ALN Hosts First Annual ‘State of the City’ Forum Addresses Governance, Safety in 2018

Watch the VIDEO HERE 
CREDITS: By Joseph T. O’Connor | 2018-03-01 / Front Page | Newport This Week


In an effort to reflect on the year that was and to look ahead at the year to come, Alliance for a Livable Newport (ALN) held its first “State of the City” forum on Feb. 27, providing a chance for open dialogue between citizens and the city’s top officials.

More than 100 Newporters turned out at Pell Elementary School to hear Mayor Harry Winthrop, City Council Vice-Chair Lynn Ceglie and City Manager Joseph J. Nicholson, Jr. present the city’s accomplishments and the challenges it faces, and to discuss what they say will be a promising 2018.

City leaders took questions submitted by citizens and read by ALN moderators John Hirschboeck, co-president of ALN, and Tom Hockaday, who sits on ALN’s executive committee. The nonprofit had solicited questions based on topics that citizens identified as issues they wanted addressed: the armory, schools, traffic and parking, other city properties, communications and governing processes, hotels and other issues.

“Hopefully [this] was an audience that appreciates our openness,” Nicholson said in an interview following the forum. “I want to work with people. I want people calling me. I want them to understand what’s going on with the city.”

The forum began with the city officials commenting on Newport’s accomplishments, its investments, and developments, as well as the challenges facing the City by the Sea.

Winthrop cited more than $190 million in citywide public investments, including the water and wastewater treatment plants, the Pell Bridge Ramp Realignment Project, Freebody Park, Broadway, the Gateway Center and Sheffield School, among others.

In addition, he noted the benefits that $350 million in private investment has had on local properties, among them the Breakers and Mrs. Astor’s Beechwood mansions, Gurney’s, the Marriott, Sail Newport and the Opera House.

“One thing that shows confidence in the city and the city government, I believe, is what type of personal investment people are willing to make in their community,” Winthrop said.

Along with upcoming hotel development, infrastructure investments and North End redevelopment, as well as major Newport events that attract more than 3 million visitors per year to the area, including the Volvo Ocean Race stopover in May, and the Newport Jazz and Folk festivals, the city is seeing major accomplishments, Winthrop said.

But Winthrop, Ceglie, and Nicholson also identified significant challenges for Newport, among them a $2 million-plus investment into repairs on Bellevue Avenue, a declining population, the relocation of the Newport Grand Casino that displaced 225 workers, and $2 million in needed repairs to the Edward King House. One issue, in particular, is the sea-level rise in low-lying areas of the city.

“Sea-level rise … has been a topic for quite a while now, and things need to be done,” Winthrop said. “But of all of the challenges, that to me is the one at the top of the list.”

Ceglie said the city is making strides in infrastructure through $425,000 in grants to stem the rising tide by helping to commission a study and preliminary design, and beginning a pilot program that looks at tide gates, which could allow water to flow out of storm drains but not back in. “We’re working on this challenge but there’s certainly more to go,” she said.

Another challenge city leaders identified is the potential repair or replacement of Rogers High School that Winthrop said could cost $50 million. But, he added, change will take time, and he urged Newporters to be patient as city and school officials navigate complex options.

“There’s going to be a lot of time and a lot of effort [invested in] building a high school that will hopefully be here for another 50 years,” he said.

Question and Answer Period

The first topic addressed was the Armory building and its potential sale to the National Sailing Hall of Fame, currently located in Annapolis, Maryland. The city officials reiterated that the council has maintained its position since talks of a sale began.

“There’s no change to policy,” Winthrop said. “The city took title to [the Armory] in 2010 because the redevelopment agency could not afford the repairs. We reluctantly took it on and immediately attempted to sell it. This is not something new.”

In the shadow of a renewed national debate over guns and safety in American schools, city officials were asked what steps were being taken to develop and implement a comprehensive safety plan for schools.

Nicholson said he has been discussing the issue with Newport Schools Superintendent Colleen Jermain and Police Chief Gary Silva.

“As it stands today, we have a police presence in all three schools, but it’s an ongoing discussion,” Nicholson said. “In past years, my first reaction would be it’s about the money. But it’s no longer about the money. It’s the new normal.”

