The talk of the town this morning is all about last night’s Newport City Council meeting – one that went on for almost 2 1/2 hours and had plenty of fiery moments.

“This council meeting was an embarrassment,” Councilor Kathryn Leonard told us on Thursday morning.

An application for an entertainment license at the Irish American Club, a grant application for biking technical services and a proposed panhandling ordinance all were heavily discussed, debated and sometimes argued upon.

The Council meeting was the last before the November 8th Election, Councilor Napolitano, McLaughlin, Florez and Camacho are candidates on that ballot, while Neville is not running for re-election and Leonard and Ceglie are running unopposed.

At least twice Councilor’s said they had not seen paperwork in regards to what they were reporting on – none of the council had seen the latest draft for the biking grant application and Councilor McLaughlin and Neville stated that they had not received a hard copy of the amendment  to Florez’s panhandling ordinance.

During the discussion during the panhandling ordinance, Florez and Napolitano often argued and after the meeting words were exchanged between the two councilors while members of the public were still in the Council Chambers.

While the panhandling revised proposal and resolution was eventually withdrawn, the biking grant application moved forward with a 5 – 2 vote (Leonard & Florez opposed) without City Council members seeing the final draft of the application.

“People did not even know what they were voting for. They voted for something they had not seen! AND, an item that had no public workshop and no vetting before now being submitted,” said Leonard.

Many Councilor’s agreed that the system is broken and that they shouldn’t be voting on grant applications by emergency, the grant application is to be submitted by Friday. Leonard believed that the grant was written by Bike Newport and now the City is going back and re-writing the application that they should of wrote in the first place.

Before voting no on the bicycling grant application, Councilor Leonard shared the following comments;

I must be missing something here. According to the Bike Newport’s Big Jump Grant and a staff member, I must not be seeing the benefit of this grant at this time. Let’s see if I have this right.
We want to add more and more bicycles to our streets that are already congested with big tour buses, cars, trucks, pedicabs, 3-wheeled rental scooters, the new fake Maserati rental cars, etc. This is going to help—how?
This has been the worse summer yet for traffic congestion. Without a comprehensive traffic plan like The Foundation For Newport Plan that was endorsed years ago by the Council — the only one ever endorsed — how can this grant help alleviate traffic and congestion?
Where is the beginning of a plan to lessen traffic? Where is a trolley system or vehicle moving system proposed — one that captures vehicles coming into Newport from the off-ramps — similar to Charlestown that is a known model — where PSNC, the tourism venues, and others support and buy into? Where is the plan that helps the resident here who pays the taxes great a break from standing in lines of traffic?
With this grant application approval we are stating to the grant organization, one that advocates bicycle transportation everywhere, that Newport will work towards adding more bicycles and by removing parking spaces on Broadway to add “Bike Corrals,” we will make bike lanes on Harrison Avenue, on Kay Street, on Thames Street, “ “we will add flex rods for more bike lanes on Memorial Blvd,” “we will draw bike boxes on our streets.” The list in this grant goes on and on. All of this is with NO PUBLIC WORKSHOP OR INPUT.
Then, if Newport is chosen for the grant, how does Newport tell the grant organization that “Oops, thanks for the grant, but the public does not like all these elements proposed. Sorry.” I think we would look pretty stupid.
Where was this grant application since August 1

st? Why was it not presented to staff to review before October 15th? This grant was not written by staff. It was written by Bike Newport. Now the last two days the staff was asked to clean it up, to soften it, so the Council can be conned into accepting it.
Without a long-range plan to have all entities work together to lessen and alleviate traffic, adding more bicycles will not work – period!

I cannot support this grant application at this time. I am a realist. We add more bicycles to our streets, nothing changes to alleviate traffic, and we are stuck with an even bigger mess than before.

Newport City Council members were provided a new draft of the application after the meeting last night.

Original draft of the application, and only copy that the City Council had in front of them last night. You can see some major differences in the application that will be submitted and the original.

[pdf-embedder url=”” title=”draftofthebigjumpapp”]

Councilor Leonard and Florez plan on introducing a resolution at an upcoming meeting where any grant application that would reward the city with more than $25,000 would have to have a public workshop where members of the public could have say in the process.

More Coverage From Last Night’s Meeting

Ryan Belmore is the Owner and Publisher of What's Up Newp. He was born and raised in Rhode Island and graduated from Coventry High School. He serves as Vice President of Fort Adams Trust and serves on the Board of Directors for Potter League for Animals. Ryan also is currently the Senior Editor - North America for Mountain News, publisher of OnTheSnow. Ryan is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers and North American Snowsports Journalists Association (NASJA).