The fourth in a series of candidate forums took place on Aug. 20 for the three people vying for a Ward 3 seat on the Newport City Council.
The three candidates in the 40-minute forum included longtime incumbent Kathryn Leonard and challengers Paul Marshall and Rachel Hussey. Leonard, a veteran educator and realtor, had not been challenged in the previous three terms.
The two top vote getters in the Sept. 8 primary will appear on the November ballot.
The forum is a collaboration among The Alliance for a Livable Newport, East Bay TV, the Greater Newport Chamber of Commerce, the League of Women Voters Newport County, Newport Buzz, Newport This Week and WADK radio. The moderator was Christian Winthrop of Newport Buzz.
Marshall serves on the Planning Board and is principle at PM Consulting Services. Hussey is a teacher at St. Michael’s School.
Leonard said her top priorities for the next term are traffic, congestion and community cohesive- ness. Hussey pointed to schools, the economy and quality of life. Marshall cited equity, the environment and education.
None of the candidates supported a Homestead Exemption, were in favor of eliminating the ward election system or thought the Christopher Columbus statue on Bellevue Avenue should be removed. Marshall was the only candidate who would not support a study of a regionalized high school.
Each candidate spelled out why they are running.
“Ward 3 is large, it is diverse, and it is integral to our city,” said Hussey. “I am running for city council so that Ward 3’s creative solutions to age-old problems can be represented.”
Marshall said he is running “to ensure that Newport will grow in a conscientious, equitable and sustainable way.”
Leonard said, “I am an action person, known for doing things.”
To the question on development for the North End, and specifically, the proposal to redevelop the former Newport Grand property, Hussey said the plan set out by consultants was “on the right path,” possibly leading to affordable housing, as well as new small businesses and a lot of green space. She said she currently would support the proposal for Newport Grand, but wants more information.
Marshall said he hoped to steer citywide decisions “through an equity and inclusion lens,” and continue to get feedback from the community, so “we can fully understand the impact of our municipal decisions.”
Leonard said the most important aspect of the North End is “to have a more inclusive community that brings benefits to all residents.
“I’d like to see a good working trolley system, a transportation system, so people can get to work quickly,” she said. “Maybe have a healthcare clinic in the North End. I don’t want to see 90-foot high buildings.”
To the question of tighter ordinance restrictions on the development of waterfront property, based on the two new hotels getting approval, Marshall said the city has to ensure that people continue to have public access to the waterfront, and that this should be addressed with a climate resiliency effort to mitigate flooding and other problems.
Leonard cited zoning and the comprehensive land use plans. “If we don’t change the zoning ordinances first, we are in for big lawsuits,” she said.
She added that it is important for zoning to be addressed with a new look at height restrictions on buildings.
Many people in Ward 3 were not happy with heights, minimized access and other issues, Hussey said. “I would be open to looking at new ordinance restrictions,” she said.
As for climate change, all three noted the damage to Newport in heavy rainstorms. Leonard cited repairs Newport made over the years, including a $6 million repair of the misfiring pumping station. Hussey called it “a huge issue,” adding that trash and recycling had to be increased with the enhancement of communal gardens. Marshall said he addresses this in his profession and on the Planning Board. “We really need to invest in infrastructure and stormwater management and transportation,” he said, citing the Green and Complete Streets initiative.
As for exploring alternatives beyond property taxes to increase revenues, Hussey talked about building businesses in Newport and said too much money is going to the state. Marshall said he had some ideas about Clean Energy generating revenue here and reinvesting it on “micro grids.”
Leonard said the city could impose impact fees on big new developments, like hotels and apartment buildings, as many communities around the country already do. “I think Newport has become the ATM of the state,” she said. “We don’t get enough of the share of the tourism taxes.”