OP-ED: Just In

A Letter from Buddy

Thoughts from our city’s favorite felon as he turns 80


It feels like a lifetime since I was Mayor. Technically, it was.

Now, I won’t say whether I’m looking down on everyone…or looking up…so that way I’ll only disappoint half of you. Hint #1: Turns out they use toupees for sizing halos. Hint #2: They also throw them in whenever they need extra heat. Regardless of where I am, I always stay up-to-date on the City I love. (Some thanks to Dan Yorke who fills my radio time slot valiantly and all of the shows that still reflect on “What would Buddy have done?”)

First, a little catch-up for those of you who were too young or too new to Providence, I’m sure that you’ve heard the stories of my tenure in City Hall. They said that I would go to the “opening of an envelope” … and I would. Which is why I wouldn’t have made it through the quarantine. Eat in every night? No chance to bump elbows with my people?  Zoom would have been when I showed up in your living room for a fast visit. I’d have lasted a month. Maybe.   

Whenever I’m asked what I am most proud of during my 20+ years as Mayor (okay, so there was a five-year gap in the middle and yes there was a trip to New Jersey at the end), my answer is always the same. I helped take a tired, northeast city which thought their best days were behind them – “a smudge on the way to the Cape” The Wall Street Journal called us – and was able to get everyone, my fans and my enemies, to start believing in themselves. And with the right leadership, far be it from me to criticize the living, you still can.

I’m glad that a sense of normalcy is returning with restaurants slowly getting back to business as usual, because I still have a lot of marinara sauce (or gravy, to some) that I need to move for my scholarship fund. Oh, how I miss Federal Hill!

I reached out to Lynn Singleton at PPAC to suggest that Buddy in the Balcony replace Phantom of the Opera, since I was such an incredible sell-out for Trinity Rep in The Prince of Providence. In fact, I’m still such a draw, I hear they’re thinking of putting me in A Christmas Carol. Everybody has figured out a way to keep making money from my legacy except me.

I want to see WaterFire return to the water, not in the dumpsters at Burnside a spark that the City needs. And, yes, I do know something about fire.

Education was my biggest (and, everyone else’s) failure. So, I was pleased when I saw that the State took over the schools. Unfortunately, so far it reminds me of Ronald Reagan’s famous quote, “The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” The situation for too long has represented a clear and present danger for our children and is too important for our City’s survival and growth. The State has a clear mandate, from almost all parties, to act aggressively to blow up the entire system and rebuild it into one we can be proud of. Now let’s see if they can light the fuse.

And finally, I hear that my old friend Joe Paolino built a beautiful new hotel named The Beatrice after his mother. Sort of made me wish I’d done something like that for my mother. Maybe I’ll talk to the powers that be and see if I can get Esther Sunday made a holiday.


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