Can a tiger change its stripes?
The residents of Newport Beach are going to be weighing in on this metaphorical question as they face the new year and along with it, the new City Council.
Unlike several surrounding areas which experienced significant changes in leadership, we experienced only one. Hopefully that one change, which was a considerably positive one, will be enough to create a new group dynamic.
In addition to personnel changes, there are other things that can be done to make our council more responsive to the people it serves.
One of those is to take away the extra power that was given to the mayor in the past year with city policy A1.
Secondly, the mayor should be elected directly by the voters, not by games and power plays among the council members.
There also has often been talk of residents in each district voting exclusively for their own council member. This change seems to be more controversial, but on the positive side, it would help take more money out of politics, making it less likely for candidates to be controlled by outside influences.
Despite the disappointment of many at the end of last year, we really want to believe that we can experience the positive changes that Mr. O’Neill spoke about at the inaugural meeting of the new council.
We want to believe that the council will be more sensitive to the concerns of the community. Interestingly, the General Plan that was rolled out at the Council Meeting in early January presents the perfect opportunity for the council and the community to enter a new stage of cooperation and mutual respect.
This General Plan that has been long awaited by residents will be divided up in three phases spread out over three years. The first opportunity for community involvement, in addition to participation in scheduled city meetings, will be the selection of a Steering Committee made up of five representatives of the community. We hope that the selection of the SC has been well thought out and that diverse points of view are represented. Later this SC will be aiding in the selection of a consultant who will guide the council and the community through the second and third phases of the GP.
In the second of two phases, another opportunity for resident input will be the creation of the General Plan Advisory Committee (GPAC). This committee, composed of 25 residents, will help shape the goals and policies of the updated plan and provide a community forum for “ongoing outreach and discussion.”
The General Plan as presented sounds well thought out with opportunities for community input.
There will no doubt be obstacles to overcome in such a long and multi-faceted process, but if all the shareholders are sincere about their desire to work together effectively for the good of Newport Beach, there is reason to be hopeful about its future.