LGBT Rhode Islanders criticize Cicilline
As openly gay Providence Mayor David Cicilline continues his campaign to succeed Congressman Patrick Kennedy on Capitol Hill, it has become clear some LGBT Rhode Islanders do not support him.
A recent Brown University poll had Cicilline far ahead of his rivals, including former state Democratic Party Chair William Lynch, businessman Anthony Gemma and state Rep. David Segal (D-Providence.) The winner of the Sept. 14 primary will face state Rep. John Loughlin (R-Little Compton) in November, but Cicilline has his detractors among his fellow LGBT Rhode Islanders.
"Back when he was first elected (as mayor,) and based on his campaign promises, I was excited and thought he could take (Providence) in a new direction," said Greg Wright, a former state House candidate. "Unfortunately, he took the city in a destructive direction. I feel he is disconnected from the city and most of his decisions and the way he has handled matters has been very poor. I am happy that Cicilline is not running again for mayor. I hope that people take a walk around the capital city to notice what has become of the city since he’s been mayor."
Others remain angry at Cicilline for what they consider his poor treatment of the city’s firefighters (who have worked without a contract for more than seven years due to a failure to negotiate with the city,) as well as his decision to run for Congress after launching a re-election bid for mayor.
Cicilline had been mentioned as a possible gubernatorial candidate, but he announced last year he would be seeking a third term as Providence’s mayor.
In a March 2009 interview with EDGE, Cicilline boasted of the reduction in the city’s crime rate, the restoration of integrity to city government, his ability to attract new business investment to Providence and the improved quality of the city’s schools.
"With all that progress, I also know there’s a lot more work to do," Cicilline explained. "I just didn’t believe it was the right time to change jobs and seek another position. Instead I wanted to finish the work we started."
Anthony Demings, owner of the Brooklyn Coffee Tea House in Providence, scoffed at this explanation.
"When Patrick Kennedy announced he was not running for re-election, Mayor Cicilline backed out on his unfinished business comment and jumped on the Representative candidacy bandwagon," he said. "I now have no respect for him."
Cicilline, however, still enjoys LGBT support.
James Robinson, executive director of Providence-based Youth Pride, Inc., had nothing but kind words for Cicilline:
"I think he is really smart and a good candidate," he said. "I think many of those in the LGBT community who don’t support him are those only concerned with LGBT issues."
Long-time LGBT activist Wendy Becker is also a Cicilline supporter. She praised him for his work as a state legislator. And Becker believes he will be a strong advocate on LGBT issues if voters elect him to Congress.
"He stood up for our community when it was not easy to do so and made impassioned, smart speeches on the floor that I still remember today," she added. "Frankly, I want that intelligence and passion in our next Congressional Representative."
If elected, Cicilline, 49, would be among the handful of openly gay members of Congress. Congressmembers Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.,) Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) are currently on Capitol Hill.
House Speaker Gordon Fox (D-Providence,) who is also openly gay, is among the prominent state officials who have endorsed Cicilline.
"(Cicilline) has proven leadership in our community first by being open as a gay person, supporting gay issues both at the statehouse and as mayor and now running for U.S. Congress," said gay state Rep. Frank Ferri (D-Warwick.)