Thursday, September 04, 2008

Middletown Candidates' Forum

NTW has a report on this recent NAACP forum for all Council candidates on the island from reporter Tom Shevlin. I'm going to add to this with remarks sent by my correspondent who was there. Unfortunately, I was not able to change plans to attend, although I tried. The given notice was short.

Check the article for opinions on affordable housing, hiring more minority teachers & school regionalization. I understand that it was taped but no notice of when it will be available for viewing. These things are always sparesely attended. As I've said before, with one that I attended, my small family made up the majority of the audience.

So here are notes that I expanded on from my correspondent (the person with the bag on their head). I had hoped to hear more on the Newport and Portsmouth candidates but, alas, it was not to be. My reporter had to depart early.

Frank Boyzan, Rich Cambra, Cheryl Foster, Theresa Santos, Chris Semonelli, Barbara VonVillas, Ron Williams, and Tony Viveiros were there. Middletown went first Candidates were asked to make a 30 second statement identifying themselves & anything else they wanted to say. I think they actually held to 60 seconds.

Theresa Santos said she had missed only 2 meetings and they were because she had surgery and her husband died. She claimed credit for the food bank idea and the veterans. Cheryl Foster said she was running partly because she hoped to bring "fun" back to the council! Chris Semonelli mentioned being president of Rotary and spoke effectively about his committee experience. Rich Cambra mentioned experience in the Air Force and on the Zoning Board, etc., and sounded intelligent. Frank Bozyan mystified the audience when he seem to freeze. He gave his name and then said nothing for at least 5, maybe 10, long seconds. He then said he was a chemical engineer. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief that he survived. Ron Williams spoke so close to the microphone that his words reverberated. He listed his experience on boards. Barbara VonVillas said that efforts had been made at school regionalization in the 90's but they went nowhere. She added that efforts were being made through common purchasing and some sharing of services,.

The "endorsed" Dems identified themselves as such. Antone Viveiros mentioned the Kempen mess and his many efforts to get elected. Questions were submitted on paper from the audience. They were all directed at the candidates from all the towns, so I'm sure Newport and Portsmouth profited from Middletown going first.

The first question was about affordable housing. Something about what efforts would the candidates make to provide affordable housing. There were 2 questions related to the schools - the first about efforts at regionalization and the second about recruiting minority candidates.
At the end candidates were given the opportunity to speak, but hearing nothing earth- shattering & likely not to before they were finished, my correspondent had to leave.

Thanks to my correspondent.

Since this is my blog, I can throw in my thoughts on these 3 topics now. Anyone else who was unable to make it, feel free to e-mail me & I'll run it as is (I'll edit if needed because the teacher in me can't stop).

Minority teachers. I want more of them- men in the el. grades, too. You can't tell a good teacher from interviews. Good teachers develop with lots of support. Kids need to have a wide variety of teachers with varying backgrounds- just like them.

Affordable housing. No one seems to have discussed the actual state requirements here. Perhaps they weren't aware of them although Theresa should have been. The State requires that each town/city have 10% of their housing classified as "affordable." If they do not, they must have an actual plan in place to achieve this. Since few towns have achieved this goal, it's time for the State to re-evaluate this so-called goal.

Newport does more than its fair share. Middletown met its 10% goal for many years & now is only slightly below that goal. Most other towns/cities need to step up to the plate and do their part (hello, Portsmouth). I liked the original plan that was on the drawing board out in Midd. with Church Community Housing being a partner with the town. It was a mixture of business and affordable housing. It may yet happen. I'd also like to see the planning board come up with some ideas that may or may not impact zoning. Other New England towns have done it and we could too. The good news is that rental and housing costs are now down for the first time in years.

Regionalization- without State incentive (as in the former), this goes nowhere. As Barbara said, this topic has been bandied about for more than 30 yrs. The will isn't there and who says it's a good thing anyway? It could just create more bureaucracy and less responsive schools for the same costs. I don't see where Bristol/Warren has saved big bucks by doing this. Regionalizing health insurance, heating oil, etc. is already happening and we'll see more of it in the future if it actually is cost-effective.

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