It was rumored that a size able number of proponents were going to attend Tuesday’s October 12th City Council Meeting to support Council member Will O’Neill’s “Elect a Mayor” plan.
However, the supporters never materialized, leaving instead an audience primarily of opponents. It was not unusually large, but sufficient in size to chasten the Council members for considering putting the mayoral plan on the discussion calendar for a future date. (O’Neill had abandoned the route of gathering signatures when he realized that doing so was a lengthy and expensive process.)
Not one person in the audience spoke in favor of electing a mayor. Instead, in measured and intelligent speeches, seven community leaders spoke against the proposal citing the fact that electing a mayor should be one vetted by the whole community not just the council before going on the ballot.
This, said one speaker, would allow for more careful consideration of the proposal . The failure of the proposal to meet the term limits of the city charter, thus allowing the mayor to serve 16 uninterrupted years in leadership instead of 8 years, sets an unbelievably long period of control by one person. This long period of leadership coupled with the expanded power that the new proposal would give the mayor in relationship to the council could easily lead to authoritarian rule.
When it came time to vote it appeared that Mr. O’Neill had already persuaded the Council to support bringing the proposal up for discussion at a future date. My observations of the Council members’ faces and gestures indicated to me that they were not overly enthusiastic about their votes or their role. In fact, not one Council person commented or spoke to issues brought forth by the audience.
Giving the Council the benefit of the doubt, perhaps they thought that putting the plan on a future agenda would allow them to discuss the proposal at length. Unfortunately, this has not been a successful route in the past for opponents of an issue because public discussion will occur in only one meeting consisting of comments to the Council. It excludes the public from any meaningful discussion regarding whether this major attempt to restructure our city government should even make it as far as the ballot.
Lynn Lorenz / Newport Beach