2018-02-08 / Opinion

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Who Is Responsible?

To the Editor:

Here is why we should not trust the negotiations around the sale of the Armory. I attended a presentation of the plans for the new luxury hotel on the corner of Long Wharf and America’s Cup. In hindsight, I don’t even know why my group was invited as it was presented as a “done deal”. The reason it was useless to object to the design? It had sufficient parking spaces. Here is the skullduggery though – according to local newspapers, the private entity had been given 30, yes, thirty, 3 and 0 public parking spaces in the Gateway Center. The hotel will allegedly paying something for them. Whether true or not, it is beside the point. If Newport city officials had not given access to these spaces, citizens might have been able to object to the block-long four-story wall the hotel will present on America’s Cup across from Cardine’s Field. Those who care about historical buildings might have been able to say no to a building that would look more at home in Atlanta or Miami. Better designers might have suggested a better plan than having cars exit out of the parking garage from a blind exit across a busy pedestrian street near Perotti Park. I would like to know just who is responsible for this giveaway of public resources? There was no debate at a City Council meeting, or announcement that this was being done. Does our charter actually allow this selling off of assets? If so, we ought to change it next chance we get. The voters deserve better than being presented with “done deals” after the public officials have wheeled and dealed with our resources. This is why there should be lots of public discussion and disclosure of all arrangements with the buyer regarding the sale of the Armory before there is a “Do Not Trespass” sign on the Ann Street Pier.

Ann McMahon
Newport

Audit Alterations Raises Questions

To the Editor:

I am a resident of Newport County writing regarding a front-page article published in your paper on Thursday, Jan. 25 of this year headlined "Surveillance Cameras Keeping Eye on City." My questions about the article are specifically pertaining to the editorial decision-making process that was involved in the conception, production, and placement of this work.

I am not looking to debate the actual utility of these cameras in securing the public safety; I am sure that they are very useful tools for investigating and responding to crimes, but I also know that an at least equally significant function of surveillance in public spaces is to act as a deterrent force, as a cue for people to self-regulate their own behavior. These types of cameras are a visual reminder that we do not have privacy in these public spaces. I have casually studied the effects of these systems in my travels and free time, and I’ve been to several places where the situation has gotten much worse than it is here, which is why I’m vigilant and wary of developments like these when they come up in my community.

The article and those interviewed in it attempt to address (or more accurately to shrug off) the idea of "Big Brother" invading our privacy, but it is not the direct, conscious act of invasion that worries me. I am more worried by the indirect effect these technologies have on public behavior, and the promotion of a culture of self-regulation that robs members of the public of their ability to freely express themselves.

My real issue is that the wording of the article text and headline and its placement on the front page of the paper felt to me like a direct extension of this deterrent factor of surveillance camera use, which leads me to question the motivations for its production. I would like to request some clarification to the greatest extent of transparency on this process that you can provide. It’s clear that there was communication between Newport This Week and the Newport Police Department in the writing of the story, but which party initiated contact at the conception of this article? Did the NPD reach out to ask for such an article to be written, and if so was there any payment or sponsorship of the content by the NPD? Who/what factors were involved in weighing the importance of the article to the public relative to the other stories of the week and ultimately deciding to place it on the front page of the paper?

I would greatly appreciate any clarification you can freely provide on these questions. I share the belief that is promoted on the top of the "About Us" page of your paper’s website: "Local News Matters," and I think it’s very important that we can have open discussions about the process by which news stories are provided to us and open debates about the relative importance of these stories in our media.

Nat Hines
Newport

Editor's Note: Thank you for expressing your concerns about the front page story, “Surveillance Cameras Keeping an Eye on City” (NTW, Thurs., Jan. 25, 2018). The Newport Police Department did not request that the article be written, did not sponsor it, and did not request a specific placement for it. The publisher and editorial team make all decisions about story subjects and placement, independent of any outside influences.

Another Worthy Tourist Attraction

To the Editor:

We are in favor of Newport selling the Armory Building to the Sailing Hall of Fame. Newport boasts of being the “sailing capital of the world” and this is an opportunity to actually “put our money where our mouth is.”

Not enough citizens realize the financial advantage to highlighting the City by the Sea. Seasonal regattas bring money into our community a few days at a time. The Sailing Hall of Fame will bring year-round visitors. The Hall of Fame is a nonprofit but they are not tax exempt from real estate taxes so the building would go back on the tax rolls.

The Ann Street pier is a separate lot and would not be included in the sale or a lease to the Hall of Fame. Public access would not be affected at all. Additionally, the building is in need of many repairs the city cannot afford.

