A Voter's Guide to the Special Election in Providence's Ward 3

By Dan McGowan, WPRI.com Reporter

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The race to replace recalled Providence City Councilman Kevin Jackson in Ward 3 is fully underway, with three Democrats, a Republican and an independent candidate all running in a special election this summer.

Democrats Mark Santow, Nirva Rebecca LaFortune and Daniel Chaika will compete in the Democratic primary on July 12, with the winner taking on Republican David Lallier Jr. and independent Chris Reynolds in the general election on Aug. 16.

So where do the candidates stand on the key issues? Eyewitness News asked each of them to respond to 12 questions. (Note: Reynolds did not respond to phone calls, a text message or several emails.)

1. Why should you be elected to the City Council?

Mark Santow
I’ve been on the Providence School Board since early 2015, and I’ve chaired the policy committee for the past year.  In my time there, I’ve become familiar with the ins-and-outs of city government, budgeting, and the long-term needs of the school district.  Thus, I bring direct experience that I can immediately use on the Council.  Also, as a professor of US history and urban studies, I have been teaching, researching and writing about urban policy for two decades.  I am intimately familiar with how American cities work, and with the policies that have shaped them.  My work focuses in particular on the historical origins of racial inequality in our metropolitan areas.  I believe this gives me some insights into many of the deeper issues that cities like Providence face, and possible ways to address them.  As a teacher, I’ve spent the past two decades learning how to listen, to ask good questions, to demand evidence, and to explain complicated issues on paper and in person.  I believe these skills and experiences will enable me to make thoughtful decisions for the city, to bridge differences within Ward 3, and bring resources and ideas to our neighborhood.

Nirva Rebecca LaFortune
I am running for city council because I grew up in Providence and I have experienced many of the challenges the city faces. Ward 3 is a very diverse community, and we need to elect someone who can represent the entire community. In our ward, approximately 52% of the people are women, 31% are people of color, 20% live below the federal poverty line, and about 22% were born in another country. I believe my background and experience make me the best candidate to represent Ward 3. I have a combination of lived and professional experience that can help bring our ward together and represent the entire population.

I also think our ward deserves strong, vocal leadership. I grew up in Providence, and I am active in our community. I show up and I speak up. I think my neighbors want someone who is going to listen to them, advocate for them and respond to them with clear information. We know the city faces challenges, but often my neighbors feel they can’t get answers to even simple questions. I will be a responsive city councilor who will help make city government more accessible and transparent for Ward 3 constituents.

Daniel Chaika

  • My background in the law is extremely helpful for understanding how City government functions and how to solve problems within a legal framework.
  • Having served as Vice Chairman of the Providence Ethics Commission, and delivered several education programs on the subject of ethics, I bring unique experience and perspective regarding ethics in City government.
  • As a practicing attorney for nearly 30 years – whether it’s business law or family law – I’ve become a skilled negotiator who is able to find mutually positive solutions in contentious situations. That’s an extremely valuable skill to bring to the City Council.
  • As a Providence business owner who also represents business clients, I’m sensitive to the issues that face Providence-based businesses, large and small, and want to work to foster an improved economic climate in the City.
  • I’ve been a Ward 3 homeowner for the better part of three decades; my family has generations of history here. I love the people and the neighborhoods, and have a longstanding vested interest here.

David Lallier Jr.
I bring to the table the average person in our city. I currently live check to check, dollar to the dollar just hoping that my checking account won’t overdraft. I know how hard it is to live on under $300 a week. I don’t have normal health insurance because I can’t afford it. I am on Medicaid because of my income. Unlike the other candidates, I don’t have the college education. I don’t have money to even enjoy life like I want to. I know the struggles financially and in education. I grew up in the special education system in Providence. I know how hard it is to learn and understand, even into my adult years and as I run for office I continue to struggle personally and now publicly. I am not proud to be low income and to have a learning disability, but if I am elected into office I can help those families and children who struggle as I do. I bring the perspective of an everyday person who wants a better life and just brakes even.

