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Cicilline Raising Money off Providence Budget Crisis

Thursday, May 05, 2011


It became more apparent this week that a declaration of bankruptcy by the city of Providence is a distinct possibility as new tax and budget cut proposals were rolled out by the Taveras administration.

Mayor Taveras, facing a $110 million dollar budget hole, is proposing: a tax levy jump to 5.25 percent, expected to generate $40 million in new revenue; a slate of union concessions totaling $30 million combined from the ranks of police officers, firefighters and teachers whose unions have most definitely not yet signed on; teacher dismissals and the closing of five schools; and a reversal of long standing precedent in removing city hospitals and universities from their tax-exempt status, asking them to contribute 25 percent of the full tax levy assessment of their properties. Much of this proposed plan will require legislative change to achieve. Taveras has hinted that short of seeing these core and difficult proposals successfully implemented, “other options” (read: receivership) will then have to be considered.

Though the very real prospect of our state’s capital city going into bankruptcy may be viewed as a bleak option by most Providence homeowners/taxpayers, businesses, and the present administration, it seems former Mayor David Cicilline already sees a new political opportunity in the city’s fiscal crisis.

In less than a 24-hour period from the time a blistering fiscal report on the city’s disastrous finances was issued in the final weeks of April, the former Mayor and now Congressman was out with a highly consulted line of attack against Republicans in general, and seasoned government fiscal adviser Gary Sasse, in particular, in a disgraceful attempt to shift blame away from his own colossal mismanagement of the city’s finances.

Cicilline’s first line of attack was to try and blame Sasse, who spent three decades analyzing public sector spending at the non-partisan RI Public Expenditure Council, RIPEC, as a Republican “architect” of the state’s $50 million aid cut to the city when he served as Director of Revenue for the former Carcieri administration. State aid cuts, which were made to basically all communities, came about as the former Republican Governor, facing few options, grappled with the state’s own fiscal deficits.

The fact that Cicilline’s re-election campaign positioned the fiscal report, compiled by Sasse and internal auditor Matthew Clarkin, as a jumping off point for a targeted fundraising appeal to past and potential donors, takes the former Mayor’s arrogant disregard for his central role in the city’s fiscal meltdown to a new level.

Cicilline’s strategy, portraying himself as a victim of the machinations of Republicans, as he tries to link/blame the former Republican Governor’s administration and “Republicans in Congress,” who, his fundraising letter states, “caused the national debt through support for Bush tax cuts and two wars,” represents a twisted, cynical ploy to launch a new fundraising front aimed squarely at staunch Democrats.

But not only is Cicilline determined to shift blame, he appears panicked to change the conversation altogether now that a fiscal and ethical investigation of his administration’s handling of city finances is underway. The Providence City Council has forwarded the Sasse-Clarkin report to both the state Attorney General and the state Ethics Commission for review of any possible legal violations.

Councilman Miguel Luna, among the more outspoken Cicilline critics, has focused on the unaccounted for and unauthorized depletion of roughly $65 million from the city’s three main reserve funds between 2008 and 2010, as well as Cicilline apparently forwarding false finance reports to the state on the city’s true fiscal condition as recently as the final quarter of 2010.

What it really boils down to is the true architect of what very well could be the full fiscal collapse of Providence is already fundraising for his re-election on the back of the bankrupted city he left in shambles.
One can only hope that regardless of political affiliation, any Rhode Islander with a shred of compassion—or anger—over the deterioration that will surely take hold in our state’s capital city, will refuse to extend a cent of fundraising support for the shameful spin machine otherwise known as Congressman David Cicilline.

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Donna Perry is a Communications Consultant to RI Statewide Coalition www.statewidecoalition.com


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