Letter to the Editor: Stop the Power Grab

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The most important thing voters who love Newport Beach can do when they get their ballots next month is to go all the way to the end and vote No on Measure B.

This measure, crafted by one councilman and supported by only three of his colleagues, would drastically change the form of government that has served Newport Beach so well for nearly 70 years.

As written, the measure would in essence take us from a democratic system to one-man rule. The elected mayor would have total control over the agenda for city council meetings, meaning he would have total control over what gets discussed and how the future direction of the city gets decided.

The number of council districts would be reduced from seven to six, and the six representatives would have no voice unless the mayor felt like listening to them. Residents and businesses could find themselves silenced and ignored. The city manager job would become no more than a clerical position.

It’s easy to imagine a scenario where amazing people who love our city don’t want to run for council, top talent won’t want to apply for jobs with the city (who wants to work for a dictator?), and our incredibly smart and engaged citizenry stops wanting to participate in civic life because one man would be directing and starring in his own show. Hard to imagine anything more antithetical to the spirit of our city than that.

Another immense privilege the elected mayor would enjoy is that term limits would not apply to him. In 1992, Newport voted overwhelmingly to limit the time a person could spend on the dais to eight years. Yet with this initiative, the person seeking to be our new ruler would get to spend twice that amount of time – 16 years in a row! – on the council.

Interestingly, when the proponents of this measure are asked what’s wrong with our current form of government, they have no answer. That’s because there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s democratic, it includes checks and balances, and it’s one of the things that has made our city among the most desirable places in the country to live.

The bottom line is that we have nothing to gain from Measure B, and everything to lose. Please join me in going all the way to the bottom of the ballot and voting NO on B.

Ralph Wilson, Jr. / Newport Beach

[Editor’s note: To clarify the 16-year time frame as stated in this letter, one person could serve as a city council member for up to 8 years (two terms) if elected twice, and then if elected serve another four years as mayor, and then if re-elected another four years as mayor. That equals 16 years.]

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