Ceglie said Newport has two “very safe schools” in Pell and Thompson and that, in addition to staffing police at all three schools, city officials are allocating money to the 50-year-old Rogers High School for locks and cameras, among other safety features.

“I’ve said over and over again, my number one priority in the city of Newport is public safety,” Winthrop said. “Without public safety, none of this other stuff we’re talking about really matters.”

In an interview at the conclusion of the forum, Hockaday said, “They may see their own councilperson at a neighborhood meeting, but you rarely get the two top elected officials… and the city manager together at one time to collectively participate in answering those questions.”

Hirschboeck said some people might be upset that their questions weren’t answered, but he added that all questions had been submitted electronically to the Newport City Council for councilors’ input and reference.

“We have a great relationship with [ALN’s] board,” Nicholson said. “It was a nice turnout, and I thought it was a great exchange. A good way to get things off your chest.”

Read moreALN Hosts First Annual ‘State of the City’ Forum Addresses Governance, Safety in 2018

The Navy Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission Discloses Lead at Navy Hospital

BRAC Discloses Lead at Navy Hospital

During the Alliance for a Livable Newport (ALN) “State of the City” forum on Feb. 27, Newport City Manager Joseph J. Nicholson Jr. responds to a question about the Navy hospital property transfer, explaining the options currently available to the city.

The Navy Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission recently informed Nicholson that before any land transfer can take place, lead from gutters that flaked into the soil on the Navy hospital property must be cleaned up.

The cleanup could take up to three years, the commission told Nicholson. The city is now exploring a third option to acquiring the property after nearly a decade of negotiations, according to Nicholson. He added that the city does not at this time have any use plans for the property. (Photo by Joseph T. O’Connor)

 

Read moreThe Navy Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission Discloses Lead at Navy Hospital

Cover Story – NEWPORT – City officials “State of Our City”

The Newport Daily News | Page A01Wednesday, 28 February 2018
The Newport Daily News | Page A01Wednesday, 28 February 2018
The Newport Daily News | Page A01 Wednesday, 28 February 2018

 

Purchase of Navy hospital, sale of Armory and longevity of cell tower at high school are the other major changes discussed at a forum Tuesday.

CREDIT : By Sean Flynn Staff writer  The Newport Daily News | Page A01Wednesday, 28 February 2018

NEWPORT – City officials chose a “State of Our City” forum Tuesday night to make some major announcements on school security, the city’s planned purchase of the abandoned Navy Hospital on Third Street, the proposed sale of the Armory on Thames Street and the likely longevity of the cell tower on the Rogers High School campus.

City Manager Joseph J. Nicholson, who is also the city’s director of public safety, said beginning this week there are now full-time police officers stationed at the high school, Thompson Middle School and Pell Elementary School. In the past, there have been budgetary concerns and grants were sought to pay for police presence at the schools.

“It’s no longer about the money,” Nicholson said. “This is the new normal.”

“Our number one priority is public safety,” Mayor Harry Winthrop said. “Who gives a damn about a pothole on Bellevue Avenue if we are not safe?”

More than 100 people gathered in the Pell cafeteria for the forum that was sponsored by Alliance for a Livable Newport, the major neighborhood advocacy group in the city. Audience members submitted written questions that were consolidated and asked by ALN officers Tom Hockaday and John Hirschbeck. Besides Nicholson and Winthrop, Council Vice Chairwoman Lynn Underwood Ceglie responded to the wide-ranging questions.

Such events are not usually the arena in which new initiatives and developments are revealed to the public, but that’s what happened.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency recently informed the Navy that it could not sell the hospital property to the city until it cleaned up the lead contamination on the site, Nicholson said. That could be a two- to three-year process, he was initially told.

That caught the audience by surprise because the city believed the Navy’s final environmental impact statement was completed and hired an appraisal firm last year to set a value on the hospital property.

Navy leaders came to Middletown on Jan. 30 to complete the sale of the 3-acre former Navy Lodge property at the corner of Coddington Highway and West Main Road to the town for $1.3 million. The deal was the first for the 165 acres of federal land on Aquidneck Island that is part of the ongoing Base Realignment and Closure process.

