O'Grady, Barr face off in House District 46

August 30, 2012

Lincoln residents John Barr and Jeremiah O’Grady have each contributed years of government service, both on the local and state level.

And they will seek to add at least two more years to their political resume by running for state representative of House District 46, serving Lincoln and Pawtucket.

They must first, however, make it through the Sept. 11 Democratic primary, the winner of which will go up against Republican Matthew Guerra and independents Paul DiDomenico and Mary Ann Shallcross Smith in the Nov. 6 general election.

Barr, 48, who currently serves on the town Zoning Board of Review, in 1992 became the District 46 state representative, a position he held for a total of 10 years. He has run for town administrator twice, in 2006 and 2008.

He graduated from Lincoln High School in 1982, and he earned his associate’s degree at Community College of Rhode Island.

Barr has been a real estate investor since age 19, and currently owns LeadSafe Inspections and Consulting Inc. and Bedbug Extermination R.I. He has also worked for the Quinnville Fire Department.

Incumbent O’Grady, 42, just finished his freshman term for the state. Prior to that, he spent four years on the Lincoln Town Council, including two years as president, as well as time on the town Budget Board. He works for Olneyville Housing Corp., a nonprofit community development organization specializing in the revitalization and stabilization of the Olneyville neighborhood of Providence.

Both candidates are family men.

Representing the fifth generation of his family’s residence in Lincoln, Barr and his wife, Sharon, have four children ranging in age from 20 to 13, as well as a 20-year-old nephew who lives with them.

Calling his family “troopers,” Barr said they campaign door to door, attend social events with him, and talk politics at the dinner table. He said his college-aged children who will enter the workforce in the next few years inspired him to take on job creation, should he be elected.

O’Grady, originally from Massachusetts, married Lincoln native Elizabeth Crohan. After living in Boston and Washington, D.C., they settled in town 12 years ago to raise a family; they have a 7-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son.

O’Grady said he first became interested in representing District 46 after he disagreed with policy decisions made by the General Assembly two years ago.

He said when car tax reimbursement was eliminated “on the heels of virtual elimination of state aid,” car tax bills had to increase “dramatically” along with fire taxes. O’Grady said the “burden shifted” to the municipalities, who only had property taxes as a tool, which “hit those who could least afford it the most.”

O’Grady said during his first term, he sought to stabilize municipalities both in terms of cost and revenue. He cited pension reform, joint Other Post-Employment Benefits and trust money, and collaborative self-funded health care as mechanisms he helped put in place “by which towns can achieve some efficiencies.”

This year, the discontented party is Barr, who originally announced in April he would seek the Senate District 17 spot, only to switch to House District 46 in June after seeing O’Grady support the table games at Twin River Casino referendum, on which voters will decide in November.

“The casino vote got me upset. It’s financially devastating to the town of Lincoln,” Barr said.

Barr said he originally wrote the bill that gives Lincoln 1.45 percent of the video lottery terminals, or VLT, money from Twin River, which brings approximately $6 million into the town each year.

Barr said that percentage received from VLTs will decline if the referendum passes because people would prefer to play traditional slot machines.

Where the state gets 60 percent of VLT earnings, they will get 18 percent of table game revenue, Barr said. The casinos will take 82 percent of the table game money, and the town will get nothing, he said.

If he is elected, Barr said he will try to negotiate that same 1 percent legislation for table games. He said to keep revenue coming into the town, “we almost have to pass it.”

The legislation includes a slippage provision that Lincoln and Newport will receive 1 percent of table game revenue for four years, should VLT revenue decline, in anticipation of the casinos opening in Massachusetts. But after those four years are up, Barr said, “the town of Lincoln financially goes off a cliff.”

O’Grady said “regardless of how I’ll vote as an individual,” he supported the bill because it was “my obligation and my fiduciary responsibility” that the legislation “provide the best outcome for the town should it pass.”

He said the bill would remove the need to legislate every year regarding the sunset clause.

The four years of the slippage provision will provide increases to the town it would not ordinarily have, O’Grady said, which can “smooth” the transition.

O’Grady said his experience in Lincoln has established “a track record of accomplishment.” He said “sound management and fiscal responsibility” are lessons he learned while in Lincoln that he has taken with him to the state level.

He said while campaigning door to door, he found that “people are highly satisfied with the way Lincoln has been run. We stand out as a municipality with strong fiscal and management practice. I like to think I played a part.”

His most important accomplishment of his first term, he said, involved the ballot referendum for a Department of Transportation bond for road and bridge repair, which he said used long-term debt to fund short-term repairs that “has led to a mountain of debt.”

He was the chief sponsor of the 2011 Transportation & Debt Reduction Act, resulting in “no DOT bond question on this year’s ballot, and none projected in the future,” with each bond issue the state avoids saving approximately $60 million in future debt service.

O’Grady said he is working for the restoration of the historic tax credit system, which would rehabilitate old mill buildings, creating jobs and returning “abandoned mill projects to the tax rolls.” He said that type of investment is not speculative, as was the investment in 38 Studios.

Barr said some of his accomplishments include getting the Blackstone River Bikeway to be on a path instead of on the side of the road, as well as fighting for funding for the covered bridge in Lincoln Woods. He said he also fought for funding for the historic property renovations of Moffit Mill, and he said he fought for the state to repair Lincoln’s Berkeley and Martin Street bridges.

He said he always made sure Lincoln was able to get a percentage of the DOT sidewalk repair money.

O'Grady, Barr face off in House District 46

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