Commentary: Measure EE gets an F for efficiency

I was very surprised to see our city manager wading into the election pool but he did (Commentary: Measure EE keeps Newport efficient Oct. 31, 2012).

According to Dave Kiff, Measure EE is about efficiency. What about the famed red light traffic camera ban (Proposed Section 426)? That's about "political pandering," not efficiency? (Even the study recently cited by Mayor Pro Tem Keith Curry doesn't support the ban.) What about the class action ban (Proposed Section 1114)? That's not about efficiency; that, again, is about "political pandering."

And what about the city manager's compensation (Proposed Sections 503)? That's not about efficiency; that's about salary and benefits. And council compensation (Proposed Sections 402 and 404)? No efficiency here. According to Kiff, that's about transparency. But it is far from transparent.

City staff told us that former qualifying council members receive health and retirement benefits. But the proposed charter changes do not clarify the council's total compensation — salary at $14,728 and benefits at $19,045. No transparency here.

What about the relaxing of the conflict prohibition regarding contracting with the city (Proposed Section 608)? That's not about efficiency, but it is about making it easy for people to serve on the council when they have contracts with the city. Talk about sweetheart deals! Maybe that's efficient, but it hurts the residents, the voters and, ultimately, the city.

But efficiency? Well, the proposed changes to Sections 421 and 1400 may create the appearance of efficiency but only at the expense of a serious loss of accountability and oversight. The changes to Section 421 allow the council to designate any employee to execute contracts.

This relieves the city manager from reviewing and signing loads of contracts. Unfortunately, Section 1400 says that when a power— such as executing a contract— is given to an employee, then that power—executing contracts— may be exercised by anyone under them. Yikes! The revised charter would lack accountability and oversight. It's bad for the city and its residents.

Look: Many of the proposed changes in the charter are fine. But there are some clinkers that you can't vote for. And since the council has made it an all or nothing decision, Measure EE deserves an F.

Attorney ROBERT C. HAWKINS is the former chairman of the Newport Beach Planning Commission.

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