Yes, Buddy Cianci was courrupt. Very courrupt. That’s beyond dispute. I had an encouter with him and several with his legacy. Along with Zell Miller, he may rank as the last truly colorful American politican.
When I first visited Providece to learn about its police department, Cianci decided he wanted to meet with me. No other mayor cared to meet with a 20-something researcher from a right-wing think tank in D.C. and I never sought meetings with elected officials. But I figured I had to go.
He was just what I expected: larger than life, full of energy, very smart, and very determined. And he loved his city. Despite his own illegal activities, or maybe because of them, he knew a lot about policing–more than any other mayor I’ve ever met.
During a later visit to the Providence Police Department, the new, post-Buddy chief (a friend of mine) explained how the city’s entire new police headquarters had been built via payoffs. But it’s important to note that the police building got built. Unlike a bevy of other crooked mayors (Washington’s Marion Barry, Detroit’s Coleman Young) Buddy got things done. Providence is booming and even his staunchest opponents admit that the boom has a lot to do with the ex-mayor.
An anecdote may sum things up. Last I was in Providence–more than two years into Buddy’s prison sentence–stores all over town still proudly displayed jars of the Mayor’s Own Pasta Sauce with his picture on the bottle. The sauce itself has a label that says it contains 50 Calories per serving, 60 of which (not a typo) come from fat. So the mayor lies even on his own label. And he lets you know that he lies. But, I couldn’t help it: I bought some. And I don’t regret it. The sauce is wonderful.
So here’s to crooked politicans! We need more pols like Buddy.