The Urban and Political Arrogance of David Cicilline
Yesterday, Providence Mayor David Cicilline walked out of meeting with Rhode Island Governor Donald Carcieri on the subject of improving education in Rhode Island’s urban core of Providence/Pawtucket/Central Falls. Both John Castellucci of the Providence Journal and Jim Baron of the Pawtucket Times have reports in their respective newspapers.
Governor Carcieri wanted to discuss increased cooperation between the school districts. This is from the Times article…
“There was never talk about an urban school district,” Carcieri told reporters after the meeting. “What I wanted to do was get together with the mayors and see if this idea of more collaboration, finding ways of looking at what could be done between the three cities had any merit. I suggested that we look at it because of all the things you’ve heard me say in terms of curriculum alignment, in terms of transportation, they all have building issues, all of that.Mayor Cicilline walked out of the meeting because the only “reform” he is willing to consider is increased state funding for the Providence school system…
“My sense is that both Pawtucket and Central Falls are willing to look at it,” the governor said. “Unfortunately, Mayor Cicilline wanted to talk about funding formulas and that’s all he wanted to talk about. That’s not what I was here trying to get at. That would all fall out of any discussion as you go forward.”This is what Mayor Cicilline had to say…
Any “serious conversation” about public education, Cicilline asserted, should focus on Rhode Island’s “over-reliance on the property tax” to pay for schools. “We still don’t have a funding formula” to finance education costs in the state’s 39 cities and towns.The state government already is and will continue to be very generous towards the City of Providence. According to the Governor’s proposed 2007 budget (see page 456), Providence will receive about $3,900,000 more in state aid this year than it did last year. This is, by far, the largest increase in state education funding that any single community will receive. The only other communities budgeted for an increase of more than a million dollars are Warwick ($1,500,000 increase), Cranston ($1,300,000 increase) and Pawtucket ($1,100,000 increase).
“Property taxes in every city and town are too high,” Cicilline insisted, and in every budget the governor has proposed “he has shifted a greater percentage of the burden to the property tax.
But a disproportionate increase in aid-per-student is not enough for Mayor Cicilline. He wants either tax increases or service cuts in the rest of Rhode Island to pay for even more funding for Providence schools. This is hypocritical. The Mayor won’t consider working with neighboring communities to improve education, either through the Governor’s proposals, or through the Cranston school choice proposal, but expects people in all of Rhode Island’s other communities to send additional money to the Providence school system.
Part of Mayor Cicilline’s attitude comes from the urban arrogance that tends to infect city officials. They fall into the trap of believing that city problems are the only problems big enough to matter, that urban pols are the only ones sophisticated enough to deal with the problems big enough to matter, and that smaller cities and towns exist solely for the purpose of supporting big cities.
But there is also a political arrogance behind Mayor Cicilline’s walkout. The Mayor feels comfortable snubbing the Governor because he must feel confident that Providence’s education funding will be increased at the expense of the rest of the state via the “education adequacy” proposal currently being sought by the legislature. How much more of your community’s tax revenue your legislator supports sending to the Providence school system is something you may want to inquire about before voting in the fall elections.