Get to Know the Candidates

Newport This Week  | on August 27, 2020

To the Editor:

As it has since 2008, The Alliance for a Livable Newport is serving to provide Newport voters comprehensive information about the upcoming elections.

The Alliance for a Livable Newport
The Alliance for a Livable Newport

This year is no different – only more challenging, given that there are 19 candidates for the Newport City Council and 10 candidates for the Newport School Committee, undoubtedly reflective of the extraordinary issues now facing our city and schools. ALN applauds incumbents running for reelection and the many new candidates who’ve taken the time and energy to throw their hats into the ring in a desire and commitment to serve our city.

To assist Newport voters, the Alliance for a Livable Newport asked challenging questions of the 12 At Large candidates and three 3rd Ward candidates vying for the Newport City Council Primary election. (The four candidates competing for the 1st and 2nd Ward seats in the General Election on November 3 have been asked the same questions.)

ALN is gratified that all 19 City Council candidates took the time to craft their responses which can now be found at

In addition to ALN’s written questions and answers, ALN has joined a Newport This Week collaborative along with the Greater Newport Chamber of Commerce, League of Women Voters of Newport County, Newport Buzz and WADK to host on-air “Zoom” forums for candidates in each of the Newport and Middletown Council and School Committee races, plus state elections for our local representatives.

Voters can now view the first of these forums featuring primary candidates for the Newport Council and State House of Representatives. Go to: videos/

With a primary election for City Council just weeks away on September 8, it’s time we all get to better know the candidates, renew acquaintances with current office holders and take time to familiarize ourselves with the positions each candidate holds on critical issues affecting the future of Newport.

The Primary election on September 8 will choose eight At Large council candidates and two 3rd Ward candidates will run in the general election on November 3.

For information go to departments/canvassing

As has been said, if we don’t vote, we not only ignore history but give away our future.

Alliance for a Livable Newport, Executive Board

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Ward 3 Candidates Square Off

Newport This Week  | on August 27, 2020By James Merolla

The fourth in a series of candidate forums took place on Aug. 20 for the three people vying for a Ward 3 seat on the Newport City Council.

The three candidates in the 40-minute forum included longtime incumbent Kathryn Leonard and challengers Paul Marshall and Rachel Hussey. Leonard, a veteran educator and realtor, had not been challenged in the previous three terms.

The two top vote getters in the Sept. 8 primary will appear on the November ballot.

The forum is a collaboration among The Alliance for a Livable Newport, East Bay TV, the Greater Newport Chamber of Commerce, the League of Women Voters Newport County, Newport Buzz, Newport This Week and WADK radio. The moderator was Christian Winthrop of Newport Buzz.

Marshall serves on the Planning Board and is principle at PM Consulting Services. Hussey is a teacher at St. Michael’s School.

Leonard said her top priorities for the next term are traffic, congestion and community cohesive- ness. Hussey pointed to schools, the economy and quality of life. Marshall cited equity, the environment and education.

None of the candidates supported a Homestead Exemption, were in favor of eliminating the ward election system or thought the Christopher Columbus statue on Bellevue Avenue should be removed. Marshall was the only candidate who would not support a study of a regionalized high school.

Each candidate spelled out why they are running.

“Ward 3 is large, it is diverse, and it is integral to our city,” said Hussey. “I am running for city council so that Ward 3’s creative solutions to age-old problems can be represented.”

Marshall said he is running “to ensure that Newport will grow in a conscientious, equitable and sustainable way.”

Leonard said, “I am an action person, known for doing things.”

To the question on development for the North End, and specifically, the proposal to redevelop the former Newport Grand property, Hussey said the plan set out by consultants was “on the right path,” possibly leading to affordable housing, as well as new small businesses and a lot of green space. She said she currently would support the proposal for Newport Grand, but wants more information.

Marshall said he hoped to steer citywide decisions “through an equity and inclusion lens,” and continue to get feedback from the community, so “we can fully understand the impact of our municipal decisions.”

Leonard said the most important aspect of the North End is “to have a more inclusive community that brings benefits to all residents.

“I’d like to see a good working trolley system, a transportation system, so people can get to work quickly,” she said. “Maybe have a healthcare clinic in the North End. I don’t want to see 90-foot high buildings.”

To the question of tighter ordinance restrictions on the development of waterfront property, based on the two new hotels getting approval, Marshall said the city has to ensure that people continue to have public access to the waterfront, and that this should be addressed with a climate resiliency effort to mitigate flooding and other problems.

Leonard cited zoning and the comprehensive land use plans. “If we don’t change the zoning ordinances first, we are in for big lawsuits,” she said.

She added that it is important for zoning to be addressed with a new look at height restrictions on buildings.

