PROVIDENCE — On the Rhode Island Report podcast, state Representative Cherie L. Cruz, a Pawtucket Democrat, weighed in on the proposed Pawtucket soccer stadium, the fate of McCoy Stadium, and the state’s legalization of recreational marijuana.
Cruz questioned whether Pawtucket and the state should be promising $45.5 million in public funding for the proposed $124 million Tidewater Landing soccer stadium.
“In Pawtucket, especially with homelessness, we have people under the bridge I was going to visit who were evicted from housing,” she said. ”When we’re talking about our resources and our public money, I think it should be (spent) on quality of life and not recreation at this point in time.”
Cruz said she is concerned that Fortuitous Partners won’t be able to line up the necessary private financing to propel the project forward.
If $45.5 million in public funding is available, she said, “I’d definitely put it in housing and education.” For example, Samuel Slater Middle School “has a dirt field where the kids sit and play,” she said. “The basketball court hasn’t been paved in decades. So what’s going on here?”
Cruz commented on reports that billionaire Stefan Soloviev is willing to buy McCoy Stadium, the former home of the Pawtucket Red Sox, to try to bring professional baseball back to Pawtucket. The city plans to tear down McCoy to make way for a new Pawtucket high school that would consolidate the city’s existing high schools, including Shea and Tolman.
But Cruz said constituents want Pawtucket Mayor Donald R. Grebien to at least meet with Soloviev to hear him out. “When we lost McCoy, it was told to many of us in the community that the administration tried and there was nothing they can do,” she said. “Well, here’s something, right?”
And she questioned whether a new high school could instead go at the Apex department store site near Interstate 95.
Before being elected to the House, Cruz had advocated for the legalization of recreational marijuana and the expungement of marijuana possession charges as part of an effort to help those harmed by the “War on Drugs.” She said she is pleased that the court system has already expunged more than 23,000 of those charges.
Cruz said the hope was that Rhode Island would enact the most progressive marijuana legalization law in the nation.
So now that more than a year has passed since the law passed, has the state lived up to that promise? “The jury’s still out,” she said. “I’m hoping for the best.”
Cruz said the process was delayed because Governor Daniel J. McKee took nearly a year to appoint members of the Cannabis Control Commission. And she urged the governor to get moving on appointments to a Cannabis Advisory Board that is supposed to include 11 voting members and eight non-voting members.
“We want to make sure that somebody who’s been impacted by this — who is from Rhode Island in one of those communities that were hard hit — they’re on that board,” she said.
To get the latest episode each week, follow Rhode Island Report podcast on Apple Podcasts and other podcasting platforms, or listen in the player above.