Commentary: `Team Newport’ is asking the right questions on council

I found Mayor Pro Tem Diane Dixon’s recent column regarding her support of the Newport Beach budget refreshing (“Commentary: Budget process isn’t perfect, but council has a record of fiscal responsibility,” May 29).

She was one of four votes supporting the budget. Some were surprised she didn’t join with Councilmen Marshall “Duffy” Duffield, Scott Peotter and Kevin Muldoon in opposing the budget.

I wasn’t. Duffield, Muldoon and Peotter clearly stated that the $284 million budget needed more work, public scrutiny and scrubbing by the Finance Committee.

It took 30 years for Newport to become the most expensive local government in Orange County. Peotter recently revealed that the no votes cast against this year’s budget were the first in 30 years.

Is this a coincidence or the start of a generation of unabated spending?

I view Dixon’s vote for the budget and subsequent editorial as a wake-up call for those married to the status quo.

She outlined specific reforms for the citizens’ Finance Committee to review with the goal of midyear budget reductions. Imagine that — cutting the budget in Newport Beach!

Dixon, Duffield, Peotter and Muldoon ran on a platform of fiscal discipline, reduced spending and reform. It’s been just six months since they took office.

Campaign promises have been kept, and I am hopeful that the Civic Center, or the “Taj Mahal” audit proposed by Dixon and Muldoon will move forward.

I have watched Duffield implore the staff to get sensible about its over-spending on harbor projects. He is a harbor expert that staff and his colleagues should listen to.

We should thank Peotter for challenging the staff and old guard. The debate he fosters is healthy for an organization that has become too expensive and complacent. He is respectful of his colleagues, even if they disagree. No name-calling or hissy fits.

Muldoon has proven to be a man of his word, working to lower the dock tax and help other harbor businesses that were pillaged by the previous council. Muldoon has a keen legal mind that serves us well when the un-elected staff attempts to make policy.

I believe a round of applause is due Team Newport. In just six months they’ve started to implement the change they promised. It’s a healthy work in progress.

Balboa Island resident BOB MCCAFFREY is volunteer chairman of Residents for Reform