Saturday, August 06, 2022
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Rachel Miller is a Democratic candidate for Providence City Council in the 13th Ward. Here is what she has to say.
1. What do you think is the biggest political issue this campaign season in Providence?
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Housing affordability continues to be an extremely challenging political issue in Providence this year. Not because we disagree about the crisis – across the board from all political persuasions, incumbents, folks running, the public at-large experience the big housing crunch people at every income level are facing. The challenge is leveraging solutions that can scale to the problem. Taking action to ameliorate the problem will take broad coalition work that brings people together from multiple constituencies, experiences, and interests. It will take the ability to work across city and state governments to increase the number of units affordable at many income levels, put a stop to runaway prices that aren’t linked to real costs, and expand creative solutions like long-term land trusts that can help people build equity while maintaining affordability.
2. What do we need to do to improve Providence’s economy?
First and foremost – we need to invest in local talent. The way to turn the tide on displacement via gentrification is to build up opportunities for people to earn family-sustaining wages and build businesses that are also participating in and giving back to the local economy. The people of Providence are in too many ways its most untapped and most vital resource. The city of Providence can strengthen small business outreach, create opportunities via co-op models, partner with employers committed to worker training and registered apprenticeship, and honor its own commitments to local hiring and prioritizing minority and women-owned businesses, to name just a few strategies that would generate wealth for local residents and build our economy from the ground up. Rather than prioritizing top-down tax breaks for companies and developments we hope will do the right thing by our residents, we can invest in our residents, in public works that have broad-scale opportunities for employment, and in our local talent pool.
3. What is the greatest challenge facing Providence as a city?
High-quality education for every K-12 student. We have failed generations of students for far too long. During the next term, Providence will very likely regain local control of Providence Public Schools, and we must prepare now for that eventuality by working with our schools – not against them; making space for student, parent, and teacher voices in decision-making; and advocating for long-term commitments curricula and academics that we don’t change according to political whim or special private interests.
Over the last three years, we’ve made tremendous investments in our school buildings, including a $300 million bond and an ordinance that will put another $125 million bond to the voters in November, but it’s not enough. Our students and our teachers deserve first-class facilities that they can be proud of and that in turn inspire them, but we are still, in some instances struggling with safe, dry, and stable. Good intentions aren’t going to get us there. We have to mobilize every resource available for the long haul and work in broad coalition to ensure our students have the educational opportunities they deserve.
4. Why are you running for office? What makes you uniquely qualified
Four years ago, I ran for office because our neighborhoods needed someone who would represent everyday people even when that meant standing up to powerful special interests. I have been honored to serve the neighborhoods of the West End and Federal Hill, and with redistricting, will now also represent the Valley Arts district. I am proud of the investments I’ve made in our parks, streets, sidewalks, and playgrounds and the work I’ve done on the council to transform how tax breaks are granted – ensuring that working people can build careers and earn sustainable wages when the city grants special privileges to private developments. I am proud of the work I have done to expand access to affordable housing and promote affordability at every income level by passing an ordinance that makes it illegal to turn away a prospective renter based on their source of income – be it a Section 8 voucher, veteran’s benefits, or any other lawful source and partnering with my colleagues to strengthen the affordable housing trust and other measures. I am proud of the legislative work I’ve done in concert with my colleagues supporting climate justice and many other important issues. Often, these measures aren’t easy and without opposition, but by working with like-minded colleagues and sometimes unlikely allies, we were able to put the best interests of Providence residents first. I am looking forward to the opportunity to continue that work – to tackle the challenges laid out above and to promote the highest quality of life for the residents of our city.
5. Who is your inspiration?
I am inspired daily by small acts of kindness, graciousness, and patience. You can see it at a public hearing when people who probably have ten other places they would rather be, wait for an hour for their turn to speak about an issue that impacts their life or that they strongly believe in. There is so much grace at that moment, and it’s an honor to receive that testimony. I have, throughout COVID, been especially inspired by everyone working and living at the forefront, facing challenges and risks we haven’t faced in many generations. My friends who are parents of young children who have to find a way to move forward through so much uncertainty are a constant source of inspiration. Our civil discourse politically and socially is, to put it mildly, really rough right now – polarized and uncivil. But all day and every day, we get to encounter one another in these just utterly human situations, and when we can approach one another with grace, it is completely inspiring.
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