And it’s not just another meaningless Top Ten list. This is a piece about us — “Why Providence is the Country’s Best Small City.” This feels good coming as it does hard on the heels of the Gallup poll in which we won the self-loathing sweepstakes. So why the disconnect?
Architectural Digest cites our “amazing architecture, great food, wall-to-wall culture.” The author enumerates many of our faves — the Dean, Birch, North, the Athenaeum, and even the Edna Lawrence Nature Lab (pictured here). We should be proud.
Perhaps the Gallup folks strolled through just as we were enduring the Gordon Fox raids — events covered by The New York Times as well as the network evening news reports. “Well, he’s still innocent till proven guilty” said absolutely nobody. Rather, corruption-weary Rhode Islanders everywhere sighed “Oh come on, not again.”
All the great restaurants in the world can not help us if we keep honoring corrupt politicians as lovable rogues who get things done — corrupt politicians like former Mayor Buddy Cianci, a convicted felon who spent over four years in a federal prison. Unbelievably, there is an effort afoot to raise money for a portrait of Cianci to be hung in City Hall, as a “gift to Providence.” No thank you. The editorial board of the Providence Journal had this to say in “Portrait of a Criminal.”
A man who has conducted himself at times as a thug and a bully, he has never fully apologized to the public for his criminal conduct or his role in driving Providence toward bankruptcy, and has never sought to make amends for the industrial-strength corruption that characterized his administrations. Instead, he has counted on the foolish propensity of some Rhode Islanders to overlook unethical behavior in public office, and has used a soapbox granted him by various media outlets to preposterously puff himself up and savage others who have dared cross him.
And it was only last month that Jon Stewart referenced Cianci’s hitting someone over the head with a fireplace log. When Daily Show writers deem a 30-year-old scandal a legitimate topical reference, it is never going to go away. Think of how it would look to the rest of the country if the people of Providence were seen hanging a shiny new portrait of Cianci in the very building he ran as a “criminal enterprise.”