David Cicilline

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David Cicilline
David Cicilline, Official Portrait, 112th Congress 2.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Rhode Island's 1st district
Assumed office
January 3, 2011
Preceded by Patrick Kennedy
36th Mayor of Providence, Rhode Island
In office
January 6, 2003 – January 3, 2011
Preceded by John J. Lombardi
Succeeded by Angel Taveras
Member of the Rhode Island House of Representatives
from the 4th district
In office
January 1995 – January 2003
Preceded by Linda J. Kushner
Succeeded by Gordon D. Fox
Personal details
Born David Nicola Cicilline
(1961-07-15) July 15, 1961 (age 57)
Providence, Rhode Island[1]
Political party Democratic
Residence Providence, Rhode Island
Alma mater Brown University (AB)
Georgetown University (J.D.)
Religion Judaism
Website cicilline.com

David Nicola Cicilline (/sɪsˈlni/; born July 15, 1961) is an American politician who has been the U.S. Representative for Rhode Island's 1st congressional district since 2011.[2] He is a member of the Democratic Party. He previously served as Mayor of Providence, Rhode Island from 2003 to 2011, and was the first openly gay mayor of a U.S. state capital.[3][4]

Early life, education, and law career

Cicilline was born July 15, 1961, in Providence, Rhode Island. His mother, Sabra (née Peskin), is Jewish, and his father, John Francis "Jack" Cicilline, is Italian American and Catholic.[5][6][7] His father is a prominent attorney in Providence who defended local Mafia figures in the 1970s and 1980s and was an aide to Mayor Joseph A. Doorley.[5]

He was raised in Providence before moving to Narragansett. In high school, he served as president of his graduating class and participated in the Close Up Washington civic education program before heading to Brown University, where he established a branch of the College Democrats with his classmate, John F. Kennedy, Jr. He took a degree in political science, graduating magna cum laude in 1983. He then went to Georgetown University Law Center where he earned a J.D.

He remained in Washington, D.C., for a while to work as a lawyer and Public Defender Service.

Rhode Island House of Representatives (1995–2003)


He ran for the Rhode Island Senate in 1992 against incumbent senator Rhoda Perry but lost the Democratic primary. Two years later, he was elected to the Rhode Island House of Representatives, representing the 4th district on Providence's East Side. He won the Democratic primary to succeed retiring Rep. Linda J. Kushner with 56% of the vote and was unopposed in the general election.[8]


According to his website, he "earned a reputation as a fierce champion of political reform and gun safety, and his dedication to ethics won him Common Cause’s top ranking."[9]

Committee assignments

Mayor of Providence (2003–2011)


Cicilline was elected in a landslide in November 2002 with 84% of the vote, following the downfall of controversial mayor Vincent Cianci and the aftermath of Operation Plunder Dome.[10] He succeeded acting mayor John J. Lombardi, who served out Cianci's term and decided not to run in the following election.[11] In 2006, Cicilline won an easy re-election with 83 percent of the vote.[12] A Brown University survey in September 2007 found that 64 percent of state residents approved of the job Cicilline was doing in Providence. By February 2008, that number had dropped to 51 percent. And in September 2008, his popularity fell to 46 percent.[13]


Providence has experienced a significant drop in crime, attributed by some to community policing. As of 2007, Providence saw its lowest crime rate in 30 years. The city has eliminated 14 percent of management positions, dropped to 17th in the state for per-capita tax and received an "A" bond rating from all three major bond-rating agencies.[12]


Cicilline was 2008 President of the National Conference of Democratic Mayors. As mayor, he was a member of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition,[14] a bi-partisan group with the stated goal of "making the public safer by getting illegal guns off the streets." The Coalition was co-chaired by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

In 2009 Cicilline served on the selection committee for the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence.[15]

Mayoral policies

Cicilline's administration focused on the residential neighborhoods of Providence, as well as the "Renaissance" areas of downtown and Federal Hill that thrived under Cianci, and continued the promotion of the city via the tax breaks given to artists and movie productions. A former state legislator, he overcame the animosity between state and city government that had existed under Cianci.

