ALN Celebrates a Milestone
It's been eight years since a small group of Newport residents banded together under an umbrella of civic interest, intent on making a difference. Representing neighborhood groups from across the city, the organization would coalesce as the Alliance for a Livable Newport, today more commonly referred to as ALN.
Almost immediately, ALN emerged as one of the city's most influential community groups, driving public discourse and bringing policy makers to account on the issues of the day.
On Wednesday, April 4, the group will celebrate their annual meeting with a cocktail reception at the Chanler at Cliff Walk. Among those expected to attend are city councilors, the city manager, and various department heads including the city's police and fire chiefs.
ALN President Isabel Griffith sat down with Newport This Week in advance of the evening to discuss the organization, reflect on its accomplishments, and contemplate its future.
During a wide ranging conversation, Griffith marveled at how the group, whose membership reflects a diverse array of interests and ideologies has been able to work together toward a common end.
While not a political organization in a traditional sense, ALN has nevertheless proven to be an influential voice in city politics, earning a reputation early on for vetting candidates for School Committee and City Council through a series of public forums and written questionnaires.
Griffith credits the success of the organization to a number of factors – from the volunteers who sit on the board, conduct research, and organize forums, to the group's intense focus on "street-level" issues such as noise complaints, sewer and CSO improvements, LNG, and the state of the city's education system.
Often working with other local non-profits, ALN has rarely shied away from an issue. One of the more memorable public forums hosted in recent years dealt with the issue of hunger in our community, another tackled the state's public pension crisis.
What's so laudable about this group is not necessarily its database of neighborhood contacts, its wonkish attention to detail, or its steady non-partisan approach to local issues.
Rather, it's been their ability to promote an information-based community discourse in a way that's understandable to even the most casual observer.
A lot of times, information coming out of city hall can cumbersome. For those who may be looking to become more involved in community issues, ALN does a yeoman's job in making the inaccessible, accessible, and the foreign, familiar.
But as is often the case with grassroots organizations, ALN is in constant need of new members.
If you've made it this far, chances are you're at least somewhat politically engaged.
But, if you're like most of us, chances are equally good that you don't have much time to dedicate to educating yourself about the ins and outs of municipal government or the intricacies surrounding the issues of the day. Thankfully, ALN has been doing your homework for you since 2004.
We've also seen on more than one occasion ALN serve as a catalyst for action – from spurring change within city hall, to serving as a kind of volunteer gateway to other community-based organizations. That's why we're taking this week to recognize an organization that despite doing virtually no fund-raising, has found a way to contribute greatly to our civic life.
As Griffith noted, Newporters are not lacking in their opinions – especially when it comes to what they see as wrong with the city. But how many Newporters have ever attended a council meeting? How many know who their ward councilor is; have talked to member of one of the city's varied boards and commissions; or flipped through a council docket?
We've written in the space repeatedly about the importance of banding together as a community to reach our common goals.
ALN has been doing just that for over eight years now. We hope that the next eight years prove even more productive for the group than the first.
If you'd like to learn more about ALN, visit their website at www.AllianceforLivableNewport.org.