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Letters to the Editor

Trust the voters to Elect Our Mayor

I respect the difficult decision it must take to run for City Council. Fundraising, knocking on doors, going to debate after debate and taking a beating sometimes on social media. So even when I disagree with the candidate, I respect the effort.

None of that effort exists, though, to become Mayor of Newport Beach. Once a person becomes a City Councilmember, they become one of only seven people eligible to become Mayor. 

Voters are trusted to choose City Councilmembers. We should be trusted to Elect Our Mayor. 

The initiative to do that is exactly right. Voters get to choose. Candidates would have to convince us, not just a few of their colleagues. 

Accountability, transparency and trust will all be improved if we can Elect Our Mayor.

Brandi Bagley

Corona del Mar 

Don’t like the idea of the Elect The Mayor proposal being possibly agendized by council

It was rumored that a sizable number of proponents were going to attend Tuesday’s, Oct. 12th City Council meeting to support Councilmember Will O’Neill’s Elect a Mayor plan. However, the supporters never materialized, leaving instead an audience primarily of opponents. It was not unusually large, but sufficient in size to chasten the council members for considering putting the mayoral plan on the discussion calendar for a future date. (O’Neill [reportedly] had abandoned the route of gathering signatures when he realized that doing so was a lengthy and expensive process.)

Not one person in the audience spoke in favor of electing a mayor. Instead, in measured and intelligent speeches, seven community leaders spoke against the proposal citing the fact that electing a mayor should be one vetted by the whole community not just the council before going on the ballot. This, said one speaker, would allow for more careful consideration of the proposal. 

The failure of the proposal to meet the term limits of the city charter, thus allowing the mayor to serve 16 uninterrupted years in leadership instead of eight years, sets an unbelievably long period of control by one person. This long period of leadership coupled with the expanded power that the new proposal would give the mayor in relationship to the council could easily lead to authoritarian rule. 

When it came time to vote, it appeared that Mr. O’Neill had already persuaded the council to support bringing the proposal up for discussion at a future date. My observations of the council members’ faces and gestures indicated to me that they were not overly enthusiastic about their votes or their role. In fact, not one council person commented or spoke to issues brought forth by the audience. 

Giving the council the benefit of the doubt, perhaps they thought that putting the plan on a future agenda would allow them to discuss the proposal at length. Unfortunately, this has not been a successful route in the past for opponents of an issue because public discussion will occur in only one meeting consisting of comments to the council. It excludes the public from any meaningful discussion regarding whether this major attempt to restructure our city government should even make it as far as the ballot.

Lynn Lorenz

Newport Beach

No shortcuts should be used in getting the ballot initiative Elect Our Mayor on the ballot

I am opposed to Councilman Will O’Neill’s initiative to Elect Our Mayor in Newport Beach but that’s only my opinion and some people feel differently. Perhaps our citizens should make sure they fully understand all the underlying facts involved in electing the mayor, but most importantly how Will O’Neill is trying to circumvent the system to get this item airlifted onto a future ballot in the next few weeks. 

Has anyone on the council asked for a thorough financial analysis of what impact this move will have on our city? Adding another layer of government, staffing this layer, adding in retirement costs and benefits all need to be analyzed with costs being projected out over several years. 

Also, this initiative would create a second class of councilmember with less ability to represent his/her constituents because of redistricting which creates a larger number of people to represent and diminishes the importance of neighborhoods, villages and businesses within each district.   

Newport Beach voters approved a term limit of eight years for councilpersons, including the mayor, for a very good reason. Councilman O’Neill’s initiative would allow a councilperson who has served his eight years to then run for mayor, where he could potentially also serve two terms, i.e., another eight years! The councilmembers have term limits, but the proposed elected mayor will serve without term limits.

Mr. O’Neill had 180 days from the date his amendment was certified to obtain 9,000 signatures to put this on the ballot for our citizens to vote on. Apparently, he’s finding that’s not such an easy task. 

I can confirm that it’s not, from my experience getting signatures for the Museum House initiative. It’s a very difficult labor-intensive task but a large group of residents prevailed, and all worked hard together to get it done. It was a community effort.

Mr. O’Neill has now decided to circumvent the system by trying to “persuade” a majority of our City Council to vote yes to put his initiative on the ballot, instead of him getting the necessary 9,000 signatures required. Is that legal? Yes. But does it reflect the will of the people? I don’t think so.   

Whether or not this proposed agenda item appears on the ballot will depend on four votes being received from our City Council. It is also rumored that Will O’Neil has ensured this “on the fence” councilmember that if he votes in favor of this proposed initiative being on a future agenda, he can be assured that his goals for the harbor will be met. 

Mr. O’Neill has a way of getting what he wants with little or no resistance from councilmembers, but please I am pleading with you our elected city councilmembers, to put this item on the ballot only after a thorough and complete public vetting of the reasons for and against this important change to our form of government. Do not let this item be thrown into your laps, our elected City Council in exchange for future favors. 

Why don’t we bring all of this to the community in the form of a series of Study Sessions, or just an old fashion Town Hall. Why not really listen to the community on this issue, rather than basing your decision on one person’s idea of what our form of government should be – without any debate on the issues that are of critical importance to how our city is governed. This decision should not be based on promises and favors. 

In my mind, this should not happen this way. Will O’Neill is trying to arrange things to facilitate long-term control of our city without the messy process of debates and give and take and consent of the people. Yes, democracy is messy but it’s better than the alternative (per Winston Churchill).

Please let’s do this for the people and by the people!

Lynn Swain

Big Canyon