Letters to the Editor

“Let’s get into the weeds here answering these questions”

One of the most recent posts on Instagram by the primary proponent of Measure B asks, “Where’s the power grab?” As Ben Franklin said, when arguing against a king for these United States, “I am a mortal enemy of arbitrary government and unlimited power.” 

This proponent claims that the ballot question of, “Shall the Newport Beach City Charter be amended to provide for the direct election of the Mayor?” Says it all and doesn’t get any simpler.     

Do you want to elect your Mayor, and should your Mayor be directly accountable to you?

Let’s get into the weeds here in answering these questions…

Measure B itself goes way beyond those two simple questions. The proponent asks where the term “power grab” comes from. Well, it becomes very obvious when you get deeper into the Measure by reading the details. 

First, the “elected mayor” will be given exclusive authority and control of the city council agenda thereby controlling what comes before the council. Second, council districts will be reduced from 7 to 6, creating double representation within the district the Mayor lives in. Third, the city manager will be reduced in roll and authority making it difficult to attract qualified candidates for the position. Fourth, the position will be highly politicized. How? Candidates seeking the position will become very dependent on large, influential donors who hope to gain the favor of the Mayor when it comes to personal or business interests. Fifth, a “yes” vote on Measure B will create the potential for mayors intent on becoming politically powerful to back and raise campaign funds for city council candidates in order to line up consistent majority votes for their political benefit. 

And finally, and perhaps the most significant, is a loss of voice by the community in the business of the City. The Measure states, “The Mayor...shall perform such other duties consistent with the office as may be prescribed by this Charter, or as may be imposed by the City Council.” This wording takes us from having the City Charter define the mayor’s authority to allowing the mayor and three other City Councilmembers to decide, whenever they want, what the mayor’s authority will be. The residents would not have any say. This is the essence of the “power grab”…the authority given the mayor under this wording is both limitless and dangerous for the community.

There is nothing broken or wrong with the mayor’s position the way it is currently functioning. To change this model now is to risk losing the invaluable relationships among the city councilmembers, city staff and residents that have successfully guided Newport Beach for the past 67 years. 

From a sensible and rational position, as well as “What’s best for the City of Newport Beach?,” I urge you to vote “NO” on Measure B. 

Jeff Herdman

Newport Beach City Council, 2016-2020

Newport Beach

Personally, I trust the advice of 11 former Newport Beach Mayors

Thank you for publishing the pro and con arguments on Measure B on Tuesday. 

The argument in favor of Measure B was presented by Councilmember Will O’Neill. He introduced the measure to City Council and did not support any form of hearing, study sessions or resident input. It was a rush to the ballot. I find it interesting that Councilman O’Neill’s term ends, and he is term limited out of running for city council, at the same time he could run for Mayor in 2024 to win another four-year term. Additionally, he could run for re-election in 2028. This is potentially too much power in one member of the City Council for too long a period. 

Having the City Council elect a member of the City Council to serve as Mayor annually is a proven and successful process. The primary duty of the Mayor is to chair the Council’s meetings and do other official duties for the City. This occurs without reducing the authority and independence of the other six councilmembers. If residents vote yes for measure B, the power shifts to the Mayor. Districts will be reduced from 7 to 6 and each councilmember, City Manager and department heads will have to always ask, “What does the Mayor support?” 

What impressed me about the arguments against Measure B is the list of past mayors recommending a no vote. These dedicated past and current officials have 33 years of cumulative experience as council-selected Newport Beach Mayors. This includes current city councilmembers Diane Dixon, (Mayor 2016 & 2019) and Brad Avery (Mayor 2020). They believe the current system provides equal standing for all councilmembers and supports a neutral professional services approach from our City management staff so there is no political alliance to any one councilmember. 

The current structure provides residents with a councilmember representing their area who understands their issues. Each councilmember votes to provide the best policy direction for their district and does not have to seek permission from the Mayor or worry about retaliation if they disagree. Each district gets one vote. A majority vote of four City Councilmembers is required to approve our budget, appointments to committees and boards, and policy issues. 

Residents should not be fooled by statements that an elected Mayor would be more accountable to voters. During a four-year term the Mayor will be in control and removal will take a recall effort or waiting until the next election. I prefer accountability and equal power to all councilmembers at every council meeting. 

I trust the advice of eleven (11) former Newport Beach Mayors who recommended we vote No on B and retain our current council organization of 7 equal members. I believe this will result in better policy and budget decisions for all Newport Beach residents. We need our City Council to be community-based representatives for their district and not requiring the approval of an elected Mayor for every district issue. 

I urge Newport Beach voters to vote No on Measure B. 

Ron Rubino, President 

Eastbluff Homeowners’ Community Association

Newport Beach

Preserve the city charter, vote No on B

It’s vital that voters ‘unbundle’ Proposition B. It reads like a ‘democratic’ idea. I treasure that we can vote and that our votes matter. However, Proposition B isn’t about voting. It’s about consolidating and concentrating power. That’s it pure and simple. 

