Excerpts from Republican Gubernatorial Candidate and Cranston Mayor Allan Fung’s Q&A session with the Cranston Republican City Committee from Tuesday, January 7, following his presentation to the committee, seeking their endorsement in the 2014 Rhode Island Republican Gubernatorial Primary. I’ve paraphrased the questions, the answers are all direct quotations. A transcript of Mayor Fung’s opening staement is available here
Q about how you would address the family issues, the impact of families on education, and should the state create an office of family life?
A from Allan Fung: The family is a key and important part in motivating, and making sure that students do what they need to do as part of that educational system. However, one of the things I would not do as Governor is create another layer of bureaucracy….These type of issues can be addressed, if you’re talking about within the schools, by making sure there’s parental involvement within the school system. You see that in a lot of the charter schools…I am a strong proponent of innovation in the school system, and I have fought for high-performing charter schools.
Q about school choice.
A from Allan Fung: It’s no secret that I’m a supporter of charter schools, but they have to be the right charter schools, high-performing and making sure that they’re meeting the standards, and overall with education, I am a proponent of testing. We go through, in all of our lives and all careers, tests. The students have to be prepared for that….Whether it’s college or into the workforce, we’re failing them, if we’re not making sure that they have the requisite skills. That’s why testing is one component of making sure that they can be ready. We need to refocus our educational system to interlink with what is going on in our workforce. That can happen from a gubernatorial standpoint by making sure a lot of our state departments are aligned, from workforce development, to department of labor and training, to any of our different touchpoints that touch businesses, along with education, in other words breaking down silos. Just like we did in Cranston, departments working together, and working with the schools.
Q about what Mayor Fung has learned in Cranston, that he can directly apply to the Governor’s office.
A from Allan Fung: Any business guy who comes in thinking I’m going to run it like a business, you will fail. What I’ve learned that’s most important is that government is a different type of business. You can apply sound business policies and run it efficiently, run it effectively, and that’s what we’ve been doing in Cranston. And that’s how we’ve been able to succeed, at getting the city back in balance…You have to be able to make quick decisions. monumental catastrophes that I’ve had to face, from the two floods that were unexpected, the monumental snowstorms, to anything that can hit, from fires in the middle of the night, to police chases. You have to be on the go, ready, it’s a 24/7 job, and you have to make quick decisions, and that’s the point of a chief executive…Lastly, you’ve got to make sure you love this job, and I do, and that’s one of the critical things about being a chief executive. In Cranston, I’m treating this as a $256M business. While we’re not there to create a product or generate x-amount of revenue, we’re there to run it efficiently and make sure we take care of our residents and meet their needs the best we can.
Q about about having more control as Mayor than as Governor, and plans to work with the GA to lower taxes or reduce spending?
A from Allan Fung: Our government in Cranston is set up similar to and based somewhat off of the state government, except I do have a slightly modified line-item veto, which is something I would definitely push for as part of a constitutional convention…We’ve been addressing some of the structural issues that abound, and this is the same thing we have to do on the stateside as well, for instance, pension reform. We have to keep a big eye on the overall, big-dollar cost not only in our immediate budget, but long term as well. We’ve been able to successfully negotiate with not one, but two of the major unions on the city side, so that all new city employees are out of that expensively, costly state pension system, and they’re in a more private sector 401(k)-type program for their retirement. On top of that, I think that everyone recognizes that Cranston has one of the worst locally administered pension plans in the state of Rhode Island from a funding standpoint. We were able to sit down, and this was no easy task, with the unions and the retirees…Those were probably the toughest negotiations I’ve ever been a part of. By reaching an agreement, we were able to shave $6 million from the annual required contribution. That’s going to help us immediately, but it’s also going to help us in the long term get this plan back in balance somewhat, so we can start to make our annual required contribution at the 100% level, which is what need to meet our obligations…Overall, when you’re attacking the budget, like we did in Cranston, just like what we have to do in the state budget, we have to keep an eye not only on the immediate, but also long-term, to address some of those structural problems, so we’re not continuing perpetually to kick the can down the road.
Who was the last Republican Presidential nominee you voted for?
A from Allan Fung: Mitt Romney. Actually, I was a delegate for Mitt.
Q about the parking ticket spike, and the ACLU call for an independent investigation.
A from Allan Fung: I’m very constrained on what I can say because of the law enforcement officers bill of rights that’s set by state statute….We need to make sure it’s a thorough investigation. All of the allegations are very serious. I take them very seriously, and we are going to make sure we get to the bottom of what’s going on. We will discipline appropriately, based on what we find….Why I brought in an outside, independent investigator was to make sure the investigators are doing their jobs and there’s no type of whitewash going on. I’m not going to tolerate that. The investigator is an experienced officer, who has a very impressive resume with the FBI who can ensure that a thorough investigation was done.
Q about whether a state-run healthcare exchange is necessary for Rhode Island.
A from Allan Fung: I’ve made it known on numerous occasions that I do not support Obamacare. However, I’m also not going to send Rhode Island residents up into that system they have at the Federal level. The cost is something that we cannot afford. They’re taking about it could cost between $20M and $26M to basically run a website? That’s what worries me, because once those Federal dollars dry up, it’s on us, the taxpayers. What I would propose doing is taking a look at how we can do it more cost efficiently….You’d probably have to change some laws, but let’s take a look if we can work with Massachusetts, who has had their system set up for years now, at least up and running, and see if we can work with them and pool resources and get it done more cost efficiently.