Santa Wish List
Last year at this time, I suggested a wish list for Santa to bring for Newport Beach for 2013. Let’s see how we did. We asked for privatization, reform, and transparency.
I asked to privatize government services: Trash Collection, Water and Sewer Services, Planning, Building and Safety, Public Works, Park maintenance, Lifeguards, and Payroll Services.
The City Council privatized the Trash Services, which is progress, a big step for government.
Pension Reform was really the only thing on the list. We were looking for all employees to switch to defined contribution plans rather than defined benefit plans. The City did not make this one, which I understand is not an easy task. But they did change the employee contribution amount and they already had new employees on a different tier, so the council has made progress. Unfortunately it won’t be fast enough to save the pensions or the taxpayers.
This involved setting some sort of standards for transparency in dealing with unions and decisions made behind closed doors better than the Brown Act requirements. Needless to say this didn’t even warrant an attempt. So much for Santa.
We also had the grand opening of the new Taj-Ma-City-Hall. This is a colossal example of government waste and excess with a budget that ballooned from a $40 Million Remodel to a $140 Million “Taj.” Your government at work!
The Dock Tax
The city implemented this tax this year and scheduled a review to see what they did right and wrong. So did they repeal it? Lower it? Lessen the impact through implementation? No, the Council not only implemented the tax, but “clarified” the ownership rights. The docks are not the homeowners’ any longer, they are now owned by the City who has the right to take them over, if the “tenant” does comply. So much for being able to keep the fruit of ones’ labor.
This one got all of Southern California mad at Newport Beach. All because the killjoys at the City Council tried to eliminate fun at the beach by eliminating the beach fire pits, the AQMD almost outlawed the beach Fires in all of Southern California. At the last minute the AQMD backed off and regulated beach fires instead of outlawing them.
Sunset Ridge Park
Speaking of killjoys, Banning Ranch Conservancy tried to stop the Coastal Commission approval of Sunset Ridge Park. The council modified the permit request and got it approved this year in spite of the Conservancy, so the west side of town will finally get their much needed ball fields. They will NOT get the signalized entrance and you will have to park on the other side of Superior to use the park, thanks to the Conservancy, but the council got us the park approval and we will get a park in 2014.
Hotel Newport Beach
This is one that is still playing out. The City is in the process of partnering with a hotel developer for a hotel on the old city hall site. The City will be in competition with the other hotels in Newport Beach.
Santa or Scrooge
So Santa says that the City took a few steps forward and should be credited for that. Scrooge believes that the City also took a few too many steps backwards.
Newport Beach is still a special place and is in much better shape than many other places. But Santa doesn’t grade on a curve, and we should hold our leaders to a higher standard. Newport can lead this county and country out of the Obama recession.
And the beaches are great!
Scott Peotter is an Architect and former Planning Commissioner in Newport Beach. Scott can be reached at [email protected]