City manager is checkin' his list

Alicia Robinson

Newport Beach City Manager Homer Bludau has given himself a long list

of tasks for the coming fiscal year, and he hopes to top it with a

feat of political deal-making.

His highest priority has been in the works for about three years

-- forging an agreement with Orange County to give the city more

control over John Wayne Airport, take over the Santa Ana Heights

Redevelopment Agency and annex West Santa Ana Heights, become the

owner of the closed Coyote Canyon landfill, and take on maintenance

and other duties in the Back Bay.

An agreement on so-called "sphere issues" will be first on the

city's to-do list, Bludau told the City Council on Tuesday. For the

last four years, he's given the council a rundown of city

management's top priorities, and this time he urged the council to

focus on the list because it's one of the most ambitious.

"I think in the past we've had a tendency that whatever comes up,

whatever seems to be a hot button for the public, we rush out and try

and solve it," Bludau said.

Second on the list is getting the state Coastal Commission to

certify the city's local coastal plan, which will govern future

development along the city's coastline, and that is followed by the

general plan update, which will govern most other aspects of

development in Newport Beach for years to come.

The general plan update likely won't be finished this year, but

Bludau said he wants to have it ready to put on the ballot in

November 2006.

Deciding how to use the Marinapark property is No. 4 on the list.

An ad hoc committee has been meeting for several months to explore

suggestions including a park and a boat marina.

Building a new City Hall -- which was the top priority on last

year's list -- is only at No. 5, possibly because the city already

has taken public input. The council has chosen a design and is

awaiting detailed architectural drawings.

Planning for and celebrating the city's centennial come next,

followed by an assessment of the city's public safety facilities to

see what needs renovation or replacement.

Facilities figure heavily in the priority list. Finishing

construction of the Mariner's branch library, starting to build

community centers in Newport Coast and Santa Ana Heights, and raising

a fire station and fire training center in Santa Ana Heights fill out

the lower half of the list.

Other priorities include completing either the lease or purchase

of the Sunset Ridge Park property, which is tied up in state

bureaucracy, and creating a plan to foster talent and develop leaders

among city staff who can move into top management roles when current

officials retire.

"This is the most aggressive priority list I've seen," Councilman

John Heffernan said, adding that it might be difficult to make

progress on everything while also relocating city operations while a

new City Hall is built.

"I question whether the list is too long," he said.

City officials haven't always finished everything on past years'

lists, and those have generally included 10 items, while this year

there are 12 priorities.

"Some of these have been priorities for the last three or four

years," Bludau said.

* ALICIA ROBINSON covers government and politics. She may be

reached at (714) 966-4626 or by e-mail at alicia.robinson

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