Newport thought it was next in the pipeline for a property purchase, but “the BRAC people told me they were avoiding me,” Nicholson said. That is when they dropped the EPA ruling on him.

Nicholson said the city initially was given the choice of waiting for the Navy to clean up the property, or buying the land and taking on the full liability for the lead clean-up, “which we were not going to do.” The property must be cleaned to “residential standards,” he said. The city has hired a Boston attorney familiar with the BRAC process to explore whether there could be a “fast transfer” of the land to the city under the condition that the Navy returns to the property and conducts the cleanup, Nicholson told the audience.

“That is our path forward,” Nicholson said. “I don’t want to wait anymore.”

Since the Navy declared the hospital site surplus property in February 2010, the city has eyed the parcel for economic development purposes, but it looks like the wait will continue.

The proposed sale of the Armory to the National Sailing Hall of Fame was given a new twist during the forum.

Members of the public have been concerned about the fate of the city-owned Newport Maritime Center, located in the basement of the Armory, which the city opened in 2012, as well as the beach at the back of the building and the adjoining Ann Street Pier.

Nicholson said earlier this month the Sailing Hall of Fame would own the whole building, but lease the basement to the city for a nominal fee under a 99-year lease. He explored the model of dividing the building into condominiums, with the city retaining ownership of the basement maritime center condominium that fronts the beach, but attorneys had advised him against that, he said at the time.

“I changed my mind,” Nicholson said at the forum.

He now favors dividing the building into two condominiums, with the Sailing Hall of Fame owning the main assembly hall on the first floor level with Thames Street and the second floor. The city would retain clear ownership of the basement level, the beach, and the pier.

“That would answer the public’s concerns about protecting public access,” he said.

Does that delay action on the proposed sale of the Armory? Nicholson was asked.

“Everything is delayed,” he responded.

Winthrop told the audience that the Rogers High School cell tower is likely to be redesigned so that is “amenable” to the neighbors, but it is likely to remain where it is.

AT& T, Verizon, and T-Mobile currently use the cell tower, but Verizon’s contract expired June 18, 2017, AT& T’s contract expired Oct. 23, and the T-Mobile contract expired Dec. 28. The companies continue transmitting though. The school department receives a total of about $90,000 annually for the lease of the tower, an amount the companies continue to pay.

The School Committee voted in December 2015 not to renew the telecommunications contracts once they expire. This action was taken because of ongoing neighbors’ complaints about the tower.

“It was a misinformed decision of the School Committee,” Winthrop said at the forum.

He said the companies have explored with city officials whether a new tower could be built near the high school auditorium, or whether a new tower could be constructed across Old Fort Road at the Fire Department’s Station 5. Both towers would be too large and obtrusive, he said.

The three telecommunications companies hired a consultant firm to complete a comprehensive report on the impact of removing the existing Rogers High School tower. The firm determined large areas around Ocean Avenue, Brenton Road and Gooseberry and Hazard beaches would be left without cell coverage.

“We cannot lose cell coverage in the south end of the city,” Winthrop said.

Time was spent at the forum discussing the realignment of the Pell Bridge ramps, which could free up about 60 acres for economic development, both Winthrop and Nicholson said.

The state Department of Transportation, which is now designing new approach ramps, will hold a public workshop on the project on Thursday, beginning at 6 p.m., in the council chamber of City Hall.

The state has committed $40 million to this project, Winthrop said. It was one of a long list of public investment and private investment projects that were either completed in the recent past, are now taking place, or are pending that city official presented.

Leading the public investment list was the $120 million that the city has been investing in its two water treatment plants and the wastewater treatment plant.

Flynn@NewportRI.com

Mayor, City Manager to participate in the ‘State of the City’ forum

*Questions may be submitted in writing at the event, or via email to info@newportalliance.org

You do not have to be present at the forum to have your question chosen.

“The State of the City, Newport, Rhode Island”

A Public Forum Presented by The Alliance for a Livable Newport

  • How are we doing in our “City by the Sea?”
  • What has been accomplished over the past months?
  • As a function of the city’s Strategic Plan, what are the successes?
  • Where did the city fall short?
  • What can the residents and taxpayers look forward to?
  • Any warning signals to look for?

