When Newport voters go the polls on November 8th, they will see that they have the option to choose four out of seven candidates (or write-in their own candidate) to fill the four At-Large seats on the Newport City Council. It should be noted that one of those candidates, Kimberly L. Shute, has dropped out of the race.

Jamie Bova, Claude Andrews Lavarre and Henry Winthrop are running against current City Councilors – John Florez, Jeanne Marie Napolitano and Justin McLaughlin. While Lynn Ceglie is running unopposed in Ward 2 and Kate Leonard is running unopposed in Ward 3, those who live in the 1st Ward of Newport will choose between Marco Camacho and Susan Taylor. All seats are for two year terms.

What’sUpNewp posed several questions to the Newport City Council Candidates over the last few days. Below are their responses to the following question: “What do you see as the 3 biggest challenges for the community moving forward?

Question 1: What do you see as the 3 biggest challenges for the community moving forward?

City Council At- Large

In order of how they appear on the November 8th Ballot.

Jamie Bova

The biggest challenge for our community and our city going forward will be properly developing an environment that allows for economic growth and expansion. Our economy has long depended almost entirely on hospitality and tourism; we are currently in the early stages of trying to expand that economy. To be successful in doing so, we must create an environment that helps businesses grow and welcomes newcomers to our community while also supporting our current businesses and residents. This will take a cultural shift in the way that our city conducts itself and will require much more open communication than we have now. Unless our residents understand what Newport is trying to accomplish, they won’t feel like they are a welcomed part of the city’s growth. If that occurs, then I don’t believe that we will be able to thrive.

Another challenge is how we deal with the effects of climate change. We live on an island; we cannot keep ignoring sea-level rise – action must be taken. I would also like to see us investigation where alternative energy can be used to power our city – the solar panels installed at the wastewater treatment plant is a great example and a good start.

The poverty and inequality in Newport is a large concern and must be addressed. Many of our residents suffer the effects of poverty, hunger, and homeless. This is a complicated issue for our city that will take a concerted effort over many years to address. We have so many public and private organizations within our city committed to improving the lives of our least fortunate residents, and I believe that the city government must do its part to support and magnify these efforts.

John Florez

Chose not to provide us with responses to any of our questions.

Claude Andrews Lavarre

1. Facing reality
2. Reestablishing due process and the rule of law
3. Restoring a heritage for our progeny

This City, and indeed the Nation, has devolved into a body of dreamers and “feelers” instead of thinkers. We spend day and night in fantasy worlds of make-believe: games, videos, media: all synthetic and all patently untrue.

This mentality permeates our total existence, from personal relationships to financial matters to infrastructure. We wander around proclaiming how WONDERFUL everything is while ignoring the crumbling economic, intellectual, moral, and physical infrastructures around us. We must get back to basics: “Fix the potholes, stupit”, and call out political correctness wherever it raises its ugly head.

In particular, we need to stop “being nice” and start enforcing the laws we already have on the books. We have laws on noise, litter, panhandling, jaywalking, property maintenance, traffic behavior, and a host of other “broken windows” that need to be fixed, nevermind all the laws against violent behavior. We don’t need more laws. We need to enforce the ones we already have.

As supported by numerous sociologists (nevermind experienced parents) a lax and overly lenient environment for little things leads to lax behavior in big things, evidenced by the national debt (65 *thousand* dollars for every man, woman, and child in the USA) and incorrigible misbehavior in the highest offices of the land. People going around doing whatever they want to do because they *can*. These must cease.

We must restore structure: in society, in education, in finances, in streets, roads, and sidewalks. Teach history, teach civics, teach the Magna Carta, teach the Constitution, and teach the Bill of Rights, in depth.

Only then can we create meaningful and implementable plans, lists, and procedures to restore what we have lost: balanced budgets, infrastructure repairs that will last, pension plans that won’t destroy our children’s future, and a forward-looking perspective that will draw innovation and enterprise to grow the city’s future.

Justin McLaughlin

(1) protecting our brand – we need to be ever vigilant that we do what is needed to maintain the proper balance between commercial activity (e.g., tourism) and the things that make Newport home for its residents;

(2) finding sufficient funding to be able to continue to invest in infrastructure maintenance and improvement and as well as addressing emerging needs such as flooding;

(3) making Newport attractive to investors and families: we need to successfully capitalize on the development opportunities that we have so as to support job and income growth for Newport residents and we need to invest in our schools and address the cost of living in Newport to help stem the loss of families with children.

