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Cotuit

The real flowering of Providence

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Cotuit    0

Edward Achorn: The real flowering of Providence

Tuesday, March 1, 2005

ONE WOULD PREFER never mentioning Buddy Cianci again. Unfortunately, there are still pockets of people who persist in believing that the former mayor -- currently residing in federal prison at Fort Dix, N.J., for racketeering-conspiracy -- was responsible for the Providence renaissance.

I've even heard people look at the renaissance and say, "Hey, corruption works!"

Such an analysis could not be more wrong. And Rhode Island will be hurt to the extent that its citizens persist in believing it.

The sad truth is, Providence struggled back under Mayor Cianci in spite of him, not because of him. It is true that the ex-mayor was uncommonly skilled at attracting attention, and even seemed to love his city in some ways. But his corrupt administration and his egocentric manipulations hurt Providence far more than they helped.

Just look at the current flowering of the capital city. In case you haven't noticed, amazing things are happening in Providence, now that the disgraced mayor has been locked away.

A private developer, The Procaccianti Group, will buy the Westin Hotel, and plans to add a 200-room tower to it -- a deal that the Rhode Island Convention Center Authority approved yesterday. It is outrageous, of course, that state bureaucrats failed to go after all of the millions of dollars in loans unpaid by The Procaccianti Group and related companies in the 1990s credit-union crisis. But the taxpayers should still fare well, since the new tower -- built without tax breaks -- will generate revenue for the state-run Convention Center and draw business downtown.

And that may be just the start. The developer also has on the table plans to create a "power block" stretching from the Westin to the Holiday Inn, which it also owns. The Procaccianti Group wants to turn the latter hotel into a high-end Hilton, and help construct a 27-story condo tower nearby. Restaurants and shops are also part of the plan.

Add that to the thriving Providence Place mall, ongoing construction of the GTECH headquarters, transformation of the Masonic Temple into a luxury hotel, the rehabilitation of beautiful Downcity buildings, including the Cosmopolitan condos and the Hotel Providence, and the newly announced 32-story condo tower to go up in the Financial District. Developers are now willing to do business in Providence -- with or without special handouts from the taxpayers.

If these plans go through, there will be perhaps more than a $1 billion in new taxable property for Providence, a city that has desperately needed an influx of taxpayers and the business activity they generate.

Mayor David Cicilline deserves great credit for presenting a new face to the business world -- one of openness, and transparency. Rather than attempt to jerk around businesses for his own benefit, he has pursued them in the city's interest.

He has been a far from perfect mayor, failing to make a dent in dramatically escalating property taxes and the serious budgetary threats Providence faces -- a failure of nerve symbolized by his new contracts that give extraordinary full-time benefits to part-time crossing guards. But he has undoubtedly fueled development by sending the crucial message that the City of Providence is now basically an honest broker.

But isn't all of today's growth predicated on the accomplishments of the Cianci administration: the Providence Place mall, the Convention Center, the moving of the rivers? Those were, undoubtedly, building blocks that helped make Providence seem a livelier, more attractive, more livable city.

The problem is, they weren't Cianci's accomplishments. They were projects of the federal and state governments and of business that had little to do with him, though he always rushed to grab credit as soon as others came up with the money and did the hard work of planning and building.

The Cianci legacy was something different: in boom years, a dampening of development in the biggest city between Boston and New York, a capital city loaded with outstanding institutions and charm, at the head of a magnificent bay. Now that his fog has blown away, Providence's virtues are more easily seen.

It is important to remember the real Cianci legacy: a police department marred by politics and cheating (now, thanks to Cicilline-appointed Chief Dean Esserman, it is far more professional and responsive to the public); ever-higher taxes; disappearing private-sector jobs; poor schools; and rank injustice.

During his first administration, 30 people were indicted, 21 were convicted and 16 went to prison. In his 21 years in office, three of his right-hand men were indicted for corruption, and two were convicted.

He will return one day, to charm the populace all over again, no doubt with a radio show. The people who like that kind of thing will wish they could vote for him again.

