Stephen Laffey, mayor of Cranston, Rhode Island, believes in his city. Armed with a combination of street smarts, populism and a Harvard M.B.A., for almost three years he’s been putting this heavily working-class community of about 80,000 on the road to sound fiscal footing. But certain local labor bosses are determined to make his job as difficult as possible.
Laffey, 43, and a Republican, was first elected mayor in this traditionally Democratic stronghold in 2002. Upon his taking office the following January, Cranston’s bond rating was the lowest of any U.S. city; bankruptcy loomed. Reluctantly, Laffey persuaded the city council to raise taxes. In return, he won spending concessions, including cutting costs of labor-intensive activities inflated by the demands of public-employees unions. “We were paying unionized crossing guards the equivalent of $129 per hour,” he recalls. “We had to do all those things. There was really no … Read More ➡