Here’s an opportunity to get the perspectives of Newport’s elected officials and of the City Manager about the issues they have been addressing over the past year and expect to be facing in the current year, and to challenge them with your questions* about the future of Newport.

Panelists:

  • Mayor Harry Winthrop
  • City Council Vice-Chair Lynn Ceglie
  • City Manager Joe Nicholson

DATE: Tuesday, February 27

TIME: 6-7:30 PM

LOCATION: Claiborne Pell Elementary School

35 Dexter Street, Newport, RI.

Ample free parking directly across the street from the school

CONTACT            For Immediate Release: 02/12/2018

Isabel Griffith, Co-President

Alliance for a Livable Newport

Igriffith38@verizon.net

401.849-6444

 

 

 

CITY OF NEWPORT – CHARTER REVIEW COMMISSION – NOTICE of PUBLIC FORUM

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

 

What: CITY OF NEWPORT – CHARTER REVIEW COMMISSION – NOTICE of PUBLIC FORUM

 

When: WEDNESDAY, March 5, 2014 – 6:00PM – 7:30PM

 

Where: Assembly Room of the Newport Police Station – 120 Broadway, Newport RI 02840

 

AGENDA

 

Public Forum

 

Citizens may address the Commission on all matters pertaining to the Charter Review. The Charter Review Commission requests the time of comments for each person be limited to five minutes. Questions and discussion may extend the time limit at the discretion of the Commission.

 

Of particular interest to the Charter Review Commission are the following issues:

 

  • The way we elect our mayor
  • Whether or not to eliminate the wards and have all City Councilors elected at large
  • Term limits and staggered terms for the School Committee and City Council
  • Election vs. appointment of the School Committee
  • The roles and responsibilities of the Mayor and City Manager
  • How Boards and Commission function, among other operating functions of City government.

 

If time allows, the Commission will proceed with items to do with a regularly scheduled business meeting.

 

  • Roll call
  • Determination of quorum
  • Approval of the minutes from the January 29, February 5 and February 19 meetings

 

NEW Business

 

  • Format for presentation of Charter changes to the Newport City Council
  • Assignment of Charter section changes to Commission members for presentation to City Council

 

A copy of the current City Charter is available for review in the City Clerk’s Office, or may be viewed at www.cityofnewport.com. Click on Codified Ordinances.

 

For more information on the public hearing, contact: newportcharterreview@cityofnewport.com

 

Newport Charter Review Commission – Isabel Griffith, Chair

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Can Culture Have Role in Newport City Charter?

By Tom Walsh  (read more) Newport This Week

Amid a polite but intensive discussion on Feb. 5 about how the city manager, mayor and the rest of the City Council should manage themselves in conducting public business, there was this comment from Isabel Griffith, the Charter Review Commission’s chairperson:

“The Council works the way it does now not because of language in the charter but from the culture of the council,” she said. “The way they do things is something that has been passed down.” The city of Newport, she said, has a culture all its own.

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

The question is this: Can the nine members of the Charter Review Commission figure out a way to revise the city charter without stepping on the city’s historic culture?

This ticklish problem hovered over the commission’s discussion of how—or whether—to revise the charter to better address the way the city manager, the mayor (who is actually the chairman of the City Council) and the other six councilors communicate with and among themselves and the public.

Among various definitions, Webster defines “culture” as something “that depends upon man’s capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations.”

All of this became important to the review commission last week as it considered apparent management shortcomings in the way council members, including the mayor and City Manager Jane Howington, communicate on city business. Howington told the panel that councilors often go straight to city department heads with requests and directives.

“It’s like having seven bosses,” she said. There was no disagreement that such a system would appear to be inefficient and troubling to manage.

However, Mayor Henry F. Winthrop said there is a certain political reality to the way things work. “If you need something done, you call your city councilor,” he said. “That’s not going to go away. We’re driven by the need to respond to citizens’ concerns.” But he could also see the management problems that arise. “When a council member tells department staff to do something, they drop everything without regard to directions they may have from the city manager,” Winthrop said.

Commission member Terry Nathan said flatly, “There’s a management problem here that relates to the ability of the city manager to function as the city’s chief operating officer.” He added, “It’s okay to talk to everyone but you have to have a way to act and get things done.”