But if there is one thing citizens should learn -- a lesson taught by the State House, no less than City Hall -- it is that an open government and restraints on power ultimately produce a better society than the longstanding Rhode Island model, in which self-serving politicians dispense largess to favored clients like feudal lords.

As Buddy Cianci proved again and again: Corruption doesn't work (for the rest of us).

From The Providence Journal

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KRC    0

Hi there. I've been reading this page for quite a while now, but have never responded. However, as a nine year resident transplant originally from New Jersey, it's nice to finally see someone write something open and honest about Cianci. Finally talking about this huge white elephant pushed me to respond.

For some strange reason, Rhode Islanders in general have given him way too much credit for Providence's turnaround. Okay. he DID keep public morale high, which is an important job in any project. He does deserve a lot of credit for helping change the natives perspective of Providence. He believed Providence could be a world class city. As we are seeing now; some things starting to happen here do point in that direction. However, we clearly see now that he was holding a lot of development back. Actually, if you look at what has been proposed in Providence for the next decade; this next wave of development could alter the definition by which current residents themselves define our city. People didn't just decide coincidentally at the same time to invest in Providence. Clearly, many of these people were waiting on the side lines for years before finally testing the waters. These companies don't invest money on a whim. They study a place for years. Funny how just a couple of years after his falling from grace all this fresh new money starts to appear simultaneously. (And I'm talking from prior to Gtech to possible new Citizens investment in the future since this entire span is a blink of an eye in the life of city.)

No. I don't think coincidence could produce the current outlook. One only needs to look at other cities our size (or twice our size for that matter) and see that what's happening here is the beginings of a wave of transformation in Providence. Do you really think it just happened all of a sudden?

It could be that my theory is completely off base and I'm willing to accept that some will disagree with me. However, when I look at the actually dollar amounts invested, projects that have begun or are in various planning stages and proposals for future development that seem to abound lately and couple with timing, I wonder.

Edward Achorn: The real flowering of Providence

Tuesday, March 1, 2005

ONE WOULD PREFER never mentioning Buddy Cianci again. Unfortunately, there are still pockets of people who persist in believing that the former mayor -- currently residing in federal prison at Fort Dix, N.J., for racketeering-conspiracy -- was responsible for the Providence renaissance.

I've even heard people look at the renaissance and say, "Hey, corruption works!"

Such an analysis could not be more wrong. And Rhode Island will be hurt to the extent that its citizens persist in believing it.

The sad truth is, Providence struggled back under Mayor Cianci in spite of him, not because of him. It is true that the ex-mayor was uncommonly skilled at attracting attention, and even seemed to love his city in some ways. But his corrupt administration and his egocentric manipulations hurt Providence far more than they helped.

Just look at the current flowering of the capital city. In case you haven't noticed, amazing things are happening in Providence, now that the disgraced mayor has been locked away.

A private developer, The Procaccianti Group, will buy the Westin Hotel, and plans to add a 200-room tower to it -- a deal that the Rhode Island Convention Center Authority approved yesterday. It is outrageous, of course, that state bureaucrats failed to go after all of the millions of dollars in loans unpaid by The Procaccianti Group and related companies in the 1990s credit-union crisis. But the taxpayers should still fare well, since the new tower -- built without tax breaks -- will generate revenue for the state-run Convention Center and draw business downtown.

And that may be just the start. The developer also has on the table plans to create a "power block" stretching from the Westin to the Holiday Inn, which it also owns. The Procaccianti Group wants to turn the latter hotel into a high-end Hilton, and help construct a 27-story condo tower nearby. Restaurants and shops are also part of the plan.

Add that to the thriving Providence Place mall, ongoing construction of the GTECH headquarters, transformation of the Masonic Temple into a luxury hotel, the rehabilitation of beautiful Downcity buildings, including the Cosmopolitan condos and the Hotel Providence, and the newly announced 32-story condo tower to go up in the Financial District. Developers are now willing to do business in Providence -- with or without special handouts from the taxpayers.

