Only 'the squirrel' is gone

  The interview on Rhode Island Public Radio last Friday was a vivid expression of Vincent Cianci's character. It was filled with lies, half-truths,  some good quips, historical revisionism, endless evasions, arrogance and industrial-strength narcissism as he tried to monopolize all the air time by talking over and interrupting his questioners.


The interview confirmed that the man, now 73, has not changed.  The ''squirrel'' on his head is gone, but he's the same old guy.  At least in the motor-mouth department, he has the energy of   a much younger man.


He constantly implies  that he  was the sole author of the "Providence Renaissance'' while that in fact was due to a national economic revival (which lasted more on than off from 1983-2007),  changing regional demographics, a new popularity  of medium-size and large cities with the sort of cultural institutions and location that Providence has and the efforts of such leaders as John Chafee, Bruce Sundlun, Lincoln Almond , designer Bill Warner and certain  local academic and business leaders.

Their work offset some of the destruction done by the corruption of Cianci and the crooks he placed in some key positions as he kept much of the ill-informed populace amused by his wisecracks (which can be heard from any number of tough Northeast pols; I heard variants of his jokes living in Brooklyn, Philadelphia and Boston over the years).

Plenty of cities revived from the mid-80's on, some with good bad mayors, some with crooks such  as Cianci. Technology, demographics, economic and cultural cycles and other factors play huge roles in the rise/fall/rise of all cities. We  tend to lazily  give to one person the credit or blame for all change n their jurisdictions,  be it the president in national and international matters or the mayor in local ones.

The news media, and the general population, just  can't seem to get away from the cult of personality.

So here we go again in Providence.

Meanwhile,  we fear that Mr. Cianci  plans massive giveaways to public employees of the sort that he pushed before.  No wonder he got the endorsements of the police, fire and teachers unions. (Note that many of their members do not live in Providence and so won't have to pay the bill for Mr. Cianci's promises.)


Can we look forward to more such Cianci-era  concoctions  as ''cost-of-living''  adjustments for public pensioners at three times the inflation rate and more early retirements? So in the end,  the amusing Dr. Daniel Harrop, the psychiatrist who is the Republican candidate for mayor, may be proven right: The city should go into bankruptcy and start all over again, a la Detroit.


The leadership of the police union, in particular, has humiliated its membership by endorsing a man who broke laws   that they are sworn to uphold and who presided over industrial-strength corruption in his police department. Not a great way to get the respect of the public.


-- Robert Whitcomb