I’m a conservative who believes power should be limited and, if possible, spread between individuals, agencies, local and state bodies and at the federal level between three branches of government. 

Prop B does just the opposite. It puts power in the hands of one person, a mayor, who would be elected for four (or possibly eight) years. It strips power from the city council, a council of seven elected people who represent all seven areas of our city equally. This proposition concentrates power in the hands of one individual who is given the authority to set the city council’s agenda. 

We’re all familiar with the mudslinging that fills our mailboxes during elections. It takes money to run for office, unfortunately lots of money. Most often this money is provided by special interests. “We do for you so you do for us.”  There are strings. Always. Politicians become beholden to special interests. Follow the money. Campaign purse strings are politically binding. 

Prop B sounds good, “democratic,” but it’s fundamentally the opposite. We have a balanced democratic system in place that spreads power to all councilmembers and their districts. Do not unbalance what works. Preserve the city’s charter and VOTE NO on Proposition B.

Lorian Petry

Corona del Mar

Measure B: The devil is in the details

Jump, I’ll catch you!”

Blue Buoy swim instructor Pete is standing in the pool out a little from the edge. His promise is reassuring to our 4-year-old. Nick trusts Pete and jumps. Pete catches Nick. 

A proponent of Measure B says that anyone who says that Measure B vests total control in the proposed strong mayor is making a false claim, “not just false, but provably false.” 

I disagree and, moreover, Measure B is so deficiently drafted that it only reinforces the notion that Measure B vests total control in the proposed strong mayor. Despite the subpar drafting, the proponent is, in essence, saying “Jump, I’ll catch you!”; trust me that there’s nothing wrong with the Measure as drafted. But let’s look at the precise deficiently drafted language of Measure B to see who is making the false claim.

Here’s the actual language: “…the Mayor will have the sole discretion to set City Council agendas and to change the order of business on the agenda.”

But wait, there’s more.

The proponent says that the “total control” argument is “false” because of a toothless exception which was added (please read it with care): “With the concurrence of at least three members of the City Council at any public meeting, an item MAY be added to a FUTURE City Council agenda.” [Emphasis added.] 

Toothless, indeed, and here’s why:

–The new agenda item “MAY” be added; the deficiently drafted language does not say “WILL” be added. What good is it to the three councilmembers if their important item “MAY” (or presumably “MAY NOT”) be added. In my view, this language is deficiently written and does not reduce the clear total control of the strong mayor.

–The new agenda item may be added to a “FUTURE” agenda. When? This year? Next year? Ever? When the strong mayor decides to strategically add it – which may well be when the issue is no longer topical or of interest to our residents. 

Again, in my view, this language is deficiently written and does not reduce the clear total control of the strong mayor.

The foregoing specific samples are some of the many examples of the unsatisfactorily drafted Measure B. The proponent is saying “Jump! I’ll catch you!”; the proponent states, “No To Cynicism” and is asking for our trust and faith that all will be well. Does this remind you of Ms. Pelosi’s famous words: “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it….”

The only problem with the “all will be well” logic is, of course, that Measure B changes the constitution of our City – FOREVER! (or at least until our residents are exposed to another outrageously expensive campaign to undo the damage).

Measure B is poorly drafted; it is Bad for Newport; vote NO on Measure B.

Paul K. Watkins

Newport Beach

Duffy: Why I believe Measure B will be good

Former councilman Jeff Herdman’s recent letters opposing Measure B (voter-elected mayor) deserve a trip down memory lane.

As a former mayor, I support Measure B. 

For the past eight years I’ve witnessed the “selection” of the mayor in a private room at City Hall.

I also served with Jeff Herdman for four years until his defeat in 2020.

The November 2018 city council election was a spirited one. I was behind by a couple hundred votes on election day. 

That’s when Herdman pounced on the opportunity to be “selected” mayor. 

He shopped a “term sheet” with councilmembers hoping to cobble together four votes to become mayor. 

Herdman’s term-sheet included removing Will O’Neill from the Finance Committee, denying Will O’Neill from ever being mayor, making certain staff changes and guaranteeing the mayor pro tem position to the agreeable councilmember.

Over the next two weeks the Registrar of Voters counted the late ballots. I won in a 36-vote landslide dashing Herdman’s hope of being “selected” mayor.

Measure B stops these political shenanigans and lets voters decide our mayor. 

Voters have a way of purging bad behavior. Herdman was defeated in 2020 after a series of scandals.

Please vote Yes on B to elect the mayor.

Duffy Duffield, District 3

Newport Beach City Council

Measure B is a shipwreck…don’t let them steer our city into the rocks

Over 40% of Measure B is supported by donors outside our City and the State! Why? Who are they? What do they want? 

–Measure B gives the mayor primary responsibility for interpreting policies, programs and needs of the City to the people. This measure would allow the mayor to set agenda items and to change the order of business. This measure would let one person decide what should be on the agenda. There are competing interests in this city, and one person should not be in charge of what is discussed. We all want to be heard. Measure B gives an inordinate amount of unchecked power to just ONE person. 

