January 30, 2012

Tom Sgouros Spins for Cicilline

Patrick Laverty

In today's GoLocalProv, columnist and former consultant to David Cicilline, tries to re-paint Cicilline's time as Providence mayor as a positive for the city.

He goes over a few "Yeah, but he..." examples, like:

Why was there $22 million in the rainy day fund in 2008? Here's a hint: It wasn't because Buddy Cianci had left it there. It was because Cicilline's financial management of the city involved putting money aside for a rainy day.

And one of my old favorites, "blame Carcieri", in spite of the fact that in RI the Governor may as well submit a Hallmark birthday card as his budget for all the power he has to get it enacted:

the Council hired Gary Sasse, former Governor Carcieri's Director of Administration, for his sage fiscal advice. Sasse, of course, was part of the state administration that pulled the rug out from under Providence's finances in 2010

However, Sgouros very quickly glances over what is my biggest problem with Cicilline tenure as mayor. To me, it's trust.

I've also reviewed the controversy about whether the city had spent down its "reserves" by October 2010, when the Mayor said there was $30 million in reserve and the City Council was saying the real number was $4.6 million and the city was about to run out of cash. Lots of the stories that talk about Cicilline lying about the budget stem from this episode.

I'm not going to weigh in on this because when I read the stories I think the two sides were talking about different things. So I'll leave it alone, and only observe that "reserves" is not a synonym for "rainy day fund" and whether a city is about to suffer a cash flow crisis likely has nothing at all to do with the rainy day fund, which is a budget reserve, not a cash reserve.

Of course you're not going to weigh in on it Tom, that is the essential issue. Was Cicilline honest with people when he was asked about the fiscal health of the city?

I don't care if you're inept in managing the city. People can do things to fix that, even if it means getting you out of office. I can handle it if you've made mistakes, many can be fixed. The real problem comes up when an elected representative lies through his teeth and bends over backwards to cover it up. Cicilline repeatedly told the people of Rhode Island that Providence was in excellent fiscal health. Was that true? No.

Also remember that when Internal Auditor James Lombardi tried to get access to the records he needed, he was blocked. Lombardi's claims were just waved off as an election year hatchet job.

Sgouros goes on to say that Cicilline couldn't criticize the Speaker, because what good would that do to start a war with the man who controls the city's state funding? Ok, I'll concede that point. However, I'm no politician and never been one but the General Assembly's largest delegation is from Providence. Even the Speaker himself is FROM PROVIDENCE. So if you can't work with the Assembly to get what you need when the deck is stacked in your favor, and instead you tell people things that aren't true, then you're just not that good of a mayor and certainly do not deserve a promotion.

The current District 1 Congressman seems to fall into a pattern of struggling with the truth. During the last election, he got his wrist slapped for using the Brown University insignia on a campaign donation letter. Cicilline is a lawyer, he knows what the law is on using a copy mark like that.

Another article in GoLocalProv also describes two other incidents with the Mayor, one where he used city resources to attend a Congressional campaign function outside of Providence and,

"Cicilline received a pay raise—in violation of city ordinance—and then, “when confronted, stated he was not aware he received a raise.”
He got a raise in his pay, but didn't know it? Really?

We've been over the struggles that Congressman Cicilline has had with the truth before, and someone has even set up a whole web site to illustrate this.

I'm not sure why Tom Sgouros would feel the need to try to spin this in a positive direction for Cicilline, but if you need any more help in trying to figure out how much spin that Sgouros tries to put on people he favors, how about this line from the article as well.

All that said, David Cicilline has been more unfairly tarred than virtually any other politician I can think of, with the possible exception of Al Gore (who never said he discovered Love Canal or invented the Internet or any of the other groaners attributed to him
Really? A groaner? Not true? I guess we'll just have to ask Mr. Gore himself: (Jump to about 48 seconds for the good part)

Thanks for the reminder on that one, Tom. We won't let a silly little video of Gore saying it himself get in the way of a great spin.

Make you wonder how much else that Sgouros says is true?

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"First, a disclaimer: I offered advice and wrote policy memos on behalf of David Cicilline during his run for Congress in 2010, and was paid for that assistance, a few days a month for five months."

