Mailbag: Measure V would save taxpayer money

This corrects an early version that misidentified Robert Rush as a council candidate.

There has been much misinformation in the press lately regarding Measure V, the comprehensive charter update effort to modernize our charter and improve efficiency.

The recently enacted Zoning Code amendments take up a 4-inch-wide binder with 440 pages of text and 50 pages of maps. All of this information is available online or at our libraries. Unless we pass Measure V, our antiquated charter will require this entire document to be published in the newspaper, in small print, at a cost estimated to be $127,668. The Pilot will likely have to publish a special edition to include it all. Measure V will end this wasteful practice and allow only the title and summary to be published with directions to the web or other sources for the full document. This change in approach is consistent with the laws of the state on publication of ordinances.

For any given vacancy in police or fire, we can have 500 applicants. The current charter allows all 499 of those not selected to have a costly, formal personnel hearing. This wastes time and taxpayer money. Measure V revises the appeal procedure so that persons who are not employed by the city cannot appeal the city's decision not to hire them to the Civil Service Board.

Formal bidding requires adherence to specific state law requirements. With the current 1950s limit of $30,000, by the time the city complies with the formal process, legal review, advertising and protest periods, the cost of administering the bidding process can exceed the cost of the contract itself. This needs to be fixed and Measure V would simply raise the limit to $120,000. This change does not, however, prevent competitive bidding nor does it stop the city from contracting out. It just makes the process more efficient and less expensive.

Measure V does not provide funding to the Newport Beach or the CdM chambers of commerce. It simply allows them to compete with every other community group. In fact, the city is cutting back funding to all such groups in the community.

Some have said we should have divided each of these questions into separate ballot measures, but in addition to costing the taxpayers about $28,000 more for the election, the county was potentially unable to physically accommodate 14 measures from one city on the November ballot.

Opponents are silent on the big provisions of Measure V, such as eliminating the ability of the council to raise taxes without a vote of the people and the limitations and safeguards on oil exploration. They are also confused on the fact that we are retaining the public's right to vote on any sale of waterfront property.

If you believe it's time for real government reform, vote yes on Measure V to protect taxpayers and make our city more efficient.

Nancy Gardner

Newport Beach councilwoman

Marian Bergeson

chairwoman, Charter Update Commission


Key to the concept of honesty is "full disclosure" and without it, you're left with varying forms of "dishonesty by omission," which we've become all too familiar with in politics these days.

Such omission of full disclosure arises in the recent strange connection between Newport Beach's recent Charter Update Commission and the Chamber of Commerce's Political Action Committee or BACPAC, which stands for Business and Community Political Action Committee.

In December 2009, Newport Beach's City Council formed a Charter Update Commission to examine the City Charter and appointed commissioners, a combination of public figures and ex-public officials. City Council gave the commission a list of issues to examine and express recommendations on. The conclusion of such process would result in a number of changes to the charter, which would be summarized in Measure V and presented to the public for vote in the November election.

Additionally, at the beginning of commission hearings there were two other issues also presented for consideration, brought forward by the public. The first issue came from the West Newport Beach Assn. asking the commission to consider "district only races," whereby a councilman can only take office if his/her district votes them in. Not an unusual request, considering recent history where District 2's councilman failed to win his own district while being re-elected by the city's other districts. The Charter Commission refused to discuss the matter — not surprisingly as the commission was comprised of friends and supporters of that particular councilman.

The second request, in actuality, did not come from an outside party. Instead the issue raised came from Charter Commissioner Paul Watkins, who identified himself as the Chamber of Commerce chairman in his request letter. Watkins asked that the city's annual Chamber Contribution Cap of $2,400 be eliminated. Such future unlimited city contributions could free otherwise-used chamber funds that could be made available for other activities, such as their political action committee, or BACPAC.

Now in recommending the annual limit be lifted, the Charter Update Committee argued that there's enough of a "firewall" or separation between the Chamber of Commerce and its political action committee, or BACPAC, to prevent such a misuse of city funds. Without disclosure, I am concerned that this would allow the chamber to promote its future handpicked political candidates with "taxpayer money" and completely bypass campaign contribution laws that which limit such contributions.

However, upon closer inspection, the Charter Update Commission, the Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber's BACPAC shared many of the same board members. Richard Luehrs, Dennis O'Neil were all such examples. Though not on the BACPAC board at the time, Watkins himself is now.

As if these circumstances weren't murky enough, Watkins, as Chamber of Commerce chairman, never fully disclosed in his letter that the chamber had already been bypassing the city's $2,400 contribution limit in the form of "waived permit fees" ordinarily assessed against chamber events such as the Boat Parade and Taste of Newport. Some would argue that this $56,000 gift to the chamber could violate a city ordinance, though I understand that is not the position of the city attorney.

In my opinion, this is information that should have been made available to the public and particularly before it votes on Measure V.

