City Council ward candidates face off

By Sean Flynn |Daily News staff writer |  The Newport Daily News | Page A01 | Thursday, 25 October 2018 

NEWPORT – The two candidates for the Ward 1 seat and the two candidates for the Ward 2 seat on the City Council discussed local issues Tuesday night in a candidates forum at City Hall before an audience of about 75 people.

James Dring, a local Realtor, and Angela McCalla, a foster care recruiter and trainer for Child & Family, are running for the Ward 1 seat, while Valerie Larkin, a technology transfer manager at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, is challenging incumbent Ward 2 Councilwoman LynnUnderwood Ceglie, who has held the seat since 2014.

Ward 3 Councilwoman Kathryn Leonard is unchallenged in her run for re-election. The other four members on the City Council hold at-large seats. The seven candidates for those four seats were featured in a forum last Thursday.

Tuesday night’s forum was the third and final organized by the Alliance for a Livable Newport, a neighborhood advocacy group. Questions were posed by Jill Kassis, first vice president of the League of Women Voters of Rhode Island.

Among the issues Ward 1 candidates talked about was the state project to redesign the Pell Bridge approach and exit ramps. The project, now in its design phase, is expected to free up close to 40 acres of land in the North End of the city, within Ward 1, for economic development.

“The state says they are doing it because the traffic backs up on the Pell Bridge,” said Dring, a former chairman of the city Planning Board. “I’d rather have it back up on the bridge than have an adverse impact on our neighborhoods. I’m in favor of the proposal that is the least disruptive.”

The state Department of  Transportation has developed four major alternatives for the new bridge ramp design. One of those alternatives has three variations and another alternative has two variations, so the process of coming up with a final design is still very much in flux. 

The Alliance for a Livable Newport sponsored a public forum Tuesday night at City Hall for Newport Ward 1 and Ward 2 City Council candidates. From left are Ward 1 candidates James Dring and Angela McCalla, and Ward 2 candidates Valerie Larkin and Lynn Underwood Ceglie. [PETER SILVIA PHOTO]

“There has to be more transparency in the plans and we need to hear from our constituents about what they want,” McCalla said. “The community needs to come together to make a decision. It is the community that should have the final say.”

Dring called the Pell ramp project “the biggest redevelopment project in the city since the late 1960s and 1970s,” when many buildings were torn down to make way for America’s Cup Avenue, Brick Market Place and Long Wharf Mall.

“That in my opinion was a disaster, putting a fourlane highway through the downtown and cutting off sections of the city from each other,” he said. “I don’t want that to happen again.”

“We are a city of neighborhoods,” McCalla said. “We must stay that way.”

On making streets safer

The Ward 2 candidates addressed the pending pedestrian and other safety improvements the state is planning for Memorial Boulevard, since much of the thoroughfare is within their ward.

“The addition of bicycle lanes along part of Memorial Boulevard was a positive step, but we do have a traffic problem that is dangerous for people crossing the street,” Larkin said. “We are a colonial city with narrow streets. We need to find ways to keep traffic out of the city.”

Ceglie said she has been working with the DOT and residents on the plans to make Memorial Boulevard safer.

“I am particularly concerned about the crossing used by many elderly residents of Chapel Terrace and Donovan Manor,” she said.

The Ward 2 candidates also were asked about commercial development of Broadway, which seems to be expanding north.

“When you have a vibrant downtown business zone, that is one of the consequences,” Larkin said. “We need to look at the Cranston-Calvert [former school] development. We need a holistic approach and we need more engagement by the community.”

“I see the development of Broadway as a positive,” Ceglie said. “While on the council, I have addressed problems of parking, speeding and not stopping at stop signs, which we see in many of our neighborhoods. But Broadway is a shining light in our city now. We see that in the annual Broadway Street Fair.”

“The younger population count in the city is going down, which is why the Cranston-Calvert project is so important,” Ceglie said. “It would become workforce housing that is not subsidized, but is appealing to younger people.”

Moderator Kassis asked five questions with the request that the candidates answer with a “yes” or “no.” The candidates were given a chance at the end of the series to briefly explain their answers.

On term limits, Rogers High School

The two candidates who would be new to city government – McCalla and Larkin – said they would favor term limits for city councilors. That would ensure fresh faces periodically join the council, they said.

