To the Editor:
The City of Newport has many challenges but also many opportunities in the months and years ahead. To list just a few of these issues encompassing both challenges and opportunities: The Pell Bridge realignment and attendant North End project. The Naval Hospital land and what to do with it when donated to the City. The closing of Newport Grand and subsequent purchase by the Carpionato Group. The overcrowding at Pell School and the derelict Rogers High School. What to do with the Visitor’s Center Ongoing parking problems. The AirBnB rental explosion. Potential sea rise….the list goes on. I am running for City Council-at-Large because I believe that with judgment and leadership these issues are all, although challenges, great opportunities to move our beloved City in the right direction.
Many people talk to me about quality of life issues. Things like traffic, an overcrowded downtown, noise and party houses, potholes and poor streets in general, no parking for residents, etc…and believe me these are issues that resonate with me too! However, the major issues I have listed above are also quality of life issues, writ large, and if one looks more closely, they are all interconnected. Let me explain.
In the updated Comprehensive Land Use Plan, co-authored by myself and the eight other Planning Board members I served with, and published in 2017, the introduction asks the reader to Imagine Newport in 2036. What will it look like? Well, it will have 25% fewer full time residents (24,500-18,000), and it will be graying. If correct, this view has major implications for us all, and not all positive. Although I am myself in that aging cohort, and strongly believe that we need to make our City more livable for seniors (homestead plan, rehab City streets, amongst other things), I believe we need to develop ways to attract more young people and families to Newport. This creates and maintains a vital, vibrant community.
There are three basic things that will ensure this: great schools, affordable middle income housing, including rentals, and great jobs. So, Rogers High School must be addressed. Either renovated or replaced. The Pell School too needs to be addressed, but perhaps on a more temporary basis given the long term demographic trends. We should be looking at middle income, market-based housing for some of the North End. We should be engaging the Carpionatos on our plan. I’m sure they will want to know and be part of what we’re doing there.
The Innovation District and Sheffield incubator are intrinsic to this as well, hopefully creating good paying, sustainable jobs, acting as a magnet for further growth. These ideas are just the beginning. The point is that we need people on the City Council that can take these many disparate issues, construct an overarching vision with consistent and constant input from City residents, understand how they are all inextricably intertwined, and come up with a common sense, integrated plan to achieve this vision. With my experience on the Planning Board, co-author of the Comprehensive Plan, and currently serving on the Zoning Board, I hope you, the voters, will give me that chance.
Candidate for City of Newport Council-at-Large