Government Accountability

Why is Government Accountability important for a livable Newport?

Through special forums and representation at City Council and other civic meetings, the Alliance for a Livable Newport strives to bring an objective view to the matter at hand so that residents can make informed decisions.

“Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives.” — James Madison, 1822

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  1. Update on the Newport City Council Strategic Plan (article contributed Isabel Griffith)

    The Newport City Council began its work on a Strategic Plan for the city government in the fall of 2010. By City Charter, the Council is required to have a Strategic Plan, The fifth Strategy Session took place in January 2012 with facilitator Hank Kniskern. All members of the Council were present as was the new City Manager, Jane Howington. There were approximately 20 community members in the audience. Strategic Planning focuses on a few major initiatives that will enable the City to be significantly better prepared for the future.

    Session #5 Summary:

    • Review statements of vision and mission (posted on the city website, http://www.cityofnewport.com) Click on “All current city news and announcements” – News GO on the left of the home page.

    • Discuss the four goals from the May 2011 meeting. Details were added so concrete actions could be taken to develop the strategic plan.

    GOAL 1 – Improve communications between city government and the citizens of Newport
    •The city should be a resource to residents and visitors with a mind-set of being helpful
    •Emphasis should be placed on communicating about emergency situations, events, changes, project updates and general information
    •Improving the City website and incorporating social networking capabilities were considered essential
    •Working with a communications consultant or having a staff PR person were discussed

    Discussion about Improving Communication with the Community focused on providing more information to the community. In this session, the Council members especially focused on explanatory information – such as the water rate increase and up-coming events (e.g. America’s Cup & traffic). There were several actions suggested (website, social networking) but most of the attention was on “out-bound” messaging. Today’s discussion was much more limited in scope than in prior strategy sessions which also dealt with efforts to increase “in-bound” communication … citizen participation. Would community communication be improved if a portion of a council meeting were dedicated to presenting overviews and progress updates of strategic projects or major events, such as the June America’s Cup event?

    GOAL 2 – Emphasize major city thoroughfares in infrastructure improvement planning
    •Reviewed the plans underway for both Lower Thames Street and Broadway
    •The discussion emphasis centered on “how can we do these projects better?”
    •Include a 360 degree “engagement” plan of the public that is directly affected (e.g. businesses, neighborhoods)
    •Maintaining a heighten sensitivity to disruptions and integrating “lessons learned” were discussed
    •The CIP is a critical part of this issue – consider near-term and longer-term clarity

    GOAL 3 – Develop a proactive business environment in Newport
    •This issue focused on creating a climate that genuinely helps businesses and job growth
    •The City’s Economic Working Group (N. Neville) has made considerable progress – the preference was to leverage the knowledge from this working group
    •There are many similar initiatives at the State level – the intention is to integrate rather than duplicate
    •Increasing the City’s capacity specifically included dedicating staff and procedural fixes

    GOAL 4 – Initiate a plan for continuous process improvement
    •Continuous Improvement is a powerful proven methodology that can significantly contribute to achieving the spirit of “excellence” expressed in the prior three goals
    •H. Winthrop can arrange for certified specialist to advise the City
    •J. Howington noted that total leadership support is required for this initiative to work
    It was made clear that Continuous Improvement achievement involves the total organization, starts with the leadership team, takes 2-3 years, and involves training, process disciplines, a new work culture (mind-set), and employee empowerment. And it is well worth the effort

    The next Strategy Planning Session (#6) is tentatively scheduled in April and open to the public.

    The Council members delegated all four goals to the City Manager. She agreed to meet with staff, and perhaps others, to propose plans for each of the strategic goals for the April meeting.

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