Good grief! Not again!

By Arlene Violet
Posted 8/29/19

Recently, I wrote a column about how cavalier our public leaders are about spending taxpayers’ money which they would never do if it were their dime. The most recent example is the Providence …

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Good grief! Not again!


Recently, I wrote a column about how cavalier our public leaders are about spending taxpayers’ money which they would never do if it were their dime. The most recent example is the Providence Pedestrian Bridge. While the poohbahs were grinning ear to ear about their “accomplishment” I actually was hoping that they might have showed a little bit of chagrin.
After all, the bridge was supposed to cost $3 million, not the seven-fold increase of about $22 million. This bloated amount was even after the scope of the project was scaled down. It was supposed to be finished in 2013, not 2019.

The City of Providence was supposed to pay the difference in any cost overruns beyond $6 million. Despite this contract term entered into by their predecessors, then-Mayor David Cicilline and former Governor Donald Carcieri (and, thereafter, Governor Lincoln Chafee in 2011), Mayor Jorge Elorza gladly accepted the largesse of Governor Gina Raimondo, who somehow thinks she has the authority to change the terms of that agreement by forgiving the additional $16 million in cost overruns and having state taxpayers pay for it instead. I guess it isn’t surprising that the Governor subsumes this power to change whatever she wants after she unilaterally embraced a 20 year, no-bid $1 billion contract with IGT whose contract comes up for extension after she is out of office. Ah, yes, taxpayers will potentially have her “good stamp of approval” for many years to come.

Subsequently, the public learned that the Providence police are up in arms since they claim they have a shortage of manpower to police the bridge. While there could be a “bye” for trash piling up on the pedestrian bridge on August 12 since it was a state holiday, nonetheless, you don’t have to be a member of Mensa to anticipate that multiple garbage barrels should have been provided for the anticipated crowds. It seems that there also is a question as to whom is responsible for trash removal and ongoing maintenance although it should be the city. Waterplace Park, which is supposed to be maintained by the city, is a junk depot with a broken bench and graffiti so one can only gasp of what might be ahead for this structure.
My conversation with 2 different contractors over the weekend was disturbing. Each told me that the Brazilian teak wood used on the walkway is not suitable for the Rhode Island climate so cracking is inevitable. These gentlemen shook their respective heads at the foolhardiness as they pointed out some other potential maintenance issues.

So, while the VIP’s were all grinning ear to ear like they had accomplished something great they should at least have had the modesty of acknowledging that things did not go according to plan. I have never understood, anyway, why the politicians get the publicity when a project is completed as opposed to the poor working stiff who is actually paying for it. Why aren’t “Joe Blow” and “Mary Roe” who are ponying up the money the folks who are photographed for posterity? I supposed in this case it is just as well, particularly, if the politicians walk away from their responsibility for maintenance and care as easily as they walked away from the ribbon-cutting.

Arlene Violet is an attorney and former Rhode Island Attorney General.

Arlene Violet

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