Smiley Blames Carcieri for Providence's 2011 Fiscal Crisis

Sep 19, 2013

Democrat Brett Smiley, who hopes to win the endorsement of Congressman David Cicilline for his 2014 Providence mayoral campaign, says the fiscal problems inherited by Angel Taveras in early 2011 are mostly due to state cuts in local aid under former Republican governor Don Carcieri.

Smiley's remark, during a taping Thursday of RIPR's Bonus Q+A, came when he was asked whether Cicilline's City Hall administration was responsible for the fiscal crisis that emerged in 2011, leading Taveras to liken it to a Category Five hurricane. (Cicilline served as mayor of Providence from 2003 until early 2011; he first won his congressional seat in 2010.)

"I think Congressman Cicilline has addressed that topic ad nauseam," Smiley said, referring to an apology tour that launched by Cicilline early in his successful re-election campaign last year. "I think that he regrets the way he talked about it. I think he recognizes that the budget was left in tough shape. I think the source of that was primarily cuts to state aid from former governor Don Carcieri, which gets us back to this notion that the city and the state have to work together for its success."

The Democratic-controlled General Assembly, of course, signed off on the state aid cuts cited by Smiley. Carcieri often rapped cities and towns for what he called excessive spending, telegraphing a downward trajectory in aid to local communities. Taveras inherited a $110 million deficit in 2011; the city recently closed its books on fiscal 2013, saying the budget was in balance.

Smiley, who has worked for the mayoral administrations of both Cicilline and current mayor Angel Taveras, says Cicilline "has been very supportive" of his campaign, "but has not made a formal endorsement."

Three Democrats are actively moving ahead with campaigns to try to succeed Taveras, if, as expected, he runs for governor next year: Smiley; City Council President Michael Solomon; and Roger Williams University Law School professor Jorge Elorza. Republican Daniel Harrop is also running.

Other highlights from our conversation:

-- Smiley said he is supporting Taveras for governor and will not end his campaign for mayor if House Speaker Gordon Fox, a possibled candidate, gets into the race. Only a decision by Taveras to City Hall would lead him to drop out, Smiley said.

-- An Illinois native who came to Rhode Island to run then-Lieutenant Governor Charles Fogarty's 2006 gubernatorial campaign, Smiley has worked since then as a campaign finance consultant, lobbyist, and chairman of the Providence Water Supply Board. He says he has the right stuff to be mayor, despite not having previously run for elective office. "From my experience growing my own small business to representing the city at the Statehouse [as its lobbyist], which has a major impact on our city's budget, I have the both micro and macro view on how to run this organization," Smiley says.

-- Smiley calls testing "an important piece of the puzzle" for improving public education, but he's no fan of the high-stakes NECAP test, calling it "a bad test and the wrong test. There are serious flaws in the actual test and we already know that it's being phased out."

Tune in tomorrow morning (or online) for the full conversation about Providence taxes, economic development, crime, and a host of other issues. Smiley also joins us for Political Roundtable, airing at 5:40 and 7:40 Friday am, and Bonus Q+A, airing at 6:40 and 8:40 am.

This post has been updated.