By Keith D. Curry, Mayor Pro Tem of Newport Beach
In November, Newport Beach voters will have the opportunity to update the city charter to save tax dollars, protect taxpayers and make government more efficient. Measure EE was developed by a Citizens Charter Update Committee, representing all areas of our city. The committee reviewed recommendations developed by our City Manager, Dave Kiff based on his three years of experience to help make our city work more effectively. Following thoughtful deliberation, the Citizens Committee recommended a package of reforms that became Measure EE.
These include eliminating poorly written provisions that could compel our police chief to leave the department headquarters and be located at the new city hall, costly and outdated newspaper publication requirements estimated to save $18,000 annually and streamlining our contract provisions.
Even the opponents concede that most of the changes are simply ministerial in nature and will result in a more efficient city government. That is what makes their opposition so curious.
Two provisions of the charter update deserve special attention. One would provide protection to the taxpayers of the city against class action lawsuits. You may be surprised to know how much time, and how much money, lawsuits brought against the city by enterprising lawyers cost our residents. Lawsuits targeting the city as a “deep pocket” are a real risk to our financial stability and our continued ability to provide high quality services. It appears that this provision is what is primarily motivating some of our opposition, three of whom are either currently suing the city now, or have sued the city in the past. One author of a letter to the editor in opposition to Measure EE led an effort to sue the city and its taxpayers for $250 million in 2008. This suit was dismissed by the courts.
The second provision takes our current conflict of interest provisions and augments them with the highly developed and extensive conflict provisions in state law. This creates clear, bright-line tests for what is and is not a real conflict. Current language is vague and ambiguous. For example, it bans anyone with a ‘indirect” interest in any contract with the city from holding office. That may sound good until you realize that it has the effect of banning the more than one hundred residents of Beacon Bay who live on leased tidelands property from serving on the city council. It may also void their land leases. It could bar the thousands of residents who work for our largest employer Hoag Hospital, and their spouses, from holding office. Anyone who owns or works for a business in the harbor on public tidelands could be barred as well. Do we really want to be a city where you can’t be on the city council if you work in the harbor? There has been much speculation about the lack of candidates in the current election. Maybe one of the reasons is that thousands of Newport Beach residents are barred from holding office by a poorly drafted provision in our city charter.
The Orange County Taxpayers Association supports Measure EE because they know it protects taxpayers, eliminates waste and reduces government costs.
Read Measure EE for yourself and join with me and the entire city council in voting Yes on Measure EE.