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Newport Beach


Letters to the Editor

Council can lead by giving voters the choice

On Tuesday night, the City Council has a pretty simple question to answer. Do they trust voters to make a decision about electing the mayor? 

Only the voters can change the charter. Only voters can choose whether they want to elect their mayor. And so, it’s time for the same people who rely on voters to occupy their positions on the city council to trust the voters again with this important decision.

Without question, we want to Elect Our Mayor. Many people agree with that basic statement and agree that the system proposed makes a whole lot of sense. Some people have disagreed with that basic statement. But we won’t know how many are on either side without an election. 

No one on the City Council could possibly speak for the “community” by voting against giving the community the choice.

In an era when governments across the board are taking away choices, Newport Beach’s City Council can be the light shining through as one that gives its residents the ability to take the power of electing the mayor back. 

We encourage the City Council to support voter choice by placing the Elect Our Mayor initiative on the ballot.

Michelle and John Somers

Newport Beach

The people’s power grab

Only the City Council currently has the power to select the mayor. We, the voters, don’t choose the mayor. We choose the city councilmembers who might become mayor. But we don’t choose the mayor directly.

Next week, the City Council can vote to do something pretty courageous. It can offer the people of Newport Beach the chance to take back power. To take back the ability to choose our mayor.

It would place the power in the hands of the entire city, not just a few. Maybe the community will want that power. Maybe not. We won’t know unless the issue is placed on the ballot.

Some opponents of this measure don’t even want to find out whether the people want this power to choose and are asking the City Council to insert themselves yet again between the voting public and choosing the mayor. Some opponents have even claimed that this is a power grab by a handful of people, which just doesn’t make any sense at all.

Any person who wants to become mayor in the new system would have to go through the gauntlet of public elections. Debates, fundraising and asking for votes. We get the say in that situation. We, the voting public, have the power in that situation. 

Let’s take that power back. Let’s Elect Our Mayor

Jeanine Bashore

Newport Beach

Tabling mayor decision for comprehensive study would allow for informed discussion

Over the years, I have had the privilege of participating in a number of the most significant political lawsuits emerging from our county. They range from restructuring how votes are recounted (Supervisor, now Assemblywoman Janet Nguyen) to First Amendment issues (Senator Pat Bates) to question of home rule in the appointment of individuals to vacant government positions (Supervisor/Senator Bill Campbell and Assemblyman/Supervisor/District Attorney Todd Spitzer). Then there are the numerous recounts and other political challenges that I have been involved in.

I bring these matters up not to toot my own horn but to establish that political and election law are one of the few areas where I actually do know what I am talking about. Furthermore, it is not my purpose here to advocate either for or against the proposal. My intent is to simply point out some significant flaws in how this matter is being processed and what might be done to make it a more coherent matter for voters to understand and determine.

Section 400 of the current and proposed charters defines the city council as the mayor and the members. The section goes on to state that any changes proposed or made that are “contrary to the intent and context of other such provisions” are invalid. The direct election of a mayor would allow for one person to serve on the city council, in one capacity or another, for a total of 16 years. This is directly in contradiction to the intent and context of the term limit provision passed by the voters.

Furthermore, the initiative envisions a process whereby the elected mayor will ascend from the ranks of the City Council. However, it does nothing to prevent an individual from being elected mayor for two terms and then running for city council, thus, again, circumventing the intention of the voters.

By any standard, the language is vague and ambitious, and perhaps contradictory, and thus subject to challenge.

At Section 404(b) of the proposed initiative, all power regarding agenda items and, essentially, all issues to be determined by the city government, are in the hands of the elected mayor. Thus, individual members of the City Council, and by extension their district constituents, are prevented from bringing issues to the council that might only impact a specific district, again barring voters access to the legislative process. This subjects both city policy and even the ability to raise city issues to the subjective, arbitrary and capricious whims of the elected mayor.

With regard to the nominating process, Section 1004 requires that a specific number of signatures be gathered on a nominating petition. Unlike City Council candidates who are required to secure signatures from the district that they want to represent, there is nothing in the mayoral requirements that discusses where the signatures must come from. As such, an individual can secure the entirety of the signatures necessary to qualify for the ballot from a single district, or specific portion of that district. This provision again denies the average voter his due process rights since he has no say in who is nominated.

Reducing the number of districts from seven to six further disenfranchises voters and dilutes their votes, in direct violation of the California Voting Rights Act. As an aside, I have litigated several voting rights actions and, frankly, the bar for making the argument regarding disenfranchisement, and thus forcing all districts to be redrawn, is quite low.

Additionally, there is no analysis of how these substantive changes in our city charter will fiscally impact the city and its operations. This omission is in direct contradiction to the mandates of California Elections Code Section 9005. Additionally, the proposed initiative does not provide an impartial analysis by either the City Attorney or the City Manager as prescribed in California Elections Code Section 9008. It is impossible for the City Council, much less the general public, to make an informed decision as to whether or not the question should even be on the ballot until they are fully informed as to the potential consequences that will be realized.

The City Council is seeking to make substantive changes to how our city operates and how we choose the people who will represent us. This should not be a rash rush to an end that may not be justified or necessary.

It is respectfully requested that the City Council table this proposal for 90 days so that significant public input can be secured, a comprehensive study of the impact and ramifications of the issues presented can be conducted and, then, with an understanding of where we are potentially going, the City Council and the public can have an informed discussion about whether or not it makes sense to directly elect our mayor.

Phillip B Greer

Newport Beach

Undermining term limits is one of the many objectional things that this Elect Our Mayor proposal does

Barbara Eusey’s letter in Tuesday’s Stu News practically defines ‘people unclear on the concept’ when she claims that the elected mayor proposal “doesn’t change city council term limits.” 

In fact, undermining term limits is one of the many objectional things that this proposal does. In 1992, 83% of Newport voters passed an initiative enacting a two-term limit for our City Council. The elected mayor proposal would allow a politician to serve eight years as a city councilmember and then another eight years as an elected mayor, for a total of 16 consecutive years.   

How is that not changing our term limit requirement? The odd thing about this initiative is that a city councilmember can run for mayor, but a mayor cannot subsequently run for City Council. The logic of this is completely obtuse, but since the whole proposal is poorly thought out, I guess I’m not surprised. 

I certainly do agree with Ms. Eusey that everyone should read this initiative thoroughly because anyone who wants good governance will immediately recognize that this proposal is fatally flawed and should not be supported.

Lynn Swain

Big Canyon

 

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