2014-11-20 / Opinion

New City Council Has No Time to Dawdle

The scene was described by one as “sophomoric.” Indeed, the Nov. 18 meeting of the Newport Historic District Commission (HDC) may be remembered by those who were there at the Newport Public Library as resembling a college dorm the night before finals.

Standing room only in the library’s small conference room, coupled withonlookers sitting on the floor in the hallway, craning their necks to hear testimony, set the stage for a second crowded meeting. A larger meeting room had apparently already been booked by another group, relegating HDC’s size-10 meeting to a size-five room.

For the HDC, this was the second straight month of losing the monthly game of musical chairs stemming from the unavailability of Newport City Hall. Council chambers are off-limits to municipal meetings until renovations can be made there to bring the building into compliance with provisions of open meetings laws and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

For now, Newport’s City Council usually meets at the Claiborne Pell Elementary School, the Zoning Board at Rogers High School, and the Planning Board at the police station.

Meanwhile, two of the city’s most important full-time positions— city manager and city planner—remain vacant with the tasks being temporarily assumed by able people.

Enough is enough, we say.

With that thought in mind, circle Monday, Dec. 1, on your calendar, and no, not to begin your Christmas shopping. Circle that date because that is when Newport’s newly-elected City Council will be formally sworn into action.

This time around, our councilors need to waste no time addressing all this disarray in our city’s government. City Hall renovations, a new city manager, a new planner. There is no shortage of top-shelf issues on the city’s agenda.

We understand that the council has decided to hire an outside consulting firm that specializes in recruiting candidates for positions such as city manager. And, we are told that the RFP (request for proposals) to find that firm has gone out.

Besides the council’s formal swearing in on Dec. 1, there is only one other City Council meeting next month. That will occur on Dec. 10.

So, the best case scenario for having a new city manager in town and on the job may be sometime in January. Meanwhile, let’s hope that someone at City Hall can find a suitable gathering place for the next meeting of the Historic District Commission—that’s on Tuesday, Dec. 16.

Return to top