2015-08-20 / Opinion

A Deal You Can’t Ignore


Newport residents, it seems to us, get most excited over events that take place–right in their own neighborhoods. One of the most recent examples concerns those folks who live in the Fifth Ward close to Rogers High School. About 30 neighbors descended on the Newport School Committee on Aug. 11 to complain that the imposing cell tower on the Rogers campus is a threat to their health and quality of life.

For certain, we’ve not heard the last of this issue, as the School Committee decided it will seek a public forum with AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile, the three cellular giants that rent space on the tower.

The Fifth Ward’s objections to the Rogers tower make up just the latest instance of neighborhood dust-ups in Newport. Remember the brouhaha over noise from proposed concerts at Fort Adams (and, before that, the ire expressed by downtown condo owners who objected to outdoor summer concerts too near their front doors)?

Some residents in the Point got more than a little irked by boat racks in their historic lair. Meanwhile, The Breakers' quest to provide sandwiches to visitors over neighbors’ objections seems to have no end in sight.

Don’t misunderstand. We would never suggest that neighbors sit on their hands if the City Council, School Committee or any other Newport board, commission or agency tries to plow forward with some endeavor that collectively rankled those who live in one of the city’s neighborhoods.

On the contrary, we applaud those who rise up on these occasions. This is, after all, America–land of the free.

Rather, we bring all of this up because it strikes us as unusual that Newport’s citizenry becomes so agitated at the neighborhood level but, as was the case this year, is virtually nowhere to be found when the School Committee or the City Council gathered to approve millions of dollars in municipal spending through the annual city budget.

Perhaps it’s just human nature that makes people more excited– and willing to personally turn out and be heard–when municipal leaders, developers, contractors, or others seek to alter the status quo in one neighborhood or another.

Still, we think it would be a good thing if more people were tuned in to, say, the more than $24 million ($24,312,243 to be exact) budgeted for Newport schools in 2015-2016. Or, for that matter, were they to express more interest in the city’s overall 2015-2016 spending plan of more than $124 million.

So, how about if we make a deal? We’ll keep reporting on city finances and writing about them if you, the reader, begin paying more attention to the big picture in addition to those matters that impact just your neighborhood.

It’s a deal that you really can’t afford to ignore.

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