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.

sflynn@newportri.com

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]

At-large candidates face off – Seven City Council hopefuls share views on new hotels, short-term rentals

By Sean Flynn | Daily News staff writer | The Newport Daily News | Page A01 | Saturday, 20 October 2018

The seven candidates for the four at-large seats on the City Council faced off Thursday night in a candidates’ forum in the council chamber of City Hall before an audience of more than 60 people.

Of the seven candidates, only Richard “Wick” Rudd, a member of the city Zoning Board of Review for the past year and former member of the Planning Board for five years, is making his first run for elected office.

Hugo J. DeAscentis, a former member of the School Committee for 15 years, is making his first run for the council, while Justin McLaughlin is seeking to return to the council. He served on the council for 10 years, from 2006 to 2016, when he lost his bid for a sixth term.

Current Ward 1 Councilwoman Susan Taylor, first elected in 2016, is running for an at-large in this election. Current at-large council members Jamie Bova, Marco Camacho and Jeanne-Marie Napolitano are running for re-election to the council. The fourth current at-large council member, Mayor Harry Winthrop, is not running for re-election.

The forum was the second of three organized by the Alliance for a Livable Newport, a neighborhood advocacy group. Questions were posed by Kristine Hendrickson, associate vice president for Salve Regina University relations and Salve’s chief communications officer.

See ELECTION, A10

At-large candidates for Newport City Council, from left, Susan Taylor, Jeanne-Marie Napolitano, Marco Camacho, Hugo DeAscentis, Justin McLaughlin, Jamie Bova and Richard “Wick” Rudd take part in a forum Thursday night at City Hall. The forum was sponsored by the Alliance for a Livable Newport. [PETER SILVIA PHOTO]


ELECTION

From Page A1

There were no striking differences between the candidates on policy issues, and they all seemed to agree that short-term rentals through hosting platforms such as Airbnb represent a growing challenge for the city.

Even when questions focused on matters such as the three new hotels approved for upcoming construction in the city, the increasing cost of home purchases or apartment rentals, or the changing demographics of the city, the discussion seemed to come back to the disruptive effects of the online hosting platforms.

Napolitano said properties that are being used for profitable short-term rentals should perhaps be taxed at the commercial tax rate of $14.98 per $1,000 valuation instead of the lower residential tax rate of $9.99 per $1,000 valuation.

She and other candidates argued the use of properties for short-term rentals is forcing up the values of all properties and leading to higher rents for people who live in the city year-round.

“Our property values and rents are way too high for young people and young families,” Napolitano said.

Camacho said there are currently about 500 homes and apartments in Newport listed on the Airbnb website.

“They make tens of thousands of dollars for the owners and are not vetted like hotels and inns,” he said. He agreed these properties should be taxed at the commercial rate. Both Camacho and Napolitano pointed out that Airbnb provides the city with checks to cover room and sales taxes, but offers no breakdown on which properties had paid and how much.

“We don’t have a spreadsheet,” Camacho said.

Rudd pointed out that the Planning Board now has a task force subcommittee looking into short-term rentals and how to regulate them.

“It got way ahead of the city,” he said. “Owners of short-term rentals are getting $300 to $400 a night. It needs to be regulated.”

McLaughlin called for ordinances regulating shortterm rentals to be reviewed, changed where needed, and enforced.

“We need to change ordinances to protect the neighborhoods we have,” Bova said. “We want people who live here year-round to be in vibrant neighborhoods, not surrounded by nonowner occupied homes.”

Rudd welcomed the upcoming construction of new hotels on Hammetts Wharf where the yachting center was formerly located, at Long Wharf and America’s Cup Avenue, and on Broadway at the Fifth Element.

“We need about 1,000 new hotel rooms in the city or Airbnbs will explode,” he said.

Bova and Taylor expressed concerns though that new hotels cut city residents off from the waterfront, both physically and visually. They called for a review of city ordinances to make sure they are in compliance with the city’s land-use plan.

Taylor pointed out the planned Long Wharf hotel will be raised, with parking on the ground level.

