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Letters to the Editor

Concerned that problems lurk with the process of electing our mayor

Some people in Newport Beach have been lulled into thinking that “electing” a mayor makes our city government more democratic. They are balancing “electing” with “appointing” and are attracted by the idea of directly selecting the mayor. If you are familiar with history, however, you know that there have been authoritarian leaders who were initially “elected” to office.

The biggest constraint to achieving a more democratic system with the new mayor proposal is that one person and one person only wrote the whole proposal, with no oversight. One person…think carefully about that. And that one person who wrote it for a city of 85,000 is the one most likely to run and possibly be elected unless we as a city wake up and realize what we are getting into. We are considering the adoption of a proposal that benefits substantially a newly elected mayor who has additional powers that were once delegated to other people.

In our current system, the mayor is selected from among the councilmembers and serves a one-year term. Indirectly, the best candidate usually ends up in the mayor role, selected by his or her peers to lead the city. 

But the mayor proposal is a recipe for disaster, if an unethical mayor is elected because he/she now has the power and duties that once belonged to councilmembers and the city manager and could have been elected by “outside” or “big money.” We have already witnessed the problems that come with “big money’s” influence on our city government. The problems would multiply if that outside influence came to bear on just one person, the one with the most power and influence.

In addition to rewriting the role of mayor, the new initiative eliminates one councilmember, meaning that councilmembers will have larger constituencies. Larger constituencies translate to less individual attention. To be more democratic, you would have to increase the number of councilmembers instead of decreasing that number.

So please be very careful of what you wish for.

Lynn Lorenz

Newport Beach