In May 2009, Cicilline gained national headlines after proposing a $150 per semester Head Tax on each of the 25,000 college students attending four universities in the city. The tax was an effort to close $6 to $8 million of a reported $17 million city budget shortfall. The Associated Press reported that if enacted, it would become the first-in-the-nation tax on students simply for being enrolled and attending college within the city limits.[16]

Cicilline has expressed concern about the Providence metropolitan area's carbon footprint. As mayor, he sought to implement a streetcar/light rail-type system for the city. He also focused efforts to fight poverty. He won passage of a vacant-and-abandoned property penalty, to provide an economic disincentive for banks to keep properties off the housing market for extended periods of time. He also proposed municipal bonds for the purpose of buying foreclosed properties to expand housing.[17]

Cicilline is a strong proponent of after-school activities as a means of improving opportunities for children.[18] As mayor, Cicilline served as Chair of the Standing Committee for Children, Health and Human Services of the United States Conference of Mayors.[19] He has also been recognized for his efforts to establish youth programming and to strengthen ties among schools, businesses and local government, in order to expand access to after-school programming. Under Cicilline, city officials worked with Rhode Island’s Education Partnership to form PASA, the Providence After School Alliance.[18] Cicilline also serves on the board of the national nonprofit Afterschool Alliance, an organization that works to promote and to support after-school activities for all children.[20]

Between 1980 and 2009, most prostitution was legal in Rhode Island.[21] As mayor, Cicilline was a strong advocate for outlawing it.[22] Cicilline personally testified in Superior Court to stop the opening of "spas" in Providence, and discussed his position in the 2009 documentary Happy Endings?.[22][23] [24] He lobbied for a prostitution law not only to arrest sex workers and their customers, but also to fine landlords that permitted prostitution on their premises.[25] On September 2, 2009, Cicilline submitted an ordinance to the City Council to ban indoor prostitution in the city, imposing a $500 fine and a potential 30-day prison sentence on violators.[26] On November 3, 2009, Rhode Island Governor Donald Carcieri signed into law a bill making the buying and selling of sexual services a crime.[21] (See also: Prostitution in Rhode Island)

During the 2008 Democratic primaries, Cicilline supported Hillary Clinton. In August 2008, he attended the Democratic National Convention in Denver. While there, he told an interviewer that he now supported Barack Obama, saying "[t]here is a real sense of hope and optimism about what we're about to do and about a chance in leadership in this country".[27]

ICE controversy with Governor Carcieri

On June 8, 2008, Marco Riz, an illegal immigrant from Guatemala who had been arrested twice the previous year while under a deportation order, was charged with the robbery and rape of a 30-year-old woman.[28] A federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent criticized the Providence Police Department for not checking Riz's immigration status at the time of his previous arrest.[29] The governor of Rhode Island, Donald Carcieri, blamed Cicilline for the department's failure. Previously, Carcieri had signed an executive order requiring all state officials to work with ICE on arrests or hirings of illegal immigrants. When Carcieri asked the same of local agents, Providence Police Chief Dean Esserman refused. Cicilline responded that it has been the policy of the Police Department to work with ICE and its database on all arrests, that the policy had been followed when Riz was arrested, and that the ICE had failed to act.[29]

On July 8, 2008, Rhode Island Governor Donald Carcieri claimed that Cicilline was not upholding his oath of office by failing to report illegal immigrants, suggesting the U.S. Attorney investigate the mayor.[30] Mayor Cicilline responded by accusing Carcieri of "playing politics", eight days later writing an op-ed in the Providence Journal stating that the city always has and will continue to report all arrests to immigration authorities, and that the focus is therefore inappropriate.[31] Carcieri was term-limited and prevented from running for a third term in 2010.

Firefighters' union contract arbitration

Beginning in 2003, Cicilline was engaged in a dispute with the Providence Firefighters labor union, Local 799. In a July 2002 email Cicilline sent to the members of Local 799, he indicated that he hoped to resolve their pending contract dispute with the city within 30 days of taking office. In August, Cicilline said in an interview that it was impossible for him to promise to bring the contract negotiations to a successful conclusion owing to the unpredictability of his negotiating partners.[32] The city and the union had been in arbitration in every contract year since 2002, with Cicilline appealing one arbitration decision to the Rhode Island Supreme Court. The appeal was rejected.[33]

In 2004, Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards canceled a fundraising appearance in Providence in support of the Local 799.[34] In 2007, Hillary Clinton asked Cicilline, a Clinton supporter, not to attend a Clinton rally because of threats by the union to picket the appearance.[35][36]