To read the rest of the questions and their responses click here to view the full article:



Here are the 6 candidates seeking to replace Councilman Jackson in Ward 3

BY: WPRI-Dan Dan McGowan

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Four Democrats, a Republican and an independent candidate have filed to run for the Providence City Council seat that has been vacant since longtime Councilman Kevin Jackson was recalled last month.

Candidates had until Monday at 4 p.m. to declare their intent to run for the Ward 3 seat. They have until June 14 to submit their nomination papers – including 50 signatures from Ward 3 voters – to qualify for the ballot.

The Democratic primary is scheduled for July 12. The general election is Aug. 16.

Residents in Ward 3 voted overwhelmingly to recall Jackson in a special election May 2. The recall was organized after Jackson was arrested and indicted last year on charges that he embezzled from a youth sports organization he founded in the 1978. Jackson is also accused of using his campaign fund to cover personal expenses. He has pleaded not guilty.

Here’s a breakdown of each candidate that has filed to run for the seat.

Mark Santow (D)
A member of the Providence School Board, Santow was the first candidate to declare his intent to run for City Council if Jackson was removed from office. Santow is a self-described progressive who has been a vocal advocate for the recently-passed Providence Community-Police Relations Act and a critic of the proposed expansion to the Achievement First Mayoral Academy. He is also a professor at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth.

Nirva Rebecca LaFortune (D)
A Brown University employee, LaFortune describes herself as an “educator, parent and active community member.” She grew up in Providence, attended Mount Pleasant High School and graduated from Temple University in Philadelphia.

Daniel Chaika (D)
Chaika is an attorney who recently stepped down from his post as the vice-chairman of Providence Ethics Commission in order to run for the Ward 3 seat. In a press release announcing his candidacy, he said “it is my intention to strive to achieve the goal of all 15 wards working together with the mayor united towards the common goal of restoring faith in our municipal government, a level playing field for all, and to address the quality of life issues, taxes, schools, infrastructure, and community programs which are important to all of us.”

Rondie Almeida (D)
The founder of the Providence 49ers youth football program, Almeida said he made his decision to run after talking to some of his constituents. “This time seems right to me,” he said. “I think I could do a lot for the city and for my ward.” Almeida said he is a distant cousin of state Rep. Joseph Almeida.

David Lallier Jr. (R)
Describing himself as a “center-right” candidate, Lallier is trying to become the first Republican elected to the Providence City Council since 1986. A 31-year-old warehouse worker and truck driver, Lallier grew up on the East Side and attended Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School, Nathan Bishop Middle School and Central High School. He has said he is opposed to the Providence Community-Police Relations Act.

Christopher D. Reynolds (I)
Reynolds has previously filed to run for governor twice (2010 and 2014), U.S. Senate (2012) and state Senate (2016), but did not qualify to appear on the ballot. Filings with the R.I. Board of Elections show he loaned his campaign $500 in 2010 and paid it back two months later. He has never reported any campaign contributions.

Providence City Council chambers. (Photo by Dan McGowan/WPRI 12)

RI Housing announces two loan programs to help home buyers

Providence Journal

By Christine Dunn-Journal Staff Writer              


PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island Housing on Friday announced two new loan programs, one that offers up to $7,500 in down-payment assistance for first-time home buyers in six communities, and a statewide program that offers refinance loans with up to $75,000 in principal forgiveness to homeowners who still have "underwater" mortgages.

"Underwater" home owners owe more than the current market value of their property, a situation that often makes refinancing to take advantage of lower interest rates impossible.

Called RI Refi, this new home-loan program is statewide and is for borrowers who owe more than 110 percent of their home's current value. Up to $75,000 in principal reduction is available, and the reduction is a loan that is completely forgiven if the owner remains in the home for three years.

The loans are for primary residences only, and borrowers must have been current on their mortgages for the last 12 months and have a credit score of at least 640. The loan limit is $424,100 for a one- to four-family home or eligible condominium.

