Grebien hopes to win over voters who have lost faith in city government. “People have been promised everything,” he says, referring to Doyle’s administration. “They have put all of these plans together, but failed to execute them. People want a change in leadership.”
Grebien, a parent of two children in the public schools, points to significant tax increases over the last 11 years that have not improved public schools. “We need to sit down with parents, administrators, and the school committee and make a plan to turn dropouts into graduates,” he says.
Another of the challenger’s proposals — to cut city spending by $8 million — has been one of the campaign’s biggest conflicts.
“[Grebien] wants to reduce the budget by 10 percent, but he has only found about $100,000 in savings thus far,” Doyle asserts. “His proposal would require closing fire stations, reducing police response time, shutting down libraries, ending senior events. He would have to decimate city services to get to that figure. People would leave — and I wouldn’t blame them.”
In response, Grebien says, “The mayor is out of touch. He’s been mayor for 11 years and he’s had four decades of being in government. He has a $4 million deficit that he’s not willing to acknowledge. That’s not true leadership.” Grebien then listed his proposed cuts: outside legal fees, the misuse of city cars, and mandating medical co-pays for non-union employees.
The conventional wisdom in Pawtucket is that Doyle will likely win a close election. John Barry, a City Council leader, says, “This has been a very spirited campaign between two hard-working candidates. With the unique times that we are in, it is imperative that people support the mayor.”
Grebien strikes his most forceful tone in responding to this conventional wisdom and to a question about Doyle outspending him by a three-to-one margin and Doyle appropriating the “change” mantra with his slogan “bringing positive change to Pawtucket.”
“For 11 years, he’s had an opportunity to change downtown. Nothing’s happened,” Grebien asserts. “He’s had an opportunity to develop our wa-terfront. Nothing’s happened. To deal with the hotel. Hasn’t done that either. That’s not change in my book.”
Not everyone is pleased with their choice. John Speck, who blogs as Frymaster at theBucketBlog.com, says that neither candidate impresses him. Speck says that both talk about economic development in a “pretty amateurish way” and that neither man has outlined a strategy to deal with traffic and signage so that social and business newcomers “will not be so terrified of getting lost.” Driving home his point about how out of touch the candidates are, Speck says, “C’mon, Mayor Doyle doesn’t even have an e-mail address.”
Still, the mayoral campaign has energized Pawtucket politics, with more than 25,000 voters expected to take part in the November 4 election. Undecided voters will have another chance to assess Doyle and Grebien during an October 21 debate (7 pm) at Pawtucket City Hall.