WARWICK, RI — Aaron Mackisey, lifelong Warwick citizen, one of two independent candidates for Ward 9 on the Warwick City Council, hopes to continue his family’s legacy of public service to better the lives of his neighbors.
Warwick Post.com emailed the same questions to each Ward 9 candidate last week and gave them until Monday, Oct. 26, to respond. Each was asked to acknowledge receipt of the emailed questions, and their intent to answer them.
Mackisey replied on Oct. 20 to acknowledge receipt of the questionnaire and returned his answers on Oct. 26. Following are his answers, printed verbatim:
1) During the May 27 budget hearing, Mayor Solomon failed to answer or to pledge to answer several questions posed by citizens and Council members, as reported in the Warwick Post article: Warwick Budget Hearing Questions Unanswered.
What would be your approach to handling this behavior if it were your questions ignored? What if a citizen or fellow council member’s budget question went unanswered?
MACKISEY: Each elected official has a responsibility to be accountable to those they represent whether their title is Mayor or Councilperson. As a legislative body, our City Council is responsible for getting to the bottom of matters for their neighbors, be they budgetary or otherwise. Those who appear before the council should expect to be treated with dignity and respect. It should also be expected that they show respect for the residents of Warwick by clearly answering questions to the best of their ability.
As a member of the council, if my questions went unanswered, I would first determine if the individual not answering was doing so due to lack of information or because they simply did not want to answer. If it was the latter, I would compel the information to the necessary extent of applicable law and council statute.
2) Warwick City Council subcommittee meetings often run over time, delaying the start of the full Council meeting. What is your assessment of this process? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
MACKISEY: This issue is of great concern to me. Due to prolonged subcommittee meetings, too often the full City Council meetings last well into the night. This adversely effects the ability of everyday residents to participate in the meetings.
Currently, the council meets on the first and third Monday of each month (with minor exceptions). I would propose that the council add two additional meetings each month so that they meet on the first and third Monday/Thursday. This would allow for committee business to be conducted on the first meeting of the week and full council business to be conducted on the second meeting of the week. I believe that a change will allow for greater participation while ensuring higher levels of accountability.
3) What other processes of the City Council would you argue to change?
MACKISEY: Our city council needs term limits. I am proud to be the only candidate who has proposed a comprehensive plan for term limits in Warwick. On the council, I will advocate for a ten-year cap on city council service, as well as an eight-year cap on the Mayors office. To live a life in public service is a truly noble calling, but that does not require that one serves a lifetime in political office.
4) During a recent City Council meeting, Councilman Ed Ladouceur complained of his inability to get the City to properly repair Lipitt Park following a recent car crash that damaged it. The meeting ended with his successful resolution forcing the City to make the repairs.
Should citizens expect that their council representative must pursue such measures to secure City services? How would you address this problem?
MACKISEY: Absolutely, residents should expect their councilman to work diligently to ensure that they receive the highest possible city services. Ensuring the highest quality city services is a cornerstone of my campaign. I am proud to be the only candidate who has proposed a comprehensive plan for ensuring those high-quality services. Through my proposed 311 city service programs, residents will be able to electronically report and track public works requests such as potholes, downed trees, and broken sidewalks and curbs. This, coupled with my dogged determination, will provide a higher quality of city service for every neighbor.
5) Looking back at the 2019 Warwick Schools budget crisis, how would you handle city and school communication differently?
MACKISEY: We need to start approaching our issues in education from the perspective of helpful neighbors coming to the table to put our young people’s future on a better track. Too often we have seen people come to the table and approaching others as adversaries. By working with our partners (students, parents, and teachers) and education experts, we can make a real difference in our young people’s education when we focus on a common goal.
6) Millions of dollars have been budgeted the last few years for repairing Warwick’s roads, yet only a fraction of that amount is ever used. For instance, in the article, Schools’ Budget Ask Would Have Added $104 to Median Tax Bill, DPW Director Mat Solitro reported there was $3.1M unspent from the $5M in the previous year’s paving budget. This year, the paving budget was reduced to $500K, but a $10M bond has been secured for paving.
Will you continue to vote to approve budgeting paving funds in amounts the city typically fails to use?
MACKISEY: On our Council, I will be a diligent watchdog on behalf of my neighbors. Someone who does the hard work of determining what our departments really need to do the job right. In terms of the paving funds, we would first need to determine why the funds were unspent. If the job can be done for less while still being completed at a high quality, then that is what we should do.
If it is a lack of vision or strategic planning, then we must provide that vision and planning. In a larger sense, I believe that we should be focusing our resources on infrastructure revitalization and strategic maintenance.
7) How would you make the city’s road projects more accountable and transparent to citizens?
MACKISEY: I support the advancement of a comprehensive strategic plan for infrastructure revitalization. Complete with realistic timetables which are accessible to every neighbor, so that they can have the confidence of knowing that their government is working diligently for them and not wandering aimlessly.
8) Was the surprise Dec. 20 special meeting to ratify the Firefighter’s Contract called by the Warwick City Council, catching one Council member on a flight, and ultimately ruled illegal, a wise decision?
9) Considering the Warwick Firefighters’ union’s past history with contractual agreements, was it wise to pass the document with uncorrected errors?
MACKISEY: Your last two questions get to the heart of one issue. I have listened and spoken with thousands of neighbors since I began running for our council. I can say there is a great deal of confusion surrounding the process of last December. Residents are confused by contradictory stories and timelines. Let me be clear, a representative of the people has a responsibility to ensure that approved documents do not have errors or loopholes.
We must forge a better working relationship between our unions, our city, and our neighbors. I will treat our unions and their members with the same dignity and respect which I treat every other community member. I know firsthand the importance of an effective union. When my grandfather lost his life in the line of duty as a Warwick fireman, it was the union who stood up for my family and their right to his benefits. As a taxpayer, I know that for something to be a good deal, it first and foremost must be a good deal for the taxpayer. As our next councilman, I will bring this nuanced understanding to the table on each and every decision involving our municipal unions.