Letter to the Editor: Measure B and Setting the Agenda

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A recent mailer by the proponents of Measure B included the definition of “accountability.”

According to Measure B’s supporters, the strong mayor will be “accountable” to each of Newport’s 85,239 residents. The mayor is gonna be busy.

Taking this cue, I decided to check out the meaning of “Sole Discretion,” which words appear in Measure B: one person “shall have sole discretion to set City Council agendas and to change the order of business on the agendas.”

The “Law Insider” says that “sole discretion” means “the right and power to decide a matter, which right may be exercised arbitrarily for any reason or no reason at any time and from time to time.”

Wow! Pretty expansive “right” and “power,” eh?

The definition prompted the following hypothetical:

I like cigars. The strong mayor may not. If I were a Council Member or resident and if Measure B passes, can the strong mayor block my cigar bar proposal as an agenda item or, in the alternative, can the strong mayor put my matter near the end of the agenda when residents may have already left the chambers or dozed off? Or maybe, in the strong mayor’s “sole discretion,” can my cigar bar proposal be blocked until a year from now?

Sadly, I believe the answer to these questions is “yes.”

And, by the way, I believe the defectively drafted Measure B would allow the strong mayor to thwart consideration of my cigar bar on the agenda even if three other Council Members requested its inclusion.


The Measure B language (unfortunately) is clear on its face: “With the concurrence of at least three members of the City Council at any public meeting, an item “may” (not “will”) be added to a future agenda.

Please note the ill-advised choice of the word “may” instead of the word “will” which word change, of course, would have compelled the strong mayor to add my cigar bar proposal if three other members agreed.

So, as you can see, the strong mayor can decline to add my cigar bar to the agenda even if three other council members request its addition. Sad.

And—even if added— the strong mayor has the sole discretion as to when (if ever) to add the cigar bar to a future agenda.

Does “future” mean in two weeks?

Does “future” mean in a month?

Does “future” mean in a year?

Does “future” mean when the strong mayor develops a liking for cigars?

Sad (again).

As seen, Measure B’s agenda setting language is fatally flawed on several fronts.

Please vote “NO” on the Bad for Newport Measure B.

Paul K. Watkins / Newport Beach (Citizen of the Year, 2015)

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