State of the City: Officials discuss upcoming projects

By Sean Flynn  Newport Daily News staff writer | Posted Mar 30, 2019 at 6:19 PM > Updated Mar 30, 2019 at 6:19 PM (Link to story)

Left to Right - City Manager Joe Nicholson, Mayor Jamie Bova, and Council Vice President Susan Taylor - March 28, 2019 - Photo Credit - Chip Leakas
Left to Right – City Manager Joe Nicholson, Mayor Jamie Bova, and Council Vice President Susan Taylor – March 28, 2019 – Photo Credit – Chip Leakas

At an event held at City Hall, topics covered included the Pell Bridge ramps redesign, the former Newport Grand property and the Naval Hospital land.

NEWPORT — Major projects pending in the city’s near future — from the redesign of the Pell Bridge ramps to free up land for an Innovation District, to the redevelopment of Newport Grand, to the creation of a new use at the Naval Hospital property and a new waterfront park there — were the focus of the State of the City discussion this past week.

Mayor Jamie Bova and City Council Vice Chairwoman Susan Taylor, assisted by City Manager Joseph J. Nicholson Jr., led the presentations at the event sponsored by the Alliance for a Livable Newport, a neighborhood advocacy group, at City Hall Thursday night.

The state Department of Transportation has completed an environmental assessment that details the purposes of the Pell Bridge ramp project, the alternatives analyzed and the project’s impacts.

Taylor said she was in contact with Jody Richards, the state Department of Transportation’s project manager, as recently as Thursday afternoon. Richards told Taylor that the Federal Highway Administration is reviewing the assessment and seven alternative design plans.

“RIDOT has a favorite plan, but they are keeping it close to the vest,” Taylor said.

Of the total budget for the project, 80 percent will be funded by the federal government and 20 percent by the state, so the federal agency has a lot of say in the matter. Once the Federal Highway Administration approves the assessment and a plan, there will be another public process and review of the targeted plan before RIDOT engineers begin the final design, Taylor said.

“They are planning to go out for bids in the fall of 2020,” she said.

“When it’s done, we will have space to continue building a new economy and make it so that it is good for our residents in the neighborhood,” Bova said.

Taylor pointed out the city is within an arc formed by marine science research centers at the University of Rhode Island and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Rising seas and other effects of climate change will be at the forefront of research at these and other institutions, and marine-related technologies and necessary changes in infrastructure will be developed by commercial firms as a result of this research. City officials want Newport to be able to tap into this.

“We have incredible resources in this region,” Taylor said.

Nicholson has been calling it the “blue economy,” she said, and the city will be exploring possibilities that could be developed in the freed-up acreage near the bridge.

Bova said Innovate Newport, the new technology center in the reconstructed Sheffield School, “will be a beacon for the North End Innovation District.” The center, after some delays, is scheduled for a public opening in May, she said.

Before the Pell Bridge project begins, though, the state is planning to do some reconstruction and repaving of Connell Highway, the city officials said.

“I think anyone who has driven down the highway in the past few months knows it is in serious need of work,” Nicholson said.

RIDOT will go out for bids on that work this fall and begin construction in 2020, the officials said.

Plans for the Newport Grand property will be coming soon, Kelly MacArthur Coates, president and chief operating officer of the Carpionato Group of Johnston, told The Daily News in a telephone call on Saturday.

During the State of the City discussion, Nicholson noted the “For Lease” sign out front of the property and the apparent test pits.

“I would think the residents of Newport should be concerned if we did not have a ‘For Lease’ sign out front,” Coates said. “We are, of course, looking for tenants unless Amazon were moving there and that is not happening.”

He said both test pits and test borings have been made on the 23-acre property.

“We want to know the geological makeup of the site, the capacity of the soil for bearing loads and everything else,” Coates said. “We are doing traffic studies, engineering studies, drainage studies, marketing studies and whatever other investigative work is required. Any project requires a lot of advance work.”

He was asked if the former Newport Grand building would be coming down.

“I think that is the right thing for the site,” Coates said. “But this project will require multiple permits and approvals, so we will be working with the city.”

Asked about the plans for site, Coates said, “Look at our portfolio, what we have done in the past.”

