Changes to committees on the radar

The Newport Beach City Council is considering forming two new citizen committees and dismantling its Economic Development Committee, among other changes to citizen advisory groups.

The council will vote Tuesday on a proposal to create the Tidelands Management and Neighborhood Revitalization committees and to reassign the economic development functions.

The changes are intended to make the committees more efficient and to ensure that they're working on City Council priorities, officials said.

"The logic for doing this is to allow limited staff time to help us and the community focus on the priorities that are set," said Councilman Rush Hill, who chairs the Economic Development Committee.

Mayor Mike Henn has said the council's 2011 goals include revitalizing parts of the city, such as Mariner's Mile, and to better manage its tidelands.

The Economic Development Committee and the Harbor Commission address parts of those issues. The new committees would specifically work on them, and new directives would clarify the citizen volunteers' tasks, officials said.

"Sometimes they cast about looking for things to be doing, without good guidance from us," City Manager Dave Kiff said.

One of the options up for consideration would disband the 25-person Economic Development Committee, while another would have it meet whenever necessary, instead of on a regular monthly schedule.

It's unclear if the existing committee members would continue to serve.

The EDC, comprised of leaders from local industries and areas of the city, advises the City Council on issues affecting local businesses. For instance, it's analyzing how the city tax code affects business. It also advocated for a "wayfinding" sign program, which would help tourists and others find landmarks in the city.

Not all city officials are pleased with the proposed changes. Planning Commissioner Robert Hawkins, who serves on the EDC, said it "provides invaluable citizen input."

He criticized the council's management style, saying that it should let some ideas bubble up from grass-roots volunteers, instead of directing all of the committee business.

Hill, on the other hand, supported the changes at the last council meeting.

"It takes a little more direction from the top-down," he said.

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