opinion Newport Rhode Island

I would like my comments put in the public record:

I do not believe the election’s top vote getter should automatically become mayor, a role that is largely ceremonial but critically important in moving the council communications forward. In my time as Vice Chair, I know firsthand the time and communications skills it takes to be mayor. Newport is an international city and a major economic engine of the state and the mayor is expected to represent the city as such.

There has been a lot of talk about transparency of late.

I can attest that in the four years I have been on the council, every issue has been presented, clarified and debated in public and voted on in public.  

I feel those who campaigned on “greater transparency” have to be held to account for the actions since election day. I went to Italy on a family vacation the Friday after the election. In my mind, the decision concerning mayor would be resolved in the days before my departure. I had not forgotten and believed Councilor Bova’s unequivocal public comments claiming her “values that she would bring to the council” and that highest vote getter is “the best option that we have to give the voters a clear voice in the selection of the Chair of the Council.”  

Before my flight, I called Councilor Taylor asking for her support as vice chair, discussing the role of mayor and gauging what she wants to accomplish in the next two years.  I reached out to Councilor Bova congratulating her on her win hoping to establish communications and she responded in kind.

I was in Italy but I was as available I as I would have been here in Newport.

Phones work in Italy.  I received text messages, phone calls and emails from Mayor Winthrop, Councilors Napolitano and Leonard, and City Manager Nicholson.  I had text exchanges with councilor-elect McCalla and a conversation asking for her support as vice chair and offering her help as a first-time city councilor.  

I received calls and emails from 2nd ward residents asking for assistance in matters and responded to their questions and needs. I sent an email to city clerk, Laura Swistak that was forwarded to the council and council-elect. I publicly posted family vacation photos on Facebook having discussions about the trip with friends and family. Sean Flynn of the Newport Daily News called me on Wednesday, November 14 asking for a comment and I was even quoted in the paper. From Rome!!!  

I received no communications from Councilors Bova or Taylor about their desire to lead the council or to talk to about my concerns about the time that they can dedicate and how they plan to move Newport forward in a time of significant change and development or to gather my support.  I texted Councilor Taylor asking what was happening and I received no reply. The only time I heard from Councilor Bova was- while still in Italy – informing me of her four votes in an email nine days after the election entitled “time to talk”. After confirmation from Councilor Bova, I texted Councilor Taylor indicating that I understood what had transpired and she admitted that she had the support to be vice chair.

For these reasons, I will be voting “no” on this informal caucus vote.  

This is not a case of sour grapes. Those who earn the council majority deserve to serve. Period.

At the official vote at the Inauguration on December 1st, I will vote in the affirmative for Councilors Bova and Taylor.  Moving forward, I expect Councilor Bova’s public commitment to an “open, inclusive, transparent” approach to council business to be genuine and demonstrated in the next two years.

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