“That affects the streetscape,” she said.

Rudd pointed out that the population of the city is expected to decline by 25 percent by the year 2036.

One of the questions noted was that by the end of the upcoming decade, in 2030, 50 percent of Newport’s population is expected to be over the age of 60.

“We need young families to move into the city,” DeAscentis said.

During the baby-boom years after World War II, the city was building and opening new schools, he said. In more recent years, as the population has decreased and aged, the city has been closing and consolidating schools, he said.

DeAscentis said it was possible to turn around that cycle.

He and other candidates said the schools have to be high-quality and high-performing in order to attract new families.

Bova noted, though, that the city needs “aging in place” policies to allow older residents to stay in their homes and get around when they can no longer drive.

The candidates were asked what they would do to address traffic problems, especially in the summer season, a question that often comes up during election season.

Rudd, with a bow to Mark Twain, said: “Everybody in Newport likes to talk about the traffic, but no one does anything about it.”

He said he would like to return to the possibility of constructing a parking garage where the Mary Street parking lot is now, and long-term possibly moving the Gateway visitors center to a new satellite parking lot that could be created on land freed up by a redesign of the Pell Bridge ramps.

Taylor said she would favor a parking facility on that freed-up land in the north end of the city that would be larger than is now being talked about. She said the parking facility should hold more than 600 vehicles and later perhaps up to 1,000.

She said people would be able to go into the city on a rail shuttle or shuttle trolleys.

None of the other candidates disagreed with that vision, and some had similar ideas.

The ongoing disagreements that the City Council and School Committee have when it comes to setting a budget for the School Department also was discussed.

Bova said the full City Council and full School Committee come together only once a year to discuss the school budget.

“We should meet more often,” she said. “Our goals intersect. When the schools benefit, the city benefits.”

Napolitano focused on the current school budget deficit, for which the council will take up a financing plan next week.

“We need more checks and balances,” she said. “I have been very supportive of the schools, but if we continue to have overspending of the school budget, it could affect the bond rating of the city.”

“There is a lack of transparency in school accounting,” McLaughlin said. “We need to have the city keep track of school finances.”

The third and final ALN forum, for the two candidates running for the Ward 1 seat and the two candidates running for the Ward 2 seat on the City Council, takes place Tuesday beginning at 6 p.m. in the council chamber of City Hall. The Ward 3 seat is uncontested.

sflynn@newportri.com

Audience members listen as Newport City Council at-large candidates take part in a forum Thursday at City Hall sponsored by the Alliance for a Livable Newport.

[PETER SILVIA PHOTO]

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR – Be an informed voter

The Newport Daily News | Page A07Tuesday, 2 October 2018

As we’ve seen in the past week, the old shibboleth “Elections have consequences” holds true.

We are now less than six weeks before the elections on Nov. 6. According to a recent Pew Survey, voter enthusiasm is at its highest level for any midterm election in more than two decades.

The enthusiasm that holds for the national elections should translate to the local level. This is certainly a positive sign, but will voters in Newport be as knowledgeable of critical local issues as those at the national level?

To assist Newport voters to learn more about their candidates and make informed decisions for whom to vote, the nonpartisan Alliance for a Livable Newport has been conducting public candidate forums since 2010. Prior to the forums, questionnaires are sent to all local candidates. This year, all 21 candidates in contested elections for Newport City Council and School Committee have posted their responses to the questions submitted by the community and ALN. The alliance encourages all Newport citizens to read the responses at NewportAlliance.org.

In addition to reviewing the written responses, citizens are encouraged to attend the three public forums in October where the candidates will address additional questions in person.

The schedule is School Committee candidates:

Tuesday, Oct. 16, 6-7:30 p.m., Pell Elementary School auditorium.

At-large City Council candidates: Thursday, Oct. 18, 6-7:30 p.m.,Newport City Hall.

First and Second Ward City Council candidates: Tuesday, Oct. 23, 6-7:30 p.m., Newport City Hall.

