Greater City Providence

Mr. Cicilline Goes to Washington

The ProJo reports that Mayor Cicilline in his capacity within the U.S. Conference of Mayors headed down to D.C. yesterday to meet with a bunch of big wigs.

Cicilline and mayors from Stamford, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Dallas met with President-Elect Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and others to discuss direct economic stimulus to cities to jump start stalled infrastructure projects, in turn creating jobs. Providence is looking for $527 million to work on 79 capital projects which could generate 7,000 new jobs over the next two years.

Congress is preparing a multi-billion dollar state economic stimulus package for President-Elect Obama to sign shortly after he takes office in January. In the ProJo, Mayor Cicilline argues, “If the objective is to move resources quickly, then the fastest and most efficient way is to send the money directly to cities. We have public-works departments and planning departments to do this work and have been doing this work… This is an opportunity to create jobs, rebuild our infrastructure and prepare our cities for the 21st-century economy.” I.E., give the money to us, the state is too f*cked up to know what to do with it. OK, perhaps I’m putting words into the mayor’s mouth, but really, who can argue with that (well I suppose one could argue the city is f*cked up, but why filter money through two levels of f*cked-up-i-tude when you can simply go through one)?

The mayors are looking for money to kick start projects that are already in the pipeline, moving towards actuality. They released a report identifying $98 billion (with a ‘b’) worth of projects ranging from transit and highway improvements, school renovations, green jobs creation through to public safety and public housing projects and Community Development Block Grants.

In Providence these projects may include: $20 million for a Downtown streetcar system, $90 million for the renovation of Mount Pleasant High School, and $12.7 million for wind turbines at Fields Point. A full list of where Providence proposes to spend it’s money can be found here.

OK, a few things. $20 million for a streetcar system? Is that a study for a streetcar system? That doesn’t seem like much money. Also, I’m not aware of the streetcar system being too far down thte pipeline yet, Providence has a notorious amount of public meetings, I’ve not heard of one for proposing streetcars. I’d love streetcars, I’m all about streetcars, but when realistically, and for how much money, will this actually happen? And what will we be doing about our current transit system while we wait for streetcars?

$90 million for a high school!? Really!? When did high schools get so expensive!? I mean ALCO is looking to be a $200 million-something project, a high school is a half or a third of an ALCO? Really I’m shocked, but I read today in the Globe that Wellesley, Mass. is proposing a $130 million high school, so maybe that’s what high schools cost now-a-days.

As for the wind turbines at Fields Point, I have nothing to say other than do it, and do it now, please and thank you.

Towards the end of the ProJo article Cicilline is quoted saying, “This is not about governors competing with mayors competing with the federal government. Everyone will be working together on this. Most governors would acknowledge that the public process of approving government projects takes time. “¦ There are studies, the planning process, public hearings. …We’ve already done much of that.”

OK, yes, he is right, this stuff gets done at the city level, and for a lot of things, I’d much prefer federal dollars going straight to the city. But really, it is so sad that he even has to say this. Obviously it is the state against the city (or he wouldn’t have had to articulate such). The state and city notoriously cannot get along. We’re such a small state and the health of Providence is so vital to the health of the state and vice versa. Wouldn’t it be nice, if during these extreme economic times, if we could just all get along?

So one last thing, the mayor actually posted a little clip on YouTube talking about what he did in Washington (how Barackian of him). If you care to watch it is embedded here for your viewing pleasure.

In all seriousness, I’d be happy to see the mayor, members of his administration, and people up on Smith Hill do more of this. The intertubes are so hip, get with it!

Jef Nickerson

Jef is Greater City Providence's co-founder, editor, and publisher. He grew up on Cape Cod and lived in Boston; Portland, Maine; and New York before settling in Providence. In addition to urbanism, Jef is interested in art, design, and ice cream. Please feel free to contact Jef if you have any question or comments about Greater City Providence.


  • $20 million is a bit low for a streetcar estimate, but it’s not that far off. On average, new streetcar systems cost about $10 million per mile to construct.

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