To be eligible, annual household income must be less than $87,360 (for one or two people) or $101,920 (for three or more people). For more information, see http://ri-refi.org/

Also announced Friday was the "First Down" program, which provides $7,500 in down payment assistance to eligible first-time home buyers purchasing a home in one of six Rhode Island communities hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis: Providence, Pawtucket, Woonsocket, Warwick, Cranston and East Providence.

To determine the areas that would be eligible for First Down, Rhode Island Housing evaluated communities in the state at a zip code level to identify which areas had higher than average indicators of seriously delinquent mortgage loans, negative equity, distressed sales, short sales, foreclosure rates and vacant homes.

"For many prospective home buyers, the biggest challenge is saving for a down payment. This forgivable loan eliminates yet another barrier to home ownership," said Barbara Fields, executive director of Rhode Island Housing.

Rhode Island Housing estimates that more than 530 homeowners will be served through First Down, which is funded by the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Hardest Hit Fund program. If the buyer sells, refinances, or transfers the home within five years of closing the loan, a portion of First Down loan would need to be repaid.

Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza, Pawtucket Mayor Donald R. Grebien and Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian joined Fields Friday morning to announce the First Down program.

For more information on the First Down program, contact Rhode island Housing at (401) 457-1157 or visit FirstDownRI.org.       

HUD Audit: RI Should Repay $1.4 Million In Foreclosure Program Funds

Rhode Island housing officials are unable to justify how they spent some federal funds meant for low income housing. That’s one of the findings of a U.S Housing and Urban Development agency audit of the program.

Areas targeted for assistance through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program


Rhode Island received nearly $20 million dollars from the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program. The program is aimed at fixing up neighborhoods with abandoned or foreclosed properties. Now a HUD audit has found that stateCity of Providence, and Rhode Island Housing officials failed to properly document how they spent some $6 million dollars. The audit recommends the state pay back more than a million dollars.

Specifically, the audit questions whether developers selected to refurbish properties were overpaid. For some properties, the audit raises questions about whether safeguards were in place to ensure the rents remained affordable.

Rhode Island state housing officials say they are addressing the lack of documentation. They say rehabilitating some of the older homes cost more upfront but will save money in the long run, and that funds were used appropriately.

Read HUD's audit of Rhode Island's Neighborhood Stabilization Program.    

City Council Holds Hearing on Just-Cause Evictions


By John Lynds

Attorney Jeffrey Turk of the law firm, Turk & Quijano, said the Right to Remain Coalition’s proposed city ordinance calling for ‘just-cause’ evictions sounds a lot like rent control but only worse.

“It’s not rent control, it’s property control,” said Turk at a City Council hearing Monday on the issue.

For two years the Coalition has been lobbying the City Council to adopt a city ordinance prohibiting property owners of four or more units from evicting tenants for ‘no cause’ when leases expire, which they argue has been causing displacement in hot real estate markets like East Boston.

Massachusetts law currently allows all landlords to evict tenants in privately owned, non-subsidized housing at the end of their lease terms if they wish to do so. This means that renters in market-rate housing can be evicted after their lease expires, or at any time if they don’t have a lease, without any reason given. The Coalition argues this has given real estate investors “the green light to buy and sell buildings based on a business plan of displacement to seek higher profits”.

Members of the Coalition, like Vida Urbana’s Lisa Owen Pinto of East Boston, testified Monday that the group is seeking to halt building clear-outs by large property owners and bank evictions of former homeowners post-foreclosure; require large property owners and banks to provide a Just Cause for eviction, and to notify the city when terminating a tenancy for a cause other than nonpayment or tenant violation of the rental contract; ensure that tenants know their legal rights and resources available to prevent homelessness; and lastly provide the City with a means of collecting data on displacement due to evictions and rent increases.

With real estate being a capital-based business with most, if not all, private real estate investors, whether large or small, looking for a return on their investmentTurk said tenants seeking these changes to the law need to understand one major flaw in their proposal–there should be no assumption that a lease will be renewed.

