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Newport Beach


Letters to the Editor

“Imagine disparaging the form of government that has helped make our city one of the most desirable places to live”

The way Will O’Neill is trying to spin his elected mayor project in letters to Newport Beach HOAs is truly astounding.

Imagine disparaging the form of government that has helped make our city one of the most desirable places to live just because we don’t directly elect our mayor. 

The truth is our current system works better than his proposal ever could. We elect all our council representatives, and they pick someone to serve in the ceremonial role of mayor for one year, then the position rotates. This way all Newport’s villages have equal representation and get equal attention. There’s no opportunity for a politician to spend eight years trying to make headlines as a prelude to running for higher office. 

Just because our form of government isn’t good for Will O’Neill doesn’t mean it isn’t good for Newport Beach.   

Next, while Mr. O’Neill swears up and down that his initiative isn’t a power grab, remember that it would transfer nearly total control of our city government to the elected mayor, and that he plans to run for that office when he’s termed out in 2024. (Conveniently, he has written Measure B to include an exemption from the term limits voters overwhelmingly approved in 1992 to allow someone like himself to run for mayor after being on the council for eight years.) 

Taking power away from all other elected city officials and the city manager, and giving it to one person, is the definition of a power grab.

Here are some questions Mr. O’Neill should answer if he wants voters to be fully informed:

Would he be working so hard to create this new office if he wasn’t eligible to run for it?

Why does he go to such lengths to avoid talking about one of the biggest changes that would result from his initiative: the reduction in the number of council districts from seven to six, leaving each council member with thousands more constituents to represent while the district where the mayor lives would have double representation?

We know the four councilmen supporting this measure committed $215,000 from our budget to put Measure B on the June ballot, but how much would the elected mayor office cost our city annually? And how much will it cost to redistrict the city, just a year after regular ten-year redistricting is completed? Would it be money well spent for residents or just for Will O’Neill?

–Why is Measure B attracting so much money from special interests and out-of-town donors?

–And finally, if Measure B is such a great idea, why didn’t its proponents, Will O’Neill, Noah Blom, Kevin Muldoon and Duffy Duffield, organize forums and panels to explain the details to the public, and why are they turning down almost every invitation to debate those who oppose it? 

Could it be they are hoping people will vote for Measure B because it sounds like a good idea, without reading the fine print? 

Based on what’s happened in the past with Measure Y and other calamities, it’s absolutely possible that they underestimate Newport Beach voters’ commitment to getting the facts and doing what’s best for our city even when politicians try to trick us into doing the opposite.

Gerald A. Giannini

Newport Beach

There are lessons to be learned from history

My wife and I recently returned from a trip to Washington, D.C. We spent a day at Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home.

We learned that no lesser person than the Father of Our Country set an unofficial precedent in 1796 when Washington declined to run for a third 4-year Presidential term.

And on February 27, 1951, Minnesota became the thirty-sixth state to approve the Twenty Second Amendment (thereby ensuring ratification) which sets term limits on Presidential service to two terms. 

Washington’s voluntary decision was an exercise in wise self-restraint and a safeguard against tyrannical  power.

Despite some pluses, the Charter Amendment (which would permit a SIXTEEN YEAR span in office) seems to encourage the retention/extension of power/control beyond reason. And it is inconsistent with the spirit and intent of Newport Beach voters who adopted Charter Section 401 in November 1992. Our voters decided at that time that “no person shall be or remain eligible to hold office as a member of the City Council for more than two (2) consecutive four (4) year terms.”

Perhaps we should learn from the moderation and restraint of our forefathers.

Please vote “NO” on Measure B.

Paul K. Watkins

Newport Beach

The change of our City Charter to elect the mayor is bad for Newport Beach

Yesterday I learned that Councilman Will O’Neill, author and proponent of Measure B, the flawed and dangerous directly elected mayor proposal, has mailed a letter to individual Newport Beach residents and voters encouraging their support of Measure B. 

Today I received a copy of that letter and absolutely had to respond. 

