We’re not going to sensationalize the importance of this election. No matter what happens Rhode Island House Leadership will remain firmly entrenched in power; the Providence City Council will remain entirely Democratic, whatever that means in practice; and the technocratic institutions of the municipal government will keep a more or less steady course. But Buddy Cianci and Jorge Elorza aren’t the same person, so please vote.
It’s only reasonable that this election has been obsessed with Cianci’s criminal record and spotty associations. The next mayor of Providence is going to be dealing with a lot of contracts—the I-195 land is soon to be developed, new hotels have been proposed for downtown, waterfront development is on the table, the city is moving forward with multiple transportation projects simultaneously—so a lot of money will be moving around.
Elorza will probably approach all of this like the proceduralist that he is; the city will process bids and award contracts to corporations based on an economic calculus that doesn’t concern itself with how workers are being treated, how the environment is being protected, or how a McDonald’s drive-thru in Olneyville serves or disserves the community around it. Allowing a city to be organized by the interests of capital creates a city not worth living in.
We are also convinced that what is illegal is not necessarily wrong, insofar as the law doesn’t simply define what is right, so we understand where some members of the left, especially working-class groups, are coming from when they say that the sort of corruption represented by Cianci isn’t really worse than many legal maneuvers performed by other politicians on behalf of moneyed interests. Cianci will listen to anyone who can potentially help him politically, and that means he’s susceptible to pressure from community organizations and the bad guys alike. We imagine that Cianci would leave more space for negotiations. We also imagine that Cianci would leave more space for graft. People should be wary about trusting a black-box mechanism and hoping that, through a hidden process, things will shake out in the working class’s favor. While some on the left want to view Buddy Cianci as a mathematical function—what you put in determines with certainty what you get out—there’s reason to be skeptical about the judgment of a man with a documented history of violence and thuggery, and an alleged incident of rape at gunpoint. There’s also something to the argument that a corrupt city hall could scare away state and federal money that the city can ill afford to do without.
So here we are, stuck between a neoliberal and a crook. Maybe the best thing we can do is hold our breath for four years and work towards a real people’s candidate in 2018. In the meantime, we doubt we can afford a major blow to our viability as a recipient of state and federal funds and the dead weight of corrupt or incompetent political appointees. It is with reservations that Indy Metro endorses Jorge Elorza for Mayor of Providence. We hope he surprises us.