Many people in Ward 3 were not happy with heights, minimized access and other issues, Hussey said. “I would be open to looking at new ordinance restrictions,” she said.

As for climate change, all three noted the damage to Newport in heavy rainstorms. Leonard cited repairs Newport made over the years, including a $6 million repair of the misfiring pumping station. Hussey called it “a huge issue,” adding that trash and recycling had to be increased with the enhancement of communal gardens. Marshall said he addresses this in his profession and on the Planning Board. “We really need to invest in infrastructure and stormwater management and transportation,” he said, citing the Green and Complete Streets initiative.

As for exploring alternatives beyond property taxes to increase revenues, Hussey talked about building businesses in Newport and said too much money is going to the state. Marshall said he had some ideas about Clean Energy generating revenue here and reinvesting it on “micro grids.”

Leonard said the city could impose impact fees on big new developments, like hotels and apartment buildings, as many communities around the country already do. “I think Newport has become the ATM of the state,” she said. “We don’t get enough of the share of the tourism taxes.”

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At Large Candidates Have Their Say

Newport This Week on August 27, 2020 By James Merolla

Two one-hour virtual forums took place on Aug. 19 and Aug. 20 among the 12 At Large candidates for Newport City Council. Jill Kassis, of the League of Women Voters and WADK’s Bruce Newbury served as moderators.

The forums are a collaboration among the Alliance for a Livable Newport, East Bay TV, the Greater Newport Chamber of Commerce, the League of Women Voters Newport County, Newport Buzz, Newport This Week and WADK radio.

On Aug. 19, the six candidates included incumbents Mayor Jamie Bova, Jeanne-Marie Napolitano and Justin McLaughlin, and challengers Meagan Landry, Derek Grinkin and Bill Kimes.

Grinkin owns and operates a property management business in Newport and is a football coach at Salve Regina University. Kimes is a special education teacher at Rogers High and a member of the School Building Committee. Landry has worked at Saccucci Honda in Middletown for eight years and previously worked at the Jane Pickens Theater.

On Aug.20, incumbents Lynn Ceglie and Susan Taylor were joined by challengers Beth Cullen, Olga Enger, Elizabeth Fuerte and Kevin Michaud.

Cullen is a past president of the Point Association and a longtime advocate for education reform. Enger owns Studio Newport and is also a longtime freelance writer. Fuerte serves on the Planning Board and is a community organizer for the Newport Health Equity Zone. Michaud has worked at T.F. Green Airport in the public safety department since 2004, and is an assistant manager of Easton’s Beach.

The candidates were first asked to describe their vision for the North End. Grinkin said he saw more opportunity, open space and industrial offerings, along with additional middle-income housing. McLaughlin, citing how complex the North End is with many different entities, said a “framework” has to be developed, with zoning in place, before the city can move forward.

Kimes said consultant work currently being done “excited” him with drawings denoting a potential waterway opening, green space, stormwater planning, a library and a basketball court. Landry said “open land is very important,” adding the Naval Hospital land should be turned into “some sort of park,” with more things for children to do.

Bova said the North End urban plan must be completed first with guidance from residents. “I want to make sure we are developing it with mixed use,” she said.

Napolitano, noting that Sheffield School had become Innovate Newport, lauded mixed-use with retail planning.

Fuerte said that she wants to see that area be “completely” part of the city, so that it is not cut off by the Newport Bridge.

Michaud called it an “eyesore,” and said, “anything would be an improvement up there.” He said if the planning process plays out, “We’ll be better off.”

Enger said the council “had to be very careful to keep the North End special.” Taylor said that she wanted it to be “a vibrant location for businesses,” and that better broadband was needed in the area.

Ceglie called affordable workforce housing a top priority, along with the introduction of new industry. Cullen advocated for “no more large hotels, with lots of trees.”

As to the proliferation of hotels while retaining city character, Kimes said, “You have to respond to what the community wants.”

Michaud said the city probably has to decide that “enough is enough.”

Landry said “neighborhood input was important,” while Bova said the comprehensive land-use plan’s conclusions must specifically be applied to zoning citywide, but not at the expense of neighborhoods.

Napolitano said the waterfront was “basically built out,” with little opportunity for more hotels that haven’t already been approved. She said future zoning for neighborhoods abutting the waterfront should have stricter guidelines. McLaughlin said the city has to work with the approved hotels “in order to get the best result in that zone.”

Enger said it was important to maintain “integrity,” but she did not support the ban on waterfront hotels. Taylor, said, “Newport needs a waterfront zone.”

