2016-09-29 / Around Town

Forums to Feature City Candidates

By Barry Bridges

In the next few weeks, Newporters will have the opportunity to hear the viewpoints of local candidates as they deliberate issues facing the city.

In October, the Alliance for a Livable Newport will sponsor several public forums where City Council and School Committee candidates will field questions. The first of the three will be on Tuesday, Oct. 4, and will feature Marco Camacho and Susan Taylor, the contenders for the First Ward council seat. The event will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, 20 Dr. Marcus Wheatland Blvd. (Guests are requested to use the Edward Street entrance.)

Forums will not be held for the other municipal wards, as incumbent Second Ward Councilor Lynn Ceglie and Third Ward Councilor Kathryn Leonard are running unopposed.

The session for at-large council candidates will be on Tuesday, Oct. 11, at 6:30 p.m. in City Hall council chambers, 43 Broadway, while Newport School Committee candidates will convene on Tuesday, Oct. 18, at 6 p.m. at the Pell School Cafetorium, 35 Dexter St.

Local candidates have already completed written questionnaires from ALN, with their responses available on the organization’s website.

City council candidates replied to a set of 10 questions covering topics such as sea level rise, panhandling, city communications, the comprehensive plan, and how to keep middle class families in Newport. School committee candidates answered nine questions, writing on their views on early education and pre-K, teacher performance, how to best serve economically disadvantaged students, and state legislation pertaining to charter schools.

ALN co-president Ron Becker told Newport This Week that the forums will offer an opportunity for candidates to expand upon other topics.

“The questions will not replicate the written questionnaires,” he said. “We’ll probably have time for eight questions for the First Ward candidates, with four or five ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions.” Becker added that there will likely be fewer open-ended questions for the council at-large and School Committee seats since there are more candidates in those races.

Jill Kassis, Jane Koster, and Susan Wells, leaders in the Rhode Island and local chapters of the League of Women Voters, will serve as moderators for the events. ALN received a grant from the LWV Education Fund in helping to underwrite the costs of the forums.

“The questions for the public forums are being drawn up by ALN,” Becker reported. “The main goal for the moderators is to keep everything on schedule and to discourage the candidates from going back and forth among themselves. The questions should only be coming from the moderators, so they need to be fairly strong.”

The candidates will not know the topics beforehand, and questions from the audience will not be accommodated.

“We’re somewhat handcuffed by time. We will try to limit the forums to 90 minutes so that they can fit into the public TV schedule, although that may not be possible with the School Committee, considering the number of candidates,” Becker continued.

ALN works to promote Newport’s quality of life, with a goal of serving as a resource in finding solutions to issues affecting the community. The alliance’s five focus areas are education, the environment, infrastructure, public health and safety, and government accountability.

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