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David Cicilline: Mayor of Providence

David Cicilline: Mayor of Providence
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Outside the next apartment, a vicious pit bull strains at a chain anchored to a stake, snapping his jaws just a few feet from the mayor. Unfazed, Cicilline walks past and knocks on the door. “That’s a mean dog!” he exclaims as the father opens the door.

Nobody fesses up to knowing the boys in question, and the mayor is directed back to the apartment from which he came. Cicilline delivers a pep talk about how we all have to live together, then departs into the gathering gloom.

Three and a half centuries ago, when Roger Williams’s “lively experiment” in democracy and religious tolerance threatened to descend into anarchy, he wrote a letter “To the Town of Providence” in which he compared a commonwealth to a ship at sea. The passengers — “papists and protestants, Jews and Turks” — might be free to pursue their own beliefs, but when it came to the common good, everyone had to “pay their freight.”

“This is a gamble,” says Cicilline of his efforts to transform Providence. “Because it would be easy enough to simply do favors, forget merit, give fat union contracts. Cianci acted tough, but he gave away the store. Some of the old guard are leaving. Others are digging their heels in, waiting to see if they can survive me.”

But Cicilline, whose approval ratings remain high, figures to be around for a second term. (The next election is in 2006.) He predicts that he’ll be able to accomplish more in the first six months because “it means we’re here to stay.”

“There will always be die-hard Cianci supporters. A lot of great things happened in the last 20 years, but a lot of people deserve the credit. I was elected to change the culture. If I haven’t shown in 3-1/2, years that I can do that, then the experiment has failed. In the end, if I don’t demonstrate improvement in the quality of life in Providence, then I don’t deserve to be mayor.”

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