2016-11-17 / Opinion


Honor Military Families

To the Editor:

What may be overlooked during this busy election cycle is that each year the president signs a proclamation declaring November to be Military Family Month. The annual proclamation marks the beginning of a month-long celebration of the military family in which the Department of Defense and the nation honor the commitment and sacrifices of the nation’s service members and call attention to the real and often untold toll their service takes on the military family.

We in Middletown are most fortunate to count many military families among our neighbors, friends, and our children’s schoolmates. Their very presence and integration in our communities bring rich cultural and geographic diversity while also reminding us of their sacrifices and dedication to our country.

The mission of the Middletown Prevention Coalition is to create a safe, healthy and drug free Middletown, and as an extension of our mission, support a friendly and welcoming environment for new and existing military families in our schools and community.

The Middletown Prevention Coalition and our Islanders Committed Youth Committee will be working with our schools to help increase awareness of this special month. Please join us in acknowledging the contributions of the terrific military families among us and their commitment, sacrifice, and service.

Thomas F. Lyons, Chair
Middletown Prevention Coalition

Early Education Programs Vital

To the Editor:

David R. Carlin III publicly stated that his responsibility as a Newport School Committee member is to the taxpayer and to the student. He is opposed to universal pre-kindergarten because of what he says is its “enormous” cost. I feel his objection is based on incomplete information. A more correct and complete understanding can be gained by reviewing the Newport Public School (NPS) strategic plan draft at www.npsri.net/dsp.

First, the NPS strategic plan states that early childhood education is a key initiative. Research has shown that students who are below grade level in math and reading at the end of the third grade have lower probability of success as they progress through their schooling. It is important to be “kindergarten-ready” by age 5, which requires many to have pre- K schooling at ages 3 and 4, to not fall behind in the early school years. Children in Newport identified as “at risk” would be candidates for this program. This is not “universal,” but focused and selective. Additionally, while of course there is a cost for a pre-kindergarten program, the costs could be even greater if a child does not have successful early education exposure and there are significant and recurring catch-up costs throughout the child’s later public school life.

Second, there are avenues to reduce the costs for Newport Public Schools and taxpayers. The strategic plan makes clear that the education of Newport children is a shared responsibility and a collaborative effort. The NPS cannot do it alone. There have been over 50 organizations identified (including social service organizations, business groups, agencies and foundations) to support the mission of the NPS. This means that the Newport community work in partnership with the schools, faculty and parents, with common goals, to help build a superior educational system for our children. For example, there are already excellent pre-K programs being offered locally by Head Start and the Martin Luther King Center, whose services NPS use. This partnership is called One Newport.

Superintendent Colleen Burns Jermain and her team have created an aggressive and ambitious strategic plan. Its ultimate objective is to have “100 percent of Newport high school students graduate with the academic, vocational and social skills required for them to be confident and succeed in the next path of their career.” A vital building block is an effective early education and pre-K program.

I am a Newport property owner and taxpayer, and am willing to pay my share of the cost of early education for Newport children. The Newport School Committee approved the strategic plan last week. It is now the responsibility of each member of the Newport School Committee to fully support the school staff to implement the strategic plan initiatives. This will require a creative team effort that will benefit both the Newport taxpayers and the students.

Ken Nomiyama, Chair
NPS Strategic Plan Committee

Transparency in Choosing Mayor

To the Editor:

During my campaign for one of the four at-large City Council seats in Newport, many residents told me how they felt their government wasn’t listening to them. They were frustrated at what they saw as a lack of transparency and poor communication. I share their frustration, which is why I am committed to being an advocate for transparency on the council.

For many, one of the least transparent aspects of our city government is the election of the chair of the council by the other members. The chair holds the official title of mayor and is seen as speaking for the citizens of Newport. In our city manager form of government, mayor is a primarily ceremonial role – he or she chairs a council of their peers in which we all have an equal vote. Residents that I spoke with felt that they had lost their say in the mayoral decision; they felt as if their voices weren’t being heard.

Before the election, the feedback from residents across Newport informed my decision on how I will vote for chair of the council. I am voting for the individual who received the highest number of votes from the voters of Newport. I believe this is the best option that we currently have to give the voters a clear voice in the selection of the Chair of the Council.

I made a commitment during my campaign to work toward a more transparent and communicative city government – this is a step in that direction. I am writing this letter in order to give the residents of Newport insight into my decision, as well the values that I will bring to the table as a City Councilor. I intend to continue an open dialogue with the residents that I serve and represent, and I invite residents to share their thoughts with me.

Jamie Bova
Newport Councilor-Elect

Mayoral Selection Process Flawed

To the Editor:

I want first to express my sense of humility at being elected to the Newport City Council. It is an honor, and while I’m pleased that so many voters have placed their faith in me, I take seriously my responsibility to represent all of the residents of the First Ward and the entire city. I wish to reach out to those who voted for Marco Camacho, who ran a great campaign, and to those who did not vote for either of us. I hope to earn your trust and confidence as we move forward to potentially significant changes in the North End.

I believe one of my strengths is listening and consensus building. I enjoy vetting ideas in a robust discussion to come up with a better solution. I foresee that the council to be inaugurated on Dec. 4 will be a dynamic and interesting group, seven distinct voices and personalities, with many common values enabling us to move forward as one Newport.

I congratulate Harry Winthrop as he becomes mayor, and I thank Jeanne-Marie Napolitano for leading the city in such a gracious manner, with the quiet competence that is so often a part of female leadership. I believe the city has been in good hands, and will continue to be in good hands.

I do wish to voice my concerns about the process for selection of a mayor, which has been in place for the last several elections and appears to have usurped an unwritten rule that the mayor’s seat goes to the highest vote-getter among the at-large candidates. When two of the at-large councilors are interested in the mayor’s position, then the other five councilors are thrown into an unseemly process of deciding between colleagues before we have even taken office. Each person will have his or her own criteria for mayor, and the process certainly suggests to the public that the door is open to back room dealing. I do not believe that happened in the past week, but having run my campaign on the theme of greater transparency in our municipal government, I cannot support this process. And, of course, in the end, I believe it damages the council to start out with the possibility of bad feelings and potential grudges when instead we should all be celebrating our election and our love of Newport, and building relationships.

I stated early on that I did not wish to back either “candidate” for mayor, and would instead cast my vote using the rule which I believe most voters in Newport expect us to apply: the highest at-large vote-getter becomes mayor. I would like to introduce a resolution to amend the Charter to enshrine this rule, with the provision that the person who becomes mayor must have served at least one term on the council in the last 10 years. I am very new, and not even sworn in yet, and would welcome comments on this at susandtaylor.com, by phone, in person, or through Facebook.

Susan Taylor
Newport First Ward

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