2018-01-11 / Front Page

Camacho Reclaims City Council Seat

By Jocelyn O’Neil

On Monday evening Jan. 8, Marco Camacho defeated a field of nine other candidates and won back a seat on the Newport City Council that was created when John Florez resigned last month.

The vote during the special meeting was 4-2 in favor of Camacho, who previously served as the Ward 1 councilman beginning in 2012, and was vice chairman from 2014 until Susan Taylor defeated him in November 2016.

Councilors Jamie Bova and Taylor voted in favor of candidate Roland Chase, while Mayor Harry Winthrop and councilors Lynn Ceglie, Kathryn Leonard and Jeanne-Marie Napolitano voted in favor of Camacho, sealing his victory.

“Words can’t express how excited and grateful I am to the council and especially the citizens of Newport for this second chance at public service,” Camacho told NTW.

After the vote, Winthrop asked the council for a “vote of acclamation” in favor of Camacho, in order to portray a united front moving forward. Bova and Taylor declined to cast a vote of acclamation, but pledged to work cooperatively with Camacho.

“I don’t subscribe to a vote of acclamation and so will not participate in the vote,” Taylor said.

Leonard assented to the vote of acclamation, insisting that Camacho’s experience would be an asset to the council.

“We don’t always agree, but I think we can agree that 11 months is a short period of time and I believe that candidate Marco Camacho could hit the ground running without needing time for a learning curve,” said Leonard, referring to the amount of time until Camacho’s term expires.

Winthrop echoed Leonard’s sentiment, pointing to Camacho’s council experience. “Marco is intimately familiar with the budget and we're heading into the budget period,” he said.

There has been criticism and confusion on the process of filling Florez’s vacant council seat. This council decision is the first time the charter change is being enacted.

“Previously, such vacancies were filled by turning to the next high- est vote-getter, which recognizes the engagement of the electorate,” Taylor said. “I propose to take an approach in which we recognize that there is no single right candidate, and that encourages all of us to consider the array of candidates.”

Taylor proposed an alternative to choosing a candidate through special council meetings, suggesting that each councilor assign a point system to their top three candidates, and that the collective council focus on those top choices.

Some candidates were also caught off guard by the candidate selection process.

“I was surprised,” said candidate Brian Rochelle following the vote. “I thought there was going to be more discussion, but had I been up there voting I would have probably voted for Marco, too.”

“I think this process made absolutely no sense, it was conducted horribly,” Kim Ripoli told Newport This Week. “I found it to be humiliating and dehumanizing.”

In addition to Camacho, Chase, Rochelle and Ripoli, David Allard, Neyda DeJesus, Adrienne Haylor, Justin McLaughlin, Nancy Stafford and Richard “Wick” Rudd were also vying for the open council seat.

“I´m grateful for the support by Councilors Jamie Bova and Susan Taylor,” said Chase, in an email to NTW; he was in California the night of the special meeting. “Of course, I would like to have been selected. However, I believe that as a candidate I was treated fairly and given full opportunity to explain my credentials and ideas.”

Winthrop, who thanked the candidates for applying for the vacant seat, said strong competition makes for a strong city council. “The more choices there are, the better it is for the city,” he said. “We all have the desire to make [it] a better place to live.”

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