DeStefanis challenges Lynch for District 2 seat

DeStefanis challenges Lynch for District 2 seat

Both candidates want better services

NORTH PROVIDENCE - Is the incumbent in Town Council District 2 "obstructing any and all progress" as his opponent says, or is he the "watchdog" who is filling a need for "checks and balances" in local government?

On Sept. 9, voters will have the final verdict on who Councilor John Lynch is and whether they want to send him back to the seat for another two years or replace him with Raymond DeStefanis, a challenger who says that Lynch is a big part of the town's problems.

The Democrat who takes the primary will essentially win the District 2 seat, with no Republican or independent running in the general election.

Lynch, 56, contends that he's "absolutely not" an obstructionist as claimed by DeStefanis, and that his role "is all about checks and balances." He is asking voters to show their confidence in the job he's done over four years.

"In the next term I want to continue with my current service, build on where we're going from here," he said. "We need to improve services."

DeStefanis, 40, is urging residents to add a new voice to the council, someone who will take a fair look at each proposal as it comes. Decisions like the one to freeze the police department's Google fund are costing taxpayers money, he says, and pulling the town down.

DeStefanis agrees with Lynch that services in town need a big upgrade, but says the incumbent shares the blame for the current low level of service.

His problems with Lynch go beyond the sitting councilman being an obstructionist, said DeStefanis. Lynch has done little during his time in office to improve quality of life in North Providence's neighborhoods, he claims. He says the councilman also hasn't come up with any plans to fill vacant storefronts along one of the busiest roads in the state, Mineral Spring Avenue, which he says would alleviate the burden on taxpayers.

Lynch says his top priority as chairman of the council's finance committee is to address residents' concerns over high taxes. Limiting increases will automatically help grow the town's business base, he said.

"Everyone's upset about the continued high taxes year after year," he said. "It seems like no matter how much money the town has, how good the town is doing, when tax season comes, they get their taxes jacked up again."

Both candidates are tired of a bi-weekly waste disposal program and say residents are fed up with it, too. People don't want to pay more for sanitation services and then be forced to store smelly grass clippings on their property for two weeks, they said.

DeStefanis is getting support from Mayor Charles Lombardi but says he wouldn't be afraid to go against the mayor on key issues, especially on matters like trash collection that he disagrees with the mayor on.

Lynch is part of a regular 5-2 council majority that often opposes Lombardi on issues. He too says that he takes each issue as it comes.

DeStefanis says he's running because of the way he remembers North Providence when he was growing up, with great neighborhoods and maintained roads, he says. Some of his biggest priorities will be to push for potholes to be filled, for beautification of neighborhoods, for drainage issues to be addressed, for more regular street sweeping, and for a maintenance program that keeps town parks safe and clean. He wants residents to have pride in their town again.

Lynch says "it's not about pride" but about people wanting the very basics to get done. In his career he's always been a believer that "all potholes are filled by Memorial Day," he said, yet here it is with Labor Day approaching and not all potholes are filled yet.

The incumbent blames the Lombardi administration and public works for many of the issues with town services. The mayor needs to be more worried about improving local services like trash and street repair than about consolidating services with surrounding communities, said Lynch.

"People are sick of it," he said.

DeStefanis says he is campaigning on "common sense" issues instead of focusing on his extensive business background. "I'm looking for somebody who is more in tuned with what I care about," he said. "I want to be able to walk out of my house and have pride in my community."

The town's "astronomical" taxes need to be stabilized through an influx of new business, he said.

Lynch, of 24 Benjamin Drive, is a safety manager at Northeastern Tree Service. He is married and has two adult children.

DeStefanis, of 20 Sorrell Road, is a market development manager at Coca-Cola. He is married with a son who attends Stephen Olney School.