PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A long-running dispute over a carnival in George J. West Park has become a heated campaign issue in Providence’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood, with one City Council member accusing his Democratic colleague of attempting to cancel the annual event.
In a Facebook post published Sunday, Ward 6 Councilman Michael Correia, also a Democrat, accused Ward 5 Councilwoman Jo-Ann Ryan of saying she doesn’t like the types of people the carnival attracts, suggesting the comment “sounds a little racist to me.”
“Now she’s out asking for your support,” Correia wrote, referring to the residents of Ward 5, which includes parts of the Mount Pleasant and Elmhurst neighborhoods. Ward 6 is located just south of Ryan’s ward and includes parts of the Mount Pleasant and Manton neighborhoods.
Ryan quickly released a statement calling Correia’s statement “false and outrageous.” She claims she is considering taking legal action because Correia “knowingly published false statements he attributed to me as fact.”
Reached Monday, Correia stood by his post, saying Ryan has made comments about the people who attend the carnival on more than one occasion. This year’s carnival was held between May 31 and June 3, with both Correia and Ryan listed as hosts according to a calendar posted on the website of Rockwell Amusements, the company that runs the event.
This being Providence, there are politics behind the carnival clash.
The event in George J. West Park has been held every spring for many years, and Correia continued the tradition after he was elected to succeed his mentor Councilman Joe DeLuca in 2010. But two years into his tenure on the council, Correia was on the losing end of a ward redistricting battle, which moved the park, a police substation and Triggs Memorial Golf Course from Ward 6 to Ward 5 beginning with the 2014 election.
When Correia was re-elected, he continued leading the way on the carnival, even though George J. West Park is now considered part of Ryan’s turf. On advertising materials, Correia and Ryan have been listed as hosts of the carnival ever since.
But Correia maintains Ryan has repeatedly attempted to cancel the event in recent years. He posted a comment to his Facebook last year again suggesting she didn’t want the carnival in the park, but later deleted it after some of their colleagues on the council intervened.
Flash forward to 2018.
Correia, who is running unopposed for a third and final term on the council, is now publicly supporting Steven Cianci, one of Ryan’s two Democratic primary opponents this year. Cianci is a distant cousin of former Providence Mayor Vincent A. “Buddy” Cianci Jr. Also running in the primary is Aaron Jaehnig, an environmental advocate and small business owner.
Ryan’s statement did not directly address the carnival, but she called the criticism a “desperate gasp of a failing campaign.”
“It is apparent this is an insider network’s desperate attempt designed to return public service in the city to the dark days of the past,” Ryan, who is the endorsed Democrat in the race, said. “I will not be intimidated; we have come too far to turn back. I ran for public office to improve the quality of life for all residents of the Fifth Ward and to reform city government. I am proud of my record. I am proud of what I have accomplished in my first term as councilwoman for the Fifth Ward.”
Continue the discussion on Facebook
Dan McGowan (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan