Newport Mayor and Council Chair shared the following message in an email on Sunday evening.
Please stay informed about the latest directions and guidelines related to the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic. The City of Newport has a dedicated webpage with information to keep our community protected: https://www.cityofnewport.com/city-hall/departments/fire/community-resources/covid19
This Memorial Day looks very different, but the meaning of the day has not changed. Monday is a day of remembrance and gratitude to all the brave men and women who have given their lives in service to our nation and its people. We must each do our part as a community to remember these individuals and the families they left behind.
The Council will be meeting remotely twice this week; on Tuesday for our weekly COVID-19 status meeting and on Wednesday for our regular meeting. Both meetings are open to the public by phone or the Zoom app. On Wednesday there are some important items on the docket for discussion and approval.
The first item on Wednesday’s Council docket is a Public Hearing on the proposed FY21 City budget. We first considered this budget proposal during our May 13th meeting, and after substantial discussion among the Council we voted to continue the discussion to the May 27th meeting, asking the City Manager to come back with more information. Since then, the City Manager has sent a communication to the Council with new considerations for the FY21 budget, including ways to avoid some of the fiscal setbacks by including modest tax increases. The Council must weigh the impacts of any increases on a resident’s tax bill against the impacts of deferring infrastructure maintenance and retirement payments. We need consider what the impact and benefits of an approximately $10 per month residential tax increase could mean to the City as a whole; I am sure that we will again be having a robust discussion during the meeting. These are very difficult times, and I will make sure that the value of these new considerations to the taxpayer is well understood before making a decision.
As we move into the summer, there is the continuing discussion on how to breathe life back into our community and economy while making public health and safety a priority. I have been hearing from many residents and organizations wondering what we can do together to help boost community morale and how to re-imagine the “Newport Summer” experience. I have introduced a resolution that proposes a set of guiding principles for the Council and the Administration for managing this summer. It is intended to be a foundation for the Council to discuss and formally establish a vision for the summer and set policy for the City Administration to implement to navigate the months ahead for the benefit of everyone in Newport.
Social distancing is an effective way of combating the spread of the coronavirus, and restricting some roadways to parking or to vehicular traffic altogether can give people space to enjoy the outdoors. I introduced a resolution with two of my colleagues that asks the City staff to develop a plan for the restrictions of some roadways for the enjoyment of the public. The plan would then come before us on June 10th for deliberation and public input. The City will keep doing its part to make it easier for everyone to follow the public health measures in place – the Administration and staff did a great job this past week of inspecting and approving over three dozen restaurants for outdoor dining.
Following last week’s workshop on the proposed School Construction Bond tobuild a new High School and an addition to Pell Elementary School, the Council will be voting on a resolution to place the bond on the November ballot. I am strongly in favor of bringing this bond question to the voters. This school construction plan would be reimbursed at a historic rate of 52.5% by the State – money that our residents overwhelmingly voted for in 2018. We know school buildings and learning environments have a demonstrable effect on student learning. Rogers High School was ranked the worst school building in the entire state of Rhode Island – it is our duty to give our children the environment they need to learn and thrive. Newport’s plan will give our children and their children the best possible environment to develop and learn the knowledge, values, and skills they will need to carry our community into the 21st century and beyond.
Newport Mayor and Council Chair