2013-12-19 / Opinion

Breaking Down Municipal Opaqueness

To the Editor:

Who needs network reality television when we have high drama and conflict playing out right in Newport­at 43 Broadway? While watching City Council meetings on public access television, it's all too easy to get caught up in the spellbinding theatrics. The opposing, sparring cast of characters is fun to watch, I do admit!

Some councilors artfully feign the role of victim, squirming and swiveling in their chairs with eyes rolling and delivering cloaked "tsktsks" when the words get too raw. When the scene grows awkwardly uncomfortable, some councilors then whip out that trite moniker of “bully.” Once that label gets uttered, carrying-on grows interesting .

As entertaining as this production is, one wonders about the root causes for all this reality TV showlike behavior. Could it be that many of our elected officials place a huge premium on Newport “style" over world-class "substance"? Is it because the questions are posed in such a candid, unrestrained style? Is it because the questioner's colleagues prefer to sidestep substance? Is it because the penetrating inquiry is so offensive to them – no matter the substance of the questions – that the off-putting style trumps any public fact-finding?

Word on the street is that the former mayor lobbied to select Ms. Howington for city manager because she could be more easily "controlled." Should anyone be surprised? After all, this is the city with a history of councilors micromanaging and firing visionary and engaged city managers – such as Mike Mallinoff and Jim Smith, both carpetbaggers, who were sent packing by our "change-is-scary" elected leaders.

Carry on, Mr. Farley. Thank you for your tenacity in circumnavigating the city's powerful “asphalt machine” and trying to pull some pertinent facts out of the city vaults and into the sunshine. More of us need to pick up a hammer and chisel and help you break down this city's stifling municipal "youdon't know-what-really-goes-on" opaqueness.

In the meantime, I hope that this local reality show continues through at least December 2014. I'm confident that voters will renew the show for another season and update the cast of characters. There's ample time to program the video recorder for a season pass! Mike Cullen


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