2014-12-18 / Opinion

Getting Newporters on Same Page

Give Joseph Paolino credit. The former mayor of Providence turned developer may have lost out at the polls in his effort to introduce table games to Newport Grand. But he does have, as they say, a way with words.

The scene was the Community College of Rhode Island campus in Newport, at the height of this fall’s captivating political campaigns. Paolino, probably frustrated during his appearance before the Alliance for a Livable Newport, declared, “If this town were allowed to vote on whether to build a bridge, it would have voted it down.”

Well, maybe not. But you get the point.

Change is seldom easy—especially, it seems, in and around Newport.

Just ask the people at the Newport Yachting Center who used to put on the summer concert and entertainment series dowtown. Or, for that matter, Michele Maker Palmieri, formerly of the yachting center, and now trying to bring the same type of summer entertainment to Fort Adams. Same thing for The Breakers and those at the mansion who’d like to serve food on site at a new welcome center.

It reminds us of that iconic picture of the teenage boy who brought a Chinese military parade to a standstill in Tiananmen Square by courageously standing in the path of a tank.

Talk about the few—or in this case the one—stopping an army in its tracks.

The Fort Adams situation raises the obvious questions. This is not an urban setting such as the venue where NYC events once took place under a downtown tent. It’s a state park, acres upon acres separating most of the rest of the world from the music venue–behind a huge stone wall of the fort near Newport Harbor and Narragansett Bay. The Newport Jazz and Folk festivals have taken place here not for years, but for decades.

An organization called the Castle Hill Neighborhood Association stands between organizers of the Fort Adams summer program and approval of the event by the City Council, which, by the way, has organized a January workshop to air out the issues further.

We wonder how many members of the Castle Hill group moved to homes near the Fort Adams site not knowing it was a summer song and entertainment mecca. And, given the near-to-ideal logistics of Fort Adams, we also wonder whether there is any place else in Newport that is better for outdoor summer concerts.

Will we next see opposition to Sunday afternoon summer concerts at King Park? Or what about weeknight summer concerts at First Beach?

We can only hope that the Newport City Council can somehow get everyone on the same page lest we eventually be stuck with summers without song in the City by the Sea.

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