2014-01-03 / Around Town

Council to Renew Strategy Sessions

By Tom Shevlin

With the new year upon us, City Council members have resolved to once again engage in a series of strategic planning sessions.

Calling it a vital part of their ongoing responsibility to ensure that the city remains on the right track, Newport Mayor Henry F. Winthrop said that he’s looking forward to picking up where the council left off during their last strategic planning session, where they resolved to make Newport the most “welcoming and livable city in New England.”

According to Winthrop, while no dates have been formally set, he expects the council to again sit down outside of its normal meeting schedule to review their accomplishments and renew their priorities some time in the coming weeks.

The last time the council met to review their strategic plan was in April of 2012. At the time, they set four relatively broad goals, namely: improving communication, pursuing continuous improvement within City Hall, encouraging economic development, and addressing the city’s public infrastructure.

City Manager Jane Howington outlined the administration’s progress in meeting these goals in a memo to councilors in November.

Among the more notable accomplishments she pointed to was a renewed focus on customer service inside City Hall, the sharing of office tasks across departments, and the implementation of new quality of life initiatives aimed at issues like noise and trash violations.

The city’s new micro-site, engagenewport.com, was also an outgrowth of the strategic planning process, as was the decision last year to repave Spring Street and launch a pair of city-administered Facebook accounts. A new website has been commissioned, and is expected to come online within the next month.

And while the last year has seen some progress toward making Newport the most livable city in the region, there have been unfulfilled promises as well.

One of the most glaring relates to the city’s unrealized pledge to reach out to local neighborhood groups as part of its renewed communications effort.

During their last strategy meeting in April, councilors seemed open to the idea of hosting a meeting with such community-oriented groups; however, the idea was not pursued.

Mike Cullen, the moderator of the Knowing Newport discussion board, highlighted this lapse in a year-end post offering his own personal “Bravos and Boos.”

Noting that several city council members had “supported the concept of integrating established neighborhood groups into an 'engagement' effort,” Cullen chided the council for failing to support a “tame, harmless resolution that simply acknowledges the value of neighborhood associations in promoting and maintaining a healthy, whole community.”

The item, naturally, fell into his “Boo” column.

The council is expected to take up that, matter, along with a number of other issues, as part of their renewed strategy effort.

As Winthrop pointed out, the council’s strategic planning process isn’t a static program. “It’s something that we need to continually work on,” he said.

Return to top