Meet First Ward City Council Candidate Nick Cicchitelli
Meet First Ward City Council Candidate Nick Cicchitelli
Providence, R.I., Meet First Ward City Council candidate Nick Cicchitelli. The open seat is facing a special election. GoLocal has offered each of the candidates the opportunity to answer some questions.
The Democratic primary is March 3, 2020.
Meet First Ward City Council candidate Nick Cicchitelli
Profession: Real estate management
Place of Birth: Providence
How long have you lived in the ward: 8 years
Most important issue for the City of Providence to address?
In my opinion, the issue is that Providence’s problems are interrelated. We have a housing shortage that we have known about since at least the Cicilline administration. We have a sluggish economic recovery that’s behind the ball on 21st century industry. And we have a public school system that should have been taken over by the state 20 years ago. Even when we can get companies to move to Providence and bring knowledge economy jobs – the jobs we keep telling students they need to go to college in order to get – we still face the significant impediment of filling them. This interrelation, in my opinion, is the reason why the “wheel” turns so slowly.
We have a perennial lack of housing stock, and low housing turnover. Finding workforce housing is an ever-increasing challenge. While I professionally believe that upward pressures on rents have already peaked, the lack of opportunity to live-to-own is yet another related issue. If you can secure one of the good-paying jobs of tomorrow but aren’t lucky enough to afford private school education, then starting a family in Providence or bringing a family here is naturally full of worrying consideration.
So, we need to get serious about growing our stock of workforce housing, support every effort at lasting reform of Providence Schools, and build Providence into an attractive option for knowledge economy growth.
What are your three priorities if elected?
My first priority is the future of the property tax formula. The East Side regularly contributes roughly half of the city budget. After the financial crisis, there was a major crash in property values around the city. The formula then effectively shifted the bulk of the tax burden to homeowners on the East Side. Residents on the East Side saw a substantial overnight increase, without prudence, fairness or warning. With a recovered property market, tax bills went up around the city in the latest revaluation, and here we are again.
We cannot pursue a tax regime that pits one neighborhood against each other or that unfairly penalizes a resident based on their geography. There is a false logic that just because there are some that are capable and/or willing to pay extra in taxes, that somehow the whole neighborhood is. I am more than happy to work on a progressive tax formula. The attempt last year, I would argue, is not practically progressive.
The 2nd issue on my list is keeping the Gano Street exit open. The exit is an amenity for Fox Pointers, and I do not think it is wise to route all that exit traffic through the Wayland Square walking corridor. I have served on the board of the Fox Point Neighborhood Association for going on 5 years, currently its president. I have been a part of the Gano conversation for years, and I prioritize seeing this through.
My longer-term priority is working on affordable housing. I would like to see the work of the Providence Redevelopment Agency expanded. This agency joins private and non-profit partners to redevelop derelict and blighted properties citywide. 76 new affordable housing units were recently created on 2 properties. With almost 300 properties identified citywide. Imagine if we can scale that up!
What is your most important professional accomplishment?
I would say the most important professional accomplishment is making it work being self-employed in Rhode Island. I have run out of fingers and toes to count how many people I’ve cared about who have had to leave for elsewhere to find opportunity – Boston, New York, etc. Looking at the big picture, this is the driving reason I am seeking to go to the City Council. We graduate a lot of qualified graduates, but we do a bad job keeping them here. That’s a failure and a shame. And I don’t want to watch another generation go through the same thing.
I have long been interested in public service. I am not sure exactly what that would mean for my career. I have been fortunate to have had opportunities and gained experience in government and politics. I’ve found my way, also, into being able to fall back on real estate. With it, I’ve had the opportunity to continue-on with my education and professional enrichment. I pursued a master’s degree in political science, and then for a 2nd master’s in public administration. Now I hope to bring that training and experience to the City Council.
Biggest professional disappointment?
Well…two things of a similar nature. I have been involved in Democratic movements professionally since 2009, in a variety of roles and responsibilities. In that year, I joined General Treasurer Caprio’s political team, and was soon-after hired in the Office of the General Treasurer. The Treasurer was the Democratic nominee for governor in 2010; the money leader by far, and the overall favorite. We all worked hard over that time and wore a lot of hats. Ultimately, it wasn’t in the cards. That was mid-Great Recession; and it felt bad to see a big organization of talented, young Democrats, who have just put in a lot of effort, scramble what to do next.
A few years later in 2014, I had the honor of managing term-limited Secretary of State Ralph Mollis’ lt. gubernatorial campaign. That was a lot of work and a lot of fun. There’s nooks and crannies of the state you only get see when working on a statewide race, and that’s a real gem. I got to work with a dedicated, and passionate team. Similar case, we were favorited to win, but ultimately, wasn’t our year.
The person who has been the biggest influence on your life?
My grandfather Joe DeStefano. He was a teacher and administrator in Providence Public Schools, serving as principal of Mt. Pleasant and Central High School(s). He was a leader in a multitude of non-profit organizations and causes; including many to do with the Boy Scouts of America, like Scouting for Food, the annual food drive for the RI Food Bank. The man was a civic superhero, and he never sought recognition once. His example and encouragement spawned a family of Eagle Scouts, including my brother and I, and my cousin who is my campaign’s right hand.
Favorite restaurant? The East End
Best thing about the First Ward?
Ward 1 is home to big city amenities, without the big city cost of living. There is a rich culture and architectural history here. We have lots of foodie options, performing arts, music, and festivals…And we have the opportunity to lead the city in a knowledge economy boom!
Biggest threat to the First Ward?
In the long term, I worry climate change will challenge our way of life, and dramatically impact our coastlines. In the short term, I am concerned that population exit and decline will place an untenable burden on the increasingly older and poorer population in the state. I would say the biggest threat is failing to prepare for the next chapter(s) of our Rhode Island story. We should not squabble over what’s left, rather invest in what’s next.