Katherine Kerwin | Councilwoman-elect, Providence City Council
1. You are the incoming Democratic councilwoman for the 12th Ward, which includes Smith Hill. What was your interest in being on the City Council? I was born and raised in Providence and the decision to run for the council was based in wanting to give something to this community that has given so much to me. After taking a job with the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence … I felt I had many of the skills that would allow me to successfully advocate for the 12th Ward. But it was moments [such as] last summer, when the council passed the Community Safety Act … when I knew that even in the face of [President Donald] Trump’s regressive policies real change could happen in Providence.
2. At 21 you will be the youngest member by far. What is the advantage of a youthful voice? I think it is so important to have diversity as a body, and I consider my youth an advantage because I understand the issues that folks my age are facing in the city. Many people I grew up with and went to school with … have left Providence and will not return because they feel there are better job opportunities elsewhere.
3. You live in a poor neighborhood. What is the biggest issue for your neighbors and how can the council help? The best way I can advocate for my community is to invest in public spaces [such as] community centers, as well as affordable housing. A big goal of mine is to make youth programming a priority. … Neighborhoods are changing quickly, and I want to ensure that residents [who] have lived in this community for generations are not driven out.
4. The tax burden is high in Providence. How will you broaden the tax base or lessen the burden? We must look to how the city has awarded tax-stabilization agreements. In many cases TSAs are given to developers and extended for 20 years or more of breaks on tax revenue. If as a city we do not permit these lengthy extensions on TSAs or if we do not permit TSAs for developers who are not contributing to affordable housing or jobs for the community, we will be broadening our tax base.
5. Tax-stabilization agreements are seen as a way to encourage economic investment. Do you favor their use in development? TSAs are one of many tools available to incentivize economic investment. However, these TSAs have too often been offered to outside developers in communities that do not need rehabilitation.
Mary MacDonald is a staff writer for the PBN. Contact her at Macdonald@PBN.com.