In Town Council at-large race, Thibodeau challenges Lambi on his 'no' votes this year

In Town Council at-large race, Thibodeau challenges Lambi on his 'no' votes this year

CUMBERLAND - Town Council candidate Bob Thibodeau came to the taping of The Breeze's campaign debate last week with a vinyl window shade under his arm.

Almost immediately, he unrolled it like a scroll, then read it aloud, ticking off four "no" votes by opponent Art Lambi on seemingly popular issues - $650,000 for Chrome Book computers for the middle schools, the new budget that required no tax increase, the public safety complex and the fire merger.

"Right out the gate I would like to point to four issues that separate me from my Republican candidate," Thibodeau started.

And throughout the forum, taped in The Valley Breeze's conference room, Thibodeau returned to those votes and wondered aloud about what Lambi's next votes might be.

The two are vying for the two at-large seats on the Town Council. The third candidate, Peter Bradley, owner of Bradley Backhoe, had confirmed he'd participate but canceled on the morning of the taping, Oct. 23, because he said he had a cemetery grave to dig.

Bradley is the endorsed Democrat in this race; Thibodeau is also a Democrat and Lambi is the incumbent Republican.

The entire 40-minute debate is on The Breeze's website and will remain there through next Tuesday's election day.

For his part, Lambi had no trouble defending his "no" votes and used some debate minutes to explain his disappointment in the budget Mayor Daniel McKee presented last June.

He opposed the final budget and spending on the town's Chrome Books, he said, because the full amount promised to police officers to fund their retirement benefits account wasn't part of the budget plan last June.

The budget bottom line, he said, "didn't include an $800,000 promise we had just negotiated with our police department in the new collective bargaining agreement.

"I think that's wrong. I don't think you negotiate a contract and within weeks develop a budget that excludes an $800,000 expense and then tell the people of Cumberland that you have a balanced budget with a zero percent increase. That's wrong."

Adjustments to the budget did come from Mayor Dan McKee in October when the council made a series of line item adjustments that increased the contribution nearly the full $800,000, from $700,000 to $1.42 million, or 90 percent of the annual required contribution.

Lambi opposed the public safety complex because he said plans hadn't been developed that explained how the costs were arrived at, and in fact he raised doubts about needing the full $12.5 million.

And he had opposed the fire merger because it went forward without a cap on the first year's budget that some say will significantly increase the tax rate in the Cumberland Hill and North Cumberland districts.

Asked to name their top concerns during the debate, Lambi stressed the need to "hold the line on property taxes," saying, "We need Cumberland to be more competitive with our neighbors. We need Cumberland to be an affordable place to live."

Like nearly all candidates for office, both noted the need for a change to the state funding plan to lessen the impact of charter school tuitions on Cumberland.

Thibodeau called Cumberland "a sleepy town, if you think about it, and I'd like to keep it that way."

He mentioned preserving Diamond Hill Park, the Monastery Grounds and Franklin Farm, calling them "gems that are very special to me."

Looking at town spending, Lambi said he hopes to reduce redundancies in town departments, share duties of clerks, receptionists and laborers and finance large purchases over a short term rather than all at once.

Thibodeau noted it's a "delicate thing to balance taxes and services. People want their trash and recyclables picked up. They want their roads plowed. You've got to have the men and the equipment to do that. So it's going to be a balancing act for the new mayor."

Thibodeau made the point that he supports Murray's new role as mayor, saying "it bodes well for teamwork," while Lambi had campaigned for Murray's primary day opponent Manny DaCosta.

Here's a closer look at the three at-large candidates:

Peter Bradley

35 Summit Road

Age: 43

Resident: Lifelong

Employment: Local business owner, Bradley Backhoe

Education: Graduate of Cumberland High School

Activities: Member of Knights of Columbus No. 1492

Public Service: Served one term on the Town Council; former warden of the Cumberland Fire Department.

Family: Single.

Art Lambi

8 Hannah Drive

Age: 50

Resident: 17 years

Employment: Owns Lambi & Associates public accounting firm in Cumberland for 22 years; named Small Business Association accountant of the year 2000.

Education: Bachelor of science in management and accounting, Rhode Island College, 1986; master's degree in taxation, Bryant College, 1993.

Community involvement: Member of Town Council 2012-present; past president of the Rhode Island Society of Certified Public Accountants; former coach of Pop Warner Football, named coach of the year in 2004; member of St. Vianney Church, percussionist with music ministry; trustee of North Cumberland Fire District, 2011.

Family: Married to Susan Lambi, two grown daughters.

Robert Thibodeau

7 White Pine Drive

Age: 68

Resident: 42 years

Employment: Retired. Former teacher, former businessman and former Valley Gas sales manager, and former heating equipment sales.

Activities: A founder of Cumberland Little League program, member of Cumberland Land Trust, member board of directors Arnold Mills Cemetery, board of directors of Boys & Girls Club of Cumberland-Lincoln.

Public Service: 14 years on Cumberland School Committee with two terms as chairman.

Military Service: Rhode Island Army National Guard, 1966-1972.

Education: Tolman High School, 1964; U-Mass Boston, bachelor of science degree in education, 1972.

Family: Married to Paula (Marino) with four adult children and four grandchildren.