Mailbag: Readers weigh in on petition to elect mayor in Newport Beach

Voters make their ballot selections on Election Day 2020 at OASIS Senior Center in Newport Beach.
Voters make their ballot selections on Election Day 2020 at OASIS Senior Center in Newport Beach. Daily Pilot readers weigh in on a proposed change to the mayoral selection in Newport Beach.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Although times have changed, they haven’t changed enough to warrant a change in our Newport Beach City Charter when it comes to our form of representative government. Why do you suppose our city founders wrote a City Charter that divided it into equitable districts that would have an elected individual charged with the responsibility of representing the constituents within each of their respective districts? And why did they not define a separate office of “mayor” as an elected position?

Here’s where the problem lies: If the average Newport Beach citizen is asked, “Do you want to elect your mayor?” of course they are going to respond “yes.” Follow that question with another by asking, “Are you aware of the significant changes this initiative contains that will have a major impact on the way our city is governed?” So if this initiative qualifies for the ballot, and voters pass this initiative, do they really understand what they have done? What happens to our current “council-manager” form of government that has, by the way, worked so effectively for so many years? It would be replaced by a “mayor-manager”-run city government, and by a mayor who would be given powers and authority that clearly lessen each council member’s ability to do an effective job of representing you, their constituents.

I encourage you to do your homework on this one. Let’s not attempt to fix a wheel that has never been broken, and does not need to be fixed. Newport is an extremely well run city, and has been for years. Let’s not allow individuals to use our city as a platform for political advancement and permanency. Let’s do get back to a citizen-run government.

Jeff Herdman
Former Newport Beach city councilman

As an active member of the Newport Beach community, I feel that it is my civic duty to point out when change needs to happen. The current push for the amendment of our City Charter to allow for the council member in the mayoral position to be elected, rather than being rotated from one zone to another without any consideration to the necessity of a unified leadership of our city, is something that needs to happen.

At the time the charter was drafted the goal was to provide equal consideration for all to the very different communities that make up our fair town. However, as time has gone by Newport Beach has become more unified than ever and the necessity for the rotation of the mayoral position to shift from one district to another is more of a detriment than a benefit when it comes to times of crisis.

I believe that if we fail to acknowledge the necessity for change from the ways of the past it will do nothing but bridle progress for our town in the future.

Jordan D Wächter
Newport Beach

I am opposed to Councilman Will O’Neill’s initiative to elect our mayor in Newport Beach.

In 1992 voters approved a term limit of eight years for council members, including the mayor. Councilman O’Neill’s initiative would allow a council person who has served his eight years to then run for mayor, where he could potentially also serve two terms, i.e., another eight years!

This is not the intent of the electorate! Voters are in favor of new council members with their fresh approach and new ideas. Having one person serve for 16 years is just not good for our city. This initiative is a bad idea! It should be voted down if it ever goes to election.

Jeanne Fobes
Newport Beach

Councilman Will O’Neill has posted a series of frequently asked questions on the website supporting his crusade to be an elected mayor. In one of them, he states that his proposition does not change term limits for current council members. Nothing could be further from the truth. His plan undermines the term limits established by voters decades ago. Whereas any unsuccessful candidates for mayor coming from currently elected council members will have term limits applied to them, the successful candidate for mayor will specifically be excluded from the two-term limit and allowed to serve for another eight years. Is this what voters anticipated when they adopted those term limits? Of course not.

His FAQs go on to say (soothingly!) that the mayor will set the agenda, but preserves a means for other council members to add items as well. Again, he is parsing words to hide the fact that the mayor will have near exclusive control of the agenda since he is removing most other means for others to add their items of interest. Control of the agenda means control of the direction of the city since items that cannot be placed on the agenda cannot be discussed or acted on.

This single underhanded action suddenly changes the balance of power in the city and relegates the other council members to the role of onlookers instead of sharing power. That little fact is missing from the website.

In every way, this scheme changes the whole dynamic of our city and puts only one man in charge of the most important tools of city government. It should be vigorously opposed by anyone who cares about our city.

Don’t get fooled into signing his petition!

Suzanne Gauntlett
Newport Coast

Where was coverage of H.B. incident?

Last week I was away visiting family for the first time in nearly 18 months. From a Boston suburb, I suddenly received a flurry of social media posts and later coverage by a Los Angeles TV station of an incident along the Main Street sidewalk in front of Huntington Beach High School. Protesting adults appeared to be engaging in shouting matches with students that escalated into some sort of physical altercation. The TV images were disturbing, and the factual information provided was sparse. That was on Sept. 22.

As one who never relies exclusively on social media or single news source for information about current events, I figured I would return to Huntington Beach and be able to read a local accounting of the facts surrounding this incident. Unfortunately, over a week later, it appears there was no coverage of this incident by Huntington Beach’s local paper of record, the Daily Pilot.

I want to know why.

Although I often attend, participate in or just remotely monitor many public forums and hearings in our city, I often rely on the Pilot for factual accounts and reporting on events I cannot watch myself or local incidents and occurrences that I simply miss. While I understand that social media feeds can often be filled with overly dramatic videos and lots of hyperbole when adults and high school students clash on or adjacent to a school’s grounds, that is a big deal and deserves some kind of local coverage.

The Pilot is an invaluable part of our community and a resource many residents rely on. In these turbulent times of misinformation, disinformation and out-and-out lying, perhaps the Pilot’s most crucial role is maintaining a comprehensive record of the events in our community. As the late newspaperman Phillip L. Graham famously said, “News is the first draft of history.” Let’s make sure the draft of our history is as comprehensive and accurate as possible.

Steve Shepherd
Huntington Beach

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