While emphasizing that “I don’t want to suggest that people can’t talk to other people,” Howington also declared that “making us more effective is the role of the council.”

In an interview this week, Griffith, the Charter Review Commission chairperson, said the charter is a document that is “specific but also very broad. You can’t use the city charter to change peoples’ minds. It’s not designed to make people do what they don’t want to do.”

The charter, she said, can specify such things as how a mayor is elected, terms of office, and years when elections take place. “But you can’t use the charter to change peoples’ behavior.” She said a charter cannot create commissions. “That’s a policy matter. The council does that.” She also agreed that the commission may be limited in defining how people in government communicate, as it could violate the constitutional right to freedom of speech. “You just can’t do that,” she said.

Griffith said she likes Newport’s form of government the way it is. As for the city’s “culture,” she said, “People don’t like surprises. That’s part of the culture.” As an example, she cited the furor over changes that were made to Queen Anne’s Square. “Some people have still not forgiven Newport government for that,” she said.

“It’s about tradeoffs,” Griffith continued. “I like being governed by a committee rather than by one or two people who get to say what’s happening all by themselves. I’ll sacrifice efficiency for the comfort we have in the way things are done here.”

Last week, Griffith’s view of things prevailed in a 4-2 straw vote on a motion “not to change the duties of the mayor” as currently provided by charter. Nathan and William Kimes voted against the motion. Griffith, Mary Ann Marin, David Martland and Charles Y. Duncan supported it. Sarah Atkins and Lauren Carson abstained.

“Our members are all very thoughtful and they have their own ideas,” Griffith said. “We are not in consensus right now.”

 

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City of Newport seeks public input on capital improvement program planning document.

http://opinionnewport.mindmixer.com/category/five-year-capital-improvement-program

Five-Year Capital Improvement Program

Five-Year Capital Improvement Program

The City has a rolling five-year plan for capital improvements. Capital improvements include facilities, infrastructure (road, water, sewer and bridge), major equipment replacement, land purchase or large asset acquisition.This initiative is in the planning phase. Any documents that are included within this project are planning documents only, not financial documents.

For more information about how your input will be used, please click here.

 

 

 

 

Newport Charter Review Raises Interesting Questions!

Newport Daily News – Op Ed Page January 11, 2014 page A6

In keeping with the old adage that all politics  is local, residents of Newport have the opportunity to take a stand on several national issues during its charter review process. Such issues include term limits for city councilors, restricting campaign contributions to only those who can vote in municipal elections, reducing the size of local government and increasing or decreasing the powers of the city manager or the city council.   READ MORE HERE about Charter Review

  • Is it time to limit the terms of both elected and senior appointed officials?
  • Would such a change infuse new thinking and help revitalize the city?
  • What if city council members serve for four years instead of two — would this benefit  the community?

  •  If there were six councilors from wards, would this be more democratic and representative?

  • Would the democratic election process improve by restricting campaign donations to those who can vote in municipal elections?

  • Is the manager-city council form of government  the best for Newport?
  • What if we elected a mayor to run the city? Would this bring the citizens closer to those in charge of daily activities?
  • What powers should the city manager and city council exercise on our behalf?
  • Should the city council appoint the school committee, confirm  all senior municipal appointments and contracts and take a more active role in the oversight of financial and city affairs?
  • What role should the neighborhood associations  play in local government?
  • Should the city petition to re-establish the county government to provide school, police, fire and other services on a Newport Countywide  basis?
  • Would a county administration benefit all citizens and communities?

These are but a few of the many questions that could be addressed during the charter review process. I urge my fellow citizens to read the charter (available on the city website) and contact the Charter Review Commission (newportcharterreview@cityofnewport.com) with ideas and suggestions.

Perhaps it is time for the various active neighborhood associations  to become more involved in this process — after all, this is our opportunity to determine how we wish to be governed and what powers we give to those selected to act on our behalf.


John Drotos,
  Newport  Is it time to limit the terms of both elected and senior appointed  officials? Would such a change  infuse new thinking and help  revitalize the city?

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City of Newport Charter Review – what you should know and do now!

The Charter of the City of Newport, Rhode Island, was approved by the voters on November 4, 1952.