Cullen said we had to have a value and a vision statement, which comes from strategic planning. “Newport hasn’t had a real authentic strategic plan in many, many years. We have to decide as a community what we want to be in the future,” she said.

Ceglie, calling the question difficult, said, “I don’t think people understand that the council is not the end all and be all on hotels. You need to strike a balance.”

Fuerte said she was in favor of possibly changing zoning ordinances.

Grinkin said, “Everything is going forward now and we hear the community’s voice and go in that direction.”

A question on climate change produced a variety of complex answers. Some cited improvements in water, sewer and runoff.

Kimes said future building should provide green space to deal with rising water levels. Mc- Laughlin said the sewer system investment dealt with three inches of rain in 45 minutes three weeks ago, but water runoff is a serious issue. Ceglie and Taylor cited rising sea levels. Taylor wanted the planning department to look at it. Ceglie said the city has put in measures, like shoring up the seawall.

“Education, education, education,” Cullen said. “We have to get our kids involved in the process.”

Fuerte suggested working with the Environmental Commission.

As for seeking alternatives beyond property taxes to enhance revenues, Bova suggested parking revenue as a partial solution. Landry said speeding ticket revenue might help.

Taylor said the city wanted to look at the hotel and food and beverage taxes, but Napolitano said they cannot be charged more than they are.

Ceglie said Newport should hire a government affairs candidate to represent the city at the Statehouse.

Cullen said that 3,500 people work at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, but only 6 percent live in Newport. “We’re stuck in this tourism kind of mindset. There are so many things we can do,” she said.

Fuerte cited many “large” properties in Newport that do not pay taxes, and said the city should take a deeper look to see how “some revenue can be raised from that.”

Michaud said the council should look at fee structures and put more properties on the tax rolls.

In the “yes” and “no” lightning round, Kimes and Michaud were the only candidates who did not support a Homestead Exemption.

None of the 12 candidates favored discontinuing the ward system to make all candidates At Large.

Only Landry and Fuerte said they would not support a study of a regionalized high school in the future, regardless of the impending vote on a new Rogers High. All the candidates said their vision of the North End was conceived, at least in part, by the current proposal of that district by consultants.

None of the first six candidates supported moving the Christopher Columbus statue at Memorial Boulevard and Bellevue Avenue. The second group of six were not asked their opinion.

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Letter To The Editor: If we don’t vote, we not only ignore history but give away our future

What’s Up Newp | By Ryan Belmore -August 25, 2020

As it has since 2008, The Alliance for a Livable Newport is serving to provide Newport voters comprehensive information about the upcoming elections.

This year is no different – only more challenging, given that there are 19 candidates for the Newport City Council and 10 candidates for the Newport School Committee, undoubtedly reflective of the extraordinary issues now facing our city and schools. ALN applauds Incumbents running for reelection and the many new candidates who’ve taken the time and energy to throw their hats into the ring in a desire and commitment to serve our city.

The Alliance for a Livable Newport
The Alliance for a Livable Newport

To assist Newport voters, the Alliance for a Livable Newport asked challenging questions of the 12 At Large candidates and three 3rd Ward candidates vying for the Newport City Council Primary election. (The four candidates competing for the 1st and 2nd Ward seats in the General Election on November 3 have been asked the same questions.)

ALN is gratified that all 19 City Council candidates took the time to craft their responses which can now be found at

With a Primary election for City Council just weeks away on September 8, it’s time we all get to better know the candidates, renew acquaintances with current office holders and take time to familiarize ourselves with the positions each candidate holds on critical issues affecting the future of Newport.

The Primary election on September 8 will choose eight At Large council candidates and two 3rd Ward candidates will run in the General Election on November 3.

Each of these Council candidates has also been interviewed in depth by What’s Up Newport.

For complete information on voting go to

As has been said, if we don’t vote, we not only ignore history but give away our future.

Thank you,

The Alliance for a Livable Newport Executive Board

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General Assembly Forum Enlightens Voters

Newport The Week | August 13, 2020 By James Merolla

The first in a series of one-hour virtual forums went off without a hitch on Aug. 6 for six local state general assembly candidates facing a primary election on Sept. 8.

The forum was a collaboration among The Alliance for a Livable Newport, East Bay TV, the Greater Newport Chamber of Commerce, the League of Women Voters Newport County, Newport Buzz, Newport This Week and WADK radio.

Watch the video here:

The candidates are incumbent Deborah Ruggiero, (D-74 Jamestown, Middletown), and her challenger, Henry “Rick” Lombardi; incumbent Terri Cortvriend, (D-72 Portsmouth, Middletown), and her challenger, Christopher Semonelli; and Michelle McGaw and John Edwards V for the D-71 open seat (Portsmouth, Little Compton, Tiverton). All six are Democrats.

