Commentary: Team Newport should make its agenda clear to the community

Who's running our town? What do they want?

There's always been a dominant force behind Newport elections. It used to be the Irvine Co. and other development interests. These interests form whatever political group or groups it takes to assure success. One example is the "7 Cs," a group that convened, recruited candidates and promised them support, thereby assuring a measure of allegiance to the benefactors.

The more prominent the person, the better. Never mind that they never thought about City Council until recruited. Never mind they often had no clue about complicated land use laws. Never mind the reason they were recruited had largely to do with decisions they would make about land use and development.

An era of oddity came in the 1970s, when the dominant force became SPON and fed-up residents who managed to elect five independent City Council members over two election cycles. The backlash occurred in 1980. Developers won back three seats and took the lead again.

Residents resorted to referendums. Two referendums in the 1980s met with overwhelming success. Major expansions of Newport Center and surrounding properties were soundly rejected. Besides expansion in Newport Center itself, the area known now as Harbor Cove would have been much more dense along with projects around Big Canyon.

2014 brought a new entry into the arena of dominance in the game of "who's running our town." Enter Team Newport. People were recruited — no matter if they were new to Newport.

Four people were elected, and they clearly made their dominance evident when throwing Councilman Tony Petros under the bus and selecting one of the four brand new, new to Newport members to be mayor and an even newer to Newport member as mayor pro tem. (Of course we know that Councilman Duffy Duffield, a member of Team Newport, is not new to Newport and is well beloved because of his Duffy boats. His father was the primary leader of the move to eliminate the Pacific Coast Freeway through Newport in the late 1960s. We've never figured out why Duffield entered this fray).

So if Team Newport is now going to run our city, let's find out what they really want going forward. We know they all, in lock step, don't like what prior City Councils did with finances, even though we seem to be one of the cities in the best financial condition.

We know they all, in lock step, supported Measure Y in 2014 (it turned out 69%-plus of the populace voted No on Y). We know they all, in lock step, used Dave Ellis as their campaign consultant. We know they all, in lock step, voted to wait until after the 2016 election to consider any changes in the city's election laws that would expose potential conflicts of interests by lobbyists.

We should give all this some serious thought between now and November.

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JEAN WATT is a former Newport Beach City Council member and a SPON board member.

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