Power play

Is Cicilline trying to remake the City Council? A department head’s incipient run against an East Side incumbent raises eyebrows
By IAN DONNIS  |  February 9, 2006

AUPPER HAND While 8-7 splits were common during Cianci's latter years in office, Cicilline has enjoyed success in plucking council votes.fter supplanting Vincent A. “Buddy” Cianci Jr. almost four years ago as the 800-pound gorilla of Providence politics, Mayor David N. Cicilline — who seems a sure bet for reelection, at least at this point — continues to trumpet an agenda of civic reform and economic development. But a looming challenge to a longtime city councilor on Providence’s East Side, by a ranking member of Cicilline’s administration, is sparking questions about whether the mayor is making a Machiavellian move to consolidate power by remaking the City Council this year. While other explanations are possible, the situation could also point to the future day when Cicilline may represent Rhode Island Democrats’ best hope for retaking the governor’s office.

Cliff Wood, the director of Providence’s Department of Arts, Culture, and Tourism, would represent the closest thing to an automatic council vote for Cicilline. At the same time, Wood’s anticipated Democratic match-up against Ward Two Councilor Rita M. Williams, who has held the seat representing the College Hill, Blackstone, and Wayland neighborhoods for 15 years, is particularly striking since Williams has been a strong supporter of the mayor. The currently imprisoned Cianci, who made a practice not just of punishing his enemies, but also screwing his friends, might appreciate the irony.

Wood declined comment on whether he is even considering a council run, and Cicilline says he is not encouraging any challenges, including one by Wood, to incumbent councilors. “I have a pretty hard and fast rule that I will focus on my own election,” says Cicilline, who could go without a serious opponent this year. While he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of soliciting candidates for an open seat, the mayor says it is the responsibility of the residents in particular wards to select their councilors. Recalling his own experience in being advised against running for the state Senate and for mayor, Cicilline adds, “I certainly don’t discourage people from running for public office.”

Such neutral notes notwithstanding, word of Wood’s incipient campaign is starting to percolate throughout Providence. Although some may exaggerate Cicilline’s role in seeking challengers to council incumbents, it’s hard not to suspect that the mayor and Wood are on the same page. Wood, after all, was working for philanthropist and downtown developer Arnold “Buff” Chace — an enthusiastic supporter of Cicilline’s 2002 campaign — when he became an active campaign volunteer, and the mayor tabbed Wood to join his administration, as deputy chief of policy, after he won election. Cicilline promoted Wood in November 2003, moving him into the newly created arts’ czar post in November 2003.

1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |   next >
  Topics: News Features , U.S. Government, U.S. State Government, Balbina Young,  More more >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY IAN DONNIS
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   RHODY'S LOCAL FOOD MOVEMENT FINDS ITS GROOVE  |  February 23, 2009
    Five years ago, when Farm Fresh Rhode Island (FFRI) launched its mission of promoting Ocean State-produced food, co-founder Noah Fulmer discovered a curious disconnection in the local food chain.
  •   TICKET TO RIDE  |  February 11, 2009
    In April 1999, two weeks after I started on the job at the Providence Phoenix , the FBI raided City Hall, formally unveiling the federal investigation that would land Vincent A. "Buddy" Cianci Jr., Rhode Island's rascal king, behind bars.
  •   ADVOCATES RENEW PUSH FOR PUBLICLY-FINANCED RI ELECTIONS  |  February 04, 2009
    During a news conference Tuesday afternoon in the State House rotunda, proponents of significantly expanding publicly financed elections in Rhode Island — a concept they call "Fair Elections" — cited a litany of reasons for why it would be good for the Ocean State and its citizens.
  •   THE UPSIDE OF HOPE IN RHODE ISLAND  |  January 29, 2009
    Everywhere one turns these days, there's seemingly more bad news about Rhode Island: the unemployment rate, one of the highest in the nation, tops 10 percent — and the state's running out of unemployment assistance.
  •   BROGAN TAKES ON TEENS, SOCIAL NETWORKING IN TEASER  |  January 28, 2009
    Former Providence Journal reporter Jan Brogan is out with her fourth mystery, Teaser .

 See all articles by: IAN DONNIS