Letter to the Editor: 'Who's Driving the Ship?'

Recent public events entitled ‘Newport As A 21st Century Technology City’ and ‘Newport as a Model of Urban Living” suggest that Newport may be awakening.

By Robert Bailey

Recent public events entitled ‘Newport As A 21st Century Technology City’ and ‘Newport as a Model of Urban Living” suggest that Newport may be awakening. If so,

This quaint museum of curios of wealth earned prior to sweeping federal regulations, could morph into a vibrant, cutting-edge, top 100, world class, contemporary city generating revenues triple the current figures (new wealth). Care-full actions of businesspeople and politicians over the next few months will show which of these alternate destinations will prevail.

First, Newport’s macro economic issues. 

Missing is a business organization, a member of the US Chamber of Commerce rather than a member of American CofC Executives, to participate in national policy and advanced marketing to attract world-class business leaders.

Missing is a popularly elected, full-time, accountable Mayor to be the global face of the City—a “go to” guy/gal who gets things done.

Missing is a contemporary culture of collaborative grand initiatives. And,

Missing are the elements needed for the City—operating ad populum as Newport County’s ‘seat’—to guide island-wide economic self-determination.

Now, the opportunity.

Broaden the tax base. The direct and indirect benefits include better schools, a magnetic economy, greater direct local control.

Business (see CofC above) must reach out in a collaborative to well-paying industries including marine design, web design and Internet security, the biosciences. Heck, tiny Tel Aviv is a global player in diamond-cutting. That’s big business done in a room the size of a large closet.

Newport has a city manager form of government—good or bad, mediocre or great—and the State has its finger on every genuine economic driver. But, local self-determination of Newport’s economic destiny doesn’t need not be futile (even regarding such matters as altering the Visitors Center.)

Newport aka Rhode Island (in the State’s legal name) has an opportunity, and I believe a responsibility, to lead in the State House and the Northeast. It might lead in business, education, the arts and community innovation—around the world. The fans-o’-tourism-economics might delight from qualitative growth if Newport’s practical assets were applied in new ways, year-round.

Specifically, the City must demand and expect the following. From the State, integrated, but unencumbered, support of the local fiber optic network; from all government officials and employees, accountability for results; and from leadership, long term economic initiatives committed to investment in local energy and food industry, marine tech, water related processing, and other new technologies. (These steps must allow for the inevitable disappointment and pain that often accompanies meaningful success.)

Deterministic objectives require clarity, however.

Boat Captains, business owners, airplane pilots, and military leaders will tell you—a thousand opinions have negligible value versus credible decision-making.

Newport’s trenchant question then is, ‘Who’s driving the ship?’

pferd February 28, 2013 at 12:52 PM
frank macedo February 28, 2013 at 01:48 PM
until you get rid of the 4 useless city councilors who are on some sort of power ego trip Newport will have no locals left and the out of towners only care about a place to sleep for the summer.and yes eventually if you dont change our crooked HR office in cityhall we will become a giant toilet that will get flushed when our children get rid of the old and bring in the new
Michael February 28, 2013 at 02:45 PM
A ship without a rudder, not just the city of Newport but also the state of Rhode Island. We have no leadership and the common answer is tax every one and every thing. From bridge tolls to hospitality taxes ... we waste so much on stupid spending. I can only blame our uneducated electorate. And another huge rate increase on water ... nobody cares, nobody is paying attention. But if I could raise one issue, just call Newport "pigport". The city is full of filth ... walk on any street. Total lack of respect. From dog crap to plastics ... our local population are a bunch of pigs. The other day a local pig wasn't happy with his scratch card numbers and just tossed them on the ground. As I approached him with "come on man, where's the respect. Why do you contribute to our city filth." He replied with "fu** you ... what difference does it make." I'm done with this city and this state. My home is for sale and as soon as it does, my businesses (3) and my family are heading South. This state and city will never change ... you win. The straw that broke my back was the "new Sac bridge toll, proposed increase in water rates and yesterdays proposed legislation from state rep, Linda Finn, D-Middletown, to pay $100 per firearm registration fee". Our state is now a big zoo and we're all a bunch of monkeys.
Robert Oliveira February 28, 2013 at 04:01 PM
Yes, there is a disconnect in Newport between "getting elected" and actually exercising power. In short, many folks are elected by a narrow special interest and therefore only equipped to deal with some of the issues facing the city and not all. However, on a case by case basis, that trend can be reversed and results delivered. It just takes a lot more work.
john begin February 28, 2013 at 04:44 PM
Sounds like a lot of unhappy locals out there.Not a good time to be a politician in Newport I take it.We need to make the streets safe is and should be the number one priority to any town official.This important issue I believe is being skirted by our leaders at the expense of the local community.It needs to stop before we are able to move forward in any fashion into our supposed BETTER future. Cheers!
John Florez February 28, 2013 at 04:49 PM
I'm just curious, how many of you attend frequent council or committee meetings? We live an an open democracy and that's a great thing, each of us has a right to voice our opinions. However, those opinions are baseless if they are simply rooted in blind cynicism and they're especially baseless if you haven't made an attempt to become more involved in your community. There's no question that the process is a slow one but I can tell you first hand that there are MAJOR initiatives being proposed that would no doubt have significant and very positive ramification for the long term well being of this marvelous community. If you want to see first hand, come down to the Firehouse Theater this evening at 6PM. This is a presentation on implementing a high speed, comprehensive fiber optics network that would completely change the landscape of this community. SImilar initiatives have been implemented in other cities and the results have been nothing short of extraordinary. If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.
nptresident February 28, 2013 at 04:59 PM
Could you please specify the "corruption" that is taking place??? Let's not make baseless accusations.
nptresident February 28, 2013 at 05:05 PM
Agreed. People are slobs. They don't pick up after their dogs, they let their dogs wander around downtown unleashed, the city is not proactive in taking of graffiti which has gotten exponentially worse this winter despite a useless resolution that was passed last year.


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