I'm surprised he even wrote the article, knowing that he would have to make a disclaimer like that. You don't get any more biased than having a direct political and financial relationship, which is fine, but Sgouros is at the same time claiming to be objective. I suppose he'd never consider consulting for Cicilline in future Congressional runs either...

"Central Falls is in bankruptcy, East Providence is skating on the edge, Woonsocket is now a junk bond borrower. Unlike those cities, Providence has pulled through its storm."

Yep. Nothing to worry about. Providence is absolutely fine now. The crisis is over. That's believable. Wait until the Judiciary undoes all the pension reforms and they'll file for bankruptcy so fast they won't even pass Go first.

Posted by: Dan at January 30, 2012 7:15 PM

I don't know Sgouros' creds in economics,but when he gets onto topics like immigration and voter ID he makes it apparent that he is either woefully ignorant or lying.
He's a Cicilline functionary-why pay his rant any mind?

Posted by: joe bernstein at January 30, 2012 10:47 PM

"Unlike those cities, Providence has pulled through its storm."


Not remotely, even before today's very problematic ruling in the perpetual Blue Cross case.

Posted by: Monique at January 30, 2012 11:23 PM

I was just reading a self-written bio on Tom for kicks, and the first line of it kind of sums up everything:

"Tom Sgouros began his solo performing career in 1985 as a rope-walker and silent clown."

Perhaps the clown would have benefited from remaining silent. Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.

I read a lot, often pieces from many different perspectives. I can honestly say that I have never read anything which he has authored which in any way whatsoever was objectively credible or appeared to make an honest attempt towards that goal. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, not to their own facts.

He is a propagandist in the truest and frankly, the worst usage of the term I can use. Some of the worst atrocities carried out in human history required people like him, who may not necessarily have been evil themselves, in order to cover-up, gloss-over, misinform, or otherwise try to make evil people or evil acts look "good" to the general public. Unfortunately for humanity, it often has worked, at least in the short term. Most of the historical examples of "successful" propaganda usage are well known, so I won't belabor the point.

It should be noted that besides his political "work", Tom has written and performed in (usually one man) plays. Some of his work includes:

"Liar: An Evening of True Stories, a suite of three stories concerning exploding pickup trucks, historical museums, and the lies we tell ... and Millennium, a love story about delusions through the ages."

"Tom is the recipient (2001) of an Independent Scholars grant from the Rhode Island Committee on the Humanities for research into the misuse of scientific metaphor, and the recipient of a New Works Grant from the Rhode Island Foundation (2002) for a new show about misunderstanding, entitled "Sing Me A Song."

So, let's see, he received public and charitable funds to perform stories about "the lies we tell," "delusions," "misusing metaphors," as well as "misunderstanding." Seems to me he's learned to do all of the above quite well.

Let's just be blunt... what he does is write fiction. In that sense, he does it well, and should confine himself towards that segment of writing. It would just be better for all concerned if he or others would use "truth in labeling," and call it fiction, instead of pretending any of it had any credibility or a basis in reality to begin with.

Posted by: Will at January 31, 2012 2:29 AM

Sgouros is a Rasputin-like character who pops up from time to time in progressive Rhode Island politics with his peculiar economic brand of mysticism. He has become a master storyteller in explaining away inconvient numbers and records, alternating as a hired gun and useful idiot for the true powers like Cicillini. People like him are dangerous because they can justify the worst abuses of power and negligence through their numbers shell game and showmanship, exploiting those who do not have the time, attention span, intelligence, or resources to do their own statistical and historical research. By the time you find the weak link to topple his analytical house of cards, it's already yesterday's news and he has already built another one and selling it to politicians or a media hungry for politico-economic analysis.

Posted by: Dan at January 31, 2012 8:58 AM

Let's ask the people at GoLocalProv and The Lively Experiment why they continue to showcase this fraud.
Of course The Lively Experiment isn't exactly a brain trust what with people like Maureen Moakley(Polly wanna cracker?)and Rob Horowitz(always back a liberal loser)quacking away.
Here's an idea-if you receive a pension from RI or a municipality therein and move out of state you still can be taxed on it as income by RI.None of your other income would be affected.
It could be done retroactively.
It might save pensions and generate some serious revenue.Just spitballing,but I haven't heard a hell of a lot of practical solutions so far.

Posted by: joe bernstein at January 31, 2012 10:27 AM
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