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Newport may restrict ‘informational campaigns’ for or against tax measures

Newport may restrict ‘informational campaigns’ for or against tax measures
The Newport Beach City Council meets Tuesday at City Hall, with a study session at 5 p.m. and regular session at 7 p.m. (File photo)

The Newport Beach City Council will consider banning the use of public funds for "informational campaigns" for or against local tax measures.

The local policy would expand on state and federal laws that prohibit public agencies from spending public funds to support or oppose ballot measures, but leave some room for allowing the use of public funds to provide information to the public.

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"However, Mayor (Marshall) Duffield and Mayor Pro Tem (Will) O'Neill believe that public agencies in the past have blurred the lines between advocacy and information, especially when the underlying ballot measure relates to a tax," according to a staff report written for the item on Tuesday's council agenda.

The prohibition would apply to tax measures on the city or county ballot.

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The policy would still allow city officials to respond to questions about the fiscal impacts of any tax measure, but not engage in "public education," "public opinion polling" or "studies."

Port plan lobbyist and construction plans

In other business, the council will consider hiring a lobbyist to help give Newport Harbor its own port master plan.

City staff proposes retaining the firms Schmitz and Associates and Henschel Government Affairs on a six-month contract in the amount of no more than $120,000 — $16,000 per month plus travel and incidentals — to make a bill for a Newport port plan into law.

A port master plan would be like an in-the-water equivalent to a state-sanctioned Local Coastal Program, which allows the city to issue permits in place of the California Coastal Commission for development on land close to shore. Newport has had a coastal program since last year.

Without a port master plan, projects ranging from minor dredging of harbor channels to private pier repair must be permitted directly by the Coastal Commission.

Assemblyman Matt Harper (R-Huntington Beach) introduced a bill, AB 2464, last month for Newport to join the ports of Long Beach, Los Angeles, San Diego and Hueneme in Ventura County to have its own master plan that gives greater local control over harbor capital improvements.

The council will also hold a study session summarizing the major capital projects the public works department has planned for next fiscal year. Proposed projects would cover facilities, streets, drainage, water, wastewater, the tidelands and more.

Tuesday's meeting starts at 5 p.m. with the study session, followed by the regular session at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 100 Civic Center Drive.

Twitter: @Daily_PilotHD

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