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Newport Beach


Letters to the Editor

Novice boaters ruining the harbor

Please, City of NB, get on the job! In a continuing drift that started a few years ago when the city replaced the Sheriff’s Department, conditions on the bay are worsening. Amidst the boaters ignoring “no wake” zones there are fallen SUPers, numerous and dangerous violations of navigation rules, abrasive arguments between seasoned sailors and the newly entitled, and all too often the distinctive waft of weed coinciding with idiocy at the helm. 

Making matters worse are the Harbor Patrol boats racing through the bay to imagined emergencies. Yes, I’ve watched through binoculars as the speeding sirens make their strategic turns around corners and suddenly, huh, nothing to see here folks, move along. 

Property damage to docks and boats and shoreline from wake turbulence is at an all-time high. Just try to get Swift Slip to do a repair, they’re three months out if they even answer your call. 

Multiple calls and photos to the City of NB, Harbor Patrol, and/or lifeguards are met with indifference. The Sheriff rightly says it’s not their jurisdiction anymore. I’ve lived my life on the bay, and this is not a typical seasonal trend, it’s a gathering storm. 

Please, City of NB, bring back the bay.

Matt Clabaugh

Newport Beach

The “other side” of the undergrounding story that’s “not being told”

An archaic 1913 Municipal Act, meant as a vehicle for beneficial community development in the pre-World War One era has silently morphed into a stealth, “under the radar” strategy to levy tens of millions of dollars in property taxes without the normal rigid safeguards and procedures for voter approval. 

The City of Newport Beach has mastered the use of this Municipal Act specifically to underground utilities over the past 20+ years. The strategy is to divvy up each project as a small Assessment District affecting several hundred property owners at a time without attracting too much unwanted attention. To date, per the data available on the City’s website, it has been accomplished over 60 times. Due to its impact on a small number of properties at any one time, it gets scant attention from the public at large and protests by the scattered opposition are ignored by the City or drowned out in the cacophony of absurdities spouted on Nextdoor.

One such project, Assessment District 124, is scheduled for a so-called vote on July 27. Unlike the others, this is an unusually large $32,815,700 project affecting 966 properties on Balboa Island. The average cost (a property tax euphemistically called an assessment) amounts to a staggering $34,000 per parcel, if paid as a lump sum. However, if paid over 20 years the total payment could be as high as $54,000 depending on the bond interest rate in 2023 or 2024, a fact that is cleverly hidden in the fine print. 

Now to the upcoming so-called vote on July 27: the ballots, mailed out around June 10, are 100 percent by mail; the ballot roster, of questionable accuracy, is managed by a contractor hired by the City who may have follow-up contracts awarded, if AD124 is approved. The City does not seem to recognize a conflict of interest here. Four weeks after the mailing, by happenstance or by design, a significant number of voters have not yet received their ballots and may not even be aware of the huge tax assessment about to befall them. This has been a recurring pattern on past such ballots – as little as 70 percent voter participation in many cases – leading to passage with way less than 50 percent of affected property owners approving. 

Furthermore, the City has no methodology for checking signatures on the mail-in ballots, relying solely on the penalty of perjury. The vote, by design and I am told by statute, is a matter of public record subjecting participants to intimidation and peer pressure.

The City has provided several informational attachments along with the ballots. Missing in the attachments are the customary pleadings, for and against the initiative from each of the two camps, so that the voters can make an informed choice. No opposing view has been provided with the ballots. 

There have been no hearings or informational meetings held by the City on this huge four-years-long project. We have been told by the City that this obvious lack of transparency and ballot integrity is sanctioned by the archaic Municipal Act of 1913. But the City continues to present itself as an independent, honest arbiter in an unpleasant feud of its own making, between dueling neighbors.

It is high time for the City to step in and protect the residents. But will it do so? Highly unlikely given the creative approach (having property owners seemingly opt into higher taxes voluntarily) provides them with a convenient and healthy subsidy to what are in essence city and utility infrastructure projects.

Jamshed Dastur

Balboa Island

 

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