Letter to the Editor: Nothing to Gain from Measure B

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Bob Rush’s letter presents the elected mayor initiative as a simple change but it is anything but that.

This proposal will radically change our city governance and as such, is opposed by most former Mayors, City Council members and City Managers. While Mr. Rush denigrates these former public servants, their collective wisdom is that this proposal is a bad idea for Newport Beach.

There are many reasons why residents should be wary of this proposal but let me describe just one.

Right now, the City Manager can put items on the council agenda, usually routine contracts, etc. This proposal removes that ability, meaning that any time the City Manager has city business that must be voted on, she must go through the mayor to place that item on the agenda. This immediately changes the relationship of the City Manager from a working partnership to a subservient relationship. The City Manager will not be able to complete the business of the city without the direct intervention of the mayor.

You may not be aware that the City Charter prohibits council members from directing city employees how to do their job. Only the City Attorney, City Clerk and City Manager report to and are directed by the City Council.

However, if the City Manager must maintain a good relationship with the elected mayor in order to simply run the city, might there be a temptation to ask for a quid pro quo? If the elected mayor wanted a particular development to go through permitting faster, might he slow walk the City Manager’s agenda items unless the City Manager helped him accomplish that? Or discipline a particular employee? Or fire them? The City Council is not allowed to control city employees, but the City Manager is and the City Manager will now be beholden to the Mayor, creating an opportunity for undue influence.

Now consider the hiring of the next City Manager. No other city ANYWHERE restricts their City Manager in this way. If you were an excellent City Manager, would you accept a job that restricts you like this or would you go elsewhere? And if we can only get a second-rate City Manager, might that affect the quality of people further down the organizational chart? Why would top notch employees want to stay in a city that isn’t run well? Over time, it is easy to see how an unintended effect of this proposal could result in a degradation of services in Newport and it will take another election to unwind these problems when they occur.

We have nothing to gain and everything to lose from this proposal. I encourage residents to vote No on Measure B in the June election.

Susan Skinner / Newport Beach

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