“All this ordinance does is protect residents who do no vacate an apartment at the end of their lease terms,” said Turk. “What people need to understand is a lease is a simple contract and that contract has protection for both the tenant and landlord. The landlord can not kick you out before the terms of the lease expires and they can not force you to stay. However, this proposal allows tenants to violate their leases by remaining after the terms of the lease expires.”

Turk added that the ordinance would also make it harder for landlords to get rid of problem tenants when they do violate the terms of their lease like first providing a written warning.

“All the things the Coalition is asking for in many ways already exists in Housing Court,” said Turk. “If you are looking for a lawyer to get educated on your rights they are in the hallway, if you are looking for data on evictions and what the causes were the court has that information. This ordinance would cause redundancy at the cost of the city.”

Turk also argued in most cases tenants have more rights than landlords and the average eviction process can take almost a year to be settled.

However, Pinto said the Coalitions intent was not to hurt small property owners but to reel in larger developers and real estate investors. She added that the Coalition has made several changes to the ordinance.

The group is no longer proposing that tenants have a right to a one-time mediation session if an eviction is due to a requested rent increase of more than 5 percent.  Instead, theypropose that when covered landlords terminate a tenancy for a cause other than nonpayment or tenant violation of the rental contract, the notice must also be filed with the City, in order for landlords to be able to move forward with eviction cases in Housing Court. These causes include an owner or relative moving into the unit, tenant refusal to renew a lease, rent increases.  Also, the group is proposing that prior to the end of the notice period/beginning of an eviction case, the City’s Office of Housing Stability and/or a tenant rights organization would then inform the tenants of their rights under existing law and resources such as legal support or advocacy resources available to them.

Even with those changes the proposed ordinance didn’t sit well with people like Sarah Mathison, 2016 Rental Housing Association president.

“While we recognize and agree there is a need for safe and affordable housing we don’t believe this ordinance would solve the problem,” said Mathison. “There are already a number of legal protections in place for tenants but when you limit a property owners rights to do what he or she sees fit with their investment you limit housing production, which goes against the current administrations wish to create more housing of all kinds.”

Mathison said if there is more bureaucracy and red tape placed on property owners in Boston they may decide to do business elsewhere.

Mayor Martin Walsh’s Chief of Housing Shiela Dillon testified that the mayor did in fact want to create tens of thousands of new housing by 2030 of all kinds but the displacement issue did concern him.

“What we are seeing is that in this real estate market people are buying homes at a higher price and when they do renovations they are increasing the rent for those units,” said Dillon. “When tenants can’t afford those increases they are forced to move out.”

However, while displacement can be heartbreaking for longtime residents who can no longer afford a neighborhood they have gotten use to living in, some homeowners in neighborhood’s like Eastie are unapologetic because they assume all the financial risks that come with owning a home.

“I agree that affordable housing and the lack of an adequate supply is an issue,” said Eastie resident Joshua Scott, a homeowner who testified Monday. “Where I disagree is with the notion that private owners should be responsible for providing and maintaining said affordable housing.”

While Scott said he understands that the discussion Monday is not one meant to discuss rent control or a direct attempt at trying to limit rent increases but still had concerns.

“It can not be denied that the testimonies and discussions today were meant to use hearing as a start at decreasing evictions and displacements by trying to have private individuals bear a lot of the financial burden that exists when it is expected that rents stay artificially lower than what the market allows as labor costs are increasing as well as materials, taxes and insurance including a new flood insurance cost that will impact a significant number of properties throughout Boston,” he said. “I will conclude that the underlying issue is that homes sale prices and values have risen, this has led to increased rent amounts. This also leads to increased carrying costs for an owner, considering mortgage, taxes, and insurance, doubling or tripling so how can it be expected that rental prices stay relatively the same? I doubt there are many if any among those in this room that own a property that would sell should they decide to for less than what the market allows. So if you are seeking double or triple what you paid how can you expect the rents to remain relatively unchanged?”