“If you like the way the library is run, that’s the way we’ll run City Hall.”
The words are those of Gerald Carbone as he spoke to a gathering of about 20 neighbors and friends at his Warwick Neck home on June 30. Carbone chaired the Warwick Library Board of Trustees, a position he has stepped down from now that he is a Democratic candidate for mayor of Warwick.
Carbone says the library is “ahead of the curve” when it comes to technology and serving the public. He points to the library’s Idea Studio with its access to 3-D printers, the streaming of audio and video and goggles that provide users the ability to virtually visit places.
He can’t say the city has kept pace with change. While he feels the city has a good comprehensive plan, he believes it hasn’t updated its “post-war” zoning or land use or is it “smart” when it comes to the use of energy. If elected, he aims to promote village development and neighborhoods where children can play safely and elderly can age in their community.
“We’re behind; I think that’s obvious,” he said in an interview.
Similarly, he feels the Warwick Democratic Party is stuck in a good old boy way of operating. That’s one of the reasons he’s running.
This is not Carbone’s first consideration of running for public office. He took out declaration papers when the late District 30 Senator William Walaska talked of running for state treasurer, but then didn’t follow through with filing when Walaska chose to seek another term.
In 2016 Jeanine Calkin challenged Walaska and beat him in a primary. Carbone told his backyard gathering that city Democrats approached him as a candidate to run against Calkin. He was appalled. He saw the request as an effort to displace a woman.
“Jeanine Calkin is my inspiration and motivation for running,” Carbone said.
Calkin was one of those listening from the shade of Carbone’s backyard looking out on an extensive vegetable garden. Carbone and his wife Mary and their two dogs moved to the Neck from Pawtuxet because of the extensive yard and the space it provided them for gardening.
Asked if he is a Progressive Democrat Carbone says he shuns labels. He calls himself “a true Democrat” in his campaign literature and takes issue with the all-Democrat City Council, then led by currently acting Mayor Joseph Solomon, that failed to adopt resolutions opposing offshore drilling and lay people from carrying guns into schools.
“Responsible tax policy, no drilling off our coast, no guns in our schools and a sustainable energy policy are basic Democratic principles. Sometimes I really feel as if I am the only true Democrat in the primary race,” reads the card he will be handing out as he meets voters who have a history of voting in Democratic primaries.
Carbone said he inquired why the council postponed action on the resolutions that had been introduced at the request of former Mayor Scott Avedisian and was told council efforts were being focused on the budget.
Carbone also takes issue with the council over schools. He is disheartened by council efforts to control the school department and objects to the council action to cut into the school request for additional funding while adding another $4 million to road repaving.
“For me, if it was a choice between schools and asphalt, I would choose schools,” he said.
Should he be elected, Carbone said he would be happy to work with schools, but he doesn’t see himself telling them how to spend their budget.
“If I wanted to tell schools how to run schools I would have run for the School Committee,” he said.
Carbone, who worked for 25 years as a journalist and covered Warwick as a reporter for the Providence Journal, understands how local government works. Also, at the Journal he served as a member of the Newspaper Guild’s contract negotiating team and considers mutual respect between parties as critical to reaching a fair contract. He feels he can be effective in pulling the parties together on the municipal level.
The author of three books on American history, Carbone paraphrases George Washington to illustrate what he believes is an effective means of governing.
“Study merit and reward the deserving,” Carbone says.
As to how he would apply such advice, Carbone said, “Listen to your staff and they will let you know who the leaders are.”
Carbone holds a master’s degree from Brown and was a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University. He’s mapped out his campaign, having hired a campaign manager and set aside July and August to meet in person as many Warwick Democrats who voted in the 2016 presidential primary as possible. He also plans to send what has become known as a “Mother Teresa” letter to Democrats telling them why he’s running and the good things he aims to do.
One thing he doesn’t plan on doing is spending the kind of money Solomon appears ready to commit to the campaign, with a personal loan of $100,000. Carbone expects to spend a tenth of that.
“It’s wasteful spending that kind of money tooting one’s own horn. I can’t understand why he [Solomon] would spend six figures on this race. It’s overkill and wasteful,” he said.