providence by helping to fund a city-wide garden project and make use of land that will be opened up with a tunnel project over interstate 95 much like the Boston Common.

With DPPC, the Downtown Improvement District (DID), the city, the state, and others, we will create the downtown Providence parks network to coordinate and promote all downtown parks. I support creating cityWALK from India Point Park to new park areas to be created over I-95 to Roger Williams Park connecting Providence neighborhoods.

  • Together we must improve quality of transit service to help attract new riders by addressing operational constraints and increasing capacity
  • Coordinate rail and bus service as part of an intermodal system with adequate parking
  • Support regional economic development and sustainability
  • Support the transformation of Kennedy Plaza into a world-class civic space with less emphasis on transportation, with a main subway stop located nearby.
  • Leverage state funds to obtain special federal transportation grants, such as TIGER grants
  • Spur more private development adjacent to the transportation center

9. Parking Tax
The City of Philadelphia has a parking tax. This tax helps generate revenue for the City and also encourages parking lot owners to develop their lots to higher uses. Would you support a parking tax in Providence?

I do not support higher taxes for residents and small business. If, however, we are unable to tax Brown University property assets anything is on the table to get a fair and equal tax compensation for residents and commercial property owners from Brown’s 4 billion dollar endowment.


10. Capitalizing on our size
Providence’s small geographic size can be one of our greatest assets. We could and should capitalize on our diminutiveness to become the nations leader at something. What do you think Providence should realistically strive towards being the best at? How can we achieve that?

I see our Universities and hospitals working to create new businesses through our business incubator program. I see the 95 interstate as away to generate millions for the city of Providence by creating off-ramps that will bring traffic into economic development zones. These zones will go from Federal Hill to the South side to the 195 land to Allens Ave. and inward throughout the city. Every highway access point will have an empowerment zone so we can create new business, including hotels, an Aquarium, and a subway system to every neighborhood.


11. Statement
Please write a short statement (fewer than 150 words) for the readers of Greater City Providence about why you should be Providence’s next mayor. Please include what you think is the City’s greatest strength, and weakness.

I would like to say that the voters have another option on September 9th. I, Chris Young, am the son of Louise Olga Young and Edward Vincent Young. I have two brothers and one sister. My mother immigrated to the United States form Italy. She worked in the factories making red roses and would come home with her hands dyed red. My father died with a war related illness in forces that suffered the highest casualty rate in WWII. My mother died trying to raise and feed four children in South Providence. I know what it means to be poor and went Christmases without toys and sometimes without food. My uncle took care of us after she passed away. My uncle was a former Dean of admissions at Harvard University, Under Secretary to the department of education and almost made admiral in the Navy. He always put a priority on getting an education. As an orphan, I put myself through Classical high school, Northeastern University, U.R.I and Boston University, from which I graduated. I was recently married. My wife, Kara Young who is running for Lieutenant Governor, has already made millions for the State of Rhode Island. We have a newborn daughter and she is eight months old. I am a fighter and I will fight for the people, not insiders interests. I am not currently before the ethics commission or accused of plagiarism as my opponents are. I am an honest candidate who only wants to repeal the car excise tax to make things more affordable for residents, create jobs, educate our children, repair our schools, and increase public safety. I desire to bring honesty and integrity back to Providence city government.


Candidate photo courtesy of the campaign.

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