In Newport City: Morrissette elected as alderman

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Neil Morrissette.  Photo by Joseph Gresser

Neil Morrissette. Photo by Joseph Gresser

by Joseph Gresser

copyright the Chronicle 3-5-2014

NEWPORT—Newport has a new alderman.  Voters went to the polls Tuesday and elected Neil Morrissette to replace former council member Tim de la Bruere who decided not to stand for re-election.

They also returned incumbent Alderman John Wilson for another two-year term, his seventh.  Mr. Wilson led all candidates with 369 votes, Mr. Morrissette had 286 and Corey Therrien finished out of the money with 225 votes.

Mr. Therrien did not go home empty handed, though.  Running unopposed, he won election to an open seat on the North Country Union High School board with 388 votes.

No candidates submitted petitions for a vacant seat on the Newport City School Board, but two citizens ran write-in campaigns.  With 31 votes Mary Ellen Prairie squeaked in ahead of Jacques Roberge, who garnered 19 votes.

Newport voters exhibited their usual generosity, approving all appropriation requests by wide margins.

The city budget request of $3-million was granted by a vote of 354 to 125.  The Newport City Elementary School’s budget had a narrower margin of victory, but it still passed, 279 to 214.

City voters also approved the North Country Union High School and North Country Union Junior High School budgets.

contact Joseph Gresser at joseph@bartonchronicle.com

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Editorial: Newport City Council missed the boat

The Newport City Council missed the boat last week when approached about the possibility of putting a tar sands resolution on the agenda for the annual City Meeting in March.  The council could have welcomed city residents who want to talk about an important local issue.  Instead they snubbed them.

The council told residents and an environmental organizer who wants to put a question about tar sands on the ballot that they might accept a petition from 5 percent of the city’s voters and put it on the ballot.  Or they might not.

Traditionally, the city council has turned down items that are not strictly city business, aldermen told the voters.

In this discussion, they told voters and a representative of the Sierra Club that they should not put anything “politicized” on the ballot.

Isn’t the whole idea of Town Meeting Day about local politics?  How strange for the city’s leading political figures to say they want to avoid politics at their city meeting.

Beyond that, just whose city is Newport anyway?  If 5 percent of city voters want to talk about something, what harm is that going to do?

The city council seems to be saying that tar sands is not a local issue.

City Manager John Ward called the Sierra Club, “just one more lobbying group coming here to tell us how to live.”

But tar sands is definitely a local issue.  The Portland Pipeline goes through Newport Center, which borders the city.  The pipeline goes through a number of towns further south where the rivers drain into Lake Memphremagog.

Does the council believe that an oil spill into rivers and streams leading to Lake Memphremagog would not harm the city’s economy, not to mention the environment?  If there were a spill, we wouldn’t be eating bass, walleye, trout or perch for years to come.

Newport City’s annual meeting is typically a brief, perfunctory affair where almost no one comes and almost nothing is discussed.  The city’s business is done by paper ballot.

Certainly this works well in terms of getting a good number of people to vote on municipal and school budgets and elections.  It’s more convenient for working people to choose their voting time.

But the lack of discussion is unfortunate, and here is an opportunity to allow city residents to have a debate about an issue that could affect the city drastically.  What is the problem with allowing that discussion and even a vote on a resolution?

There is such a thing as being too provincial.  The Northeast Kingdom sometimes has that reputation, and it’s time for that to change.

The city council could have taken a step to welcome discussion on an important regional topic, but instead they mostly closed the door on it.  Why?  Tradition?  Maybe it’s time for a new tradition. — B.M.D.

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