He opens his letter with the following questions, “Should you choose who your Mayor is? Or should someone else choose for you?”

Here’s what is ironic about these questions…you already do choose your mayor every time you vote for city council candidates. When you vote, you really should remember that under our 70-year-old system of governance in this city, the mayor comes from those seven people you elect to represent you. So, in essence, you have been directly electing your mayor ever since our city fathers wrote and you approved our City Charter. 

He refers to “that power” to select a mayor being in the hands of the city council. This is simply not so. By electing who represents you on City Council, you are also saying that you would be OK with any of those candidates serving as mayor.

Next, he refers to the political action committee (PAC) that has been formed to oppose this measure, called No Elected Mayor. Initially, that was the name of the PAC, however a more recent name change to No Power Grab - No on B, more appropriately describes the intent of this PAC. 

On the surface, if you were asked if you would like to directly elect your mayor, of course the answer is going to be affirmative. However, in this particular case, it is absolutely critical to look further into this proposed change in our City Charter and system of governance. 

Mr. O’Neill claims that his proposal for a directly elected mayor is straightforward. If you go deeper into it, this measure grants almost complete authority and power to the mayor for determining the future direction of this city. So, what is wrong with that, you ask? Consider the fact that this proposed measure completely opens the door to anyone with enough money to fund a campaign for the office of mayor. Anyone! No short or long-term residency in the city; no experience in governing; no experience with serving on city committees, boards or commissions; no knowledge of the history or culture of our city. Our city will be completely politicized. 

Read a little deeper and you will discover why the above identified PAC chose the title of “No Power Grab.” This measure would give the mayor ultimate authority in determining the agenda of the city council. There are all kinds of ramifications resulting from this level of authority. 

Ben Franklin stated that he is “a mortal enemy to arbitrary government and unlimited power.” Way back in the 1700s Ben knew the dangers of giving one person too much power and the ability to arbitrarily make decisions.” 

I’ll ask you a few questions now: 

–Are you willing to take the risk involved in this proposed measure and give such authority to one individual? 

–What is wrong with the current system of selecting the mayor from council members who you have already been elected? A mayor with limited authority and power. 

–What problem exists that needs fixing? 

–If approved, wouldn’t we, in fact, be creating the potential for the creation of a whole new batch of problems? 

Just look at the City of Westminster who will be asking voters to actually approve going back to the system that has worked so well here in Newport Beach for 70 years. The directly elected mayor proposal that voters approved in that city has resulted in nothing but corruption. 

On June 7th you will be asked to cast your vote for or against probably the most significant public policy proposal in the history of our city. A No vote will leave things the way they are; a Yes vote is predicted to change the entire face of our city. 

Do you really want to take that risk?

Jeff Herdman, Newport Beach City Council 2016-2020

Balboa Island

Measure B, electing our mayor, is bad for Newport Beach

B is BAD for Newport Beach 

In case people are not paying attention there is a ballot measure on the June ballot that could have major negative implications to the City of Newport Beach. But much of the mischief it creates is hidden in the fine print. The ballot measure is entitled Measure B, which attempts to rest power from the citizens of Newport Beach, the council members and create unfettered power in the hands of one person. 

For decades, Newport has successfully operated under the city council form of government. The City has seven (7) council districts with each council member having equal authority in representing their constituencies and the City of Newport Beach. 

That form of government has created the incredible City of Newport Beach where we all live. But the first thing that Measure B proposes is to eliminate one council district and establish instead just six council districts and thereby weakening the voice of the residents of Newport Beach. 

Eliminates a Council District 

But of graver consequence proposed, Measure B would give the mayor “exclusive authority” to decide what issues are even placed on the City Council agenda. In addition, under Measure B, one of the remaining six (6) council districts would have both a mayor and a council member in one district again creating unequal representation for other council districts and their constituents. 

The full power of the mayor is frightening. 

The Measure also weakens term limits. Currently a council member can only serve two consecutive terms of four (4) years; however, Measure B allows that a council member after serving two terms, could then serve two four-year terms for a total of sixteen years. 

