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Mayor emphasizes budget, airport, general plan and cooperation in Newport State of the City speech

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Newport Beach Mayor Diane Dixon delivers the 2019 State of the City address at the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel & Spa on Thursday night.
(Photo by Spencer Grant )

Newport Beach Mayor Diane Dixon says the city will continue to focus on financial discipline, airport relations and the general plan update as 2019 forges ahead.

During the annual State of the City address Thursday night at the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel & Spa, Dixon — serving her second mayoral term since 2014 — said fiscal responsibility is her top priority. To that end, the city will roll over a surplus of about $13 million into next year’s budget.

“This is extraordinary and reflects solid and prudent management and will be applied to our pension obligation and to neighborhood enhancement programs following council policy,” she said. “Continued investment, public and private, in our community allows the city to benefit from steadily rising property values.”

Dixon said the city will continue its aggressive paydown plan to alleviate the pressure of $320 million in unfunded employee pension liability — adding roughly $9 million a year on top of its compulsory payments to the California Public Employees’ Retirement System — with the goal of clearing out the liability over 15 years, without cutting into services.

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She said city leaders will regularly update residents as they continue with direct outreach to air carriers, which the city started last year, and meetings with the Federal Aviation Administration and members of Congress over jet noise related to John Wayne Airport.

And she promised a transparent general plan update process, which picks up momentum next week with the first meeting of a new steering committee.

“Our focus at the local level is very simple — make our community stronger and continually strive to maintain and improve our city’s exceptional quality of life,” Dixon said. “From public safety to water infrastructure to trash pickup to sidewalk cleaning and on and on, important time-sensitive, quality-of-life issues. … It matters to residents — a lot and often [and] right now.”

Before beginning her speech, Dixon played a video showing all seven City Council members giving goals for their terms and saying what they enjoy most about their service. They also discussed lighter topics, such as the toppings they like on frozen bananas or the type of boat they prefer when cruising local waters. The levity was intended to show “there is more that binds and unites us as residents, citizens and council members than divides us,” Dixon said.

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The City Council weathered an at-times tense 2018, an election year with hotly contested races and, before election season, rancor over the circumstances of the departure of former city manager Dave Kiff.

But Dixon said the council is a group of collaborators.

“We are a council of peers, of equals, all working on your behalf,” she said. “The mayor is but one of seven co-equal council members. We work together.

“There will be issues on which we will disagree, but we all will listen as well as speak, and we all will respect each other and the constituents we serve. I predict there will be many more issues on which we agree than not.”


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