Arthur Christopher Schaper
Born in Cranston, raised in Providence, and defined by the same city founded on religious liberty (then grounded by virulent Mafiosi and government corruption) ,Vincent “Buddy” Cianci is running for Prince of Providence once again. Seriously. Cianci (Not "Chance-y", but "See-antsy" or "Chan-chi" in the original Italian) is going for it, despite the past negatives (and there are many, twice before elected mayor, though he lost once, and twice was forced to step down).
Many of the locals remember the positives, however, from his past tenures as mayor, including a vibrant city where the salad was green, the meat was not, the streets were paved, and the pools weren’t, where mayors were not hiding fiscal mismanagement (unless they were profiting from it directly). One local GOP rep told me: “It would be surprising if he did NOT get elected mayor of Providence.”
Have we not heard about this guy before? Friends of mine here in California sure have. I can mention Cicilline and Gordon Fox, and get blank stares. Say “Chafee”, and people smirk. But “Buddy”, and everyone’s “Hail Fellow, Well Met!”
A radio host who hit the airwaves after a stint in federal prison (wow!), Buddy declared his intentions to run for Mayor of Providence late last summer. The announcement got everyone all excited. Looking over a clip from the Documentary “Vote For Me! Politics in America”, I understand why Providentials would want him back in office.
Raised in a large family (thirteen kids!), the son of the sons of Italian immigrants, Buddy studied government in college (no kidding!), then Buddy earned his law degree (perfect tool for fleecing the public, but legally). He also served in the army, then became an assistant prosecutor to the Rhode Island Attorney General (at least that one was awake). Buddy’s assigned unit? The Anti-Corruption Strike Force.
The irony of his assignment will strike you soon enough.
He served (himself and/or others?) as the city mayor in two prior administrations, and two times he was forced to step down following run-ins with the law.
First elected in 1974, Buddy took on unions balanced budgets. Losing an election then getting reelected, he attacked a guy with a log because of a purported affair with his wife. They divorced, but they had one daughter (who passed away in 2012, sadly), and three grandchildren.
After Buddy’s return in 1990, the Providence Renaissance flourished. So did the criminal indictments, as Buddy was taken down with a crooked, city hall coterie under “Operation Plunderdome”. Charged with twenty-seven crimes, he was convicted of one under the RICO statute. Still claiming his innocence, Buddy huffed that he went to jail because he was “the captain of the ship.”
If Buddy gets elected this November, critics wonder: will Providence need Archbishop Thomas Tobin to perform an exorcism, or call GOP candidate Dr. Dan Harrop to conduct a psychiatric examination? People have called Dr. Dan, not for a check-up, but to step down and let Buddy win city hall.
Still, Buddy’s resurgence seems like a whole heap of chutzpah, almost like a convicted bank robber returning to the bank he robbed and filing an application for the teller position.
Then again, that kind of self-styled bravado may be what Providence needs. One supporter shared on a national conservative website Townhall.com:
Compared to Rhode Island, Connecticut is steeped in unseemly legal tyranny (forced gun registration, or conscription and incarceration), and incumbent Democratic governor Dannell Malloy is losing by six points to an upstart Republican. Still, “Don’t get indicted!” is not the ideal exhortation a mayoral candidate seeks. Of course, in a state where party leaders, House Speakers, and city reps end up in jail (no surprises), knowing that the next mayor has already done his time may give voters a reason for letting Buddy spend more time in city hall, no worries.
l looked again over the neat documentary about this guy during his prior mayoral days, in tip-top shape (and with a toupee on his now monochrome Plunderdome, er. . .chrome dome). He was even tap-dancing with happy Providential crowds along the riverbanks. “He loves to press the flesh”, one supported admired.
Detractors would say he also acts on his flesh, with not so good fruit borne as a result.
This year, voters seem content to ignore the dissenters. During his recent goings about in Providence, crowds thronged Buddy like an aging rock star returning to old haunts, to see the smiles and hear the cheers of the adoring, endearing, and enduring masses. John Lennon should have run for office, if he had had half the charisma that this Buddy guy’s got.
Cianci may not be young, but he’s got the energy for it, like an old salt returning to the sea, or a retired cowboy jumping into the saddle to ride again.
Arthur Christopher Schaper is a teacher-turned-writer on topics both timeless and timely; political, cultural, and eternal. A life-long Southern California resident, Arthur currently lives in Torrance.