Lynne Tungett, NTW owner and editor, served as host. The moderator was Joseph Pratt, executive director and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Newport County and chair of the Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee (GAC).

Questions were prepared by the League of Women Voters and GAC.

All the candidates favor expanded access to early voting. Edwards said that after the pandemic the state should reexamine the voter ID registration requirements.

Environmentally, all the candidates support renewable energy from alternative sources, and said that the state needs to do more as beaches erode and sea levels rise. Edwards and Semonelli raised the issue of cleaning up the former Naval Lodge site along Burma Road.

All support Gov. Gina Raimondo having line item veto power. McGaw, Edwards and Cortvriend said marijuana should be legalized, while on another yes/no question, Lombardi, Ruggiero, Cortvriend and Edwards said the state should eliminate the automobile tax.

Semonelli, Cortvriend, Edwards and McGaw said they would support legislation making “cocktails to go” a permanent law. Semonelli was the only candidate favoring the regionalization of school districts.

Cortvriend said she came into office in 2019 seeking more government transparency. “My priority has been being accessible to my constituents. It’s very important to be a liaison,” she said.

Semonelli said he will be fighting for funding for those “in need” and “educational excellence.

“I follow fiscal responsibility. I will not support cuts in education,” he said.

Lombardi said the state needs to find ways to create affordable housing for seniors and young families. “It is imperative to get new small businesses established in our state,” he said, while establishing “sustainable” funding for education.

Ruggiero said that COVID-19 has turned lives “upside down.

“Know [that] when the virus hits again, I will be there for everyone,” she said. “Experience matters.”

She said she has focused on the four “E’s” over past 10 years: economy, elderly, environment and education.

Edwards, detailing his business experience, said his top priority is the state’s nearly $1 billion deficit. He said he wants to “protect your hard-earned money [so] that we don’t spend what we don’t have.”

McGaw, a 30-year Portsmouth resident and pharmacist, with an expertise in healthcare, said she wants to help local families. “Our district needs a representative who really works for the people of our district,” she said.

Pratt’s first question was about deep budget cuts and additional tax revenue streams. Both Semonelli and Cortvriend said they would not touch programs that help the elderly and others in need.

Lombardi said, “[a] $200 million [state] deficit before COVID … someone has to explain why that continues to happen, year after year.”

He wondered how the state moves money from successful budget agencies. “DCYF in the red? We’ve got children dying in the care of DCYF,” he said.

“From a fiscal standpoint, I believe the state needs to be really strategic,” said Ruggiero. “COVID has shown us we have to invest in the internet, because we have to work remotely, distance learn and telehealth.”

Edwards said the state needs to concentrate on the successful financial things it has done and revisit them. He mentioned many organizations and businesses that have brought revenue to the state.

McGaw said there are certain things that cannot be cut. “People who need assistance with food … people who need assistance with housing.”

We must create a “more equitable tax structure,” she said.

Citing the tremendous loss to the local hospitality industry, an estimated 45 to 50 percent that will not come back, the candidates were asked what kind of renewal or resiliency plan they would implement.

Cortvriend said a key will be “to diversify and expand” the kinds of businesses that come to Aquidneck Island. Lombardi agreed, lamenting the closure of the Newport Visitor Center. Ruggiero, citing the $6.5 billion brought in annually to the state through tourism, including $900,000 to Aquidneck Island, wants the state to further promote tourism.

Semonelli, citing how small businesses are not happy with the speed with which the economy reopened, said, “We need to listen to them more to meet their needs.”

Five of the six candidates said they would not support expanding paid leave for companies with fewer than 17 employees or state and municipal employees. Only McGaw, citing restaurants who were hardest hit in the pandemic, said she would support it.

Susan Wells of the League of Women Voters, one of the forum sponsors, said the forum offered “a good civil exchange of views on a variety of important issues,” and provided “a valuable source of information for voters.”

There will be upcoming forums with the candidates for the Newport At Large and Ward 3 City Council seats on Aug. 19 and Aug. 20, respectively. The forums will be available for viewing on Aug. 21.

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What’s Up Newp’s Voter Guide: Newport City Council

By Ryan Belmore -August 13, 2020

With less than three months to the General Election, and even less to the Primary Election, What’s Up Newp begins its comprehensive coverage of not only elections in Newport County, but also key statewide legislative races.

Surveys were emailed to candidates in Newport County. We have received several responses, with still more coming in. If you are a candidate and have not received a questionnaire, please contact What’s Up Newp or Frank Prosnitz at

We asked about political, professional, and community background, about past accomplishments and issues the candidates hope to address during the next term.-

We will be running the candidates’ answers, grouping according to races. We begin today with the race for Newport City Council, both the At-Large seats and the three Ward seats.