 –The current charter allows the City Councilmembers to hold the mayor accountable. This relationship keeps checks and balances of power. Measure B would remove that protection altogether. The only way to remove a mayor would be through a costly recall process. 

–Measure B invites corruption – where there is money, there is a great potential for exploitation. To install a mayor for four years with the option to run again for another four years gives one person plenty of time to get their hands dirty by doing the bidding of special interests. What could this look like? The mayor could be in discussions with a developer and give them the contract. We could lose valuable bluff tops to a mayor that wants to show favor to a developer vs. what the people want. Newport is wealthy – not only for its money but for its natural resources, including Banning Ranch, Back Bay and the beaches. We want a mayor that will have to listen to all of us and not be influenced by outsiders with money.

–Corruption is already happening and is a sign of what is to come. The campaign in favor of measure B has received over 40% of its funding from donors outside our city, and some are even out of state. Why? Who are these people? And what are their true intentions?

The writing is on the wall or, better yet, on every dollar bill – a vote for measure B hands our beloved city to the fists of autocracy. 

 –Four City Councilmembers – O’Neill, Blom, Duffy and Muldoon overlooked Joy Brenner as Mayor. This dismissive arrogant action against a worthy, hard-working, fellow public servant is not what we need more of. They are the ones who support Measure B. We don’t need a crew of people like that at the helm to steer us into the rocks.

–Measure B is a takeover disguised as a democratic proposition. It is not for the people. It is the opposite. 

Don’t be duped by a measure that outsiders fund. 

I am not paid. I am not a politician. I have no other reason to speak out other than I care about you, and I care about our city and all of its natural beauty. Join me to protect it. This is true democracy. Vote NO on Measure B.

Jennifer Irani

Newport Beach

Is the Laguna Niguel fire a reminder for Newport Beach?

(The letter below was sent to the Mayor of Newport Beach and City Councilmembers.) 

You have seen the horrific damage done by the Coastal Fire. Immediate action is required to protect the health safety and welfare of the residents of Newport Beach.

What you will learn is that the damage in the Coastal Fire (Laguna Niguel) impacted an area that incorporated the latest “state of the art” fire protection planning, area incorporating fuel modification zones, fire access roads, fire retardant building materials, etc. There is no flaw to point to. While the cause is not known at this time, this fire could happen in Newport Beach. Immediate action is required to protect Newport Beach.

–We learned from the Santa Monica fire that Mutual Aide Agreements cannot be relied upon during major wildfire events. During the Santa Monica fire, needed emergency reserves were held back by local governments to protect their jurisdictions.

–We learned from the Santa Monica Fire that major transportation arterials (PCH and Freeway) were closed as a result of the fire, significantly impacting emergency evacuations and access of emergency equipment.

–Human life is valued over structures. Emergency responders and resources are prioritized to ensure all human life is evacuated and protected. Extinguishing the fire and protection of structures comes second.

–The size of the structures matter when protecting the spread of fires during periods of high winds.

–Electric power shutoffs/rolling blackouts are a reality. When this happens during a fire emergency more of our emergency resources will be deployed for traffic/intersection control to facilitate emergency evacuations.

–Southern California and the City of Newport Beach are in a period of drought projected to last years. Water supplies will be limited. Watering of yards will be limited. Vegetation will be drier, adding to the fire risk and vegetation’s percentage of volatile oils.

–Newport Beach, as is all of southern California, is subject to high wind conditions.

–Based on State housing mandates Southern California and Newport Beach are projected to experience a significant increase in population and residential structures. Structures are projected to be large high density infill residential structures.

–Based on State transportation mandates the percentage of the population dependent on mass transit will increase. 

Newport Beach is a major tourist destination. Total population is projected to increase significantly as development within Southern California increases significantly.

Please take immediate steps to address the existing potential fire threats to Newport Beach residents and the public. 

The City is in the process of updating its Housing Element and other impacted General Plan Elements to incorporate State housing mandates. Please ensure the General Plan Update and its Environmental Impact Report fully evaluate the fire risk facing Newport Beach, taking into consideration the State mandated Regional Housing Needs Assessment, as well as, existing state regulations allowing increased developments beyond anticipated in the existing General Plan and the Final Environmental Impact Report last prepared for the General Plan.

Dave Tanner

Newport Beach

Curbing the effects of inflation, even in Newport

At nearly $5.90 a gallon for regular and more than $6 a gallon for diesel, Newport residents who own a car or a boat know California’s gas prices are the highest in the country. 

Back on March 11, when I first suggested in Stu News Newport’s sister publication, Stu News Laguna, giving all 27 million licensed drivers in the state $250, people laughed at the idea. 

Less than two weeks later, Gov. Newsom announced his plan to give people $400. I’m guessing no one in Newport was laughing then. 

So, here’s my question: Will anyone in Newport, or California for that matter, ever see a check or gas card? If that’s not going to happen, then please tell us.

In an effort to help curb the effects of inflation, even in Newport, maybe the DMV should eliminate the annual vehicle registration fee for 2022-23. 

I wonder how many people will laugh at that idea.

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach