2018-05-17 / Opinion


Armory Process Erodes Public Trust

To the Editor:

In response to the May 10 letter to the editor, “Did Armory Vote Meet Requirement,” the process so far has failed to meet even a basic requirement to honor the public trust.

After a previous Newport City Council voted against the National Sailing Hall of Fame moving into the Armory in 2009, Mayor Harry Winthrop offered an exclusive deal to NSHOF last year, without the knowledge of the public, who are, after all, the owners of the Armory.

No one is against NSHOF relocating to Newport, but not at the expense of public access to the waterfront. Is there really no other option? NSHOF has a dismal record regarding fundraising and keeping its commitments in Annapolis. There is not even an actual museum at present, and some of the members of this group feel that the Hall of Fame should be a virtual entity and not a brick and mortar resource.

NSHOF plans to use the Armory for private events. How much public access will remain to the pier and the beach when there are private guests at what will essentially be a private club?

The council has already voted 4-3 to start the process of this exclusive deal. Those opposed to this have only the option of appealing to the conscience and the public service commitment of the council members. It could also be placed on the November election ballot.

However, since a council majority voted in December to appoint Marco Camacho to a vacant seat on the council, his appointment will likely result in another 4-3 vote, with the majority vote to include Camacho’s along with the votes of Winthrop, Lynn Ceglie and Jeanne-Marie Napolitano. (Kate Leonard, Susan Taylor and Jamie Bova are currently on record opposing the deal.)

The audio recorded during the December vote shows Mayor Winthrop creating a self-serving, novel process to force the Camacho appointment through, with no consideration of the many other qualified candidates. Listening to the audio, it’s hard not to come to the conclusion that this vote was nothing more than the consolidation of power.

Does anyone really believe that Camacho’s vote to sell the Armory was not assured before his appointment?

Finally, at the council meeting when the vote was taken, those who spoke in favor of preserving public access to the waterfront were mostly women who appeared to be middle income. In contrast, those who spoke in favor of selling an irreplaceable public resource to a private group were mostly men of higher income, including elite yachtsmen. This latter group already has the means to secure multiple private access points to the waterfront through marinas and yacht clubs.

So why does one group that already has waterfront access want to get even more at the expense of the general public that has little access now, and will soon have even less?

At another location, NSHOF would be welcomed. But inside deals for insiders benefit no one and erode both the public trust and the reputation of those who participate.

Judith A. Byrnes

Outstanding Leadership Recognized

To the Editor:

The Newport Branch of NAACP join so many people in our community to mourn the tragic death of Don Boucher. He was certainly a person who dedicated himself entirely to community service in a most compassionate way. He focused his time and energy on people in need. He was especially effective in working with people who were challenged with homelessness. He genuinely believed that, if you gave a person a place to live, other issues could be managed more successfully. And, he was right.

Don also demonstrated a commitment in helping people find a spiritual path to follow. Rather than coming from some pronounced or doctrinaire theological position, Don would find a way to engage people so that they felt comfortable in reaching a place that gave them spiritual comfort.

He was a bright, well-educated, warm, caring, passionate, deferential, eager-to-learn, hard-working, family-loving man, who was both a good story teller and a good listener. He made many friends. And he did so easily because of his engaging personality.

An Exemplary Community Service Award, recognizing Don’s contributions to the community, was presented posthumously to his family by Jimmy Winters, President of NAACP, Newport County Branch, at services for Don at Crosspoint Church. It read, “For his outstanding leadership and profound dedication to improving the lives of others in the community as seen in his irrepressible compassion that always enabled him to find the goodness in each of us.”

Indeed, Don’s legacy may be marked in several different ways, but one that will likely be most lasting is his capacity to find good in each other, something we should all emulate.

J. Clement Cicilline
NAACP Vice President

Only Peace Officers Should Carry Guns in Schools

To the Editor:

I am writing in support of the Safe Schools Act (S2289; H7591) that judiciously permits firearms to be carried by peace officers and prohibits anyone else from walking into a school armed.

There is no conceivable reason for anyone to enter our K-12 schools with a firearm, yet Rhode Island state law allows concealed carry permit holders to be armed on school grounds without the knowledge of school officials or the police. This includes any school function, classroom parent-teacher conference or sporting event.

Guns are prohibited at the State House and other sensitive buildings, and the vast majority of states prohibit guns in schools except those carried by police and peace officers. Rhode Island is one of only four states that does not prohibit concealed guns in schools. The other three are Utah, Oregon, and New Hampshire.

Concealed carry puts our students, school personnel and law enforcement at greater risk of accidental shooting. Concealed carry holders can easily be confused with an active shooter in an actual incident. They can endanger students, staff, police and peace officers because they do not know the specific drill tactics in use at a school. They also have no way of knowing if they are in a real-life situation or an unannounced drill.

The Rhode Island Police Chiefs’ Association supports legislation that would allow only trained police and peace officers to be armed on school grounds due to the extreme risks inherent in hostage and high-stress “shoot/don’t shoot” situations.

Police and peace officers receive special training for these situations (and are retested annually to reaffirm their proficiency). Concealed carry permit holders do not receive specialized training and are not subject to yearly retesting.

This serious public safety issue demands our attention. Our children deserve a safe and secure environment where they can learn without fear. It seems to me that the Safe Schools Act wisely permits firearms to be carried by the appropriate people – trained peace officers – and prohibits anyone else from walking into a school armed. The children of Rhode Island deserve our care and protection through the Safe Schools Act. I urge our legislators to take this action to protect our children.

Mary Alice Smith
Rhode Island Coalition Against
Gun Violence

Cost Effective?

To the editor:

The Newport School Committee has recently agreed to hire a “meals advocate” to determine the families who fail to qualify for free or reduced price lunches. Also, families who owe money, but do not qualify for free or reduced price lunches, will be turned over to a debt collection agency for collection. The agency keeps a percentage of the debt collected.

Currently, the school lunch debt is $27,000. What will it cost to hire a meals advocate? Considering that $27,000 is the debt, and that the schools will receive from debt collection, only a percentage of that sum, at most. This policy is weak from a business perspective. The cost is greater to implement this policy than it is to write off the debt.

Michael Serotta

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