By ARDEN BASTIA Mayor Joseph J. Solomon, who is seeking reelection, and independent challenger Frank Picozzi agree on lots of things. As viewers of the first mayoral debate learned Tuesday, both favor mayoral term limits, think with the proper
Mayor Joseph J. Solomon, who is seeking reelection, and independent challenger Frank Picozzi agree on lots of things. As viewers of the first mayoral debate learned Tuesday, both favor mayoral term limits, think with the proper conditions residents should be permitted to have chickens, support a lease of the former Kentish Armory to the Warwick Center for the Arts and are opposed to defunding Warwick Police.
Arguably as interesting as the debate sponored by the Warwick Beacon and hosted by the Warwick Public Library was the influx of 1,000 comments that online viewers left during the debate. A total of 2,000 viewers watched the debate via Facebook Live, and by the time of publication, the views were over 6,300, with comments nearing 1,100.
Residents took this opportunity to sound off in the comment section, sharing their unfiltered opinions of each candidate. Many residents took issue with the Mayor’s opening statement wherein he mentioned owning two houses. Residents were put off by this “out of touch” and “self-centered” statement, according to one comment on the video.
The pro-Solomon comments were drowned out by a wave of pro-Picozzi comments.
Viewers were quick to point out the flaws in each candidate’s debate performance: from Solomon’s slow speech, complex, rambling answers, to Picozzi’s level of preparedness.
Many residents chimed in via comments when the candidates were asked about Mickey Stevens Sports Complex. When Solomon was asked about his plan to transform the complex into a state of the art facility and what it would cost, Picozzi reminded him of the position he had taken when City Council President Steve Merolla suggested building a turf field at the site.
Picozzi attributed the following quote to Solomon: “I love our children. I love the people that play on these fields...There used to be a trash site, a dumping site. Historically, I can’t tell you what was there, but I can tell you it wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t healthy. It was capped and ball fields were placed above it. I, for one, don’t feel that we should be throwing good money after bad.”
Viewers cheered Picozzi on for this move: “Go Frank!”, “Nice job!”, and “Way to go!” commented his supporters.
Picozzi pointed out there are “clusters” of cancer and Multiple Sclerosis in the neighborhoods near the sports complex. He called Mayor Solomon’s nothing more than an “election year promise to build Disney World behind Mickey Stevens.”
Solomon acknowledged the $7 million in bonds approved for the complex years ago is not enough to build what he envisions. He is hopeful of gaining federal and state grants as well as support from sports manufacturing companies. He did not have a projected total cost for the plan, but added none of the playing fields would be built on contaminated land.
Viewers were quick to pick apart the Mayor’s inconsistencies, commenting negatively about his performance thus far in office. They were also quick to point out Picozzi’s “passion, honesty, and love for his city”, as one commenter put it.
“Solomon has all his cronies in all the right spots… No one wants Frank in because Frank doesn’t owe anybody anything and he’s for the people and for the community. There are people that are scared of Frank getting elected because a lot of people might be exposed for the shady crap that they’ve been pulling. Time to clean house,” read the comment posted by Tonya Conca. The question on whether the candidates favored beach fees produced differing positions.
Piccozi supported implementing beach fees as a way to revitalize the facilities. He emphasized that beach fees would take the burden off the residents, and proposed raising the fees for out of city or out of state visitors. When pressed about the impact this would have on local business, Piccozi stated that he was “more concerned about residents than area businesses.”
Piccozi noted the mayor had “voted for beach fees when on City Council, but rescinded the vote when becoming Mayor.”
Solomon said it has been proven that it costs more to collect fees than what is collected. He believes that the beaches should be open for everyone, at no additional cost. Solomon proposed beach parking lot meters to “sustain, not increase the cost” of beach upkeep. Additionally, Solomon pointed out that the improvements to Oakland Beach and other areas were the results of funding from public grants. Regarding the comment from Piccozi about his previous stance on the topic, Mayor Solomon admitted to shifting his perspective, but only after seeing the different options and “ways of doing things” in other beach communities.
Those commenting went back and forth, with cheers of “Yes, beach fees!” and jeers of “What about the roads? The roads are worse!”
Lasting just over an hour, there were more than 30 questions ranging from what to do about the vacant school buildings, how to support local small businesses, their opinions on supporting sewer installment contracts, and how to make T.F. Green Airport a better neighbor.
The debate can be viewed by clicking on the link on the Beacon website – Warwickonline.com – or that for the Warwick Library.