CRANSTON, RI — Larry Warner is running for the Cranston City Council. The 45-year-old Democrat is a newcomer to elected office.
Warner has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Brown University and is a doctoral candidate at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. He has served as the director of grants and strategic initiatives at the United Way of Rhode Island for nearly two years.
Why are you seeking elective office?
I am running because we need to close the gaps that we have in our community in public health and in factors that influence our health. As a member of the Cranston City Council, I believe that I will be able to use my experiences to help create policies that build a more equitable Cranston. My campaign is focused on bringing members of the community and other stakeholders together to find solutions for health disparities in our City, as well as find ways to foster better quality of life and economic development here in Cranston.
What do you believe should be done to contain the coronavirus pandemic, and what would you do to lessen its economic impacts?
Addressing the coronavirus pandemic requires a threefold response. First, we need adequately isolate, treat, test, and trace those who have been exposed to or have symptoms of COVID-19. If we adhere to the safety measures put forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Rhode Island Department of Health, that will go a long way to preventing the spread of this infectious disease. Second, we need to address the conditions that put people of color and lower income communities at increased risk. That is both a short and long term undertaking. If there were no structural inequities in our society, then we would find that this virus and the disease it causes, which is new to our country, affects everyone equally. However, we find that like chronic noncommunicable diseases (i.e. asthma, diabetes) there is a disproportionate burden of disease experienced by people living in densely populated communities, or frontline and essential jobs, often lower income or without the ability to work remotely. And so we find that these individuals, households, and communities are experiencing an increased risk of infection and spread. If we use principles of equity to guide our response — that is identifying and addressing the unique needs of each community, and prioritizing those most severely impacted — then we will focus our efforts to not only treat those in need but to address the socioeconomic and structural circumstances and policies that create conditions which result in the increased rates of COVID-19 that we have seen. Similarly, everyone has likely felt at least some of the economic impact of COVID-19, but using equity to guide us, we must start with communities that are hardest hit and have the least access to resources due to systemic and historical barriers, and rebuild from there.
Do you believe systemic racism is a problem in America generally and Rhode Island specifically, and if so, what would you do to combat it?
Systemic racism is a problem, and is the root cause of the disparities that we see in health, education, child welfare, criminal justice, and the barriers that we see in employment, housing, and economic mobility. Enacting policies that remove barriers to opportunity is a top priority. Creating policies and building a local economy in a way that is equitable, welcoming, and inclusive not only benefits groups that have been harmed by past and present practices, but creates a stronger and more united Cranston.
Should the words “Providence Plantations” be removed from the state’s name?
What are the critical differences between you and the other candidates seeking this post?
My experiences and background in public health, public safety, and philanthropy have helped me to develop an appreciation and understanding of a range of complex local and statewide issues. I’ve worked with a variety of public and private stakeholders to pilot and scale up success initiatives, develop appropriate measures for success, and advocate for fair and just policies. I understand the importance of being accessible and transparent to building and maintaining the precious trust of our residents. Bringing a public health “lens” to city government, a commitment to equity, fresh ideas, and new energy to the role of city councilor will help me to be successful in being responsive to the needs of all of our residents, businesses, and employees in Cranston, in collaboration with other council members and community leaders.
If you are a challenger, in what way has the current board or officeholder failed the community (or district or constituency)
I am running for one of three open at-large city Cranston City Council seats.
Describe the other issues that define your campaign platform
Issues that are important to me include education, including after school and summer programs for our youth; increasing access to and availability of affordable housing; strengthening the local economy by supporting small businesses; creating an environment that is inviting to minority and women owned business enterprises; and diversity, equity, and inclusion in city government.
What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?
I currently am co-chair of the Rhode Island Commission for Health Advocacy and Equity, and have collaborated with public and private stakeholders to develop statewide health equity measures. These measures are intended to help monitor our progress across the state in fifteen issue areas that impact health. I am also the director of grants and strategic initiatives for United Way of Rhode Island, leading a team that’s working on issues such as education, housing, jobs, and financial stability. I previously led health grant making at the Rhode Island Foundation, and during that time was vice-chair of a $20 million multi-stakeholder healthcare transformation initiative. Also, as firefighter/EMT for fifteen years in Providence, I am familiar with working in a fast-paced team environment in public safety, and know what is needed to keep cities like Cranston safe. Across these roles, I have worked on collaboration between public and private partners, budgeting and strategic planning, and engaging with residents to either improve quality of services or to transform systems to strengthen communities. These experiences have helped prepare me for the role of city councilor and working to represent and address the needs of Cranston’s neighborhoods and residents.
The best advice ever shared with me was:
“Don’t let the sun go down on your anger” — a bible verse and advice given to my wife and I by my mother, meaning, resolve your disagreements before the day is over, otherwise they just linger and make for strained relationships and make tomorrow harder than it needs to be.
This article originally appeared on the Cranston Patch