Both the Rhode Island AFL-CIO and the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) censured Cicilline for his conduct in this matter.[37][38] In 2009, due to the union picketline, the Obama administration canceled Joe Biden's appearance at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Providence in the interests of remaining neutral in the conflict.[39]

Tax office controversy

In June 2008, John M. Cicilline, brother of Mayor Cicilline, pleaded guilty to conspiracy, obstruction of justice and making false statements for his role in the courthouse corruption scheme. Federal prosecutors indicted John Cicilline, disbarred attorney Joseph Bevilacqua, Jr., and two assistants in January 2007. According to court documents, the two attorneys spun a complicated scheme to win leniency in a drug trafficking case.[40]

Before reporting to prison, John M. Cicilline gave the city of Providence a $75,000 check for taxes owed by a client, but asked that the check not be cashed and only held as collateral. Two of the mayor’s top aides told the city tax collector Robert Ceprano, not to cash the check because it would bounce. In four instances, Ceprano said mayoral aides pressured him to perform tax favors for the mayor’s friends and/or campaign contributors. The mayor claimed the taxpayers had been given relief because the city had made errors on their taxes—not because they were his friends or contributors. During the controversy, Ceprano was fired [41]

On May 10, 2009, Robert Ceprano filed a lawsuit against the City of Providence alleging conspiracy, corruption, libel and wrongful termination. The suit accuses John M. Cicilline, the mayor’s imprisoned brother, of attempting to defraud the City of Providence by writing a bad check for $75,000 on behalf of a delinquent taxpayer. Furthermore, it alleges, the mayor and his aides “willfully conspired...to conceal John Cicilline’s illegal activities”. Ceprano also charges that he was fired not for poor job performance, but because he resisted the mayor’s efforts to perform tax favors for political friends and supporters. Lawyers for Ceprano are asking for $10 million.[42] The single count complaint against John Cicilline was dismissed by Judge Kristin Rodgers on November 17, 2009.[43]

Budget controversy

Shortly after assuming office, Cicilline's successor as the Mayor of the City of Providence, Angel Taveras, announced that the City was facing a "category 5" hurricane due to its substantial debt. Tavares was compelled to engage in austerity cuts including teacher layoffs and paycuts for city employees.[44] The total structural debt inherited by Tavares in 2011 was $180 million.[45]

A report commissioned by the City of Providence found that the Cicilline administration had transferred funds from the Undesignated Surplus (the city's cash reserves) without the proper approval of the City Council, had not provided financial information on a timely basis to the independent auditor, the City Council or the Internal Auditor, and had not provided the City Council with monthly financial statements or with projections of year-end surpluses or deficits, among other findings.[46] Providence City Council Finance Chairman John Igliozzi accused him of "hiding the scope of the city’s fiscal woes through 'illusory revenues, borrowing and other tricks.'"[47]

Fitch Ratings also downgraded Providence's ratings, citing "imprudent budgeting decisions and failure to implement recurring budget solutions". Ciciline, who portrayed himself as a reformer looking to restore transparency to city hall, was criticized by his opponents from the primary and House elections: Democrat Anthony Gemma said that he felt Cicilline had lied his way to federal office and Republican John Loughlin said “You just don’t lie to people in such a transparent way."[47]

A year later, it was reported that Providence could be on the brink of bankruptcy. Former Mayor Vincent Cianci put much blame on Cicilline for Providence's problems, saying that although he didn't think it was entirely his fault, he did hide it from the public. Experts have said that the only way out for Providence may be to declare bankruptcy.[48][49]

U.S. House of Representatives (2011–Present)



On February 13, 2010, Cicilline announced his candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives following the retirement of Patrick J. Kennedy. He won the Democratic primary in September with 37% of the vote: defeating businessman Anthony Gemma (23%), State Representative David Segal (20%), and state party chairman Bill Lynch (20%).[50][51]

In November, he defeated Republican State Representative John Loughlin with 51% of the vote.[2][52]


He ran for re-election in the newly redrawn 1st district, and won.[53]

A February 2012 survey showed Cicilline's approval rating had dropped almost 10% in 3 months, with the percent rating his performance "excellent or good" dropping by 24%. Anthony Gemma, Cicilline's primary opponent, said that the poll clearly showed that "a majority of Rhode Islanders wanted to see Cicilline go."[54]

In 2011 it was reported that although Rhode Island had experienced a population shift of only 7,200, a new congressional map would put 125,000 Rhode Islanders into new districts, which would help Democrats, and notably Cicilline.[55] Fellow House Democrat Jim Langevin accused Cicilline of trying to use the redistricting to aid with his reelection campaign. Possible Republican contenders suggested that it was an attempt to save Cicilline after his approval numbers had dropped. Cicilline commented, saying that he did not attempt to influence the redistricting.[56]


He won re-election to a third term in office.


