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Joe Paolino: the Donald Trump of Providence

Joseph Paolino is a prominent Hillary Clinton backer and former Democratic mayor of Providence, but you might not know it.

Paolino has been in the news a lot recently excoriating Mayor Elorza for enforcing court orders that have required the city to stop its "aggressive panhandling" law*. The court order allows for police intervention in panhandling that's actually aggressive (that's called "mugging") but no longer allows police to sweep homeless people out of site of the rest of us simply for holding up signs asking for change.
A photo from April 2014 (James Kennedy) from a series on empty parking in 
Providence's downtown after Paolino, through ghost-reporter James Baar, said
Providence lacked any parking, needed to get rid of its central bus hub, and was
plagued by homeless vagrants and petty criminals. Projo clearly did not fact-
check.

As a result, there has been a noticeable rise in people who panhandle not being forced away, and hence a worried conversation about the existence of homeless people. I have noticed the increase in panhandling as well, but over at The Projo you'd think it was the second coming of Lucifer. The sky is falling over there, and they keep parading it around, today calling Kennedy Plaza (where I will frequently sit just to people watch) a "war zone" (through a person-on-the-street quote, of course, and as the banner headline for the article). This is one of many times over the years that Joe Paolino has received a platform at The Projo for his anti-transit and anti-homeless person crusade. 

In the article, Paolino made conciliatory remarks ('It's not us against them. It's not them against us. It's us working together,' said Paolino") and so let's remind ourselves of the tone Paolino has taken in past reports.

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Some Reader Replies (Follow us at @transportpvd):

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In a 2014 Projo article, Joseph Paolino was interviewed by reporter James Baar for an opinion-as-news piece. I'd like to draw attention to a few of Paolino's recommendations:
•Decentralize the bus station to fringe areas, possibly, as some propose, the 195 development land and acquire air rights over the railroad station.


•Build a huge parking garage under Kennedy Plaza similar to the 1,300-car garage under Boston Common and expand Burnside Park over the entire Plaza to create a mid-city garden.
•Close the clubs, which are incompatible with an upgraded residential/business downtown that mingles with a growing ed/med campus.
•Issue clear orders to the Public Works Department to eliminate permanently — with police support, as needed — potholes, littering, garbage and graffiti. Other cities have proved that is possible. No excuses. Do it.


•Empower and increase walking police patrols, day and night, to eliminate vagrants, panhandlers, security threats and bad actors, as has been done in other cities.
•Encourage the establishment of multiple householder shops, with initial tax and rental landlord incentives, to jumpstart natural market demand.
As I've pointed out before, there are stunning connections between these recommendations, that show Paolino's worldview. Bus riders should be put aside. The people who matter-- suburban white people-- should have lots of parking. The streets must be clean and free of filth! And get rid of all the low-life scoundrels in the way of my suburban white clientele!

There are also stunning ways in which these recommendations are logically incongruous. We should marginalize transit, but we should somehow keep the streets free of potholes (ahem: transit helps to maintain streets for cheaper). We should build an underground garage for 1,300 cars, but we should have lower taxes (underground garages usually run at around $100,000 per parking spot). We should have market development, with few bureaucratic obstacles, but we should also have the firm hand of government come down from the sky and get rid of businesses Paolino doesn't like. We shouldn't have homeless people bugging us, but we also should make housing more expensive with all these mega-project expenses, and marginalize the transportation methods people might use to get jobs and move up in the world.

It's gonna' be TERRIFIC! You won't believe just how great it's going to be! A garage! And I'm going to make Mexico pay for it!

If we as a city had the kind of money that Paolino's plans would entail, we could end homelessness. The garage alone would cost $130 million ($100,000 x 1,300) without consideration of the fact that Paolino calls for a magical allotment of cash to fall in our laps to build a park overtop of it, and not including the 35 police that today's Projo article said would be the minimum to get rid of all the vagrants. 

I don't know. I see a resemblance. 
I don't love being panhandled. And I am not as warm-hearted to homeless people as I wish I could claim to be. I feel often like I"m living fairly hand-to-mouth at this stage of my life, so it's been years since I've offered anything more than a half-smile and a sorry to a homeless person asking me for change. And yes, it is slightly awkward, and yes, I do understand that people wish they didn't have to experience that awkwardness. But it is not a war zone, or a siege. It's poor people showing their existence. We should stop airing the views of pampered millionaires who think everything around them is free (free garage! free park! free tax cuts! free police!). We should start looking at how we can make dents in homeless for real.
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*(stepping aside form whether you agree with that ruling, it's hard for me to see how Mayor Elorza following separation of powers is something to be put against the mayor, unless Paolino expects a kind of swaggering Andrew Jackson, "Oh YEAH! Then let him enforce it!" form the mayor)

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