The city does not need career politicians. 

What each one has to ask themselves is why would someone want to amend the charter of the city to allow for the elimination of a council district or why anyone would run for city council if Measure B were successful? The proposed measure grants the mayor exclusive authority to determine what is placed on the City Council Agenda; gives one district two representatives (a councilmember and a mayor) at the expense of the other remaining council districts and their constituents and all while weakening the authority of the council and weakening term limits. 

No Requirement that the Mayor Served on City Council Subject to Forces Outside the City 

Is the answer to this that the Measure is not supported by the residents of Newport Beach but rather forces from outside the city? As recent campaign filings in support of the Measure showed in Mr. Homer Bludau’s recent letter and analysis, 43% of donations in support of Measure B came from people residing outside our city and in some cases from outside the State. 

Forces outside the City controlling Newport may be a very real fear, as Measure B, does not require that a person running for Mayor have previously served as a council member. 

Don’t be misled by the title of Measure B. It has nothing to do with electing a mayor and everything about grabbing and concentrating power, eliminating accountability, and eliminating one of the current seven (7) council districts. Don’t allow our city to be a victim of a power grab by one person or group of people with little interest in our great city. Join me in voting NO on B. B as in bad for the City of Newport Beach.                                                                                      

Thomas C. Edwards, former Mayor Newport Beach 

Newport Beach

Study Session frustrating, leaving me with more questions than answer

The more things change, the more they stay the same...

When is a Study Session not really a study session? Last evening, I attended the City Council Study Session on the data collected in the Newport Heights area before and after Tustin Avenue received permission to close one end of its street on a trial basis. Perhaps a better title for the evening would have been, “Traffic Issues in the Heights” because the effect that this closure, if it becomes permanent, will have on the rest of traffic flow in the Heights will be substantial. This one change will engender many others. It was discouraging that more people from other streets did not attend. Have they learned from experience that the Council is going to do what the Council is going to do regardless of their input?

It turns out, with good visuals provided by the City’s Traffic Specialist, that after Tustin received the go ahead for a trial traffic closure of their street, the number of cars decreased from 834 to 276, but for the only other thoroughfare through the Heights the numbers increased from 1,862 to 2,053 to the tune of approximately 200 additional cars per day. 

I guess they figure that if you can handle that many cars, 200 more wouldn’t make much of a difference. Upper Tustin’s numbers go down, every other alternate routes’ numbers go up.

The reasons for providing this temporary closure were not clear. A few possibilities provided in passing were that this segment of Tustin was “very unique,” that it was used by “impaired drivers leaving the Mariners’ Mile bars at 10 p.m., not wanting to get pulled over on Riverside,” while one council member kept coming back to the excuse that the reason it might have been closed off was because it was” very narrow.”

It wasn’t until Councilman Avery spoke that Riverside, the alternate thoroughfare, was even mentioned. Equity, impartiality – those concepts were raised. I had many questions about information that was presented. I am sure that others did too.

Which takes me to another concern that I had about this meeting and about Council meetings in general. It is supposed to be a study session, but questions are not allowed after the statement period. When the City Traffic Specialist gave statistics, talking about results of the Tustin study, only council members could ask questions. At this point, as new information was being presented, questions from the audience simply were not allowed. 

It has been brought to my attention that there is nothing in state law that prevents a free-flow discussion with the public on items announced on the agenda. It is frustrating to not allow the audience to ask questions, particularly when the information being discussed is technical in nature. (Rumor has it that the City Council of one neighboring city does allow back-and-forth communication.)

You can try to write council members to get information. Some of them do actually get back to you. But despite the many emails I have sent to the council over the years, there are two on the current council who have never answered or responded to me, not once.

I hope that when we do elect new council members, we select those who have a proven record of interest and commitment to the community, not just to their own careers. If you have followed the Council the last several years, you will understand what I am saying. If you haven’t, hopefully you will start paying closer attention to the current council and the new candidates.

Lynn Lorenz

Newport Beach

 

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