The company has specialized in retail complexes, hotels, offices and mixed-use developments. “That’s a good description of it,” Coates said.

Adjacent to the Newport Grand property is the city’s waste transfer station and public works yard and offices, along Halsey Street. That is a challenge for development, Coates said.

The city has talked about using future bond money to relocate the public services yard, which will be difficult. “Nobody wants it next to them,” Coates said.

The city’s planned purchase of the abandoned Navy Hospital on Third Street continues to be on hold but remains a city priority, said Nicholson.

“Here’s the deal,” Nicholson said early on when the topic came up. “Lead testing will begin in late March, weather permitting, BRAC told me. It has not begun yet.”

BRAC stands for Base Realignment and Closure and is the congressionally authorized process for disposing of surplus military properties.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency informed the Navy in late 2017 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 told.

That caught city officials by surprise because the city believed the Navy’s final environmental impact statement was completed and hired an appraisal firm earlier in 2017 to set a value on the hospital property.

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 for awhile.

Nicholson said he walked the Navy Hospital land last week and he talked about the beauty of the waterfront section as a future park.

“It will be magnificent when we get our hands on the property,” he said.

Read More Here:

City Council ward candidates face off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On making streets safer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On term limits, Rogers High School

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

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

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

It is an important goal to explore, McCalla said.

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

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

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

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

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

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.


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]


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.

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.


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

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

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

(School Committee Responses)

(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.


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

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 more

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

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.


  • 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





Replacement for Resigning City Councilor John Florez

John Florez has submitted a letter of resignation from the Newport City Council to be effective January 9, 2018.

The Newport City Charter specifies that when a Council seat becomes vacant mid-term for any reason, the Council will solicit applications from Newport residents to fill that seat for the remainder of the term (in this case from January 9, 2018, to December 1, 2018).  An applicant would need to secure the votes of at least four of the remaining Council Members to be selected. The Charter calls for the Council to make a selection within thirty days of its learning of the vacancy.

The Mayor has issued a call for applications and interested residents of Newport are asked to submit a letter of interest detailing why they would like to serve for the remainder of the current Council term.  The letter should be submitted by Friday, December 15, 2017.  The letter, together with a resume, should be sent by mail or hand-delivered to Newport City Hall addressed to:  Office of the Mayor, City Hall, 43 Broadway, Newport, RI 02840; or be sent via email to the Mayor at with a copy to the Council’s Administrative Assistant, Patricia Cofield, at

We urge all interested residents to submit an application.  Or, if you know someone whom you would like to have as a Council Member, please contact them and urge them to apply.  Many important matters will come before the Newport City Council between now and the end of the current term of office, and it is vitally important that a highly qualified individual be selected to represent the interests of Newport’s residents and businesses.