This year’s Newport City Council race is among one of the most competitive races that we’ve seen in recent years.

Currently, there are twelve candidates running for the At-Large seats, with just four to be chosen.

In a primary on September 8th, voters in Newport will narrow down a dozen candidates to just eight for the At-Large seats. In the general election on November 3rd, the top four vote-getters will represent voters on the new council.

Because there are currently three candidates for Ward 3, voters in that district will narrow down three candidates to two candidates during the primary. Ward 1 and Ward 2 each have two candidates and will only face off during the General Election

Along with responding to the candidate survey, What’s Up Newp has invited all candidates running for Newport City Council to join us for a video interview where they will have the opportunity to answer and address a set of questions — about Covid-19, the school bond, tourism, affordability, and more.

Each candidate will be asked the same questions, all of which came from the What’s Up Newp crew and our readers.

As What’s Up Newp schedules these interviews and publishes survey results, we will embed or link to them here.

What’s Up Newp readers can watch the video interviews live as they happen if they wish below or on our Facebook Page, or watch them anytime after they are recorded.

Newport City Council At-Large

Check back often as we are scheduling interviews and publishing results as we receive responses from the candidates.

At-Large and Ward 3 Candidates listed in order of how they will appear on the primary ballot on September 8th.

Jamie Bova (Incumbent)

Justin McLaughlin (Incumbent)

Video interview scheduled for August 14th at 11 am.

Derek Grinkin

Elizabeth “Beth” Evans Cullen

Video interview scheduled for August 17th at 2 pm

Lynn Ceglie (Ward 2 Incumbent)

Olga Enger

Jeanne-Marie Napolitano

Kevin Michaud

Video interview scheduled for August 18th at 2 pm

Meagan Landry

Elizabeth Fuerte

William Kimes

Video interview scheduled for 11 am on August 19th.

Susan Taylor (Incumbent)

Newport City Council Ward 1

What’s Up Newp Survey Results for Ward 1

Angela McCalla (Incumbent)

Hugo DeAscentis

Newport City Council Ward 2

Charlie Holder

Kim Salerno

Newport City Council Ward 3

Katheryn Leonard (Incumbent)

Rachel Hussey

Paul Marshall

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Video – A State Primary Forum – General Assembly Candidates 08-06-20

By Newport This Week Staff | on August 07, 2020

Our first in a series of candidate forums for the 2020 election, this video features candidates for General Assembly in Newport County.

Candidates for the General Assembly who have primary races on Sept. 8:

  • John Edwards – District 71
  • Michelle McGaw – District 71
  • Terri-Denise Cortvriend – District 72
  • Christopher Semonelli – District 72
  • Henry “Rick” Lombardi – District 74
  • Deborah Ruggiero – District 74

Moderated by Joe Pratt, Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Newport County, a Chamber Board Member and Chair of the Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee.

This presentation is brought to you by a collaboration between the Alliance for a Livable NewportEast Bay TVGreater Newport Chamber of CommerceLeague of Women VotersNewport BuzzNewport This Week and WADK. The purpose of the collaboration is to inform Newport County Voters. The positions held by any one of them do not represent the viewpoints or opinions of others in the group.

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The bucket list for involved citizens: 76 things you can do to boost civic engagement

Rebecca Winthrop and Meg Heubeck Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Civic engagement is the glue that holds self-government together. Yet civic participation and engagement has been on the decline for several decades. Therefore, each and every one of us must be as active and involved in our community and country as possible. Self-government is hard work and requires effort. Action is essential to maintaining the foundations of our democracy, no matter which political party happens to be in power.

To be a truly involved citizen, we must reconnect with our founding documents. We must learn and practice the skills of civic participation beginning with voting and moving onto legislating, speaking out, and building coalitions to solve problems on the local, state, and federal levels.


Stay informed

1. Read and subscribe to daily local, regional, or national newspapers. Check out for news from conservative, liberal, and centrist points of view.
2. Facts matter: Is your news source trustworthy? Check out these non-partisan, nonprofits: and University of Virginia’s Center for Politics’ Youth Leadership Initiative’s media literacy tips.
3. Fill your pocket with democracy. Pick up pocket-sized constitutions for as little as $1.
4. Get the facts on any politician or political candidate at the nonpartisan
5. Talk with someone who doesn’t share your political views. is helping people do this all across the country.
6. Attend a discussion or event in your community or school about an issue you want to know more about.
7. Shadow a public servant for the day to learn how our institutions work.
8. Visit a museum. Learn about local, regional, and national history, and about those who have taken civic action in the past.
9. Visit a library. Librarians can point you to important books on our American democracy.
10. Deep dive into the constitution. The National Constitution Center has an interactive line-by-line breakdown.
11. Use a highlighter when reading news articles to note points of interest, subjects that you agree/disagree with, or questions that you would like to know more about.


