News Rhode Islanders can use
By last Sunday morning, a day after the end of Cianci’s time in federal custody, the local media landscape had reverted to form, more or less, with TV supplying the video and the Providence Journal offering the most thorough coverage of the evolving story.
In particular, Mike Stanton, the leader of the paper’s investigative team and the author of The Prince of Providence: The True Story of Buddy Cianci, America’s Most Notorious Mayor, Some Wiseguys, and the Feds (Random House, 2003), offered a valuable Sunday Journal story on the question of whether Cianci or David N. Cicilline, the current mayor, deserves more credit for improvements in Rhode Island’s capital.
Cianci, who once told Stanton to go play in traffic, has little love for the Journal. The paper has a long history of rooting out wrongdoing by public officials, and the former mayor once harbored a fanciful desire — more fantasy than fact — to buy the ProJo, even telling metro columnist Bob Kerr that he would be doing Buddy’s laundry.
Yet even though WPRO’s Yorke and other critics are onto something when they rap the Journal for treating Cicilline too lightly, Stanton’s in-depth piece was evenhanded, noting the competing claims of Cianci and Cicilline boosters. More importantly, with some Rhode Islanders simplistically viewing Buddy as the person single-handedly responsible for Providence’s progress in recent decades, Stanton recounted the evolution of the much-ballyhooed Providence Renaissance (a topic detailed in his book) in all of its complexity.
Also on Sunday, ProJo City Hall reporter Daniel Barbarisi captured the mood surrounding Cianci’s Saturday night outing, describing how he greeted a steady stream of onlookers at Café Nuovo, “but he was never mobbed, never surrounded by fans. At one point, he sat alone in the plaza in front of the Citizens Bank Tower for a cigarette with former aide Scott Millard, in full view of hundreds of onlookers, some sneaking glances but few coming near.”
Barbarisi indicated how Cianci made a blandly broad statement in support of Cicilline —“I support all current office-holders because I think they have a tough job” —but also criticized the appearance of two recently built nearby condo towers and the GTECH building. To hear the current mayor’s boosters tell it, these structures, part of a building boom in Providence, wouldn’t have been built were Cianci still in office, because of concerns about the city’s ethical climate.
A day later, on Monday, Barbarisi offered a sharper focus on the question of how Cianci’s return — and his expected place on talk-radio — will affect Cicilline. It’s no small matter since the current mayor, an underdog when he unveiled his run for City Hall in 2002, has emerged as a very likely Democratic gubernatorial candidate in 2010. As Brown’s Darrell West told the reporter, “Buddy’s return will change the public conversation about Providence. It creates another power center. Buddy’s return empowers those who are unhappy with the current direction of the city.”
As Barbarisi noted, Cicilline has repeatedly invoked the failings of “my predecessor” and “the former mayor.” “[So] there’s always the risk,” West told the ProJo reporter, “that Cianci could start hitting back.”
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