Spring has officially sprung in Newport, and there’s certainly plenty to look forward to on the horizon.
Normally this time of year, the city is slowly emerging from its winter doldrums. And yet this year seems different.
Yes, for those who have struggled to find work and keep up with their bills, this has been yet another hard slog. But on the other side, there’s been a sustained sense of optimism on the part of merchants and business owners that hopefully portends of good things to come.
Perhaps it’s the excitement stemming from the upcoming America’s Cup World Series, or the Tall Ships festival that’s following on its heels.
Given the amount of attention paid to both of these events, there’s little wonder as to why there’s such a sense of excitement on the streets.
Inside City Hall, there’s another feeling that’s beginning to set in.
While the daffodils begin to bloom outside, attention is beginning to be paid once again to next year’s budget.
Earlier this week, in meeting with their counterparts on the School Committee, city councilors seemed to make a push toward consolidating school and city services, such as accounting, facilities, and IT technology.
We applaud councilors McLaughlin, Neville and Winthrop for their efforts, and hope that they find willing partners within the schools.
While there may be logistical concerns to overcome in the short-term, putting the city on track to maximize the investment of taxpayer dollars should be of paramount concern.
To that end, we’re also looking forward to discussion over the city’s proposed Capital Improvement Plan.
Balancing the needs of the city with the realistic financial wherewithal of taxpayers should be a guiding principle when the council meets to discuss the investment program next month.
And if recent strides are any indication, there is likely cause for optimism here as well.
Take as an example two recent announcements from the city manager’s office.
Last week, City Manager Jane Howington reported to the council that the city’s approach to sidewalk repair had resulted in a 50 percent drop in the number of slip and fall claims levied against the city.
We wrote with hope last year of the common-sense program of “shaving down” jagged edges along some of the city’s more heavily travelled sidewalks. What at the time seemed like a good idea, has proven itself to be just that.
Then, on Tuesday, Howington referenced yet another innovative approach her office is pursuing – one that could carry with it significant savings associated with the financing of the new Claiborne d. Pell Elementary School.
The process, which involves a new federal Market Tax Credit proposal that could end up saving the city “several million” on the debt service for the $30 million school.
Perhaps the City Council can take heed of these types of small and large-scale solutions during their budgetary deliberations to search out other innovative ways to ensure that Newport remains an affordable, and attractive, place to call home.