Why is it that when things get bad, we look for the simplest answers to correct the situation? Right now the State of Rhode Island has the worst unemployment rate in the country. The capitol City of Providence is in the midst of a struggling recovery from a massive economic downturn. Industry has left the city and state like rats leaving a sinking ship. The reputation of the state is that this is one of the most corrupt political situations in the country (not as bad as some would characterize it, but still pretty bad) and a progressive, effective Mayor of Providence has chosen to run for Governor, leaving a string of candidates who are somewhat lackluster.
In the midst of this, former Mayor Vincent (“Buddy”) Cianci, who has two prison terms to his “credit”…the last being for corruption during his second sequence as Mayor, and a man with a cancer scare hanging over him, has announced that he is going to run for Mayor again. Many believe he will be re-elected. He has a strong backing by those who laughed along with him during his years as Mayor when it was clear that all was not on the “up and up.” There is a strong Italian-American community in Providence, many of whom see him as “Their Mayor.” He has a daily talk show on a somewhat conservative radio station in Providence where he has spent the past several years complaining about the current Mayor, something not usually in the portfolio of former holders of office. He gets a lot of laughs from those who are addicted to his vitriol.
That’s the point. Is it appropriate to be approaching this election of a troubled city in a troubled state with frivolous desires? Buddy was always someone who knew how to shake a hand and slap a back. He was known for dropping in on special events around town, even personal family events he heard about from his cadre of community supporters. His reputation was that he would show up at the opening of anything…even an envelope.
But all the frivolous, happy memories of Mayor Buddy Cianci are balanced by the recognition that this is a man who abused his office, associated with scurrilous characters, and scoffed at those who criticized his crony-related form of city politics. Yes, there is a beautiful downtown in Providence that he played a huge part in creating. But surrounding it are neighborhoods which are deteriorating and where crime thrives. The economy of the city is struggling, and its reputation as a high tax, difficult place for industry to survive is matched by its reputation as a place that winks at crime and corruption.
We are just beginning to show signs of overcoming those reputations. Do we really want to slip back into what some call “the good old days of Providence” when being a crony of the Mayor was more important than being someone who could help the community progress?
I categorize Mr. Cianci’s entre into the mayoral race as frivolous. If I want entertainment I’ll look to the wonderful cultural community in Providence…not to City Hall.
Photo Credit: TV Channel 10