Upon being sworn in, Cicilline became the fourth openly gay member of Congress.[57]

Cicilline says that his biggest priority in Congress is helping the creation of good-paying jobs in Rhode Island. He also has indicated his support for small businesses, seniors, Medicare, and for bringing the troops home.[58]

Cicilline has voted with his party 96% of the time.[59] He has been described as a hard-core Liberal.[60]

An avid supporter of non-violence, Cicilline has taken a stance against the U.S. military presence in Libya, voting to limit the use of funds supporting NATO operations in Libya and to remove armed forces from Libya.[61] On a domestic level, he is a strong anti-gun advocate. (He was a founding member of the bipartisan coalition Mayors Against Illegal Guns.)[62] In 2010, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence endorsed Cicilline; in 2000, the National Rifle Association awarded him an F- lifetime score.[63] Cicilline has also indicated his support for a ban on the sale or transfer of all forms of semi-automatic weapons, for more stringent state restrictions on the purchase and possession of firearms, and for a requirement that manufacturers equip firearms with child-safety locks.[64] On November 16, 2011, Cicilline made a powerful public statement against the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act which would “require all states to allow out-of-state visitors to carry concealed firearms as long as the laws of the visitors' home states allow them to do so.”[65] He insisted that the Second Amendment had nothing to do with this bill, which, he said, would infringe upon the right of state governments to protect the safety of their citizens, and would force communities to accept concealed-carry standards set by other states.[66]

Cicilline is pro-choice, and advocates that abortions should always be legally available and that government funding should be provided to clinics and medical facilities that provide abortion services.[64] He opposed the Protect Life Act of October 2011, which would ban the use of federal funds to cover any costs under health care plans that pay for abortions and would allow federally funded hospitals to refuse to perform the abortions (even in cases in which the mother's life is in danger).[67] Stating that the bill would put women's lives at risk and would limit “how women can spend their own private dollars to purchase health insurance,” Cicilline declared it “outrageous.”[68] He also voted in February 2011 against prohibiting the disbursement of federal funds to Planned Parenthood and, in May 2011, against prohibiting taxpayer funding of abortion.[61] Cicilline has also cosponsored the Violence Against Women Health Initiative Act of 2011 to “improve the health care system's assessment and response to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking, and for other purposes.”[69]

Cicilline has declared his support for veterans' “access to a range of resources in health care, housing, employment, mental health services, and education.” [70] He has cosponsored the Veterans Dog Training Therapy Act to aid veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder,[71] the Disabled Veterans Tax Termination Act to permit disabled veterans to receive both retirement pay and disability compensation,[72] and the Veteran Employment Transition Act of 2011 to extend work opportunities to recently discharged veterans.[73] On November 18, 2011, Cicilline said the following about the Vow Hire Heroes Act, which increases job opportunities for veterans: "This vote ensures that Rhode Island veterans and all of our nation's veterans will receive some of the tools and resources they need to successfully reenter the workforce and provide for their families and loved ones.”[74]

Committee assignments

Caucus memberships

  • Congressional Arts Caucus
  • Congressional Common Ground Caucus (co-founder)


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  71. http://www.opencongress.org/bill/112-h198/show OpenCongress: H.R. 198. Retrieved 2011-19-11.
  72. http://www.opencongress.org/bill/112-h333/show OpenCongress: H.R. 333. Retrieved 2011-19-11.
  73. http://www.opencongress.org/bill/112-h865/show OpenCongress: H.R. 856. Retrieved 2011-19-11.
  74. http://www.vote-smart.org/public-statement/651921/cicilline-praises-house-passage-of-vow-to-hire Project Vote Smart: Cicillene Praises House Passage of Vow to Hire Heroes Act. Retrieved 2011-19-11.

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Patrick Kennedy
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Rhode Island's 1st congressional district

January 3, 2011 – present
Succeeded by
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
John Carney
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Rick Crawford
Political offices
Preceded by
John J. Lombardi
Mayor of Providence
Succeeded by
Angel Taveras