2017-01-26 / Opinion


Let's Work to Become One Newport

To the Editor:

I am a veteran with a disability. I am an activist, poet and new abolitionist. I am a mother of two children in the public school system. I am also very frustrated with my city.

Lately, I have been busy with meetings and having conversations about the 22 cameras that are now in Park Holm and the ideas around working cities, ensuring that the marginalized in our community have access to the “One Newport” we are aspiring to. I have been facilitating a community conversation group with the local nonprofit Sankofa. At these meetings we have met and listened and spoken about how we can combat the bigotry and vitriol that some in our community, adults and children, have faced in light of the Trump presidency.

Yes, I said it. Our new president has fueled a fire that seems to always be at an ember. However, some tell me not to say the president’s name, that somehow it will cause division. As a poor single mother of black sons, my life is always divided from the majority of Newport. Ask yourself right now, what you are thinking and feeling as you read this? This is nothing new to me, new to us. Any mother of black and brown children knows they are seen as different. We can’t help how people see us based on our skin. It’s the echo of white supremacy that has subjugated and divided people for centuries. It exists here. We must admit that to ourselves, even well-meaning white people.

When I look at the racial makeup at Rogers and who moves on to college, or who is in honors or AP classes, or the top 15 students, I don’t see many black and brown faces, even though it’s a 51/50 ratio. Why is that? When does it start? We love to tout the diversity of our city, but how many nonwhite educators are in our schools? Studies have shown that when minority students have an educator of color, they excel. Why isn’t this being talked about? Does anyone even see this as an issue? Probably not. You might be too offended that I even said it matters.

I mentioned the cameras in the beginning, and I remind you that we are under constant state surveillance. More violent crime has occurred outside of this neighborhood, yet where are their cameras? Are we really One Newport? I won’t even get into how many times my partner was pulled over for no real reason, other than he was black with locs and driving a beat up truck. The police would ask if he had warrants first, sniff second, and ask about drugs third. This man works at a university and has a position of power within a department. He was a suspect based on his skin.

I want you to hear this reality and see how you can stomach the idea that you have been a part of the problem and you are a part of the solution. This is my Newport. This is Our Newport. Let’s actively work on this so we can truly become One Newport.

Jessica-Patrice D. Coulter

Positive Prevention with Project Purple

To the Editor:

I am writing this letter as a proud yet concerned parent in support of Islanders Committed.

Islanders Committed is the youth initiative of the Middletown Prevention Coalition, a community based coalition focused on reducing youth substance abuse while building the assets of our youth and creating a healthy Middletown.

Islanders Committed will be working with The Herren Project in support of Project Purple, an initiative launched to break the stigma of addiction, bring awareness to the dangers of substance abuse, and encourage positive decision making when navigating life's challenges. Middletown will be celebrating Project Purple as a community-wide event from Jan. 23 – Feb. 3.

Members of Islanders Committed will be at home MHS sporting events conducting fundraising to be used for student events and training opportunities for student leadership. Islanders Committed will also be at local locations of Stop & Shop and Shaw's. The fundraiser is aimed at increasing community engagement to show support for the students making healthy choices. For your donation, you will receive a Project Purple lawn sign that you can place at your home or business. There will also be bows, T-shirts, lanyards and other Project Purple gear.

Awareness programs and student involvement like Islanders Committed have helped reduce alcohol and marijuana use among Middletown youth over the last few years. I note a particularly positive statistic from the Student Health & Wellness Survey from the 2015- 2016 school year, which showed 84 percent of Middletown students (grades 7-12) had not used alcohol or marijuana during the last month.

You can show your support by donating to Islanders Committed, thanking the students for their commitment and hard work, and proudly displaying your purple through Feb. 3. Your involvement and support is vital to the mission. As parents, coaches, teachers, business leaders, or just a concerned adult, we all have a responsibility to be positive role models.

It starts with you.