If these plans go through, there will be perhaps more than a $1 billion in new taxable property for Providence, a city that has desperately needed an influx of taxpayers and the business activity they generate.

Mayor David Cicilline deserves great credit for presenting a new face to the business world -- one of openness, and transparency. Rather than attempt to jerk around businesses for his own benefit, he has pursued them in the city's interest.

He has been a far from perfect mayor, failing to make a dent in dramatically escalating property taxes and the serious budgetary threats Providence faces -- a failure of nerve symbolized by his new contracts that give extraordinary full-time benefits to part-time crossing guards. But he has undoubtedly fueled development by sending the crucial message that the City of Providence is now basically an honest broker.

But isn't all of today's growth predicated on the accomplishments of the Cianci administration: the Providence Place mall, the Convention Center, the moving of the rivers? Those were, undoubtedly, building blocks that helped make Providence seem a livelier, more attractive, more livable city.

The problem is, they weren't Cianci's accomplishments. They were projects of the federal and state governments and of business that had little to do with him, though he always rushed to grab credit as soon as others came up with the money and did the hard work of planning and building.

The Cianci legacy was something different: in boom years, a dampening of development in the biggest city between Boston and New York, a capital city loaded with outstanding institutions and charm, at the head of a magnificent bay. Now that his fog has blown away, Providence's virtues are more easily seen.

It is important to remember the real Cianci legacy: a police department marred by politics and cheating (now, thanks to Cicilline-appointed Chief Dean Esserman, it is far more professional and responsive to the public); ever-higher taxes; disappearing private-sector jobs; poor schools; and rank injustice.

During his first administration, 30 people were indicted, 21 were convicted and 16 went to prison. In his 21 years in office, three of his right-hand men were indicted for corruption, and two were convicted.

He will return one day, to charm the populace all over again, no doubt with a radio show. The people who like that kind of thing will wish they could vote for him again.

But if there is one thing citizens should learn -- a lesson taught by the State House, no less than City Hall -- it is that an open government and restraints on power ultimately produce a better society than the longstanding Rhode Island model, in which self-serving politicians dispense largess to favored clients like feudal lords.

As Buddy Cianci proved again and again: Corruption doesn't work (for the rest of us).

From The Providence Journal

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

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billypc99    0

I am one of those who is/was guilty of giving Cianci too much credit. Now that several business leaders are talking, there is no doubt he impeded the sucess of the city. I hope more would step up to the plate and speak out like Chase PUBILICLY.

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Cotuit    0

Welcome KRC, glad we prompted you to jump in.

Have you read "The Prince of Providence"? Very interesting read to say the least.

Another good book that talks about the renaissance and Cianci's real part in it is "Providence, the Renaissance City" by Francis J. Leazes, Jr. and Mark T. Motte.

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raypacia    0

I am one of those who is/was guilty of giving Cianci too much credit.  Now that several business leaders are talking, there is no doubt he impeded the sucess of the city.  I hope more would step up to the plate and speak out like Chase PUBILICLY.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I feel the same way. When I was much younger, everyone around me revered Buddy. For the most part, they still do. It was hard for me not to love the guy. Seeing the picture of Providence behind-the-scenes in the 90s that's coming out now is a bit unnerving, and a growing-up experience, in a way.

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Cotuit    0

When I was much younger, everyone around me revered Buddy.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

That's 'cos they didn't want to end up at the bottom of the bay. :ph34r:

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Garris    0

I'm afraid he's going to be reelected if he gets out... Which happens first? The next Mayor's race, or Buddy's release?

Cicilline, who I think is doing a great job, is making some stupid moves with the East Side Neighborhood Associations, who should be natural supporters of his platforms. Leaders of the various groups think he isn't very open to listening to them and he's ticking them off about such minor issues like overnight street parking and then asking for support on bigger issues like the future of Thayer St and not getting a warm reception from the grass roots. He needs to play better politics with the East Side.

- Garris

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Cotuit    0

I'm afraid he's going to be reelected if he gets out...  Which happens first?  The next Mayor's race, or Buddy's release? 

