2018-05-31 / Opinion


Salve Dorm Plan Ill-conceived

To the Editor:

I was unable to attend the hearing before the Newport Historic District Commission regarding Salve Regina’s ill-conceived plan to jam two large dormitories into the fragile fabric of our National Landmark Historic District. While some recent health issues affect my sight and complicate my attendance at meetings, I can still see well enough to envision a disaster in the making.

The sheer mendacity of this project where over-scaled dorms become summer motels is breathtaking. Shingles and architectural detailing simply can’t mask the inappropriateness of these vastly over-scaled buildings standing in a desert of parked cars shimmering in the summer heat.

This project is another example of the search for economic gain which despoils the very cultural and economic asset that historic district designation was designed to protect. Like the increasingly apparent disaster of the Preservation Society of Newport County’s (PSNC’s) welcome center, it is a project that helps to kill the goose that laid the golden egg, because it despoils and exploits the very qualities that make this a special place.

The larger issue, which this fragile resort city has to face is this: We live in a small place where there appears to be a receding sense of cultural responsibility. If, in fact, a culture can be defined as “that sense of mutual responsibility between different centers of power,” then the problem with Newport today is a growing display of self-interest among institutions with interlocking business-related boards and directors so they don’t protect the common good. The job of the former policy planning committee at the PSNC was to serve as a dispassionate sounding board for the community and not condone self-serving interests of well-intentioned business people. The PSNC dismantled its policy committee which might have taken a stand against the welcome center (it never came before this body) and could have also then raised the issue of the Salve dorms as neighborhood challenges to earlier Salve expansionist dreams (I was a member of that defunct policy committee).

Did Salve ever challenge the PSNC’s ill-conceived welcome center, a phenomenon that Country Life Magazine which has seen many, called “drinking from a poisoned chalice” because they tend to spoil the very atmosphere they seek to exploit? The welcome center wasn’t even an agenda item on the Salve conference last year or for that matter at the state-wide meeting of Preserve Rhode Island. The State Commission had endorsed the center under political pressure from the governor’s office.

In a city like New York, when trustees come up with a near brained idea to sacrifice the famous Frick Museum garden for underground office space or disembowel the New York Public Library, there is institutional counterweight like the Municipal Arts Society or the last testimony of a nationally recognized critic such as Ada Louise Huxtable. Here there is not an assertion of the public interest. Even some neighbors whose resident holding are affected say they are tired of fighting and smaller non-profit organizations and are intimidated. Only the Museum of American Illustration (next door) took a well-documented stand. The professionals, planners, and architects who know better and privately voice dissatisfaction, don’t speak up for the fear of losing future jobs! Remember George Bernard Shaw said that “all professions were conspiracies against the public.” Alas you can add some non-profits to that accounting.

It is up to the Historic Districts Commission to demonstrate that sense of responsibility and take the “longer view” this city desperately needs. This special and fragile place should not be compromised by cultural ignorance and self-serving institutions who pursue short-term profit over the preservation of a sustainable environment that nurtures the economy by preserving its character.

Ronald Lee Fleming FAICP

Fluoridation: Call for a Moratorium

To the Editor:

In the decades since the Newport City Council first authorized fluoridation, study after study around the world has documented serious adverse effects of fluoride. At last week’s city council meeting I cited just one, a large study funded by the National Institute of Health which found that exposure to even small amounts of fluoride reduced IQ in children (rutlandherald.com/ articles/study-deals-blow-to-fluoridation).

I continue to call for a moratorium on fluoridation because there is solid evidence that the risks far outweigh the claimed benefits. Since new science has consistently raised the alarm about this known neurotoxin and industrial waste product, and since a federal judge has twice ruled against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to allow a lawsuit (rutlandherald.com/articles/fluoridation-on-trial-coverage lacking) to move forward to full discovery, the only sane and responsible course of action is a fluoride moratorium. Sadly, even though the city council has been presented with a mountain of evidence counter to official proclamations of safety and been contacted by a local dentist echoing her own professional concern, the mayor and the council have refused to apply the precautionary principle and halt the practice to allow for an independent, open investigation and public debate.

Christopher Bryson, an award-winning investigative journalist and BBC producer, studied the issue for 10 years and presented his exposé in the 2006 book, “The Fluoride Deception.” Maybe the mayor and council members should read it. The writing is on the wall. Fluoride will follow DDT, lead, asbestos and tobacco on the list of things we were once told were safe and beneficial but were found to be horrifically toxic and harmful to public health. Who knew? Sometimes officialdom just gets it wrong. Let’s hope our mayor and the city council make this one right. And soon. Every day more people in our great city are being exposed.

Kyle F. Hence

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