Jake Cathers

Bus Pass Program Deserves Funds

To the Editor:

With a good number of other people, I attended the Jan. 17 meeting about RIPTA bus passes, organized by the Senior Agenda Coalition at Donovan Manor. Many speakers talked about the critical need to continue the program offering no-fare bus passes for low-income, elderly and disabled persons.

Currently, this program helps about 13,000 people statewide. Unless it’s re-funded, it will come to an end on or about Feb. 1.

It was pointed out that when people can’t access transportation, they become isolated. The consequences of isolation are poorer health and shorter life spans. For sure, the less we get out and about, the more likely we will lead insular lives that can and do degenerate into self-neglect and a myriad of physical and psychological problems.

I think we all realize that there is an interconnection between and among human and health services. All people need to access grocery stores, drug stores, and department stores to procure their food, medications, and clothes. They need to keep appointments with doctors and other professional practitioners. They need to interact with governmental agencies as well. Notable, too, are those persons who are in recovery programs for alcohol or drug use who need to get to support services on a daily basis.

The people who are most vulnerable to these challenges are older individuals, persons with disabilities, and low-income individuals. Without being able to use public transportation, their lives get turned upside down. Whatever progress they may have made in managing their conditions may well be compromised as a result of not getting to and from places.

The lack of investment in this bus pass program is counterproductive, because it reduces the quality of life for people who are just about getting by. And, it will end up costing everyone more money, as these individuals will be using higher-cost services, such as hospital emergency rooms, when their conditions worsen into danger zones.

In addition to the Senior Agenda Coalition, several other organizations are supporting the maintenance of the no-fare bus pass for this group of people: RI Interfaith Coalition to Reduce Poverty; RI Organizing Project; RI Coalition for the Homeless; RIPTA Riders Alliance; and Mental Health Recovery of RI.

We urge Gov. Gina Raimondo and the General Assembly to restore funding to this vital program and help ease the burden of some people who already have to bear a lot of weight in their daily lives.

J. Clement Cicilline, Chair
Newport Democratic
City Committee

Rein in Overdevelopment

To the Editor:

I strongly oppose approval of a four-story hotel to be built on the property of what is now K.J.'s Restaurant. The area is already overdeveloped. The recent building of the Atlantic Beach Resort, the expansion of Rhea's ice cream shop into an inn, and the approval of a hotel/ retail space on Wave Avenue has stretched the area's capacity beyond its limit.

Our water resources and this highly sensitive environmental area are under assault as it is. Polluted runoff closes Easton's Beach each year. Residents of both Middletown and Newport have soaring water and sewer bills. Traffic is congested, and pedestrian and bicycle safety is poor. Replacing the "slip" lane in front of the Newport Beach House would make it more difficult for residents to traverse that intersection by any means, and back up beach traffic more than ever. The smaller businesses are more aesthetically pleasing, much less of a strain on our water supply and environment, easier on our roads and residents, and help keep our tourist areas unique. I urge residents of both Middletown and Newport, and K.J.'s neighbors, to speak out against this proposal.

Ann Rossman

A Call for Respect from RIDOT and City Hall

To the Editor:

The big hole at the corner of Marlborough and Broadway continues to force pedestrians to go out of their way across missing sidewalks, walk in the street, or backtrack. It is apparently the responsibility of RIDOT and the Broadway street improvement project contractor to address this hazard, but the city needs to do all it can to ensure the state finally acts to fix this in a way that doesn’t unduly burden the many pedestrians who cross that intersection. There is year-round foot traffic there as both residents and visitors enjoy the restaurants and shops on Broadway.

Pedestrian safety has for too long been an afterthought in street improvement projects. The new pedestrian crosswalks that have been completed as part of the Broadway streetscape project reflect a much appreciated concern for pedestrians. But in the case of the hole at Marlborough, it seems that pedestrian safety was not a concern at all. The Broadway Merchants Association and members of the Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Commission have expressed concern about leaving this hole as is. I hope other area residents will add your voices in urging City Hall to push RIDOT for a resolution that shows a healthy respect for the needs of our pedestrians.

Chuck Flippo

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