The time Buddy Cianci declared war on East Greenwich

In this October 1998 file photo, Providence Mayor Vincent "Buddy" Cianci Jr., poses before the city skyline in Providence, R.I.
In this October 1998 file photo, Providence Mayor Vincent "Buddy" Cianci Jr., poses before the city skyline in Providence, R.I.Matt York/Associated Press

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Happy Monday and welcome to Rhode Map, your daily guide to everything happening in the Ocean State. I'm Dan McGowan and I say Eminem’s performance was the highlight of the Oscars. Follow me on Twitter @DanMcGowan or send tips to Dan.McGowan@globe.com.

When Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza delivers his State of the City address tonight, chances are his speech will be similar to the one that every city leader has given for the last 30 years.


He’ll highlight running his fourth straight budget surplus, investments in public parks and the record levels of economic development happening downtown. And when it’s time to talk about the takeover of Providence schools, he’ll likely call it an unprecedented partnership between the state and the city to finally improve outcomes for thousands of students.

But if he’s looking for an idea that will turn some heads, he might want to revisit the speech then-Mayor Buddy Cianci gave in 1992. That was the year Cianci aggressively called on state lawmakers to equitably fund public schools, and threatened to sue if they didn’t get it done.

East Greenwich was his main target because a lawmaker there called it “unfair” for the state to fund Providence at the expense of other towns, according to the State of the City address that year.

Sound familiar?

Cianci noted that East Greenwich was spending $1,200 more per student than Providence despite the city having a large population of immigrant families who were learning a new language and a new culture. He suggested that wealthier residents in the state weren’t paying their fair share.

And then the rogue populist offered this zinger:


“So let’s have no more crocodile tears from the country club set,” Cianci said. “It’s about time that the wealthy communities make their wealthy residents pay for their exclusive schools. It’s about time that the state of Rhode Island recognize where its responsibilities lie, and distribute aid only to the communities that truly need it.”

Of course, a lot has changed in the last 28 years, and it’s probably not the classiest move to attack other municipalities.

Rhode Island has made significant improvements to education funding and Providence now spends more per student than East Greenwich. But the challenges that urban districts face have only gotten worse.


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Dan McGowan can be reached at dan.mcgowan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @danmcgowan.