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A Conversation with Rep. David Cicilline

I spent two hours last night volunteering for Rep. David Cicilline's campaign. Sept. 13th is a primary, and while under a thriving democracy there would be no reason to expect Cicilline to fall to his (strange) challenger, the problem with American democracy is that very few people turn out to actually vote. So please do vote, and when you vote, cast your ballot for Rep. Cicilline.


Rep. Cicilline has, like the entire Rhode Island delegation, at times done things with road funding that I don't particularly agree with. I've covered heavily the begging and pleading that Senator Whitehouse did to get federal funding for the Viaduct, because I find that monstrous interchange to be a terrible invasion of urban space that worsens climate change and wastes tax dollars and land. Whitehouse wasn't alone in this, it's just that his signature issue is supposed to be climate, and I've found his advocacy on behalf of large road projects to be particularly troubling. Cicilline was no different on the Viaduct, and even featured it in one of his ads:




This is the kind of issue where, unfortunately, many Democrats go wrong, because they see the positive "government building things for citizens" side of things without seeing the "this particular thing is a gigantic urban planning mistake and shouldn't be repeated" side.



That said, what convinced me to step up and phone-bank for Rep. Cicilline was his public advocacy on behalf of the 6/10 Boulevard. He met on Newsmakers to talk about it, and said that it was important for us to knit together our urban streets, comparing it to the I-195 Project in scope for the city.

I met with Cicilline in Lippitt Park during a farmers' market, when he was rushing around to collect signatures to be on the ballot. I stopped to talk to him, and he surprised me when he connected my name (James Kennedy) to the blog Transport Providence and said that he follows me on Twitter (I knew he follows me on Twitter, but I figured it was a staffer). We talked a bit, and when I mentioned Rhode Island having lost the federal grants for 6/10, his initial reply was "Oh, yeah, that's a shame. Sheldon worked really hard on that. I'm going to have to talk to him." I told Cicilline that no, actually, I think it's a great thing that we lost the money because maybe it will hold RIDOT to the boulevard approach, which is cheaper. Cicilline surprised me again when he took that point in stride and thought about it. I reminded Congressman Cicilline that RIDOT is still working hard on their ridiculous "hybrid" highway model, and he said, "I think that's a horrible idea. I think we need to build it as a boulevard."

So points for Cicilline.

I don't regret phone-banking for Cicilline. He's a good advocate on many issues I care about outside of transportation. When I came home from phone-banking last night, though, I saw this tweet, which made me cringe a bit.




Environmentalists had been working really hard to question the rationale behind public funding for sewer extensions alongside additional road interchanges and local tax exemptions to help Citizens Bank move its operations from Providence to Johnston. The plan would tear down acres of forest, add infrastructure we needed to take care of, and add drivers to the roads at a time of a climate crisis. Citizens agreed to pay half the cost of the upfront construction of the road interchange, which sounds generous, if you ignore the other tax incentives and the fact that the Narragansett Bay Commission will continue to have to maintain this infrastructure for decades. It's classic ponzi scheme of the suburbs territory.

Here's what Citizens had to say about the deal as it went down:


Of course, the suburbs are cheaper than the city because we subsidize all the expensive parts (enter, Rhode Island delegation).

Who's smiling away in this picture but Congressman Cicilline? And, of course, "Time to Wake Up" Sheldon Whitehouse?

To the credit of Cicilline, I had just tweeted out an entreaty to my followers to volunteer for his campaign, when I all but ambushed him in the thread by continuing to talk about my criticisms of his shoveling. Cicilline didn't shy away from the conversation, and I hope it made an impression on him (I've having trouble properly embedding this tweet conversation, so check it out here).

Just to reiterate from the tweet conversation: Johnston isn't even in Congressman Cicilline's district. 

The 6/10 Boulevard is too important not to go out and vote for Cicilline on the 13th. Please do. Please also take a moment to email or tweet the congressman and ask him to stick to his guns on the boulevard. RIDOT very much values the kind of development projects that are capital heavy and appear to create jobs while also destroying our long-term prosperity. We're going to need people in the congressional delegation to push back on that. It's to Cicilline's credit that he engaged in this conversation, and I hope he will do so more.

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1 comment:

  1. Just a small point of fact. Citizens isn't moving from Providence, they are moving existing operations from Cranston to Johnston. The HQ will remain in Providence.

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