These two letters to the editor address different but interconnected issues in the community of Newport. The first letter reflects on a recent Town Council meeting, highlighting the need for improved communication, transparency, and respect between residents, elected officials, and the mayor. It emphasizes the challenges faced by those in public service and encourages gratitude for their dedication. It was written before the resignation of Mayor Barnes.
In contrast, the second letter raises the issue of workplace bullying and specifically mentions the bullying experienced by Mayor Barnes. It calls for a united front against bullying, emphasizing the responsibility of city council members to support and protect all individuals working for the city. Both letters ultimately call for a stronger and more inclusive community in Newport, where respectful dialogue and accountability prevail.
Last Saturday morning, there was an impromptu Town Council meeting. With only 24 hours notice, many citizens could not attend. The atmosphere was rather shocking, anger was almost palpable for both the attendees and the elected officials. While the meeting was cancelled after less than one minute, I learnt more about the mayor, council and attendees than at any other time. My observations are as follows; I believe that we, the Newport residents simply want more information, like knowing the rules that govern our town and logic behind decision making.
The other point to make is, be it the mayor and/or the city council; there should be more respect given to them. I had seen attacks on both mayor and council from attendees when simply more tact in the posing of the questions would be equally effective. I believe that sometimes, mayor and council simply don’t know the answers and are too proud to simply state that they don’t know. I believe that very few people would be willing to run for council or mayor since they make less than $3,000 per year.
That is but a mere stipend considering how much time many of them dedicate to the city, many of them also have full time jobs. So, when you see Beth, John, Chris, Kevin Clark walking down the street or in a meeting, thank them for what they do. It might also go a long way to resolving some of the infighting and growing pains that we are experiencing in our fair town of Newport!
Google the term ‘workplace bullying’ and Wikipedia provides a definition inclusive of a “persistent pattern of mistreatment…that causes physical and/or emotional harm.” It is more than a difference of opinion within interpersonal relationships or political beliefs or a disagreement with a peer or boss on a really bad workday; it is intentional behavior with the goal of undermining and humiliating the intended victim.
Restorative Justice holds the conviction that harm caused to one individual has a ripple effect and impacts the whole community. Sadly, this was on full display Monday night when Newport’s newly elected mayor, Beth Barnes, had the courage to shine a light on the bullying that she endured during her short term in office. Beth has been a breath of fresh air in Newport City. Her enthusiasm, hope, and community involvement inspired many. Yet, it seems there are always those individuals who measure their success by the failure of others, and who feel free to harass, intimidate, and bully even the best-intentioned individuals.
As citizens of Newport, we expect those who serve on the city council to support and assist our elected mayor. We expect them to make sure that no one who works for the city, elected or not, shall become a victim of harassment or bullying. It is incumbent upon them to uphold the standards of accountability and professionalism, demonstrate tolerance, and exercise inclusion.
One of the most important lessons we teach our children is not to bully. We want them to know that it is everyone’s responsibility to call out this negative behavior and, by not keeping silent, help to end it. Likewise, we expect the same from our city representatives.
Aristotle wrote that “educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” I believe as a community we should hold our leaders to the highest standards of conduct—the same conduct we hold for our children in school. When there is a bullying problem, we and our city officials need to address the issue directly and make sure everyone understands the negative impact of bullying not just on the victim but on the community at large.
Bullies don’t just stop bullying; they don’t just go away. Our silence emboldens individuals to continue this behavior. Let’s not be silent, Newport.