12. Vote: Local, state, and national elections matter! Find out when elections are happening from U.S. Vote Foundation.
13. Make sure you’re registered to vote at or use for quick and easy registration.
14. Make a voting pact with your friends or family. Collectively commit to register and vote. Remind each other regularly. Make a plan to go to the polls together!
15. Volunteer to register voters. League of Women Voters in your area is a great resource for running voter registration drives.
16. If you are a boss, give your employees time off to vote. If you are an employee, ask your boss to consider this.
17. Volunteer to work at a polling place. To find out how, go to the Election Assistance Commission’s website or contact your local registrar.
18. Offer to drive elderly voters or those without transportation to the polls.
19. If you own a business, offer discounts to people who provide proof of voting on election days. If you work at a business, ask your boss to consider this.
20. Prepare to vote by checking ahead of time what is on the ballot, your polling place, and what you need to bring. Many states require identification such as a license or passport.
21. If you are voting by absentee ballotpay attention to deadlines and follow all the steps in the instructions.
22. Mark the date when voter registration ends on the calendar along with the dates for each election. Leave time in the day for getting to the polls.


23. Communicate with your elected officials to share your views on issues you care about. A letter, phone call, or visit are still the best ways to contact them.
24. Write an op-ed or letter to an editor.
25. Attend a city council or community board meeting. The National League of Cities can help describe its function.
26. Advocate for civic education in schools. Not all states require it, and you can join the CivXNow campaign to push for it.
27. Join a political campaign. Volunteer for your preferred candidate.
28. Become an ambassador supporting digital citizenship education by signing up with DigCitConnect.
29. Join the Parent-Teacher Association at your local school.
30. Get involved with the local school board. The National School Boards Association has good tips on how to engage.
31. Join a political party. Here is a list of all the political parties, what they stand for, and how to get involved.
32. Run for office. If you don’t like the candidates you are choosing from, put on your shoes and run for office.

Build community

33. Identify a problem in your community and work with your neighbors to fix it. Neighborhood street sweeps and playground refurbishment are just two examples.
34. Plant a tree or garden in your community.
35. Share the #WeThePurple Teacher Toolkit with teachers in your community for good ideas on civic engagement activities for young people.
36. Volunteer to serve as an officer or member of a group in your community. Volunteer Match can help you connect to groups in your area.
37. Visit someone else’s place of worship.
38. Keep watch on children who play in your neighborhood.
39. Paint a mural in a public space (with permission).
40. Pick up trash in your or someone else’s neighborhood.
41. Start a book club and invite your neighbors to participate.
42. Serve as a juror. If you are called for duty, remember our judicial system can’t work without citizen jurors.
43. Collect food for those in need.
44. Visit a nursing home or hospital.
45. Donate blood or plasma.
46. Take a first aid class. The American Red Cross can help prepare you to help those in need.
47. Clean up the local park.
48. Clean up a local river or lake.
49. Start a bowling league or another activity that you enjoy that might bring people together.
50. Help others in an emergency.
51. If you own a gun, participate in a gun safety course.
52. Host or be an exchange student. Rotary Youth Exchange is a good place to begin.
53. Shop local and support small businesses.
54. Contribute financially to a cause, even $5 can help. Charity Watch is a good place to start if you need help identifying organizations to support.
55. Support the teachers at your local school. Ask how you can help and consider starting with supporting classroom projects through
56. Volunteer at a museum.
57. Volunteer at a public library.
58. Volunteer at a pantry, soup kitchen, or food bank.
59. Volunteer at a community garden.
60. Volunteer to coach a youth sports team.
61. Volunteer to lead a youth group.
62. Volunteer at a community center.
63. Volunteer to help veterans. The USO is a good place to start.
64. Volunteer to help teachers. Chaperone school trips to the local city hall and share your experiences engaging with your community and government.
65. Do a year of service. can help you connect to thousands of opportunities to develop real-world skills while giving back to your community.
66. Choose to work at a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping others.
67. Become a substitute teacher.

Get social

68. Host or attend a debate watch party in your community or university.
69. Host a Purple Conversation with family, friends, or in your school or community to discuss ways to foster civic engagement. Use the tips on facilitating open dialogue from Living Room Conversations.
70. Follow and like #WeThePurple across social media.
71. Host a picnic or block party in your neighborhood and (respectfully) talk about your views.
72. Use your consumer power to support companies whose values you believe in.
73. Go out and talk to people, use your hands, and your time.
74. Invite friends and neighbors to watch a documentary on a topic affecting your community.
75. Use your social media accounts to post uplifting information relevant to making our society more civil. The University of Virginia has a helpful guide on civil discourse when talking about politics.
76. Recruit a friend and start checking off items in the “Democracy 76” checklist together!