Jeanne Marie Napolitano

  1. The challenge and success of Council’s efforts to develop the North End of the City, will bring new businesses and jobs, throughout the entire community for our current residents and residents of the future, benefitting the City of Newport as a whole.
  2. Continuing to support public education which will enable the Newport Schools to produce students who can compete in this emerging economy.
  3. Maintaining a good quality of life for both residential neighborhoods and businesses. We need both, to keep us vibrant and affordable.

Kimberly Shute

Reports indicate that she has dropped out of the race.

Henry Winthrop

Chose not to provide us with responses to any of our questions.

Ward 1

Marco Camacho

  1. Flooding and its associated costs. Fortunately, we have a multi-phased plan in place to upgrade our seawalls and storm water systems throughout every single neighborhood in First Ward. I am also confident that FEMA will approve our application for discounted flood insurance rates by the end of this year.
  2. 2. Fewer available dollars in the form of Federal and State aid will require Newport to be even more financially disciplined and independent. Fortunately, we have a near perfect AA+ credit rating and we’ve been successful in doing “more with less” over my last 4 years on the Council. I will continue this smart fiscal discipline into my next term as your City Councilor.
  3. While the move of the Newport Grand Casino to Tiverton will have a positive long-term effect for us by adding more developable lands to the Newport Innovation Hub, there will be short-term belt tightening required come budget time. However, I am confident we can keep any tax increases low and manageable and still secure funding for the purchase of the Newport Grand Casino lands. Sales of the remaining excess schools inventory will give us an added cash infusion as well.

Susan Taylor

  •  Improving our schools, with pre-K education to promote literacy by the end of 3rd grade, with expansion of vocational and career training to include a business component so that a skilled artisan or tradesman can go into business on his or her own, and working in partnership with our school district to improve and maintain our school buildings with innovative educational technology. ·
  • Improving communication between city residents and the City Council, so that residents really feel that our hard work and input is valued in the context of decisions made affecting the future quality of life.
  • Developing the North End so that open space is respected and the urban design is improved with North End neighborhoods being able to access shopping, recreation, and the other sections of the city by means other than the automobile.

Ward 2

Lynn Ceglie

Newport’s economy – promoting and supporting our vital tourism economy while creating opportunities for companies that will bring year-round high paying jobs.

Newport Public Schools – continue to support our public education system and pursue programs that will bring middle class families to Newport.

Infrastructure – roads, sidewalks, sewers and any upgrades related to sea- level rise.   The Pell Bridge realignment is integral in improving our roadways into the City as well as benefiting both our tourism and year round economies.

Ward 3

Kathryn Leonard

Newport does have challenges. One challenge is to stabilize property  taxes so that families can afford to continue to live here and we can welcome new families and returning members in families. Many residents live in family homes owned by generations. It is difficult for them. We need to be very cautious with spending and not create big wish lists that are very costly and result in tax increases.

Another challenge is protecting our quality of life, especially in residential neighborhoods. This year, more than ever before, traffic congestion is compromising the quality of life for people. We see more and more tour buses, cars, trucks, rental scooters , trolleys, fake rental Maseratis, bikes, pedicabs, etc. Many of these clog the arteries where big buses drive through residential neighborhoods where not allowed. We need a well-thought out and implemented “people mover”plan to address the congestion. Charlestown is one model to study.

The third challenge is the schools and spending policies. Newport has the highest per pupil costs, often stated as related to the highest percentage of low income housing. The city has given the schools millions in increases to help the schools improve. We cannot continue to give 4% annual increases. We need to address student needs and continue to lobby the State for additional money to compensate that our community has almost 17-18% low income housing and group homes that have lower per pupil costs. Pell School has been improving as has TMS. Council has been trying to take over the finances of the School Department, as we have their facilities maintenance etc. Sharing some services provides more stability and overview of spending.

Continue to Question 2: Newport City Council Candidates Share Their 3 Biggest Priorities

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Ryan Belmore is the Owner & Publisher of What's Up Newp, LLC. Belmore has led What's Up Newp since December 2012. Belmore also serves as the Sr. Editor - North America for Mountain News - publisher of OnTheSnow. In his spare time, Belmore serves as the Vice President for the Board of Directors at Fort Adams Trust and serves on the Board of Directors at Lucy's Hearth. Belmore is also a member and supporter of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers. Send questions, tips, and story ideas to Ryan@whatsupnewp.com.