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Letters to the Editor

Anaheim scandal shows why Newport should vote NO on Measure B

Anyone in doubt about how to vote in Newport Beach on Measure B should consider closely the recent revelations about corruption in Anaheim.

The allegations are set forth in a sworn statement, signed by a senior FBI agent and filed on May 16 in state court, quoting recorded conversations between the mayor of Anaheim, Harry Sidhu, and others, as well as emails and texts sent by the mayor from his personal accounts. More details appear in the criminal complaint against Todd Ament, of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, close colleague of the mayor.

The FBI affidavit shows that, while Sidhu was representing the city in the high-stakes contract negotiation with the Los Angeles Angels for the sale of Anaheim Stadium, he was also sharing confidential city information with the Angels, including at least one document prepared by the city’s lawyers, in violation if the Brown Act.

Why would Mayor Sidhu, who is supposed to represent Anaheim, help the other side, the Angels, in this way? Because Mayor Sidhu, who was elected in 2018 for a four-year term, is involved in an expensive re-election campaign, seeking another four-year term.

In one of the taped conversations, the mayor tells a friend that he hopes and expects to receive a million-dollar donation from a senior Angels official to his re-election campaign. As the FBI agent said in his affidavit, “I believe Sidhu illustrated his intent to solicit campaign contributions, in the amount of $1,000,000…in exchange for performing official acts intended to finalize the stadium sale for the Angels.” To evade contribution limits, the mayor planned to seek the contribution not for his own committee, but rather for a supposedly independent political action committee that would support his re-election efforts.

As I read page after page of shocking, disgusting detail, I was thankful for one key provision in the current charter of Newport Beach, which states that the mayor serves at the pleasure of the city council. If similar conduct was engaged in by the mayor of Newport Beach, rather than Anaheim, the Newport Beach city council could replace the mayor at the next council meeting – without waiting for criminal charges, or for a criminal conviction. In Anaheim, even though three members of the city council have called for the mayor’s resignation, there is no such option.

If Measure B passes, however, the Newport Beach charter will be changed, so that the mayor no longer serves at the pleasure of the council. The only way to remove a mayor, mired in a corruption scandal, at that point would be to wait for a criminal conviction or to mount a recall campaign which would take many months or years to achieve.

Moreover, if Measure B passes, we are going to have expensive, contentious campaigns for mayor here in Newport Beach. The costs of a successful campaign to become Newport Beach mayor could easily exceed a million dollars. Candidates would seek contributions from those interested in seeing local projects or contracts approved, like the sale of Anaheim Stadium. And Newport Beach is a place where hundred-million-dollar developments are quite possible, so there will be high stakes issues akin to the stadium issue in Anaheim.

Proponents of Measure B might say something like “Newport Beach is not Anaheim; we would never see such corruption here.” But this ignores the close parallels between the system in Anaheim, in which a powerful mayor is elected for a four-year term, and can be re-elected, and the changes to our system under Measure B. In fact, Measure B gives even more power to the mayor than exists in Anaheim, power to control the council’s agenda.

Why shouldn’t we expect, at some point, if we pass Measure B, and create a system in which there are expensive direct elections for mayor, that there will be some corruption, or some highly questionable donations, as candidates scramble to become mayor of Newport Beach?

Please vote no on Measure B: protect our current city charter and save us from the expensive elections and the corruptive tendencies of a powerful four-year mayor.

Walter Stahr

Newport Beach

Confused and “insulted” by campaign mailers

When we vote on a measure, it should be because we think it will fix or improve something in our great city. I wanted to try to understand what the real reason or purpose for Measure B is, so I’ve read the materials in print and online. But I remain puzzled over the ongoing sales pitch by proponents of Measure B.

In last week’s Stu News, rather than explain what he believes are the benefits of Measure B to our residents, Councilman Duffield spent his words attacking Jeff Herdman for issues that happened years ago that nobody remembers or cares about. 

In the print mailers supporting Measure B, there are many points made about the details of how the Measure reads but the only “benefit” to residents appears to be a broad reference to better “accountability” although it’s not clear how that will be achieved by having a voter elected Mayor vs a Council-elected Mayor. Aren’t the current Councilmembers (which includes the measures authors) insulted by being told that they apparently are not accountable now or in the past? How has our city managed to survive all these years with no accountability?

And I am certainly insulted by the mailer that says, “Warning – Opponents of Measure B are running a false and misleading campaign. Don’t be fooled by their lies. Opponents are power brokers who do not want you electing the mayor,” signed by Noah Von Blom.

I find these mailers to be misleading because the reduction of the number of districts is buried in the fine print. 

The measure allows 1) an individual two four-year terms as Councilmember and two four-year terms as Mayor for a total of 16 years. That’s too long for one person and dramatically changes the term limit concept in place today. 2) we would go from 7 equal districts to 6 districts plus a more powerful Mayor. The Mayor and one of the Councilmembers will live in the same district causing one district to have two representatives. I don’t see how these facts can be considered “lies” or “false and misleading.” If I’m wrong on these critical points then someone needs to educate me. 

Read for yourself at https://NoPowerGrab.com. Please vote No on Measure B. 

