Arthur Christopher Schaper
When I had reported on former mayor and two-time felon Vincent “Buddy” Cianci’s entrance into the Providence mayor’s race, I wondered if Bishop Thomas Tobin would conduct an exorcism on the city’s residents, or Dr. Dan Harrop would order a psychiatric hold on the voters. Now, following the revelation that Dr. Dan donated $1,000 to Democrat Jorge Elorza’s campaign, I think we better get the holy water, or the aqua vitae. Stat!
Interestingly enough, only a month ago I had interviewed Dr. Dan on the phone, and he was optimistic about his chances, even though he was polling only 6%: “Hey, that’s two points about above Republican registration in Providence,” he retorted. In his opinion, the Republican label isn’t toxic, since there are plenty of Republicans out there (really?), but that the Democratic label has its advantages. I think I want a second opinion.
On why Providentials might reelect the notorious Buddy (a better name to run on), Harrop answered, “The city of Providence is suffering from battered wife syndrome. They think things will get worse with someone else.” In other words, the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know. A Harrop administration capitalizing on the failures of Democratic policies and Cianci’s prior bona fides would have been better. The demons of debt and dysfunction would have fled. Now, voters will never know.
Even Republican US Senate candidate Mark Zaccaria told me that Harrop might actually win the mayoralty, anyway, sine all he needs was one third of the votes cast, plus one. Does the doctor doubt his ability? Why throw good money after bad and help out another candidate? Now, I’m not sure who I want to see win. And whoever does win (Cianci, most likely), residents will have either corruption or incompetence as the new administrative mainstay.
Then again, would a Cianci administration be so bad? Regarding the pensions, certainly, at least in Dr. Dan’s estimation. “They are unjust pensions. He [Cianci] gave all the workers a 6% COLA.” The usual cost of living increase would be half of that. Explaining to me the outrageously generous pension formulas promulgated under the Cianci, the Providence fire chief retired with $100,000. He now takes in more than he had earned while working. Not only that, but the pension stays with the spouse after the fire chief dies. Longest case scenario? The fire chief divorces one wife, marries an eighteen-year old, he dies, and she gets the pension for the rest of her life.
No wonder Providence is going bankrupt. If he did not win in November, Harrop predicted that the city would go bankrupt, since the pensions are only 30% funded. Putting the city into receivership will allow elected officials to renegotiate the pensions, Harrop told me, as he has argued on Rhode Island news programs for months.
What would voters expect from an Elorza or Cianci administration, then?
Harrop’s take on his opponents for Providence mayor was interesting as well as funny. To the Brown graduate, small businesses are wondering what kind of business climate they could face if either Buddy or Elorza wins. With Cianci, business owners will have to slip $1,000 under the door, but at least they’ll get their paperwork processed. If Elorza wins, businesses submit their paperwork, seek their permits, but in six months, they will inquire on the status of their licenses applications, and Providence bureaucrats will shrug their shoulders. Harrop slid $1,000 under the door for Elorza. If the doctor got elected, would voters get the best or the worst of the other two candidates?
In addition to his thoughts on the Providence race, I asked him about GOP setbacks in Rhode Island, and what could be done about it. “We are not ready for Hillary”, pointed out. He decried the lack of ward chiefs in Providence. “At least 50% of them should be Hispanic.” Pointing out the lack of outreach to Hispanics, Harrop argued that the Republican Party needs to work on making its case to the immigrant vote, which is huge in Providence, but as of yet has failed to do so.
Then there was the lack of a ground-up game:
They try to go for the quick fix, instead of building town and precinct committees. We don’t have a farm team to bring along slowly but surely. It’s going to take a long time.
Then Dr. Dan added:
We need to get a team mentality. Even if we win only one out of every five [elections].
After Harrop’s donation to Democrat Elorza, perhaps the doctor should follow his own advice before counseling others. Even if Elorza wins, he faces the same debilitating prospects of a city losing revenue, cutting basic services, plus the wealth-creating tax base fleeing the city (and the state). The same Democratic prescription: tax, spend, blame Republicans, run from responsibility, will not delay the inevitable.
Not only do Ocean State residents have a Rhode Island election for the governor’s race, but a three-ring circus has opened wide in Providence, too. Something wicked this way comes.
Bishop Tobin: pray to Providence for Providence’s sake.
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.