The two candidates with experience in city government – Ceglie, who has also served on the city’s Zoning Board of Review, and Dring – opposed term limits. They said the position already has a two-year term limit, when the voters decide whether incumbents should be returned to the council. Veteran council members with experience and institutional knowledge are important contributors to council deliberations, Ceglie said.

McCalla was the only candidate to answer “yes” when asked whether she “would support moving Rogers High School to the North End, closer to where two-thirds of the students reside.”

It is an important goal to explore, McCalla said.

Dring, Ceglie and Larkin all abstained from the Rogers vote. They said afterward that they would support having a high school in the North End if possible, but they believe there is no available large parcel of land in that section of the city where a high school could be built. If that changed, they would be on board with a North End high school, they said.

When asked whether they would support a citywide survey of residents’ concerns and priorities, such as took place in 2005 and 2015, Ceglie and Dring answered “no.” They said such surveys are expensive. If a third-party organization or individuals were willing to carry those costs, they would support the survey, they said.

McCalla and Larkin said they would support such a survey, but Larkin qualified her answer afterward by saying a high-cost survey could be a deterrent.

Dring, Ceglie and Larkin said they would support a homestead property-tax exemption for permanent residents of Newport, while McCalla abstained. She said she would like to research the impact of such an exemption before committing to it. The candidates were unanimous on only one of the five questions. They all rejected the idea of having the voters of the city popularly elect a mayor. They all supported the current City Council-city manager form of government that has council members choose a mayor, who also serves as council chairperson, and a city manager who serves as the city’s chief administrative officer.

The audience listens during Tuesday night’s forum for Newport Ward 1 and Ward 2 City Council candidates, sponsored by Alliance for a Livable Newport at City Hall. The red flag indicates the allotted time is up for responding to a question. [PETER SILVIA PHOTO]

The Finance Review Committee (FRC) and Charter Review Commission (CRC)

Official seal of Newport, Rhode Island
Official seal of Newport, Rhode Island (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ALN Hosts Finance and Charter Panels

By Barry Bridges

The Finance Review Committee (FRC) and Charter Review Commission (CRC) recently discussed their findings in a public forum sponsored by Alliance for a Livable Newport. After months of work, their reports were presented to City Council on May 28 and are presently under consideration.

The FRC, under the leadership of Ronald Becker, compiled a lengthy list of ideas for city leaders with the goal of creating efficiencies and saving money. The recommendations were grouped into broad categories of city services, schools, financial planning, tax exempt property, tourism, and salaries and benefits.

Concerning the schools, the FRC proposed creating a dedicated grant-writing position; combining the city and school finance functions under one department; improving communications through the city/school liaison subcommittee; and implementing strategies to reduce high per-pupil expenditures.

Other ideas included pursuing payments-in-lieu-of-taxes from tax exempt entities and increasing parking meter revenues by expanding hours and street coverage. The panel also offered specific changes to pensions and medical benefits to improve Newport’s bottom line.

Becker emphasized that at this point, all of the proposals are recommendations for action by the council. The committee hopes to receive steady progress reports on the status of its suggestions until all points have been implemented or rejected.

In a parallel effort, the CRC, spearheaded by Isabel Griffith, studied whether amendments to Newport’s Charter could result in more efficient city operations.

Griffith told forum participants that “when we began work, we were charged by the mayor with what we were supposed to do, and one of the things he said was ‘don’t avoid any topics.’”

In that vein, some topics quickly grabbed attention, such as whether the School Committee should be appointed and whether the council should have staggered terms. In the end, the CRC considered but did not endorse changes in those areas of city government.

“The interesting thing that people have mentioned is that with the hot-button issues we recommended no change,” said Griffith. “However, the decisions we made not to change the charter are just as strong, in my opinion, as our decisions to suggest where changes should be made.”

Griffith continued, “I would say that the most interesting change we suggested has been the one having to do with the increase in the number of wards from which the council is elected.” Newport is currently divided into three wards, but the CRC would like to see that number increased to four, with three seats remaining at-large.

Other ideas include mandating that the council regularly review all of its boards and commissions for effectiveness, and, in a nod to the FRC, creating a new section in the charter to permit the merging of the city’s financial department with that of the schools.

Any changes ultimately made to the charter would have to first be approved by the electorate.

CRC member Lauren Carson said, “It’s very important to know that our ideas came from the public. We did the best we could to listen and shape those ideas into a proposal. The City Council will see [our ideas] first, and they will give each recommendation a thumbs up or thumbs down. Those with a thumbs up will then go to all the voters. So, it’s still open to public discussion and it’s still open to examination.”

