They still love Buddy, but that’s no surprise. And Buddy still knows how to time his entrance.
Buddy rarely shows up on time, especially when he’s the featured speaker at a lunch or dinner event. Instead, he waits until everyone has eaten and his hosts are beginning to fret whether he’ll make it at all. It’s part of the suspense and buildup.
He did it Thursday at the Rotary Club of Warwick. It was a bigger than usual crowd at the Airport Radisson, even honorary member Mayor Scott Avedisian turned out, as well as some old timers, including Bill Donahay and Jack Lindsay, past presidents and members who show up once or twice a year. A seat was reserved for Buddy and his driver but they remained empty.
The buzz around the tables was whether he would show up and who could pinch-hit if he didn’t. But there’s really no stand-in for Mayor Buddy Cianci. Yes, they still call him mayor.
Then, as people forked thick slices of chocolate cake and reached for the coffee, Buddy made his grand entrance to a smattering of applause. He picked out people in the audience, waved hellos and beamed that Buddy smile. His eyes sparkled. He was back in the limelight, and he was loving it.
Buddy’s storied experiences set the tone and he quickly had everyone laughing.
He told of greeting a former director of the CIA when he arrived in an unmarked plane at Green Airport. Buddy had gone through all kinds of security clearances and was there as the director stepped on the tarmac. The director took one look at him and asked, “Who are you?”
Buddy’s retort was, “And you’re supposed to be the head of the CIA?”
Then there was the occasion where he arrived at a grand banquet where the food was displayed on a table behind the speaker’s platform. Somehow, Buddy knocked the platform causing it to collapse and upset the tables. Buddy seized that moment to grab the microphone and announce, “The mayor has asked me to let you know he’ll be 15 minutes late.”
But there was a serious message, too. He talked about the state and the need for vision and leadership. His indictment, we don’t have a vision for economic success, and his admonition, we can have all the vision in the world, but without planning we’re in a daydream. He had people thinking. He dished out some criticism to the Congressional delegation and their choruses of they’re bringing the bacon home for Rhode Island. He said, in the past 20 years, Rhode Islanders paid $144 billion in taxes, but that the state has only gotten back $138 billion. He added that Rhode Island is one of 30 states that send more money to Washington than it gets back.
Why is this?
“They [the Congressional delegation] don’t have a coordinated effort to bring it back.”
And Buddy didn’t project a rosy picture. He accused legislators of kicking the can down the road, failing to address budget issues, a scheduled increase in payroll deductions and taxes that are going to put us on a fiscal cliff very soon.
This brought him to the elections.
He said the District 1 race is too close to call, although he prefers Brendan Doherty. He said Hurricane Sandy took the wind out of Romney’s sails.
Romney could get the popular vote but not the electoral. “It’s too close to call, but if I had to bet, Obama is going to win … but maybe he won’t,” he said, and got more laughs.
Buddy outlined some corrective measures, including doing away with the $35 million in film tax credits and giving those credits to businesses that are here; lowering the corporate tax; pulling together business leaders to take greater command; providing low-cost loans to stimulate new businesses; and taking steps to ensure the workforce has the skill sets needed by companies.
Buddy also had time to field a few questions.
He said locating the Patriots stadium in Providence was a real possibility, but, as it turned out, Rhode Island got the best of the deal because out-of-state teams and their fans fly into Green, stay in hotels here and eat in Rhode Island restaurants, and we don’t have to clean anything up.
What about his dream of developing the Providence waterfront?
“I never got the chance to do it because I was rudely interrupted,” he said.
There was another round of laughs. Buddy is capable of transforming even time behind bars into something amusing.