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Letters to the Editor

In honor of my friend “Al” who also had questions about “Elect our Mayor”

My friend of over forty (40) years passed away shortly after Christmas. I will call my friend “Al”. Al was elderly. Ill health for several years. Smart guy – one of the smartest I’ve known. Longtime Newport resident. We talked about all things Newport. Mostly by phone as Al’s health declined.

Several of our discussions involved the upcoming June 7 primary in which the direct election of the Newport Beach Mayor will be on the ballot.

At first, Al and I agreed that “Elect Our Mayor” had a nice ring – yes, democracy in action.

But as our discussions continued this fall and as we studied the issues, chinks in the armor of the catchphrase “Elect Our Mayor” began to appear. 

Al asked:

–A desire to obtain/retain power? Power tends to corrupt and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely?

–Why was the signature gathering effort terminated, i.e., a conventional democratic means of gauging electorate interest and publicly looking at the pluses and minuses?

–What problem are we trying to solve, i.e., if it ain’t broke, …? 

–It’s great for the Mayor’s “District,” but maybe not-so-great for the other Districts.

Isn’t it possible that after serving eight (8) years as a councilmember, the successful mayor candidate may be able to add on another eight (8) years as mayor for a total of sixteen (16) years on the council?

–Have we in the past provided one person with the right in that person’s “sole discretion” to (i) set City Council agendas and (ii) change the order of business on the agendas?

–Will the other Council folks be able to continue to add value or will the consolidation of authority result in less effective leadership for our other Districts?

–Is a “strong mayor” model best for our City where it is possible that he/she may lack appropriate training, education, and experience in municipal administration and finance? Is it possible that this model may tend to result in ill-advised decisions on hiring/firing of key positions? Will we be able to attract/retain accomplished municipal executives under this model?

–Is it an improvement to have one person’s judgment in place of the collective wisdom of seven?

Perhaps with additional study/research and changes to the text of this measure, some of the ideas expressed may be worthwhile.

But as we turn the page to the chapter entitled “2022,” my late friend, Al, has raised a number of legitimate questions about the “Elect Our Mayor” campaign. I am inclined to agree with Al that the City Charter on this issue has served us well for nearly seventy (70) years. The changes as presently proposed are not needed. I urge a “NO” vote on June 7.

Paul K. Watkins

Newport Beach

It seems as though Council doesn’t hear or care what residents think

Amy Senk’s observation about the manner in which the City Council seems to ignore residents’ concerns strikes a familiar note with me. In Council meetings it often appears as if there is a magic screen between the Council and the audience preventing the Council from hearing what is being said by the speakers in the crowd. 

An interactive atmosphere at meetings where there is an exchange of ideas between the audience and the Councilmembers would be much more conducive to a setting in which residents feel like their opinions are valued or at least acknowledged.

In the same vein, an acknowledgement of correspondence from residents would be appreciated. I have frequently sent emails to Councilmembers and at least half of the members have never acknowledged one of my emails. Perhaps it would be helpful if the Council were reminded of their job description as some seem to have lost sight of just what that is. By the same token, I appreciate those who do answer mail even if I don’t always like their answers. 

The issue of whether members serve the city at large first or the residents from their district, seems to be confusing to some. Representation, in reality, should be a balance between what the councilmember’s district wants, what the residents of the city at large want and what the councilmember thinks is best for the city. At no time should the desires of outside entities take precedence over the desires of the city’s stakeholders. 

When the Council makes a decision, such as the appointment of Noah Blom as Mayor Pro Tem, which ignores the wishes of both the residents of the district
as well as the city at large, it is a breach of trust with the community. And as one recent writer to Stu News acknowledged, the honorable thing to do would have been for Mr. Blom to refuse to take the appointment.

Lynn Lorenz

Newport Beach

 

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