Commentary: Why I oppose Newport's charter changes

I have lived and been active in the city of Newport Beach for over half a century. I have seen many changes in our city government, but Measure EE and its 38 changes to our city charter seems to be one of the more creative and clearly wrong attempts. I am opposed to Measure EE and its 38 changes for several reasons.

First, Measure EE contains 38 proposed changes to the charter, but we have only one vote. It is either yea or nay. Take it or leave it. We should be able to vote on individual changes or small groups of related changes, but 38 changes at once is impossible. In 2010, we voted on 14 changes to the charter, also titled cleanup. Now, the city proposes 38 additional changes, also labeled, but these are not all that simple.

Second, I question whether the council compensation is clear and adequately discussed. Currently, Section 402A prohibits council compensation; Section 402B allows Council a fixed allowance for expenses. Measure EE proposes to strike these sections and to insert a new Section 402 which would allow for compensation at the current allowance rate with a CPI adjustment.

It is silent about benefits — health and retirement. I was surprised that the council currently also receives health and retirement benefits that continue after they leave office. Excuse me, but retirement for our City Council? I think we should go back to reimbursement for expenses. Period.

Third, I don't like class-action lawsuits and have seldom benefited from them. But I wish to retain my right to join a class to make a claim against the city of Newport for wrongful or illegal taxes and fees. I will not consent to have the city restrict or eliminate my ability to bring such claims.

Fourth, Measure EE attempts to make the process of city contracts more efficient. But this comes at the expense of oversight and accountability. The proposed Section 421 allows the Council to designate any employee to sign a contract. The new Section 1400 will authorize that, when such an employee is designated to sign a contract, his/her deputy or other employee can sign the contract. We need accountability, not efficiency, and we need to know what employees are accountable.

I have other concerns also. However, because of the above concerns, I will vote no on Measure EE and encourage you to do the same.

JO VANDERVORT lives in Newport Beach.

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