March 4, 2011

An Audit of Popularity

Justin Katz

More news today about Providence's finances under Mayor David Cicilline:

At the time, Mayor David N. Cicilline, who was a candidate for election to Congress, vehemently denied the finding. He insisted about $30 million remained in the accounts, and charged that Lombardi was playing politics. The audit, by Braver Accountants and Advisers, of Providence, said $3.46 million was left. ...

"Because of the popularity of the previous administration, no one was willing to listen to the truth," [City Council Finance Committee Chairman John] Igliozzi declared. Cicilline and his forces "were extremely successful with their political spin machine."

Asked why the council did not do more to head off the problem, Igliozzi said part-time council members found it hard to cope with what he called deception by Cicilline and his top aides and were obliged to acquiesce to questionable labor deals and budgets despite their vocal misgivings.

Whether the accusation concerns a narrow act or a broad state of affairs, we have to acknowledge that Cicilline was only the symptom of the problem. Everybody, from the Providence Journal to politicos to voters failed the city. Too many people put something else too far above good governance — whether it's the ideology of the media, the personal greed of unions, the eagerness of social activists, or what have you. They wanted Cicilline to succeed, and so, as the article begins, nobody cared, even though "the watchdog was barking."

Everything that we're hearing, right now, is so much tail covering, all of it likely to be forgotten by the time the next election rolls around and Cicilline has to stand before the voters once again.

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Why couldn't *this* be an election year?

"we have to acknowledge that Cicilline was only the symptom of the problem"

No way. A symptom is the "effect" side of "cause and effect". Cicilline was by no means the *only* reason for the city's problems, but he was a large reason for it. It's like if I have a water leak in my basement and I never do anything to stop it and then grow mold. I didn't directly cause the mold, but it sure was my fault that I didn't stop the water in the first place and I am responsible for the mess. Cicilline may have taken over a degree of problem from Cianci/Lombardi, but he not only did nothing to reverse it, he seemed to have accelerate the problems going forward.

And is there anything more self-serving an embarrassing than Alisha Pina's article today about her frustration in trying to get answers from Cicilline. Too little too late Alisha. Where you been? This is what you should have been doing for the last 5-6 years. Get into City Hall, demand the documentation, follow the numbers and expose him. Someone should be doing the exact same thing to Taveras right now. If he's completely transparent and honest, it's an easy job. The ProJo has definitely embarrassed itself in this lack of oversight, and add on to that the fact that they endorsed Cicilline and are now trying to get the info, just wreaks of embarrassment and junior varsity.

Posted by: Patrick at March 4, 2011 10:07 AM

Make no mistake about it, the cowards at the Providence Journal had a hand in this mess. A total and absolute dereliction of duty. They wanted Chafee, Cicciline and they candy coated everything they could for them.
Contrast the "reporting" of Gregg, Mulligan, and formerly McKay, on Carcieri and Laffey and it is easy to see that these cowards were intent on providing smooth sailing for their chosen ones. They came up with plenty of tough, penetrating questions for those they didn't want to win.
It's been going on for years and there is a big reason folks - they are all in a union.

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at March 4, 2011 10:36 AM

You guys are holding the projo way too resposiblef for the pvd financial mess. As a former Bostonian, I can attest that no one up there holds the Globe or the Herald responsable for the successive mayors' financial derring dos'. Boston does have strong business organizations though which probe the city's financial and other activities, helping the city to achieve its mission.
Where are the Providence business leaders?
Bob in Portmouth

Posted by: Bob Washburn at March 4, 2011 10:44 AM

The city is finally burning to the ground after years of gross negligence. All that's left now is for the progressives to find somebody else to blame.

Posted by: Dan at March 4, 2011 10:45 AM

The Providence Firefighters tried unsuccessfully to expose Cicillini for years, but people were so certain that the greedy firefighters were wrong that nobody listened. I wrote letters to the editor, editorials, called talk shows all for nothing. That Cicillini was standing up to the greedy union pigs was all that mattered. Well, a lot more than a contract was at stake. I walked picket lines, something I absolutely hate to do, in an attempt to bring this little thief's dishonesty to light. The Projo demonized "the union" and portrayed little David standing up to Goliath. Nothing was further from the truth, that being that the mayor used his office for personal gain and had zero interest in doing what was right. As long as Tavares stays honest he can cut all he needs to, and he will have my support. One whiff of disingenuous actions though, and the battle will begin. Again.

Posted by: michael at March 4, 2011 10:59 AM

@ Micheal
I hear ya. I cant stand Cicilline. The sad thing is talk radio spends more time demonizing unions than finding out the truth.

Seems crazy that America can bail out big banks, but teachers and firefighters should be thrown to the wolves.

Posted by: Swazool at March 4, 2011 11:09 AM

First off, I think this is the actually story here (vs. previous posts about using rainy day funds, etc. which should be no surprise given the depth of the Bush recession).

As for this though?

"All that's left now is for the progressives to find somebody else to blame."

As much as some would like it to be soley about a single politician, no serious analysis of the current financial troubles can be made without considering the overall economy (I lay blame here on both Bush and Clinton for the housing and financial busts and on the Obama administration for failing to bailout actual workers and homeowners in lieu of Wall Street) and considering the effects of Carcieri tax cuts for the wealthiest made while cutting funds for cities and towns, an impact sharply felt in a city like Providence that subsidizes much of the economic engine for the state. I think that we all can agree that this type of economic downturn is particularly sharply felt in a state that relies heavily on property taxes to fund government programs.

Posted by: Russ at March 4, 2011 12:37 PM

And yet libertarian New Hampshire is doing fine, Russ. A state which has no sales or income tax and relies almost exclusively upon property tax.

Posted by: Dan at March 4, 2011 1:52 PM

It must be so nice to be you Russ. While there are many contributing factors, the fact that he allowed his Departments to go over budget during a financial crisis proves that he was a lousy manager. That being said, people I talk to have more of a problem with the outright lie than the actual deficit. Is there anyone else you'd like to blame?

Posted by: Max Diesel at March 4, 2011 1:59 PM

But will the voters of the 1st District hold Rep. Cicilline accountable?

Will he be thrown out of office?

When a politician knows that he can get away with this type of stuff and not face any consequence at the ballot box.....well, who is to blame then?

Posted by: brassband at March 4, 2011 3:05 PM

You tell me who the f'n liar is:

From the ProJo October 26, 2010: "PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Calling it the "worst kind of politics," Mayor David N. Cicilline rebutted a report issued late Thursday by the city Internal Auditor that says the city has spent down its surplus to about $4.6 million and failed to make monthly payments into the pension system totaling about $24.7 million.

"This report was given to talk radio and the media and never even passed on to the City Council," Cicilline said Friday morning. "It's absolutely false. The city has made its payments according to the traditional schedule that it uses. The reserves are well above what they are supposed to be."

He said city Internal Auditor James Lombardi III and City Councilman John J. Igliozzi, the council's Finance Committee chairman, have been consistent critics of his administration's finance team and said that the report was a disservice to the city workers that make sure that the city is on good financial standing.

"This is coming the week before an election. This is the worst kind of politics."

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at March 5, 2011 12:48 PM
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