2014-04-17 / Opinion

Say No to Selloff of School Properties

To the Editor:

It has recently been in the news that the Newport City Council is deciding what to do with the "excess" properties that are the public schools made "obsolete" by the new Pell School.

The City Council has already decided to "market" the properties, sell them off these public properties to the highest bidder.

I think Newport citizens need to intervene in this decision. I ask a simple question: What makes Newport enjoyable to you as a citizen? Is it the many tourist-oriented shops, the hotels? Is it the numerous condos that proliferate the waterfront, making access to Newport's harbor difficult?

Not for me. When we walk into Newport, and we do this often, we are attracted to Newport's public places. Queen Anne Square, Kings's Park, the Newport Public Library and the adjacent park, Perrotti Park and the little harbor house where, as citizens we can climb the stairs and look out over our harbor. These are our places. These are islands of serenity amidst the hustle and bustle. Newport doesn't need less public places, we need more.

There are four schools that are about to be pillaged, erased from public ownership forever. What price can we put on this? These places could be available to our children and grandchildren. Sure, Newport can make a few million, but that will be spent in no time, and on what? Think about it : How can it be that as the population of Newport grows, the public places continue to disappear? What does that say about our changing values?

What will they say about us in several generations when we sell off priceless public properties to cover short-term financial difficulties?

There's no doubt that this city is run by real estate agents and their friends. Perhaps they mean well, but to a carpenter holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail. And to real estate agents, everything looks like "excess properties" and "tax income." To Newport citizens who love the city, these places look like our home. Why sell all of these places? I have some ideas for the City Council. Convert these places into public places that are useful for us, the citizens. Have you ever taken a bike ride around the Ocean Drive? Wouldn't it be nice to stop for refreshment at "Underwood Park" along the way? Wouldn't it be nice to be able to take a language course at the "Coggeshall Community Center" and enjoy the park there afterwards? Think about the possibilities, Newport! Paul Baggenstoss


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