To get on November’s ballot, measures have to be in the Secretary of State’s office in early August. With this deadline in mind, councilors are due to debate the CRC report at their next meeting on Wednesday, July 9.

The Alliance for a Livable Newport (ALN) held its 2014-2015 annual meeting on Tuesday, May 6

2014-05-15 / Around Town – Newport This Week

ALN Recaps Busy Year

By John Hirschboeck

<br />
Pictured (left to right) are ALN Board members Lauren Carson, John McCain, Isabel Griffith, Glen Whistler, Jane Timken, Tom Hockaday, Ron Becker and Dave Wixted.

Pictured (left to right) are ALN Board members Lauren Carson, John McCain, Isabel Griffith, Glen Whistler, Jane Timken, Tom Hockaday, Ron Becker and Dave Wixted.The Alliance for a Livable Newport (ALN) held its 2014-2015 annual meeting on Tuesday, May 6. ALN, dedicated to improving the quality of life in Newport and serving as an unbiased resource for information on the issues of importance to the community, greeted its members and guests for an informal recap of its past year’s activities and plans for the future.

ALN Secretary Isabel Griffith opened the meeting by highlighting the importance of civic engagement, particularly in an election year. Griffith serves as the head of city’s Charter Review Commission.

Vice President John Hirschboeck noted that Newport has 17 commissions, five boards, and five committees, but few citizens know about their functions. He further remarked that the five ALN-sponsored public forums held during the past year highlighted some of the accomplishments of these panels and acknowledged the dedicated volunteer work contributed by over 100 members of these citysanctioned bodies.

President Ron Becker reviewed the organization’s financial condition and encouraged members and residents to support ALN and its mission. The meeting also included an informal discussion on a variety of topical issues, including the new recycling and trash contract recently signed by City Council.

Becker, Lauren Carson, John Hirschboeck, Tom Hockaday, John McCain, and Roger Wells were voted to be at-large directors.

ALN’s Neighborhood Association Representative Directors are Harry Elkin, Top of the Hill; Isabel Griffith, The Point; Jim Moore, Bellevue/ Ochre Point; Rico Santi, Historic Hill; Glenn Whisler, Castle Hill; Jack McVicker, Off Broadway; and Chip Leakas, North End.

Mike Cullen, George Herchenroether, Bonnie Kniskern, Win Smith, Jane Timken, and Dave Wixted serve on ALN’s Advisory Board.

In addition to the series of commission forums during the past year, ALN hosted sessions on plans for the Goat Island Marina, as well as on Newport’s 375th anniversary plans. ALN also supported the city’s Daffodillion drive.

All forums are videotaped and posted on the group’s website at

The next free ALN public forum will present the findings and recommendations of the city’s Charter and Financial Review committees on June 24 at 6 p.m. at the Newport Public Library. The alliance will also hold a series of candidate forums for City Council and School Committee in October.

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The Alliance for a Livable Newport (ALN) held its 2014/2015 Annual Meeting at the Salvation Café on May 6

The Alliance, dedicated to improving the quality of life in Newport and serving as an unbiased resource for information on the issues of importance to the community, greeted its members and guests for an informal re-cap of its past year’s activities and plans for the future.

ALN Annual Mtg

ALN Secretary Isabel Griffith opened the meeting by highlighting the importance of civic engagement, particularly in this election year. Isabel herself serves as the head of the Charter Review Committee.

Noting that the City of Newport has 17 commissions, 5 boards and 5 Committees – yet few know about the work they perform, ALN Vice President John Hirschboeck noted that the 5 ALN sponsored Public Forums held during the past year highlighted various commissions and their actions while serving to acknowledge the dedicated volunteer work that over 100 members contributed to these city sanctioned bodies.

In addition to the series of Commission forums, ALN held Forums on the Goat Island Marina Plans and Newport’s Plans for its 375th Anniversary. ALN also participated in a series of neighborhood meetings and supported Daffodillion, Newport’s drive to beautify Newport with 1 million daffodils throughout the city.