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Letter To The Editor: Newport needs this moratorium

September 30, 2019

At the September 25 meeting of the Newport City Council, an ordinance was approved on first reading for a six-month moratorium on development in the north end of the City.  Alliance for A Livable Newport (ALN) highly commends the Council’s action. 

As many pointed out, there is need for coordination of the multitude of building projects, infrastructure projects, traffic/transportation plans and projects, either in process or being considered for the future.  

Without a “pause,” decisions would be made in a silo, with consideration only for the immediate project.  There is a desperate need for oversight to assure that decisions made regarding one project do not adversely impact other anticipated projects, the City as a whole and, most important, the quality of life in the neighborhoods surrounding the project.  While the moratorium applies specifically to the north end of Newport, the same considerations apply to development throughout the City. Development decision making and changes to ordinances in Newport should be made to benefit the entire city.- Advertisement –

Examples abound.  The decisions regarding the Pell Bridge offramps will not only impact the traffic flow in and through the immediate area but also will impact future development in the surrounding Innovation District, critical access to and from Newport’s downtown area and the quality of life in our North End and The Point neighborhoods.  Decisions regarding the building of additional hotels, stores, restaurants and residential housing will impact traffic flow, parking, energy, water and sewage usage, aesthetics (a harmonious streetscape, harbor views), waterfront access and the environment. Name any major project and it does not take much thought to realize the off-site impacts of that project. Our City planners need to view future development holistically, rather than fragmented.

The City now has a new City Planner and a new Director of Planning and Economic Development.  The talented individuals filling those positions need time to become familiar with the intricate interconnected considerations affecting development and improvement projects in Newport.  Numerous past studies, including the Open Space Plan, will help guide their effort. They need to develop procedures to assure ALL the impacts of projects are taken into consideration. They need to work with City’s staff, elected and appointed officials and board and commission members to assure that the City’s planning and zoning ordinances are up to date, provide the tools needed to properly monitor and control development, and are formulated to encourage future development in Newport by reducing the need of developers to seek variances.

Importantly, the moratorium is not offered to discourage development in Newport.  Rather it is offered to maximize the value of current and future development, benefiting both developers and also Newport’s current residents and businesses. The results of proper, visionary planning, in harmony with the Comprehensive Land Use Plan, will make Newport a more attractive City for residents and businesses alike.    

ALN sincerely hopes the moratorium is used effectively to lead to a more prosperous future and an improved quality of life for Newport.

ALN Co-Presidents
  Ron Becker
  Isabel Griffith
  John Hirschboeck

Read More Here:

7/29/19 | The Future of our Newport Public Schools (update)

The Newport City Council has called for a workshop with the School Committee and School Administration to explore the issues regarding new school design, composition, construction, and location. We will alert you to time and location when officially announced.
(For more on the result of last week’s discussions, read the 7/25 article from Newport This Week – below).   

Prior to and during that workshop, the ALN Executive Committee asks that the following issues be examined and addressed before proceeding with the Stage One submission to the RI Department of Education:
1. Secure a more definitive cost for renovating Coggeshall to accommodate PreK-1st (the early learning center) and explore other north side options for a new ELC, including adjacencies to the current Pell school or CCRI. Bussing/driving PreK children, the majority who live north of Memorial, all the way south to the current Rogers site seems imprudent.
2. Determine what a minimal “band-aid solution” for current Rogers would cost, one that would take the school through the next 5-8 years until north end land is freed up. This also allows the door to possible Middletown unification be left open for the next few years.
3. Determine exactly why a new HS (or ELC) couldn’t be located on CCRI adjacent, city-owned land. What commitments does the City have that would preclude this opportunity?
4. Determine what the fall-back position is should a $100 million + bond not be approved. This would include addressing what would happen to Newport’s HS students should that be the case.
5. Explore the possibility of bonding and proceeding with construction of the ELC (site other than at Wickham Rd.) and budgeting for remedial efforts only at Thompson, Pell and Rogers.
Unlike current plans, such a bond:
– Falls within the “tolerance” level of Newport voters (est.+/- $40MM rather than $100MM plus)
– Postpones the building of a costly all-new Newport only H.S. until absolutely necessary
– Leaves open the possibility of future HS unification with Middletown
– Allows the City to consider the use of available land, freed-up by RIDOT’s bridge realignment project.
– Locates future school construction projects where the majority of students live.

Respectfully, ALN

7/25/19  Newport This Week
Decision Time for Newport Schools | By Andy Long

While public attention has been focused on Newport’s efforts to build a regional high school, the process of planning and designing a new Rogers High School, along with space for pre-k and kindergarten classes, continues.
The School Building Committee met on July 16 to discuss two significant decisions that were ultimately made at the July 23 meeting.

First, the committee needed to recommend which grades will be at which schools. Secondly, it had to settle upon a construction format for a new high school, whether to build an entirely new high school or blend existing elements with new construction.

The School Building Committee should not be confused with the School Committee’s Ad Hoc Facilities Subcommittee, which has been discussing issues beyond building new facilities for over a year.

The creation of this new committee was mandated by the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) and is part of the process when any community applies to the state for financial assistance in the building of new schools. It is composed of city officials, school administrators and members of the community.

The School Building Committee only recommends to the School Committee and the City Council possible solutions to Newport’s need for a new high school, as well as an answer to the problem of finding places for pre-k and kindergarten classes.

“We need to know what we’re building. It’s a very difficult decision, but it’s one you need to make [soon],” said Kate Jessup, a consultant with StudioJAED, which is assisting Newport in its efforts to create new educational facilities.

The members met for the first time on July 16 and afterward elected School Committee members Louisa Boatwright and Rebecca Bolan co-chairs. At that meeting, the committee first discussed grade configuration, the term for which classes should be placed where. Currently, Newport has pre-k classes in leased space in Middletown; Pell Elementary School has kindergarten through fourth grade; Thompson Middle School houses grades five through eight; and Rogers has nine to 12.

Jessup presented three options, all constrained by the fact that Thompson will have space for only three grades by the mid-2020s, according to a demographer hired by the district.

Two plans had pre-k and kindergarten together, with one in a separate facility and the other housing both on a new Rogers campus.

One proposal for a new Early Learning Center (ELC), heard publicly for the first time at the July 16 meeting, is to build a facility at the site of the vacant Coggeshall School at an estimated cost of $20 million, with the attraction of it being close to the North End, where many students live.

“Some educators love the idea of the pre-k [at the new high school] so you could facilitate Early Childhood Education, which is an always growing field,” Jessup said.

School Committee members proposed another configuration, which would house first grade in the same building as pre-k and kindergarten, allowing Pell to hold grades two through five only, freeing up space for music and art classrooms. Also, Thompson would have to house only grades six through eight. Adding first grade to an ELC will add $10 million to $20 million to the cost of construction.

It was this option that the building committee voted to recommend while making no decision on where to place the ELC.

The second decision regarded the manner of building a new high school. The options discussed by the committee were building an entirely new facility on the sports fields at Rogers at a cost of $153 million. The other was to build in stages, moving classes as each part of the facility is finished. However, proceeding this way would cost $168 million, as part of this approach would include some renovation work, which is more expensive than new construction. The committee voted to recommend building a new high school, for cost reasons.

There has been pushback from City Council members and city administrators on the cost of a new high school. At the July 23 meeting, City Manager Joe Nicholson said, “Those figures [for a new high school] are not even in the ballpark.”

At a February 2019 workshop, Laura Sitrin, director of finance, pointed out that Newport can have, by state law, no more than $205 million in bonded indebtedness, with about $35 million of bonds already outstanding.

At least two council members have also expressed reservations with the $153 million figure. At a liaison meeting of the City Council and the School Committee on July 18, Councilor Justin McLaughlin cautioned, “It’s not what Newport needs or wants, it’s what Newport will tolerate.”

His colleague Kate Leonard said, at the meeting on July 24, “Everyone I’m talking to is asking me, ’Where is Plan B? What is Plan B?’ The amount requested is so huge.”

Nicholson said that with the city needing to replace its North Halsey Street facilities at a cost of at least $20 million, it will be impossible to borrow enough to build $170 million of new school facilities.

Jessup responded that the new high school costing $153 million, with 250,000 square feet of space, is only a proposal, and it includes all the educational amenities that Newport’s teachers and administrators have asked for. It wouldn’t be a final plan; it would be a starting point for discussion with the community, to decide what is necessary and what can be cut, she said.

Mayor Jamie Bova proposed, first at the July 23 School Building Committee and then at the City Council meeting on the 24th, that a joint workshop of the School Committee and the council be held to determine an upper limit on what could, realistically, be asked of the city’s taxpayers in funding a new high school. “What are the fiscal restraints on this project?” she asked.

The City Council voted unanimously to hold the workshop and City Manager Joseph J. Nicholson Jr. said it would be scheduled as soon as possible.

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