Rhode Island Turtleboy’s Tribute to Buddy Cianci

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As a Rhode Islander I’m basically required by law to have an opinion on Buddy Cianci. To say his legacy is complicated is putting it mildly, but no one can deny that he was the state’s most dynamic political figure of the last 40 years. There are plenty of articles out there from people that knew him that get into what he was like as a person. I’ve got no in depth musings or insight into his personality, just a healthy respect for how different things could be if not for him.

First, there’s a lot not to like about the guy. His first stint as mayor of Providence ended in the 80’s after he burned a romantic rival with a cigarette and beat him with a fire place log while two of his goons held the guy down. He was known to be vindictive and petty and to make political decisions based on favors and grudges. He never seemed to have any shame or regret for the corruption scandal that sent him to prison in 2002 and the embarrassment that caused the city and state. Many didn’t care for the fact that he had a talk radio show almost from the moment he got out of prison, or that he had the audacity to run for mayor again in 2014, when he managed to get 45 percent of the vote.


But like him or not, there’s no denying the positive impact he had on Providence. Without him, there is no Providence Place Mall, no Waterplace Park, no Providence Bruins, no Waterfire, no booming restaurant scene, no luxury hotels, and likely no fancy condos that give the downtown the at least illusion of being lived in. Downtown Providence in the 70’s and 80’s was a vast wasteland of railroad tracks, parking lots, empty buildings, and a garbage filled river. He saw Providence’s potential, and took pride in the appearance of the city. His methods were questionable, but the results speak for themselves.

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You also couldn’t help but respect how remarkably non-partisan he was in his dealings as mayor. He shunned the “D” label during his first term despite that being the surest path to victory for any office in the state. He ran and governed as a true independent, and made the effort to get to know and earn the respect of all those he worked with regardless of their political leanings. He sure as shit wouldn’t have sat by while groups like Mosaic played on white guilt to bilk taxpayers and steal from the city. If Buddy were in charge of Worcester today, it wouldn’t have taken a Turtleboy investigation to shut nonsense like that down.


There’s also no denying the love he had for the city and its people. Providence certainly has a long way to go to truly be a place where businesses and people with money want to be. Yes, its nice to come downtown or to Federal Hill for dinner, but it would also be nice to be able to walk more than a block down Westminster street in the middle of the workday without being asked for money multiple times. It would be nice to walk around the east side without stepping on the smashed Hennessey and Corona bottles that litter the sidewalk, and it would be nice to park your car on a side street off Broadway or Atwells Ave without feeling like you’re about to be mugged or murdered. It would also be nice if the prime real estate that was freed up by the relocation of I-195 over 5 years ago wasn’t still sitting there empty, and if the state’s largest building wasn’t sitting there dark and abandoned as a monument to the failure of state government. It would be nice if a group of tourists could step off a bus in Kennedy Plaza without feeling like they need to immediately get inside to preserve their safety.

But despite all that, because of Buddy, much of Providence has the look and feel of a city headed in the right direction, even if there’s still a long way to go. With Mayor Elorza’s obsessive focus on eliminating the last of the free street parking and extending parking meter times to from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. or midnight, and finding other ways to nickel and dime people who want to spend money in and enjoy the city, creative leadership like Buddy’s is sorely missed.

Despite his questionable character, his love for his city and belief in its potential always shined through, and it would be a far worse place today if not for him. His legacy will always be tarnished by his criminal activity, and rightfully so, but you can’t help but respect what he managed to get done. RIP Buddy.


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7 Comment(s)
  • X
    March 23, 2017 at 3:15 pm

    Well Providence is turning right back to the shithole it was known to be mainly due to the SJWS and so called artists who pollute the area. Buddy Cianci wasn’t that great of guy anyway.

    • XYZAffair
      March 24, 2017 at 11:37 am

      An overrated for a small city that’s a wannabe Boston. Should’ve done article on Menino instead.

  • Reddog
    February 4, 2016 at 10:23 pm

    I hear the building codes are weak in providence. Apparently you can put a car port up wherever you want,even in the nice neighborhoods.

  • Nanny
    February 4, 2016 at 7:43 pm

    Nice reporting RITB

  • Devils Mouthpiece
    February 4, 2016 at 1:47 pm

    As someone that spends a lot of time in RI and will eventually move to south county and closer to my beloved fishing grounds. This was well written. Nice job RI TB!

    I grew up in a suburb of Boston and we often went over the boarder due to the fact the drinking age in RI was lower than MA. (yeah, I’m dating myself here) Providence was a total shit hole and as you point out, come a long way since. While Shrewsbury St has some fantastic restaurants, if your in for a change of scenery Federal Hill also has some excellent establishments as well. It beats driving to Boston too. Watefire is cool and the PPAC has some great music venues to take in.

  • Maggie the Cat
    February 4, 2016 at 11:38 am

    I wonder what Buddy Cianci would say about Brown University’s “Indigenous Peoples’ Day”. After all, RI is heavily Italian and the Italians consider Columbus a hero.

    • Mario Mario
      February 4, 2016 at 1:21 pm

      Jesus, the Holy Father, and good ol’ Chris Columbus.

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