To the many people who provided their insights over the past 3 1/2 years to the Comprehensive Land Use Plan subcommittee, which I co-chaired—Thank You! You are part of moving Newport boldly toward the State mandate, and, at last, to a big clear vision for the City’s future.
On September 10 the City manager proposed, and the Council endorsed, closure of a much-refined process, only weeks from completion, without transition, debrief, or report of our findings or recommendations. I read about the decision in the newspaper. Newport’s city manager form of government aims to remove icy political behavior like this. Still, my calls to the two top City Hall officials about this abrupt decision go unreturned.
Such bungling, though, expedites Newport’s (and Aquidneck Island’s) necessary embrace of competition and innovation. Political mores interceded, but our progressive logic was already assimilating into the local culture. See for yourself.
Early, our members agreed that thorough research and rationale would create a powerful body of useful knowledge. We wrangled difficult principles into actionable ideas. The outcome is the (nearly-completed) living document.
Our subcommittee developed expertise in 7 areas (called elements) to create a coherent economic development guide. Sound recommendations were based on economic data. We weighed the interconnected City systems. Our public meetings and numerous discussions with key constituents--low income to very successful employers—tested and refined our thinking.
First, we developed a set of working principles. We agreed to: Focus on strengths, leverage assets to solve big problems, and listen to smart people. The principles determined concepts which evolved into 32 recommendations, including these four:
Economic cost/benefit analysis. Systematic, measurable solutions require regular, informed, coherent steps; not occasional and random bloviation.
Logic. Newport’s largest professional concentrations of employment exist in two well-paying industry segments. Newport Hospital, CCRI Nursing, and numerous doctors’ offices are clearly medical. Salve, IYRS, the Naval War College are clearly educational. These are strengths Newport can build on for decades. We called this strategy ED/MED.
Innovation. What do you do with a derelict Naval Hospital with its own pier? Food and energy are challenges with opportunistic potential. Public-private initiatives between business and academic institutions could forge a science campus developing biotech solutions, aquaculture/oyster bed remediation and other tech and skilled production.
Arts. An arts district is good. But, ‘starving artists’ require shelter. Increased density (housing) in the form of live-work space in Washington Square creates an arts neighborhood (cultural resources). Multi-modal transportation (circulation) and waterfront marine businesses (economic development) are detailed solutions that came from hours of private study.
As co-chair, I mistakenly trusted leadership to grasp, maintain, and endorse this vital process.
Snuffing out others’ good will is rotten. Happily, fortune favors the bold.
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