Alternative facts thrive in Newport

Alternative facts swirl around and emanate from the nation’s capital. I have witnessed the City of Newport wallowing in alternative facts, too. Well folks, there's no such thing as alternative facts. Facts are facts.

Fact: Newport Municipal Code (NMC) has a delinquency provision listing protocol when an operator of a vacation rental has not filed Newport room tax. Fact: NMC has a deficiency provision listing protocol when an operator of a vacation rental has paid some room tax, but not all they owe.

When a commercial establishment in Newport was found to be violating short-term rental ordinances, Newport city staff calculated the room tax, interest and penalties they owed by using the provision for deficiency, rather than delinquency, which cheated Newport residents of substantial revenue. I appealed that decision. However, to coverup its ineptitude in relying on the wrong code and revealing confidential information about that business to the public, the city utilized alternative facts to establish that I did not have the standing to speak in front of city council, so the merits of my concerns were never considered. As in the nation’s capital, alternative facts in Newport seem to carry the day.

The city council had the opportunity to take corrective action prior to the appeal when a councilor's comment identified the mistake of using the wrong municipal code to determine the fine. But his concern was ignored. Instead, misinformation was compounded to confuse the issue.

This saga’s finale was at the Jan. 6 city council meeting, when the other councilors proved they were totally clueless about the implications of the city's errors, and how damaging that mistake is to us all. Alternative facts served the administration, but not the residents. Trust in our local government has certainly dropped a notch, which is so sad.

Mona Linstromberg