Candidates ‘civil’ as they air ideas
By Sean Flynn Staff writer Newport Daily News – Page 1A
Newport City Council at-large candidates, from left, Mayor Jeanne-Marie Napolitano, Harry Winthrop, John Florez, Justin S. McLaughlin, Claude Andrews Lavarre and Jamie Bova participate in a forum Tuesday night at City Hall sponsored by the Alliance for a Livable Newport.
NEWPORT – The six City Council at-large candidates faced off in the council chamber of City Hall on Tuesday night with little conflict on ideas and proposals. Close to 100 people filled the chamber, with most of them on the first floor and close to 40 in the two upstairs balconies.
“They were very civil,” said resident Chip Leakas after the forum, which was sponsored by the Alliance for a Livable Newport, a neighborhood advocacy group.
The only new face on the dais in this council election cycle was Jamie Bova, an electrical engineer and product manager at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, who is making her first run for municipal office.
Claude Andrews Lavarre, a Navy captain who had 23 years of active duty until he retired in 1989 and ran unsuccessfully for an at-large council seat in 2014, is making his second run. He has worked as a consultant for a defense industry company since retirement and now has his own consulting firm.
Henry “Harry” Winthrop, who has served about 10 years on the council, is seeking to return. He served on the council in the 1990s, ran again in 2010, was chosen as mayor by his colleagues in August 2012 and held the office until the end of 2014, after he failed to win reelection that November.
Three of the four incumbent at-large City Council members are running for re-election: Mayor Jeanne-Marie Napolitano, John Florez and Justin S. McLaughlin. The fourth incumbent, Naomi L. Neville, is not seeking re-election.
There were some slight flashpoints as candidates answered questions posed by Jill Kassis, first vice president of the League of Women Voters of Newport County.
Florez said he would propose a resolution later this month calling on the council to pass an ordinance that would have the effect of reining in panhandlers in the city. He said Providence attorney John Tarantino has drafted an ordinance that would stand up to legal scrutiny. The ordinance would target exchanges between occupants of vehicles and people outside the car as a safety issue. To the extent the proposed ordinance applies to panhandlers, it wouldn’t allow them to do it on a roadway or a median.
Napolitano pointed out that anti-panhandling ordinances have been declared unconstitutional in federal courts and she would not want to burden the city and its taxpayers with a costly lawsuit.
Just this year, the American Civil Liberties Union successfully opposed a Cranston panhandling ordinance in a lawsuit that was filed on behalf of a veteran with disabilities.
Napolitano said she would rather have social service agencies work to help panhandlers meet their needs so they would not have to be on the streets. “We have to be very careful,” she said. “I don’t want to put our residents on the line.” “We did not make it to the moon by being careful,” Florez responded. “We don’t want to be held hostage by the ACLU.”
Florez was the only candidate who favors having a popularly elected mayor, instead of having a mayor chosen by council members from among their colleagues, as is presently done. The council also includes three ward representatives.
Winthrop said he believes the Gateway visitors center should be moved from downtown Newport to the north end and a user-friendly intermodal transportation plan developed there to keep cars out of downtown.
He said he believes a bike and pedestrian path along the rail corridor should be a component of a proposed plan for the re-alignment of the Pell Bridge entrance and exit ramps.
If the land where Newport Grand is located opens up because the slots license is moved to Tiverton – if voters approve the statewide and local referendums in November – there would be about 76 acres that could be developed, Winthrop said.
Bova said research shows that many communities have benefited from alternative transportation projects and there is substantial economic growth associated with bikeways. Federal grants are available for infrastructure projects and could be used to fund the project, she said. Local and national bike advocacy groups work with cities to identify funding options, she said.
Bova also said the city should acquire the Naval Hospital property and establish a park along the waterfront, a proposal supported by all the candidates.
Lavarre had the most far-reaching proposals. He would establish an underground parking facility in the north end and have a tunnel dug for about a mile for rail transport of people into the downtown.
“They did it under the English Channel,” he said.
Lavarre is the only candidate who favored privatizing municipal water services. He said several times that he believes in the invisible hand of capitalism, which helps demand and supply of goods reach equilibrium in a free market.
“The hidden hand beats government every time,” he said.
He would favor splitting government into “current operations,” to deal with maintenance needs such as potholes, and “future operations” to deal with planning.
Lack of parking in the city was an issue during the forum.
McLaughlin said when he and others explored constructing a parking garage at the Mary Street municipal lot, it would have cost about $100,000 per space and was not financially feasible.
“We need a reliable trolley system,” he said.
McLaughlin said the city has to deal with the policy regulating short-term rentals. Currently, rentals in most areas of the city are not allowed for less than 30 days, but he knows of a home on Historic Hill that advertises rentals for $500 a night.
He would have city staff and the zoning officer review the policy and make recommendations to the council.
Benjamin S. Kessler and Kimberly L. Shute both returned declarations of candidacy for an at-large council seat, but have apparently withdrawn from the race.

Council Resolution – Newport park at the Navy Hospital property Sept 28th

Great news! A new park!

Tomorrow (9/28), the Newport City Council will vote on a resolution by Councillors McLaughlin & Neville to create a new Newport park at the Navy Hospital property.

There are many reasons to be excited about this resolution. Not the least of which is that the Navy Hospital property is one of the few opportunities to connect the northern part of Newport to the waterfront. With the increased interest in development of the north end of Newport, it’s especially important to maintain publicly available open space. While this resolution is the first step, it’s an important one.

Please take a moment to contact the city council and thank them for supporting this important initiative. Click here for their contact information.

And, if you have time on Wednesday, we hope you join us at the City Council meeting to thank the councillors in person. The meeting begins at 6:30 at the City Council Chambers, Newport City Hall (43 Broadway).

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