opinion Newport Rhode Island

To the Editor:

First, let me offer congratulations to the people of Newport who overwhelmingly supported the expansion of Pell School and the construction of a new Rogers High School. As a lifetime educator, I applaud a community that, in spite of many legitimate concerns, looked to the future of its city and chose to put its children first.  

I continue to believe that the people of Middletown care as much about the next generation and, if offered the opportunity again, would choose to join with its neighboring community if the circumstances were agreeable. 

On another note, I want to thank the voters of Middletown who re-elected me to the Middetown Town Council. I will continue to represent the people of the town as one body with integrity and without self-interest. 

The November election with all its controversy has caused me to reflect upon my previous terms, beginning in 2008.  My campaign for office at that time was based on the need for Civility. I am not exaggerating in describing the meetings prior to that time as having deteriorated into personal conflicts supported by hostile crowds. The 2008 council chose a different direction. 

I first thought about previous Town Council Presidents who provided the leadership across the next 12 years – Chris Semonelli, Art Weber, and Bob Sylvia – gentlemen who actively promoted progress and understood their responsibilities to all the people throughout the town. 

In contrast with a Town Meeting form of government, all the members of the Middletown Town Council understood that, by electing them as representatives, the voters intended them to act on their behalf.  

First, and most importantly, members came to meetings prepared. They had reviewed the backup documents for each item, they respected the work that was the basis for each docket item, they had asked their questions beforehand, they expressed their opinions for the public interest, and they facilitated town action by voting expeditiously. Only when there was serious concern was there delay, and then the issue was usually resolved at the next meeting to bring the item to a conclusion.

That was until more recently, when “discussions” over petty issues dragged on interminably, extending one meeting even until after midnight – with almost nothing getting accomplished.  

It’s time for a change back to the norm.

Town Counselors need to come prepared by doing their homework, which is more than picking apart the documents line-by-line. It is reviewing the past history of the issue to understand the need for the proposal on the floor. It is relying on the “experts” who have done the deeper research, conducted the public hearings, and made recommendations that are intended to promote growth and progress.  It is developing an understanding of the implications for the town as a whole. If there are objections, it is evaluating their weight in regard to the “big picture.” And then it is drawing a tentative conclusion for advocacy at the meeting while still maintaining an open mind. 

This is the process that leads to action. It is the process that the Middletown Town Council has followed historically and successfully, at least during most of my tenure. It is the process that we have to restore because Middletown’s development and prosperity depends on it.

Barbara A. VonVillas

Community Submission

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