John reminded all that all ALN forums are video taped and posted on the ALN website at

President Ron Becker reviewed the financial condition of the Alliance and encouraged members and residents to support ALN and its mission by contributing at

A vote for the at-large directors of ALN was conducted and the following were voted in:

At-Large Directors

  • Ron Becker
  • Lauren Carson
  • John Hirschboeck
  • Tom Hockaday
  • John McCain
  • Roger Wells

Neighborhood Association Representative Directors

  • Harry Elkin, Top of the Hill
  • Isabel Griffith, The Point
  • Jim Moore, Bellevue/Ochre Point
  • Rico Santi, Historic Hill
  • Glenn Whisler, Castle Hill
  • Jack McVicker, Off Broadway
  • Chip Leakas, North End

(Neighborhood Association Representative Directors are selected by their respective Associations and appointed by the At-Large Directors).

Advisory Board

  • Mike Cullen
  • George Herchenroether
  • Bonnie Kniskern
  • Win Smith
  • Jane Timken
  • Dave Wixted

(The Advisory Board consists of past ALN presidents plus others appointed by the Directors).

After the vote was announced, an informal discussion as to a variety of topical issues, including recycling and the new recycling and trash contract, took place.

The next free ALN Public Forum will present the findings and recommendations of both the Charter and Financial Review Committees on June 24th, 6:00pm at the Newport Public Library.

The Alliance will also be holding a series of candidate forums for City Council and School Committee in October.

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ALN 2014 Annual Meeting Tuesday, May 6th – 5:30pm to 7:00pm – Salvation Cafe 140 Broadway

The annual meeting of the non-profit Alliance for a Livable Newport (ALN) will be held at Salvation Cafe upstairs community room on Tuesday, May 6 from 5:30-7:00pm at 140 Broadway, Newport, RI.


Current and new members are invited to meet the board of directors, learn of the Alliance’s past activities and future plans and to vote from a slate of At Large Directors for the 2014/2015 term. This is also an opportunity for all residents to exchange neighborhood information and to discuss issues, concerns and suggestions that will improve Newport’s quality of life – all in an informal manner.

Annual Memberships beginning at $25.00 will be available at the door. Only paid members will be able to vote. (you can pay online in the link below)

For more information on the Alliance and how it’s working on behalf of Newport’s residents and businesses, go to

Contact: John Hirschboeck
Alliance for a Livable Newport
Office of the President
(401) 619-0127


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NEWPORT’S 375TH – City to celebrate with dancing, music, parade

Newport 375th Anniversary Celebration Committee co-chairman Steve Waluk answers a question during a meeting sponsored by the Alliance for a Livable Newport on Thursday at the Newport Public Library. Committee members Lynn Ceglie, left, and Jennifer Hanson also fielded questions and suggestions.

Newport Daily News – Friday January 24, 2014 Page 1. – Dave Hansen | Staff photographer  – By Sean Flynn  – Staff writer

The Island Moving Co. dance troupe will perform to the locally composed “Newport Colonial Suite” at Rogers High School on March 5 and at the Rosecliff mansion on March 7, two of many events planned this year in celebration of the 375th anniversary of Newport’s founding.

“Island Moving Co. has made this bigger than I ever expected,” Lynn Ceglie, a member of the city’s 375th Anniversary Celebration Committee, said. “The performances are going to be amazing and the music is absolutely beautiful.”

Ceglie spoke during a forum Thursday night that unveiled planned activities for the coming year. The Alliance for a Livable Newport, a neighborhood advocacy group, sponsored the forum at the Newport Public Library.

Members of the audience suggested even more events, such as one celebrating Newport’s maritime trading history, or another with Navy involvement, or yet another on the founding of the Old Colony & Newport Railroad in the city 150 years ago this year.

“We haven’t been a boring town for the past 375 years; we have almost too many options,” said former Mayor Stephen C. Waluk, who co-chairs the anniversary committee with former Mayor John J. Trifero.

Plans that have started out as seeds in past committee meetings have blossomed quickly, though, such as the contemporary ballet performance of the “Newport Colonial Suite,” which was composed by Alan Bernstein, supervisor of the arts in Newport’s public schools.

Through the choice of instruments, Bernstein evokes different settings in Newport in three different movements. In one, the piece reminds the listener of the wind, the sound of sails and the busyness of a vibrant Newport Harbor. In another, he represents the sounds of the White Horse Tavern with a violin reel. A plot of land called “God’s Little Acre” in the Common Burying Ground inspires the third movement. 

