2016-01-21 / Opinion

A Noise Deterrent Lost

Nothing that happens in the political sphere is ever so surprising as to be unbelievable. Still, we are a bit perplexed by the opposition to Newport City Councilor John Florez’s proposal to establish a program under which police could attach 10-by-14- inch yellow stickers on the front door of city dwellings deemed to be “habitual party houses.”

Florez’s concern about this issue comes from experience, he said. He added that a similar program has been effective in Narragansett, where many University of Rhode Island students reside while enrolled in school. Further, City Hall sources tell Newport This Week that late-night calls complaining to police about noise violations remain a regular occurrence in our city.

The Florez resolution, defeated 4-2 by the council on Jan. 13, would have allowed police to “sticker” a house that has become a public nuisance. That means, according to Newport’s noise abatement statute, a “public get-together of five or more people that substantially disturbs the quiet environment of a neighborhood by unlawful conduct such as loud noise and drunken behavior.”

Council foes of the Florez proposal maintained that there was no need for a sticker program in Newport. First Ward Councilor Marco Camacho said the days of “Zoo-port” were a thing of the past. But the real death blow to the Florez plan was perhaps dealt by the Newport Police Department. Chief Gary Silva said flatly that he doubted the program was necessary because his officers already had the tools they needed. This includes a fine of up to $1,000 on a first noise offense. ”The city is not what it was 30 years ago,” he declared.

Maybe not.

But we fail to see what harm would have been done had the council chosen to approve the Florez proposal. Surely no one within Newport city government would ever demand that Chief Silva actually use his authority to unfairly sticker a house. And if he did, and it was unwarranted, we believe that the chief would refuse.

One thing is certain. Newport’s Code of Ordinances is not equivocal when it comes to “noise abatement.” The code states, “It is the declared policy of the city to promote an environment free from excessive, unreasonably loud, and disturbing noise, otherwise called noise pollution, which unreasonably jeopardizes the health and welfare of the public, violates and disturbs the well-being, tranquility and privacy of the home….”

Those words are carefully chosen and they get right to the point. So why not give Newport police one more arrow in their quiver to help them to enforce these well-stated and worthwhile goals?

Newport may no longer be “Zoo-port.” And that’s a good thing.

But we’d hate to see the city ever slip back to where that description becomes accurate once more. We think Councilor Florez’s proposal, if nothing else, could have served as an effective deterrent to unhealthy noise. We lament its defeat.

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