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One to watch: Cicilline and his talk-radio critics

Conspicuously absent from today's ProJo coverage of John Simmons's ascension to the top job at the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council is any mention of the recent Fund for Providence issue. Buddy Cianci and Dan Yorke, who have used this topic to deem Simmons unfit for the RIPEC job, will no doubt focus more criticism on this development today.

In a nutshell, the Fund for Providence, which is managed by the Rhode Island Foundation, previously paid a chunk of Simmons's salary as director of administration in Providence. A few years back, Yorke seized on the anonymity of the donor/donors as being at odds with good government and David Cicilline's self-description for transparency. Cicilline has defended the approach, noting the city was facing a $60 million deficit after he came into office, and describing the fund as a way to meet important city needs. He has also cited safeguards against potential conflicts.

Was this funding mechanism an ideal approach? Perhaps not, but I don't think it's necessarily the second coming of Watergate, either.

The larger issue, with Cicilline gearing up for a gubernatorial run in 2010, is the relative impact of his critics -- particularly Cianci, who recently took a new post at Channel 6. Yorke, meanwhile, appeared Sunday on ABC6 On the Record with Jim Hummel, using the occasion, in part, to share some harsh words about Cicilline.

Perhaps believing that much of Yorke's audience is unlikely to vote for him, the mayor seems to have made a calculated bet to ignore the talker's criticism. Regarding Cianci, Cicilline has used the velvet gloves approach, suggesting that Rhode Islanders can draw their own conclusions about the former mayor's credibility as a good-government watchdog.

In the tiny place that is Rhode Island, the battle lines are being drawn, an issue complicated in part by some of the related professional relationships. Matt has a provocative post, looking, for example, at some of John DePetro's past critical statements about Cianci, who now, of course, is one of his WPRO colleagues.

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