Are taxpayers right for feeling a tinge of buyer's remorse after voting to approve a $30 million bond to pay for the construction of the new Claiborne d. Pell Elementary School?
The question begs asking given the recent news that construction bids exceeded the anticipated project cost of by up to 20 percent.
It also brings to mind the lesson that while passion is often rewarded, it can also be blinding.
In fact, when a project becomes all-consuming - such as the School Committee's more than decade-long quest to restructure the city's aging school system - the bigger picture can easily be lost.
On Tuesday, School Committee members will gather to send a revised school design to the three lowest bidders in the hopes of returning a more economic solution.
But will taxpayers – and will the current and future students of Newport – be getting their money's worth? Or will the need to strip $4 million off the only elementary school that will be left with in the city result in the community losing out on all of those things that should make Pell Elementary a 21st century school?
The School Committee owes it to the residents of Newport who voted for the bond – and those who will call this place home for the next 30 years – to take a step back.
The school, which is already too small based on current enrollment figures, is perhaps the single-most important public infrastructure project we will undertake in the next 10-15 years.
Every election, candidates for office – be they challengers or incumbents – tell us that the city needs to do a better job at attracting more young families. To that end, no public investment is more important than the quality of the schools that those families will be sending their children.
Let there be no mistake: Entire communities can be shaped by their school system. And indeed, there's a bitter irony that a school named after one of the country's greatest champions of education would be reduced for the sake of meeting a deadline and a bottom line.
If Newport succeeds in improving its reputation for delivering quality education, then wouldn't it stand to reason that more parents will want to send their kids to public schools?
Some believe Newport's recent surge in student enrollment is a fluke. But what if it's just the start of trend? What if Newport's efforts to bring young families back to the city actually works?
It would be a shame to be punished for our success.
To date, no construction money has been spent. If there is a better design out there – or a better solution to bringing down the cost of the school – one would hope that our elected officials should be open to it.