2015-11-25 / Opinion

Letters to the Editor

Councilors Should Embrace Innovation

To the Editor:

In last week’s letter to the editor (“Councilors Should Study Charter,” Nov. 19), Cris Cobaugh suggested that the Newport City Council’s discord was a result of certain members’ misunderstanding of the Charter rules. This is a sentiment shared by her husband, Councilor Justin McLaughlin.

The council recently had a meeting to discuss short-term and midterm goals. Mr. McLaughlin was clearly displeased, and abruptly walked out of the meeting. On his way out, he suggested to me that “I read the Charter.” This highlights a misconception that some have: that the Council should not introduce ideas and policies that will improve our community. In fact, the Charter is very clear; creating new policies is explicitly stated in Section 1-1: “The Council…shall enact local legislation, adopt budgets, [and] determine policies…”

Recently, the city administration hired an independent organization to conduct a citizen survey. Some of the findings were unsettling. More than 80 percent of Newport residents were dissatisfied with how information was disseminated from our city administration, our social media and our website. Our technology infrastructure is not suitable for our 21st-century needs. As the CEO of a company that builds websites for Fortune 500 companies and Ivy League universities, I’m extremely well-versed in this area. For example, Engage Newport, a microsite that cost the city tens of thousands of dollars, received just 21,000 page views in a one-year span. On average, a visitor spent just 56 seconds on the site. Given these alarming statistics, I have recommended to the administration that we hire a Chief Information Officer (CIO). Such a role will lead to significant cost savings, improved efficiencies, and better delivery of city services.

During the meeting, Mr. McLaughlin expressed outrage at this suggestion and commented that it went against Charter rules. This, despite our own city manager and former solicitor agreeing that such a proposal is not in any way a violation of Charter rules. As a council, we are always going to have our differences. But as council members, the Charter gives us the power to introduce new ideas that will enhance the quality of life of all Newport citizens.

Innovation should not be offensive to anyone, let alone an elected member who has been entrusted by the citizens of this community to make Newport a better place for all of us. We should respect one another and embrace our differences. Let’s establish a council culture that is positive, collaborative, and works for the people of this great city.

John F. Florez Newport City Councilor

Comprehensive Plan is Flawed

To the Editor:

The State of Rhode Island has accepted the Middletown Comprehensive Community Plan. The only problem is that the land use section is flawed, as it opens up the town to widespread development. At this time, the only thing that protects the people of the town from all-out development is the zoning ordinance.

We had an example of this at the council meeting on Nov. 16, when Attorney Silva made a three-hour presentation to the council to change the zoning for the two lots south of the Polo Center from residential to light business because the Comprehensive Plan allowed for it.

Ona4to3vote,thecouncilsaid no, but the problem still exists. Nothing was settled. The Comprehensive Plan and the zoning still remain incompatible. This is why I suggested having the council, Planning Board, and the Zoning Board meet to work out the differences by comparing each section of the town to both the Comprehensive Plan and zoning ordinance, noting where they are incompatible, deciding which are in the best interests of the people of Middletown and the town as a whole, and making appropriate changes in either the Comprehensive Plan or zoning ordinance so they are compatible.

This will satisfy the law and end the process, so we can move on. But for some reason, my colleagues on the council are reluctant. I will try again at the council's Dec. 7 meeting. I will appreciate any help you can give me.

Antone C. Viveiros Middletown Town Council

Watching Out for Our Water

To the Editor:

For those who may have missed it, the Aquidneck Island Watershed Council, by vote of its directors, has merged with Clean Ocean Access (COA) under the leadership of Dave McLaughlin.

I urge you all to support COA's mission, and now that it is a 501 (c) (3) tax exempt, nonprofit, to be generous in donations to the worthy causes of clean drinking water and the ocean surrounding our lovely Island.

I also urge you to maintain a close watch on what's going on in Middletown: The Comprehensive Plan, the zoning code and other critical guidelines are about to change. Some aspects may adversely affect all island communities.

For example, there is a petition under consideration to build 35 condos on vacant land just north of Oliphant Lane. That land encompasses the headwaters of Bailey's Brook, the primary source of our drinking water.

If that petition is granted, it opens the door to the owners of the former Skater Island property to push for even heavier development of its property.

So, instead of protecting our drinking water, the town fathers may be setting in motion further violations against keeping our water supply safe to drink. James H. Marshall


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