Mike Groff

Newport Beach 

That Certain Something

In his 2001 coffee table book entitled The Spirit of Newport, Steven Simon Jr. shares his poetry and paintings celebrating the beauty and charm of Newport Beach. Near the end of his book appears Mr. Simon’s closing poem, “That Certain Something”: 

Daylight the setting sun cannot elude

So this visit shall fittingly conclude

To a city blessed – one can see at first glance

With abundance, beauty, and riviera romance.

Ah, but amid these blessings there’s something more

Not easy to explain but simple to adore.

A place like none other I’ve found

Indeed, a certain spirit does here abound.”

Mr. Simon has it right. There is a certain spirit here. Long time and short time residents feel it –“at first glance” as Mr. Simon says. A magnetism made up of small friendly villages, of friendly residents, of friendly businesses, of friendly surroundings including beach and bay.

But some would have you believe that the “certain spirit” needs changing.

The proponents of Measure B say that we are ready for the Big Time. We need a strong mayor who can vault us into the Big Leagues. We need to copy big cities with a very powerful person who can lead us because nearly seventy years of unrivaled success and the universal envy by other cities apparently isn’t proof positive of that “certain spirit” of which Mr. Simon speaks.

Leave it alone. Our system for the annual election of the mayor has worked well for nearly seventy years. Left alone, it will work well for the next seventy years.

Don’t be fooled by the change agents. Vote NO on the Bad for Newport Measure B. 

Paul K. Watkins

Newport Beach

Measure B is not written to better Newport Beach

I have written previously about Measure B because of my great concern for how it will change city government, which in my opinion, is not for the better. It is unfortunate that the plan was not more thoughtfully conceived.

My reaction to the idea of “electing a mayor” was immediate. I knew that it seemed to come out of nowhere and was not conceived with the betterment of Newport Beach government in mind. Its intent seems to promote the political future of its creators as well as the financial future of its benefactors.

For those who think that Newport Beach will benefit from this plan that will replace the current system, I ask you to consider the following question: Would the “elect the mayor” system proposed by Measure B even exist if no one currently on council was able to run for the newly created office?

So unimportant are all the details of the plan other than electing a mayor that the system proposed has changed from its original configuration. On an election brochure this last week, an arrow was drawn from the constituents directly to the mayor representing the flow of power. There was no evidence of a city council existing between the two. It seems that Measure B has already changed, implying that there would be no council, or that the power of the council would meld into that of the constituents as in the diagram.

Was that a printing error or does it illustrate how little anything else matters, as long as there is an elected mayor? In light of this implication, do we really want to give all power in Newport Beach government to one person?

I have lived in Newport Beach a long time and I resent non-residents coming into the city to finance a major change in our government in an effort to make money or build a political career at our expense. Please consider this: The creators of Measure B definitely do not have OUR best interests in mind. 

Lynn Lorenz

Newport Beach

Newport Beach: Are you paying attention to Anaheim?

I have been wondering how many people in Newport have been paying attention to what is happening in Anaheim right now. The FBI is investigating Anaheim’s elected mayor for corruption in the sale of Anaheim Stadium and the activities of what is called “the cabal” running Anaheim. So far, the news has not reported exactly who is part of this “cabal” but there is some talk, of course, of the mayor and the head of the chamber of commerce, who is also being investigated. The court has put the sale of the stadium on hold for 60 days and the minority councilmembers who have been trying to ask questions feel vindicated. The full council has now asked for his resignation. 

When too much power is vested in a few, these things happen. I don’t think Newport needs an elected mayor right now given the way Measure B was written by one man and the devil in the details of it being unearthed. 

Linda Watkins

Newport Beach

Do the math: Measure B doesn’t add up

The proposed Measure B has little if anything to do with electing a mayor and more to do with eliminating one council district; eliminating representation for the citizens of Newport Beach and consolidating power in one individual. In the very first sentence of the proposed Measure there is the elimination of one of our current seven council districts. It reads: “The elective officers of the City shall consist of a City Council of six seven members…” 

In 1954 when the City’s charter was adopted the population of the City was 12,120 and there were seven (7) council districts as there are currently. In the latest census the city has a population of 85,780, seven times greater than it was in 1954. Yet what many people don’t realize is that Measure B seeks to reduce the number of council districts from the current number of seven to six. It makes little sense and doesn’t add up. Will it be your council district that is eliminated or your neighbors?

In addition, the Measure further grants a mayor “sole discretion” to set the City Council agendas, in contravention of current City Council Policy embodied in City Council Policy A-1 C as well as the existing City Charter. 

And to be clear, “sole discretion” does not mean that such power would be wielded in a reasonable manner but rather it means power can be exercised in an arbitrary and capricious manner thereby giving a mayor expansive power.

Finally, to suggest somehow that the city needs to become a modern city like others in the state is a false narrative. One needs to look no further than Anaheim which finds itself and its directly elected mayor the subject of an FBI investigation. Consolidating power in one individual and eliminating a council district is not the power grab that the residents of Newport Beach need or want.

Vote No on Measure B.

Thomas C. Edwards, former Mayor

Newport Beach