2017-11-02 / Front Page

A Conversation with Allan Fung

By Lynne Tungett

Allan Fung, four-time mayor of Cranston, and his wife, Barbara Ann Fenton, a Middletown native, sat down in the Newport This Week office last week to have a conversation about his announcement to run for governor of Rhode Island.

Fung is an American attorney and Republican Party member who has been mayor of Cranston since 2009. He was the Republican Party nominee for governor in the 2014 election.

Four of the past 10 Rhode Island governors have been Republican, and Fung is hoping to become the next member of the GOP to preside over Providence’s statehouse.

“I’ve governed beyond just party lines, beyond being a Republican, a Democrat or Independent, I feel government needs to be responsive to our communities,” he said.

Fung is a first-generation Chinese American citizen, whose parents moved to Rhode Island 50 years ago because “they believed in the opportunities here for a better life, and because they believed in the American dream,” he said.

We asked him how he thinks the American dream is faring today for the people of Rhode Island. “It’s become harder," Fung said. "There are more barriers and regulations to starting a business. [My parents] owned a Chinese restaurant, [and they] pushed me and my sisters to be what we wanted to be.”

The candidate said that when he was first elected, he “inherited the schools with $9 million in debt.

“Over the last year, we invested $5 million in the physical side/the capital side of the schools and increased the education budget by $2 million. We have the highest rainy day fund in the state.”

He went on to say that students need choices to prepare them for life and that the Cranston career center offers curricula in medical pathways, robotics and other fields that allow students to earn college credit.

Asked about Gov. Raimondo’s recent school report, Fung said, “It is downright scary. The schools throughout the state are in rough shape. Students deserve to have a good school to attend. How can we expect them to learn in schools that have dripping ceilings? We have to prioritize and fix this over time.”

Besides the money invested in the school system, Fung said, $4 million has been spent on paving the roads and other infrastructure projects.

Fenton chimed in to say that Cranston, a city with a population of 82,000 residents, “has been turned around.”

She described the Garden City mall, which had become “scary and deserted.” Once a desolate lot where kids learned to drive, it has now become a showplace. Fung concurred. “With many big-name stores, like L.L. Bean, Garden City has been recognized as a premier shopping complex in the region.”

In one of his gubernatorial candidacy press statements, Fung said, “We’ve cleaned up the books, brought back business, and re-instilled a sense of pride in our town. We’ve created thousands of jobs, fixed our infrastructure.”

To Newport This Week’s question, “Considering the financial challenges facing most of Rhode Island’s 39 municipalities and 32 school districts, would you recommend more school regionalization statewide?” Fung replied, “Municipalities need to work together to solve problems, I am always open to consolidation. I think municipal leaders should be flexible.”

Earlier this year in an interview with Raimondo, NTW asked if she would work toward eliminating taxes on citizens’ pension incomes in order to keep retirees from leaving the state. “Actually,” she said, “We’ve started some of that…we got rid of the state income tax on social security income, and last year we provided some relief on veterans’ pensions, so the answer is yes.”

When asked the same question, Fung said that retirees are an important part of our community and should be given more tax relief. He also said that he’s been a longtime advocate of our veterans.

“In Cranston, we are proud of them, and have been able to provide 100 percent relief to our disabled veterans. We value their dedication and we enjoy our freedoms because of them.”

Following the interview, the couple headed to lunch at the Newport Creamery. We asked them about their other favorite local spots. Fung said that they liked the food at Becky’s BBQ in Middletown, their favorite bartender was Diego at Red Parrot and the stuffed blueberry French toast at Franklin Spa was the absolute best.

Of our city by-the-sea, where the couple owns a condo off Thames Street, he said, “We have a beautiful state. So much of Newport and the island is quaint, has a neighborhood feel, with a lot of character.”

For the 2018 election, Fung’s seat as mayor will overlap, but when he went door-to-door in 2016, he said, “People said they would vote for me for mayor, but that I better run for governor next. I think that tells everyone in the state what kind of trust people have in me.

“We have to change the partisanship way of doing things and get it out of policy. We need to give the government back to the people of Rhode Island. They need to think that there is more than just a shiny dome in Providence.”

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