Metro

Elorza, Harrop target Cianci’s record

At debate, mayoral candidates discuss economy, corruption, pension system

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, October 16, 2014

Comments on Buddy Cianci’s criminal history punctuated Wednesday’s mayoral debate, showing the intensifying race as Nov. 4 draws near.

“The next mayor of Providence faces daunting challenges,” said James Morone, director of the Taubman Center and professor of political science and urban studies, as he introduced the three mayoral candidates — Independent Vincent “Buddy” Cianci, Democrat Jorge Elorza and Republican Daniel Harrop ’76 MD’79 — at Wednesday evening’s debate in a full Salomon 101. With the Nov. 4 elections drawing near, one of these men will soon face the trials that Morone discussed, a challenge each says he is ready to face.

Cianci emphasized his commitment to improving Providence’s quality of life and general “self-esteem,” while Elorza — playing off Cianci’s legacy of corruption — stressed his dedication to bringing integrity to the statehouse through an honest and efficient administration. Harrop focused on his ability to achieve financial stability by reducing government oversight and improving bureaucratic efficiency, among other strategies.

Throughout the debate, Cianci’s criminal record, which has drawn the attention of national media, was the focus of personal attacks from both Harrop and Elorza. Cianci has served as mayor of Providence twice before, both times being forced out of office due to criminal charges.

He first occupied office from 1975 to 1984, before pleading guilty to assault charges. He served again as mayor from 1991 to 2002, when he was found guilty of racketeering and sentenced to five years in federal prison.

“The next thing you guys are going to do here is accuse me of the Lindhberg kidnapping,” Cianci declared toward the end of the debate, which had a strict question-and-answer format that prevented him from responding to many of his opponents’ charges. “I’ve paid the price. … I’ve turned my life around,” Cianci said, adding, “I’ve been (to prison) before — I ain’t going back.”

But Cianci’s insistence that he has made changes was challenged early in the debate, when he was asked to explain the $18,000 his campaign has accepted in donations from city employees, despite declaring in September that he had not “taken a dime from any city worker.”

“I misspoke,” Cianci said, adding that if elected, his administration would not be racked by corruption and scandal. Throughout the debate, Cianci emphasized that the city has gone through a “decade of decline” and insisted he was uniquely qualified to move the city forward.

Of the three candidates, Cianci is the only one with a record that has hindered his campaign. When questioned about a minor case of perjury involving a tenant from more than 20 years ago, Harrop said that all he truly learned from the incident was to “never try to evict a Harvard law student,” eliciting laughter from the engaged crowd.

Regarding the city’s universities and hospitals and their tax-exempt status, all three candidates agreed that these institutions are critical for the city’s current stability and future success. “Our universities and our hospitals are some of our greatest resources,” Elorza said, adding that his administration would prioritize integrating college students into the local community.

“We need to treat the universities as partners, not piggybanks,” Harrop said. Cianci articulated similar views on the importance of universities and hospitals to the city’s well-being.

On the topic of pensions, both Harrop and Elorza heavily criticized Cianci, who they accused of being responsible for the city’s dysfunctional pension system. “We’re giving away these pensions” while schools are in disrepair and the city’s infrastructure is not cared for, Harrop said.

But Elorza and Cianci aligned in fierce disagreement against Harrop regarding the city’s financial future.

“Providence is insolvent,” Harrop said, adding, “We can begin to stabilize our state’s finances through bankruptcy.” In contrast, Cianci argued that “the city does not have to go into bankruptcy.” Elorza agreed, noting that bankruptcy is “too uncertain a process” and would likely lead to tax increases.

When asked to specify an issue on which his policy differed significantly from Cianci’s, Elorza cited his vision for the city’s port and deep-water channels, which he said could be used advantageously to create 1,500 local, middle-class jobs, while simultaneously generating economic activity for the city as a whole.

In his closing statement, Harrop emphasized the importance of having elected officials — especially mayors — lead by example, passively suggesting that Cianci was unqualified for the job given his marred record. Public corruption in any government institution fosters inefficiency and hinders business investment, as many companies are wary of unstable political environments, Harrop said, adding a message of caution: “Vote carefully in three weeks.”

According to a WPRI poll from late September, Cianci held a six-point lead over Elorza, with the two candidates receiving 38 percent and 32 percent of support respectively. About 6 percent said they would vote for Harrop, and about 21 percent were undecided.

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  • Brown ’15

    This article is incredibly poorly researched. There are huge glaring inaccuracies that suggest to me that neither the author nor the editors (or even the damn copy editors!) took the effort to look into the mayoral campaign controversies of the past six months.

    I am often deeply ashamed that the BDH is our school’s largest print publication because the editing, journalism, and ethical standards are so horrific.

    • Kevin Carty

      Let’s keep in mind that the BDH is a daily newspaper run by college students at a relatively small school without a journalism program or school. The titans of college journalism who have daily distribution come from much, much bigger schools (so they have a bigger talent pool) often with journalism schools. I always expect the BDH to be better, but there are structural reasons that they’re not as good as we always want them to be.

    • Browner ’15

      What exactly is wrong in the article? I consider myself a fairly well-informed voter and can’t spot any inaccuracies. Is it possible for you to point out any actual errors without just using the BDH as a strawman?