We trust the Sailing Hall of Fame Board of Directors to always use the building in the interests of all Newport sailors and citizens, and provide another worthy and interesting tourist attraction.

We have urged our Council Person to vote YES on this project and encourage you to do the same.

Penny and Barry Fitch
Newport

Is Middletown Growing Too Fast?

To the Editor:

Thanks to a responsive Planning Board, democracy is alive and well in Middletown.

At the board’s meeting in December, a number of residents raised concerns about the unusually large number of proposed new houses in town. Would these houses, about 60 as of the beginning of the year, coming on the market all at once significantly add to the town’s water and traffic problems and possibly increase property taxes?

Thinking this worthy of consideration, Planning Board Chairman Paul Croce proposed that the board discuss among themselves at the Jan. 10 meeting whether to recommend to the Town Council that it impose a temporary moratorium on new development applications in order to proceed with a professional study of the impacts of residential development, focusing on water and traffic.

After receiving a number of emails from the public requesting to speak, Mr. Croce, noting the packed meeting room and welcoming public participation, democratically opened the discussion to everyone who wanted to comment.

One speaker noted that the streams feeding the island’s reservoirs are polluted. Treatment facilities to make water safe to drink have cost millions of taxpayer dollars. More houses create more impervious surfaces (roofs, driveways and roads) that can cause runoff and pollution problems. Houses generate water contamination through the use of herbicides, pesticides and fertilizer.

There is also the additional load on a limited aquifer.

A major subdivision proposed for Peckham Lane calls for 24 houses squeezed onto 26.5 acres. Nearby residents voiced understandable concern about whether such high-density well drilling would deplete the water supply to their wells.

According to Institute of Transportation Engineers' predictive models, each house adds on average 10 single-destination car trips a day. So the 60 houses proposed for Middletown would put 600 more cars on our roads. The Institute's modeling estimates that golf courses, such as Newport National on Mitchell’s Lane, generate nine single-destination car trips for each acre of golf course, translating to more than 400 daily trips during golf season. The traffic situation will get even worse if Newport National goes through with plans to build a nine-hole course, driving range, and clubhouse across the street from the existing facility.

In most cases every house costs more in town services than is covered by its property taxes. So more development could mean higher taxes for all of us.

Clearly, it would be in the best interests of everyone in town to have a professional study done to determine whether the pace of residential development needs to be controlled to protect the town’s quality of life.

Dave Huntoon, Pete Johnson,
Nicolas Williams, and Todd Clark
Middletown

Short-sighted

To the Editor:

We believe that selling the unique Armory building is short-sighted at best. At worst it appears to be almost a done deal, pushed ahead by special interests and without a proper forum for public opinion. We think a sailing hall of fame is of very limited appeal to the average Newport tourist. To turn out the vendors there would be a huge mistake for the Newport hospitality industry.

Rick and Elaine Williams
Newport

Workers Appreciated

To the Editor:

Kudos to all the workers who were working in bitter cold, blowing snow, darkness and heavy traffic during the recent cold snap: the First Responders, the Postal Service and other delivery people, plumbers, electricians, appliance repairmen, National Grid and Verizon workers (but not their managers!), City Utility workers and local tree trimmers-all are much appreciated.

Judith A. Byrnes
Newport

Courteous Officers in Time of Need

To the Editor:

Twice, over the holiday season, we had to contact the Newport police for assistance. The first was on New Year's Eve, a 911 call for help to enter our dear friend's locked house. We had tried to contact him and there was no response. Several officers responded immediately and entered the house. They determined that our friend had suffered a fatal heart attack. The second call was for help to locate our snowed-in car at the city parking structure adjacent to the visitors center.

Each time the officers were extremely courteous, helpful and real gentlemen! They all are wonderful representatives of our Newport Police Department.

Thank you officers.
Chuck & Mary Berlinghof
Newport

First Women Publishers

To the Editor:

On page 13 in the movie review of “The Post”, (NTW Feb. 1 edition) Loren King incorrectly states that Katharine Graham was the first female newspaper publisher in the country. She's off by over two centuries; Newport's own Ann Smith Franklin became the publisher and editor of the Newport Mercury upon the death of her husband in 1735.

MJ Valdes
Newport

Editor's Note: Thank you for catching this error on our part. We count on our readership to inform us when we miss something. Indeed, Katherine Graham was not the first woman newspaper publisher in the U.S., nor was it Ann Smith Franklin. Elizabeth Timothy became America’s first female newspaper publisher in 1738, when she inherited The South Carolina Gazette, in Charleston, South Carolina, upon the death of her husband.

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