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I think his conviction means he can't run again. If he even thought of running, I'd move back to Boston so fast your head would spin.

I think Cicilline does a good job getting things done, but he's not a good PR man, he doesn't like kissing babies. He's gotta work on that.

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KRC    0

Welcome KRC, glad we prompted you to jump in.

Have you read "The Prince of Providence"? Very interesting read to say the least.

Another good book that talks about the renaissance and Cianci's real part in it is "Providence, the Renaissance City" by Francis J. Leazes, Jr. and Mark T. Motte.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Shamefully, I must say that I have not read either book and I am aware of both of them. My apologies.

Over the past few months, my boyfriend and I have discussed the possibility of purchasing a home somewhere downcity. I love the neighborhood and think it's got the greatest potential...if only for me. However, you do pick the neighborhood that best suits you, right? That's how I found this website. It was something I was looking for since I am considering the possibility of becoming a Providence property owner. Reading the above didn't appeal to me until now. I will try to find them and give them a read.

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Cotuit    0

Over the past few months, my boyfriend and I have discussed the possibility of purchasing a home somewhere downcity.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Do you live in Providence now? My boyfriend and I are in the early stages of thinking about buying a house, we're leaning towards a triple decker I think.

"The Prince of Providence" is going to be made into a movie, and what a great movie it'll be. "Providence, the Renaissance City" is a bit dry, lots of who said what to who and what agency had to do what to have something happen... I haven't read the whole thing, but skimmed it all. Lots of great graphics and before and after photos.

I got "Providence, the Renaissance City" at the Brown Bookstore.

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Garris    0

I think his conviction means he can't run again. If he even thought of running, I'd move back to Boston so fast your head would spin.

Boy, I hope he can't. It shows how important politics are. If he did win, I would seriously, as a homeowner/condoowner here now, think twice about staying here. I can't see how he could be good for the long-term future of the city. Small cities like Providence, if they're going to thrive, need some political stability.

Over the past few months, my boyfriend and I have discussed the possibility of purchasing a home somewhere downcity.

Definitely take a look at the "Moving to Providence" thread. Lots of discussion of these issues there, including the fact that, except for $600,000+ luxury condos, there isn't a lot to buy in downcity, which is mostly rentals otherwise, at least for now.

- Garris

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Wasn't Buddy convicted in the early 80s even though he didn't do time? That didn't stop him from coming back...

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

They changed the laws after he was re-elected before. He will not be elegible to run again under the current regulations.

Liam

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Cotuit    0

They changed the laws after he was re-elected before. He will not be elegible to run again under the current regulations.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Thank you for confirming this, I can sleep better now. ;)

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Lova    0

Hello-

Cianci was a flawed man, to be sure. But he was undeniably an engine of growth for Providence. He boosted morale, talked positive, and supported projects that would not have been done without him. Would Cicilline make Waterfire happen? AS220? Give cart blanche to film and TV? Promote the restaurants and Downcity tax breaks? The man was a visionary in a way very few are. Without him Prov might remain another Worcester, as it once was.

I'd commision a bronze statue of him standing in front of his Towncar, with the cop driver. Park it downtown by the river.

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Hello-

Cianci was a flawed man, to be sure. But he was undeniably an engine of growth for Providence. He boosted morale, talked positive, and supported projects that would not have been done without him. Would Cicilline make Waterfire happen? AS220? Give cart blanche to film and TV? Promote the restaurants and Downcity tax breaks? The man was a visionary in a way very few are. Without him Prov might remain another Worcester, as it once was.

I'd commision a bronze statue of him standing in front of his Towncar, with the cop driver. Park it downtown by the river.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I love Buddy! I'm not ashamed to admit it! I like Cicilline well enough, and I think that having an openly gay mayor says good things about the city and it's attitudes, but I think Buddy was great - worts and all.