Chapter III (Elections) became effective on such date. All other provisions became effective on November 1, 1953. Years appearing in parentheses indicate that the section was enacted, amended or repealed in the year indicated.

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

The final reports of last two Charter Reviews were in 2002 and 2008.

Section 10-10. Charter Review

The Council shall provide for periodic review of this charter by appointing a Charter Review Commission no more than 10 years from the date of appointment of the most recent Charter Review Commission.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Read the City Charter.  <click here>

In addition to the link on the ALN website

It can be found on Charter Review Commission website – click on Boards and Commission on the upper left of the city’s home page or on Codified Ordinances just below that.

Meetings, agendas and minutes are posted on the Charter Commission website; meetings are also posted on the city calendar.  Comments at those meetings about the City Charter from members of the public are encouraged

CHARTER
OF THE
CITY OF NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND

CITY OF NEWPORT CHARTER REVIEW COMMISSION MEETING MINUTES

Wednesday, November 6, 2013 Newport Public Library 5:30pm

Present: Sarah Atkins, Charles Y. Duncan, Isabel Griffith,William Kimes, Mary Ann Marin, and David P. Martland

Absent: Lauren Carson, Patrick K. Kelley and Terry Nathan

There being a quorum present the meeting was opened. Proceedings

Members of the Charter Review Commission (CRC) were sworn in by Kathleen M. Silvia, City Clerk.

The Members conveyed the first meeting of the CRC pursuant to the Resolution of the City Council No. 2013-106 dated June 26, 2013. Mayor Henry F. Winthrop addressed the CRC and suggested that members engage a discussion of any and all items within their purview and not shy away of “hot button” issues. The Mayor also indicated that the Resolution of the City Council would be amended to require the CRC to provide its recommendations to the City Council in April rather than February.

Election of Officers: Upon motion made and seconded, the CRM elected Isabel Griffin as Chair, Mary Ann Marin as Vice-Chair, and David P. Martland as Secretary.

The members determined that the CRC should meet twice a month on the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of each month with the exception of January when the CRC would meet on the 2nd and 4th Wednesday. Upon motion made and seconded it was voted unanimously that the CRC would hold meetings on November 20th, December 4th, December 18th, January 8th, January 22nd, February 5th, February 19th, March 5th, and March 19th, convening at 5:30pm and allow for public input at the beginning of each meeting limiting each speaker to 3 minutes. The Chair indicated she would seek to obtain permission to hold the proposed meetings at the Newport Public Library.

The members determined that they would review the City Charter prior to the November 20th meeting, at which point members would select certain chapters for further review and study and seek to develop a list of topics to discuss. At the suggestion of CRC member William Kimes, Chair advised she would request that the CRC members be provided with a copy of the Model City Charter drafted by the National Civic League.

Upon motion made and seconded it was voted to adjourn. Submitted by Secretary, David P. Martland

 

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Newport Yachting Center withdraws NOISE variance request!

Click here if you can’t see the image.
Dear Valued Guests of the Newport Yachting Center's Summer Concert Series and Music Festivals
November 12, 2013

Dear Newport Yachting Center Guests,

We want to thank all of our concert guests and supporters who sent letters, made phone-calls and cleared their schedules to attend tomorrow night’s City Council meeting in support of the Sunset Music Series. It is gratifying to hear how important the Sunset Music Series is to all of you. It is clear that our unique waterfront venue has become a part of the fabric of Newport over the last 16 years.

However, based on feedback from the City Council, we are making the decision to pull the variance request from tomorrow night’s City Council docket.

The reality is that we need to take a step back and allow the City to hold public workshops, during which we will have an opportunity to explain the facts of the variance request and our plans for noise abatement. There is much misinformation circulating right now and it is important that we be able to present the correct information to the residents of Newport.

We will need your support in the future; we will call on you again when the time is right to bring this matter before the City Council.

We will keep you informed as the political process unfolds and public workshops are scheduled.We look forward to seeing you on the waterfront during the 2014 Sunset Music Series season.  Please feel free to reach out to me with questions at any time. I can be reached atmmaker@newportyachtingcenter.com.

With appreciation for your support,

Michele Maker Palmieri
General Manager
Newport Harbor Corporation

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