I don’t know Robert Hawkins very well, maybe a couple of personal conversations, one lunch and a phone call or two. He called me a coward in the Daily Pilot a few years ago, and I’ve written a few fun things about him in my column.
The feeling I get about him from my conversations with friends, or acquaintances, over the years is that can be a bit brash sometimes, a bit rash sometimes, quick to judgment, quick to the trigger, and quick to quit Committees that he’s on.
So Robert Hawkins abruptly resigning from the Newport Beach Planning Commission at the latest City Council meeting was a surprise, but it also wasn’t.
Hawkins started his public comments by advertising Speak Up Newport’s Mayors Dinner. OK … safe, right?
He then listed his frustrations as a Planning Commissioner, starting with the Newport Beach City Council’s numerous appeals of Planning Commission decisions over the past year and the City Council’s reaction to his appeal of Pizzeria Mozza’s liquor license, saying that the “appeal was reviled by many on this Council as bad government” and about the “(City Council’s) need to replace Planning Commissioners.”
He then stated that his biggest frustration had to do with the City’s Revitalization meetings, pointing out early conflicts of interests of then-Mayor Mike Henn and Councilmember Rush Hill. Hawkins felt that his concerns were initially ignored and these meetings proceeded on until just recently both Hill and Henn admitted financial conflicts and recused themselves from further meetings. But for Hawkins, that was not enough, as he filed Fair Political Practices Commission complaints against both Councilmembers, saying that “those conflicts infect the entire result of those recommendations.”
Anyway he finished by saying, “I cannot serve on the Planning Commission with the direction of the City and with these conflicts, so I hereby resign.”
So let me catch my breath here … and start with his first complaint.
Last year I wrote about, and applauded, the City Council’s decisions to appeal and overturn many of the Planning Commissions business-unfriendly decisions. I also wrote critically about Hawkins’ appeal of Pizzeria Mozza’s liquor license, also calling it business-unfriendly. I stated that the City Council had essentially neutered the Planning Commission.
Anyways, there was no doubt that the Planning Commission was put on notice by the City Council that their decisions had become irrelevant, so independent-thinking Commissioners were going to have to make a choice. Stay on and get embarrassed by Councilman Rush Hill on a regular basis, or quit.
And Hawkins had enough and quit, throwing in a couple of jabs (FPPC Complaints) right back.
But I have to opine … should Hawkins have quit?
I suppose it depends on how irrelevant the Planning Commission had become and how fed up he had become on it.
But … as he points out Henn’s and Hill’s conflicts on the City’s Revitalization Committee, wouldn’t he be better served to expose them IF he was still part of the City’s largest and most high-profile City Commission?
And if he disagrees with the City Council’s direction, wouldn’t he be the better thorn in the City Council’s side if he remained on the Planning Commission? Make them FIRE him, and not make it easy for them by quitting.
Believe me, the Press will be more likely to pick up any story of City Council shenanigans from a longtime Planning Commissioner than from just another local activist.
So Hawkins filed a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission, but what happens after they barely slap Hill and Henn on the wrists for what they have done? Will/can Hawkins keep his foot on the gas to ensure his City, our City, goes in the direction he believes it should be going? Being President of Speak Up Newport is a good venue (I’m a member, too), but he needs a bigger forum to effectively get his message out to the masses.
In 2008, I was part of an Independent Expenditure Committee who raised and spent lots of money to politically attack a Councilmember running for re-election. My group didn’t like what direction the City was going so they chose to put their money up to try to change it. Robert Hawkins, using his Planning Commissioner title, wrote a letter to the Daily Pilot editor to publicly attack us as unmoral, dishonest, and unethical. But when the going got tough, my group didn’t quit, in fact, they put MORE money in to get their point across.
When the going got tough for Hawkins on the Planning Commission…well…but if he truly doesn’t like the direction the City’s going in, if he truly wants to affect change…there’s an open City Council seat opening up in 2012 and three more open seats in 2014. Let’s see what he does then.
Hawkins may have quit the Planning Commission, but I sure hope he doesn’t quit Newport Beach.