BURRILLVILLE – Town Councilor David Place, a candidate for the District 47 seat in the Rhode Island House of Representatives, said this week that he is running for the position because he wants to see town values more adequately represented on the state level.
Place is running against Rep. Cale Keable, who has held the seat representing Burrillville and Glocester since 2010.
A combat Army veteran with a degree in accounting from Rhode Island College, Place said he was inspired to get involved in local politics after a tour in Iraq. Place oversaw the first democratic election in the country and at one point, took part in a gun battle right outside of a polling place.
“People kept walking in,” he said.
Place said the experience gave him a deeper appreciation of the value of Democracy.
A Swansea, Mass. native who moved to Burrillville in 2009, Place won his position on the Town Council soon after in 2010, and said that he was able to gain traction as a newcomer with town voters by walking door-to-door.
It’s an approach he’s also taken in his quest for the District 47 seat. Place told NRI NOW this week that he’s already visited some 3,000 homes across the district.
During his two terms on the council, Place says he’s proud he has been proactive in representing people’s voices, noting his effort in 2013 to fight against – and ultimately help defeat – an ordinance that would have made it illegal for Burrillville residents to have fires in their backyards.
But Place said his proudest moment serving on the bipartisan board came after he first learned of Invenergy’s proposal to erect a power plant in Burrillville. As residents flocked to town meetings voicing opposition to the plan, council members stayed quiet, waiting for opinions to be issued from several town boards and commissions.
“We couldn’t come out until all of these groups had done their work. We had to stay neutral,” he said. “It would have been easy for any of us to play politics with that issue.”
Eventually, he notes, “We all came to the same conclusion. Once [the boards’ opinions] came out, we let the community know we stand with them.”
Place noted that the council has since dedicated millions of dollars to fighting against the proposed plant without relying on loans, or increasing costs for taxpayers. But he says the experience made it clear the town needs better representation on the state level.
“I think it’s time we have a state rep. that doesn’t represent the Providence and the Cranston values, but represents the Burrillville values,” Place said.
“I’ve been on the council for eight years and along the way, you see a lot of areas where you think you can save the taxpayers money and you get told no you can’t – the state dictates that,” Place said. “People look at the state, and you just see disfunction.”
Place points to legislation crafted by Burrillville council members to reform the state process for approving facilities like Invenergy’s proposed Clean River Energy Center. He says the bill – which would have amended rules for the Energy Facility Siting Board – was written specifically to work with a number of potentially opposing forces in state government.
“We didn’t want to make it prohibitive,” he said.
But that bill was sent to a legislative study commission and modified into something that Place says had no likelihood of passing. It was held for further study by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Place said that if elected, he would like to reintroduce the original, cleaner version of the legislation, which would strengthen a community’s ability to have a say in such plans, with moderate reforms that target things like increasing the amount of money a municipality receives to vet such a project.
It is the councilor’s second bid for the state seat. In 2016, Place ran against Keable in District 47, coming up short by around 130 votes.
Place currently works as a machinist in Lincoln and serves on the Harrisville Fire District Operating Committee, and the Burrillville Republican Town Committee. He has been married since 2007, and has one college-aged daughter who graduated from Burrillville High School.
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