The Newport Public Education Foundation donated money to make the performances by Island Moving Co., under the leadership of artistic director Miki Ohlsen, possible, Ceglie said. The performance at the high school will be free to the public, while the event at Rosecliff will have an admission price. While the performance days have been finalized, the times have not been set yet, Ceglie said.

The official opening ceremony commemorating the city’s actual anniversary is planned for May 24 at 6 p.m. in front of the Colony House on Washington Square. The Rogers High School band and orchestra has been asked to provide music and the Artillery Company of Newport will be asked to fire its cannons.It was on May 16, 1639, that a group of dissidents from Portsmouth, including William Coddington and Nicholas Easton, agreed “the plantation now begun at the southwest end of the island shall be called Newport.”Jennifer Hanson, a committee member who also spoke at the forum, is arranging a family scavenger hunt to take place the next day, May 25, in the historic downtown area and on Bellevue Avenue.When the city celebrated its 350th anniversary in 1989, Waluk said he was a student at the Thompson Middle School. He still remembers the long parade that came down Broadway.

A re-enactment of that large community parade is being planned for June 21, beginning at One Mile Corner at 11 a.m. and heading south on Broadway to Marlborough Street and the Great Friends Meeting House, where a large community photo will be taken at 2 p.m. That will be followed by a community cookout on the Meeting House field.

Before the fireworks show on July 4, concerts are being planned for different locations in the city, perhaps at King Park, Perrotti Park and Storer Park.

“At first, we wanted to bring the Boston Pops here for the Fourth of July, but we’d have to sell the library to do it,” Waluk said.

A public clambake at Ballard Park or Fort Adams will take place on Aug. 24 at 4 p.m.

“Newport Inside Out — A Culinary Celebration” will take place on sidewalks along Broadway between Washington Square and Equality Park on Sept. 19. Local restaurants are being asked to participate.

A lecture series examining various aspects of Newport’s history is being planned. Jim Garman, a local historian who taught for many years at Portsmouth Abbey School, has agreed to hold several lectures. (Garman also provided a series of lectures for Portsmouth’s 375th anniversary celebration last year.) Ceglie said three lectures have been confirmed for the Saturdays of March 22, Sept. 13, and Nov. 1, each beginning at 2 p.m. at the Newport Art Museum. The topics, in order, will be: the first settlements on Aquidneck Island; the hurricanes of 1938 and 1954, with photos of the destruction caused on the island; and the history of the Navy in Newport, from the Civil War to the present.

A 375th anniversary gala dinner and dance at Rosecliff will close out the year’s events on Dec. 31.

Currently, the 375th Anniversary Celebration Committee is holding a poster contest for Newport elementary, middle and high school students ages 5 to 19. Entries are due Feb. 14 in the mayor’s office in City Hall, 43 Broadway. Entries should be submitted on 11-by-17-inch paper and commemorate Newport or promote its anniversary.

For more information about the contest and upcoming events, go to www.newport375. com.

◆ The Newport Daily News is the official print media partner of Newport’s 375th anniversary celebration. In addition to coverage in the paper and online, The Daily News will publish a special commemorative section in June.

◆ To watch video of Thursday’s forum, go to www.NewportRI. com and click on the 375th anniversary logo.

You are Invited! Alliance for a Livable Newport LEARN ALL ABOUT PLANS FOR NEWPORT’S 375th BIRTHDAY CELEBRATIONS



You are Invited!

Alliance for a Livable Newport



The Alliance for a Livable Newport (ALN) will be holding a free public forum at the Newport Public Library on January 23 to unveil a host of planned activities recognizing this year’s 375th Anniversary of the founding of Newport.

Founded in 1639 by William Brenton, Henry Bull, Jeremy Clark, John Clarke, William Coddington, John Coggeshall, Nicholas Easton, and Thomas Hazard, Newport became the first capital of the State of Rhode Island.

Co-chairs of the 375th Anniversary Celebration Committee, former mayors Steve Waluk and co-chair John Trifero, will be joined by members of Newport’s 375th committee who will outline the City’s plans for public celebrations, family-friendly activities, lectures and educational programs throughout 2014.

A “Q & A” will follow the presentation during which additional ideas can be discussed.



For further information, contact: 
John Hirschboeck, ALN Office of the President  or Call 401-619-0127

Did you know that all ALN Public Forums are video taped and available publicly for viewing at any time? <click here to view the archive>

Portrait of a Clergy (thought to be John Clarke), 1659. By Guilliam de Ville. Redwood Library and Athenaeum.

