Mayor: Popular ‘Crimetown’ podcast ‘terrible’ for Providence

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Mayor Jorge Elorza says the nationally popular podcast “Crimetown” is “terrible” for Providence, but also admits recent headlines have not helped the city improve its image.

The 18-part documentary series focuses on the historic and seedy underworld of Providence politics as well as the powerful local influence of organized crime. The episodes largely follow the arc of the late Mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci Jr.’s controversial and colorful political career, while weaving in tales of wiseguys and scandals that have pockmarked Providence over the last few decades.

“No one wants to be known as having corrupt influences in government or the label ‘Crimetown,'” Elorza said Friday during a taping of WPRI 12’s Newsmakers. “I think it’s terrible.”

But, he added, “what’s even more terrible is that we add fuel to the fire, and this last week is an example of it.”

Elorza was referring to Wednesday’s indictment of Providence City Council President Luis Aponte in a campaign finance case. Aponte’s arrest comes on the heels of a recall election that removed Councilman Kevin Jackson after he too was indicted in a separate campaign finance investigation. Jackson served as Aponte’s No. 2 until his arrest.

But Elorza – who said he’s listened to about 10 “Crimetown” episodes so far – said he does think the city has changed compared with the Providence profiled in the podcast.

“What I believe is different now is there is a moral outrage whenever someone violates the code of ethics,” said Elorza, a first-term Democrat who defeated Cianci when the latter made a final, failed comeback bid in 2014.

As examples, Elorza cited Jackson’s recall election and the current push to remove Aponte as council president. “It’s still real in this city, but I’d like to think we still have mechanisms to make sure there are real consequences for anyone who does violate and cross that line,” he said.

Elorza and all but one city council member have called on Aponte to step down as council president. But the mayor left the decision about whether Aponte should resign from the council entirely up to him and voters in his constituency, Ward 10.

“Step number one is to make sure he is no longer leader of city council,” Elorza said. “As we project this progress we’re making in this city, do we really want him representing any important institution in the city? Absolutely not.”

A special meeting has been called for Monday where council members will consider a vote of “no confidence” in Aponte.

Tim White ( twhite@wpri.com ) is the Target 12 investigative reporter and host of Newsmakers for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook