Bradly VanDerStad is one of three candidates running for City Council Ward 3 in Providence. City Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune is running for Mayor, opening up the seat in 2022. Currently, the Ward contains the neighborhoods of Mount Hope, Hope Village (Summit), Collyer Park and Blackstone.
“I’ll start by saying it was not my intention to be a City Councilperson. I didn’t study this, I didn’t major in this. I originally came to Providence to be a Cruise Ship Director – I was going to sail around in the ocean, I was going to help people on their vacations. But after I showed up, I just got so engaged [with this community],” VanDerStad said in a recent episode of Ray-ality TV.
“Over the 10 years that I have been here, I’ve got involved with the Summit Neighborhood Association, I worked with Habitat for Humanity, I’ve joined the Rhode Island National Guard, I’ve been all over the place in my service journey. I’ve learned a lot about authentic leadership – what it means to be a true representative of one’s community. I feel that Providence deserves an engaged leader. I love Providence so much that I got it tattooed on my forearm here. Ward Three is this little corner right here – I can’t wait to represent it.” VanDerStad continued.
One issue that pertains to Ward 3 specifically is revitalizing the North Main Street Corridor. An idea floated during a recent meeting led by LaFortune is putting housing in the unused space. VanDerStad favors the idea.
VanDerStad added, “We are a top New England city, and shouldn’t have just a multi-mile stretch of one of our busiest roads be the place where autoparts and drive-thrus take place. It needs to have an identity, we need to invest in it. It needs to be a beautiful neighborhood boulevard. Housing was a big part of the conversation. I would advocate for that. I think going through the housing crisis that we’re currently experiencing, I think that North Main Street is a perfect place because it’s on the R-Line, which brings folks through the urban core. It is the highest trafficked RIPTA corridor in the state. There’s a lot of great ideas for it and I’m excited to see what the community comes up with..”
City Council members not only make decisions for their Ward, but for the city as a whole in some cases. The city’s pension system is one of the top issues heading into 2022’s election cycle.
VanDerStad has a three-part plan to tackle the revenue portion of the issue: invest in the city’s business community, getting more money from non-profits like Brown University through a payment in lieu of taxes agreement – potentially through state law and selling Providence’s Water to the state. After getting the revenue, he also favors merging the pension system with the state’s.
Another portion of VanDerStad’s campaign platform is to make other means of transit more accessible – such as creating more bike lanes.
“I’m a bike lane supporter. I think it helps us become closer with the city when we are moving in it as opposed to through it in a vehicle. There’s also studies to show, contrary to popular belief, that bicycling through a business district, bicyclists need to eat too. They need to stop and consume and purchase things. It supports local businesses to have bicycle accessibility in front of them. Just like any other problem, this is going to be a collaborative approach. We have to engage business members, we have to show them that this is actually an economic boost for them, to allow another method of transportation. Right now, only cars and ambitious walkers can get over to where they are. But opening up the bike lanes adds a whole larger spectrum of customers for them. I’ll take a lead role in explaining that, promoting that and hopefully we can show that this is going to be a helpful as opposed to hurtful measure.”
If elected, there are two committees that are of interest to VanDerStad.
He said, “The planning committee would be particularly interesting. Zoning is such an important part, I think it gets overlooked a lot. I think that being on the planning committee would be very interesting to me in addition to the special committee on state legislative affairs. So much of what we need to do as a community to improve Providence relies on state cooperation. So much of our destinies intertwined here will need their help to affect legislative change in the city.”
January 2023 will see a new Mayor of Providence as Mayor Jorge Elorza is term-limited. Four candidates are currently running for Mayor. This prompted the question of who VanDerStad will support for Mayor. “I can’t wait to see any of them in the Mayor’s office. I haven’t exactly made up my mind on who I’m supporting. But I’ll have lots of opportunities to talk to them as the campaign rolls forward,” he said.