Please join us!




JANUARY 23, 2014

TIME: 6-7:30pm


Newport Public Library

Program Room

300 Spring Street

Newport, RI 02840

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Isabel Griffith featured on the front page of The Newport Daily News 11/25/2013

ISLAND PEOPLE – A wealth of experience 


Newport Charter review chairwoman comes with a wide-ranging resume

By Sean Flynn – Staff writer 

NEWPORT — Isabel Griffith likes going to Newport City Council meetings, which are a far cry from some of the other settings in her life.

Take for example the Foxcroft School in Middleburg, Va., where she was associate head of school and academic dean for several years. The town was also the home of the Middleburg Hounds, who kept up the tradition of fox-hunting with their Middleburg Hunt.

“The girls would sometimes fox hunt, usually two or three of our best riders who were very brave,” Griffith said about her former students. “When they missed classes because of a fox hunt, it would drive the faculty nuts. But sometimes I would be with the girls.”

Griffith, 75, has found enjoyment in many endeavors in her life, but she has a soft spot for private boarding schools for girls at the highschool level, where she has lived and worked.

“Schools with female faculty and staff made a difference in my life,” she said. “Some of the things I did, I never would have thought of doing if I didn’t have that experience. Single- sex education is empowering for women when all the leadership roles are filled by women.”

Since moving to Newport 16 years ago, Griffith has drawn from her leadership experience to fill some key roles in the community. Recently, she took on the chairmanship of the city’s Charter Review Commission, which will be considering potential changes to city government that are sure to be controversial. Recent sessions — in which the possibilities of having a popularly elected mayor or doing away with city wards were discussed — already are generating comment in the community.

As a former president of the Point Association and the Alliance for a Livable Newport, in which she is still an officer, Griffith is familiar with controversy. She was at the helm of the association when the state Department of Transportation’s plan to run a downtown access road along the train tracks next to the Point caused a firestorm in the neighborhood and led to many meetings.

Griffith was born and bred in Dallas, where New England “Yankees” are considered a foreign and enemy tribe.

“I was not a happy Texan, but I never thought I’d move to New England,” she said. “In Texas, living with Yankees is unthinkable.”

For her, that outlook has flipped. Isabel Griffith, former president of the Alliance for a Livable Newport

“I’ve been a very happy New Englander, much happier than I was as a Texan,” Griffith said. “It’s been a great life for me here. I can’t imagine anyone moving from New England to Texas and liking it.”

Griffith graduated from Southern Methodist University in Dallas with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and taught small children for a year afterward.

“I was terrible at it,” she said. “My timing was all wrong.”

Returning to SMU, she earned a master of science degree in biology and taught high school biology, chemistry and physics, but mostly biology. She married a lawyer in 1965 and moved to a small farm in Middleburg, where he practiced law and she taught full time.

“He enjoyed going to race tracks and one day he brought home a horse,” Griffith said. “I began looking after the horse and that’s how it all started — a period of raising and racing horses.”

They moved to a larger farm and eventually had nine horses, six dogs and “about the same number of cats.” There was a constant turnover with the horses.

“I ran the farm and researched the horses,” Griffith said. “We bought one to three yearlings a year and raised them to the age of 2 with a trainer at the farm.”

The horses then were sent to racing school in Maryland. Griffith and her husband raced the horses in New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware, besides Maryland.

“We actually made money in the racing business,” she said.

During that time, Griffith taught at the Madeira School, a girls boarding school in McLean, Va., and began working on her doctorate degree at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where she also taught.

After 15 years of marriage, she and her husband separated and she moved onto the Foxcroft School campus where she had been teaching most recently.

“I thoroughly enjoyed being married, and my husband and I remained friends afterwards,” she said. “I would recommend the experience to anyone.”

But she had places to go.

Griffith moved in 1983 to Chicago, where she was principal of the Latin School of Chicago, a large independent co-educational school.

“It seems I never stayed at one job too long,” she said. “If I looked at my resume as an employer, I would say, ‘It doesn’t look like she develops much loyalty.’ After three years in Chicago, I got itchy feet.”

The next stop was Princeton, N.J., where she worked as an educational consultant for 11 years for Independent Educational Services Inc., placing school administrators and teachers.

