2016-04-21 / Opinion

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Suggestions for Compromised Roads

To the Editor:

Newport Councilor John Florez has posted a message on the neighborhood website NextDoor asking Newport residents for feedback on the question “Do our roads need to be fixed?” This is a very timely question, especially after all the seesaw temperature changes this winter hastening pavement crack development. Combined with precipitation and vehicle travel, our already-compromised roads deteriorate even faster.

Here are some observations:

(1) A few years ago, the city used crack filler to fix the cracks in the streets before they got to be a major problem. I believe it was cost effective and helped slow pavement deterioration, even though the squiggles look like an art project run amok. I do this every year in my driveway to forestall more serious problems.

(2) Utilities should be REQUIRED to do a far more comprehensive and long-term job of fixing pavement disrupted by their work. I believe this is the cause of the majority of our bad street problems.

(3) Related to streets indirectly (as well as traffic congestion, air pollution, and wasting fuel) are three problem traffic lights on the north side of Newport, the worst being at Van Zandt and Farewell. When you’re on Van Zandt trying to get through the intersection, the red light cycle is extremely long, even when there’s no cross traffic. This is a major thoroughfare for people who live in the North End to get downtown or onto the Newport Bridge. The light at Kay and Bellevue is also way too long for cars on Kay trying to turn onto Bellevue or Touro. The other light that can cause serious traffic jams is at Broadway and Friendship – the light often turns red on Broadway even when there is no cross traffic or foot traffic.

Also, in the north end of Newport in the vicinity of Broadway, parks and open space are scarce. Before the city puts the Triplett School up for sale, I have a recommendation that I hope will be seriously considered for the sake of all citizens’ quality of life. The driveway to the property is semi-circular, with a small grassy area tucked inside the “U.” It borders Broadway and is currently hiding behind a hedge. This area would make a wonderful pocket park with a few modifications – hedge removal, a fence or shrubbery screen on the driveway side, and perhaps a bench or two. The city could sell the rest of the Triplett property and keep this little street side plot for the use and enjoyment of all. I would volunteer to help keep it clean.

Lois Vaughan Eberhard
Newport

Sea Rise Demands Planning

To the Editor:

My thanks and admiration go out to the Newport Restoration Foundation, the organizers of the “Keeping History Above Water” conference held in Newport last week. This informative and fascinating event brought together some of the best minds in historic preservation, climate science, and other fields to explore and plan for one of the many very real implications of sea rise. Experts from all over came to Newport to see and discuss how rising sea levels are already having profound effects on our community, to explore ways of protecting our valuable historic assets from its effects, and to discuss and plan new methods that can be employed in our community and others.

To me, the challenge of protecting historic properties from destruction as sea levels rise is a perfect illustration of how this problem is both urgent and of remarkably wide scope.

Because humans have always settled heavily on coasts, a great proportion of our population, our resources, and yes, our history, are in grave danger. As participants saw, this isn’t just a problem that’s coming. It’s already here.

I hope that the information shared at this event serves to educate more people about the critical importance of preparing for sea rise and doing all we can to reduce carbon emissions.

Rep. Lauren H. Carson
D-Dist. 75, Newport

Editor's Note: Rep. Carson serves as chair of the House Commission on Economic Risk Due to Flooding and Sea Rise.

Buying Votes through Legislative Grants

To the Editor:

It was revealed this week that elected state lawmakers have been using the controversial practice of legislative grants to their benefit to the tune of $1.4 million (and counting) since July of 2015. Awarding legislative grants is a practice most states, and any rational citizen, would consider political vote-buying. The money is given in their name, but actually it is taxpayer dollars that are used without any House and Senate vote or oversight.

Two of the main culprits in this act of political bribery are House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, who gave out $126,350 to “pet groups,” primarily in his voting district, and our own Sen. Teresa Paiva Weed. Weed has given out $46,000 in legislative grants so far in this fiscal year.

Not surprisingly, these numbers tend to spike during election years, as I learned firsthand in my 2014 run for Senate.

While no one questions the legitimacy of these groups, one must consider and investigate the motives for such amounts of money being given to key organizations. Grants and state payouts to any organization, no matter how great the cause, should go through the check and balance systems we elect our public servants to protect.

Rhode Island is at the bottom on so many business and ethics lists, including having the second highest debt and recently making The Wall Street Journal’s list as the 47th worst-run state.

This is no surprise, as we continue to elect leaders who thwart ethics reform and thrive in a “pay to play” system that is bringing our state to its knees.

Legislative grants must be made a major issue in the next election. We cannot allow a practice that allows politicians to buy votes.

Michael W. Smith
Newport

Wasteful Spending at Gateway Center

To the Editor:

Because the Rhode Island Public Transportation Authority (RIPTA) has gotten ahold of $5.95 million from the Federal Transit Administration, it is calling for new designs to gussy up the city-owned Gateway Center that it leases.

This so-called “free money” requires that the city pony up $660,889 for a total of $6.6 million so that permanent roofing can replace the destroyed canvas tents. Improvements will also be made to sidewalks, along with better lighting, and the center’s blue roof will be repainted to “earth tone green.”

All these so-called improvements add up to putting the proverbial lipstick on a pig, and can’t be what the FTA had in mind for the $3 billion fund it created after Hurricane Sandy’s damages in 2012.

Promised drainage improvements “expected” to help alleviate “some” of the storm flooding experienced by nearby Point residents will be useless as the water levels continue to rise at a dramatically faster pace than originally foreseen.

Why? The Gateway Center is built on filled land a mere three feet above the mean sea level (MSL), and a bit more than 500 feet from the water’s edge.

Several recent nor’easters, including Hurricane Sandy, have inundated the whole area and caused the damage to the center. The flooding and damage so far is nothing compared to what will happen to the whole area in the near future. According to the EPA’s website on climate change: “Rising seas will make coastal storms and the associated storm surges more frequent and destructive.”

Our tax moneys should be used to relocate a visitors’ center to higher ground, instead of wasting it on an ineffective Band-Aid approach to an ugly building that is obviously in the wrong place.

Lisette Prince
Newport

Cemetery Collaboration

To the Editor:

On Saturday, April 16, over 115 people braved the windy chill and toured the Common Burying Ground, the Belmont Chapel and the Island Cemetery as part of Rhode Island’s inaugural Historic Cemetery Restoration and Awareness Day.

This opportunity to see the sweep of 375 years of Newport history was created by the collaboration of Newport groups, some old, some new. Harry Eudenbach’s Belmont Chapel Foundation opened the exquisite chapel, and Lew Keen’s Friends of the Common Burying Ground and Newport History Tours (created by the Newport Historical Society and the Newport Restoration Foundation) conducted visitors through the colonial Common Burying Ground. The three-month-old Friends of the Island Cemetery talked about the personalities and the history contained in the Victorian garden cemetery called the Island Cemetery. Bert Lippincott and Mike Franco provided rich commentary on points of interest. This tour also included an impromptu demonstration of tombstone restoration by Professor Robert Russell and his Salve students.

We hope this is the first of many events to involve the Aquidneck Island community in these historic sites. All of our cultural assets need a voice and volunteers willing to work and invest in preserving these vulnerable community treasures.

Thanks again to all who came and made this day such a success. We look forward to working with you all in the future.

Matt McEntee
Friends of the Island Cemetery

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