This is a pivotal election for Newport. Our newly elected City Council and School Committee will be dealing with critical issues affecting all of Newport, including the development of the North End, the bridge ramps re-alignment, parking, taxes, short-term rentals, etc. Likewise, the new School Committee must contend with the overcrowding at Pell, the repairs or replacement of Rogers High School, academic performance, finances and other significant issues.

The final day to register to vote is Sunday. To do so, visit http://vote.sos.ri.gov.

John Hirschboeck, co-president,Alliance for a Livable Newport

SPECIAL 2018 Newport Elections Home Page

Newport City Council and School Committee Candidates Address the Tough Questions

September 27, 2018 – The Alliance for a Livable Newport (ALN) announced that candidates for both the Newport City Council and School Committee have now posted their responses to numerous questions posed by the Alliance and the community in advance of the public forums that the Alliance will hold in October. *see dates/times/locations below

All twenty-one candidates in contested races have diligently taken time and effort to address how they would deal with many of these challenges.

Click the LINKS below to VIEW the survey responses:

  • View #1 – ALL of the Candidates responses to each question…
  • View #2 – INDIVIDUAL CANDIDATE RESPONSES to each question
    • – see screenshot example
https://www.surveymonkey.com/results/SM-S7THFT5HL/

(School Committee Responses) 

https://www.surveymonkey.com/results/SM-QD3JLM5HL/

(City Council Responses) 

“This is a pivotal election for Newport. Our newly elected city council and school committee will be dealing with critical issues affecting all of Newport, including the development of the north end, the bridge re-alignment, parking, taxes, short-term rentals, etc.,” said John Hirschboeck, co-president of the Alliance.

“Likewise, the new school committee must contend with the overcrowding at Pell, the repairs or replacement of Rogers, academic performance, finances, and other critical issues.”

In addition to reviewing the written responses, citizens are encouraged to attend the three public forums in October where the candidates will address additional questions posed by ALN in person.

ALN PUBLIC FORUMS SCHEDULE:

School Committee Candidates

  • Tuesday, October 16 |  6-7: 30 pm
  • Pell School Auditorium | 35 Dexter St, Newport, RI 02840

At-Large City Council Candidates

  • Thursday, October 18 | 6-7: 30 pm
  • Newport City Hall | 43 Broadway, Newport, RI 02840

1st and 2nd Ward City Council Candidates

  • Tuesday, October 23 | 6-7:30 pm
  • Newport City Hall | 43 Broadway, Newport, RI 02840

The non-partisan Alliance has been holding election year forums since 2010 to assist Newporters in learning more about the candidates and to help make informed decisions for whom to vote.

Contact:  John Hirschboeck, Office of the President | Alliance for a Livable Newport

ELECTION YEAR ALERT – ALN CALL FOR QUESTIONS

Twenty-seven civic-minded Newport citizens have filed to run for seven City Council and seven School Committee seats this election year promising strong contests for all openings.

As it has since 2008, Alliance For A Livable Newport (ALN) will conduct free public forums to give Newport voters an opportunity to assess the qualifications of the candidates.

At this point, we anticipate holding three forums – one for candidates for the three Ward Council seats, one for candidates for the four at-large Council seats and one for candidates for the seven School Committee seats.

In addition, two online questionnaires — one for City Council candidates and one for School Committee candidates — will be given to the candidates, and their responses will be presented on ALN’s website, www.newportalliance.org.

We want to hear what Newport’s voters are interested in learning about the candidates.

ALN is requesting the public to submit questions to be answered by the candidates. Questions for the forums and questionnaires will be selected from those received.

To allow time for the questionnaires to be prepared and given by the end of July to the candidates for their responses, your suggested questions must be submitted no later than July 15.

Please send your questions to info@newportalliance.org

THANKS FOR YOUR CONTINUED SUPPORT!

For over 10 years, the Alliance for a Livable Newport (ALN) has promoted and enhanced the quality of life in its city by providing an unbiased resource for information on issues facing our community.

Please support ALN today!
To pay online go to http://newportalliance.org/join/
Or mail your check to ALN, PO Box 2636, Newport, RI a 501(c3) non-profit organization.

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