“It was a long-term assignment for me,” Griffith said. “I lived right across from the university where I’d spend time at concerts, lectures and other events. I thoroughly enjoyed it there, a small walkable town with an easy connection to New York City.” Changes came though, and she moved to Washington, D.C., for a year. The move to Newport took place after she was hired by Educational Directions Inc., in Portsmouth, where she was a an educational hiring consultant for private schools. She helped find academic deans, administrators and principals for lower and middle schools.

“It involved a lot of travel,” she said. “I’ve been lost in all the major cities of the U.S. For me, trips were measured by the number of plane rides. A five-plane trip was really pushing it. Travel became just awful for me.”

Her home, a 1728 Colonial house on Walnut Street, became her refuge.

“I love my garden, although it gets very jungle- y,” she said. “It’s not a tidy New England garden.”

She retired six years ago. Not owning a TV or a cell phone, she now finds enjoyment in reading and attending City Council, planning and zoning board and neighborhood meetings.

“The people are bright and dedicated; they think about stuff,” Griffith said with a smile. “I find it so interesting to be a part of things that are important, at least at some level.”

Ron Becker, Alliance for a Livable Newport President elected Chairman of Finance Review Committee

NEWPORT- Finance Review Committee to start work

By Sean Flynn – Staff writer

Seven Newport residents with extensive experience in private business will be reviewing the city budget to determine ways of cutting expenses and increasing revenues.

The members of the new Finance Review Committee were sworn by City Clerk Kathleen Silvia Thursday night at the Newport Public Library, and welcomed to the tasks ahead by Mayor Harry Winthrop.

When the City Council gave initial approval to a city budget in June, the council members voted unanimously to form a committee to study items such as the high cost of pensions and health care for city employees that are built into the budget.

Earlier in the year, the council passed a resolution calling on the city administration to identify “any and all nonprofit entities” that “may be able to assist in generating city revenue through participation in PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) or PILOT-type programs.”

That task also has been assigned to the Finance Review Committee.

Winthrop said Thursday the committee members could look at the formula that provides state aid to communities in the form of PILOT funding to cover part of the property taxes lost because the property is held by a taxexempt organization. Perhaps that funding could be increased, he said.

“We would have to ask the General Assembly for enabling legislation,” the mayor said.

Cruise ships pay the city a fee of $6 per passenger onboard when they visit Newport, Winthrop said. On the other hand, 1,200 buses visit the city in September and October and don’t pay any fees to the city, he said.

“Is there any way to collect fees from them?” he asked. “We don’t want you to stay away from anything. You don’t have any political fallout to worry about.”

Ron Becker Alliance for a Livable Newport
Ron Becker

The committee members elected Ron Becker as the chairman. He was a senior officer for Met Life and had spent 35 years in the insurance industry before retiring. He is currently president of the Alliance for a Livable Newport, a neighborhood advocacy group.

“If we suggest new revenues, someone is going to have pay them,” Becker said. “Expense cuts we recommend could affect people’s jobs or the services they receive. No matter what we decide, we are not going to come out of this as friends to the world.”

The council has asked for a final report and recommendations from the committee by May. Becker said the recommendations could include short-term budget adjustments as well as long-term goals.

John Flores, CEO of Drupal Connect, a website design and development firm on Thames Street, was elected vice chairman of the committee.

“I’m passionate about research,” he said.

Louisa Boatwright, who worked for a large financial institution in the Boston area before moving to Newport, will serve as secretary of the committee. She has been active in the Newport Public Education Foundation.

Hank Kniskern, a former manager at AT&T and Bell Labs and former instructor at the Naval War College, also is on the committee. He is currently an adjunct professor at the Roger Williams University business school and chaired the city’s Waterfront Commission for seven years.

Other committee members include: David Bazarsky, an attorney and owner of real estate in the area; Ken Nomiyama, a former manager for UBS Bank and Chase; and Bill Rauch, a former chief financial officer for retail companies.

Bazarsky said he would like to take a closer look at union contracts, school expenses and possibilities for regionalization in the coming months.

City Finance Director Laura Sitrin and city budget analyst Elizabeth Sceppa will be working closely with the committee. They agreed to provide the members with copies of the city budget and the council’s strategic plan later today.

The committee members plan to review the budget in the coming week and select sections for closer review.

The next meeting is scheduled to take place at the Newport Public Library on Thursday, Nov. 14, at 7 p.m.

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