Liam

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KRC    0

Hello-

Cianci was a flawed man, to be sure. But he was undeniably an engine of growth for Providence. He boosted morale, talked positive, and supported projects that would not have been done without him. Would Cicilline make Waterfire happen? AS220? Give cart blanche to film and TV? Promote the restaurants and Downcity tax breaks? The man was a visionary in a way very few are. Without him Prov might remain another Worcester, as it once was.

I'd commision a bronze statue of him standing in front of his Towncar, with the cop driver. Park it downtown by the river.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

You can't mean that. I lived in Worcester for over 5 years. Lova, Providence is no Worcerster. Never was, never has been, never will be and was never in any danger of being like.

By the way, I am very active with WaterFire (I even helped stoke the fires during events) and I need to point out to you that Cianci had nothing whatsoever to do with WaterFire. He didn't invent it. He didn't bring it's first lighting in the 90's to First Night. He's never helped fund it and he certianly never promoted it properly. Just because the man paid for it once and then Monday morning quarterbacked it as his own doesn't mean it's so.

Please, by all mean bronze your statue. But could you keep it in your own back yard? He didn't have anything to do with the river either. We know this as a fact.

I'll give credit for the restaurants and the arts (However, I think J&W and RISD have a bit more to do with that.) and he certainly was a cheerleader. But that "engine of growth" comment...jeez, facts today make that statement very hard to swallow. Cicilline is a better mayor 20 times over. Just look around.

Please don't take this personally. I just think Cianci was a thug and a crook. He's proved it twice! How many more times does the man need to be jailed for that to finally just be the fact it is?

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Cotuit    0

Not commenting on anyone's posts, but...

People obviously have very strong feelings about Buddy, let's agree to disagree on our feelings and not let them get in the way of our discussions about the current and future direction of Providence. :thumbsup:

I think a bronze statue of the guy would be a hoot, I'd love to see what the RISD students would do to it. :lol:

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KRC    0

Not commenting on anyone's posts, but...

People obviously have very strong feelings about Buddy, let's agree to disagree on our feelings and not let them get in the way of our discussions about the current and future direction of Providence.  :thumbsup:

I think a bronze statue of the guy would be a hoot, I'd love to see what the RISD students would do to it.  :lol:

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I'm sorry. I wasn't getting heated in any way. I apologize if it came across that way.

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Cotuit    0

I'm sorry.  I wasn't getting heated in any way.  I apologize if it came across that way.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I wasn't commenting on anyone's post, just nipping any hard feelings that could develop in the bud. ;)

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Lova    0

Once upon a time, it HP Lovacraft claimed "I am Providence." Fact is, when Buddy was mayor, HE was Providence. The man was transcendentally connect to all that happened. It was impressive, entertaining, and was the basis of his conviction.

He didn't invent WaterFire, he promoted it and helped it grow. He saw how cool it was, recognized the greatness of it, made way for it. Nothing in Prov happened in spite of him. It couldn't.

Cicilline is too green to pass judgement on as mayor. I get conflicting reports. My own expereince is nill, and I spend all my time here. The man maintains no profile, so its hard to judge his efficacy. But he is at least passivley complicit to growth, and that aint bad.

Lifesize bronze. Grand gesture with cigarett in his fingers. Cop standing by the Towncar.

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eltron    0

Anyone read the article in the Projo today about tax breaks and whatnot for filming movies and TV shows in RI?

Paul Giammatti (Sideways) as Buddy in the film version of Prince of Providence?

What a perfect fit!!!

Actually might be quite an impressive movie with great acting behind the part....

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eltron    0

Ha, you mean this one?

" State secretly paid $300,000 to TV firm "

prjo

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Ha! thats the one...

Got a good laugh from me...

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Cotuit    0

See, this is ridiculous. I'm sure they didn't even think twice about this secret deal, because that is the way things are done around here. The fact is, subsidizing film crews is a great idea for drawing money into the city and state. If the Brotherhood gets picked up for a few seasons, it's going to bring a lot of money to Rhode Island. If this was all done above the boards, no one would have had an issue with it, why did they feel compelled to do it secretly? It boggles the mind.

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