1. What do you think is the biggest political issue this campaign season in Rhode Island?
I think a big political issue this campaign season is frustration with government at all levels. When I talk with neighbors about the role government could play in the climate crisis or in building more affordable housing or in addressing systemic and interrelated issues like poverty and racism – many folks agree that government could and should be tackling those issues but have little reason to believe they will.
People haven’t seen enough recent examples of government actually working for them. People are tired of politicians who are interested in the political piece of this work, and not the governing. I’m running because there are some big changes we need to see in Providence, and I care about this city - not about climbing up the political ladder - and want to get things done - big and small - for the people of Ward 3.
2. What do we need to do to improve Rhode Island's economy?
We have focused for too long on economic development that is reliant on big incentives to draw companies and employers into Rhode Island. Meanwhile, one of the things that makes Rhode Island special is our abundance and diversity of small, locally-owned businesses. I think we need to focus our economy on how we build wealth within our communities and invest in the people and enterprises that are homegrown.
We also need to understand that climate change is real and it’s already being felt in Rhode Island. We need to see there isn’t a green economy and a blue economy and a grey economy and a X,Y,Z economy – all future development needs to be done with the understanding of responding to climate change. We need to have foresight into the transition from dirty industries into clean ones - retraining workers, building out these new skilled workforces, and focusing on businesses that will help us build resilience in our communities.
Lastly, we need to ensure that our economy is supporting good jobs with family-sustaining wages. The economy is meant to serve people, not the other way around. Workers should be able to afford to live in the places where they work, and their jobs should provide them with a fair wage that allows them to sustain a family – regardless of where they work.
3. What is the greatest challenge facing Rhode Island as a state?
I believe that climate change is the greatest challenge Rhode Island is facing as a state. While we have many challenges, they are against the backdrop of rising sea levels, increasingly intense storms and rainfall, and increasing heat. Meeting our greenhouse gas emissions targets and also adapting to unavoidable changes will be a complex suite of policies and programs that will affect so many others. As we build housing (and particularly affordable housing), we will need to ensure we are building to the highest standards of efficiency and connecting to clean sources of electricity. We will need to be mindful of where and how we build, given the projected coastal flooding. We will need to update our stormwater management to address the increased water flow. We are already seeing towns like Warren need to take steps for managed retreat. Providence is also directly on the water and bisected by rivers. Our future economic development, housing, and quality of life will all be affected by how we quickly prioritize climate action.
4. Why are you running for office? What makes you uniquely qualified?
I am running for office because I know that Providence faces some deeply systemic challenges, and we need ethical and effective leaders who will help navigate us through. I love this City - and I am dedicated to it and its people.
I am uniquely qualified in this race for two reasons:
I have a strong track record of success with passing and implementing complex policy in Providence and Rhode Island. A good deal of my career has been focused on policy wearing a variety of different hats. Early in my career (2007-2011), I worked in philanthropy focused on clean energy policy and education around the country – which gave me unique perspectives and networks of colleagues working on energy policy issues across the country. In Rhode Island, I served as the State’s first director of food strategy (“food czar”), where I worked in a cross-agency function to develop and then implement the state’s first food plan. This involved navigating (and in some instances, helping to smooth out) complex government bureaucracy. It also involved deep engagement with stakeholders across the state and helped me to uniquely understand the challenges and opportunities of really engaged democracy. I have also been a policy advocate for clean energy and climate policy, both on behalf of an environmental organization, and on behalf of clean energy companies. My current work also includes helping municipalities prepare for climate change and necessary infrastructure investments- giving me a unique window into the operations of municipalities in RI and outside of RI.
I have also been deeply involved in organizations in Providence and greater Rhode Island. I currently serve on several organizational boards, including the Green Energy Consumers Alliance and the Southside Community Land Trust. I am a founding board member of Local Return, which seeks to build community wealth in neighborhoods across the State through local investment and economic opportunity. I also serve on the state’s energy efficiency council, and am a past vice chair of the state’s distributed generation board. I served as the Chair of Providence’s Sustainability Commission for four years, and served on the commission for an additional 3 years. I was the co-chair of the state’s Hunger Elimination Task Force with Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott for several years. I am a past board member of Farm Fresh RI and the RI Food Policy Council. I am deeply committed to and invested in Providence.
5. Who is your inspiration?
My political inspiration is Elizabeth Warren. A strong woman dedicated to working-class people who creates plans, digs in on details, and fights for big structural change.
More locally, I am so inspired by my neighbors in Ward 3. As I’ve been out knocking doors, I am blown away by how engaged and ready to help folks are. People have shared with me notes from long-ago public meetings, reports about the schools, designs for green buildings, book recommendations, and more. Folks are hungry for change and working day in and out with the tools they have, and getting to know them has been so inspiring.