Robert Rush

Newport Beach


Candidate for community effort

Preserving Banning Ranch as open space is what Newport's recently enacted General Plan calls for. But preservation is not what the City Council is working to put into effect. The council is working with developers to build 1,350 homes, a hotel and commercial properties on 200 acres, plus a new road to handle 54,000 car trips per day, along with a new traffic light on Coast Highway. Caltrans has recommended against the light, but the city is working to get around that road block. If completed as planned, it would be the largest, most dense development on the Orange County Coast ever built. It would be one more crowded housing tract on the last headland in Newport Beach.

The City Council is not cooperating with groups like the Banning Ranch Conservancy and the Banning Ranch Defenders. These are groups that have worked tirelessly for over a decade to find the resources to purchase Banning. Instead, council members are working closely with the property owners, Exxon Mobil and Shell to increase their bottom lines. Saving something for the future, for our kids and grandkids, does not register with the council and the reason is simple: Council members answer to developers who pay the tab to run for office. Some council members have spent $150,000 to get elected, and it is developers who pay.

The council also tells us that if we develop the property, we will not have to worry about the environmental cleanup. This is misleading, too. The burden of the cleanup rests completely on the shoulders of the property owners. These oil giants can afford it. Exxon Mobil and Shell purchased Banning Ranch knowing full well, they have the responsibility to clean it before they can sell it.

Banning Ranch can one day become the crown jewel in the Orange County River Park. But for this to happen residents need leadership that involves and encourages the community to work towards this noble goal.

Mark Tabbert

Newport Beach

Editor's Note: Mark Tabbert is a candidate for the District 4 seat of the Newport Beach City Council.


Questions for candidate Tabbert

I would be more impressed with Mark Tabbert's claim to be a serious candidate for the City Council if he had met the minimum standards required by law to create and register his campaign, and to fully report who his contributions have come from, and how they have been spent. His filings have lacked any legally required disclosure of contributors and expenditures. Yet I now see his signs up around the city, and his brochures left on doorsteps. These expenses are required by law to be disclosed, as is the source of who is contributing to these expenses. How can we trust his integrity as a potential office holder if he can't honor the simple, straightforward laws governing campaigns in our city?

Paul Jensen

Newport Beach


Lido Isle should stay out of Costa Mesa races

In recent days I've seen long commentaries in the Daily Pilot from three people who want to tell Costa Mesa voters how to vote this year. All three of these individuals actually live in Newport Beach. One of these fine folks from Newport even starts his column with "I do not have a dog in the Costa Mesa City Council fight...." He then proceeds to tell us how to vote in the Costa Mesa City Council election.

Well, thanks for the help, but I think those of us who really do have a dog in this fight are perfectly capable of deciding who will be best for Costa Mesa.

After all, we are the ones who have our kids in the schools. We are the ones who mostly drive our streets. We are the ones who support most of the small retailers. We are the ones who put our heads on pillows in Costa Mesa every night. We are the ones who see the graffiti and crime. We are the ones who will suffer or benefit from those we elect.

I've also seen all the negative campaigning against one candidate that is coming from some unionized Costa Mesa city employees who are paid very well by the citizens of Costa Mesa for their services.

It seems these employees have it backward. They apparently think it is the citizens of Costa Mesa who serve them and that we should raise our taxes and fees so we can pay these employees even more money and give them even greater benefits.

Of course, because more than 75% of these employees choose to live in cities that are nicer than Costa Mesa — including Newport Beach — they probably figure that we owe them more wages and benefits so they can be on a par with their neighbors in those nicer cities in which they live.

Frankly, their attitude reminds me a little of that now well-known employee of the city of Bell, the former city administrator, who chose not to live in Bell, but near the ocean in Huntington Beach. He, too, thought the citizens of the city in which he chose not in to live owed him more money and benefits. After all, a house on the beach and a horse farm in another state don't come cheap. Hey, the citizens owed him. Right?

What will be decided in the Costa Mesa City Council election this year — as it has been decided in other elections over the past decade — is whether or not Costa Mesa will continue on the improvement path that some of us helped set the city on years ago, or whether it will stray from that path.

Some of us who are part of the loose "improvement" movement believe that Jim Righeimer is the candidate who is most likely to keep improvement moving forward.

Righeimer has been criticized for questioning what many of us think was a misplaced and dangerous DUI checkpoint. Of the thousands of people who went through that checkpoint, Righeimer was the only one to get involved.

Some paint that incident as an example of a personality flaw. Most improvers see it as just the opposite and as being exactly what we need on the City Council — a person who sees something that he thinks is wrong and who gets involved.

Improvers see it that way because that's exactly what we've been doing for years — getting involved to make Costa Mesa a nicer and safer city.

You think the Westside of Costa Mesa is a little bit better than it was a few years ago? It is, and here's why. Improvers got involved. It didn't get better all by itself. A lot of work went into what you now see over there, and much more work needs to be done. But for the recession, you'd see even more improvement.

So, all you folks who don't live in Costa Mesa, how about you become more active in your own communities where you choose to live and let those of us who choose to live in Costa Mesa decide the fate of our city? We'll stay out of your business and you stay out of ours.

M. H. Millard

Costa Mesa

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