Mailbag: Don't limit citizen involvement at City Hall

Involved citizens are the key to local government. In the past, I have always lauded the city of Newport Beach for its citizens' involvement.

Now, not so much.

Mayor Nancy Gardner's latest newsletter contains an interesting reflection on "managing the city as a business." She notes that a gentleman spends a large amount of time at City Hall "reviewing various things." She asked City Manager Dave Kiff how much staff time it takes to assist the gentleman in his review; his estimate was about 10 hours per week.

She noted that it was good to have involved citizens, but "it seems like a lavish gift of public services to one individual." She acknowledged, though, that having such citizens may avoid problems, such as occurred in the city of Bell.

Although elected officials, such as Gardner, and city staff, such as Kiff, may regard citizen involvement as an annoyance, it is not. It is precisely what good local government is all about. The city lost track of this last year when there was an attempt "to manage the city as a business."

Businesses are all about profits, not services. The city is all about services, including providing information to interested citizens, not profits. Neither staff nor the council can manage the city like a business, because it isn't a business. Local government is about services, local regulations, addressing local problems and, yes, citizen involvement.

Indeed, citizen involvement is the key to local governments, and it is especially important to the city of Newport Beach. With the multiple conflict problems without the appropriate recusals, the reemergence of the good ol' boys network, citizens' committees and advisory panels run by high-priced consultants, not the local citizens who used to run such committees, and, of course, their desire to "get the [City Council] meeting over early," the council and the city have lost their way.

As I said when I resigned from the Planning Commission, good local government is all about affording local citizens the ability to provide invaluable input into all aspects of our local government (including the siting of an extended hours bar near homes). Involved citizens will make sure that things get back on track.

Robert C. Hawkins

Newport Beach

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Stop 19th St. bridge, Banning Ranch

Re. "Wu misstated action on bridge," Mailbag, April 5:

In answer to Councilwoman Leslie Daigle's call for the Orange County Transportation Authority and the three cities impacted by the 19th Street bridge to conduct mitigation studies to address deletion of the bridge from the Master Plan of Arterial Highways: I think I have a succinct answer that will save the taxpayers a lot of money on further studies and consultant fees.

Don't develop Banning Ranch!

After studying the issue ad-nauseam for decades (and in the process, financing a thriving cottage industry of urban planners and traffic consultants with taxpayer funds), I think that OCTA finally recognized that Huntington Beach, Costa Mesa and Newport Beach would always and forever be at odds over the 19th Street bridge, and made a practical (and politically courageous) decision to remove the bridge from the master plan.

Despite Daigle's claims in her letter, most Huntington Beach and Costa Mesa residents can look around and plainly see that their cities are pretty much built-out. So, why in the world would these residents be in favor of building a bridge that clearly benefits only the would-be developers of Banning Ranch?

Based on the news coverage I see, there is a large contingent of Newport Beach residents who want to see Banning Ranch remain open space. That leaves the developers and, predictably, local politicians who benefit from developer support, as the odd folks out in the 19th Street bridge decision.

And, predictably, they are fighting back with plans to use taxpayer money to sue OCTA.

Jon Rowe

Costa Mesa

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