Commentary: The state of our city is strong

At the recent Speak Up Newport Mayor's Dinner, I reported on the state of our city and proposed some new initiatives to enhance our quality of life and improve the functioning of our city government.

First, the state of our city is financially strong, economically vibrant and united in its efforts to move forward. Through prudent budget management, reductions in staffing and improved efficiency in how we provide services, we have built record cash reserves, balanced our budgets and delivered substantial enhancements to our public facilities.

For 2013, I proposed a new initiative to set aside a portion of the development-related fees received by the city into a special fund that can only be used to fund permanent facilities or installations related to the arts. This initiative will not increase our fees, but it will insure that new development contributes to enhancing the cultural and artistic resources in our community.

This approach is not new; several other cities have similar strategies to provide and enhance the artistic experience of both residents and visitors. Public art and cultural facilities, such as theaters, museums and historical sites, are part of what defines exceptional cities. While Newport Beach is known for its outstanding film festival, concerts and art exhibits in our parks, we lag in full-time facilities that promote art, learning and culture.

This year, both the Balboa Theater and ExplorOcean will be undertaking major efforts to secure funding to create exciting new venues to enhance and create new cultural experiences for our residents, students and visitors. The economic impact of these new facilities will be substantial.

The private sector, through donations from businesses and residents, will substantially fund these new assets, which will be the catalysts for revitalizing the Balboa Village neighborhood. City funding through this new source will ensure that new development also participates in creating lasting cultural improvements to our community and will leverage other private sector funds to ensure these projects are successful and can be brought on line more quickly. Of course other facilities, such as the Balboa Island Historical Museum and new art for our civic center park are eligible for funding as well.

This year, we will soon open our new 17,000-square-foot library expansion, dedicate Newport Center Park, (the fifth largest in the city) and break ground on both Marina park and Sunset Ridge parks. This new funding initiative ensures that art and culture are not left behind as we move forward to enhance our city.

KEITH CURRY is the mayor of Newport Beach.

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