July 5, 2014 04:37PM
By CYNTHIA DRUMMOND
Sun Staff Writer
RICHMOND — With two Republicans already on the five-member Town Council and a new Republican candidate running for office, the balance of power on the council could shift after the November election.
Republicans Henry Oppenheimer, who serves as council vice president, and Paul Michaud, councilor and chairman of the Republican Town Committee, are seeking re-election. A new candidate, retired engineer Charles More, 67, currently serves on the Richmond Planning Board and the Affordable Housing Committee. More said a council controlled by the Republicans would be just what the town needs.
“I think we have moved in too much of a liberal direction and by getting a majority of Republicans on the council we’d be able to work on conservative approach to matters before the town,” he said.
“We have got to find ways to keep our taxes either at zero or negative growth,” he said. “Our taxes are already too high. That’s my primary goal, to see that we maintain the lowest possible tax rate within the town.”
Michaud, who butted heads with other council members last April over his change of heart on the Chariho School District budget, said he was running again because the town needed a budget watchdog.
“I feel I still need to be engaged with the town budget and the school budget. I consider myself a bit of a watchdog, especially for the elderly people who are on pensions and fixed incomes. I will see to it that we try our best to maintain budgets that are not going to be budget-breakers for these people in particular and for taxpayers in general,” he said.
Michaud continued to defend his right to change his mind when he rejected the Chariho budget.
“Some people out there are blitheringly mad at me for doing such a thing, or the manner in which I did it. That’s tough luck. They’re just jealous because of the fact that they didn’t know what to do, and they couldn’t do anything, and they just let it ride,” he said.
The Democratic incumbents are council President B. Joseph Reddish, Erick Davis and Peter Fangiullo. A newcomer, Ronald Newman, is also running for a council seat as a Democrat.
Reddish, a 54-year-old banker, has been council president since he was first elected, and has served three terms of varying lengths, totaling eight years.
He said his biggest challenge has been advocating for the town at the state level.
“The biggest responsibility as Town Council president is to represent the town of Richmond, not just locally but throughout the state, and ensure that we get the resources we need,” he said.
Reddish described the council’s accomplishments since he became president as significant. He pointed to the hiring of Richmond’s first town administrator, Steve Sette, and his replacement, Robert Rock, who has introduced social media and improved electronic communications with residents. He also noted that the council had supported the departments and services that keep the town running smoothly.
“We fill our fiduciary responsibilities by ensuring that we have a high quality police department, the department of public works, and staff to support the town,” he said.
Reddish conceded that one of the town’s most daunting tasks would be to develop sources of revenue to offset the costs of the Chariho school budget.
“It is the one piece that will always be a challenge for Richmond, because we are a growing town,” he said. “We’re working on our retail offset for that, which is hopefully Richmond Commons, which is shovels on the ground, but that’s probably where our tax challenge is. We don’t have retail revenue and so as much as we don’t want to raise taxes, if the state reduces state aid, our taxes are going up.”
Reddish said he expected members of the new council to work together regardless of their party affiliations.
But Michaud echoed More’s hope that Republicans, and a new president, would be taking over.
“Wouldn’t that be wonderful? That means that Mr. Reddish couldn’t be president anymore,” he said.
Newman could not be reached for this article.
This is the third and final report in a series of stories on new candidates running for Town Council seats in Charlestown, Richmond and Hopkinton.